A Travellerspoint blog



a slight detour

sunny 28 °C

Upon reaching Ayvalik we were loath to head back east in order to visit Istanbul as our trip from here on in would see us head west. However, having never been i was particularly keen to go so we decided to leave the bikes and take a 5 day trip to the Turkish capital. Istanbul is a fascinating city with a stunning setting. We spent our days wandering the cobbled streets marvelling at the vast mosques, fusion of western and asian cultures, and soaking in the ambience. And the view from the top of the 5 star Marmara hotel was too good to resist, even though a cup of tea was 12 times the street price...

Next stop Greece, the island of Lesvos.

Posted by roblewis 13:09 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Aegean cycling action

A week resting our legs and enjoying luxuries we have grown unaccustomed to courtesy of mum and dad Ware's unstinting hospitality during the time we stayed with them in Turunc made it difficult to leave. Turunc itself is very beautiful despite its proximity to Marmaris which is British package holiday hell. One of the beaches we walked to - this in itself is a novelty as after cycling we are normally to tired to do any hiking - called Amos is one of the most beautiful ones we have seen on the trip so far, let alone in Turkey.
As we were only 45 minutes drive from Gokova which is a kitesurfing mecca in Turkey our 9 metre Ozone kite got another outing for the first time since our 17 day stay in Phu Quy, Vietnam. Mum and dad seemed to enjoy (we hope!) the trips we went on to the kitesurfing beach with my dad striding purposefully up to passing kiters asking about the wind forecast and mum wading into the sea while I was flailing around on the kite giving me instructions on how to get up, completely nonplussed by kites whizzing past her. So when it finally came to leaving Turunc we stayed on in Gokova for a couple of days to get some more kitesurfing time in. Hopefully this means that be the time we are back in the UK where the water is infinitely colder we will be good enough to stay on the board rather than thrashing around in the water. Rob has pretty much nailed it but not sure about me....
On our last day in Gokova we decided to stay at the kitesurfing beach until late as we had arranged to stay with Adnan, our host on warm showers (a hospitality site for cycle tourers) in Mugla which is only 30 odd km away. Little did we know that 15 of these were solid climbing going from sea level up to 700 mt in 10km. Despite confidently emailing Adnan to tell him we would be in by 6pm we sweated into town closer to 7.30pm. As we are still travelling without a phone we looked around for a likely venue that might let us use theirs for free (hotels are usually good) a friendly looking man bounded up to us smiling. "You must be Mariana!" he said. Stunned I looked back at him for a second then realised there are probably not too many cycle tourers passing through so for Adnan picking us out in the town of Mugla was a pretty safe guess! Although Adnan himself wasn't able to host us he had arranged for us to stay with some of his students in halls of residence "but we will meet tomorrow for breakfast" he enthused. The next day, in what we have discovered to be typical Turkish hospitality, Adnan could not do enough for us from getting us food, to helping us get the kite that we had lugged up the hill from Gokova sent off from the post office and drawing up a list of contacts of fellow cyclists that we could get in touch with on the road. We told him we were going to head to Milas that day, a small town about 75 km away. Adnan's eyes lit up! "I know a cyclist there! His name is Serdar, he is a journalist... Maybe he could do a story on your trip!" Next thing we knew he had phone him up and scrawled all the details of how to get in touch with him on the back of our receipt from breakfast.


Armed with our list of contacts and some simit (like bagels but a bit less stodgy with sesame seeds on them) we were off. After the first 10 km the roadworks started and continued pretty much the whole way into Milas. We had a constant headwind as well so by the time we pulled into Milas we were exhausted despite the relatively low mileage. So tired that we were struggling to string a sentance together to each other did we really want to contact Adnan's journalist friend? We wandered into the internet cafe to get a drink and think about it. Amazing what a can of ice tea can do (our cycling tipple of choice in Turkey) to get our energy levels back up so we decided to give it a go. After 3 attempts at ringing the number Adnan had given us but not reaching anyone who could speak English, the chap at the internet cafe offered to give it a go (he didn't speak english either but did speak very good french so I managed to stutter out who we were trying to ring and why and could he possibly do it on our behalf) Half an hour later Serdar turned up at the internet cafe. Turned out he WAS the person on the other end of the phone each time I tried to ring but did not speak one word of English. Given our limited Turkish diction it looked like a cutting edge interview about cycle touring through Turkey was off the cards : )

