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ESCAPE - cycling touring Media Videos Other adventures Photobook Project 365
 

Turkey

(3 053km -53days)

 

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20 March - Aleppo to Turkey – 74 km

It was with great anticipation that we set off for the border, not knowing if we could get a visa there. At the border, we handed over our SA passports, and without any delay, we got our Turkish visa, only for 30 days but what a relief!  We were so delighted we stopped in the nearest town. How different Turkey was from the other countries! We are definitely out of the desert, and our little bit of Arabic that we picked up along the way was no good anymore. We found the Turkish extremely friendly, and it seemed that they were continually trying to feed us. Our first night in Turkey we camped in the town park near a lake and people were bringing us tea at regular intervals, we also got invited to a local restaurant where we ate for free, and I had my first lesson in making gozleme, the Turkish pancake or rather flatbread.

 

21 March - Campsite - Belen – 74 km

The next morning, we said our goodbye to our friendly hosts 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 number of showers and the amount of food we ate.

 

22 March - Belen - Botaş – 87 km

After breakfast, we ambled along for 87 km to the town of 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 – 127 km

We cycled along the main road making for pleasant riding all the way to the historic city of Tarsus. We were apparently not the first visitors to Taurus as it has a long history dating back to 6 000 years. The history of Turkey is honestly mind-blowing. I'm sure we are not supposed to cycle on the toll road, but it was a public holiday, and the road quiet. We took our time and only arrived in Tarsus after dark where we booked into a room. Although Tarus is today a modern city, it is said to have been the meeting place between Mark Antony and Cleopatra, as well as the birthplace of Paul the Apostle.

 

24 March - Tarsus - Kizkalezi – 92 km

The next day we followed the coast and cycled through numerous villages until we reached Kizkalesi with its imposing 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. According to legend, the Fortress of Kizkalesi was built by a sultan to protect his daughter, who was supposed to die by snakebite. Tragically, a snake snuck into the castle in a fruit basket, and even the massive fortress could not protect her, and she died.

 

25 March - Kizkalezi - Yeçilovacik – 71 km

Turkey is indeed scenic but extremely mountainous, and we cycled up and down all day long. Unfortunately, the wind picked up and we were forced to stop cycling. Fortunately, there was a protected wild camping space next to the ocean, where we finished and pitched our tents. Thankfully the wind dropped during the night.

 

26 March - Yeçilovacik -  Aydinçic – 48 km

The next morning, we carried on. Up, up, up we went until we reached Aydinçic, only 48 km later but by then 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 – 63 km

Oh, how time flies, we had been on the road for a year!  The Turkish people were indeed 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 cycled past banana plantation to where we camped just outside Anamur close to the southernmost point of Turkey.

 

28 March - Anamur - Gazipaşa – 82 km

While packing up we were given a fresh eel by one of the local fishermen, I'm not sure what we were supposed to do with it. From Anamur to Gazipaşa was only 82 km, but even more mountainous than before (did not think that was possible). We arrived in Gazipaşa dead tired and booked into a room just as the rain came down. It is in the waters of Gazipasa that archaeologist found a small bronze statue of Pegasus dating back to 300 BC, it is indeed an area with a long history.

 

29 - 30 March - Gazipaşa  - Alanya – 50 km

From there we had a fantastic ride to Alanya on a flat road (I could not believe it). 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 for the next day as the storm continued, and filled ourselves with good Turkish bread, cheese, and olives (and Ernest had grown to fancy the Turkish sausage).

 

31 March - Alanya - Side – 64 km

The weather cleared, and we had a comfortable ride to the ancient port city of Side, where we camped and explored the ancient Hellenistic ruins. Modern Side is located in the middle of an ancient city. Although there are many old ruins, the most impressive is the well-preserved amphitheatre, a temple of Apollo a façade of a library and a Roman bath.

 

1-2 April - Side - Antalya – 94 km

Then on to Antalya (94 km), 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 – 92 km

We were running out of visa time as we only got given one month at the border. We were looking at various options and needed to make a plan. We set off over the mountains in the direction of Burdur. It was freezing cold, uphill, and still raining. The going was much slower than expected and we reached Bucak that evenıng in the freezing cold and pouring rain. 

 

4 April - Bucak -  Keçıboru – 85 km

Things can change so quickly, I received an SMS from Esther to say she could meet us in Istanbul and cycle with us for a few days. That was great news, and it made up our minds in connection with the visa. We did not need to rush anymore to get to Istanbul and planned on extending the visa once there.  It, however, sounded far easier than what it turned out to be. I could not wait to see Esther again, and I expected it to be great fun again . So the next day we cycled right past Burdur, climbed more snow-covered mountains, and cycled past green farmlands until we reached Keçıboru. Keçıboru small village where foreigners were clearly unusual, judging by the way the local people stared at us.

