Ankara, Nevsehir -> Ortahisar -> Cappadocia area -> (London) -> Antalya -> Konya -> Mediterranean Coast -> Antalya.
When Brooke suggested joining our journey, we jumped at the opportunity. We love to share our adventures with others, especially those who will jump on their bikes and come along for the ride. Therefore it was exciting to see Brooke and the bike box coming out of the arrivals gate in Ankara. Soon we were back at our cosy apartment, sharing duty free rum and planning the route ahead. It would be a three month journey together, through a handful of countries. But first Brooke needed to recover from some jet lag. Between sleep-ins and early nights we wandered the streets in the snow, visited the imposing Ataturk Mausoleum, explored the incredible Anatolian Civilisations museum and introduced Brooke to Turkish cuisine and chai.
It seems as if no trip to Turkey is complete without a visit to the magical rock formations of Cappadocia. Such sentiments found us shivering at the bus station in Nevsehir surrounded by a thick blanket of snow. We had organised to stay with a host in the town of Ortahisar, a ride of just under 20km away. Usually not a problem, but as we cycled along the roads my gears began to slide and stick, with them eventually freezing in third gear. Not good, especially as I have a Rohloff hub that is meant to be failure free (being engineered in Germany and all). It would have been quicker to walk and by the time I arrived in Ortahisar I was blue from the cold – literally. The pot-belly stove in Aydin’s living room was the only thing between me and severe hypothermia. That night the thermometer hit minus 17 degrees Celsius – not something this antipodean is used to.
Cappadocia was a wonder to explore. The valleys, the ridges, the pinnacles and the caves that were once people’s homes became our playground. We cycled…
We explored a myriad of caves and churches carved into the pinnacles…
We saw it from a hot air balloon…
We enjoyed the spectacular views..
Our evenings were spent with Aydin and Fatih, and all the cycle tourists and backpackers they were hosting. We would cook amazing meals together, drink local wine and raki, and play card games that involved punishments such as putting snow down our tops, eating copious amounts of chillies and doing the break dancing move – the worm.
We even spent a night in a cave hotel…
From here we did a flying visit to London so that Jude and I could sit an examination and interview to work as paramedics for the London Ambulance Service when we finish this leg of our journey. In between studying, nervousness and buying appropriate second hand clothes to interview in (woollen thermals and polar fleece don’t seem to cut it) – we squeezed in some cheeky pints and visiting with friends. I won’t keep you in suspense as we were for three days – yes our new home will be London and jobs have been secured! So when we are settled our door will be open to all cyclists and friends passing by.
After a fortnight off the bikes it was time to hit the road. For Brooke the first day ended up being a baptism by fire. What I thought would be a relatively flat road with a gradual downhill gradient to Aksaray, ended up being a consistently undulating 90km slog into a frigid headwind. Copious amounts of food, beers and games of table tennis were required to refuel us for the next day. Fortunately the road onwards to Konya was flat to the point of boredom, and the sun shone warmly on our backs.
Years ago I was exploring different spiritual beliefs that resonated with me. During this time I came upon the ‘whirling dervishes’, a branch of Sufism based upon love. The idea of entering a trance like state of love while spinning on the spot appealed, but as usual I soon found out that this love was discriminatory and women were not allowed. Despite this draw back I remained interested, and was super excited when I found out that Konya had been their home. It was fascinating to explore the Mevlana museum where the whirling dervishes lived, prayed and practised their whirling. They did this by nailing a shoe to a board and spinning on the spot to overcome the wooziness such spinning causes. For fun I tried it again with hilarious consequences. The highlight though was our opportunity to see a whirling dervish ceremony at the cultural centre that night. Mesmerising.
A beautiful mountain range provided a lengthy climb for the following two and a half days. As we cycled the D696, we gained altitude and soon enough the stunning alpine scenery filled our vision and our thoughts. Ice, wind and storm signs lined the road, but unseasonably clear and sunny weather surrounded us. The snowy peaks sparkled, the tops of the pine trees swung in the wind and our lungs and legs enjoyed the constant workout they were receiving. At nights we pitched our tents, built fires and snuggled in our warm sleeping bags while the temperature dropped below zero.
It was exciting to reach the Alacabel summit at 1825m. Now it was time for the long downhill to the Med coast.
As we cruised down from the snowy terrain to pine forests the thrill of freewheeling made me giddy. There is nothing like being fully in the moment, the wind in your hair and laughter coming from deep inside as you lean into another corner. Unfortunately it was not to be all sunshine and lollipops. Further down, mines and logging in this area also provided a dearth of truckies with questionable driving abilities. On a particularly long, steep section of switchbacks, I just avoided being killed twice by two different truck drivers. My front pannier was not so lucky. It bounced off on a particularly potholed section of the road and was run over by the truck that was tailgating me. It exploded and a shower of red lentils went everywhere. I was so angry that I didn’t even collect my litter and threw some trash on the ground. Doing this I didn’t feel bad at the time as many Turkish people seem not to care for their environment either – there is litter everywhere here.
Our first view of the Mediterranean coast brought whoops of delight. Stalls selling bananas and oranges lined the streets and the salty air hit our faces and we knew we had reached warmer climes. After making our way through the conglomeration of ugly beachside resorts we found a place that lead to the Mediterranean Sea. It was time for a swim. But first I had to deal with the pompous resort worker who tried to tell us that we couldn’t swim there. Poor chap. Don’t get between me and swimming, it’s like getting between a hippo and water.
Cycling friends had pre-warned us that our hopes for the stereotypical stunning Mediterranean coastline were not to be realised on this section of the journey. Seaside beauty was distorted by the thousands of mega resorts that hid the coastline. Riding was along a very busy main road, luckily with a wide shoulder. Despite popular Turkish opinion, we found that the driving became worse the further west we went. Arrogance and speed don’t make for safe and courteous drivers. We were impatient to reach Antalya, and with no reason to stop and tunes filling our ears the kilometres flew by. Winding our way through the vibrant new city we located the walls of the old town and stepped into a vortex of tourism. As the high season had not yet arrived the streets were largely devoid of people and we enjoyed the peace of the place. An Efes (or two) were drank in celebration of our arrival and we relaxed into the rhythm of rest day life. Slow meanders along the city streets led us to the top of cliffs that dropped dramatically into the sea. We joined the locals basking in the sun on the pier and tried the local dish of Balik Ekmek. One rest day turned into two as a tropical storm front, with full thunder and lightening show, hit the whole night and morning that we were to leave. We spent this day watching movies in our underwear, drinking beer and listening to the tempest outside. Tomorrow would be perfect again, that we knew.
Thanks for joining us again,