Chapter VI: Cay and Jandarma – Turkey

Cay and Jandarma - Turkey

Cappadocia is surely a magic place. Not the only one in Turkey though...

Let's swim to Istanbul

Miri       Ryan      

Miri      

As soon as we entered Turkey, we were cycling on the big roads, because there were only these or gravel Roads. But there was a wide shoulder and the road condition was good, so that was no problem. With new energy after the forced pause in Alexandroupoli we started our journey through Turkey. We didn’t cycle straight to Istanbul. We wanted to take the Ferry from Bursa to the city center, so we wouldn’t have to cycle on the city highway, an experience, Ryan didn’t want to have again. (He cycled there 2015) On our way to Gelibolu, we had a funny incident with some cow herds. They seemed to think, that cycling tourists are cow-killing devils. They were grazing next to the road and when we approached they run from us. But instead of running away from road, they were running along the street. We were glad there was a guardrail and so they didn’t came very close with there long horns. This way we forced two cow herds into a workout 😊. From Gelibolu we took a short ferry to Lapseki, to the Asian side of Turkey.

There we had really strong headwind. On the other side of the sea it was already annoying, but here it was slowing us down incredibly. After two days of this, we decided to take the ferry from Bandirma instead of from Bursa, so we would have enough time in Istanbul, and would be out of the bad weather earlier. We thought we will have enough of that, when we cycle through autumn and winter, little did we now then . So we rode on over the elongated huge hills, whole Turkey seemed to consist of. We arrived in Bandirma at about lunchtime, but the ferry wouldn’t go until late afternoon, so we waited in a restaurant nearby. Fortunately the bikes didn’t cost extra but unfortunately they had to be on the outside and got a heavy salt water shower from the fast ferry . Rusty bikes, here we come . . .

We arrived in Istanbul in the dark. We had to ride a short distance on the city highway, but it was not very crowded at this time. With another ferry, this time just to cross the Bosporus, and another short ride, we managed to find our Warmshowers host Ece, with the help of some calls and GPS. Ece was really lovely, she prepared some dinner for us and the other German cycling couple, that was already staying at her place. I enjoyed the Köfte a lot and Ryan ate the rice . Finja and Kevin, initially wanted to change host that evening, but in the end they stayed together with us at Eces place and we managed quite well, even with Ece just wanting to host a maximum of 2 guests, and we 4 were her first Warmshowers guests, so she got the full load all at once, but we had a very great time together. With food, talk and music. Ryan even played a bit on Eces Accordion.

Our first day in Istanbul was very lazy. We stayed inside and relaxed. Our second day was very productive. We went to the tailor, Ryan wanted to have his trousers smaller and I needed a new zipper on my tricot and new buttons on my trousers. The tailor spoke no English but still we managed to understand each other quite well 😊 . And in 3 days we should come back to collect our stuff. After that was arranged we met up with Finja and Kevin and took the ferry back to the European side of Istanbul with all the tourist sights. We had a walk around the old town and looked at all the huge and beautiful buildings. We had to wait a short time before we could enter the Blue Mosque, but during the few minutes a Turkish Lady helped Finja and me to dress up with a ugly blue Hijab and an even uglier brown long skirt. Muslims really now how to make the women unattractive. . . The Mosque itself is really beautiful from the inside and quite impressive from the outside. I liked the very low chandelier, that gave the huge interior a cozy feeling a lot. The 4 fat columns inside were also really impressive. Well, what can I say, I was impressed . After the Mosque we strolled over the Grand Bazar and tasted some Turkish Delights. Then we split our group again, Ryan and I ate some delicious Pide and took the Ferry back to Eces place. On our way home we bought Baklava as a present for our lovely host.

The next Days we stayed inside and worked on our Blog. And Finja and Kevin left to take their plane to Telaviv, luckily we could convince them, that riding a bicycle from Israel to Egypt over Sinai is not the best idea and they took a bus later on. It was strange for us, because we read a lot about the countries we want to travel, especially concerning safety matters, and these two didn’t even know, that Sinai is dangerous at the moment, so they would have just went there and put themselves and their poor guards in danger. We couldn’t understand that, but well we convinced them to take a bus and now we already know, that they had survived it.

