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  TURKEY

(3053km -53days)

 

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20 March - Aleppo to Turkey - 74km

It was with great anticipation that we set off for the border, not knowing if one can get a visa there. So we arrived, handed over our SA passports and without any delay we got our Turkish visa, what a relief!!!  We were so delighted we stopped in the nearest town. How different Turkey is from the other countries!! We are definitely out of the desert now, and our little bit of Arabic that we picked up along the way is of no good here. The people are really friendly and constantly trying to feed us. Our first night in Turkey we camped in a park near a lake and people where constantly bringing us tea and we were even invited to a local restaurant where we ate for free.

 

21 March - Campsite - Belen - 74km

The next morning we said our good bye's and set off over the mountains to a place by the name of Belen where we stayed in a real hotel room, with hot showers, towels, and soap. I had two showers and rinsed my clothes. Included in the hefty price was a breakfast spread. Our stay must have been a total loss to the owner taking the amount of showers and the amount of food we ate.

 

22 March - Belen - Botaş - 87km

After breakfast we ambled along for 87km to a place called Botaş. There we camped on the beach, with loads of local spectators, but what a beautiful spot. In Turkey one can free camp just about anywhere without anyone raising an eyebrow.

 

23 March - Botaş to Tarsus - 127km

We cycled along the toll road which was an easy ride all the way to Tarsus. I'm sure we are not supposed to cycle on the toll road, but it was a public holiday and the road was very quiet (also very few personnel, everything's automatic). Arrivıng at Tarsus after dark we booked into a room.

 

24 March - Tarsus - Kizkalezi - 92km

The next day we followed the coast and cycled through numerous villages until we reached Kizkalesi with it's very impressive castle just off the coast. We cycled past various ruins until we found a beautiful beach next to the road where we camped for the night.

 

25 March - Kizkalezi - Yeçilovacik - 71km

Turkey is truly scenic, but very, very mountainous and we cycled up and up and then down down down just to go up again. Unfortunately the wind picked up and we were forced to stop cycling. Fortunately there was a protected wild camping space next to the sea and so we stopped and pitched our tents. The wind dropped in the night.

 

26 March - Yeçilovacik -  Aydinçic - 48km

The next morning we carried on. Up, up, up we went until we reached Aydinçic, only 48km later but by now I'd had enough of the mountains and needed a rest. And, it was nice to have a lazy day in a room overlooking the ocean.

 

27 March - Aydinçic - Anamur - 63km

Oh, how time flies, we have been on the road for a year!!!  

 

Boy oh boy, is this a mountainous country!!!  But the people are so friendly, they even came running after us with food just as I stopped to take my jacket off. A few km further we stopped to admire the view and more food arrived!!  We camped just outside Anamur and just after we got up we were given a fresh eel by one of the local fishermen!!!

 

28 March - Anamur - Gazipaşa - 82km

From Anamur to Gazipaşa was only 82km, but even more mountainous than before (did not think that was possible). So we arrived in Gazipaşa dead tired and booked into a room just as the rain came down.

 

29 - 30 March - Gazipaşa  - Alanya - 50km

From there we had a fantastic ride to Alanya (50km) on a flat road (can you believe that). The road followed the coast all the way, and in the touristy Alanya harbour area one cannot help but to sit back and enjoy a beer. Afterwards we found a room, and we'd hardly booked in when a thunderstorm broke loose!!!  We stayed over the next day as the storm continued, and filled ourselves with good Turkish bread, cheese, and olives (and Ernest has grown to fancy the Turkish sausage).

 

31 March - Alanya - Side - 64km

The weather cleared and we had a very easy ride to Side, where we camped and explored the ancient Hellinistic ruins.

 

1/2 April - Side - Antalya - 94km

Then on to Antalya (94km), another day of flat roads (life can be so easy at times). We found a very interesting campsite just outside Antalya with treehouses and old wooden jetties (pity it's all dilapidated). We stayed 2 nights as there was a laundry, a job long overdue.

 

3 April - Antalya - Bucak - 92km

Decision:- Cycle to Burdur, take a  train from there to Istanbul, then take ferry across the Black Sea to Trabzon and cycle out of the country to Georgia. We don't have a lot of time left on our visa so we need to make a plan. So we set off over the mountains in the direction of Burdur. It was freezing cold, uphill, and it started raining. So, the going was a lot slower than expected and we reached Bucak that evenıng in the freezing cold and pouring rain.