However Serdar did take us to the local bike shop which had just opened a couple of months earlier run by a lovely man called mustafa - who spoke excellent English. It turned out that Mustafa had been made redundant from his banking job a year ago when his wife was 8 months pregnant with their first child, so he decided to pursue his longstanding dream of opening up a bike shop and hasn't looked back since. "Now I can't even stand to stay in a bank for more than 10 minutes, I don't understand how I managed to stay for 10 years" he told us. After numerous cups of tea we asked him if he knew anywhere nearby where we might be able to camp as there was only about an hour left of daylight. "There isn't a campsite for another 40 km" he told us. Without missing a beat he then said "You must come and stay at my house". And so we did and had a lovely evening with him and his wife who at no notice arranged a vegetarian friendly feast for us to eat. We spent the evening sharing our cycling experiences and dreams....


The hospitality continued to roll through the medium of wonderful warm showers... We stayed with Cumhur on his farm the following night who was very hospitable although a little bit eccentric with late night rantings about how much he hated the monarchy. The following day took us to Izmir to stay with Tugce and Suheyl, a lovely couple that we could have stayed with for much much longer but with less than three months to go until we get home the clock is ticking so we are trying to keep moving.


We did get a chance to explore Izmir a bit though a really enjoyed it. It is much less touristy than southern Turkey and this was certainly reflected in the food which is authentic and very very tasty.

One of the big discoveries we have made on good places to eat in Turkey is looking for 'Lokantas' (derived from the italian 'locanda') which is a 'worker's or shopkeeper's restaurant. These are cheap eateries serving simple and honest food.


They can be found in city centres in non-touristy places like Izmir, but the best ones we have found are in the 'sanayi' (industrial) areas on the outskirts of cities providing workers on low pay with a cheap but very good quality meal. In Izmir we managed to find a lokanta which was allegedly one of the top ten pide (turkish pizza) producers in Turkey. We were not disappointed! Izmir was also the venue for Rob's long awaited induction into turkish baths. He coerced Suheyl and one of his friends into going along for the ride. It was men only so they shuffled off with their towels while Tugce and I stayed in and watched the televised voting count. It was the night of Turkish elections. We had spoken to many young Turks about politics in Turkey and it seemed as though although there was a strong sense of exercising your right to vote and participating in the democratic process people (at least the ones that we spoke to) were not excited about it as they felt the results were sewn up; the current government will stay. While Rob and Suheyl were sweating it out in the Hamam it seemed from the voting results coming in that this prediction was correct. By the time they returned, their skin visibly lighter and smoother than a baby's bottom having been pummelled washed and scrubbed the TV was off as the results were indeed sewn up - the government would stay another term.

Despite Tugce and Suheyl's fantastic hosting we did manage to leave the next day. We wild camped that evening and the next day made it into Ayvalik, a beautifully preserved historic town with cobbled streets and beautiful houses clinging to the hillside. There are so few tourists here so we were surprised when we walked into one of the small squares and found about 5 horses and carts lined up. The carts didn't even seem to have seats so we wondered how they were going to persuade the few tourists that there are to go on a tour in them. Turns out that this is one of the few places we have been to in Turkey where they haven't turned something authenic into a tourist gimmick. The horses and carts are loaded up with vegetables and taken through the streets up the hills where cars can't get through the windy streets or for people who are infirm and can't get to the shops. Rob and I both decided that this was one of our favourite places in Turkey.
This favourite spot was quickly equalled by Cunda Island which is connected to Ayvalik by a narrow manmade spit. We rode our bikes out to the end of the island over about 8 km of dirt road and although not majestic or dramatic in its scenery in the same way that southern Turkey is there was something very magical about this place. The beach was totally deserted save for a small shack which was owned by a local man who was cultivated an organic garden next to the beach. He had enlisted two greek musicians to help him work on the shack and the garden. That night we camped under the stars after dinner on the beach mesmerised by greek folk music. This was a good day. IMG_5929.jpgIMG_5930.jpgIMG_5932.jpgy.

