Trip Start Jun 01, 2007
10Trip End Jul 31, 2007
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The problem was that the whole area was flat and treeless so I had no cover. I stopped a guy who approached in the falling darkness. We discussed my camping possibilities, I think, and he asked for money and cigarettes. I thanked him and continued. I could no longer see the hill I'd been heading for but felt a little disconcerted by the tone of the guys voice. I think he was warning me about wild dogs and bandits. He also would have a good idea of my location and many friends in a rough little town. I returned to the Jandarma. The guy on guard tried his best to ignore me until giving in and calling a friend. About 10 jandarma came across. One spoke German. He couldn't understand why I wanted to camp here. I couldn't find the right words for "because I can't see the bloody road". His commander also thought the idea ridiculous - too cold here, he said, camp on the coast. Cheers. I made my way onto the coast which was about 200km away. A truck rattled the ground as it passed horn blaring into the night. The final straw came after only 1km as a dog with incredible vision came to greet me head on face contorted in a viscious snarl. I've seen these dogs chase down cars before - no fear. I manouvered the bike around him glad we were on flat ground and weaved my way out of reach. He chased me for a good 200m lunging every time I slowed the pace - little bastard. Shaking I pulled over when I was sure he'd retreated. It was past 9pm and pitch-black. I wasn't going any further tonight. I fortuitously cycled down a track between two fields and approached a half built breeze-block shed. I wheeled the bike in and looked around outside. Certain there'd be nobody visiting for a few hours I made my bed on the floor.
I was up before 5am. I couldnt sleep with the thought of prowling dogs on my mind and it was getting light. I warmed myself by cycling into the brightening but chilly 8oC dusk. I reached the main Nigde-Kayseri road and had some breakfast by a petrol station with some scavenging wild dogs. Rather than take the easy fla and boring route through Nigde I opted for the back road to Pozanti via Camardi. I found that the road was being repaired for the busy ski season and the first 25km of road were loose rock. Undaunted I continued towards the distant mountains.
20km later I pulled into a little village called Elmali for a tea-stop. I found the tea house and was immediately surrounded and welcomed by the locals - all male and of all ages from boys to old men. I answered in stuttering Turkish the usual nationality, age and marital status questions before someone asked me in English if I was hungry. I admitted that I was and Murat led me to his restaurant. We chatted with the aid of my phrase book while he served me lots of Ayran (a sour dairy drink and a staple in the diet of Turkish men). When the pide (flat bread) arrived later he served me lamb chops cooked on a mangal (bbq) with salad washed down with more tea. A bargain at 10YTL (4 pounds).
I cycled on into the heat and found the road return to asphalt. At 1pm I took shelter from the +30o heat under a bridge and slept for over two hours catching up on last night. After climbing over the peak of the road at Buldurus (1720m) I met Andi who is biking around Turkey and the middle east on an MZ climbing (on foot) as many mountains as he can find. He was here for the awesome mountain range of Ala Daglar near Demirkazık. He narrowly missed being burnt to a crisp the day before climbing Mt. Erciyes. He was caught in an electrical storm on his descent and was struck by a branch of lightning. He recalls seeing the main trunk crash into the hillside 100m ahead of where he stood. Keep on keeping on Andi. Hope to catch you later for some cycling. I camped in a dry river bed under the stars that night in clear view of the mountains. Firefly and meteorites flashed overhead as I fell asleep.
Started a much warmer day (19oC at 6am) with a downhill into Camardi for a breakfast of tea, bananas and simmit. I then coasted downhill for a while before labouring up and down. Stopped to adjust my brakes. Were they rubbing or was I tired? Stopped for sugar and tea in Kamisli before continuing to Pozanti for lunch.
Straight after lunch I had a monster 15km climb back up to 1200m at Tekir. I had avoided the motorway and again taken a back road. I bought supplies ready to make camp and continued into the forest. Everyspot I found was strewn with rocks so I continued tired frm the days cycling. I eventuall came across a highland asture outside Gulek. A few mostly vacant houses dotted a huge field. I man waved as I passed but I thought I would find something out of sight of the inhabitans who, I was certain, were a semi-nomadic tribe. They flee the lower, coastal plains during the hot summers returning in winter. I could find nothing nearby so returned to the huge empty field behind the houses. I asked permission to set-up my tent from the guy I'd seen earlier and after a meeting with some elders I was accepted much to the annoyance of one of the younger guys.