 

4 April - Bucak -  Keçıboru - 85km

Things can change so easily, got sms from Esther to say she will meet us in Istanbul and cycle with us for a few days!!!  Great, so now we don't need to rush, we will just extend our visas when we get to Istanbul (hope it is as easy as it sounds). Can't wait to see Esther again, this is going to be so much fun!!  So the next day we cycled right past Burdur, climbed more snow-covered mountains, and cycled through green farmlands until we reached Keçıboru. This is a small village where tourists are unusual, judging by the way the local people stared at us.

 

5-7 April - Keçıboru - Sandliki - 67km

On the 5th we cycled on but as we reached Sandliki I had enough of cycling for the day, this is just to much hard work (mountains, cold, and rain!!!). So we stayed over for the night. In fact we stayed the next day as well as the weather took a turn for the worse (we were nervous of snow in the mountain passes). This town seems to be a ski resort of sorts, and obviously doesn't ever get very hot (the room is geared only for cold weather). Walking around town can be a timeous affair, as we get invited into shops for tea (even at the local butcher's).

 

8 April - Sandikli - Altintas - 110km

Ernest's birthday came on a bright sunny day and we packed up and left, so good to be on the road after 3 days in a room. We have just discovered that there is a whole hour difference in time in Turkey!!! How slow can one be!!! 

 

The road seems to be less mountainous now and after 110km we camped in a farmers field, with cows and all!!  The spot was next to a petrol station so we had loads of people coming to chat and bring us tea and Turkish delight.

 

9 April - Altintas - Inonu - 82km

Again it was freezing cold in the night and once again we woke up with ice on the tent. After some more tea we left (at around 10.45)  We met 2 cyclists from Germany (the first since Sudan) cycling for a 6 week holiday.

 

The road between Altintas and Inonu is definitely porcelain country and there are various porcelain factories all along the road. It started raining again and we were offered accommodation by a local man in his house (a container divided into two rooms).  We, however, opted for a road side motel where it was nice and warm but it had a bit of a light problem (automatic motion sensor switches light off and on all the time). Ernest fixed it so we could at last read in peace.

 

Ernest has taken to picking up all kinds off things along the road, mainly tools, he claims that a no 10 spanner is fits the nuts on his bike racks, and an adjustable spanner seems to be a tool no man can cycle past!!  Well it came in handy, he even fixed the shower door that could not close properly.

 

10 April - Inonu - Inegol - 112km

Once again we left very late, it is really cold in the high lying areas, and hard to get out of bed. We met another lonely cyclist along the road on his way to Beijing. The rest of the day was mostly downhill (at last)  and we were lucky enough to find another  nice bit of green grass next to the road to camp.

 

11 April - Inegol - Gemlik - 88km

What a fantastic day, a perfect day for cycling, flowers everywhere, at Gemlik we left the main road and followed the scenic route along the coast. Although very hilly it was a fantastic ride, and we camped in a grassy parking lot right next to the beach.

 

12 April - Gemlik - Cinarik - 70km

We packed up slowly, reluctant to leave our nice camp next to the beach, and carried on cycling along the coast, stopping numerous times to enjoy the view (or was it to rest). The road was still extremely hilly (true to a scenic route). Another road side camp on a green hill overlooking the Sea of Marmaris signalled the end of the day. We could see the lights of Istanbul beckoning from across the bay.

 

13 April - Cinarik - Istanbul via Yolova - 21km

It was a very short ride from where we camped to Yalova where we took a ferry into Istanbul, avoiding the freeways. The road from the ferry port into the city center was very quiet and we were the only people on the road, the reason for that we only found out later, apparently there was a international cycle race on that day!! Good thing we did not encounter them, just imagine what a picture that will make!!

 

After a good shower at the guesthouse we went out to eat in a restaurant (Ernest's belated birthday present)

 

14-20 April  - Istanbul

We spent about the entire day trying to extend our visas in Istanbul, but to no avail. No one speaks any English and it seems that there is no one that can help us, they want to extend our residence permit which is not what we after but a tourist visa extension. In the end we gave up and decided it will be less trouble to go to the border, go out the country and come back in again. So the next day we took a train to the Bulgarian border with all intentions to cross the border and re-enter Turkey, but to our surprise we ended up at the Greek border!!!  We crossed the border but on the Greek side they did not want to stamp our passports as we had no visa for Greece and so back to the Turkish border!!!  There they did not want to give us a new visa as there is no proof in our passports that we left the country!!!! So back on the train to Istanbul. The following day we explored the options of flying out of the country and back in again, but the cost of the flight and the cost of the visa in the neighboring country did not make this a worthwhile option. So the only other option is to just leave it and see what happens at the border when we leave the country, quite a risky option but about the only one available to us.

