(32) Going cold Turkey
Monday 5th November
Even though we were in a hotel we hadn’t slept well. Leaving Istanbul was tough for many reasons. We had used Istanbul as our first major goal in this trip and once we reached it it felt like we’d lost a bit of momentum. Along with losing an hour with the clocks changing, we were also struggling with getting up early as we’d got used to lying in trying to catch up on rest. With Bulgaria and the start of Turkey being tougher than we thought – and the knowledge that we had to cross many more mountains to the south of Turkey, it was taking its toll on our spirit and motivation. We’d also parted company with our French friends Alaine and Oscar who we’d been cycling with since the beginning of Bulgaria as they were heading to Israel. We’d also met a lovely couple, Johan and Baerbel who we’d first met in Bulgaria and had met up again in Istanbul. They were heading to India to continue their cycle tour. One hard part of this trip is making new friends and then saying goodbye. Knowing Tim’s parents were meeting us in Cyprus in 2 weeks and the knowledge we had our Sudan visas gave us the necessary kick up the bottom.
We went down for breakfast in slightly less smart attire than the other guests. We finished breakfast and went to get our bikes. We weren’t so impressed by the security as he unlocked the door with a nail and were glad that we had chained the bikes.
We turned onto the main road and found it hard to find our way due to a lack of road signs and road numbers. It was like playing a cross word competition with half the words missing. With hills ranging between 20 and 30 per cent we decided to follow the coast road even though it would be much busier.
We headed south and we soon joined the coast road – it was the right decision as we had flat roads and a beautiful view across the water. As the road headed inland we started to play the name game again until we spotted a ferry port and decided to cross the water as the road was likely to be quieter and easier to follow. We rode down to the ferry and felt shattered. It had taken a lot longer to get out of the city than we thought it would.
The ferry took about 30 minutes and after a while on the highway we pulled over to a stall to grab a coke and some crisps. The owner came over armed with some kiwis and large orange fruit with a very juicy inside that we’d never seen before. After making a mess on the floor with the over-ripe fruit we said our thanks and headed on.
After a while we turned off to the right and started climbing a very steep hill. We climbed to about 400 metres and noticed a good camp spot between some houses. We knocked on the door and at first they looked nervous but when they realised what we needed they said no problem. As we pitched our tent the man came and watched us for a while before heading back to the house. We’d just finished cooking tea when he came back and asked us into his home. We were invited to sit down and his wife brought out pasta, peppers and onions and fresh bread. We spent the rest of the evening chatting with the family who had 3 boys who all spoke good English which they had learned at school. The best topics of conversation were football and music.
When we went to leave they indicated that it was cold outside but we assured them we had warm clothing. The mother gave Sharon a huge hug and kept kissing her. The tent was cold after being in the warm of the house but with our wooly hats on we were fine. Our food would last for tomorrow night.
Tuesday 6th November
We got buffeted in the night by strong winds. Rain was forecast for the next day and we could feel the weather changing. We packed up and said goodbye to the kids who were waiting for their school bus. We continued the climb and felt tired and hungry. As we finally started to descend we were rewarded by a stunning view of a lake below and decided to stop and eat some of the pasta we had cooked the night before. We didn’t realise how hungry we were and polished off half of it.
We descended down to the lake and continued for 5 miles and arrived in the town Iznic. It looked like an important historical town with remnants of an old city wall. We popped to the bakery and found a good spot on the edge of an olive tree field. We had cycled 30 miles by this point but wanted to do another 30 so we soon got going after waving to half the town as they passed by.
We started another climb of 400 metres and although not the highest, the gradiant made it feel one of the toughest of the trip so far. We reached the summit at 3.30pm and with the light fading we still had 20 miles to go. The road suddenly got wider as it was new and we flew down it, stopping at the town to get milk. We were worried there would be another climb but the road remained flat. We started looking for somewhere to camp as it was now pitch black and spotted a reservoir to our right which was lit up. We headed over towards some porta-cabins and asked a guy for water. He pointed up the road and said ’15 kms.’ We must have had a look of ‘we can’t do another 15kms’ and he agreed to fill our water bag. We asked if we could camp and they pointed to a flat piece of grass hidden between 2 cabins which looked perfect. When Tim tried to put the pegs in however there was concrete an inch below. There was a big discussion and we were shown to another patch next to some trees. We started cooking and showed the guys our map chatting to them as best we could. One of them disappeared and came back with bread and chocolate spread. We retired to bed feeling exhausted – the last 2 days had been some of the toughest so far.
