Since the last time we have had countless cups of çay, cycled through such variating scenery, flown in an air balloon, experienced Turkish hospitality and have set both new height and heat records.
After having been in Istanbul for 10 days we both concluded that we prefer being in nature rather than in largely populated cities with insane amounts of people. We were both excited to get out of here and continue into untrodden territory for both of us – the Asian continent!
After a brisk boat ride to Yalova we were met by high humidity, 36 degrees and a 400 meter climb. Thea’s stomach still wasn’t well yet so it was a struggle with stomach cramps, heat and humidity – especially since we’d spent most of the previous ten days in an air-conditioned hotel room. But after the climb we got to enjoy a sweet descent down to a beautiful lake where we pitched our tent. All of the surroundings had switched from the previous farm fields and hills to lush mountains.
The following day we passed through a tiny village before another climb. We were going to buy some food here before continuing but were stopped by a local policeman who wondered what we were doing there and was concerned for our safety on the “dangerously trafficked road” we had chosen. Later on this mountain road we met maybe one car every 10 minutes.. Advice from locals regarding roads isn’t always the most accurate (that wasn’t the only time in Turkey).
In the village there was a drug store with a very friendly owner that advised and helped Thea with some medication for her stomach. Silly enough they didn’t have electricity on this particular day in that village, which was apparently normal for them? so they just cut the barcode from the medicine to make the scanning later.
He also helped translate to the policeman who didn’t speak very much English. During this time another touring cyclist, from Turkey, rolled into the village and chatted a bit with us. Always fun to meet other cyclists! We were also offered to rest and sleep on the sofa in the drug store but we declined and continued cycling up into the mountains next to an even bigger gorge.
Later this afternoon Daniel would start to feel fatigued and in the evening also feverish. We came to the conclusion that it was likely heat stroke due to the heat and humidity, so with almost no energy we did very short days of 20-30 km and resting/sleeping a lot in the shade. Cycling with fever and stomach cramps isn’t the most fun but after two or so days they were slowly disappearing.
Since we both weren’t feeling in good shape we chose the big, easy and shortest way towards our next destination: Göreme/Cappadoccia. This also meant cycling along the most highly trafficked big highways which in a very short amount of days kills much of your motivation to cycle.
We did however find some comfort from the superb fresh fruit from the road stalls, picked from the local fruit plantations along the roads. These were the most delicious fruit we’ve ever had, and the peaches of Bursa are famous for their quality. Saturated with fruit juice and so ripe that they would melt in your mouth at the first bite – they’re completely incomparable to anything we’ve had in our home countries.
From this evening onwards we were again welcomed every night by these damn thunderstorms, and they wouldn’t leave us alone for another week. Since our experience in Croatia where we were nearly struck by lightning we now spent a lot of energy and time to find a somewhat safe place to camp every night. Easier said than done on many days, as central Turkey is rather flat and has very open landscapes. This wasn’t the forecast we’d hoped for but there was nothing to do but accept the fact that you can’t change the weather.
As we got further away from the first two mountain passes, the landscapes changed to something as from out of the Wild West, with very long rolling hills, barren landscapes and alternating light green and gold coloured farming fields.
One of the days when we knew there was a gigantic thunderstorm heading straight in our direction later in the night, we passed through a tiny village (with maybe 2000 inhabitants) to buy some drinks and ice cream. Just as we were about to dismount and park our bikes outside the tiny kiosk, an old man came cycling in full speed yelling at us to stop. Without braking he almost ran into Daniel before stopping and asking were we were from and what we were doing here. It took just a few seconds before we realised he was actually from Norway. He insisted that we followed him to his house. We told him “we’re just buying some ice-c…” –no no no! I have everything at home! And so we followed him back to the start of the village, into his gigantic house he himself had built in here his childhood village.
So that’s how we met Rahim. He had lived in Stavanger, Norway, for 30 years before retiring and moving back to Böğrüdelik in the middle of nowhere in Turkey, whilst most of his children and grandchildren still live in Norway. He is a crazy old man who likes to do everything himself, and is an active paraglider at the age of 70 something. He had a nasty open wound on his foot from a paragliding accident 6 months ago, that had refused to heal (no wonder since he refuses to rest!) and was struggling a little to walk around. Despite that he had run down 3 stairs to grab his bicycle just to try to catch up and try to find us in the village, has he’d seen our Swedish and Norwegian flags from the window of his living room.
We were served coffee, fruit from his garden, lunch and also dinner later in the evening. In the afternoon he drove us to the top of the surrounding mountain overlooking the entire village with the best view possible. It was weird being at the top of a mountain as we usually cycle along the bottom of them.
