Gözleme, cai (tea), halva, tahin, pide and etliekmek, friendship, fun and encounters, uphills and downhills, that’s how we could describe the road that took us from Antalya to Cappadocia.
Cappadocia wasn’t on our initial plan, not being sure if we would directly cross from Antalya to the Black sea coast or go there. But we meet the Austalio-German team and the hesitation disappeared. We left Antalya for couple of days along the coast before to leave the Mediterranean sea once for all. It was the five of us: Joey and Anneliese cycling back home to Australia, Tom from Germany, cycling as long as the money is enough, and us. We will stay in total 15 nights together.
The coast after Antalya is closer to a Las Vegas landscape, huge resorts and hotels the all way aside the road. We still managed to camp in front of the old roman amphitheater of Aspendos. We were not expecting to have locals going there in the evening for a beer, trying to charge entrance fees for tourists arrived after the closing time. But with a bit of patience our first three tents camp spots went well.
We left the Mediterranean sea at the city of Manavgat and headed to the mountain towards the lake of Beyşehir. We started the uphill with new chains as the bike shop men would describe the old ones as “zombie chains”. The check of our engines pushed the five of us to change to not damage more the cassette. It’s a bit short after less than 3000 km ride but the chains weren’t new at our beginning. Full of confidence, we jumped forward the mountain under a lovely sun but experienced shortly after our first “tropical rain”, changing the weather from sunny to rain and back to sunny in 30 min. We are curious to see the rain in China.
Three lovely mountain wild camps brought us to the lake of Beyşehir. Our daily distance got reduced in the mountain but we really enjoyed taking the small roads instead of the main departmental ones. We cycled there through our first snow, passing at 1510 m. More would be to come in Cappadocia.
We stayed two nights with Merve in Beyşehir to enjoy a beautiful hike with her. The rest day and the good food we cooked together made us full of energy and we biked then in one go the 110km to Konya.
Entering the city of Konya, we have been offered two times to come at people’s place. But we had contacted Mahmut previously through Couchsurfing and we biked the last kilometers to his place. We will however try that once, entering a city with no plan for the night, sit on a bench and see what happens.
Konya is the place of the Whirling Dervish, if you’re there on the Saturday night, don’t miss their show at the art center. If’s free and open for all. Going there after seeing the Mevlana museum is a good combo.
As happy cyclists, we are always hungry and Mahmut took care that our stomachs got filled correctly. We tried out first etliekmek, literally “bread with meat” (the dough is finer than a pide but thicker than a lahmacun), on the streets the chocolate bombs and the rice filled mussels. Mahmut told us on the first day that he applied for Erasmus in Spain and got a positive answer on the next day. We are very happy for him and we hope that he will enjoy as much as we enjoyed our exchange years respectively in Canada and Germany.
The road following Konya was supposed to be quick, completely flat for 150 km until Aksaray. However it took us three days to make it. The wind was so strong the first day, we did only 40 km. The wind was so strong, that when a truck was passing, we sometimes had to stop. We decided to look for a place to camp. We left a creepy abandoned concrete buildings plan to try our chance at the farm of a man we met at the previous gas station. Bilal offered us to pitch the three tents in his barn where we’ve been well protected from the wind. We shared with Bilal, his sister, dad, mum and grand dad, tea and breakfast and after some chats (thanks Google Translate) we took back the windy road.
Two days and many podcast hours later we finally arrived in Aksaray and left the D300 to head towards Selime Cathedrale. We got informed by other cyclotourists of a possible wild camp into the rock caves there. It wasn’t a sandbag and worth the effort of pushing the bike up the cliff. We explored the tunnels at night, which was much fun.
The reputation of the Cappadocian hot air balloons was too high and our three friends decided the next morning to rush to Göreme to fly on the last day of good weather. Their Turkish visa were soon to expire and they had to focus on one thing before to take the train which would bring them to the Georgian border.
We were on the opposite in advance on schedule, as we were waiting four more days to meet again in Göreme, Claire and James we left after Albania at the Greek border. We didn’t believe it but those two managed to catch up, passing through Istanbul and we ended up meeting again in Cappadocia. Unbelievable! We took the time then to visit Selime cathedral and Ihlara gorge and churches where Xavier went seven years ago. The same ticket works for both if you visit them the same day. A lucky advice brought us to wild camp close to Güzelyurt, which we visited the next day, before the go to Nevşehir.
We stayed a first night at Ibo’s place, who told us about his homeland, Iran, and finished to convince us to go there. We will take the risk of the Turkmenistan visa and Iran will be our next destination instead of Georgia. We discovered the next morning the city under a sweet layer of snow and got nicely offered to stay one more night with Ibo. We used that time to hitchhike to the underground city of Kaymakli. It was a lot of fun to find back the deep dark tunnels were Xavier got lost with his brother seven years ago too.
The next evening joined together and with a lot of joy the seven bikers we were in Göreme. It felt like yesterday and in the same time a long time ago that we left the two Irish. Joey, Tom and Anneliese had to leave the next day but as the Irish, we will meet them again on the road. The hostel was full of cyclotourists: four more arrived coming from China. They were biking the other direction as us and cycled the Pamir couple of months ago. We had some interesting talks.
We explored for the next three days the region with Claire and James before to split again. They will go north to Georgia and we will make a stop to get a try on the Turkish Baklava hometown.