I left early the next morning and glided downhill for about 15km. Then it was up and down for 15km before I stopped for cay and a chat with the locals in Dortler/Kadelli. I'd dropped from 1200m to 400m. I continued to Tarsus which has a population of 20,000. It already felt too big as I made my way in on a trunk road busy with trucks, dust and exhaust fumes. A young guy served my refreshing Ayran in exchange for a chat in English. After lunch I found the tourist office. I discovered that some guys had passed through town recently on foot retracing the steps of Tarsus' most famous son, St Paul. Another guy showed up and after chatting over cay he offered to show me around town. He was a mine of information and had close links to the church. He lives off earnings from the books he writes and keeps his allegiances quiet. These are dangerous times for people with such sensitive interests. I saw St. Paul's house and well, which probably aren't his at all. I saw the tomb of Daniel (he of lion fame) inexplicably located where a river would have flown when the tomb was built. I paused for a photo of Cleopatras Gate as I left Tarsus but found that it was far too modern to have been walked across by that great queen.
I battled my way along the Tarsus-Mersin highway in rush hour traffic with heavy, stinking trucks and buses roaring closely by. I'd taken the precaution of equıpping myself with a big stick in Cappadocia in case I had any more trouble from snarling dogs. Fitted at one end with a cloth the stick also came in handy as a warning to passing motorists that I was sharing the road and required a wide berth. Having been unable to find a bike-stand strong enough to take the strain of a fully loaded Clara I found the stick had a third use as a prop.
I fought my way through Mersin using tricks I'd developed on the commute to and from work in Leeds. I wound my way through the busy, dusty streets of Yenisehir and after asking for too many directions and crawling through a maze of high rise flatsş dusty roads and dead ends I found the fast growing town of Viransehir. I was looking for an ancient ruin of a once great city where I'd been told I could camp out of the way of passers by. Bewildered by too many wrong turns I headed for the beach choosing a street at random and came halt at a road junction's red light. I had a strange feeling. I looked up and there ahead of me were the ruins of a collonaded street leading towards the sea. My heart lifted. On closer inspection it was completely enclosed in a 10ft wire fence and enveloped by the fast growing suburb. Luckily there was a lemon grove adjacent to the area which like this entire coast line would once have been prime agricultural land. After much deliberation, a late dinner and a couple of beers in a beach front park I waited until the area was quiet and made camp.
I spent a sleepless night laid out fully dressed on my tarp. The local ant colony made mince meat of my mits and mosquitoes buzzed angrily around my head. I was alert to every passing voice and car. I returned to the park for breakfast at 5am and was on the road by 7. I sleepily plodded on stopping for tea a second time at Ayas. I'd just passed the turnoff to an ancient city called Kanlıdivane and was debating whether to visit. I also wanted to visit the nearby sites of Kizkalesi and Cennet Cennehem (Heaven & Hell) but I was tired. I got chatting with Halil as I drank tea. His parents ran the cafe. I told him of my plans and he offered to give me a tour on his motorbike. I hung around for the rest of the day chatting with a steady stream of locals who dropped in for a game of cards, drinking tea and sleeping on an old mattress laid in the shade. At about 5pm his parents returned and I got a two hour tour of the local area including an ancient Roman city called Elessau-Sebaste that holds the Kings Sarcophagus. Cheers Halil.
I woke after 7pm the following day after a pleasant lie in. After a dip in the sea I'd camped opposite the cafe. One of the locals let me use his camp site for free. It's situated in the shade by the sea, a steep drop from the main road, opposite the cafe.