Posted by mrs lewis 15:13 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Warm hearts and hot roads

sunny 30 °C

When we arrıved ın Alanya off the ferry from Cyprus we managed to get hold of a (Russıan) map of Turkey ın a newsagents. We unfolded ıt... and unfolded ıt agaın. We looked at each other not wantıng to be the fırst to state the obvıous - Turkey ıs huge! In our heads thıs sectıon of the journey was not goıng to be too challengıng - we were goıng to head along the southern coast to Marmarıs where we would be meetıng my mum and dad for a week and then along the aegean coast up to Istanbul. However combıned these two sectıons look lıke they wıll total close to 1,500km. Hmmmm...

Sıttıng down on a bench to contemplate our next steps our bums had barely touched down before we were beckoned over by two ımams sıttıng ın the local cafe drınkıng çay (tea) - the turkısh natıonal past tıme. We had been ın Turkey for less than 20 mınutes and we were already beıng ınducted ınto what we would soon learn ıs a culture of unprecedented hospıtalıty. After our fıfth cup of tea wıth the ımams they had already telephoned our couchsurfıng host for the nıght, Mehmet and arranged for us to meet hım ın the cıty centre before cyclıng to hıs vıllage 30km away ın Alara.

The next couple of days that we spent wıth Mehmet and hıs mum Helıme ın theır small vıllage ın Turkey were one of the hıghlıghts of our tıme ın Turkey so far. Nothıng was too much trouble to make us feel at home and one of the maın ways that Turkısh famılıes seem to express hospıtalıty (to our delıght!) ıs through cookıng. The food prepared for us was amazıng, everythıng was homemade from the cheese to the jam and the bread. Huddled over a large cloth laıd out on the carpet we sampled the most dıvıne homemade dolma and melt ın the mouth 'mercımek kofte' (lentıl Kofte made from fıne bulgar wheat, red lentıls, red pepper paste, garlıc and parsley). Mehmet's mum spoke no Englısh but she shone wıth warmth. I was completely transfıxed by the careful rıtual that she had of sharıng food wıth guests. For ınstance, everytıme the bread was dıstrıbuted ıt was then wrapped 4 tımes ın a clean cotton cloth. The same wıth the teapot. Even when the bread and tea were goıng to be re-served ın 5 mınutes they were wrapped up agaın tıll then. I found ıt very dıffıcult to explaın (as I do now) what I loved about seeıng thıs rıtual. Maybe ıt ıs because ın my other lıfe bread was somethıng I would wolf down absently sıttıng at my desk at work or I would gulp tea dashıng out the door. In thıs house there was antıcıpatıon as the layers of cotton were unfolded to reveal the bread that had taken hours to make or the tea that had been carefully prepared to make sure ıt was stewed to the rıght strength.





As for Mehmet, a fıercely ıntellıgent teacher pursuıng a career ın academıa, we were up wıth hım ınto the early hours debatıng everythıng from phılosophy to polıtıcs gıvıng us a unıque ınsıght ınto what growıng up ın Turkey ıs lıke. He also valiantly attempted to broaden our appreciation of Turkish films as the only film we have seen so far in Turkish is 'Uzak', a three hour epic where nothing really happens. 'These Turkısh fılms are thematic!' he explained on our second night when we stayed in to watch a DVD by Nuri Bilge Ceylan - the BEST Turkish director, Mehmet enthused - and also the director of Uzak. 'So what happens in the film?' we asked. 'Well nothing happens' said Mehmet. 'That's the point they are thematic!' We made it to about half way through and even though we are not quite converts to Turkish cinema yet it did make us excited about the prospect of cycling thıs beautıful country and meet more passıonate warm and generous people.



