Post from Middle Earth

11th January - Dogubayazit - distance 0km - ascent 0m - av speed 0km/hr - current position 44,05E 39,35N

A frustrating day all round as we find ourselves stranded in the middle of bird flu territory. Several children have recently died here after playing with chicken carcasses. Dickie and Ro have gone ahead to check out the border with Iran while the cyclists have had to endure another enforced rest day. News from the front is not good. The $1500 deposit we placed for the vehicle on entering Turkey is now due to be returned. Rather conveniently the banks are now shut for a week due to a religious festival so if we enter Iran we will forego our deposit. All very annoying but such is the frustration of travelling in this area. Dickie and Ro are rapidly becoming expert hagglers in cross border negotiations!

Keen to make the most of the day the cycling team took a taxi up to a local palace above the town of Dogubayazit where we are staying. The views over the surrounding town were stunning and hauntingly beautiful. Mt Ararat (where Noah supposedly alighted) soars above us at over 5000m in height and some 20km away. In the foreground are the turrets and walls of the Ishak Pasha Palace, familiar from the back of our 100 lira bank notes. We find ourselves at the centre of the ancient world here, perfectly poised between west and east and before us a landscape that recalls Middle Earth or Narnia. This area has been conquered by the Persians, the Romans, the Byzantines and Armenians before being swallowed by the Ottoman empire. We know this is the crux of the journey in so many ways. 

Days off are usually very welcome but after losing a couple to bad weather we are itching to get back on the road. Today has been spent in a mixture of coffee shops and internet cafes and as I write Nic and Jamie have gone to the barbers for a shave while Pauline films the event. Sarah has busied herself updating the site from internet cafes - no easy task without our normal computers and software. (geek!) I have spent most of the day on the phone receivýng updates from the border and growing increasingly despondent! Not long till we're back on the road though and hopefully into Iran. We've all been looking forward to this phase of the expedition immensely and the weather should also improve as we start to head south and finally be free of border crossings for a whole month. We've had some brilliant support over the last week and some contributions through the supporter's page. All helps to keep us on the road...!