Cycling again, Turkish style – 12 to 26th Mar 2017

Cycling again, Turkish style – 12 to 26th Mar 2017

Monday 13th March 2017

Bodrum to Milas

Distance: 53.97 km

Average Speed: 10.99 kmh

Fastest Speed: 63.20 kmh

Total Distance: 10579.14

Yesterday we had a lazy day as Bahar had gone cycling with her club and we had the house to ourselves. A frenzy of TV watching ensues – namely series 1 of The Lucky Man with James Nesbitt. Not bad just series 2 to watch when we’ve got a spare 10 hours. Today we’re up fairly early (9ish) and head off to Eray’s lock-up to fetch the trikes only to discover the key is no longer held in the cafe next door and even worse there’s now a padlock and chain on the door. Within 5 minutes a chap comes along with the key to the door but he has no idea where the new padlock has come from.

We ring Bahar, she rings Mine. Mine arrives on her scooter but she has no idea where this padlock has come from. She makes a phone call and after a further 5 minutes someone else turns up who actually has the key to the padlock!

Back at Bahar’s we start loading the trikes and Daz cooks up a huge saucepan of porridge… bleughhh! But it’s supposed to be a good cycling breakfast, slow release energy blah blah and we still have over 2kg of rolled oats to get through! Unfortunately I’ve never been a porridge fan and whilst this is about the 6th bowl I’ve managed to eat since my Mum brought over 2 x 2kg of porridge oats, the consistency of snot is vile and often makes me want to vomit!

 

After brekkie it’s time to say farewell to Bahar. She has been absolutely fab, hosting us yet again and helping out with our admin. One day we hope we can repay the generosity. And so at 9 minutes past 11 we cycle out under sunny skies for the first time this year. We plan to keep our biking legs short so today it’s the main road from Bodrum to Milas, just over 50km to our warmshower host, Alp, in Milas. We climb out of Bodrum at a nice steady rate; we know we’ve lost our bike fitness over the last few months. It’s a pretty route with rolling hills and views of the dramatic coastline. Later we head inland and stop to get a closer look at some flamingoes wading in the shallow waters beside the road.

After a couple of hours we get a little peckish and stop at a Kofte wagon parked at the side of the road.

The converted bus has got a charcoal grill and a few tables and chairs inside, but we sit out in the sun to enjoy our ‘meat’ sandwich (it’s kokorec – grilled animal intestines) and salty yogurt drink. After lunch we see lots of beautiful spring flowers along the road and thanks to the tail wind we’re making good progress.

There are a number of pottery outlets along the main road, maybe it’s a local clay? They have a lot of windmills on display, all spinning in the wind.

The traffic isn’t too bad. This is our first cycle ride in Turkey and we have many people waving, calling greetings, speaking to us as they drive passed. We’re really pleasantly surprised. Only a couple of trucks skim past a little too close for comfort! Towards the late afternoon the sun disappears and we have a long ascent to Milas. We are a little tired as we roll into Milas, and also, as we realise later, a little sunburnt!! There’s a nice new blue cycle path into the town centre and we stop in the town square. We are accosted a couple of times by people wanting to practice their English on us.

After a short scout around, and a cake and cup of tea we cycle the last kilometre to Alp’s house. Unfortunately our route takes us over a dual carriageway which we cross using a footbridge.

Its got a great ramp, but the switchback corners are too tight for our trikes so we have to get off and manhandle them around manually… 4 times up, and 4 times down the other side! We finally arrive at Alp’s. He lives with his parents in a beautiful big house. They retired from working in Istanbul as a nurse (mother) and radiologist (father) but instead of downsizing they upsized – in a big way.

Alp is a keen cyclist, having cycled over 15,000 km around the Aegean and Mediterranean coastal areas. After getting cleaned up we sit down to a fantastic family meal. It’s delicious. We chat to Alp and he acts as translator for his parents. Alp also shows us his YouTube interview of a Belgian cyclist who visited him earlier this month. But by 10pm we are yawning our heads off after our first day’s cycling and call it a night. Just time to write the day’s blog before we are soon snoring the house down!!

Tuesday 14th March 2017

Milas to Akbuk

Distance: 52.67 km

Average Speed: 7.02 kmh

Fastest Speed: 63.05 kmh

Total Distance: 10631.76

We’re up at 0830hrs and have a lovely Turkish breakfast with Alp and Sacide, his mother (his Dad has gone to Work).

We chat over breakfast but then it’s time to leave. Alp brings his camera and tripod out and takes some shots for us and has a go on our trikes. He thinks they are very comfortable.