Wednesday 7th November
We woke up at 7am and started packing up. What we thought were buildings behind us turned out to be a vast expanse of water covered in algae. It was actually more stunning than we thought. It was nice to have the use of the toilets and hot water from the kitchen.
We soon got on the road and what we thought was the start of a big climb turned out to be just a short ride up past the reservoir. We continued along the road to Inegol, these were in fact the only flat roads we had been on since in Turkey. We stopped at a yard that produced marble tiles as Tim was keen to look at the machines and we were invited in for coffee by the young owner – it was good timing as the drizzle had turned to rain. It was nice to have a break from the rain and we chatted a while about his business but with miles still to do we had to get back on the highway. As we rode on, the road forked and we took the right one against the advice of the marble yard owner as he said it was steep but with many climbs under our belts we decided we would be fine. The road remained flat for the first 5 miles then it started to climb, getting steeper all the time. Lorries would pass us and disappear into the approaching mist. We could hear their engines labouring as they continued up the hill.
We were soon in the mist too and as the road got steeper and wetter we could hear their wheels spinning trying to get grip. Our back wheels also slipped at times and we both agreed that we wouldn’t want to be driving a truck on the unprotected hair pin bends at 15 per cent. We got to 1,100 metres and as there was no sign of the top we decided to stop next to a water fountain for lunch grateful to get warm with a cuppa. We didn’t have much food – and certainly not enough to replenish our energy supplies.
We reached a false summit, descending 50 metres, only to climb for another half an hour. The summit was at 1,400 metres engulfed in mist. A man pulled over in his vehicle and offered us a lift but we resisted and he got 2 pastries from his truck for us. As we finally descended, the mist drew back and revealed autumn colours – red, mustard yellow and orange against the evergreens was truly magical.
We arrived in the town of Dominic and got supplies. As soon as we pulled into the square there were shouts of ‘hello’ from a group of school kids. For the next 30 minutes we were surrounded by about 20 children who wanted to practice their English!
As we were heading out into the darkness to find somewhere to camp a truck pulled over. A young guy called Nedim asked if we wanted to go with him to his home. We were exhausted and so decided to take him up on his offer as it meant a warm bed and hot food. He didn’t speak English and we understood that he lived 2-3kms away and we loaded the bikes in the back of the van. We headed off only to find that he actually lived 23 kms away! He asked if he could take us back in the morning and he agreed. After what felt like a long journey, we arrived in a small village to be greeted by his family. They were all there, his mum, brothers, their wives and their children. It was quite a party!
We were fed well and it was nearly midnight before we were shown to our room. They had lit a wood burner for us and it was like a sauna – much different than our tent. We had to sleep with the window open.
Thursday 8th November
We woke up in our cool and comfy room. Nedim’s Mum Anna made us breakfast of olives, cheese, salad and plenty of bread. Tim packed up the bikes and we asked where Nedim was already suspicious that he was still in bed. She told us he was still sleeping and indicated that it was because he’d been drinking the night before. We were annoyed as we didn’t know exactly how far back it was but luckily we had the GPS to retrace our route. Anna looked tearful when we said our goodbyes and kept pointing to the sky as it was still raining. We assured her that our waterproofs would keep the rain out.
As soon as we turned out of their courtyard we looked down in horror at the state of the road – it was thick with a clay mud – it was not going to be an easy exit. She came with us for the first 200 metres to help Sharon push her bike and to help clean out the thick mud that had built up on both of the bikes so that they no longer moved. We spent ages cleaning them and had only been a short distance. We waved goodbye and headed down the road.
We finally got back to the highway and Tim found he had a puncture. Once it was fixed we headed on to the town of Tavsanli where we picked up lunch.
All day we rode on along undulating roads which steadily climbed, passing pretty mountain villages on the way.
We planned to get to the town of Cavdarhisar to achieve our daily milage and make up the extra miles ridden in the morning so we decided to ride on into the dark evening.