 

Esther arrived on the 19th, bike and all, and what a surprise!!! She only had one bag with her and anyone who knows Ester will know that that is a record!!  Esther packing economically? Is that passable? 

 

20 April - Istanbul - Riva - 45km

It took nearly the entire day to get out of the city and over the suspension bridge across the Bospurus, (were I am quite sure we are not supposed to cycle) Esther did not even fall off her bike once but did wipe out a few cars along the way!!  The going was rather slow as the countryside is extremely hilly and we managed to do 45km before we found a picnic area were we camped for the night.

 

21 April - Riva -  Şile - 51km

We only left at around 11 the next morning and once again found the road extremely hilly on our way to Şile. Esther freewheeled down the hills and pushed her bike up the hills, the heat was also a bit much for a Scott coming straight from the frozen north.

 

22 April - Şile - Agva - 37km

From Şile we cycled on to Agva about 37km, where we met two lady cyclists from Amsterdam (Julie and Mayo) also on their way to Beijing. We camped close to the beach under some trees.

 

23 April - Agva - Campsite - 67km

We cycled off together through the most exquisite countryside. The weather was much more suitable to Esther's liking (a bit overcast) and we managed to do 67km. That night we all camped together again.

 

24 April - Campsite - Unknown village - 81km

We packed up and left late again, we are getting really bad, leaving between 10 and 11 in the morning!!  We followed country roads through farmland and tiny villages until we reached the coast again. Everywhere we stopped tea was being offered so there is no quick stop and on your way again. In the tea drinking process we missed Julie and Mayo. The weather changed and became real cold and after 81km we found a sort of a campsite in a small village where we could hide out of the wind.

 

25-26 April - Unknown village - Akcakoca - 18k

It was still freezing cold and we cycled the short distance into Akcakoca about 18km and found a room with a great view of the Black sea. At last we could shower and rinse some clothes. That night we went out to a restaurant, which Esther paid for (in fact she has been paying for everything since she arrived!!). The next morning our clothes were still wet so we stayed another day.

 

27 April - Akcakoka - Eregli - 55km

My camera got wet and stopped working, but seems to be coming back to life again, so there may be a serious lack of photos for the next few days. At last we reached a fairly level bit of road, all along the coast to Eregli, it was, however, not to last and immediately after Eregili the road started climbing steeply away from the coast. We managed the mountain and just as it was time to look for a campsite we found another picnic area. In true Esther style she started chatting to a local family having a picnic and they promptly started feeding her, a feast of chicken, salad, bread and tea. The mist came rolling in and it became freezing cold in the night.

 

28 April - Eregli camping - Zonguldak - 34km

A good downhill ride into Zonguldak with fantastic scenery both along the coast and in the mountains. We reached Zonguldak early and found a hotel. Esther was to take the bus the next day back to Istanbul (how quickly her time has run out).

 

29 April - Zonguldak - Bartin - 67km

The bus left at 13h00 and we managed to get both Esther and her bike on the bus without a problem. Ernest and myself cycled on to Bartin about 67km. We cycled via Filyos, and extremely hilly ride on a partly gravel road with narrow hairpin bends and loads of tıp-trucks!!  After Filyos the road leveled out as we got back onto the D10.

 

30 April - Bartin - Kurucasile - 75km

We woke to a beautiful sunny morning and encountered more hills, we stuck to the shores of the Black sea, and shortly after lunch we met up with Julie and Mayo again.

 

1 May - 87km

So for the next few days we cycled together up more hills along narrow roads with numerous hairpin bends. The going is really slow, and although a person goes up and down the down is short and quick. We camped on the beach and made a good campfire to keep us warm.

 

2-3 May - Doganyurt - Abana -74km

After another hilly day, Ernest had a flat tyre which is always a hassle but he fixed it quickly while the rest of us sat watching the dolphins. Julie and Mayo bought some fresh fish at the market in Abana and that night we made a campfire on the beach and cooked a great meal.

