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Sunday, October 07, 2007

We're Finished!!!!!!

Day 73
Istanbul, Turkey


My God, where do we even start...?! How to possibly capture what it feels like to be finished The Great COFE for Cystic Fibrosis?

Well, for starters, you can bet there were wet eyes, wide grins and a few, "I can't believe it"'s.

And what would the final day be like without a giant helping of Wally Luck?

Whether you believe in coincidence or fate, our final day on the COFE challenge was most certainly accompanied by something other than the ordinary. It started with the insane traffic of Istanbul. We had spent the previous night on the outskirts of the giant city hoping for a relatively straightforward ride in to the finish line, which was to be the front gates of the Dutch Consulate General smack in the middle of the city.

Two friends of Walter's, Kathryn Whitfield, a journalist from London, and Laura Bins, in charge of Press and Cultural Affairs for the Consulate (whom Walter just happened to meet on a train in Amsterdam at the beginning of the trip), had exchanged countless emails and phone calls in order to plan a reception for the COFE team at the Consulate. We had no idea what to expect and boy, were we surprised!

But back to the traffic...!

The rider's were Walter, Cindy, David and Heather. Troy and Lucas were in the support vehicle laden with cameras and no small amount of adrenaline to cope with Turkish drivers.

At about 9:30 am, we rode out into the streets, squeezing our way through narrow gaps between sidewalks and buses, metal and flesh. We soon saw that biking through the streets of Istanbul, although completely damaging to even healthy lungs, was THE way to travel. The support vehicle made it approximately 6km before it was wedged deep into the worst kind of metal-hell jam. This was when Lucas got nervous. Our lunch meeting at the Consulate was slated for noon and it was clear nothing bigger than a human body was going anywhere fast.

So, just as any devoted, young film-maker would do, Lucas sprung from the car and started running. Armed with no more than a basic point in direction from Troy, he was off but when the car passed him about a half hour later, he was missed in the roar of engines around him. Thinking fast, Lucas flagged down a taxi and said, "Follow that car!"

Meanwhile, the COFE team was happily summing up the trip during an interview outside our hotel with CNN Turk.

At 11:55, there was no sign of either the support vehicle or Lucas. As you can imagine, it would be very sad not to all travel across the finish line together, so we started getting antsy.

Just then, we spotted the car! A red-faced but calm Troy jumped out, ran to the bathroom and emerged in his biking gear. We were just about to ride the 200 meters over to the Consulate with our press entourage when we heard, “Guys! I made it!”, and spotted Lucas emerge from a taxi.

Together at last, we rode through the gates of the Consulate to sound of hands clapping and corks popping. I think that was when we all started crying.

Our lunch was fantastic and made no less memorable when a complete brass band showed up. The Chaupiques: We were blown away that the Consulate had gone to the trouble, but as it turns out, the band wasn't planned. They happened to be walking by with their instruments and when they looked in and saw a party going on, they asked if they could play for us. The uncanny part of it was...they were on a one week busking tour from Holland and did not even realise they were walking into the Dutch Consulate! Those Dutch must give off a special scent...

There we sat in the garden with our smelly, sweaty biking clothes around dignitaries of the Consulate, but no one seemed to mind. During dessert, we were again surprised by a letter from the Ambassador of Australia expressing his admiration for Walter and his mission to inspire people with CF.

As much as we would have loved to have lazed on the Consulate grounds all day, we had a deeper urge to get showered and relax before our celebratory dinner. Some of us headed off to the Grand Bazaar, where you could buy anything from mosaic tiles to Turkish Delight to rugs to leather bags…..

At 8:30 we all met for dinner. Again, with the Wally Luck - we just happened to be staying in a hotel acclaimed to have the best restaurant in the city. Knowing full well we deserved the best on this special night, we tried making a reservation that afternoon. The hotel reception said, "No way. It is the best restaurant in the entire city on a Saturday night of Ramadan! You cannot just make a reservation now." We tried a little name-dropping using the Dutch Consulate for a start, but they still didn't buy it. They suggested we go up and speak to the host of the restaurant. We were again told there was no way to get a reservation, "For 1 or 2 people, maybe, but 8?" (We were to be joined with Kathryn, the journalist and her friend, Vicente.)