We head off into Milas. Our first stop is a visit to the Tomb of Gumuskesen. Milas’ most famous monument is a late 2nd-century Roman tomb called the Gümüşkesen, a particularly unlikely name which means “silver-cutting” (or “silver purse” in some translations). A marble tomb with elaborate columns and a pyramidal roof, it was probably modelled on the much more famous Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in nearby Bodrum. The only problem is it’s at the top of a steep hill!

Then we cycle back down, into and around the market; no mean feat given how busy it is with only narrow walkways between the stalls. I would have expected people to be annoyed with our presence since everyone has to get out of our way but everyone is incredibly friendly and shout greetings to us.

Considering we have been told Milas is Turkey’s carpet capital there was not much sign, well actually none, of carpets. After the market we head out of Milas and after about 10km we turn off the main road onto a much quieter back road. It’s so pretty cycling through these valleys with the spring flowers in bloom and the olive groves with a carpet of white flowers.

We pass a field where grass is being grown for turf, Croquet anyone?

It’s sunny again today but sadly we have a head wind. We’ve done about 10km when the hills start and from then on they never really stop. It’s tortuous and probably a dumb route choice for day 2 but with such beautiful views.

Also we’re really on quiet back roads and discover there’s no shops or cafes, in fact nothing. By 2 pm, absolutely shattered and ravenous we stop and eat the aubergine pie given to us this morning by Sacide. Thank God for it, I was about ready to chew off my own arm. She’s saved our lives. It barely touches the sides. We see lots of lizards basking on rocks. Some scuttle away as we approach, others don’t seem to mind.

Finally we find a shop but it’s woefully short of provisions. We were hoping for bread, cheese and meats as a minimum but it’s only got drinks, crisps and biscuits.

We decide to push on for Akbuk, after all it’s only 10km. How bad can it be? Well very, very bad! We’re exhausted. Our knees hurt from grinding up hills; our backs, feet, bums and legs ache and burn. We’ve seriously overstretched ourselves today. Finally we make Akbuk and find a restaurant. We then proceed to shovel down our food as if our life depended on it.

And then, overcome by the toughness of day 2, we head off to find a real bed and hot shower (yup -not camping!)

 

Wednesday 15th March 2017

Akbuk to Soke

Distance: 57.35 km

Average Speed: 9.67 kmh

Fastest Speed: 45.38 kmh

Total Distance: 10689.11

After a wonderful night’s sleep, followed by breakfast we head off and follow the promenade out of Akbuk – and along the deserted beach.

It’s very pretty. Then it’s out of Akbuk to the main road – nice new smooth tarmac – it would’ve been fast except now there’s a hellish head wind, but after yesterday it’s a doddle. After a steady climb we drop down again and have some Kofte for lunch then head off the main road for a detour around lake Bafa. On the way to the lake we see a man and 2 women sitting in an olive grove. They wave us over, and although they speak no English, and us no Turkish we have a cup of chai and share a bit of bread and cheese with them.

We also spot some young Kangal pups and manage to entice them over for a belly rub.

As we reach the lake we see some fishermen and stop to watch. They seem to be catching the small fish at a rapid rate. From here we leave the gravel track for a rough dirt track atop a dyke. There are flooded fields either side with grazing cows. We can see the lake off to our right.

Lake Bafa is encircled by the Beşparmak Mountains, aptly named after the “five-fingers” the range resembles, but known as Mt. Latmos in mythological legends. Lake Bafa is a 60 square kilometre landlocked lake that was once the Aegean’s inland reach. The lake is now 50 percent salt water, providing for both salt and freshwater fishing, which along with agriculture, consists of the region’s prime sustenance. It’s slow going along the rough dyke, but the scenery makes up for it.

After about 7 kilometers we come off and then enter a village after crossing a large river. There’s a very old fording bridge, but luckily we take the newer one!

After the dyke we find ourselves in a small village and try and pet some rather scrawny puppies. Then back to main road. It’s straight as a rule now for the final 20km. We follow the main road into Soke and navigate through the busy centre to a bike shop. Our warmshower host has given us this location so we assume he’s here even though I could have sworn he’s a schoolteacher. We are greeted and given coffee then there is a photo frenzy and testing of our bikes.

We sit around for a bit and then the guy looking after us takes a phone call. It’s our host on the other end, who gives us his address. Off we go but just as leave they present us with a Turkish flag to hang off the bike and some lights!! At Ayhan’s house we’re greeted warmly and he finds the trikes very funny. Ayhan has 2 folding bikes, a mountain bike and a new VSF steel framed touring bike. He’s done a lot of touring in Turkey and whilst he prepares dinner we watch his bike touring slideshows and then finally sleep.

Thursday 16th March 2017

Soke to Selcuk

Distance: 50.93 km

Average Speed: 9.79 kmh

Fastest Speed: 50.84 kmh

Total Distance: 10740.04

Alarm goes off ( for the first time) at 0650hrs. It seems Ayhan is king of the snooze button and actually falls asleep between each alarm blast. Finally we admit defeat and get up.

