A month-long 2,500 mile charity bike ride by two Metropolitan police officers, PC Ceyhun ‘Jay’ Uzun and PC Ryan McKinlay is nearing completion.
The pair set off from outside Scotland Yard in London exactly four weeks ago today in a bid to raise awareness and essential funds for UK children’s cancer charity Tanyel’s Smile, which supports children with cancer in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC).
On Friday night, the two police officers made the ferry crossing from Taşucu, in southern Turkiye, to the TRNC port in Girne.
After an overnight stay at the Acapulco Resort, the off-duty police officers will set off early on Saturday morning for the final leg of their heroic journey, cycling 71km to Aspava in Yedidalga, northwest Cyprus.
PC Uzun and PC McKinlay, who have taken a month’s unpaid leave from the Met Police do the charity bike ride, hope to hit their £10,000 fundraising target by the time they arrive the beach restaurant sometime on Saturday afternoon.
Aspava was a favourite spot of Ceyhun and Gulay Uzun and their daughter Tanyel who tragically died from cancer in 2017 aged just 20 years old. Tanyel had been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, a few days after turning 18.
Her parents formed Tanyel’s Smile in tribute to their incredible daughter and her caring nature, trying to help other children with cancer even as she bravely battled her own illness.
A trip to the TRNC when Tanyel was in remission made her acutely aware of how lucky she was for being treated at the Royal Marsden Hospital, given the extremely limited support and hospital resources available to cancer-suffering Turkish Cypriot children in the embargoed country.
Tanyel set out to help these children receive better care and support, which her parents have continued to do in her name.
Jay – as he is known to family and friends – decided to embark on a journey into the unknown with his friend and work colleague Ryan. A year in the planning, the trip has seen them cycle from London to the Kent coastline, and from there to France, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Turkiye and finally the TRNC.
Ceyhun and Ryan arriving in the TRNC on Friday night for the final leg of their charity bike ride
The pair have been supported along the way by Gulay Uzun and Ryan’s mum Rachel. The two women put in a surprise call to T-VINE editor Ipek Ozerim on Thursday evening having gone on ahead to find accommodation in the port town of Taşucu.
“We’ve been camping for most the journey and thankfully the weather has been good,” said Gulay, adding, “but we didn’t fancy wild camping in Turkiye. It doesn’t seem to have the same [campsite] options that we’ve found elsewhere, so we decided to book outselves into a hotel near the port and are just waiting for the guys to arrive. They are about four hours behind us.”
The hotel was a rare treat for the party, who have kept their travel needs to an absolute minimum since leaving London on 23 September.
Gulay explained how tough the ride has been for the two men, who’ve had sore bottoms after spending all day in the saddle since leaving London over three weeks ago, cycling 100km a day: “Jay has quads he never knew about,” she states while laughing.
But there’s been some dangerous moments too. “Drivers in Turkiye seem to be oblivious about cyclists. It’s been really scary at times. We’ve had [police] escorts in cities like Istanbul, but the rest of the time, we’ve been on our own. A coach nearly ran the guys off the road. Cey had to bang on the side of the coach to make them aware. The driver got off more concerned about his coach than if he’d hit Jay.”
Rachel, who is originally from South Africa, and was involved in the country’s big drive to raise awareness about HIV and ensure people came forward for treatment, said “If we can help save one child with cancer it will all be worth it”.
She commented on how, like HIV, “cancer was a deadly disease, which can hit you at any time, at any age, whether you’re rich or poor, wherever you’re from.”
The quartet have had lots of support along the way through calls, messages and social media posts, helping to keep them in good spirits, including one from LOSEV – one of Turkiye’s biggest charities giving holistic treatment and support for children with leukaemia.
“We had just as they arrived in Turkiye from Greece when a lovely lady called Şebnem from LOSEV called. She asked after us and gave us such a big boost for this final week, inviting us to visit their children’s village in Ankara. Sadly, our changed route meant it wasn’t possible, but we will definitely take them up [on their invitation] soon,” said Gulay.
For now, the main thing is to safely complete the journey and ensure the riders hit their £10,000 fundraising target.
At the time of writing, 169 people had donated £7,119 between them, leaves Ceyhun and Ryan £2,881 short of their target.
Gulay urged everyone reading this story and in a position to donate to do so: “Getting the likes and positive messages on social media have been great, but what really matters is hitting the £10K target and raising vital income for the TRNC.
“Kids diagnosed with cancer in North Cyprus urgently need our help. The gulf between treatment options and facilities at a hospital like the Royal Marsden compared to the TRNC is huge and it can be the difference between life and death. Please give what you can – every pound we raise will be donated to the TRNC via Tanyel’s Smile.”