Crossing the Dardanelles.

Ephesus (Selcuk) -> Izmir -> Cankkale -> Gallipoli peninsula -> Istanbul -> Gallipoli peninsula -> Greece.

At a crossroads.

At a crossroads.

One of my favourite rituals of travel is the first swim in a new sea, no matter what the weather. The marshlands of the silted bay, that once connected Ephesus to the sea, gave way to the Aegean. We could have chosen to join the cows for a swim at the beach, but we pushed on for another 20 minutes, climbing the road that hugged the cliff top that dropped far below. The wind churned up the waves and the water was a murky brown when we entered. The locals thought us crazy for swimming on such a day, but I always find splashing in the water rejuvenating. On the beach, as we picked seaweed flakes from our skin the nearby café owner offered us hot tea to warm ourselves. We gladly accepted and shared our remaining food with the stray cats that circled our table.

Overlooking the Aegean Sea.

Overlooking the Aegean Sea.

The stray cats have funny hiding places.

The stray cats have funny hiding places.

Sharing tea after our swim.

Sharing tea and food after our swim.

The ride to Izmir was lovely along the secondary road Izmir Cadesi. Forest interchanged with small-scale agriculture. Pelicans circled us as we ate our lunch on the shores of a bird sanctuary reservoir. With a tail wind we cruised along happily outrunning the storm that was chasing us from behind. Such peace was not to last. As we reached the outskirts of this megapolis the insanity began. Let me rephrase that, the driving insanity began. The roads are not designed for cycling and the drivers have no respect for anyone. It was a hodge podge of mains roads, underpasses, narrow service roads, crazy major intersections, cars double parked and peak hour traffic.

Pelicans fly overhead at lunchtime.

Pelicans fly overhead at lunchtime.

Spring is starting to show herself in floral blooms.

Spring is starting to show herself in floral blooms.

Enjoying a cuppa and a spot of lunch.

Enjoying a cuppa and a spot of lunch.

Enter stage left the driver of doom. The whole episode lasted less than two minutes but it all went in slow motion for me. Some dickhead in a sports car (sound familiar?) roared passed me at a speed I don’t even want to know, in a narrow service lane missing me by mere centimetres.  Despite being hit by cars twice this journey and almost being killed by maniac truck and bus drivers, this was by far my scariest experience yet.  After almost two years of dealing with badly behaved drivers I snapped.  I chased him down – he was stopped at the traffic lights down the road – and my metal water bottle may have accidently inserted itself into the corner rear panel of his shiney car.  He immediately pulled out and tried to run me over, so Jude lost it at him and we cycled off shaken but triumphant.  The drivers and the road continued to be horrendous and by the time we found a seaside bar we were exhausted.  Beers and shisha were ordered to calm the nerves and two hours later we cycled in fine spirits (and in the rain storm that had caught up to us) to Samed and Shahika’s lovely apartment.  Their kindness, hospitality and good humour (as well as their cat Smirnoff) dispelled any remaining negative feelings.

Happy to have arrived in Izmir.

Happy to have arrived in Izmir.

Enjoying a beer after the crazy ride into Izmir.

Enjoying a beer after the crazy ride into Izmir.

Turkish people love their food and breakfast is the highlight of any day.  The table is spread with 15 different dishes and 4 types of bread and of course the mandatory cups of tea.  Then you eat until you can eat no more, and then there is still food left on the table – even with cycle tourists around.  Coincidently our friends Ismail and Irena from Gaziantep also happened to be in Izmir at thix time and we spent a lovely weekend, with friends old and new, tasting all the culinary delights that Turkey had to offer.  It was a gourmands paradise and a hungry cycle tourists wet dream.  Our last evening was celebrated in style with Smirnoff’s namesake and a variety of mezze bought fresh from the family run deli.  Sherefe!!

Breakfast is the best meal of the day in Turkey.

Breakfast is the best meal of the day in Turkey.

Sharing coffee with friends - old and new.

Sharing coffee with friends, old and new.

A coffee and a sahlep.

A coffee and a sahlep.

A Turkish speciality - mussels stuffed with spiced rice served hot with a squeeze of lemon. We may have gorged ourselves...

A Turkish speciality – mussels stuffed with spiced rice served hot with a squeeze of lemon. We may have gorged ourselves…

Eating and choosing mezze at the local shop.

Eating and choosing mezze at the local shop.

Relaxing at home with Samed and Shahika.

Relaxing at home with Samed and Shahika.

Ready to drink? Sherefe!!