The days cycling was quite boring but the roads had cleared since Mersin. I had my lunch in the shade by the green river in Silifke in view of its fine castle placed high on a nearby hill. Lunch and dinner have come to be repetitive but cheap, tastey and healthy. Bread, cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olives and ayran. I bought supplies in Tasacu. The road was a lot clearer now and the last 2 hours cycling were a joy as I followed the winding coastal road never more than 25 rocky metres from the sea. I passed a camping place in Bogaz but they wanted 15YTL for the night. I said no thanks and decided to try my luck a little further determined to stick to my daily budget of 15YTL (6 quid). I started to regret my decision half way up a steep incline just out of the village. I reached the top of the rocky pine covered cliff and found a dusty turnoff on a bend blocked by huge blocks of raw marble. The sign read Ugur Mermer and I thought a redundant hotel or restaurant must lay beyond. I pulled the bike into the scrub out of sight of passing motorists and took a look inside. It turned out to be a redundant marble quarry (mermer is marble in Turkish). After an hour spent clambering over the rocky cliffs I gave up trying to find a way into the sea. I had dinner and set up camp under the stars in the company of a nosey fox.
Lots of hilly cycling the next day as I wound my way round the coast always in sight of the inviting turquoise waters. The sun constantly shone and temperatures reached 35oC. I stopped for tea in Ovacik for a rest from the heat. The owner of the cayhane stunned me by failing to do two things I've come to expect as customary in Turkey: he didn't say hello with a friendly smile or welcome me. I quickly moved on but not before buying my usual lunch from a shop in town. The shopkeeper made certain I didn't leave town with a bad feeling for the place. We chatted as he asked me where from and where to. I climbed out of town and had lunch in the shade by the roadside. Trucks rounded the bends slowly churning up and down hills as they had for two days and would for two more. All waved or shouted encouragement a they passed giving me a friendly toot on their many varied and always musical horns.
I stopped for tea in Aydincik made welcome by the locals as they played cards. I was tired after a tough day and ready to rest fro the night. I cycled on. Some boys called me to join them as they threw themselves from a dilapidated iron jetty into the sea. Much to their delight my feet got caught in my pedals as I stopped and I fell to the floor. They roared with laughter and fell in the sea in imitation. I laughed along too picked myself up and pulled off the road at restaurant 10m away. I chatted and drank tea with the chefs and the owner offered to let me camp on the beach in front. I became a pin cushion for a swarm of mosquitoes as I pitched the tent under some trees in long grass but soon cocooned myself from the viscious little bleeders and read my book - The Wind In My Wheels by Josie Dew as the restaurants musician sang along to his Sars.
More hills as I followed the coast road as it snaked its way along the craggy cliffs that break the Mediterranean. Sandy bays and ancient dotted here and there. I had lunch in a restaurant in Bozyazi with a hefty truck driver who'd hailed me as I passed. Pleased with the days steady but tiring 60km I stopped for tea just outside Anamur. Chatting with the locals I realised that I was still 120km short of Alanya the resort town where my sister and parents were flying in to meet me the following day. I'd miscalculated although it was clear on the map and I knew there was still alot of hills to climb. I took a quick 2km detour to visit yet another ruin, Anamuriam, and climbed out of town at about 5pm up a steep ascent into 28oC heat. The battery on my only luxury item, an MP3 player brought back on a friends visit to the States, gave up on me so I had to resort to my trusty radio in need of inspiration. Only Turkish songs were playing as the radio crackled. I fought uphill in the shade with tired legs and a heavy heart. I had no idea where I would be camping that night. My aim was to reach a little village called Mescit before it got dark but the sun was falling fast and I had 25km to cover. Suddenly I got a clear signal on the radio as I climbed out of the pine canopy into a sunlit clearing. Amy Lee from Evanescence belted out "I believe in you..." from the song Taking Over Me. My spirits were lifted as this is my all time favourite cycling song. Up until that moment I'd been considering which side of the road I'd be sleeping on that night as the heavy trucks chugged past but now I knew I'd find something better.
I was expecting the village and possibly the restaurant but not the sandy beach. I stripped off hopped over the pebbles and plunged into the sea. Refreshed I dressed and made my way to the restaurant. Darkness fell as I treated myself to three huge plates of chicken, salad and chips all for just 4 quid. I'd had the foresight to ask a passing jandarme if I could camp on the football pitch near the small army barracks. I didn't want to be woken up at gunpoint friendly or otherwise. Once again I camped under a strarry sky as the lapping shoreline lulled my to sleep.
