We knew it was time to leave Antalya when we awoke on a fine sunny morning and mutually agreed, ‘it’s a good drying day”, we had spent too long with the oldies!
Lem and Tez in their haste to be rid of us had suggested we leave before 6 to avoid the Antalya heat. So followed their advice were on the road by 6, pm. This of course meant that we didn’t get far before dark and our first night was spent camped in some wasteland behind a run down dolmus depot at the far end of Lara. The irony of it was that drifting over the piles of rubble and rotting tyres we’re the delights of Mozart and Beethoven, that we’re being played at the rooftop restaurant of the 5 star hotel not a kilometre from our spot.
The next day we turned north and into the Taurus mountains on an ‘earth’ road that slowly climbed throughout the day. Eventually we dipped down in to a valley and having pushed the bikes across a river found a quiet spot in the grassy basin of the valley. Having drifted off to sleep, we awoke with a bang, and another and a bark or two. Gunfire! Alarmingly close. We sat up, shots continuing, not knowing what to do. The options we’re; going to see what was going on and risk interrupting a bullet, or lying down and hoping that they didn’t come our way. We lay down, they came our way. Close enough to shine torches on our tent and shout something at us. Ashamedly whilst we whispering what we should say back they moved on and we had missed our moment. The battle (with what we don’t know) continued until dawn and we slept fitfully. Non the wiser we snuck out back across the river and headed further, and higher, into the hills.
After several hours, climbing through the treeline and over a pass of about 1500m we descended a short way into a huge green and yellow carpeted valley that was filled with herds of cows and flocks of sheep. We perched our tent on small grassy gantry that gave us a commentators view of proceedings as we watched the shepherds riding donkeys and using dogs to cajole their beasts into their respective safe zones for the night.
The following morning we arose hungry as supplies had run low. We could, however, see at the other end of the valley (5km away) that there was a village that would certainly be able to provide some food. Unfortunately as we were heaving our bike up a steep bank to return to the track I (Jimi), and I believe this is the correct medical turn, ‘did my back’. The pain was great, the range of movement not, and it was almost an hour before the painkillers kicked in and I could bear to get up off the ground and continue. Uncle John’s first aid kit to rescue, not for the last time that week.
We crawled slowly to the village, resupplied with cake, powdered soup and pasta. The rest of that scorchingly hot day we gently climbed the hills and slowly rolled down the other side. Eventually we spent a restless night camped by a small but busy quarry.
The next day we limped in to Beyşehir where we ate kofte sandwiches and did some online medical diagnosis of my back. When on the road again in the afternoon we grudginly decided it would be a good idea to hitch to Konya and visit a hospital. We pulled in to a layby to begin the thumb jabbing and found Ibrahim, a lorry driver from Istanbul, having his lunch from the pull out kitchen that Tukish lorries have on their right side. He was off to Konya and had no cargo, for now. He offered to take us and the bikes with him. After some tea and a chat, in Turkish so it was slow going, we were off. The 80 km was covered worryingly quickly. Seeing how puny we must look to lorry drivers and how little attention is paid to the road in between cigarettes and phonecalls got us thinking about putting our helmets on in future. Unfortunately we did not follow our own advice. Nether the less it was a pleasant hour spent with a kind, if careless on the road, man.
By the time we arrived in Konya it was 6pm and too late tostart what we thought might be lengthy hospital procedures. So we checked in to a hotel courtesy of the Bev ‘Hilton’ Costello emergency funds. Cheers Bev x. In the morning after we had pillaged the breakfast buffet for all it was worth (we’re still eating the proceeds 7 days later) we we’re led to a hospital by a friendly chap from the hotel. As soon as we were introduced as yabancis (foreigners) we were thrust into a room where the doctors and nurses were having a chat. My top lifted and back poked for several minutes. Now we’re no doctors but I’m not sure the ECG scan that followed was necessary (54bpm). Just as they we’re packing us off a doctor who spoke some English arrived and took some interest in my back. He suggested it was a muscular problem but if it hadn’t improved in 7 days to come back. I had a shot in bottom to relieve the pain and the whole experience was done and dusted in 30 minutes and cost the same in Lira.