After boiled eggs for breakfast we all head into town, with Ayhan on Daz’s trike. He’s well impressed. In town Ayhan heads off to his school where he teaches 10 year olds and we head out of town, stopping briefly for a caffeine hit.

We’re on the main road again and even with the head wind make reasonable progress. Sadly the hard climbing from Day 2 has left Daz with sore knees and sore achilles tendons. In addition he’s suffering from a mild case of ‘Delhi Belly’ for the 2nd day. We’ve eaten the same food but clearly I have the constitution of a waste disposal unit whilst Daz is more sensitive. Urgent road side stops have become ‘the norm’ when travelling with DD (Diarrhoea Daz)!!

We stop at Magnesia. According to the legends and ancient sources, Magnesia was founded by settlers called as Magnetes who came from Thessalia (Thessaly) on Greek mainland, following an oracle of Apollo and led by their leader Leukippos.

The location of the first city of Magnesia is not known, but it’s said to be somewhere along the Meander river (today’s Buyuk Menderes river) near Bafa Lake which was a bay on the Aegean Sea back then so it was accessible by the boats. Due to the epidemic outbreaks caused by the continuous changing of the river bed of the Meander and for the fact of being open to Persian invasions, around 400 BC Magnetes moved their city to its actual location next to Gumuscay river.

After looking at the main site we even cycle up a rough track to the stadium. Very nice.

On we go just stopping for the occasional snack or drink and finally arrive in Selcuk.

It’s still fairly early so we head off to Ephesus – more ruins. But very impressive ruins!

Located within what was once the estuary of the River Kaystros, Ephesus comprises successive Hellenistic and Roman settlements founded on new locations, which followed the coastline as it retreated westward. Excavations have revealed grand monuments of the Roman Imperial period including the Library of Celsus and the Great Theatre. Little remains of the famous Temple of Artemis, one of the “Seven Wonders of the World,” which drew pilgrims from all around the Mediterranean. Since the 5th century, the House of the Virgin Mary, a domed cruciform chapel seven kilometres from Ephesus, became a major place of Christian pilgrimage. The Ancient City of Ephesus is an outstanding example of a Roman port city, with sea channel and harbour basin.

The area is surrounded by peach orchards that are now in blossom, vivid pinks everywhere.

We get back to the trikes and head for where we think Adnan lives – our warmshower host. This involves a very rough, rocky track but with the added entertainment of some sections fully submerged. Fortunately it’s not too deep and so no need to back track. We get to the coordinates for Adnan’s house but it’s just a big field. We phone him but get no answer. We decide to find a cafe but then he phones and says he’ll meet us at the hospital in about 20minutes. We’re a little confused and wonder if he actually knows we’re his guests. However all becomes clear. He’s been in hospital most of the day after falling from the roof of his ‘cycling house’ and hitting his head. But he comes to greet us with a huge smile but very bruised head and cheekbone – he’s lucky it wasn’t much worse. He takes us to his ‘cycling house’ – it’s a stop over and meeting point for cycling clubs and touring cyclists.

Adnan is famous; I think not only in Turkey but further afield for his cycling exploits but also for his hospitality. After cleaning ourselves up we head to Adnan’s home for dinner. We meet his wife, mother and daughter and there’s also several visitors who have come to check on him after his fall. It’s a delightful evening; the hospitality we’re receiving is incredible. Soon we’re too tired to socialise longer and head to the ‘cycling house’ and bed.

 

Friday 17th March 2017

Selcuk to Izmir

Distance: 41.25 km

Average Speed: 11.03kmh

Fastest Speed: 29.44 kmh

Total Distance: 10781.29

After a great night’s sleep we start the day with tea and granola and then cycle through town. We stop near the Old City walls, opposite a new metro train station that is under construction. When it’s finished it will link Selcuk with Izmir.

As we cycle out of town we get a great view of the castle high up on a hill. This recently renovated castle was built during the time of the Byzantine Empire and later remodeled by the Turks. On the outside you will see the emblematic Turkish flag and the face of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, father of the modern-day Republic of Turkey.

Out of Selcuk there are more beautiful peach orchards with dramatic cliff faces beyond. We are cycling along a wide valley, the sun is shining and the it’s easy going. We pass a tractor trailer and marvel at the leeks piled high in the back, the smell is exquisite.

So far the road has been smooth new tarmac with two wide lanes and hard shoulder, excellent! But soon we are back on old gravelly tarmac and our speed reduces significantly . A van pulls in ahead of us and we notice we are being videoed as we pass, it then goes by and stops again and the driver gets out and greets us before passing us a large pack of Turkish puddings. We later find out they are mini churros in syrup, Google translate calls them pump dessert!! We also pass a coach parked up on the hard shoulder. The coach driver has stopped to take photos of us.