 

5-7 April - Keçıboru - Sandliki – 67 km

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

 

8 April - Sandikli - Altintas – 110 km

Ernest's birthday came on a bright sunny day, and we packed up and left, it was good to be on the road after 3 days in a room. After nearly two weeks in Turkey, we only then discovered that there was a whole hour’s difference between Syria and Turkey!

The road seemed less mountainous, and after 110 km 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 – 82 km

Again it was freezing cold in the night, and once again we woke with ice on the tent. After more tea, it was 10.45 by the time we left. Along the way, we met 2 cyclists from Germany (the first since Sudan) cycling for a 6 week holiday. They would do this every year, always picking up where they left off the previous year, which I thought was marvellous.

 

The area between Altintas and Inonu was well known for its porcelain, and there were various porcelain factories along the way. It started raining again and were offered accommodation by a local man in his house (a container divided into two rooms). We, however, opted for a roadside motel where it was nice and warm but it had a bit of a light problem (automatic motion sensor switches the light off and on all the time). Ernest fixed it so we could look 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 fits all the nuts on his bike racks, and an adjustable wrench 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 – 112 km

Once again we left very late, it was freezing 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 – 88 km

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 – 70 km

We packed up slowly, reluctant to leave our lovely camp next to the beach, and carried on cycling along the coast, stopping numerous times to enjoy the view. The road was still extremely hilly (true to a scenic route). Another roadside 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 centre was very quiet, and we were the only people on the road, the reason for that we only found out later, apparently there was an international cycle race on that day!  Good thing we did not encounter them, just imagine what a picture that would have made! 

 

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 just about the entire day trying to extend our visas in Istanbul but to no avail. No one spoke any English, and it seems that no one could help us. The immigration office mostly dealt with the extension of residence permits which was not what we were after.  In the end, we gave up as it seemed far less trouble to hop across the border and return. 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.  Back to the Turkish border, we went. The Turkish officials were reluctant to give us a new visa as there was no proof in our passports that we had left the country! They were, however, prepared to “un-stamp” us. We made peace with the idea that we would soon be illegal in Turkey and decided to deal with this problem on leaving the country, quite a risky option but the only one available to us. The following day we did explore the possibility of flying out of the country and back in again, but the cost of the flight, together with the visa cost entering the neighbouring countries did not make this a worthwhile option. 

 

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

 

20 April - Istanbul - Riva – 45 km

It took nearly the entire day to get out of the city and over the suspension bridge across the Bosporus, where I am quite sure we were 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 45 km before we found a picnic area where we camped for the night. 

 

21 April - Riva -  Şile – 51 km

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. As always Esther still enjoyed every bit of it.

 

 

22 April - Şile - Agva – 37 km

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

 

23 April - Agva - Campsite – 67 km

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

 

24 April - Campsite - Unknown village – 81 km

We packed up and left late again, we were getting really lazy, starting 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 was no such thing as a quick stop and on your way again. In the tea drinking process, we missed Julie and Mayo. The weather changed and became really cold, and after 81 km 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 – 18 km

It was still freezing cold, and we cycled the short distance into Akcakoca about 18 km where we 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 just about everything since she arrived). The next morning our clothes were still wet, and we stayed another day.

 

27 April - Akcakoka - Eregli – 55 km

My camera got wet and stopped working for a few days, but miraculously came back to life again. At last, we reached a relatively flat stretch of road, it was, however, not to last and immediately after Eregili, the road started climbing steeply away from the coast. Just as it was time to look for a campsite, we found another picnic area. In true Esther style, she started chatting with 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 – 34 km

It was 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. From here Esther was to take the bus back to Istanbul, I could not believe how quickly her time has run out.

 

29 April - Zonguldak - Bartin – 67 km

The bus left at 13h00 and we managed to get both Esther and her bike on the bus without a problem. Ernest and I cycled on to Bartin about 67 km. 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 levelled out a bit as we got back onto the D10. 

 

30 April - Bartin - Kurucasile – 75 km

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 – 87 km

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

 

2-3 May - Doganyurt - Abana -74 km

After another hilly day, Ernest also had a flat tyre something that is always a hassle, but he fixed it quickly while the rest of us sat watching the dolphins. Julie and Mayo bought fresh fish at the market in Abana, and that night we made a fire on the beach, cooked the fish and sat around chatting until late.

