Anatolia

I continued along the highway, soon reaching the town of Bandirma. I passed through this town last time I came to Turkey, though on that occasion I was riding to the south, rather than east as I am now.

There was a strong headwind today, so I was making slow progress. For the first part of the day the highway mostly passed through empty countryside. At the side of the roads were stalls, mostly selling melons.

Around midday the highway went past the town of Karacebay, and I detoured to the town centre to go to a supermarket, and also to buy some Burek. After the town, the traffic got a lot worse as I approached Bursa, a big city.

Due to the headwind, I took more breaks than usual. Eventually though, I reached Bursa.

The highway was very busy by now, and there were near constant entrances and exits to it, which made it both unpleasant and unsafe. I made my way mostly along smaller city streets, reaching the city centre and checking into a hotel. It was one I’d found on the app iOverlander. It wasn’t exactly where it was marked on the app, so I asked some men sitting at a cafe playing backgammon, and they gave me directions.

I went out and got a pizza, then came back to the hotel. I booked my flight from Ankara to Amman for the 21st, which gives me several days in Ankara to get various things ready for a long time in Africa.

I left quite early in an attempt to avoid the traffic, which was partially successful. It wasn’t as busy as it would have been otherwise, but there were still a lot of vehicles.

It was pretty clear from the driving standards that I’d crossed into Asia. The minibuses were particularly common (and annoying). Frequently, they would start to overtake me, then spot a customer and swerve back in front of me and slam on the breaks.

After about 45 minutes (during which time I saw only one other bicycle), I reached the end of the city, and climbed up into the hills on a quieter road.

After a while this road ended, and I was back on the highway. Prior to Bursa, the highway had been quiet and so, although boring, not unpleasant or unsafe. Now, though, there was very heavy traffic, with vehicles often leaving or joining the road, meaning the shoulder was constantly intersected by on/off ramps.

A short section of bike path as the highway went through a town

I decided this was unenjoyable enough to swap onto the smaller roads. After the town of Inegol, I turned off onto a country road. The lack of traffic was nice but I did miss the smooth tarmac!

This road passed through a village; on the far side of which was a second village, this one made up of tents. I don’t know the circumstances here, but I would guess they are likely refugees. As I rode past, a young boy excitedly called out and waved to me.

From here the road began to climb. The sun was in full force as I sweated my way up.

Whereas the highway would have climbed up to Anatolia’s central plateau and then been flat, this route went through the mountains at the northern edge of that plateau, so there was constant up and down.

I stopped in a town in the mountains, at a motorbike shop. My headset bearing was now getting ludicrously bad. They didn’t have anything of the right size, but did clean out my bearings. Hopefully they’ll last to Ankara.

Finally a long descent took me down to a river valley. It was quite heavily farmed, with lots of polytunnels for fruit. However there weren’t really that many people around, and very little traffic – a tractor every few minutes. One tractor driver stopped to give me a handful of mini cucumbers.

Turkey has generally had lots of taps and springs available at the road side, so getting water has been easy. Here however all these taps were dry, so I bought some bottled water before looking for somewhere to camp. I found a bit of unused land and set up my tent, as the sunset call to prayer blared out from a nearby mosque.

The call to prayer woke me up about an hour before dawn. In a way, this was a good thing as it meant I was almost packed up by the time the rain started.

This was no quick shower; over the next 11 hours it would vary from moderate to drizzle but never completely stop. When it came time to stop for food, I struggled to find shelter and ended up hiding under a trailer.

There was a bus shelter about a kilometre later

While I was there, two kittens came to see me. They were quite keen on sharing my food, climbing all over me and the bike in their efforts.

After this I began to climb back up into the mountains, heading for the clouds.

Up in the mountains, the clouds made for pretty poor visibility – at times I could only see about 20 metres ahead of me. The road also turned to dirt which, combined with the rain, left me covered in mud.

At the town of Nallihan I joined a slightly bigger road, though traffic still wasn’t too bad.

After a while I came to a long line of stopped vehicles. Asserting my bicycle privilege, I rode past them all. The cause of the holdup seemed to be a broken down truck, and a crane on the road to transfer it to the back of a second truck.

I just walked past on the grass next to the road then resumed cycling. Altogether the line of vehicles lasted a couple kilometres. Not long after, the road transitioned to a highway so I was safe on the shoulder when the big group of delayed and impatient drivers came along.

In the evening the rain finally stopped as I approached the town of Beypazari. The outskirts of the town had big apartment buildings under construction; it reminded me of some centrally-planned Chinese cities.

I asked two guys on a motorbike if they knew where to find a hotel, and they took it upon themselves to guide me there. It was a couple kilometres further along the main road, then off into the town centre. I would have struggled to find them by myself so I really appreciated their help.

Sept 13: 140 km

Sept 14: 152 km

Sept 15: 158 km

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