Then just before Tomboli 2 media guys on a moped stop and take details and pictures. We think they work for the town newspaper which has an online edition, so we will keep watching incase they make us famous!

In Tomboli the clouds have arrived and it starts to drizzle. We’re here to catch the metro into Izmir. We go down in a small lift; it takes 3 runs with the trikes and baggage.

However at the barriers the lady, she says no! It’s against company rules (although bikes are permitted). She tells us to get the overground train. Back up in the lift, a repeat process. At the overground the train man also says no to bikes. By now it’s raining hard. We wait to assess the likelihood of getting on the overground but when one arrives we realise that there really is no where to put the trikes. Whilst we’ve been waiting we’ve petted a mummy cat who has her 3 kittens in a cardboard box. So cute!

So now for a final strategy. We can see we’d easily get on the metro and that there’s plenty of room but we think seeing both trikes and all the baggage can look overbearing. So we lock up my trike and go down to the Metro with just Daz’s trike and bags. One final attempt to get on the metro. We plead injury, rain, and a burning need to get to Izmir today… finally the woman makes us stand under a CCTV camera then phones her supervisor who can see the trike thanks to the cameras. He says yes!!! But only one bike one train. So Daz gets on and I have to wait 20 minutes for the next. ( You should have seen his face – sheer panic at being separated)

We have picked a station name to agree to get off at. Then I get on alone, helped by all the train staff!! I’m daydreaming away when after about 5 stops suddenly Daz gets on my train. He’d found out our agreed train stop is nowhere near Izmir – it’s 30km north of Izmir. Fortunately he jumped off his train at a deserted station, waited for my train and jumped back on.

As we near Izmir the train becomes very crowded and as we reach our stop it’s virtually impossible to get off with the trikes. But finally we manage to get everyone to move out of the way and let us off. We cycle through town via the Culture Park (lots of statues and empty fountains) then grab some food.

With all the train shenanigans we missed lunch and we are starving, so enjoy a Turkish version of KFC. We then hit the seafront and cycle along a new promenade for about 6kms. It’s Incredibly beautiful as the sun sets over the sea.

We arrive at our warmshower host and Mehmet welcomes us into his home.

We share dinner and raki and find out about each other. Mehmet used to live the high life in Istanbul but decided he needed a quieter life so moved to Izmir. He now teaches in a Maritime school and has left his wild Istanbul days for dull, slow Izmir life! (His quote not ours; I think he misses Istanbul and his friends there).

After dinner we teach him cards – nomination whist.

 

Saturday 18th March 2017

Izmir to Outskirts of Aliaga, beach.

Distance: 19.81 km

Average Speed: 7.45 kmh

Fastest Speed: 28.72 kmh

Total Distance: 10801.1km

Mehmet prepares a fab Turkish breakfast for us before we set off to explore Izmir. We had thought we might spend 2 nights here but Mehmet doesn’t think there’s that much to see, so we’re not going bother. We cycle along the sea front and then head off to see the Asansor lift.

Asansor is what it sounds like if you translate it into French or Spanish; it’s an elevator! This elevator is very special to the people of Izmir and is a popular place to hang out with friends. It also serves as a means of getting from the lower town to the upper town. Plus many couples who get married or families for special occasions come here to take photos together. The reason is it gives the best view of Izmir and the Aegean Sea from an elevated viewpoint. It has truly stunning views!

Then the clock tower and mosque. We then cycle down the narrow streets, busy with people, to the ancient Roman Agora.

Our last stop is the Kemeralti Bazaar. Trying, and coming close to emulating the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, Kemeralti Bazaar should be on every Izmir visitor’s list. Just as in Istanbul, the place is crowded and packed floor to ceiling with an array of everything you could ever need and more

Izmir done we return to the sea front to catch a ferry to Bostanli. No dramas with the ferry, thank goodness.

At Bostanli we cycle to the nearest metro station. We’re hoping we won’t have the same dramas as yesterday but sadly their first answer is a resounding ‘No’. However we show them photos of yesterday’s train ride and they immediately capitulate and then can’t do enough to help us (or perhaps get rid of us).

Sign on door of elevator at the metro station – the elevator we’ve used repeatedly.

The first train pulls in and the bike compartment is absolutely chocca so the train guard says we should wait for the next train which has more coaches. Whilst we’re waiting he teaches us to count to 5 in Turkish. The next train pulls in and he helps us get the trikes on whilst asking people to get out of our way. The train terminates in Aliaga, about 30km north of Izmir. Once off we head for the beach but get distracted by a large market. It’s a huge indoor market with 2 floors; clothes and bric a brac on the ground floor and food upstairs. We have a wander round and then stop for dinner, a chicken kebab sandwich.