Ready to drink? Sherefe!!

Considering our Izmir cycling history and that another storm was brewing, we chose to catch the ferry from the south of Izmir bay to the north.  A minute after we wished our friends a fond farewell it started to bucket down.  The promenade cycle path to the dock became covered in water, super slippery and both Jude and I lost control.  I just missed knocking three people over like bowling pins and Jude slammed hard to the ground.  Wet and sore we arrived at the ferry and dripped all over the floor on the half hour ride.  After passing through the industrial part of town the only road out of town was a major thoroughfare with traffic galore and as usual lots of bad driving – I wonder when this will end?  Well it did finally did for a while and our three day cycle towards the ancient city of Troy ended up being quite enjoyable.  We cycled along from bay to bay, camped by the sea, cooked on fires, Brooke enjoyed a spot of fishing, we did yoga and meditated, books were read and beers were drank while watching the sunset.  We even experienced some of the hospitality we had become used to back east with a dinner invitation, loads of tea and some good Turkish humour.

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A dinner invitation is always accepted and enjoyed.

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Brooke enjoys a spot of fishing.

And some more.

And some more.

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We enjoyed lovely nights of camping by the sea, with a fire to keep us warm and cook dinner.

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Morning light.

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Storms came and went for the whole ride up the coast.

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Exploring the rock holes and enjoying the last of the daylight.

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Yep, life is pretty perfect.

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Anyone for toast?

After a breakfast of toast and eggs we were ready to tackle the climb over the mountain range that would drop us into the valley where the archaeological remains of Troy are to be found.  You may all be familiar with the Homeric tale of the Trojan War brought on by some wife stealing (with the assistance of Aphrodite) and the fall of the city with the use of a giant wooden horse.  What I didn’t know was that the city had been built and rebuilt at least 13 times since 3,000 BC, until it was abandoned in 500 AD, only to be rediscovered in the mid 1860’s.  Quite a bit of imagination is required to visualise the fantastic city of old, but the ruins still remain impressive both for their size and quality.  Being a UNESCO site, the nearby village takes advantage of its ability to exploit tourists by charging ridiculous amounts of money for food and accommodation, so we did what we always do, we cycled a few kilometres down the road and set up camp for the night.  Our site was so spectacular that I commented that I felt like a queen overlooking her lands.

A replica of the Trojan horse.

A replica of the Trojan horse.

Entering the ancient city of Troy

Entering the ancient city of Troy

Our first squirrel sighting.

Our first squirrel sighting.

Exploring the ruins.

Exploring the ruins.

9 different city stages are marked here - covering a period of 3,500 years.

9 different city stages are marked here – covering a period of 3,500 years.

Part of the old city housing.

Part of the old city housing.

Yes, more ruins.

Yes, more ruins.

Me and my domain.

Me and my domain.

Sunset over the valley.

Sunset over the valley.

Jude and I woke in high spirits.  Today we would be crossing from the Asian continent to the European one.  As we climbed out of the valley we were greeted with a spectacular view of the Dardanelles.  As the water sparkled below we watched as ships passed in perfect formation on their way to the Marmara Sea.  We spoiled ourselves with a second breakfast overlooking the action below and then free-wheeled our way down to Canakkale from where we caught the ferry across to the Gallipoli peninsula and the European continent.  We may have drunk half a bottle of whisky on the way over and we may have been quite merry when we arrived.  After a quick look around the War Memorial in Eceabat and a few tears at the beautiful letter written by Ataturk to the mothers of foreign men killed here, we located the Boomerang Bar and settled in for a few more celebratory bevvies.

Our first view of the Dardanelles.

Our first view of the Dardanelles.

Enjoying our second breakfast.

Enjoying our second breakfast.

Got to love where you can park with a bike.

Got to love where you can park with a bike.

The Gallipoli Peninsula from the ferry.

The Gallipoli Peninsula from the ferry.

Having a whisky (or two) on our way to continental Europe.

Having a whisky (or two) on our way to continental Europe.

We have arrived!!!

We have arrived!!!

Part of the War Memorial in Eceabat.

Part of the War Memorial in Eceabat.

Ataturk's letter that brought tears to my eyes.

Ataturk’s letter that brought tears to my eyes.

Part of the War Memorial Eceabat.

Part of the War Memorial Eceabat.

Celebrating with more beers at the Boomerang Bar.

Celebrating with more beers at the Boomerang Bar.

