We knew that cycling across Turkey was going to be challenging. Two months or more in hot and mountainous conditions was never going to be easy but we started off well.
Leaving Istanbul on an overcast day, with plenty of rain, meant that the heat would not be a problem but these conditions brought there own challenges. How well could we be seen, were our lights bright enough? Could we cycle in rain kit up the hills or would we be too hot? Where flooding had occurred meant that in places we couldn’t tuck in close to the ‘curb’ because we’ve frequently seen, where the road has been resurfaced, the drains, occasionally with covers, are a good 18″ deep in a steep sided hole. Hitting one of these would wreck the bike and maybe us with it.
The weather did improve and we ended up with our first wild camping in Turkey. It was again a picnic area but this time, it had no designated camping spot, was by a lake and was frequented by friendly people. Altogether the experience, and swim in the lake, was a much more enjoyable experience.
From here we continued to develop our intimate experience with Turkey’s mountainous terrain. After three passes clocking in at 870m, 1180m and 1240m high, we felt we were getting to know what might be ahead. We are also aware that there are plateaus across Turkey. Having finished these passes, we collapsed into the first café in the town of Nallihan and were delighted to hear that the road ahead was indeed one such plateau and was ‘flat’. Flat, not quite. We’ve just finished the Danube and know what flat is. There were some serious undulations to say the least.
Our second day of ‘on a plateau’ was much more successful. We whizzed along at an average height of 700m admiring the beautiful views, all that is, until the last 10km when there was a sting in the tail as we climbed another 300m.
After the picnic area, we stopped at another little hotel, a sort of track stub off a mountain lay-by, where we built a screen of brushwood to hide the tent, this was a nice stop as only 300m from a spring. The next day’s cycling was rather long and arduous, and we’d found the alternating wild camp/hotel regime quite good, so we headed into Polatli hoping to find an hotel. Well we did, but Polatli is quite a big town (Pop 120,000, I think the sign said), so we actually had quite a few conversations with locals, one actually accompanying us around the hotels, sort of translating. We stuck our noses in two others, before settling on Gordium Otel. It all took ages, we really should learn the lesson of either sorting it out online beforehand, or cycling into the town centre before asking. Where we discovered via Wikipedia, that the small brown sign we’d passed 10km before, heralded a major site of antiquity – Gordium. Well, we’d pedalled for 5 days, so we declared a rest day, and went back to Gordium the next day – in a taxi (no buses we were told, and definitely no pedalling). That was a fascinating day – see another posting.
After Gordium we continued through more “plateau”, which may have involved a hill range to cross. We stopped in a garage forecourt, pitching between two used diggers for sale – foolishly choosing a garage with no restaurant. Gideon screwed up the cooking and the local dogs were not sure about the result either. We had a relatively easy, if baking, day along the side of Tuz Golu, a great salt lake. We reached Sereflikochisar and while wondering where the cheap hotels were, asked a chap out strolling with his young son. Inam proved a wonderful chap, and, as a teacher, signed us into the town’s teachers hotel – a bargain. Then he suggested meeting later for dinner. That was lovely, and he insisted on paying for the food – what hospitality!
Next day, we had a crap wild camp at what looked nice from a distance, but proved to be sloping, bumpy, sticky-grass infested, unexpectedly overlooked and possibly the local dogging spot. Then more undulations until we pitched up at – wow – a proper campsite (Panorama Camping) at Goreme.
At Goreme we stayed for four nights, exploring the wonderfully weird scenery, and blowing the budget on a balloon flight. The subject of a separate posting…