We pick up some provisions as we cycle through town then head to the seafront. We’ve got our eye on a possible wild camping spot on the beach about 6km away. It’s another lovely promenade and easy cycling. We reach our target and sure enough we manage to find a spot of grass next to the beach. Our first wild camping spot in Turkey! Someone comes along in a while and tells us it’s not possible to camp here, but we tell him we will be gone in the morning and he leaves us alone.

Sunday 19th March

Outskirts of Aliaga (beach) to Bergama

Distance: 45.73 km

Average Speed: 12.24 kmh

Fastest Speed: 53.28 kmh

Total Distance: 10846.83 km

We enjoy a nice lazy start. Porridge (yuck!) for breakfast by the sea.

After packing up we cycle out, it’s easy cycling again along the main road all the way to Bergama, another ancient site we have been told to visit. On the way we pull into a oe horse town by the name of Yanikent on the lookout for lunch. The place is dusty and run down, but in the square there are a couple of tea rooms and lots of kids playing. We ask if there is food and then the kids escort us around the village from food point to food point, but none are open to business!!

We end up back out on the main road at a petrol station stopping for ice cream and chocolate wagon wheels!!

 

We push on to Bergama and meet Cihan, our warmshower host at his apartment. He is a nurse, and works the big MRI machine, but is studying to be an oncologist. After a while another guy comes round- Erdam is an English teacher and has come to help Cihan with the conversation!

We all go out for food and are shortly joined by more members of Bergama cycle club – a mother and daughter. Then after dinner they take us to a cafe for baklava and then on to another cafe to hear Turkish folk music where we are joined by more cyclists.!! As we chat with them we ask a bit about Turkish culture and religion. The people are predominantly muslim and there are 5 calls to prayer a day. Usually younger guys go once on a Friday. It’s normally only the old men in the mosque 5 times a day. Women however often just pray at home.

For those that have jobs, particularly in the service industry there is often no day off. For example, the shop we eat baklava in stays open till 11 pm. She only closes the shop for 30 min prayer then reopens. Even Cijan, a nurse in the government hospital often works 12 hour days six days a week, this in part due to a lack of trained staff. It’s a great evening, but we can see Cijan is flagging and so are we, time to call it a night.

 

Monday 20th March

Bergama to Avylik

Distance: 75.69 km

Average Speed: 12.56 kmh

Fastest Speed: 30.02 kmh

Total Distance: 10922.52 km

Cihan is up and off at 8 am for work. But he says goodbye and gives us keys to his flat. Just lock up when we leave! So we cycle to the cable car that takes tourist up to the Pergamum Acropolis. It looks like it’s not running, but someone comes and lets us in and starts her up.

At the top we look around.

The ancient site of Pergamum should win an award for its stunning location alone. Rolling across the hillside, five kilometers from the modern town of Bergama, the Acropolis area was once the beating heart of a powerful Hellenistic city. The most striking feature is the 15,000-seat theater, set into the steep southwest slope of the hill and reached by a narrow flight of steps from the Temple of Athena. Adjoining the temple are the ruins of Pergamum’s famed library, built around 170 BC and once home to one of the largest libraries in the ancient world, with 200,000 volumes (later carried off to Alexandria by Mark Antony as a gift to Cleopatra). To the west of the library is the Temple of Trajan, built in the Roman era, with its marble colonnaded terrace. Below the theater, the Altar of Zeus was once decorated with elaborate friezes (moved to Berlin in the 19th century).

After we come down we head to the Red Basilica. This massive red-brick ruin was originally built by Hadrian (AD 117-138) as a temple dedicated to the gods Serapis and Isis. Later, in the Byzantine era, it was converted into a church and dedicated to the Apostle John, who had earlier called this grandiose pagan temple the throne of the devil.

Then we cycle to a Turkish greengrocer lady. Wemet us last night, doesn’t speak a word of English, but asked us to visit. We drink tea with her then pop over the road to a carpet shop for a snoop around.

Then it’s back to the apartment, pack up, a cup of tea and some pasties and set off once again.

It’s 12am already but the ride along the main road is easy. we come off the main road to go for lunch in Dikili, a seaside resort frequented by Turks rather than tourists. We let some young kids pose for pictures on the trikes then followed the road close to sea.

Finally we returned to the main road until a turn off for Kucukkoy. A quick shop for dinner provisions and then we hit the beach again looked for a camping spot. Finally we find somewhere “suitable”. Wild Camping next to a camping site in a lagoon area.

But the mosquitos are out in force so we in turn are forced to an early bed. As we were setting up we were asked to leave, but again they relented when we told them it was only for one night.

