Eric Smart, who is cycling from Aberdeen to south Australia to raise money for The ME Association, has come to a standstill in Turkey – while trying to work out how to obtain a visa so he can continue the journey through Iran. The border is three or four days bike ride away.
In an email received today, he wrote:
"I am holed up in Erzurum waiting for my visa for Iran – if I even get ıt! It is snowing heavily and the temperatures are in the minus 20 to 30 degrees range…Brrrr!
"Turkey has been a real challenge with all the hills, the cold weather and carrying a cough for weeks from Istanbul but I now seem to be picking up again. We shall see what the New Year brings!"
Back home in Aberdeen, where his mother Audrey was this morning busy cleaning and cooking for tonight's family Hogmanay celebration, Mrs Smart said: "The visa's a bit of a worry, but Eric is so determined we're sure he will find a way. We're told it's almost impossible to obtain a visa at the border, so Eric may have to get a bus all the way to Ankara so he can try at the Iranian Embassy there."
Eric has been sheltering from the blizzards and sub-zero temperatures at a £12-a-night hotel in Erzurum, which is the last biggest city on his route before the Iranian border. He reached there just in time for Christmas, and is spending time updating his blog and catching up on emails.
He has been full of praise for the welcomes he has received from ordinary Turkish people while on route, even though many of the locals are clearly bemused by the sight of the Scot cycling up to their petrol stations and cafés in the snow.
But the stories he's sent back of the wild life and the weather are altogether more scary! "One night he was cycling along and become aware of an animal running alongside. He said it was terrifying. He thought it was a wolf but it turned out to be a dog – chasing the wolf in front of them!"
Eric seems to have recovered from the road accident he had in Italy – when his bike hit a pothole in the dark, tipping him off and breaking his left collarbone in the process. That put him out of action for five weeks but both rider and cycle are now in better nick.
He picked up a rasping cough in Istanbul which he carried with him all the way to Erzurum. "When his brother Stuart spoke with him on the phone the other day, he seemed much more himself", said Mrs Smart. "I'm so pleased about that. I would hate him to be entering Iran with a terrible cough, although I'm told it is an advanced country with a good medical service."
To read Eric's blog, please click here
To help Eric reach his target of £12,000 for The ME Association, please click here.