We wanted to change host, because we didn’t want to bother one for a very long time and the other one was on the European side, where our Ferry would leave. So we cycled together with Ece to the Tailor, picked up our stuff, it was all done quite well. After that she took us to Bisiclet Gezgini. The one touring bike shop in Istanbul, and the only one selling touring stuff until Bankog?, but it was closing. The staff was very friendly we took a picture together and we could write something in their epic guestbook. When we looked through the other entries, there were quite some familiar ones, for example “Twisting Spokes” and “Rausgefahren” . Then we had to say good bye, it was hard because we really like Ece, and take the ferry to the European side and rode to our next host.

Our next host was also very nice, a young couple, Baris and Merve. Their English was not as good as the one from Ece but still good enough to have some nice talks together. And Baris introduced us to Boza, a very delicious sweet smoothly-ike drink. We had another walk around the city. And then we cycled to the port to take the ferry to Bursa. When we were there the ferry just leaving was full, the next one was more expensive and so we bought tickets for the third one to leave this day. Downside was, we had to wait for hours at the port…

Ryan      

No more Europe! If you picture our journey as a sail on the sea, it felt for me like we now left the coastline towards the open water. Different currencies everywhere, every border is actually a border and not just a sign, that you’re now entering a new country (like in the Schengen area), and the cultural differences become way more obvious than they are within Europe. When we entered Turkey, this is firstly obvious because of the extremely loud and omnipresent prayer calls. While we were used to mosques already thanks to Albania, we weren’t prepared for the volume of the Turkish Imams. They really don’t fool around, and it’s hard to miss one of the five calls to prayer, even in the more rural areas. You really hear it from far away.

I went on Istanbul highway by bike in 2014, an experience I had not the slightest intention to repeat. There are so many chances to be killed on the road, that we don’t need to provoke our fate more than necessary. That’s why we chose to take the ferry from Bandirma to get to the center of the worlds fifths largest city and leave with the ferry towards Bursa. Our way to Bandirma was characterized by hills, barren fields, hills, headwind, hills, some flat lands, (in which a herd of cows made the unsuccessful attempt to run away from us by running parallel to the road. We never saw running cows before, it’s really ridiculous), and then again hills. It was not really interesting, and we were happy when we were overtaken by a tractor with a trailer at the right pace, so we could get a ride by hanging us onto the trailer for some kilometers. The ferry itself was a speedboat with the misleading label “Seabus”. I think a catamaran which goes across the Marmara sea within 4 ½ hours is hardly considered a bus, so “Searacer” would have been more appropriate. Our bikes were parked outside in the rear part of the ferry and got the worst salt cover ever. If any bearing wasn’t properly sealed, it’s now rusting silently since then for sure.

We arrived in Istanbul in the late evening and had to go for some kilometers through the dark, until we got a ferry to the Asian side. We were hosted by Ece, a music teacher who provided a wonderful stay for us. Together with Finja and Kevin, another German couple staying at Eces home, we went to explore all the must-sees of Istanbul. At first we went to the blue mosque, where the girls had to cover up, before we were allowed to see the incredible interior with it’s floral ornaments all over the high ceiling and the massive columns. I find it remarkable, how the atmosphere inside a mosque differs from inside a church. Because of the low hanging lights and the carpet, on which is everybody sitting casually outside prayer times, it’s way warmer, cozier and more welcoming than a church, even if the dimension is way bigger than most churches.

After that we went to the Grand Bazaar, where merchants offer souvenirs and products ten times the price you would pay on the Asian side for them. But since you have to haggle anyways, you might push the price to maybe only a fivefold 😉 But even without buying one of the countless “Turkish delights”, lamps, chessboards, clothings and and and… we enjoyed the loud madding croud, who continued in the streets around the bazar. I really believe there is nothing you can’t buy in Istanbul, and all the shops of one kind are next to each other. Means: there is one street, where you will find ten or more shops selling ovens and radiators, in the next street there are five shops selling tools, a handful of shops selling wedding dresses and so on and so forth. Men are running in between, holding tablets with Cay, seemingly the fuel on which the shopkeepers are able to run their businesses until late in the evening.