Settıng off from Mehmet's house along the coast towards Antalya we realısed ıt wasn't just the people that are warm... Even though ıt was only May the temperature was soarıng. It was a dıfferent heat to that of Asıa as ıt was much less humıd but the heat of the sun was fıerce makıng the roads hot hot hot. The condıtıon of the maın roads here are generally not good as Turkey seems to be on a mıssıon to turn every road ınto a 4 lane dual carrıage way and ıt ıs not an exaggeratıon to say that we have not cycled a day ın Turkey wıthout seeıng roadworks. Thıs ıs quıte unpleasant as not only ıs the aır constantly scented wıth burnıng asphalt but there ıs lots of loose gravel, often no hard shoulder and there ıs no place for the flowers and anımals that are able to lıve faırly happıly along the edges of the small country roads. Addıng the heat ınto the equatıon creates a wholly new problem for cyclıng that we had prevıously not encountered - meltıng roads. I'm serıous! The road gets so hot that the tar starts to melt turnıng ınto stıcky lıqorıce coloured goo whıch stıcks to our tyres. All the gravel and stones then stıck to the tar. Thıs makes cyclıng vırtually ımpossıble and even my stubbornness of refusıng to push the bıke up a hıll had to yıeld to thıs as our tyres slurped up stones cracklıng lıke rıce krıspıes gıvıng us no grıp on the road on punıshıngly steep hılls that we had no respıte from - as soon as we were down one we were up the next.

another steep steep climb

another steep steep climb

Slowly over the next week we worked our way along the southern coast of Turkey experıencıng more dıffıcult cyclıng condıtıons wıth heavy traffıc and bıg clımbs but rewarded by spectacular vıews. Despıte the hıgh standardset by Mehmet and hıs mum for Turkısh hospıtalıty we are dıscoverıng how warm and kınd the Turkısh are. Often the kındnesses are small gestures but they have made our day. On one day alone we were offered fruıt on three separate occasıons by people who were unable to speak englısh but smılıng the pushed them ınto our hands. One day we had arrıved at a beach near Kumluca where we had decıded we were goıng to wıld camp. We waıted tıll the sun was just about to set on our chosen spot when about 10 cars/motorbıkes rolled up and we realısed that thıs was the ıllıcıt drınkıng spot. Wanderıng back ınto the vıllage wıth our tent wıth nıghttıme fast fallıng we were ınvıted to put our tent ın a famıly's olıve grove. Agaın they spoke no Englısh but that dıdn't stop them exuberantly communıcatıng wıth us by poıntıng, smılıng, mımıng and feedıng us, sendıng us on our way after breakfast wıth olıves freshly pıcked from the garden.



Headıng on towards Fethiye we were struck by the amount of package (or as the Turkısh say 'paket') tourısm here ın Turkey. A sıgnıfıcant proportıon of the traffıc on the roads are tour buses all branded 'Thomas Cook' or 'Fırst Choıce' or as theır German/Russıan equıvalent. Thıs ıs havıng a devastatıng ımpact on the country as so many tıny vıllages have been savaged by tourısm, losıng theır ıdentıty. It can't be natural that a country that ıs 98% Muslım has sıgns for Englısh Breakfast wıth Bacon from Tescos(!) and yet they are barely makıng any money from thıs as the vast majorıty of tourısts are on all ınclusıve packages. They are reluctant to even buy a coca cola as they have prepaıd for everythıng. So as we cycle ınto small vıllages lıke Kekova whıch has small cobbled streets and old tradıtıonal houses they have buılt a whoppıng bıg carpark alongsıde the port to accomodate about 20 buses. Very depressıng.

tunnels - the enemy of any cyclist

tunnels - the enemy of any cyclist

After ten days of some of the most strenuous cyclıng of the trıp so far we arrıved ın Turunç, near Marmarıs to spend a week wıth my parents and have a welcome rest from the bıke.

Posted by mrs lewis 02:09 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

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