Turkey Part 3
Goreme to Aksaray
As we cycled out of Goreme National Park, we were still awed by the fairy chimney rock formations protruding out of the stone landscape. So much so, a thorn caused a puncture just so we could spend more time there. We must offer some advice at this point: don’t bother with glueless tube patches. From our experience, they turned out to be a waste of money, and essentially a waste of time. Once we had replaced one inner tube, it only took a kilometre or two until my tyre was flat again. Previous tubes that had been “repaired” with these glueless patches – like bicycle plasters – were peeling away, leaving the wounds exposed.
Up at around 1300m elevation on the central Anatolia plateau, the overnight temperatures were pretty cold; we could see the snow-capped volcano of Mount Erciyes in the distance. Despite this, during the day we were surprised how hot it was and couldn’t imagine what it must be like here in the summer months.
Aksaray to National Park
The rain battered against us as we cycled in a grey mist on a long straight road. Though these are the official cycling criteria for fed-up-ness, we were keeping up good motivation and happily chatting along. It was a fine balance, however, and eventually by the afternoon, the headwind had ground me down. We felt like we were battling an invisible deafening force hindering our progress and blowing violently into our faces. We had to shout to hear each other so ended up retreating into our own heads, unwinding our determination and breeding negative thoughts: this is not enjoyable, why are we doing this, we’re still so far from home, these bikes are heavy, my bib shorts are uncomfortable, where are we going to sleep tonight, we don’t have enough water with us, stupid nasty wind sweeping away my positivity.
We carry on going, and Will turns back to me and sticks his arm out with his thumb up. I return the gesture, and upon reflection, neither of us are going to give up. We can be pretty amazingly stubborn, it seems, amazing and stubborn! As the afternoon light began to dim, we pitched our tent behind a sparsely populated row of young pine trees in a bit of a pathetic attempt at stealth camping; but we were quite far from the road, and very few vehicles passed this way anyway. It took us longer than usual – not that it mattered, we didn’t have anything else planned – as we were interrupted by the loud rumble of fighter jets flying over us. We stared up at the sky astonished that we couldn’t even see something so loud above us. We then heard an extremely loud bang and a stream of smoke filled the sky.
National Park to petrol station
It was a frosty start and downhill all the way to the city of Konya. After spending a lot of time on quiet roads to ourselves, it felt intimidating to be back among the busy rush of traffic where car rules and smog prevails. We tried to negotiate it all as quickly as possible and climbed into the mountains to overlook the urban sprawl.
After around 6 hours of cycling, we spotted a gentleman sitting outside a restaurant sipping tea. He waved, and when we gestured ‘tent’ he waved to a small square patch of grass bordered by a hedge: a very suitable little camp spot – first, we just had to brush away all the bits of glass and bones that littered the grass.
Petrol station to Seydisehir
We woke nestled in our warm cosy sleeping bags to find that the condensation from our breath had frozen the inside of the tent. Getting out of bed was mission number 1, next was warming the icy cold gas canister so we could have breakfast. The hills were white with a thick layer of frost. We cycled down into Beysehir, where we were hoping to see the lake; only the fog hadn’t lifted yet and nothing further than 5 metres away was visible. We imagined it was lovely, though.
Seydisehir to cafe at Murtici
Today we were making our way off the central plateau towards the Mediterranean. First, however, we had to climb up a mountain pass of 1825m. Soon enough we had tackled the hairpin bends and were up above the clouds, sweating in the winter sun. The big ascent and rolling hills after this were made more manageable by the stunning scenery and Will’s song about an Iranian swimming in the Mediterranean, and not being the same again, after hitting his cranium while swimming in the sea…
We asked a café overlooking the mountains whether there would be anywhere we could pitch our tent, and the owner gestured up to one of the sweet little wooden huts perched on the hillside. He then brought up a huge radiator and perched it between our beds to keep us warm – he was being so friendly, and we were so grateful as the fresh chill of the winters night swept through the valley.