I was really happy to stay in a rather calm area on the Asian side, because the chaos of Istanbul is really exhausting. We used some rainy days to work on blog and videos, and finally said goodbye to Ece. We didn’t want to overuse her hospitality, and found a host closer to the ferry to Bursa on the European side. But before we said farewell, Ece led us to “Bisiklet Gezgini”, a legendary bike shop which focused on touring cyclists. Why the past tense? Because they closed the shop one week later, the Turkish Lira lost too much value, and the people couldn’t afford the touring gear anymore. So we were the last foreigners to write in their book, and it was a strange feeling to write our names and our blog to all the other travellers who were here before. Some of them we were following via Internet at home, which made it even stranger.

We said farewell to Ece, and went to Baris and Merve, who showed us an awesome drink called Boza. We went to Vefa, one of the oldest and best places to serve this slightly alcoholic beverage, which already Atatürk tasted there (his cup is still displayed on the wall). And finally, we made our way to the ferry, and set over to Asia, precisely to Bursa. Of course on a “Seabus”, which meant another shower with saltwater for our bikes and bags.

  • Welcome to Turkey with its endless, wide and hilly roads!

Cold, wide and magic

Miri     Ryan

Miri    

Because the ferry was leaving so late, we arrived in Bursa when it was dark. The road was quite big, we had no water and couldn’t find a place to pitch our tent. But then a car stopped. In it, a Turkish family and two cycling tourists with baby from Ukraine. And we could stay with them this night. After another 11km in the dark we arrived at their home and had a tasty dinner. Unfortunately the two Ukrainians with their baby had a completely different world view than we have, so we were discussing a lot. In the morning we got an awesome breakfast from the Turkish family and left the place. I was sorry for the family because they must have noticed the tension but couldn’t understand what we were talking about. After Bursa the climbing started, since central Turkey everything is a lot higher than the coast. And as we climbed, it was also getting colder and we had our first snow during the climb.

After that we cycled through huge valleys. Turkey is so big. And there is so much space. And so huge fields. It was amazing. One time we had a road that was going straight for 43km. But we installed us Battleship, which we could play against each other via Bluetooth 😊 So it wasn’t so boring, the landscape was almost the same everywhere. After that road a small truck stopped and faster then we could say yes, our bikes were in the back of the truck and we were riding 60km in one hour. . . It showed me again how slowly we were going. We tried to take some small roads whenever possible.

One time we asked at a mosque were we could sleep, because there were only muddy fields around. We ended up in the back of the shop from the village with two young guys as our hosts. I had to prepare the dinner . . . Well at least the guys helped, but still I didn’t like the way it was completely out of question that the woman was supposed to do the cooking. And we had an very interesting discussion about Islam with just using Google Translate. Ryan was having a great evening Since the discussion was so nice, and he offered us to complete the discussion the next day and we decided to stay. But in the evening half an hour before sunset, they told us that we couldn’t stay because they needed the room we were sleeping in for onions. It was so ridiculous. But we had no other option then to ride some kilometers and pith the tent next to the road in some muddy field.

We avoided Ankara by taking small roads and made our way towards Cappadocia. When we arrived there it was just so amazing! It was already afternoon and the Balloons were still in the air. It was an great view from the castle in Uchisar. We followed some climbing kids and so we could explore the whole backside of the castle without paying any entry fee. And we found a nice cave were we spend the night while still having that awesome view over the Göreme National Park. The next day we cycled through the Park. It was so beautiful. All those amazing peaks and caves. We decided to come back one day with a backpack and explore more of Cappadocia. Because that day it was supposed to start raining and snowing so we wanted to reach Kayseri before that. We pushed a bit and made it to Kayseri just when it started to rain. We met our host in the city center and he just handed over the keys explained everything and would meet up with us later. As soon as we entered his flat it started to snow outside and everything was freezing. Aziz, our host, was really nice and we stayed almost one week at his home.

