Turkish mountains

As the sun set, I departed Maxim’s Hostel heading toward the port of Girne. From there I would catch a boat back to Turkey.

First though, I had to wait. The boat didn’t start boarding for another few hours but thankfully there was a cafe nearby that had WiFi. I spent a few hours there, eating some chips and working out my plans for future cycling.

Eventually people started to move through the customs area. The foot passengers seemed to have vast amounts of luggage, all of which was being put through an x-ray scanner. I was told to remove my bags and send them through. Removing my frame bag is a bit time consuming so I convinced them it couldn’t be removed and I was allowed to leave it on the bike. I then pushed my steel-framed bike through the metal detector. No one was shocked when it started beeping, but nor did they seem to care.

From there it was time to go back outside to cycle over to the ferry. I was first to board, followed by about five motorcyclists. One of them, Alex, was Russian-American – which meant he spoke English so we got to chatting. He lives in Cyprus, and was heading on a tour over to Georgia and Armenia before returning home. He was very curious about cycle touring and we chatted for a couple of hours until he went to his cabin. I laid out my sleeping mat on the floor of the lounge area and went to sleep.

I woke up as the ferry was nearing Turkey. I went outside and found the sky to be overcast with a bit of light rain.

The ferry arrived on time and we returned to the car deck. I was just about able to squeeze my bike out so I said goodbye to Alex the motorcyclist before going over to customs with the foot passengers.

I had to remove my bags again but apart from that all went smoothly and I was soon stamped back into Turkey. From Tasucu, the port town, I rode for about ten kilometres to the city of Silifke, where I stopped at a supermarket. Thanks to the ferry arriving surprisingly on schedule, I arrived shortly before the shops opened and spent a few minutes rearranging my bags.

Once the shops did open, I went and bought a lot of food. I was only going to be passing very small villages and I was concerned (unnecessarily as it turned out) that I wouldn’t be able to buy food. Now well equipped with food, I left Silifke and the road immediately began to climb.

This was only the beginning of a long climb up into the mountains. For this section, the first of three, the road climbed at a reasonably consistent gradient from sea level to an elevation of about 800m. I got into a good pedaling rhythm and settled in to enjoy the climb.

After a couple of hours I turned off onto a smaller road. On this second section the road began reasonably flat, passing through farmland. Just past the hamlet of Canbazli I spotted a ruined structure and went over to investigate. It seemed to be a ruin of a tower – possibly a watchtower? There were also several man-made caves in the surrounding cliffs. There was no signage here but according to Wikipedia this was an important village in the early Byzantine era. Perhaps these were used in defence against the early Islamic expansion, which saw frequent warfare across this mountain range.

From here the road undulated, climbing and descending before climbing again. The most noteworthy of these descended about 200 metres, at the steep gradient of 15%. This wore through a lot of the material on my brake pads!

These rolling hills continued to trend gradually upwards before joining a slightly larger road in the village of Aydinlar at an altitude of around 1300m. This marked the beginning of what I considered the third phase of the day, a return to consistently climbing. The road rose steadily ahead of me. The landscape changed, villages ceased and past about 1800m I started to see patches of snow.

Throughout the day people had frequently been waving at me and calling out greetings or stopping for a brief chat, limited by lack of a common language. In the evening a car stopped, and the driver got out to tell me the road ahead was dangerous and I should turn around. I asked him why, and he attempted to explain via Google Translate which produced an impressively nonsensical result. He then resorted to a demonstration, first showing someone driving while on the phone, then laying down on the ground as though dead. He suggested a detour that would have been about 300 kilometres! It would take a strong reason for me to do that, and I was hardly convinced that this road (where I was being overtaken by about two cars an hour) would be safer than spending hundreds of kilometres on a highway. I thanked the man for his concern but continued on.

As I climbed, the amount of snow increased. I had wanted to get to the top of the pass today but was getting concerned that I would be unable to find a dry place to camp. I therefore stopped at around 2000m and followed a track away from the road before setting up my tent and going to sleep.

I slept well that night and didn’t start until late (about 8 AM). I quickly climbed the short remaining part of the climb, gaining another 200 metres of elevation.

Just before the end of the climb I passed a spring where I stopped to collect some water. A group of men were just about to drive away as I arrived, but they gestures me over and gave me a loaf of bread. They spoke almost no English but one word they did say was “welcome.”

The road then levelled out on to a short plateau, cycling past a number of lakes presumably formed from snowmelt.

At this point a phenomenon began which continued for the entire day. Large numbers of butterflies – I must have seen thousands that day – flying across the road. I think they may have been Vanessa Cardui, a species whose mass migrations cover a whopping 15,000km, with millions moving between Africa and Europe each year. It was quite a spectacle to see, though unfortunately I was unable to avoid cycling into several of them.

After this plateau the road began to descend. This was far more gradual than the climb had been, and led me down to the Central Anatolian Plateau.

For the next few hours I cycled uneventfully along a flat highway. When the road became a motorway, where bikes are forbidden, I turned off to follow a series of dirt roads through expansive farmlands.

At the end of the day I reached the village of Kemerhisar and topped up on water for the night. The village is set on the ancient Roman town of Tyana, and I cycled out alongside a Roman aqueduct.

I had some difficulty finding an area to camp tonight. At first I hoped to stay at a wooded picnic area, but this was a bit closer to some buildings than I’d like. It was difficult to find a good spot in the flat fields. I thought I found a good place, hidden from the road by some rocks. I soon changed my mind when a dog ran over barking at me. It was beginning to get dark so I returned to the picnic site and set up camp.

Shortly before midnight, it began to rain. This was followed by the wind picking up and battering against the tent. Then came the lightning and thunder.

There was a small building next to the road that would provide protection should the storm get worse. I was okay in my tent for now, but I put on my rain gear and packed up my things, ready to make a dash for it if the weather got worse. Eventually the storm passed, and I managed to get to sleep.

Apr 27: 100 km.

Apr 28: 180 km.

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