Feeling comparably pain free for the first time in days we spent an enjoyable afternoon in Konya wandering around the Mevlana museum and bazars. We tried some local food too, the Firin kebap and Etli Ekmek are recommended. At about 4 we were heading out onto the Konya plain, the clouds were black and the industrial landscape was pierced with lightening. We tried our best to beat the clouds and the rain by cycling quickly along the long straight dusty road. We pulled into a gas station and was greeted with the usual, “çay?” We accepted and sat chatting to the garage attendant in Turkish, he repeatedly said, “yağmur” (rain) and it didn’t look as if it would stop anytime soon. He offered for us to stay there and we decided this would be the best option. We were ready to put up the tent and he said, no I have a room for you. There were two bunk beds and he let us use the kitchen to cook.
Later in the evening when the manager had left, the man on the night shift quickly invited his mates round to use the internet, sit and drink tea and gamble online, it seemed they talked and laughed and smoked all night, regardless we slept well and awoke to sunshine and the long road ahead.
As we got 10km down the road, a campervan pulled up beside us and id ” we have your drinks, do you want drinks?” Jimi thought they were offering us cold drinks like in the Tour de France but they actually had our cups we had left behind in the garage! We thanked them and said we may see them again.
The road was 100km of straight road, quite busy with traffic and field after fireld of agriculture. We both turned on our i pods and were listening to something to take our minds off the boring nature of the road. My mind wandered (Rose) and suddenly I was off the the road, tumbling down the sloped edge of the road, hitting my head on the tarmac and cried just loud enough for Jimi to hear through his headphones. I was in a pile on the floor, covered in cuts and bruises and sobbing. With Dr John Costellos first aid kit, mums rescue remedy and the help of Jimi I was patched up but still feeling sorry for myself, but grateful there were no broken bones. A gallon of tea at then next garage helped me to feel better and we sorely plodded on along the endless road.
***Sıde note from Jimi. When İ returned to my bıke to retrıeve the fırst kıt I ınstead reached for the camera and slyly took a pıcture of Rose at her lowest ebb, lyıng ın the gutter, cryıng and bleedıng. Have I joıned the ranks of people who enjoys others mısery ı dıdn,t thınk to myself at the tıme. But ı dıd feel a lıttle guılty. What would you have done? Anyway, I was absolved of these feelıngs an hour later when I was chastısed for not takıng the afore mentıoned photo. Humans eh? Here ıt ıs.
We reached Sultanhani, a old caravan saray on the Silk Road, and decided it would be good to go to the campsite and have a shower and a rest. The owner was lovely and gave us more tea and we showered and they cooked us delicious chicken. The dutch camper van people were also staying there so we shared a beer with them and swapped stories.
Between me and Jimi we were like an old couple wincing in pain and hobbling around. Thanks to the supply of analgesics and muscle relaxants we were doing ok and I was glad of the antiseptic cream and lavender for my grazes.
We cycled through fields and fields of sand and nothingness, not even a tree to shade under, we reached a town and started to make lunch, now we are something of a spectacle, two tourists on bicycles in the middle of nowhere! The farmers wife offered us çay, we declined, but she went to the house and brought us some fresh (very fresh) ayran (like sour milk) which tasted like cow and was so strong I had to hold my nose as it would be rude to refuse. She even took our plates and washed them up for us, refusing to let me do it!
We cycled on towards Hasan dağ (mountain) much to the shock of locals telling us that there are BIG dogs up there, be careful. Apparently the locals think there are wolves roaming in the mountains and are afraid to go there. After being accosted by 20 village children we made our way to the top and much to Jimis dismay, we were nowhere near the high spot he hoped to be so he could climb the mountain the next day. (The fact it was full of snow and he had a bad back wasn’t the problem!)
The next few days were more straightforward. We camped one night in a restaurant on a river in the Ilhara Valley, which was nice. Then in a farmers field outside the underground city of Kaymakli before arriving at our current base of a campsite in Cappadocia where we have been swimming, drinking beer and doing admin for a couple of days.
Right now we’re off to Malatya and then Diyarbakar.