Later I considered that song being played at just that time on what I thought was an all Turkish music radio station. It's at times like that when I know there is some higher power. It's the same power that often makes me question why I'm pulling this crazy cycling stunt in the first place. Cycling out into the hurricane and torrential rain that battered me as I left Leeds back in September. It soon cleared up after I waited under the shelter of a bridge determined not to return home straight away.
After a big breakfast I cycled up and out of the village into the first rain I'd seen on the trip. At 8am under the cloud it was still over 20oC. The first 40km was the toughest cycling of the trip. I battled up cliffs and sailed down into beautiful bays. On my final descent some guys flagged me down and supplied me with tea. I was exhausted and heaped in the sugar. I stopped a little later for simmit and biscuits. Gazipasa was still another 15km but thankfully it was all down hill. I took shelter from the sun (the clouds hadn't lasted long) and stopped for lunch.
The last, as it turned out 70km, was boring but flat. The roads got busier with cars and fumes as ever bigger buildings lined the road. The last 20km to Alanya was just a line of hotels. I found the hotel easily but had an interesting check-in as I tried to convince the very helpful staff at the Grand Bali that I had a reservation and even though I'd cycled here my sister was flying in later that night. I looked and smelled terrible and was glad to finally get in the room and have a shower. I cracked open a beer and celebrated alone on the balcony as the sun set over the sea. I had dinner and more beers. I was awoken at about 1am by the phone. I heard my dad's voice, had a brief conversation and fell back aslumber. Adele showed up just in time for breakfast at 7am after some guys on her transfer bus mixed up their bags.
We caught up with mum and dad at 9am and spent the week eating, drinking and sleeping, with the occasional swim under a hot sun by a cool sea. Big hellos to all my friends at the Grand Bali and Wasa hotels and Cleopatras Beach. Cok tessekur ederim and kolay galsin.
On the June 17th we all made our separate ways after a tearful farewell. After a weeks lounging on the beach and at Waza's bar I must have lost my road sense. I turned onto the main road after leaving the hotel and promptly crashed. In Turkey, overtaking vehicles generally sound their horns to announce their intentions to the vehicle infront. It can be annoying but you get used to it. Being away from the road I'd forgotten this idiosyncrasy and took the hump when a car behind sounded his horn. I'd slowed down as I approached a car pulling out of a tight parking spot ahead. I turned round and stared at the driver who blew his horn and then caught my front right pannier on the parked cars bumper sending me slowly over the handlebars. Wake up call. I only made it 20km that day cycling along the path, avoiding the busy main road and tunnels.
Started at 6am the following day with breakfast on the beach. Took a 20km round detour to visit a Caravanseray and part of the ancient Roman road at Alaharan. Had tea with Ramazan. Took another detour to visit the waterfalls at Manavgat. Apparently it's beautiful but it's also a tourist merry-go-round with huge buses pulling in and out of the car park. I gave it a miss. I continued on my detour to visit an ancient city somewhere nearby. It turned out to be an amazing and deserted greco-roman city called Kybre (30BC - 395 AD). It's a huge site in the hills, the last 5km up a rocky and heavily rutted road. I was forced to push the last 500m. I wondered around for over an hour with only lizards and noisy crickets for company. I thought about continuing to Side as I cycled uphill after visiting Green Valley, the last stop on my detour. It was 6pm. It would mean missing the Manavgat Waterfalls which I'd heard so much about. Of course the next song to play on my MP3 player was the Stone Roses classic 'Waterfall'. I found an empty field with good cover away from the road and set up camp.
It was a strange night. The chorus of crickets was only broken by the sound of the occasinal crack of hunters' gunfire. I visited the waterfalls at 8am. Not a bus in site and they'd only just opened the place. I continued to Side cycling down the collonaded street, through the Great Arch, past the agora to take a look inside the theatre.
