What an amazing experience I’ve had. You really must go! The routes take you through the most important Phrygian legacies (and amongst many other notable historical features) which are mainly set in wonderful natural locations and beautiful landscapes. My senses were continually bombarded: the smell of pine in the forests and freshly cropped camomile harvests in the valleys; rustling leaves from the gentle breezes; loud calls from unidentifiable hornbills; distant ringing cowbells and nearby humming insects; regular calls to prayer and frequent tractors. My legs were stung and bitten by plants and insects and got sore from the sun and a not a little chaffing. I actually stopped applying antihistamine to local spots and just rubbed it in en mass to the whole of my legs.
Many people just drive to the main sites and stroll around going back to their homes or hotels in the cities. Traveling through allows you more time to dwell, imagine and appreciate the lives those people led – as harsh as they must have been. Whist I had very stable weather, the whole route is between 900 and 1600 metres above sea level so weather conditions change rapidly and the winters are very harsh .
Walking the paths continuously means you’ll need to camp as there are not enough guest houses within manageable walking distances. If you can cycle about 40 miles per day with all your luggage in a hilly terrain the cycling is a viable option. That’s easily within range of most regular leisure cyclists. If two or more were camping then your loads needn’t be any more than mine, as tools and tents can be shared.
The water saying: I flowed to the wilds, later they were revealed, let paradise be, take ritual cleansing and pray. (I’m not really qualified to translate this so please feel free to correct and/or amend.)
However, not everyone wants to camp and to open the routes up to a wider audience then more needs to be done about the accommodation. It seems to me that the local authorities have invested quite a bit in making very comfortable Frig Evleri (Phrygian Guest Houses) but some of the smaller ones appear to be unkempt now and underused. Of course, the one I stayed in in Sabuncupınar was very well maintained but even that appears to be under utilised. It may be that the local tourism market is not quite ready for this yet but I’m sure the international one is – though the marketing needs to be improved. Having more Frig Evi would enable tourists to create more flexible routes and schedules.
I was very pleased with what I achieved but with good 20-20 hindsight I would have spent more time at Ayazini (say two nights) – just as Hüseyin recommended in his book. There is a guest house very nearby at Sabı Dayı. Also two nights near Yazılıkaya would have made sense as there’s so much to see there – as well as the very comfortable Midas Han. Having access to a guide was useful too (Çok teşekkürler Tanju) as some of the stuff isn’t that easy to locate quickly. There are also numerous hotels at the spa resort Gazlıgöl (just off the routes to the south near Afyonkarahisar) where you could (and I guess many do) stay and do day trips. Easily in reach by bike too. And of course Sabuncupınar is a great base and you could put together days rides to keep you very happy for three or four days.
You could ride most of the back roads which interconnect the villages on almost any sort of bike except a lightweight racer. These “roads” maybe tarmac (often badly potholder and patched), compacted limestone or other graded hardcore. A mountain bike, tourer or hybrid would all be suitable. You’d get passed by a car or two every 10 to 20 minutes or sometimes not for an hour. So traffic here was not a problem and they were wonderful stretches of cycling to be had.
I’d recommend tyres at least 32 mm wide and more for comfort, and touring tyres would be fine. If you plan to use some of the suitable proper off-road walking tracks (some of these are more like forest roads, farm and tractor tracks) then these will have loose sandy parts, silty and muddy sections (even during prolonged dry spells) due to irrigation and land that won’t drain. Here I’d recommend mountain bike tyres (or at least cyclocross tyres if you’re a strong expert rider – unlike me) that have cross-treads and give better traction and steering on the loose stuff. However a lot of the walking paths are not suitable for heavily load bikes (as they are very steep and rocky single track) so plan your route accordingly.
The routes are waymarked but not fully and you’d be daft not to take a GPS as they can save a lot of time. All smartphones these days have an accurate GPS chip in them that enable you to use an off-line App (which requires no mobile/cell phone connection) to plot and record routes and as a minimum show you exactly where you are. “Hey, have you heard of GAIA?” 🙂 There are others apparently…. . You just have to manage your device’s battery life and take back-up maps and a compass of course.
Every single navigational error I made (and there were no really serious ones) was down to my failure to check where I was frequently enough. I keep my phone in a padded case in my pocket and refuse to put it on the bars as that surely will end in disaster sometime. However well it may seem to grip it.
As well as Hüseyin’s very good book (Phrygian Way – Turkey, Official Guide Book https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/6058677831/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_c_api_XoGvzbE93AWBV) there is an App in the Applestore (presumably for Androids too) which has been prepared by Kate Clow. It is very useful and appeared to still be work in progress – at least when I first downloaded it about a year ago. I’ve just downloaded it to another device and it’s now got photos on it. It’s well worth using and I really should have made more use of it, especially this updated version.
The only other recreational cyclist I saw (part from Mümtaz and Kübra) was a Japanese guy at Istanbul airport who was stripping his old bike down for a flight to Tajikistan. He’d just cycled fron Portugal. On arriving at Dushanbe he was going to cycle to Japan. He wasn’t sure how far it is. I felt a bit sorry for him as he was struggling to remove his pedals with an unsuitable pair of pliers and anyone who’s done this knows that you really need a proper pedal spanner. I offered to help him (though my tools were in my bike box – hopefully by now in the airport somewhere) but he declined. He hadn’t a bike box and as he’d stopped next to one of those giant cling-film wrapping machines, then I assumed he was going to use that. When you see stuff like that then is does make my little adventure seem very tame.
I seemed to have a lot less trouble with dogs on this ride. May be they are less agressuve here or perhaps I’m getting more expert at handling them. In any case don’t let the dogs put you off – I’ve never really felt threatened.
I didn’t see a lot of terrestrial wildlife; numerous hedgehog road kills, four grass snakes, two red squirrels, two foxes an one tortoise. There were a lot of birds though but these were difficult for me to identify and a pair of lightweight binoculars or monocular and a guide book would have been handy.
I really do wish WordPress had a spell checker. May be it has but it’s lost on me. And apologies if you’re getting adverts with these posts. At least you know what you’ve been spending your valuable time on researching – or maybe shopping. 🙂
The bike performed well and I never even had to pump the tyres up until the last day when I jacked them up hard for the ride back to my start which was nearly all on asphalt roads. The only other job was to tighten up the rear axle’s retaining nuts as they worked a bit loose and I’ve made a note to loctite them in next time and apply a bit more tightening torque. Elsewhere I’m going to do a review update of the bike for the velo geeks.
Where to next? At the moment I feel like coming back to do the rest of the Phrygian Way. In particular the section east of Yazılıkaya and on to Gordon near Ankara. Though there are so many long distance paths here that we are all spoilt for choice.
Now get out and ride! Or walk! 🙂