After only a short time in Turkey, I can say categorically it is the friendliest country I have visited thus far on my travels. Turkish tea is called çay, (pronounced Chai) and is consumed constantly by the locals. You will not have to cycle far before you are offered this drink, in fact if I stopped every time it was offered I’d never get anywhere. Yet the friendliness does not stop at being offered tea and I am bowled over with just how helpful and kind the people are.
We planned to camp on the beach in Lapseki, but had no luck in finding a suitable spot that was quiet and free from hoards of holidaymakers. That is until a local offered us free camping on his beach – where not only did we swim in the sea, but got to watch the most amazing sunset.
The following morning we turned again inland to the busy town of Biga, following the D200 highway. The Turkish main roads are generally in good condition as they always seem to be working on them and although the main highways can be very busy with traffic, they have an excellent hard shoulder for cycling on. Regular stops were made at petrol stations, where we stocked up on water and nibbles before inevitably being offered chai – which I’m growing very fond of.
When choosing our route inland we invariably tried to include lakes or sea if possible as this gave us a chance of swimming and cleaning ourselves up, thus while heading for Bursa we were able to pass by two large lakes, Kus and Uluabat. Just outside Bursa me and Buggi decided to go our separate ways, as our objectives were clearly different. I’d thoroughly enjoyed having company, but was now looking forward to setting my own agenda once again and wished him well on his travels.
It’s strange how I craved company, then soon realized this is my journey. I’m not sure I could share the mountains, waking early to watch the sun appear and disperse the morning mist is special and I’m too selfish to want to share it. And I love climbing these huge passes at my own pace, not having to stop for anyone else. The pain (from lactic acid) builds in my legs and I’ve learned how to control it, something not easily done when riding with others. There’s a kind of magic to it, being in the mountains, which is hard for me to put into words. It makes me feel alive and happy.
With the mountains came the opportunity to ride on the back roads, which turned out to be hard work not only with the climbing, but the overall poor condition of the roads themselves.
The scenery is stunning, whichever road you take. I’m on only my first week in Turkey and have so much to look forward to as mountains will form a daily challenge from now on.
It was easy to see why many cyclists choose to ride on the ‘bigger’ roads and after doing so myself, I know which I prefer. The larger mountain roads are deserted, very wide and have a huge shoulder should you need it, whereas the back country roads are narrow and have little or no shoulder. Trucks and cars will not stop and wait behind you on these back roads and I felt very vulnerable.
At this point I’d like to give thanks to someone who has been a real inspiration to me and whose route I have now hooked onto and will follow through Turkey. She is another global cyclist called Emily Chappell and you can find out more about her here.
My first day riding in the Turkish mountains turned out to be a longer than expected affair as I searched for a decent campsite. Tired after climbing a huge pass, I settled for pitching my tent on the banks of a small reservoir close to the pass summit after asking the workmen if this was OK. I needed a swim and cool down after another scorching day in the high 40’s.
There was a group of fishermen along the bank and not wanting to disturb them, I pitched uncomfortably close to the pump which was noisily taking water onto the fields nearby. No sooner had I put up the outer than one of the fishermen came over and told me to camp with them as they would be night fishing. He explained the benefits, I would be more secure and it was much quieter – this was all done without either of us speaking the others language!
It goes without saying I was plied with chai and in return I shared my biscuits. The water was warm and now I was cool, a perfect end to the day, but not before I’d witnessed the fishermen making a huge campfire and watched their skill as they set about night fishing.
I woke pre-dawn before the sun had chased the shadows from the hillside and made a hearty breakfast. Today would be a short affair if all went to plan, I just needed to find internet access to update my digital maps and then I would enjoy a well earned early finish after climbing another pass. It started well enough, as before I could pass the first petrol station I was enthusiastically beckoned to stop and join the crew, who were sat around a table drinking chai. The boss insisted I ate hot buns while consuming my tea, I had no problems with that.
Back on the road – 90 km and two mountain passes later I arrived exhausted in the small town of Tarakli, only to find no wifi and my only chance of doing so another 30 km away in Göynük. Oh well I thought, take the rough with the smooth…