Ryan

Leaving Istanbul felt also special to me. Now I finally left all known lands behind, had no clue of what was awaiting us. But this feeling was drowned somewhat by the ferry ride. Not only because it was slightly too hot inside (is 27°C really the comfort temperature in Turkey?), but also because we arrived in Bursa after dusk, with no water left, and no place to stay. Not too nice. We pedaled along the highway. In situations like this that’s really the only useful thing to do, although it feels quite useless. We were tired, thirsty, and increasingly desperate. Suddenly, a young couple next to the road approached us enthusiastically, telling us that they were cycletourists too. That was strange enough, there were no bikes, but a Turkish family and a car. We learned that the two were Lena and Blagomir from Ukraine, who stood with Mohammed and his family since a couple of days. Suddenly we got water, and Mohammed and his family were kind enough to invite us in. And so, after 10 dark, dusty and smoke-filled kilometers (wood seemed to be the most important heating material around), we sat together with his whole family, they served Cay and fish, and we taught each other some phrases in our languages. It was a bliss, how we went from desperate at the roadside to a joyful evening within one hour.

It was by far not the last occasion, where people showed great hospitality towards us. Often on our way further towards Cappadocia, we were invited for Cay once we stopped at a gas station. Since the weather was becoming colder and colder (5 to 15°C during daytime, -5 to 0°C during the night), we were always happy to accept those offers. An especially nice event happened in Eskisehir, where we arrived in the late evening. When we went towards a place which was marked as picnic area on our GPS, we found this to be a very crouded, probably even private terrain. Not too appealing to set up the tent there. But we got rescued by “Velesbit”, the local bike crew, who just restored an old farm for incoming touring cyclists, their own bike events and gatherings. When they invited us to this place, it was an absolute no-brainer to follow them through the dark over smaller and smaller roads, slowly becoming worse and worse and becoming muddy…and suddenly we stood in front of an awesome blue and white farmhouse, decorated with (of course) a bicycle and countless little details, who were telling about all the love and passion they put into this project. We spent the night in the huge main room, warmed by the fireplace.

Since we pedaled onto an altitude of around 1000 to 1500 meters since we left bursa, the landscape became often more wide and open. We were astonished by the size of the country, often allowing us to see 40km or more in any direction. Together with the barren fields and the cold air we felt like visiting another planet. The size also allowed for some straight roads like we never had them before. With the longest straight being 43km, we even installed some games on our smartphones to play against each other while riding, because often there was not much to see. Except muddy fields. And we really started to hate them, because sometimes they were the only choice to stay, resulting in a huge mess on our equipment. There was a thick layer of mud below our shoes, mud on our tent, mud sticking to the bikes…everywhere. One night we were staying in an old barn after asking around in a small village if someone could give us shelter. You can imagine our feelings when they told us the next day (30 minutes before sunset) that we had to leave, because they needed to store onions in the barn, and we eventually ended up on another muddy field…