 

Tuesday 21st March

Avylik to Akcuy

Distance: 51.13 km

Average Speed: 10.82 kmh

Fastest Speed: 54.00 kmh

Total Distance: 10973.65 km

This morning we wake up to an extremely wet flysheet for the tent. We try to dry it whilst having a cup of tea accompanied by the guy that owns the campsite next door and who initially wanted to move us on last night. He’s happy enough chatting to us whilst we pack up. We head off into Avylik for a full Turkish breakfast by the harbour.

A great start to the day. Back on the road Daz snaps his bottle holder and wants to stop at any cycling or outdoor shop. We spot an outdoor shop with a guy just about to leave on his folding bike. Daz asks him where we can buy a new bottle holder and he only gives us his!

For 20km we cycle around the Avalik Island Nature park; it’s a nice quiet road with some parts next to the sea but the road surface is rubbish and it’s a hard slog.

Then we make better progress back on the main road for 20km before heading to the coast at Oren. We stop for a coke and some bread and cheese and an ex naval man starts chatting to us. We’re trying to dry our tent and work out a route and mileages and this guy insists that we sit and talk to him.

We think he wants to show us a wild camping site and take us to his bar to drink Raki (but who knows???)! He accompanies us out of town and seems really disappointed when we say our farewells.

From here we continue on the backroads and actually most of them are being dug up so it’s loose gravel and hard going. At one point we’re told the road is closed but we’ve seen loads of traffic heading that way so we refuse to backtrack. About a kilometre later the road is closed by a mountain of gravel but we manage to cycle over it whilst most of the cars have to backtrack.

We’re in Akcuy now and stop for provisions before looking for a wild camping spot. We thought we’d find something on the beach and whilst we are close to the beach we end up in a semi constructed bar owned by Yilmaz.

He’s happy for us to put our tent up in the unfinished bar and we’re keen to eat, wash and get to bed but for the next 2 hours it seems like most of the village want to visit the construction site. It’s dark by the time they disappear and we grab a cold shower from a beach shower point. Clean at last after 2 hot sweaty days! We’ve settled down for the night when a group of men appear, build a campfire 15m away and proceed to eat and drink. They’re rather noisy and apparently don’t leave until midnight (Daz kept guard, I was dead to the world).

 

Wednesday 22nd March

Akcuy to Assos

Distance: 61.55 km

Average Speed: 11.33 kmh

Fastest Speed: 49.26 kmh

Total Distance: 11035.2 km

We were expecting to be woken early by the workmen but all is quiet. We pack up and have breakfast and still no sign of them. We leave at 0930hrs just as the first workmen pull up – excellent timing. We cycle along Akcuy beachfront and along the pier. It’s very picturesque so we stop for a coffee.

Once again we’re stopped by a number of people asking for photos; we feel like celebrities! Out of Akcuy and onto the main road where we fly along with a lovely tail wind. 35km done and it’s only 1230hrs. We stop for provisions at Kucukkuyu before leaving the main road to handrail the coast to Assos. It’s beautiful; olive groves on both sides with views of the sea. We stop at Yali for lunch, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, whilst looking out over a beach. A perfect lunchtime stop.

On, on we go. It’s been gently undulating and then we hit a big hill and spot a group of cyclists coming the other way. There’s 4 of them, all from Istanbul,cycling to Izmir. We stop for a quick chat and a trike test ride. We’re just about to head off when a lovely black dog appears. It’s only followed them from Assos campsite. Poor thing must be knackered, and thirsty; it’s 28 degrees today.

Finally over the huge hill and it’s not long before we see Assos; yup you guessed it, up another hill. We take a stroll around admiring the incredible views from the hilltop. Assos was founded in the 700s BCE by colonists from Lesvos. Aristotle came here and married King Hermeias’s niece, Pythia, before sailing over to Lesvos.

Atop a hill surrounded by olive groves are the ruins of the Doric-style Temple of Athena (530 BC) surrounded by crumbling city walls and an ancient necropolis (cemetery). Nearby is the 14th-century Ottoman Murad Hüdavendigar Mosque. The hill offers spectacular views of the Aegean Sea and the nearby Greek island of Lesvos. Down the steep seaward side of the hill at the water’s edge is the hamlet officially named Behram, but actually called İskele (Dock, Wharf) by everyone, with old stone houses now serving as inns, hotels and restaurants. It’s hopelessly charming and picturesque. The small pebbly beach is less of an attraction than the boat tours and the picturesqueness of the hamlet itself.

Finally we head out of Assos and soon find a wild campsite for the night. Scrambled egg for tea. Yummy.

Thursday 23rd March

Assos to Tavakli

Distance: 39.30 km

Average Speed: 8.58 kmh

Fastest Speed: 58.46 kmh

Total Distance: 11074.5 km

A great night in an idyllic spot. Porridge for breakfast and then we hit the road. It’s a beautiful route but a little tough – it takes us an hour to do 5km but it’s worth it to be in this beautiful countryside, on a quiet road with barely any traffic.

