My timing in Konya was near perfect. The weather forecast had called for rain, and colder weather. Konya sits 1000m above sea level, so it is a bit cooler than the other places I’ve been. In that time, I had a lovely stay with Huseyin, his father, and the other guests he was hosting. We visited Rumi’s grave at the Mevlana museum. Rumi is the 13th century Sufi mystic, famous for his poetry and founding of the Mawlawī Sufi Order. Mevlana is also world renound for the whirling dervishes. Some of the art at the museum was very neat.
I’ve become a fan of some of his words, and was quite happy when Huseyin gave me a book of Rumi to read on the road. The best one I’ve found yet:
Thirst drove me down to the water where I drank the moon’s reflection.
When the weather cleared up, I decided it was time to move east, Cappadoccia. This was the first stretch of road in 10 months of bicycle touring that I’ve found very long. There are no trees, few villages, and little to see. However, there is an engrossing sense of vastness about the place.
I’ve become more conscious of carrying water, food, and fuel at this point, as there may be 60km between towns.
The first night out of Konya, I sought a camping place by the lone tree I found in a field. I had only gone half a kilometer from the last village, so I happened to be quite near. As I was cooking my food, fireworks began to go off in this little mud hut village. Kind of a surprising thing to see when you’re in the middle of nowhere. Shortely thereafter, a scooter with three men on it rolled into the field to investigate this mysterious source of light. They were surprised to find a tent, and asked me to come for Cay at their english teachers house. Over chai, I was invited to come to the school in the morning and watch the children perform. It was childrens day. This was my first serendipitous experience.
The next morning, I rolled back into the village to find 200 villagers watching their children perform. I must have met half of the crowd, everyone eager to speak the little English they knew. The children were particularly enthusiastic, and many, many photos were taken.
I was then invited to a local wedding, which had been the reason for the fireworks the previous night. This was an experience i could not refuse. I’d never been to a muslim wedding before, and was eager to see what it was all about. Again, the whole village was there for lunch. The wedding celebrations last for three days, and I believe the whole village is invited. I let the groom take my bicycle for a spin, and it was a nerve racking experience watching him weave down the dirt village road on my fully loaded life. Thinking of the implications of him crashing, I dont think I’m going to be letting too many people ride my fully loaded bike anymore.
The Turks are more tighly cohesive socially, and it’s reflected in the way that they eat. Dishes are served at the tables, but no individual receives his own dish. Everyone eats directly from the dish in the center of the table. The meal was of fried lamb with rice, peppers, several variations of Corba (Turkish soup), and mint rice desert. It was all very amazing.
I know know what Hanif (my Iranian friend) meant about my beard. The imam, and several other devoutees seem to be delighted by it. Many questions of Muslims in Canada were asked, and an Imam at the wedding took a bit of a shining to me. He asked many questions of faith in Canada, justly deeming that I was a pagan. In order to make sure his message got across, he crossed his fingers in the sign of a cross and declared pagan. Evet, putperest! Coincidentally, it was Easter.
It took me some time to extricate myself from the crowds, and it was already mid afternoon by the time I left. I stopped for a cay along the way in Sultaniye, to see the old Selcuk mosque. A pretty impressive construction in the middle of nowhere, 1000 years old and still standing.
A day later, on my way to Nevsehir, I stopped in a small town at an internet cafe. This was another one of those small towns that does not see tourists, and I was privy to an audience while I tried to use the computer. Inevitably, the browser kept changing to google translate, and I accomplished nothing other than a comprehensive turkish lesson. Osman, the owner of the internet cafe, offered me the floor of the internet cafe to sleep on that night. It was a balmy 5C that day, so why not. It could be listed as one of the stranger places I’ve slept on this journey.
I continued on to Nevsehir, and was standing in the market waiting in the rain. An older Turkish man by the name of Mustafa, struck up a conversation with me, and I was delighted that he spoke French fluently. We sat and talked for a couple hours of the past details of his life, his immigration to France and integration into that society. Having been across europe, seeing the illegal immigrants in Greece and Italy, watching Sarkozy try and expel the Roma in France, its interesting to hear of the difficulties of successful immigration into western Europe. God bless you Mustafa.
It didn’t take me long to arrive in Uchisar (Cappadocia), and upon my arrival a furious thunderstorm had begun to move in. Still the sun shone for a brief time…
I pitched my tent in a wide valley, as the view was quite nice. There are many caves here, and it is possible to pitch a tent in some of them. This view was well worth it, and much nicer than a cave.
I spent a day in and around Cappadocia, just taking it in. It’s a nice place, even if it is full of tourists. It was a beautiful day, and I took many photos.
In the evening, I thought I would pitch my tent somewhere in the rocks where no one would see me. It seemed like mission accomplished until 530am the following morning. I awoke to noise outside my tent and opened the zipper to have a peak.
I had camped between two hot air balloon launch pads.
Soon, there were fifty balloons floating above me. All hopes of not being seen, dashed. But that’s ok, it was an amazing experience.
As I was leaving Cappadocia, I stopped again to take some photos. It was there I met another cyclist, a German woman by the name of Stephanie. This woman has been on the road for 2 years! She is cycling from Australia back to Germany, and has been through east asia, India, and Iran. We started talking, and ended up spending most of the day together chatting about the in’s and out’s of cycle touring. I’m impressed that she’s traveled this far alone, especially as a woman in some of these countries. Truly impressive, and a pleasure to find such common ground with another foreigner. Best of luck to you Stephanie, safe journeys on your way back to Germany.
The following days were a little bit more difficult. Head winds, rain, and another 2000m mountain pass made it take a bit more time. I did pass Mount Erciyes, one of the largest volcanoes in central Turkey. It’s towering, and presented me something nice to look at when the riding was hard.
The lakes south of the volcano were dried up, and the land desolate and flat. It really gave me that feeling of being “out there”.
The children in the small villages don’t miss a beat when there’s a traveler in town. Every time I stopped, I’ve been swarmed by curious children.
I do think my favorite child was this one. Serious Turkish baby.
There was a 2000 meter climb on the road to maraş. It was cold and wet, but yet rewarding to come down from the mountains.
When I get bored, I make faces on the road.
On my way to kahramanmaraş, a car stopped on the side of the highway and flagged me down. This seems to have a past history of working out, so I stopped and had a chat with the man, Ferhun. He offered me any assistance I needed, and I took him up on the offer.
He also recommended I stop at a place called Yesilgoz.
A couple kilometers off the road, there is a nice park. I found a gathering of doctors and nurses from the Maras hospital in this park, and they invited me to their picnik. They had even brought a speakers, so there was a little dance going on. Me and my beard tried to fit in.
Finally, in the last couple kilometers into Maras, I ran into this guy.
He is from Belgium, and is cycling home from Jordan. What makes this encounter even stranger, is that he is from the same small town in Belgium that Isaac and I had visited last summer, Beringen. This is where Nico lives, a cyclist who had stayed with me in Canada. It certainly is a small world.
It’s been 10 days on the road, and I need to stop and rest. I’ve got 1000 kilometers in 18 days to cover before I exit the country.