I left at 11am with temperatures rapidly rising through 38oC. Within an hour it was 45oC, on the road, so I pulled into a shaded garden outside a vacant roadside restaurant for respite and a snack. The garden was garishly decorated with pre-fabricated trees and a fountain. A lone car was parked round the side and a tied-up dog was sleeping under a shaded table. I thought someone must be refurbishing the place but didn't expect to see anyone. Then I heard a knock on a window coming from the restaurant. I looked over and saw a guy stood behind the closed front door. He beckoned me with the Turkish gesture, hand turned downwards (opposite to the English upwards) and flicked back and forth at the wrist and fingers. I wondered over expecting him to ask why I was there but he pointed to the door lock. The key was on the outside. I turned it and he pulled open the door. He was only weaing boxer shorts and said he'd been sleeping. Some refurbishment. It dawned on me that he'd locked himself in.
I continued to Aspendos in the inferno. My arms were on fire and my head was starting to ache. I found a fresh water tap after the turnoff to the ancient city and stuck my head under it for a good five minutes drinking as much water as I could. I waited until after 4pm before continuing to Antalya. I switched on my MP3 and cycled at a quick pace along the flat road. At one point I overtook a tractor driven by an old man. A young boy in the back was waving and smiling. I staye ahead for a while but never pulled away and they overtook me later. The young boy and I were laughing.
I arrived after a wrong turn exhausted at 7pm on June 19th. I'd drunk about 8 litres of water, 1 litre of ayran and experienced a peak roadside temperature of 47oC.
I spent the following day recuperating just glad to stay out of the sun. One of my ex-students had offered to let me stay in his flat for a few days. Cheers Çağil. We went for a dip in the cooling sea later that day, 500m from the flat, which is reached by descending a steep cliff down a cement staircase.
Another ex-student was also visiting and we visited the Antalya museum. It has an amazing collection of statues of greco-roman gods and roman emperors and houses the Pheidippides Sarcophagus, the burial chamber of the first marathon runner. Antalya is definitley worth a visit if you're in the area with many historic buildings and a breathtaking view of the Taurus mountains from a look out point in Konyaaltı Park. An ideal place to spend an evening or two with some beers, some snacks and two good friends. All the best, Çağil and Ali. Good luck for the future.
I finally left Antalya on June 24th. It's easy to get sucked into the comfort factor - shower, fridge, television. On the road I met an Austrian guy who was driving home via Istanbul after visiting India and Tibet. I made it to Beldibi for lunch in a shaded park followed by a dip in the sea and a shower. Stopped for a tea break at 4pm in Kemer and stocked up on ayran. I had considered camping at Phaselis but found it was restricted to day time visits. A shame because it's a peaceful spot by the sea. Three natural bays shaded by large pine trees. It was then I remembered that the eternal flames at Yanartaş are best seen at night. It was 6pm and I was still more than 20km short and of course they turned out to be mostly uphill before a swift descent back down to sea level at Çiralı. I quickly set-up camp 100m away from the sea after bargaining the price at 7.50 YTL per night. I had dinner as darkness fell drinking two cartons of ayran and a litre of fruit juice (I'd had a headache for the last 2 hours). I cycled the last 5km along an ever rockier road to the bottom of Mt Olimpos. At 10pm I set off uphill. I swiftly walked past a desk with a sign reading 'entry 2.50YTL'. In my tired state I'd forgotten to bring any money. I'd have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for you pesky kids, I mean, I heard a burly Turkish guy call me back. I said that I didn't have any money. A queue was forming and an american guy at the front said he'd pay me in - saviour. I struggled up the last 1km climb, steps of cobbled stone giving way to rubble, to find the eternal flames still burning. They were well worth the effort but after having spent all day in searing heat it was funny to be stood admiring flames. Returned to the camp site for a cooling shower and a beer at about 1am.
I woke at 7am feeling tired but I wanted to see the ancient city of Olimpos before moving on. It can be reached by walking 500m along the beach. I waded through the cold spring to find a well worn path used by visitors between the nearby tree-houses and the pebbly beach. I saw a kiosk and realised that I'd forgotten my money again. Luckily it was vacant so I hurried by. The ruined city was quiet and I leisurely spent over an hour exploring, getting lost and wading through the cool crystal clear waters. Later there was a steady stream of beach goers but most passed by without glancing at this remarkable ancient city eerily hidden beneath undergrowth in a steep valley.