Slowly we were coming closer to Kayseri. Months before we started we got a message from Aziz from Kayseri, that he invited us into his home and would be happy to see us. Initially, we planned to stick to the coast of the black sea, so the meeting would never have happened. But after getting told that the road along the coast is not too nice, and Cappadocia a place that shouldn’t be missed, our plans changed, and we arranged to stay at his place. And when we arrived to Cappadocia, it was clear why it shouldn’t be missed. Erosion formed incredible sculptures and columns from the stone, and humans carved caves, flats and even whole castles in it. We arrived at Uchisar castle first, which provided an awesome view over the whole area. Countless valleys lay ahead of us, columns with plenty of dark windows, and in a distance (next to our destination Kayseri) Mount Erciyes, almost 4000 meters high and already snow covered. Following our curiosity, we followed a sandy road to the backside of the castle, away from the tourist entrance. A small boy slipped through a crack in the rock, and again our curiosity made it easy for us to follow him. And that was good. Apart from all tourists and entry fees, we got to discover many flats, some even with carved in cupboards and sleeping niches, staircases in a separate rock leading to a hall with another great view. We got our adrenaline rushing by going to the edge of an approximately 80 meters high cliff and watching the small boys (to which the first one was rushing) climbing fearlessly on the walls of the castle. One slip, and they would slide easily 100 meters down to the ground. We found ourselves a nice cave to spend the night in, and enjoyed not only the spectacular view, but also the moderate temperature of around 11°C inside. I was a bit afraid being killed, because sand was constantly rippling from the ceiling, and bigger stones lay already on the floor, but the fact you can read about this now is proof that my fear was unfounded.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast announced snow and rain, so we didn’t took enough time to explore the whole area. We cycled along many fairy chimneys, cities carved into the rocks, and swore ourselves that we had to come back, visiting the area by hiking. It was just too magical. Once we left the region towards the highway, we sped up. We finally managed to arrive in Kayseri, when it started to rain. Aziz proved to be a very convenient person to be around, although he had quite some stress. We arrived just a couple of days before he would move to Antalya, but he even allowed us to stay alone in the flat after he left. We gladly accepted his offer, because the outside was covered by 10cm of snow. In the meantime we replanned our route. Instead of visiting Caucasus area during winter, we decided to get a flight to Dubai and visit Oman. Because it was the cheapest option, we decided to cycle further south to Mersin, get a bus back to Istanbul, and fly from there to Dubai on Christmas eve. The prospect of better weather was quite motivating, and so we left Kayseri after one week at Aziz’ place.

  • Help yourself!

Crossing the Taurus mountains

Miri     Ryan

Miri    

After Kayseri we made our ascent to the highest point of this trip so far. We cycled up the pass next to Mount Ercyes. There we had our first and night in the snow. The View and the night sky was amazing, but at 2200m it was also quite cold. The descent we had the next day was just awesome. We wanted to cycle to Mersin, which is at the south of Turley at the Mediterranean Sea. Therefore, we had to cross the Taurus Mountains. So there was more climbing. One day it was so much and so hard, in the end one man had to rescue us with his Pickup. He took us to the canteen of the Mountain workers where we got Cay and food and then he drove us up the very steep hill. We were so grateful and the people were so nice. 😊 We made the descent and pithed the tent next to a small well. It was so far away from any civilization. There were no lights around. I never had experienced such a black night before. Not even the Moon was spending some light. It was kind a creepy.

The Villages we passed the next day looked as if they were from a post apocalypse movie. Everything was so desolated. But the scenery was awesome. There were clouds hanging between the mountains and there was a lot of needle forest around. It almost felt like cycling through the Bavarian Forest where my grandmother lives. We were cycling along the crest for quite some time and suddenly we started to descent. The road was only gravel for quite some time already and I was exhausted but going downhill was amazing. So when a car stopped and offered to take us with them I refused, so we just got some nuts and cookies At the bottom of the valley we were entering was a beautiful water reservoir. The color was an awesome teal. Also, the river we were camping at afterwards had that color and I really love it 😊