 

4 May - Abana – Ayancik – 67 km

We must be getting used to the hills because the stretch from Abana to Ayancik did not feel that hilly and it was quite a pleasant day on the bike. The sun was out, but it was not hot, and the scenery sublime, very densely forested on the one side and the blue waters of the  Black Sea on the other. At Ayancik we stopped to do our usual shopping for the night and then cycled on for about 5 km 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 – 55 km

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 than the previous days, and along the way, it started raining. We reached Sinop frozen and soaked to the bone. We found a room, 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 had to enter Iran by a specific date and were running out of time. Ernest and I decided to stay in Sinop for another day to do laundry and ınternet.  Sinop is located on the most northern point of the Turkish side of the black sea coast and was therefore vulnerable to attacks coming from the Black Sea. The Pasha Bastion was construed to protect the city against such attacks, much older is the Sinop Fortress dating back to the 8th century BC. Turkey never failed to amaze me.

 

6 May - Sinop - Batra – 115 km

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 section of level road. We made good use of the favourable conditions and carried on cycling till after 5 pm. We found a friendly farmer along the way and camped in his yard. That night we cooked pasta, and soy mince smothered with mayonnaise, a favourite at the time.

 

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

To our dismay, we woke and found that the wind had changed 180 degrees.  It was coming straight from the front. It, however, calmed down somewhat. It was another day on a mostly level road of which we made good use. We even found a Carrefour Supermarket and could stock up for the road ahead. Various cups of tea were 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 – 133 km

We came across a beautiful new road, flat and with a wide shoulder to cycle on, it even came with various tunnels, cutting out the big climbs.   We flew along the road, enjoying every minute of it until we reached a suitable grassy patch for pitching our tents. As our spot for the night was next to a restaurant, tea appeared in no time at all. It soon started raining, and we crawled in early. 

 

9 May - Bulancak - Trabzon – 161 km

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 getting increasingly worried about our visas as we heard horror stories of what happened if caught with an expired visa. Our visas expired nearly 3 weeks before, and we pedalled as fast as we could. We continued to historical Trabzon where we arrived around 19h00, cold and wet. We found a room just off Attaturk Square where we could have a warm shower and a clean bed. I was tired, as can be expected after cycling 160 km and went straight to bed.

 

10 May - Trabzon

I ate the last of the salty liquorice that the Dutch girls gave me - what a pity, I so love the stuff, it's a surprise it lasted so long. We did 534 km in 4 days, and a rest day was called for. Trabzon was an ideal place to take arrest as there was more than enough to see in this ancient city. It had dozens of mosques and churches all dating back to the Byzantine period and Ottoman Empire. We even found most of the old city walls still intact. 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?

 

11 May - Trabzon - Pazar – 122 km

It was an easy day of cycling as we pedalled along the coast on another cold and cloudy day.  We were still on the new road where we found the tunnels unlit and pitch dark, something that I always find hair-raising on a bicycle. At Pezar we stocked up with food and cycled a few km till we found a 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 (a pastry filled with a variety of ingredients and sprinkled with sesame seeds) and salad in their fancy boat shed. We feasted on this local delicacy, and there was no need to cook that night.

 

12 May – Pazar, Turkey – Batumi, Georgia – 72 km

The D-day arrived, and in great anticipation 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 from some people was not possible. If that was the case, we could be stuck in no man’s land for the rest of our lives.

 

We arrived at the Turkish border, and in true Turkish style, we were offered a seat and tea while they discussed our dilemma. The border officials pointed out that we had overstayed our visa by 23 days, and that it was a problem. We were given two options.  1. We could pay 300 lire and be allowed back into Turkey in 3 months’ time, or 2. pay only 81 lire and get banned from Turkey for 5 years. Taking our finances into account, we opted for the latter. The whole process was much easier than anticipated, and I will always love the Turkish for that.

 

Relieved we set off to the Georgian where we found that we could indeed purchase a visa at the border. Phew!  We were in 7th heaven and could not believe our luck. We cycled the 15 km to Batumi, our first tow in Georgia, along with a very scenic stretch of the Black Sea. We reached Batumi in high spirit, drew a few Georgian Lari from the ATM and celebrated by taking a room in the town. With that, we found ourselves in the Caucasus a region I knew nothing about and was more than excited to explore it. The Caucasus region is situated on the border between Europe and Asia and is home to the Caucasus mountain range which contains Europe’s highest mountain, Mount Elbrus. The Caucasus includes Georgia, Azerbaijan Armenia and part of Russia.

 

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