Well watered, we set off for the opposite side of the peninsula and I must admit it felt like I was flying.  The sunshine, the greenery and the newly paved roads (the 100th ANZAC day anniversary was in a fortnight) combined for a glorious ride.  We found ourselves a beautiful beach next to a pine forest and set up home for the night.  Despite being Australian I hadn’t considered visiting Gallipoli on this trip, but it was the one place Brooke wanted to visit, and I’m glad we came.  Not for the ANZAC stuff, but for the natural beauty.  It is the cleanest, greenest and quietest place I have seen in the whole country.  The next day we did visit numerous ANZAC sites including Lone Pine and ANZAC Cove, and I learnt a different version of what happened here during the war.  The thing that saddened me the most was that the Australians, New Zealanders and English know the names of all the men that lost their lives here, the Turkish do not.  Their forces were disorganised and thousands of men lie in this ground without their families knowing where they are.

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Cooking dinner at sunset.

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Our stunning camp spot.

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We had a friend for our time on the peninsula.

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Lone Pine memorial.

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Memorial wreaths at Lone Pine.

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Reading the names of those remembered.

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A view down the Gallipoli Peninsula.

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The Australian dug trenches still survive 100 years on.

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ANZAC Cove.

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A view of ANZAC Cove.

As I mentioned this year is the 100th anniversary of ANZAC Day and there was a ballot for the 10,000 odd tickets available to be here on this day.  The tickets were free, but the catch was that you had to book in on a tour to attend and the price of these was about $800 for 4 days minimum, and from chatting to many of the local businesses not many of these tours actually stop to support them during this time.  I’m glad we visited during this quiet time as this seems more fitting to the memory of what occurred here.  After a few days of exploring we returned to Eceabat and left our gears and some of our bikes in the wonderful care of Mesut at Boomerang Bar before taking off on a five day adventure to Istanbul.

Looking stunning when she is about to swim with hundreds of jellyfish.

Looking stunning when she is about to swim with hundreds of jellyfish.

The weather picked up so we hid behind an old bunker for the night.

The weather picked up so we hid behind an old bunker for the night.

Dinner party in the rain.

Dinner party in the rain.

Boomerang Bitter at the Boomerang Bar.

Boomerang Bitter at the Boomerang Bar.

Home overlooking the Dardanelles.

Home overlooking the Dardanelles.

Where our girls spent their time while we were in Istanbul.

Where our girls spent their time while we were in Istanbul.

As you probably all know we are behind on the blog and hopefully you read Jude’s (on time) wonderful blog entry about our 2 years on the road that we celebrated in Istanbul.  Our friend Janne joined us there for the celebration and it was lovely.  As well as celebrating we had our bikes somewhat serviced and unfortunately that experience was indeed poor.  Luckily the sightseeing was spectacular.  We wandered from the Galata tower, to the Hagia Sophia, to the Blue Mosque, to the basilica cistern, through the bazaars and along the Bospherus.  What a city, what history – I’ll leave the pictures to tell the story of our time there.

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Istanbul from the Bospherus.

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Istanbul from the Bospherus.

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Coffee time.

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So many fisherman.

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Inside the Hagia Sophia.

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Inside the Hagia Sophia.

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Inside the Hagia Sophia.

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The incredible mosaics.

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Being monkeys

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The Hagia Sophia.

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The Blue Mosque.

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Inside the Blue Mosque.

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The basilica cistern.

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The basilica cistern.

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Medusas head in the basilica cistern.

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Inside the Grand Bazaar.

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Inside the Grand Bazaar.

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Inside the Grand Bazaar.

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So many mosques.

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And more.

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Wandering the streets.

Soon enough the road began calling again and it was time to cycle towards Greece.  It was a smooth 2 day cycle with a lovely pitch by the beach for our last night in Turkey.  In Ipsala we spent the last of our lira on food for the next weeks camping and loads of our favourite Turkish vegan snack – Cikofte.  Turkey had been a wild card on this trip and we were super happy to have explored so much of this amazing and varied land.

Turkey  - teşekkür ederim & elveda.

All my love, Astrid.

Our last hill in Turkey at a whopping 350 metres.

Our last hill in Turkey at a whopping 350 metres.

Our home at sunset.

Our home at sunset.

Last night happiness.

Last night happiness.

Last campfire in Turkey.

Last campfire in Turkey.

From the snow to the sea.

Ankara, Nevsehir -> Ortahisar -> Cappadocia area -> (London) -> Antalya -> Konya -> Mediterranean Coast -> Antalya.

Love-in Turkey.

Love-in Turkey.

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.

Brooke has arrived and so has the snow.