We push on, and after some effort reach Tuzla, a busy little village. We stop for a proper workmen’s lunch, which in Turkey is rice, beans, stew and chicken.

Fortified we head on, back towards the coast line, but during our stop the wind has picked up and you guessed it, it’s a head wind. Just out of the village we come across two cars beside the road. The drivers point up the hill and mention a hot water pool.

We walk up to investigate and it reminds us of Iceland. It is in fact a geothermal pool, murky, but hot. There are also little rivulets running down the hill with scalding water in them. But no skinny dipping for us. We push on, either up hill or into the wind. At about the 40 km mark we spot a shop just up from the beach. We decide it’s time to get tonight’s provisions because we’ll definitely be stopping soon. Then the shop owner says we can camp on the beach, he has showers, toilets and hot water. He wants 20 Lira and after seeing the facilities we drop him to 15 Lira. So an early stop after a tough ride today in beautiful scenery. Time for a cold beer as we sit in the sunshine on the beach… shame about the wind.

There’s also a bar and a puppy, an obvious place to spend the evening.

Friday 24th March

Tavakli to Troy

Distance: 52.46 km

Average Speed: 8.84 kmh

Fastest Speed: 43.8 kmh

Total Distance: 11126.92 km

Wne think the wind has died down after a gusty night in the tent. We get back on the road, but not before Hels tips her trike on some adverse camber as we join the road! Thankfully all is OK and she only lands on her bad arm (horse ride incident) again. We soon realise the wind hasn’t left us alone as we continue and it’s another headwind. Factor in the rough asphalt and it’s slow going for most of the morning. We do spot a tortoise – or is it?

We pass ancient Alexandria, but it really is ancient. Just a few piles of stones and one area of old housing. The notice says free entry, but the gates are locked and nobody’s in! We drop into Dalyan and follow signs for the ‘antik harbour’. It’s not much to look at, but we stop for coffee and sit in the sun for a while. Then it’s on towards Troy, or the village that now stands next to ancient Troy. On route we stop for a roadside lunch of tomato, onion and bread salad drizzled in the olive oil we were given in Crete.

The roads after this are mainly downhill and better tarmac’d, that is until the last 12 km. We turn onto a gravel road that goes across flat arable fields on a raised dyke.

The wind is fierce on this exposed road and it’s a hard slog for about an hour until we turn off it. Just a couple more kilometers to go now. As we head into Kalafat Hels spots a big kangal dog ahead and is nervous enough to suggest we arm ourselves with stones (first time we’ve taken this precaution). Then a shepherd and his flock appear.

The dog starts barking at us, and coming towards us. We expect the shepherd to take some action as we have now stopped cycling and are standing up hoping to intimidate the kangal. No such luck and the shepherd seems happy with the kangal’s behaviour. The dog, by far the biggest we have seen, with spiked collar glinting in the sun, stands between us and the flock. As the flock moves ahead of us on the dirt road the shepherd calls the dog, but he stays to the rear, Barking and keeping an eye on us. We follow at a safe distance ready to take evasive action if necessary . Then the flock go off the road into a fenced field. We try edging past but the dog is growling and watching us intently. We’re not feeling the love! after My goosebumps are piled on top of each other. We try creeping forward but we really don’t want to antagonise this beast. We’ve heard that a trained sheepherding kangal gives no quarter when his flock are threatened. By this time the shepherd decides to take pity on us. So far he’s stood in the field with his sheep with his phone out, taking pictures of us or perhaps waiting to video us being ripped limb from limb by his gangal. He has waved us through a few times but we’re not taking any chances. He walks to the track and by now his kangal has flanked us and is on the other side of the track. We’re between him and his sheep. The shepherd says ‘it’s OK, it’s OK’ but as soon as we start to move the dog starts growling and coming towards us. The shepherd shouts at it with absolutely no effect and so resorts to throwing stones at it as a deterrent. Why am I not reassured. Finally we creep nervously forward, Hels asks him, “Kangol?”, “yes” he replies. “Friendly?”, “No!” is the answer! At last we’re passed and give a wave goodbye. Two more kilometres and we are in the village of Troy; our finishing point. We enter the village and cycle around most of it until we find the shop. Provisions purchased and we ask if it’s OK to camp in the village. ‘Yup no problem’. They point us to a grassy area just beyond the town square. It even has toilets and a shower (cold water though!).

