Lots to tell, lots to tell, but first, a word about wardrobe:
The best thing I’ve done so far is to buy a cheap Turkish national soccer team jersey with a player’s name on the back (Normal 15 Lira, but special for you my friend 10 Lira America Barack Obama!) It turns out that Arda Turan
also plays for Galatasaray, a big fan favorite, and he’s a young superstar. I wear this bright red jersey most days cycling–good visibility!–and naturally, because this is Turkey, every place I stop, people want to come talk to me about soccer. I love you, Arda, they say to me. Old men ask, Do you like Galatasaray? Sure I do. Then they call their friends over to show off the American. Occasionally, one person in the group favors another team, so we get into some trash talk.
I’m still riding with my new Aussie friends, Greg and Dorothy. It’s nice to have company on the road and some help bargaining for rooms in town. We rode out of Pamukkale to Denizli, where I met another gracious Servas host, Ayberk. Before he came to meet me across from the in-town military base, I’d been standing for a few minutes near the base wall, where a young soldier with helmet and machine gun seemed to be eyeing me nervously. I made the international sign of peace, showing him my bicycle helmet and empty hands, and he backed off. Five minutes later, he came back to the wall to hand me five dandelion flowers he’d picked. Like a reverse Kent State.
Denizli marked the farthest inland we’d been, most of it climbing gently along long open rivers. From there, we pointed south and west back to the coast, this time over steep mountains. We didn’t know for sure if the roads existed, if they were paved, how many days it would take–and every person we asked said, Don’t go that way! Great adventure awaits, we thought. Or, you know, maybe disaster.
We left Acipayam, the last big town, ready for privation and suffering. Naturally, because this is Turkey, we hadn’t gone 10 miles into the next village when we were flagged down by a flock of kids and some old men who insisted–no way to avoid it–that we join the whole town for an outdoor banquet. They had tables out on the street, pots of meat and soup and rice aboil, and chai for us before we could sit down. We were completely surrounded by kids and old men (the old women sat on the other side at their own table) who wanted to tell us about school, the years they worked in Germany, bicycles, and more.
Then back up and down through tighter roads, through villages and farms pasted onto hillsides, up onto the sides of a steep piney gorge with the green Dalaman river far below. Every time we asked for directions, the answer was (we think) something like “there are three ways to the next village.” One man said go left, his wife says, Don’t be an idiot like my husband: go right. So we pick one and ride along up and down canyons and valleys and hillsides. Roads varied from awful to terrible washboard gravel. In other words, perfect. We stopped to camp at lovely riverside spot after 65km. A cold night under clear moonless skies and stars filling the heavens.
Another day of steep climbing and descending, up 300 meters for every 350 down, over dry ridges and down into green valleys, with several stops to join farmers for chai, and we camped again in a small field by a creek. A woman with toddler strapped to her back and an enormous smile on her face came through our camp late in the afternoon, on the way to check on her goats. When she came back, Fatma invited us to her house for chai. Naturally, because this is Turkey, it turned into a two hour meal of fresh yogurt from her goats, tomato salad, spicy peppers. And some chai, eventually. We slept well that night.
It took one more day of riding to make sunny coastal Fethiye, and it’s a bittersweet return to the tourist route. I’m looking forward to the next chance to head inland and find some steep, terrible, mountain roads and kind people.
More pictures when I can make it work. Internet speed is not rural Turkey’s greatest strength.