After much procrastination, I finally managed to leave Istanbul. Having no interest in riding out of the city, I planned to take the ferry to Bandirma. The ferry left at 7am, and I awoke at 530am to catch it. I’ll never forget the feeling of carrying all of my gear down and loading my bike. That feeling of embarking on another epic adventure, that sort of excitement you experience as a child. I made it to the port seemingly on time, but was denied entry to the ferry, boarding had finished. Instead, I was able to catch the ferry to Bursa (or rather Mudyana). I would still be on the south side of the Marmara sea, although 60km further away.
When I reached Karacabey, I decided I’d like to camp near the nearby lake for the night. Little did I realize the road would be so rough, and the lake so far. I did not reach the lake, and ended taking the road far less travelled. Having not made it to the lake, I ended up in a land void of trees, or any kind of shelter whatsoever. So I camped in the only place with trees, the local graveyard in a small town. Some might think this a creepy place to camp, but I don’t mind it. It’s quiet. Maybe a little too quiet.
Oddly, I found the place crawling with bugs. As I was preparing breakfast in the morning, I awoke to find this little gem crawling up my sleeve.
At first I thought it was a stick, as was it’s intention. I took photos of it as it crawled up my sleeve, until it came too close to my face and I had to brush it off.
My â€œshortcutâ€ soon turned into rough dirt road, in the middle of nowhere. I soon found myself near a large dam, asking farmers along the road the way out. At this point, I was 50km away from the main road, and the concept of sunken cost kept me going.
Being on the road seldom traveled, I’ve witnessed changes in culture I had not expected until I got further east.
Nearly 100km of this rough road, and I finally made it back to the main road. I was overcome with relief…
Along the way, I had been stopping to ask local farmers if I was indeed on the right road as it’s not on any of my maps. These people don’t see tourists, much less some nut on a bike. At one point, in a small village, I stopped to ask an older lady for directions. She walks by me, trying hard to ignore me. Ok, well, I’ll find someone else. As I turn around to leave, I see her run to her house, usher her children into the house and slam the door. Huh. I’ve now begun to appreciate the cultural differences here, women in rural areas seldom talk to strange men, much less foreigners.
I also have seen a man with a tractor and trailer, in a field picking stones. Only he wasn’t picking stones. Instead, he’s standing on his tractor, smoking, surveying 6 women doing the labor in the field. Only the men wave.
Other notably funny experiences….
A farmer rolling down the highway on his tractor, with a scooter helmet on.
Gas station workers freaking out when I use their compressed air to put 6 bar in my tires. (I run my rear tire with as much pressure as possible, as it’s heavily loaded). 3 bar… ok… 4 bar.. (some Turkish mumbling). 5 bar… panic DUR! DUR! DUR! 6 bar… and they are slowly backing away 🙂
A woman climbing out of her apartment in Izmir, to clean the outside of the window, 3 floors up. Just hanging out, on the ledge. I snapped a photo as she climbed back in.
A street vendor stop to get a sandwich. I thought he was selling donars. At least it looked like chicken from where I stood. Ok, so it was a spicy tripe sandwich instead. Sure, I can eat that. He then walks over, and pours me a glass of juice from his pickled pepper jar to go with my sandwich. I’m not sure if he was joking with the foreigner or not, but he expected me to drink it. I tried, and subsequently did not feel very good. The rest of my ride that day was rough.
And likely, this is the best one. One day, as I’m rolling down the road, an old lady waves at me from an orange stand. So I turn around, and buy some oranges from her. Her two daughters come out of their roadside hovel, and come to marvel at my food box. They find my onions and spices entertaining, and invite me to sit and have a chai with them. Ok! I accept the offer, as I found it strange that these women were even talking with me to begin with. They speak no english, and I’ve got my turkish phrasebook out trying to make sense of the questions they are asking me. The usual questions arise..
Where are you from?
Where are you going?
Why are you riding a bike?
Where do you stay?
I then gets a bit more personal.
Are you married?
Do you have children?
The older lady then smiles at her younger daughter, and looks at me, making the symbol of ring around the finger. No no no, I’m married to my bike. I don’t think they understood me, or chose not to. She then points at her daughter, makes the sign again, and smiles. Uhuh. Got it. I can picture it now. â€œMother, I’ve come back from Turkey, and I’m married to a roadside orange vendorâ€. They offered me a place to stay for the night, telling me I could pitch my tent near their home. I entertained the idea, but decided to continue… In hindsight, I’m sure it would have been an interesting night.
In the week it took me to get to Izmir, I had good weather for the most part. However, on the last day, it rained quite heavily on my way into town. I managed to get three flat tires, and fall into a hole in the pavement, denting my rear rim. Yup, livin’ the dream … I think to myself as I’m changing my tube in the pouring rain.