I spent the rest of the day relaxing by the beach reading my book, The Snow Geese by William Fiennes. It had taken a lot of effort to get here, I was aching all over and I remembered just how quickly I'd descended that last 7km. Think I'll leave that climb until tomorrow.
The following day the climb was easier than I expected. I'd ditched about 5kg of needless weight in Çiralı: my Gore-Tex jacket, which after 7 years was no longer breathable or waterproof; a dog tether that I'd bought to secure my bike (rarely used); a folding spade that I'd bought if I ever needed to, err, dig an emergency hole for any reason (rarely used); a glass bottle of deodorant and my SPD sandals which had started to rot [Adele and Darko will remember that they already smelled rotten in Bremen ].
I started thinking about where I could make further weight reductions. Every ounce has been playing on my mind for some time. If I go much further I'll have to change my tent which is too roomy for one person and weighs about 4kg. I've not used my cooking kit for a while as I've been eating sandwiches or buying cheap meals but it will come in useful in future.
I made my way to Finike. My speedo has broken so I'm having to guess at distances. The wire has snapped after lots of fiddling with different mounting positions. I feel strangely liberated. Before I would calculate how long it would take me to reach a certain place. Now I just cycle and get there when I get there. Uphill I would look at the speedo to see how steep the incline was or how fast the descent. Now I just cycle. I realise that I'm lucky in this part of Turkey at least because there are many little villages en route so I never worry about restocking supplies. That may become an issue later.
After about 10km up a steady incline I spotted a huge mantis type insect on the hard shoulder. I pulled over to take it's picture cringing at the sight of it. It was as big as my hand. I remembered that scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom where Indy's covered in all manner creepy crawlies. Then it started to move, slowly heading into the road. I cycled on. At a petrol station an attendant beckoned me in and directed me to the ice-cold water dispenser that are sometimes available.
18km nearly all down hill before a 20km ride on the mostly flat road to Finike. I took a 22km round detour to Limyra. It has an amazing something or other and is 'not to be missed'. As I approached the ancient city people in the street said hello. I'd missed this response since visiiting the touristy areas. The attendant at the site was helpful, we chatted and he gave me tea. He sounded very knowledgable but I couldn't understand a word. Cold, fresh water flows right through the site. I dunked my head in. Bliss. I extended my detour and set off in search of some mausoleum and stopped to take a picture of the ampitheatre. Luckily I'd parked the bike behind a wall unseen from the main road. A small truck skidded to a halt nearby and a group of chattering boys surrounded me jumping around me a little too comfortably. They introduced themselves as Romanies. Their seemed to be a large migrant population in the area around Limyra. They pleaded with me to take their picture which I did and showed them the results keeping a firm grip on the camera. Then I collected my bike to excited howls from the boys glad it had been unsighted earlier. I made off and they sped away in the truck. Then I considered which of these boys was driving. I soon gave up on the mausoleum and made my way back to Finike stopping to chat to some carpenters in Yeşilyurt who offered me tea and had it made especially. My head was aching from the heat. I dunked my head under a tap and stopped for a rose jam sandwich. Rose jam now there's a curious thing. Personally I find it delicious and it's very popular here but my sister described it like eating perfume coated bread.
I cycled on to Demre in and out of rocky coves on a flattish and smooth road. Cycling towards Beymelek I spotted great camping opportunities on the beach between the sea and the road to my left. I bought bread from a petrol station and cheese from a market but nothing more because I didn't like the guy. I couldn't find any fruit or veg but then I passed what appeared to be a distribution hub, tomatoes stacked high, and took a chance they might sell me some. All they guys were helpful and made me welcome. One guy gave me a big bag of tomatoes and two young guys treated me to tea. After Alanya and Antalya I'd missed this side of Turkey, the heart of Turkey, it's peoples' abundant generosity and big smiles. All the tourist buses pass straight through here along the trunk road to the resorts and I doubt they ever get the opportunity to meet the people of Beymelek and the many towns and villages just like it.