 

Saturday 25th March

Troy to Canakkale (Kilitbahir)

Distance: 38.31 km

Average Speed: 9.55 kmh

Fastest Speed: 53.00 kmh

Total Distance: 11165.23 km
It’s a very slow and lazy start today because we are waiting for the Canakkale Bisiklet Turu. There’s a bike festival in Canakkale and the first organised ride is from Canakkale to Troy and back. They’re stopping here for lunch and a tour of Troy before completing the return leg. They aren’t due in until after 12 so we take our time packing up. We get a visit from a couple of young men from the village who are happy to play on the trikes. We grab a couple of coffees in the village square then cycle over to the site of Troy itself. The road in has a large Jandarma presence and as we arrive at the gates we see lots of flags, banners and an inflatable arch to welcome the cyclists.

There are also food wagons, tea wagons and music. We go through the arch, we are the first cyclists to arrive! We park up and help ourselves to some of the free food then sneak into the back of Troy without paying the entrance fee! Troy isn’t as impressive as Ephesus or Bergama, but then it was from a much earlier period, as far back as 3000BC! There are mainly a lot of bastion walls and a few palace walls, oh and a wooden replica of the famed Trojan horse which you can climb up into.

We head back to the cyclist area and soon the cyclists start arriving, a few to start with but very soon there are hundreds and hundreds. We later learn there are over 3000 cyclists involved. The area we are in is soon awash with parked bicycles and people in a huge queue for the food.

We hear an exclamation in English and turn to to meet Dan Ham. He has also cycled from the UK but is heading south around Turkey as we go north. We spend a while chatting with him as we stand in the food queue. We also give him 3 spare poles for his tent as he has broken 2! We know what that’s like from earlier experience. The place is really buzzing and we get lots of interest in our bikes, being the only recumbents there. Dan is leaving the tour here as he will continue south and we are going to ride with it back to Canakkale so we say goodbye and wind our way through the masses to the road out. There are already people setting off. We we were expecting it to be a big group start, but it looks like some are getting a jump on everyone. We are worried that we will be slow so we follow on. We cycle out to the main road to Canakkale and are disappointed in the route to begin with as we cycle along the dual carriageway hard shoulder.

But then the Jandarma are ahead and we see they have closed one side of the dual carriageway and we filter onto the closed section. As we climb a long steep hill with a few cyclists passing by occasionally we look in our mirrors and see the main pack behind us. Soon we are being passed by the horde. It really is great fun.

Then we turn off the main road and descend a very steep hill back down to the coast and a quiet road into Canakkale. By the time we are cycling into the finish it’s getting late, but still more people are coming in behind us which makes us feel good.

We grab a coffee and soak up the atmosphere, rappers on stage, bike stalls, kids doing tricks on bmx. Then we spot Cihan and Ebrar from Bergama and we catch up with them. Cihan, bless his heart, even tries to arrange accommodation for us in Canakkale. He is amazing, but we don’t want to put him to any further trouble. He cycled here in one day from Bergama and then did the ride today… he must be knackered! We end up booking ourselves a room for 2 nights in a hotel, a rare treat so far. This will allow us to join all the cyclists tomorrow for the Gallipoli memorial ride, this time without all our baggage.

We catch the the free ferry over to Kilitbahir and are soon ensconced in a comfortable room with hot water and cozy bed!

Sunday 26th March

Kilitbahir to Eceabat to Kilitbahir

Distance: 12.45 km

Average Speed: 11.19 kmh

Fastest Speed: 40.21 kmh

Total Distance: 11177.68 km

We had a great sleep last night and today we are having a rest day… sort of! We have breakfast in the hotel then head out on our unloaded bikes to Eceabat, 5km up the coast. This is where today’s Gallipoli memorial ride starts.

Eceabat.

When we arrive the streets and market Square are jammed with people and bikes. We get lots of attention from different groups of cyclists who have come from all around Turkey to participate today. After a lot of announcements there is a ‘last post’ bugle call followed by a rousing singing of the Turkish national anthem.

Then it’s mayhem for a while as everyone starts moving off, cyclists funnelling through the start banner. We are surrounded by everyone and soon cycling down the main road, chatting with everyone that we pass or pass us. At times there are bottlenecks where cyclists have crashed or had a puncture and had to stop suddenly.

Then

 

 

We are soon cycling back through Kilitbahir, past the big castle and out the other side where we stop at a huge statue monument to Seyit Ali Çabuk (1889-1939), usually called Corporal Seyit (Turkish: Seyit Onbaşı) who was a First World War gunner in the Ottoman Army. He is famous for having carried three huge shells to an artillery piece during the Allied attempt to force the Dardanelles on 18 March 1915.

 

We sit in the sun looking out over the water and watching all the cyclists pass. So this is our rest day, we’ve only done 10 km and once everyone is gone we go back into the village and the hotel. For the remainder of the day our ‘rest’ consists of updating and publishing the blog, updating the blog map, cleaning and maintaining the bikes, laundry, kit admin, throwing out clothes we never use and generally not resting! But at least we’re not cycling.

 

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