Brooke has arrived and so has the snow.

Walking through the snowy streets.

Walking the snowy streets.

Ataturk's Mausoleum.

Ataturk’s Mausoleum.

Inside the Anatolian Civilisations museum.

Inside the Anatolian Civilisations museum.

Looking at the ancient carvings.

Looking at the ancient carvings.

On top of the Anakara castle.

On top of the Anakara castle.

Ankara spreads on and on.

Ankara covered in snow.

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.

Yes that is really a max of -4 and a minimum of -17.

Yes that is really a max of -4 and a minimum of -17.

Jude and our dinner heating by the pot belly stove at Aiden's house.

Jude and our dinner heating by the pot belly stove at Aydin’s house.

Meal times at Aiden's was always a delicious feast.

Meal times at Aydin’s was always a delicious feast.

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…

Exploring Cappadocia by bike.

Exploring Cappadocia by bike.

The bikes taking a rest in the snow.

The bikes taking a rest in the snow.

Ta daa...

Ta daa…

Bok bok meets camel rock.

Bok bok meets camel rock.

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One of the roads through the valleys.

We hiked…

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We explored a myriad of caves and churches carved into the pinnacles…

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We saw it from a hot air balloon…

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We enjoyed the spectacular views..

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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.

Pulling my best moves.

Pulling my best moves.

Cooking in the kitchen

Cooking in the kitchen

And enjoying a shared meal.

And enjoying a shared meal.

Enjoying morning cup of tea on Aiden's terrace.

Enjoying a morning cup of tea on Aydin’s terrace.

We even spent a night in a cave hotel…

The entrance to our cave hotel.

The entrance to our cave hotel.

Excited about spending the night in our cave hotel.

Excited about spending the night in our 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.

Beers at the airport.

Beers at the airport.

Practising CPR on pillows.

Practising CPR on pillows.

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.

Our cycling route from Ortahisar to Antalya

Our cycling route from Ortahisar to Antalya

View of Hasan Dagi from the road.

View of Hasan Dagi from the road.

Resting on the side of the road.

Resting on the side of the road.

The caravanserai at Sultanhani.

The caravanserai at Sultanhani.

A fire is good for keeping warm and cooking dinner.

A fire is good for keeping warm and cooking dinner.

Camping with agricultural equipment under a petrol station.

Camping with agricultural equipment under a petrol station.

The view of the road to Konya

The view of the road to Konya

Taking a break on the side of the road.

Taking a break on the side of the road.

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.

Being a whirling dervish.

Being a whirling dervish.

Exploring the public gardens of Konya.

Exploring the public gardens of Konya.

Excited in front of the Mevlana museum.

Excited in front of the Mevlana museum.

Mevlana's mausoleum.

Mevlana’s mausoleum.

Inside the Mevlana museum grounds.

Inside the Mevlana museum grounds.

The complex from the outside.

The complex from the outside.

Part of the whirling dervish ceremony.

Part of the whirling dervish ceremony.

In a trance of love.

In a trance of love.

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.

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Enjoying the steady climb.

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Entering the alpine area.

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The snow sparkles and the pine trees glow.

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Jude loves cycling with this scenery.

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Nearing the end of the long climb.

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Yo! Do you like to climb?

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Collecting firewood for the evening.

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Chilling out with dinner and a whisky by the fire.

It was exciting to reach the Alacabel summit at 1825m.  Now it was time for the long downhill to the Med coast.

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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.

This is where my pannier was revived using rope and a bit of love.

This is where my pannier was killed and then revived using rope and a bit of love.

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The alpine terrain became lush agricultural land the lower we cycled.

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After three days of climbing and no shower, this section of the river was too enticing – so we went for a swim.

Making dinner at this perfect campsite by the river.

Making dinner at this (almost) perfect campsite by the river, the rubbish around did detract from the natural beauty.

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.

Excited by our first view of the Mediterranean waters.

Excited by our first view of the Mediterranean waters.

I may not look like a hippo, but get between me and this water at your own risk.

I may not look like a hippo, but get between me and this water at your own risk.

Our first sunset at the Me coast.

Our first sunset at the Med coast.

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.

The bustling new town makes a stark contrast with the peace of the old town.

The bustling new town makes a stark contrast with the peace of the old town.

The old town wall.

The old town wall.

Celebrating with an Efes.

Celebrating with an Efes.

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The dramatic coast of Antalya.

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The port of the old town

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Basking in the sun like a local.

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View of the old town.

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Thanks for joining us again,

Love Astrid.

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