We had a late start riding in Turkey, after getting a ferry and going through customs and immigration. We’d had two 5am starts to catch ferries, and not much sleep on either night worrying about getting up in time. With foresight we were going to be tired, but the first day’s cycling in Turkey was easily the worst yet. If I’d had an out at some points, I would have quit. There were long hills through barren land, followed by long hills on main roads. At first it was manageable, but then it never seemed to end. We went from town to town looking for somewhere to stay, always with more hills in between, and by late afternoon I was feeling pretty rough. When we finally found somewhere to stop I could barely move.
With hindsight I think I ate something dodgy, and was feeling really awful the next day, so we didn’t get far. Richard went to get a haircut, and I took myself to a tea garden. Some people just have kind faces, and the guy who brought me endless tea while I waited, and offered a seat under an umbrella when it started to rain was one of those. Richard eventually turned up, having had not just a great a haircut, but (thankfully) his ear hair taken care of with a lighter, and we were ushered inside as the heavens opened more. The next day as we were leaving, Richard recognised a man gesturing to us, but couldn’t place him, but I instantly knew that kind face from the day before. He offered us a seat and brought us tea. We knew really that this was a gesture and not a transaction, but worried both that it would be rude not to offer to pay, but offensive if we did. Richard went in to say goodbye, and the guy put his hand on his heart and wished us well. Turkey constantly reminds me that overwhelmingly, people are good.
We stopped off in Selcuk at a lovely little pansiyon, so we could easily visit Ephesus. The guy insisted on taking us to visit his friend who owned a hotel and a shop, who could arrange that for us. Unfairly, as it turned out, our instinct was to be on our guard against being hussled into buying a tour or a carpet. But his first comment was that he would love to show us round his shop, but knew we couldn’t carry anything on the bikes. He then gave us advice for riding to the ruins, a free lift there if we’d rather do that, and a book to borrow about the ancient city.
We chose to accept the lift, because who in their right mind would exercise when they don’t have to? If I ever had a bucket list, then Ephesus would be on it. Even Richard, whose tolerance for this kind of thing is about as low as mine is for football, enjoyed it. There were a few tour groups, but mostly it was very quiet. We got a cab back into town, and a kebab. Being in a Turkish taxi is a bit like watching Carlos Sainz: Fast driving, but you can’t shake the feeling that something will go wrong.
The hills and the temperature have not let up, but we’ve resolved that if the terrain and the heat are going to be this brutal, then we are going to make the distances short. It’s worked well so far. Even though the climbing has been horrendous, we can stop as much as we want and take our time rather than aiming for some far off destination. The lack of pressure to do really long days and ride ourselves to exhaustion has helped mentally dealing with the physical challenges.
The ride to and through Kusadasi was another tough one, this time because the climbs are on main roads, and the traffic around this area is very heavy. Turkish roads tend to have a very wide shoulder though, usually used by mopeds to keep out of the way on climbs, so we have always felt safe cycling here. We stopped at a pansiyon and campsite with loads of bike paraphernalia, and a great pide place opposite. The next morning, my legs still hadn’t recovered from the ride the day before, so I was hoping in vain that the day would be a little easier. The owner saw us off and asked where we were headed that day. Richard told him, and added that we were expecting some hills. The guy chuckled and said “Oh yes, there are going to be climbs. It will be very hard.” Wonderful.
Turkey has been pretty cheap, so we have treated ourselves to a couple of days off by the sea in a half-board hotel. There are four toilet rolls in the bathroom though, which I don’t think bodes well for dinner.
Here is a playlist for our first week in Turkey: