The Kindness of Strangers

I have been tired and lazy about keeping this up to date. Now we are inland in the Autumn, the baking hot days and amazing coastline are a distant memory. But back to where we left off: We took a very pleasant couple of days off in Dalyan, a very chill place considering it is a tourist hub. We chatted for a couple of evenings with Veysi, a restaurant manager who told us all about his travels, taught us some things about life and politics in modern Turkey, and inspired me to one day ride to Nordkapp.

Dalyan is the first of the popular holiday towns on or near the Levantine sea, the next one up is Fethiye. The ride through and after Fethiye was full of lots of both tourist and industrial traffic, on a very busy road. It was the only time I’ve felt a bit unsafe cycling here. Even though the roads were wide, there were no lines, so the usual safe little shoulder we claim wasn’t marked out. We took a slightly quieter road after this experience and had a long day in the sun, and I was feeling a bit under the weather. We were now scaling the medium climbs with ease, but the coast roads zig and zag and we found ourselves with a nasty headwind. We pulled over to a bus stop, and a pickup truck pulled alongside us. The guy got out and went into some nearby bushes and then looked like he was climbing a tree. Weird, but none of our business. Then he emerged from a grove and handed us some figs to eat, so he must have been up the tree picking them. A few minutes later, a couple on a moped pulled up, and through some signs and gestures, we realised they were saying that they’d seen us a few times today and had stopped to say hello. It’s a big boost to know we are fast enough to play at tag team with a moped.

The next few days we had our biggest climbs yet in quick succession, breaking our record each day. The worst hill was ridiculously steep, I could barely turn the pedals in the lowest gear. Thankfully we’d stocked up on drinks, because it was a bit of a barren run. We then had a descent through the town of Kalkan, and followed the D400 road along the coast. It was spectacular, with perfectly clear sea, beautiful coves, and a giant turtle sighting by Richard. It was easily the most scenic road I’ve ever cycled.

It was undulating, and as the day wore on, the earlier big climb took its toll, and at some point my legs just gave up the ghost. Other days the muscles ache and cycling is hard, but not to the point I couldn’t push through. This time there was just no power or energy left at all. We stopped at a bench in the shade, with a family having a picnic nearby. After a few minutes a young woman came over, with a tray of tea for us. I couldn’t even express to her how grateful we were, but I hope she understood. When I got up to return the tray, the mother came over and pressed a large plastic tub towards me, which I tried to refuse, but she insisted. It was full of fresh grapes.

At the end of the day, Richard discovered that he had a slow puncture, the only one so far after about 6,000km. We found the tear in the inner tube, but it wasn’t clean, it just looked like something had worn rather than punctured through. It took another couple of days, and another puncture, to get rid of a bit of wire which had worked its way through the tyre at an angle, which made it difficult to find.

After riding through Kas, the road cuts inland. Cycling along the coast is beautiful, but inland the scenery was great too, and even though we took a fairly major route we had it all to ourselves for long stretches. It was eerie being able to weave around all the lanes with not a soul in sight. Inevitably this made me wonder what would happen if the zombie apocalypse occurs when we are up here away from everything. We would just be blissfully cycling away while everyone else is eating brains. We would probably fair pretty badly though when we reached civilisation, as once the downhill runs out, I ride so slowly I could be caught by almost anything faster than a tree. We only have a pocket knife and a small folding knife to defend ourselves, and they will be useless because I’m a coward. We have no skills or knowledge to survive in the wild. Rolling my own cigarettes is probably the standout survival skill that I possess. It turns out that Richard hasn’t thought about these things, and sometimes I envy that.

Despite finding the ride along Turkey’s Levantine coast to be stunning and rewarding, we didn’t really love any of the towns. Patara and Kas were nice enough, but we’d hoped to fall in love with somewhere that we’d want to stay for a few days and relax. We’d heard Cirali was one of the most amazing beaches in Turkey, so we took a detour there (long descent in, painful climb out,) but it wasn’t our kind of place. We did really like Demre, maybe because it was just an ordinary town and we liked wandering around seeing ordinary people just going about their business.

After Demre, the road turned north around Kumluca, and there remained one final beast of a climb before things flattened out and the traffic built towards Antalya. We did a long day to get to and get clear of that city. There were two tunnels which wiped away the minor hills we were expecting, so it turned out to be the flattest day we’d had riding in Turkey. But the endless heavy traffic became unbearable, and the main road felt dangerous now with the constant slip roads and on ramps, which are always hair raising to negotiate. It became not just unenjoyable but not worth it. We both knew it was time to head north, away from the coast and the string of resorts now lined up along it.

We turned inland feeling satisfied about the change of scenery, and eager to reach Cappadocia, one of Turkey’s great jewels and one of the things left that we desperately want to see. The Southern coast of Turkey here is separated from inland Anatolia by the Taurus mountains, but we were just far enough West to avoid the biggest of them. The roads are thankfully wide and smooth, and now the heat is easing off as we head into Autumn, they were manageable. We were surprised with how verdant they were after a summer of searing weather. Even quite close up it looks like folded carpets of trees down into deep valleys, with villages nestled impossibly amongst them. It seemed like another country from where we’d just been. And then, not two day’s ride later, the steppes of Central Anatolia. Barren, arid plains for as far as the eye can see. The vastness of it is somehow more dramatic than the jagged coastline or the soaring mountains. I hope I don’t live to regret losing my rag at some busy coastal roads and giving them up to cross this. But we should be able to cover a lot of ground quickly, and at the end of it will be a fairytale landscape like nothing else in the world.

A playlist for the ride:


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I want to see the world

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