We were also offered to spend the night in their apartment, which we said yes to despite having only cycled 45 km that day. This turned out to be a good decision, as later that night there was almost one lightning strike every second for two or three hours. So we spent the evening together chatting with some locals from the village who also had some connection to Norway. The following morning we departed early after being treated to breakfast. We continued in good spirits after having met such a funny and kind old man in the middle of nowhere.
We decided to have lunch in one or two cities further down the road, and chose a pizza restaurant for no real reason. As we entered, the interior of the place it looked oddly.. Swedish? For those who don’t know, it’s quite popular to have these specific types of tiles on the walls inside pizza restaurants in Sweden. And the restaurants name was.. Sorrento. There is like one pizzeria in every Swedish city that’s called Sorrento. Hmm. And this place even had their opening hours listed on the window, just like in Sweden, somewhat unheard of in Turkey. It turned out the owner had lived in Göteborg, Sweden for 7 years and had moved back to Turkey to open this restaurant. He kindly enough treated us with the pizza after hearing that we were Swedish and Norwegian. What are the odds?
After that we cycled in very flat, hot and open desert with nothing around us for maybe 60 kilometres. Central Turkey is more or less one big plateau which is at a constant 1000 meters. We tried to see Tuz Gölu from the southwest of it. It’s a gigantic salt lake in central Turkey. Unfortunately it wasn’t possible as you had to make a large detour north of the lake in order to see it.
Yet again there was no camp spots suitable for thunderstorms so we just went inside someones unfinished concrete house to hide for the night. With a panoramic view of the mountain range that lies to the side of Tuz Gölu we watched the dark thunderclouds roll in and enjoyed the shower of purple and pink lightning strikes bombard the mountains for many hours. We felt relatively safe in this concrete house and managed to capture some strikes, most of which just were one or two kilometres away from us. So we were glad that we didn’t take the detour around the lake as we likely would’ve been fried. It was super exciting watching the lightning strikes from a safe place for once, instead of being awakened by it inside your tent in the middle of the night – caught in the midst of it with nowhere to go.
The following morning we made it out of the house with just some minutes to spare as the owner returned in his tractor to continue construction on the house. Luckily we never leave any trace and it was as if we’d never been there, so we pedalled towards Cappadoccia which lay just a few days from Tuz Gölu. This was the first day we actually cycled willingly in a thunderstorm as it was daytime, of course it was in open farming fields. We later gave up as the lightning eventually struck uncomfortably close, and went to shelter at the nearest gas station were we would sip on five glasses of çay whilst waiting for the storm to pass.
Once it had cleared we continued in light drizzle, only to be stopped after 10 minutes by a policeman waving us over. He poked at Daniels rain jacket and said “problem”, beckoning us over to the gas station lokanta to drink tea to get warm, despite it being 24c in the air. Almost all gas stations have small adjoining restaurants/tea places called lokanta so it’s not very far between the glasses of çay. Maybe he didn’t know that rain jackets often have outer layers that get a little wet whilst the inner layers stay dry? It was still a funny situation to be stopped by a police just to be treated with tea. Only happens in Turkey…
Some days and mountains later we finally arrived to Cappadoccia and the nature reserve of Göreme. This place is a tourist trap but despite that its a really cool and unique place that deserves a visit if you can stand the touristy elements. We spent 3 nights here at a cheap hostel which had 3 newborn kitties living there, instantly making it 5/5 stars. We love cats. The hostel was actually nice too, and even had a swimming pool.
We’d been cycling for two weeks without any real rest and lacked energy to walk around much, as we also had thought of updating the blog during our 2 rest days. So we decided to put the blogging on hold for a while as it was too stressful and energy consuming. This is why we haven’t posted much recently. We did however make the decision to fly in an air balloon during the sunrise. If one has the option to do it once in a life, Göreme is a good place to do it.
There were a lot of Chinese tourists visiting this place, and it’s noticeable that there is also foreign Chinese investments. This includes Chinese restaurants with Chinese menus, Chinese staff and proper Chinese food (not all of them but a few). So we had some of our best food in Turkey here, as we both like Asian food! Eating various kebabs and rice at lokantas everyday for lunch gets very bland and boring so we were really happy that there was some different cuisine here.
After a few short days here, relatively rested (still with sore butts though), we headed out of Cappadoccia and cycled towards the mountainous parts of eastern Turkey for our next stop – Erzurum. But we will continue the story in the next post!