Just then, the phone rang and it was a table with a reservation for 8 calling to cancel……….Yes, I know, it is absolutely freakish!

And that is how we came to spend four hours on the roof of our hotel with the best view of the city, spending hideous amounts of money for small, but delicious morsels of gourmet food.

Around dessert time, we were joined by a nice couple fresh off a cruise (it’s amazing they let our bike-gang into such a place of refined tastes, really!). Poor Jim was subjected to Troy in the urinal, who, by this point, was well and beyond happy and full of affection for his fellow man. There may have been some hugging in the urinal, but it mustn’t have made Jim too uncomfortable as he brought his wife, Heather, over to say hello. They joined us with a celebratory bottle of Moet champagne and here we learned of yet another coincidence – not only does Jim’s wife have the same name as my own, they were from Calgary, Alberta, which just happens to be my home town.

A more perfect day could not have been thought up and we would like to extend our dearest thanks to everyone involved in the reception and to those of you who journeyed along with us for the last 73 days. We are all very proud of Walter and the kind of person he is. Surely each one of us has ingested some of this man's happiness for life and may we all be able to draw from it throughout our lives.

Way to go, Wally!!!!!!!!!!

Please keep checking in with us! We are putting together a Final Slide Show and are hoping to squeeze in a few entries from the other's as well, if they get the chance before leaving tomorrow!



Oma Connie said...

Dear Walter and Dear Friends,
Getting too emotional right now, I can only say: Thank you Lucas and Heather for your fantastic account of events. Thank you so much for the glorious photos!Thank you all for being such wonderful and courageous friends!
Congratulations to all of you and good night!

Unknown said...

Walter and your super team, we are very proud of you all. You saw more of the world than many people can say. It's not something you can buy, but must do. And you did it!

Fred Ann Mike & Winny

Ivor said...

Walter you mad bugger.

What were you thinking attempting a ride of 4300km? But it is done!


Looking forward to seeing you back home in Devonport. I sincerely hope you have some energy left over from the COFE. Your number one fan here, how can I put it delicately, has really missed you. . .

Congratulations to all the COFE team.


Grizzly said...

Congratulations to all involved in the COFE, you have carried us all along on your journey (it's amazing that you got there at all with all that weight). I have enjoyed reading the frequent updates and, like the owners of an expensive ring which has been swallowed by a dog, I look forward to seeing what comes out at the other end.

Safe trip home - we hope the film isn't being sent with the baggage.

On on
Burnie HHH

jen b said...

To the Great COFE team - you are amazing!!! I have been getting on the blog site regularly since yesterday waiting to see that you made it across the finish line - WOW....brought a tear to my eye seeing you finish that line Walter. We had champagne on satruday night tassie time hopefully around the same time you crossed the line and I was spreading the word everywhere. Safe travels back to Oz and can't wait to hear more on your return.
Physio Jen

H&M said...

Congratulations. It's great what you all achieved together. Every day after work we firstly opened internet to read your updates. We will miss it.

Hope that the trip back by car will go fast and smoothly and maybe we see you then again.

Hans and Marjan

Erwin said...

Ha haaaaa! Congratulations on a trip well done! What an achievement. A true victory over CF, if you ask me. And that there is a need for the documentary is without doubt, as people near me are wondering why this achievement is so special. I try to explain, but do not feel I succeed enough. Where is that documentary?

I loved the stories about the Wally factor. Well known, always surprising but also fresh. Keep 'm coming, those Wally factor stories. I need to start my day with a smile, and those stories made me smile.

Will there be a trip Sequel? If not, what am I to read to start my day with a smile? :O)

But no kidding, I liked the reading. Hard working people, busy trying to accomplish a major goal. A true great team. Congratulations!

Regards: Erwin.

The Green Group Trading said...

Hey you did it!
We had every confidence that you would do it!!!
Great effort guys.......see you back home soon W
As allways
Cheers & Beers
J & L

Jim Reeder said...

Fantastic finish and well done on producing a cycle classic that was great to read from beginning to end. Worth every cent of my modest sponsorship!