I woke as the sun rose, feeling the day warm. I'd had a relaxing sleep considering the road was only 200m away. The closer sound of sea on shore lulling me to sleep. A gentle breeze keeping me cool. At 7am the place was deserted so after a quick skinny dip in the sea I made my way through Demre to Myra to see the rock tombs and the cathedral of St. Nicholas. I visitied the ancient city early enough to avoid the tourist buses (I was the first one there). I left town after a jam sandwich and headed the 44km for Kaş. The first 33km were uphill. After many rests I stopped for lunch by a fresh water tap in the first shade I'd seen for a while. I chatted with a cosmetics salesman who was letting his car cool in the 40oC+ heat. My arms forearms were burning and I had to put on my long sleeve shirt. After a further 5km I came to the Kaş junction and was pulled over by some jandarma who wanted to check my documents. One spoke good english and I think he just wanted to chat. I stopped for tea and treated myself to a delicious Gozleme (pancake) of cheese and spring onion with a big refreshing glass of ayran. At about 4pm I coasted in Kaş a pretty resort town with lots of boats, bars and money. I quickly moved on hoping to find camping 26km further along the beautiful, winding coastal road in Kalkan. No chance. The place is a mass of buildings packed on a cliff side around a marina. I grudgingly made my way up a very steep hill out of town at about 7pm. I made it to Patara at dusk and cycled through a scrappy little tourist town towards the beach beach. I could make out the shapes of ancient ruins but I was so tired I paid little attention. Whilst deciding what to do in Kalkan I read that Patara has Turkey's largest beach. On arrival a conservationist/guard advised me that it is also a restricted area because of the Loggerhead Turtles who use the beach to lay their eggs. Nearly on the verge of tears I made my way back to town. I asked about camping at a place where I would be the only customer. The owner seemed reluctant to take my money but we agreed on 7.50YTL for the night. Minutes later he said I could take a room with en suite shower for 10YTL. Jumped at the chance but wish I'd refused. The room was stinking hot and judging by the build up of dead flies hadn't been used for a while. I couldn't sleep without opening the door which meant sleeping fitfully at the mercy of marauding mosquitoes.
Late start after waking tired and thirsty at 7am in a sweat soaked bed. I visited the ruins but they're quickly losing their attraction. The beach really is enormous and the maybe 40 tourists filled a space of about 100m. I went skinny dipping 200m further along.
I cycled on to Xanthos at 11am. Too hot and tired for more ruins I took a pic from the road, a swig in the shade and decided to push. It was 1.30pm. The wind was strong and the heat was fierce. I passed two young boys cycling in the opposite direction. They started shouting from across the main road and one changing direction started to pedal at my pace. Race on! We increased the pace uphill, laughing. He started to pull away slightly and then I gritted my teeth and lowered my head in mock determination. I pulled away up the hill. At 2.15pm a melon seller called me over and I was happy to oblige. I was glad of the shade but he gave me a melon too. Not wanting to be greedy I ate two pieces slowly. A fat Turkish guy pulled up on a scooter and 'helped' me eat the rest. The two guys had a friendly argument. Fatty brought over another melon and we shared it. This time I made sure I got half.
Time was getting on and even though my host was reluctant to let me leave, think he was just lonely, I decided to push on at about 3.30pm. I struggled into a strong wind and slowly saw the distances drop on the road signs. But not quickly enough. By 7pm I was watching the sun drop behind the mountains. With legs too tired to carry me the last 23km to Fethiye I decided to try my luck in the village of Zorla. There were many farmers fields around but nobody home to ask for permission. I made my way back to the mosque to ask there. A guy waiting outside for the call to prayer had worked in Antalya and spoke good english. I told him of my predicament and he said I could sleep in the mosque. The Imam agreed when he arrived moments later without a second thought.
I chatted with the Imam who I learned is from a little town called Kamisli in the mountains near Pozanti. I cycled through it en route to the Mediterranean.
I slept soundly on a thickly carpeted floor in a small, private room just off the large, main room used for daily prayers. Until the first call of the day, broadcast over loudspeakers from the spire, woke me with a start at 4.30am. I soon drifted off again finally waking at 7.30. I felt good but tired. I just wanted to get to Oludeniz and take it easy. The plentiful supply of water outside the mosque meant I could have a good wash and refill my water bottles. One of my favourite things about Turkey is the abundance of freely available clean water.