After this night we had to climb a bit more to leave the valley again. At the first peak a guy was shouting out of a window: “Cay”. We couldn’t refuse this offer and ended up having breakfast with the family. Since we speak no Turkish and they no English Google Translate helped a lot. They were super sweet. The father had a bad cough and so we left some medicine for him. After that awesome start the rest of the last climb in Turkey wasn’t hard at all. Also, the colorful rocks next to the road made it more easy. At the top, we got some more fruits as a gift, already the day earlier we had gotten some fresh Oranges. We were wondering where these fruits were coming from. But we shouldn’t wonder long. We had an very smooth downhill and suddenly we had over 20°C and there were ripe citrus fruits everywhere We cycled through some small villages to avoid the highway. It was all fine, when suddenly one of the four young guys, that were already cruising around us with their two motorbikes and taking pictures, decided it was necessary to grab my behind and then speed off. It was such an unpleasant feeling and Ryan and I were both really pissed. But we couldn’t keep up with them to confront this idiot. Luckily they were even more stupid then we thought possible, they hadn’t left the road we were on and 10 km later one their motorbikes was broken down. When they saw us approaching, the other motorbike tried to push the broken one, but they were not fast enough. In the next village Ryan caught up with them, but the one who actually grabbed me fled on foot. Ryan was shouting very loud and kicking the lying motorbike. This caught quite some attention and only seconds later a whole motorbike group with older guys was surrounding us. As soon as we told them what happened they called the police and were searching for the guy. While we waited for the police the whole village gathered around us, well the male part of the village, there was no other female then me, I felt really uncomfortable. But one guy organized some Pepsi. Meanwhile they have found the runaway groper. The police took some time and there was almost an escalation. One of the older guys started to hit the groper and suddenly a lot of gys were starting to hit him but there were also some who protected him. It was so crazy. I was glad when the police finally arrived. We had to follow them to their office in the next city. There I had to make a statement/ complaint. And the only English-speaking person there had to translate. We were three hours there and it was already dark outside, but at least we got some tea, coffee and durum. After we finally could leave. I really hope that they didn’t just made a show for the tourist and it has some real consequences from him. We had to pitch the tent in the dark behind the first gas station we came across. Well that was a day, it started out perfect and then one a**hole comes and ruins it.

The rest of the days towards Mersin were quite unspectacular. We camped at the beautiful lake next to Adana and then cycled along the highway to Mersin. The traffic was horrible. Streetlight were only for show, because no one cares anyway. And there was a lot of heavy traffic and bad air. There was gray dust everywhere. And very fitting, our last camping spot was on a cliff next to the most dismal beach I have ever seen, gray and a lot of waste laying around. Since we wanted to take the bus from Mersin to Istanbul, we had to cycle into the city to the bus terminal. Unfortunately it wasn’t were we thought it would be. Luckily we had planned enough time to get there, because the terminal was actually 9km further uphill at the highway. When we arrived there we still had two hours till the bus would leave. We had already booked the tickets online and just wanted to pick up the tickets at the desk of the bus operator, Metro. But the personnel from Metro wanted to charge us an extra fee for the bicycles. Since this fee was more expensive then the original ticket we didn’t want to pay this money. So a long discussion started. And then some of the personnel thought it would be fit to just cancel our tickets against our will. We were a bit stunned because that is something that would never happen in Germany. In the end a very nice young Turkish guy came and said he would pay the extra fee for the bikes, if we manage to get our tickets again. We had still the Turkish SIM Card with Internet, and so be simply booked the tickets again. They charged him half the money they wanted from us. . . We went outside and unpacked the bikes and made them as small as possible with minimum effort. When everything was in the bus and we were sitting in our seats I finally started to relax a bit. But then the fattest kid I have ever seen seated himself directly behind me and even before the bus started the engine, the kid was beginning to puke an enormous amount all over himself the flor and the bag I had stuffed under my seat. This was going to be the wort 12 hours bus ride ever. Fortunately the personnel of the bus cleaned it as well as they could and the smell was getting better after some hours. So I even managed to get some sleep, since we were riding through the night.

We stayed again at a Warmshowers host in Istanbul. Oguz and his wife, Esra, were also very nice and even managed to organize one carton for us. We had time to visit a Turkish Hamam. I really liked it a lot how they scrubbed me clean completely. The joy was a bit lessened by the more than double tourist prize we had to pay, but there was nothing we could do and I really wanted to experience this at least once. We also tried to get a second carton, but it was really hard. In the end Ryan had to take the Metro on the morning of the 24th of December, the day of our flight, to get it. With the boxes and some additional packing materiel we had bought the days before we rode to the airport. There we packed everything and sang some Christmas songs just for us. Because there was really not the least bit of the feeling that it was Christmas Everything went well until we got to the security checkpoint. Ryan had forgotten to put our multitool into the luggage and so they took it and didn’t allow us to carry it on the flight. After some discussion they said that some personnel from the airline could carry it on the flight if we manage to find one. But since Ryan caused this little mess he was also the one who had to manage it. In the end he found one and we were going to the plane with a special bus that normally just carries the last flight attendants. So boarding was complete after we entered the plane. We then had a bit of luck, because we had three seats for the two of us and so we could sleep a bit, while we were flying through the night towards Dubai.