In Izmir, I stayed with a kind Turkish fellow by the name of Levant. He took me in at the last minute, finding me wet and smelly outside his apartment. He was very laid back, and it was nice to stay with him. I was happy for this, as my ride in the rain had given me a head cold. Thankfully, it only took me two days to get over it.
The time in Izmir was well spent. I managed to fix my bike, patching many tubes, using a hammer to bend my rim back into form, and putting on a net set of brakes. It was sunny, and I spent some time in the park near Levants house.
I’d also found out about camel wrestling in Izmir. Levant hadn’t been to one either, so we decided to check it out. It was less entertaining than I had thought, camels don’t appear to be made for fighting. The height of the excitement came as one camel threw another into the onlooking crowd, where the fight was then broken up. Apparently, it takes up to 7 men to restrain them, one pulling at the halter, and the other 6 with a rope around one of the front legs.
I guess it’s like the turkish equivalent of a rodeo. Cotten candy, camel sausage, fast food, withered old men smoking relentlessly, and of course, music. Camel fights and beauty pageants are common in Anatolia, and seem to happen in Selcuk fairly often.
By tuesday the 22nd of March, I left Izmir, and my new friend Levant.
Continuing south, the landscape on my way to Selcuk was beautiful.
With the trees in bloom, birds singing, and the warmer weather, spring is finally here.
At one point along the road, I’d stopped to fix my panniers, as I was having problems. I happened to stop in front of a military base. Next thing I know, I’m surrounded by six young men in uniform, inquisitively watching and asking if they could help me. Again, the usual questions arise.
As had happened earlier, the questions then got a little more personal. Such questions as…
Do you have a girlfriend?
Have you been with any girls in your travels?
Have you been with any turkish girls in your travels?
The Turkish have military conscription, and the mandatory service is 15 months. These poor lads had been there for just over a year, and pretty desperate to get out. One lad elaborated with vigorous gyration how he’d go to the disco at Bodrum and pick up girls. The english words â€œParty Timeâ€ seem to be as universal as â€œGin and Tonicsâ€ everywhere in the universe. Mid conversation, the base commander drove up in his tiny car, and just about everyone ran back into the base. They were still technically on duty. I also learnt the proper way of greeting a good friend in Turkey. It’s like head butting, first to one side, and then to the other. At first, I thought it was like most Europeans, with the kissing motion on both sides of the face. The soldiers informed me, that this was very gay. If you’re in the Turkish military, being very gay is very bad…
That night, I managed a nice campsite along the coast, and a beautiful sunset. I had camped on the other side of this deserted resort.
The following morning I made it to Efes, (Ephesos). An interesting historic site, despite the throngs of German fanny pack wearing tourists. Yet, it is impressive. Second only in size to Rome at the height
of the Roman empire, it held sway over the empires expansion in Asia. Constantine and the Byzantines then took it over, and continued to use Efes as a controlling capital in Anatolia. Apparently, it had a population of 250,000 at it’s peak, making it the second largest city in the empire at that time.
Around the corner from the site of Efes, there are the caves of the seven sleepers. Myth has it that seven Christian youths slept in these caves to escape persecution, and awoke centuries later.
Ephesus is also important in early Christianity, as it’s a city the Apostle Paul visited in his tour of Anatolia. This is apparently where the Gospel of John was written. You can even find it in the bible, as he’d mentioned the pagans in Efes.
Ok, I’ll stop with the history lesson. Back on the road again, this time en route to Pamukkale, near Denizli in central Anatolia. I met my first Turkish cyclist on the road, and elderly man from Marmara who seemed to be having a great time. He offered me some of his mystery berry syrup. It was tasty, and energizing.
The scenery remained amazing as I rode near Denizli. Snow capped mountains, lush grassy fields, and a quiet road with the birds sings. This is what it’s all about.
I payed a visit to the Hierapolis, and the thermal springs in Pamukkale. Another huge Roman Theatre..
There are many nice places to just sit and relax…
My fun was hindered slightly as I rode into town and realized I had new damage to my rear wheel. I had cracked the rim, in a completely different spot than I had earlier.
I believe the side walls of the rim had become so worn down, that the metal had weakened. The news concerns me greatly, as it’s the rear wheel, and the load bearing wheel. I reckon it holds most of my weight, with the weight of my gear and the bike there’s likely 90kilo of weight on that wheel. I’ve sorted out a bike shop in Denizli who will rebuild my wheel. The shop owner was nice enough to come into town Saturday night and take my wheel back to his shop. He returned this afternoon with a rebuilt wheel, using a alex adventure sub2 rim. It’s a cross rim, and it looks pretty strong, so I think it will do for now. I had a go over it, tightening up some of the spokes he laced. They all string an F# note now. Perfect.
I’m overly nervous about it as I plan to hit some rather rough terrain in the ‘stans and the ‘rans. I’ll roll with it for the next 500km and see how it goes.
Next stop, Fethiye.