The roads were good as were the drivers who passed us. After about 2 hours we could see the lights of the town in the distance. We had finally arrived. We passed some impressively lit Roman ruins and commented about what a great camp spot it would make. Pleased with our efforts, we found a small shop and rewarded ourselves with a packet of crisps! We picked up dinner and headed on out of town to find somewhere to camp.
We stopped at an army base to ask and they told us about a lake we could camp at further up the road. We rode on and couldn’t find it in the dark, so stopped at a garage to ask. They said we could camp there but there was nowhere suitable, so after much discussion we were told to follow one of the guys back towards town. We had no idea where we were going and were both tired and hungry. After a while a guy pulled up in a car and spoke to the man from the garage. He spoke a bit of English and told us he knew somewhere in the town we could camp. We followed him on the bikes and started to head out of town the way we had come in. We stopped after a mile or so at a piece of land next to the Roman ruin! He told us the land belonged to his friend who was happy for us to camp there. He gave us his card and told us to ring him or the police of we had any problems in the night. We thanked him and set up camp. Sharon had just put the kettle on when we spotted blue and red lights flashing on the road. The police had come to check us out. They were nice guys and asked to see our passports – they seemed more interested in our Sudan visas than our Turkey ones! They said goodbye and to call them if we needed to. We cooked dinner and fell asleep, exhausted after a long day.
Friday 9th November
After a cold night and checking on the bikes on occasions, we woke up to the Roman ruins that didn’t look so impressive as the night before. A car pulled up and before we could get out of our sleeping bags a bag full of pastries was posted through the vent in the end of our tent and a man said good morning and drove off. We enjoyed our fresh delivery and had boiled eggs too. We had passed the 6,000 mile mark the night before so took a couple of pictures.
As we were packing up 2 ladies shyly approached us and handed us 2 boiled eggs – it was a really sweet gesture.
The road steadily climbed out of town and finally gave us a much needed down hill and levelled off after 10 miles. It followed the river down the valley dropping gently. We entered a bustling town and spotted a small market. Sharon asked for 1 tomato and the lady kept filling the bag – we kept saying no just 1 tomato not 1 kilo but she disappeared with the full bag to weigh it. Another lady approached us with a bag full of chillies which she gave to us for free. We decided to leave and the tomato lady lost her customer! We picked up supplies in the supermarket and were given a free coffee by the cafe owner next door. We spotted some satsumas as we headed out of town and the man also gave them to us for free!
Soon after we had joined the highway we passed a man with our favourite crispy syrup rings and skidded to a halt. We rode on for another mile and found a water fountain, one of many we drank from during our time in Turkey. We ate left over pasta and were joined by a herd of sheep who were also using the water trough to drink from.
We had downloaded our emails in the cafe and read one from the tent company – since we found out in Hungary that our new tent leaked – and they agreed to refund us and stated ‘we are sorry the tent doesn’t meet your requirements’ We assumed that a tent that doesn’t leak would be a standard requirement. We had ordered another tent from a different company that was coming out with Tim’s parents to Cyprus later in the month, hoping this would be the end to our tent troubles as we were becoming ‘too tense’…
We continued on nicely undulating roads and stopped for a short break just before turning off for Usak. We rode on for about 2 miles before stopping for water at a garage. We were invited in for tea and thought at one point we’d secured a camp spot only to be left by the guys we were chatting to, to be replaced by the boss who made it clear that we needed to head on to the next town. Undeterred we rejoined the road, by now it was pitch black. We rode on for half a mile before spotting a dirt track off to our right. We rode down it for a couple of hundred metres and found a perfect spot behind some trees so hidden from the highway. With the temperature dropping we quickly cooked dinner and snuggled into our sleeping bags.
Saturday 10th November
It was a cold night but we managed to sleep well although we both felt tired and were grouchy with each other. We joined the highway and were surprised and pleased to find we were only 5 miles from Usak. We turned off the main highway and headed to Ulaby and started to descend.
It was great going and didn’t take us long to get to the town. We had both been craving cauliflower cheese for days – ever since one of our many conversations about the food we miss from home – so we were thrilled to find a fruit and veg market. We picked up a large cauliflower for 35 pence which weighed a ton! We named him Colin and Tim strapped him to his front pannier bag. We also bought some satsumas and were given a free garlic bulb.