Ryan

To go on, we chose a small road through the mountains, because fun and scenery 😉 The first day would bring us up to 2200 meters next to Mount Erciyes. We decided to stay up there, not only because it fitted nicely into our daily distance, but also to have at least one really cool night on snow, if we were cheating winter already by flying south. The climb was very long, but only occasionally difficult, and we reached the pass just when the setting sun colored the clouds around us in orange. We never camped on snow before, and at this time it became clear how important our insulating mattresses are. Without them, it was almost painful to touch the tent’s floor. We were lucky, because at the same evening a hail of shooting stars was announced. In the clear and cold air, we had VIP seats, with the disadvantage of not being able to stay outside the tent for too long. Our feets became icy pretty quick, while over our heads incredibly bright shooting stars flew through the night. The following night was not too restful. Although I didn’t freeze at the -4°C we had in the tent, the cold air hindered a relaxed sleep. But this was all forgotten, when we descended next morning in all our clothes. After 11 kilometers downhill, our bike computer showed an average of 51 km/h when we stopped at the first gas station.

The route through the mountains proved to be a good choice. The traffic was quite low, and the landscape unspoilt. Without knowing it, we entered Taurus mountain range, which resulted in over 1000m ascension within 40 kilometers. Miri was really exhausted, so it was an easy decision when a Pick-Up stopped next to us and offered to drive us to the top of the 11%-ascension. Of course not without stopping at a small cantine first. He was a miner, and together with some of his colleagues we enjoyed a tasty meal in the small, dark, but warm room. Descending from the pass led us into the middle of nowhere. Nothing made this more clear, than the absence of every artificial light source. It was creepy, as soon as we turned the lights off, you couldn’t see anything. Miri would stand 2 meters apart from me, but without the lights on, I simply couldn’t see her.

The road became smaller and smaller. We enjoyed lakes so calm they could be easily mistaken for a mirror and rode through small towns and villages who gave us the feeling to be the first strangers there. Garages and simple shops faced a small square, and a herd of goats was running down the pothole-ridden street. Finally, the asphalt disappeared and we cycled through dense, foggy forest. It was spectacular. Sometimes we would ride on the back of the mountains, the hillside descending right next to the street on both sides. Small wooden houses formed some groups, barely enough to be considered a village. We were glad to be there in winter, because even at the low temperatures we sweated a lot when we climbed dozens of small ramps. At the end of the day we were rewarded with a downhill, which we would have located in some high regions in the Andes or the Himalaya, but not in Turkey. A sloped gravel road, right below some cliffs and often along the edge, providing a stunning view to a reservoir. Finally the tarmac reappeared, which made climbing the next day fairly easier. A family on top of a small pass invited us in, and even though their live seemed far from luxury and comfort, they shared their breakfast with us and were extremely welcoming. With a smile and a warm feeling we pedaled on, and finally the mountains in front of us disappeared. We descended almost 15 kilometers into the flats around Adana. Suddenly, the thermometer showed 24°C and all around us ripe oranges were harvested. We couldn’t believe it.