I was in Fethiye by 10.30am so I had a snack knowing I had some tough cycling ahead. Whenever I asked for directions to Oludeniz people gave me a sympathetic look with the universal hand gesture for uphill.
It was hardwork up the Baba Dağ with aching legs in burning heat but it didn't last long. I reached the top of the pass by midday and flew down the other side towards the beach.
I'd been recommended the Sugar Beach Resort. Situated by the Blue Lagoon it's a good distance from the touristy side of town but within comfortable walking distance of the beach. 7YTL per night for camping but meals are priced like the other touristy places. Had a chicken salad and Efes beer in the shade to celebrate my arrival.
I spent the day resting. After finding a suitable camping spot on patchy grass under limited shade was forced to turn in early. Unfortunately my sleep was interupted by a group of 'wild' travellers who arrived in the luxury of a giant off road vehicle. They didn't think anything of keeping the whole closely bunched campsite awake with their ridiculous cackling laughter and talk of home.
Curiously, I was awoken one night by a gang of casmpsite prowlers. At over 6ft tall my feet can touch the end of the tent when I'm laid out on my back out of position. One night I heard something patting at the bottom of the tent. I sleepily kicked back only to feel something grabbing at my toes. It was like a scene from Blair Witch. I kicked back harder and the sensation abated. Was I dreaming? I lay back down and within two minutes it happened again so I retaliated with greater force. I figured it was a group of mischievous kittens and went to sleep.
I left the mostly tranquil surroundings of Sugar Beach at 8.30am on July 9th. To my surprise I was in Fethiye by 9.30am. The weeks rest had done me good. I had a couple of olive borek and ayran for breakfast. I found the road to Muğla just by the bus station. Hmm, all these signs keep putting strange ideas of an easier in my head.
I stopped at a bike repair shop, Ozturk Motor, Fethiye. The crank has been making a clicking sound and I broke a spoke back before Antalya. Ozturk took off on his motorbike twice presumably to get parts and have the wheel straightened. All done in an hour for 10YTL. The days cycling was hilly in places but uneventful. The bike felt so smooth on the road and no clicking. The only noise was that of the crickets and it reached a crescendo as I lay in my tent writing that night. I rested often even treating myself to an ice cream.
I decided to camp early in Göcek but could not find the site and so enlisted the help of the locals. They all pointed back over the last hill. Damn! I cycled on as Dalaman was another 20km.
I came to a tunnel that admitted everything but bicycles, mopeds and horse and carts. I usually get around these laws on a technicality as they rarely mention bicycles. However, the narrow mouth frequently gorging on fast moving lorries gave me just enough reason to turn to plan B: A steep climb to 400m. Passing cars gave me plenty of support. As I swooped down the other side my eagle eye spotted a wooded area with a delta of tracks on the opposite bank. They were logging. A herder passed across a nearby lower lying field with some sheep and goats. I guessed the loggers had left so I secreted the bike behind some bushes and erected the tent out of sight which was tricky as this tent really is big. If anyone is interested in a Hilleberg Nallo 2 GT - let me know. I think I'm going to use a bivvy next time. Although it is nice to have an area to escape the mozzies on an evening and the tent allows any breeze to flow through. However, it's way too heavy for me at 4kg.
My neighbours swarmed around me as I tucked into my evening meal so at 8pm I escaped behind the safety of a flysheet.
more to follow...
I'm now in Gökova near Marmaris trying to decide whether to cycle south-west to Marmaris and Datça and take a boat trip to Bodrum. It's a bit of a detour and judging by the camp site here and at Oludeniz it will be very busy, noisy and relatively expensive. I'd rather camp in the wild than at one of these and forsake the shower but all the land here is National Park. Otherwise I'll continue north up a mountain to Muğla and along a dual carriageway to Izmir.
I've done all the cycling I wanted to do along this stretch and have only Efes and Meryemana left on my 'must see' itinerary. My visa expires in two weeks so I may take a bus up to Kuşadaı and then a boat to Samos to renew. See how I feel tomorrow...