We headed on and stopped at a garage and tactically asked for directions next to their tea urn. Directions confirmed and tea in our bellies we headed on and turned off for Gurny.
After 3 miles we saw a sign for some ruins that we’d been told about at the garage. We hoped the road continued on as we didn’t fancy riding back up the track in the cold wind. We arrived at the ruins and had a look around. They were interesting but there wasn’t much left and unfortunately there was no through road. As we started to head back a shepherd invited us for a cup of tea. We gratefully accepted and settled down in a sheltered spot. We shared bread and satsumas together. They made us tea and offered us some sheep cheese made from their flock – it was the best we had ever tasted. After a while we reluctantly left them and the fire and fought our way back to the highway in the chilly wind.
We had a second lunch 40 minutes later at 3pm by the side of the road having picked up water on the edge of a village. We headed on trying to get to Gurny only to be confronted by 2 very steep descents and climbs which really took our energy. On one of the descents, Sharon came around the corner to find bits of cauliflower leaves scattered on the road. She feared the worst – Colin had come a cropper… Tim was picking up the pieces, fortunately Colin was a tough old vegetable and he remained mainly intact. With Colin now well and truly strapped down, we finally arrived at the town of Gurny. We stopped at what looked like a supermarket but it only sold snacks. We were getting very cold, tired and hungry. We saw a sign for the centre and followed the road for a while down a steep hill. We got to a hair pin bend and saw the town 200 metres below. It didn’t look like there was anywhere to camp so we made the decision to return to the highway.
We rode on into the night looking for water and a suitable camp spot in a state of hunger induced delirium. With a bitter wind blowing we finally found a small garage to get water. It took us a long while later to find somewhere to camp and by the time we’d put the tent up we were both really cold. Tim lit a fire but the wind took most of the heat away. Sharon started to cook but got so cold that she had to go into the tent to warm up. Tim finished cooking a third of Colin and used the fire as a second stove. With missing ingredients for our cauliflower cheese, it wasn’t quite the meal we had been dreaming of. We both fell asleep just about warm enough.
Sunday 11th November
We woke after a cold night feeling snug in our sleeping bags. As we hadn’t been able to find a supermarket the evening before we had no milk, bread or cereal. We’d even run out of sugar so decided to head on to the next town about 10 miles away. The road undulated for a while and then below us snaked its way down to a valley. It felt alien riding downhill after so many up hills and we enjoyed free wheeling.
With our stomachs rumbling we pulled into a garage and found a small shop that sold all we needed. We rode another 100 metres down the road and found a spot out of the wind next to a vineyard to have breakfast. We waved at traffic as it past and polished off cereal and a loaf of bread. We headed on and enjoyed the good road and gentle downhill.
The skies started to cloud over but we could see white cliffs in the distance – this was our first view of Pamukkale -an unusual site where hot springs and travertines, terraces of carbonate minerals left by the flowing water appear. Pamukkale, means “cotton castle” in Turkish. We followed the brown signs and after a while turned off the highway. The road narrowed and we passed through a few small villages. We stopped to pick up more supplies as we were concerned that the prices in the tourist resort would be higher. We shared a bottle of coke with 2 young boys who had been watching us. We were about 6 miles from our destination so we headed on planning to find accommodation and have lunch there.
We finally arrived and as we passed a hotel a guy approached us saying he could give us a good price. He started at 60 TL and after using all our best haggling skills he finally agreed to 30 TL including breakfast. We soon made ourselves at home and headed up to see the cliffs. The entry fee was 20 TL (about £8) each and as there wasn’t much sun left we decided to return the following day to make the most of it. We headed back to the hotel and Sharon tackled the mound of washing while Tim backed up the latest load of photos and worked on the blog. We cooked some more of Colin for tea with some pasta, did some skyping and then wandered up to see the cliffs flood lit. We finally fell into bed just before midnight.
Monday 12th November
We got up and had breakfast and went to our room and finished backing up the photos. We managed to do a bit of the blog before heading up to the entrance. We were surprised to only see a couple of people up on the hill. We meandered up through the limestone pools; it was a cross between an outside cave and an expensive endless pool complex.
After lying around in the shallow warm pools, we headed to the top and sat down to have a spot of lunch and before we knew it we were surrounded by bus loads of tourists. Where had they all come from??