And it shouldn’t be the last time, we were caught in disbelief that day. It happened, when a group of four young teenagers gathered around us. We were eating lunch. We took pictures together, tried to answer the usual questions through all language barriers, and when we went on, they used their two old motor scooters to drive with us. All would have been not too remarkable, if not one of the boys thought it would be a great idea to grab Miris bottom before speeding away. We were both in flames, but even though anger brings up energy in us we didn’t knew before, it was not enough for me to keep up with them. They disappeared in a distance. Shortly after a group of around six scooters appeared, all ridden by one to two teenagers. Not what we needed in our situation (our anger lifted not the least), but they were quite friendly, gifted us some oranges, and went away without any incidents. When we pedaled on, we spotted two scooters far ahead of us. It was the first group of teenagers, and obviously one of their scooter broke down. They tried to push the broken scooter while riding them, but this time they weren’t fast enough. The idiot who grabbed Miri ran straight off. I shouted at him in a voice I never knew I possessed and kicked the scooter they threw away while running of. After that, I had the undivided attention of the villagers around and of the second group of scooter-boys who were resting nearby. We made our case clear pretty quick, and even quicker they called the police and brought some coke. Some of the scooter-boys started going around the village to find the hidden guy, and while we waited we were told not to hit him once they found him. Finally, they dragged him towards us, and while we were told not to hit him, they had obviously different rules. One guy started to hit him on the neck, and that started a chain reaction in the crowd. If I had to guess, I’d say three quarters started hitting him, while one quarter of the teenagers around protected his flight over the meadow and saved him from further beatings. After 30 seconds of hunt, it stopped as fast as it began, mostly thanks to the protecting guys. The Jandarma arrived, and we cycled to the police station, followed by their car with all four boys from the first group. Because the situation wasn’t exceptional enough, I slipped in a corner and hit the ground hard. But there was enough adrenaline left that I got up quickly and cycled on. We spent three hours at the station, reporting the incident, while the officers ordered us Kebab. It was clear, that they felt uncomfortable about the situation.

When we left, we left with mixed feelings. On one hand we were hopeful that this taught him some respect towards woman. On the other hand, we weren’t sure what consequences this incident had on his life. It would be useless, if one bad incident were able to ruin his friendships or more.

Finally, we arrived near Mersin, from where we wanted to take the bus. We cycled along the coastline, through endless rows of greenhouses, intermitted by impoverished houses of the workers. The traffic started to become completely crazy, often ignoring traffic lights and lanes. When we arrived at the bus terminal, some employees of Metro, the bus company, tried to get 50€ for bringing the bikes. After 2 hours of discussion (with various translators) they cancelled the tickets against our will. If it weren’t for a young guy, we would still stay there I suppose. He finally offered to pay the extra price, if we get our tickets back. Assuming that they wouldn’t rip off a fellow Turk, we agreed and ordered new tickets through the phone. We think, eventually he paid half of what they wanted from us, and even declined when we asked him to pay half of that. Finally, everything was “Tamam”. Or so we thought. Five minutes into the bus (he hasn’t even started at that point) a morbidly obese boy one row behind us started to puke, and of course it hit our bag. Wow, what a hell of a ride without going one meter! Eventually, they cleaned the mess up, and we arrived tired but safely in Istanbul.

Back in the chaos! Again, we stood at incredibly nice warmshowers hosts. They even organized one bike box for the flight for us, which was very helpful. Getting the other though cost us a lot of walking, phoning, and I had to make a three-hour trip on the day of the flight (yes, correctly remembered, Christmas eve) to get the second box. When we rolled to the airport, I was really stressed, and so was Miri. Which made me even more stressed. Our bad mood peaked when Miri told me that I’m the only person she could transfer her stress and bad mood on (technically correct, no doubt). I couldn’t help it and responded with a nice and short “Fuck you! Seriously!”. Our anger didn’t last long, actually it vanished shortly after, when we ordered Pita to avoid buying food at the airport. I like the fact that both of us know that we are far from perfect and make mistakes all the time, especially when acting under high pressure. That’s why stuff like that is seldom leading to a major argument or crisis 😉

At the airport everything went well, packing the bikes, checking in the luggage…until they discovered my multitool I forgot in my pants. Of course they confiscated it, but it was essential to us to get it back. I was told, only a member of the airline could take it onto the plane. And so I ran between crew and flight attendants, asking and annoying the hell out of them, until finally a young gentlemen agreed to follow me to the security controls. This procedure led eventually to the fact, that we boarded the plane last. It was only when we sat on our places, that we felt that this chapter of our travel was over. Turkey, you have been incredible to the last minute! 😊

  • Climbing to Mount Erciyes

whoosh! By plane we change climate and culture entirely and land on the Arabian peninsula

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