 

We must be getting used to the hills because the stretch from Abana to Ayancik did not feel that bad and it was quite a pleasant day on the bike. The sun was out but not hot and one can only be amazed at the scenery, very densely forested on the one side and the blue Black Sea on the other side.  At Ayancik we stopped to do our usual shopping for the night and then cycled on for about 5km where we found a little beach to pitch our tents. No sooner had we pitched our tents and the locals arrived with fish and salad.

 

4-5 May Ayancik - Sinop - 55km

The Black Sea was lying like a big lake, not a wave in sight as the 4 of us loaded our bikes. The road was no less hilly that the previous days and now it started raining as well. We reached Sinop frozen and soaked to the bone. We found a cheap hotel and all had a shower (first in days) and set off for the nearest restaurant. Mayo and July took the bus further along the coast to Trabzon, as they have to enter Iran by a certain date and were running out of time. Ernest and I decided to stay in Sinop for another day to do laundry and ınternet.

 

6 May - Sinop  - Batra - 115km

It was still overcast and freezing cold.  The last thing I felt like doing was getting up and on the bike.  At least the wind was behind us and the hills were not as fierce as the previous days.  We made good time and even encountered a bit of a level road.  We made good use of the favourable conditions and carried on cycling till after 5.  We found a friendly farmer along the way and camped in his yard.  Made pasta and soya with mayonaise that night. Yummy.

 

7 May - Batra - Terme (via Samsun) -125km

To our dismay we woke and found that the wind had changed 180 degrees.   Now it was coming straight from the front!  It, however, calmed down and it was another fairly flat day, so we could make up some distance.  We even found a Carrefour Supermarket and could stock up for the road ahead.  Various cups of tea was again enjoyed along the road.  As the day came to an end we camped next to the Black Sea in a picnic area under big pine trees. 

 

8 May - Terme - Bulancak - 133km

A beautiful new road, flat and with a wide shoulder to cycle on.  The road still followed the coast but now there were various tunnels, cutting out the main hills, what a pleasure.  We flew along the road, enjoying every minute of it.  We found a good grassy patch to camp next to a restaurant, so needless to say, in no time tea appeared again.  It started raining so we went to bed early, not much to do in a tent when its raining.

 

9 May - Bulancak - Trabzon - 161km

It was still drizzling when we awoke, and rained almost the whole day.  We packed up as quickly as we could, dressed in rain gear,and headed East for Trabzon.  We were really getting worried about our visas and have heard horror stories of what can happen if one is caught with an expired visa.  Our visas expired nearly 3 weeks ago already so we peddled on to Trabzon were we only arrived around 19h00, cold and wet.  We found a fairly cheap hotel just off Attaturk Square where we could have a warm shower and a clean bed.  I was really tired and went straight to bed.

 

10 May - Trabzon

I ate the last of my salty liquerish ("drop"), which the Dutch girls gave me - what a pity, I so love the stuff, its a surprise it lasted so long.  We did 534km in the past 4 days, so a rest day was called for.  We also had to solve our problem of what to do next.  Do we go to the police and discuss the expired visa before trying to obtain a visa for Georgia, or do we just break for the border tomorrow?

 

11 May - Trabzon - Pazar - 122km

It felt like an easy day, we peddled along on another cold and cloudy day, all along the  coast and still on the new road.  The tunnels are unlit and pitch dark, so its really hair raising on a bicycle.  At Pezar we stocked up again with food and cycled a few km till we found a nice small harbour where we camped between the boat sheds.  No sooner had we arrived and balik (fish), was given to us.  A local couple invited us for tea, borek and salad in their fancy boat shed.  What a feast!!  So no need to cook that night.

 

12 May - Pazar - Border - 72km

The big day arrived and in great antisipation we packed up, at least it appeared to be a sunny clear day.  Two obstacles awaited us.  First to get out of Turkey with our expired visas and second to try and get a visa for Georgia at that border, which we'd heard was not possible!

 

We arrived at the Turkish border and in true Turkish style they offered us a seat and tea while they discussed our dilemma.  They pointed out that we had overstayed our visa by 23 days, and that is a problem.  So two options were put to us 1. pay 300 lire and be allowed back into Turkey in 3 months, or 2. pay only 81 lire and get banned from Turkey for 5 years.  So taking our finances into account we opted for the latter.  Easier than what we thought.  So we set off to the Georgian side and once again we were lucky and could buy a visa there. 

 

We were in 7th heaven and could not believe our luck.  We cycled the 15km to Batumi in high spirts and celebrated by taking a room in the town.

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