15 miles after leaving Eskisehir I met my first cycle tourer since entering Turkey. Anik, from Canada was heading in the opposite direction to me towards Europe on her 5000mile ride from Italy (Milan) to Turkey (through Cappadocia and Antalya) and back again. She is part of this years ‘Sun Trip‘ and one of 30 participants that entered. From what I gathered the ‘Sun Trip’ is cycling race for solar assisted bicycles and apparently is the only one of it’s kind in the world.
Anik’s bike, which she’s named Sputnik, had a massive solar panel on top and while I’m not envious of lugging all that weight, I’m a definitely little jealous of the shade that it provided in the scorching heat. You can follow Anik and Sputnik on here Facebook page: www.facebook.com/aniketsputnik (you may even find a photo of me on there…!).
The generosity of the Turkish people on the road has been unparalleled. Now I may be a little biased because I love food and when I say ‘generosity on the road’ I basically mean people giving me food. Not to say that whilst cycling across Europe I wasn’t given food, but here it definitely happens much more frequently.
This chap pulled over onto the hard shoulder ahead of me and offered a cherry from a large bowl. I took one, ate it and thanked him. He then poured the rest into a bag and handed it to me. This encounter of pulling up and handing the food and driving away all happened within about 10 seconds. He didn’t say anything, just saw someone who might be in need and helped out. What a nice guy! As it happened I was a little low on food and the cherries made a fantastic pudding.
My decision to stick on the bigger roads, meant that my camping options were limited. With very few trees and the land either side used for agriculture, wild camping wouldn’t have been very practical. Also as it was so hot it is nice to find somewhere that I can fill up with water which is why I sometimes opt to pitch in someones garden. Unfortunately there were very few villages on this section so I had to look for other options. I found that petrol stations were a great place to ask to pitch, because they always had clean water and usually had an ok patch of ground on which I could pitch my tent. And once one had wifi (but by the time I found this out I was already comfortable in my tent and couldn’t be bothered to ask for the password).
The community of unicyclist is extremely small in Turkey. Even so, while in Eskisehir I was contacted by Samet who has also discovered this wonderful sport and wanted to meet up with me. He actually lived on the west side of Turkey, but was in at that time Ankara (the capital I decided not to visit because I hate cycling though heavy traffic) and planned to make a detour to come out and find me on his drive home.
He ended up meeting me just out of Polatli with the help of my GPS Spot Tracker map and although he didn’t ride with me, ended up acting as a support vehicle for the last 5 miles or so of the day.
He helped me ask to pitch up my tent at a petrol for the night. And although my translated question written in my notebook usually does a good job of making myself understood, it was fantastic and much appreciated that he could ask and explain to the owner a little bit more deeply what I was up to.
Before Samet came out he had asked if I wanted any food. It would have been rude not to accept his offer (haha!) so I asked that if possible could he bring some cured meat and chocolate. Once the tent was pitched he brought out a bag of food. This was what he brought me:
A big bag of sliced ham, 3 burgers, fries, chicken nuggets, ice tea, a carton of juice, 4 chocolate bars and a packet of biscuits (I think that’s everything!). Thank you Samet for all the help, it was great to meet you.
The next morning started with a burger. I was on the road at 8. Which is ok, but due to the energy sapping Turkish sun, it’s better to get going earlier. And from my limited experience of starting the days ride at 7 I can tell you that it’s much more comfortable to ride at this time compared to midday.
For most of the day I stuck on the main road. It’s great for making progress because the surface is perfect and gradients smoothed out, but it can get a little boring and the sound of the traffic was getting to me, so I decided to turn off onto a smaller road. I had been on the same straight road for the last 3 days with no respite from the thunder of the heavy trucks zooming by (even at night), so you can image how nice it was to turn off and have the whole road to myself.
40 miles into the day and I was starting to think about finding somewhere to pitch my tent, when I guy I had briefly met early, pulled up next to me. “EDWARD!” he shouts out of his window. I didn’t recognise him at first but it’s never a bad thing when someone knows your name so I dismounted. His name was Levent and both his English and my Turkish were severely limited so it took a while but eventually I understood that he was inviting me back to his village. Fantastic I thought, but how far away was it? He showed me on the map and luckily it was only 5 miles away. Off my planned route, but roughly in the right direction. He offered me a lift in his car but explaining that I wanted to cycle there took a long time. So far I had cycled everything (apart from the wet bits of course) from my home to Turkey and to that minor road, so wasn’t about to start taking lifts there. After what was probably a quarter of an hour of him insisting that he was going there too and it would be easier if I came with him, he eventually understood that I wanted to cycle and that I would see him at his home in 30 minutes.
It’s amazing what the lure of food and somewhere to stay for the night does for your motivation. Before Levent pulled up I was just trudging along at a slow 9mph feeling a bit tired, but afterwards I was hitting a respectable 11mph, singing along to some music and feeling fantastic.
The village was called Durupinar, and when I arrived I think I met close to half the inhabitants! The village itself was quaint and houses rickety. Levent’s family were welcoming and I even managed to get one of his cousins to sit up on the uni.
After meeting EVERYONE Levent showed me to his house and showed me how they made ‘Yufka’, a kind of flatbread, in a stone oven.
Afterwards I was given a large platter vegetables, watermelon, cheese, olives (which I hate but ate a few of to be polite) and of course the yufka. It was absolutely amazing after a tough day in the sun.
I slept out a sofa in their balcony and watched the stars for some of the night. In theory it’s nice to sleep out in the open but the reality was that in the morning I found out that I had played food platter to hundreds of mosquitoes! Ahh well. I guess that’s just the price you pay for sleeping under the stars!