The Bull by the Horns
6 – 11 February 2013
Now that I had reached Antalya there was a choice to make between continuing along the coast to Iskenderun or taking on the Taurus mountains and an extra three hundred kilometres to visit Cappadocia. Feeling re-energised from my relaxed stay with Rosy and Jim I hear the mountains calling and so head off towards them. The road along to Manavgat isn’t right on the coast but has many offshoots leading to endless resorts by the sea. When looking for somewhere to camp that night I end up in a small village that is towered over by enormous resorts some complete with their own giant water parks. In between the obscene accommodation I spot a rundown castle themed building. Out the back of the decaying restaurant/bar I find a room to sleep in and set up camp. The rain begins to bucket down and the roof erupts a series of leaks I have to dodge by shuffling myself and gear around the floor.
After a poor sleep somewhat due to the leaks I stagger off towards the turn off to the mountains. The slow steady climb up begins. I cycle past a number of roadside stall owners and one says hello and continues talking to me in Turkish. I relinquish to her banter and decide to buy some almonds. She talks a lot and decides I need some figs and some dried black things too. After I have paid she gives me some flat bread with cheese wrapped inside and tops up my drink bottles with water. Her husband comes out of the car and soon they are both chatting to me. Most of which I don’t understand but I do manage to grasp they are suggesting I catch a bus to Konya as the road to there is uphill. Having now figured out how to view elevations on my google maps app I know there is lot more climbing wave goodbye and carry on. Up and up into rain and soon I am soaked. A truck driver in front of me stops and offers a ride five kilometres to the next town. Its pouring and getting late so I agree.
The man is a complete sleaze One might hope that someone is genuinely trying to help you in weather like this but he takes advantage and repeatedly tries to touch my leg by pointing out how wet my clothes are. Then when I hug the window in silence he starts trying to tell me he will take me to Konya where he is from another 160km away on the pretense that there is no hotels in the next town of Akseki even though I know there is because I have passed several signs indicating this. I insist on Akseki and he drops me there a few minutes later and I manage to escape feeling disgusting.
The past few experiences have left me feeling pretty stupid and upset about putting myself in these situations. I have read a lot about hitchhiking in Turkey because I follow a few hitchhiking blogs and find the advice can often be apt for me as I end up off the beaten track trying to converse with locals. So I knew before getting to Turkey that the truck drivers have a bad reputation for their attitudes to women travelling alone but still failed in my ability to negotiate it entirely safely and remember that simple acts such as smiling can be interpreted the wrong way. On reflection my inability to communicate in more than a smattering of words in Turkish was what made me feel most vulnerable. Anyway you can read more about hitchhiking in Turkey here http://hitchwiki.org/en/Turkey and here shelobify.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/an-update-about-hitchhiking-solo-as-a-female-in-turkey/ (a lot of really interesting comments on this post that I wish I had read earlier).
The following morning I awoke to see my face was puffy, red and blotchy. Either I’m allergic to the figs, dried black things that turns out to be carob or assholes. I’m going to guess its the carob though as I have met figs and assholes before. I get outside and it starts to rain as I recommence the climbing. My knees begin to complain and calves ache but the scenery is beautiful and I have plenty of time to appreciate it at my slow pace. I reach the snow line and a stationary truck driver tries to get my attention. I ignore him like I should have the first one. And then I’m at the top of the pass. There are still a few more climbs but the majority from there is sweet sweet downhill and at one point I almost break seventy kilometres an hour. You cannot wipe the smile from my face.
One pleasure of cycling in Turkey is the unfinished roads. I have found a number of times that there will be long strips where two of four lanes are blocked off while under construction. The traffic is then restricted to two lanes and I can jump on the unfinished lanes away from the traffic, as is the case on the way to Konya. The blessed anarchy of the bicycle. Since descending the previous evening the landscape has become open, empty and not very conducive to camping and I hope I wont have to end up in a hotel again as I did last night. I am about to give up my search and cycle on to Konya when I spot a quarry dipping off from the road. The rocky ground is actually nicer than some of the campgrounds I have stayed at thus far.
The next morning it takes a long time to circle around the outside of Konya on the ring road before the road becomes long straight and flat. As I ride up the only hills breaking up the flat I pass a truck whose driver and passenger shout at me. I wave and keep going and five minutes later they drive along side me and continue shouting. They are going slow enough so I grab on the back and let them tow me up the rest of the hill. At the top I let go and they mime they can put my bike on back but I wave them on. At 530pm its starting to get dark and the surrounding land is open with no cover to stealth camp. As I stop to try to figure what to do a man calls out from a petrol station so I decide to go over and ask him about finding somewhere to camp.
He invites me in for çay and so I end up inside the office with a group of men and boys drinking tea. The mans name is Ahmet, one of the other men is his brother and the boys are their sons. A number of other men come and go including the manager Gazi. We end up conversing via combination of the phrasebook and google translate. After the basic introductions I’m told I don’t need to camp and Ahmet shows me a sort of caravan where I can sleep. Then there is more çay and food, I manage to avoid the chopped liver entrée explaining I’m vegetarian. But when the main dish of pide (sort of Turkish pizza) with mince on top arrives I am asked to please eat and realising it would be rude of me to refuse further do so.
The only blot on the wonderful hospitality is when one of the other men finding out I’m single feels the need to point out he is single and that I can visit him at his home and tries to get my attention the rest of the evening despite my complete lack of enthusiasm. The caravan is cosy but I have trouble sleeping after the five or six cups of çay. Nevertheless I’m off early the next morning after the wake up call to more çay in the office. The road continues its straight flat trajectory and I make it to Aksaray in good time. After Aksaray I climb up into the rolling hills and surrounding mountains of Cappadocia and spot my first caves near Selime. I cycle towards Ilhara planning to camp but end up in a cheap motel as the cold dark night envelops.
Inside the castle themed bar restaurant place.
The friendly roadside merchants.
The swag, mysterious black stuff diagnosed by mum as carob.
Phone screenshot of elevation profile, knowing what you’re in for, a good thing I think.
The start of the climb.
A highly informative sign.
Oh sweet snow covered mountains, I knew there was a reason I left the warm coast, it’s you.
The top of the pass!
Let the downhill begin.
But maybe we will go back up a little bit.
New favourite pastime, cycling on unfinished roads in Turkey.
Sunny morning in the quarry camp, the billboards in the background are beside the road.
Stop at a petrol station and then the nice guys will bring you çay to go with your lunch.
The straight flat road after Konya.
The petrol station blokes. The crazy man with the fork is Ahmet.
Outside the makeshift caravan at my favourite petrol station chain, Petrol Ofisi.
I got bored on the straight flat road to Aksaray so started taking photos while cycling.
This is but a few of them.