Transfer Day Tuesday 20 Oct
An uneventful day which got a bit more interesting later. My bike box came in at about 7lbs heavier than last year at the check in. Gulp! I’ve had to pack a bit more wet weather and warmer gear this time as the forecast is a bit changeable. I’m being a tad optimistic there. I am gonna get soaked for sure ….
I flew from Manchester to Istanbul where I had a six hour layover for my connection to Kütahya. My Turkish Airways points got me into the domestic business class lounge so I didn’t suffer to much … lots of mercimek çorbası (lentil soup) and çay (tea) eased the torture.
Around midnight I arrived at Kütahya Airport which is nowhere near Kütahya and maybe that’s why they now call it Zafer Bölgesel Havalimanı (Victory Regional AirPort). Anyway, my minor victory was that my bike arrived too. Look! It must be mine it’s got my daughter’s name (Liv) written in large letters on the box!
I wax told there would be taxis at the airport which was partly true. There was one but someone beat me to it. Alper called for his brother and within 20 minutes Ibrahim was whisking me to my hotel in his van which had a couple of spare brake discs rolling around the back presumably on their way for machining.
The Zafer Hotel was less victorious as it was completely full and they had no record of my reservation or even the guy who’d booked it. The phone number l’d used was completely wrong too. Hilarious! So much for “Foursquare.com”. Ibrahim had already let slip that the other hotels weren’t very good and he was bang on there. I had to pay in advance and there’s no breakfast service. Even so, I wasn’t allowed to take my bike box into the bed room as I fancied a bit of nocturnal bike and kit assembly. Let’s hope it’s still in the garage tomorrow.
(And apologies in advance for all the spelling mistakes in here. I’ve always been myopic, I’m now presbyopic. I’m doing all this in my phone, late at night, probably tired or exhausted too … and I didn’t even mention my anomolous trichromacy …. )
Day 1 Altıntaş to Sinanpaşa
Not the most restful of nights. The bed was far too short, there were no proper curtains and the street lights streamed in. There was a lot of barking dogs and the imam’s loud speaker seamed to be right next to my window. I couldn’t even make use of an early start as the receptionist didn’t show up until nine so I wasn’t able to access my bike. I had to make do with a peasant’s breakfast of tea, simit and bread. Where was the Turkish Kavaktı Tabağı (breakfast plate) I’ve got so used to?
By the time I’d built my bike up, explained what I was doing to Mehmet (Ibrahim’s father), taken photos and had more tea it was almost 11am when I left.
Dodging dust devils, wielded by a westerly, ploughing over parched tracks between fields of harvested wheat and sugarbeet, questioning farmers under columbus and blue skies is how I passed over the Altıntaş plain.
I asked an old chap of there was an old Roman bridge in the village of Altıntaş. Yok he replied negatively. Then about 20 metres down the road I found this. Hopefully Caroline can confirm that this is it.
In Anıtkaya I visited the Indepenence War martyr’s cemetery and found the restored 13th century han (inn) which was unfortunatley locked up.
I then turned southwest, off the official route and headed directly for Sinanpaşa. Now those previously friendly westerlies became my new adversaries. I could see what looked like quarrying traffic in the distant hills. I had (what I thought) would be a 350m climb on a good surface but I was soon being overtaken on it by lorries who choked and covered me in limestone dust. The good road broke up into a loose dusty track and it became a bit of a wearying slog. Once at the top, a brief snack of kuruyemiş (trail mix) and a break enabled me to enjoy the long descent and I was soon at my destination.
I found a pansiyon but it was full, however the kind owner (Fikre) got me a room at his friend’s pansiyon. Before he showed me the way, he filled me with Lahmucan pidesi (Turkish pizza with meat), ayran and çay from his shop and though I tried to pay him and his staff three times – they wouldn’t accept it.
Day 2 Sinanpaşa to Banav
The forecast last night was for rain for four days along the route. Monday should bring better weather. It rained hard during the night and I was greeted by heavy clouds and more rain when I stepped out to find my breakfast. It didn’t bode well. With this in mind and with the debacle of last year’s final day indelibly etched in my memory I decided I’d probably not risk the off road sections today. A quick recce of some of the farm tracks confirmed by decision. Standing water and very muddy in places.
This meant using part of the Afyon to Uşak main road but fortunately it had a wide hard-shoulder. It also meant not having to make a detour to Dumlupınar as it took me close by. I loved that town! As I cruised through the market stalls, I was greeted all the way and had handfuls of grapes, apples and pomegranate thrust on me. I chatted to some of the trader lets about my trip.
I found the large war cemetery there too, which commemorates the fallen in the last battle founght in the Greco-Turkish war. It was very poignant and evocative, and well worth visiting.
At the first opportunity I turned off the main road and took to the hills to the north of the official route which appeared to be paved. Most of them were and I had an enjoyable tour through the farming villages of Oturak, Depremevleri, Hatiplet and Banaz (village).
Despite the low clouds and evidence of showers on the road and around me, I managed to get to the town of Banaz without getting rained on. Now, that was a result! I looked on the main streets but couldn’t find a hotel then went into a chemists to ask if they knew of anywhere to stay. They offered me tea and with a few minutes a waiter from the Mega Müjde restaurant and hotel came to escort me to their hotel. I thought by the look of the restaurant (it was immaculate) I didn’t need to see the room and though the charge (£17) was a lot more than I’d been paying, I took it. The waiter led me up to the third floor and I was totally shocked by what I saw. It was a spotless modern apartment – with a TV lounge/office, kitchen/diner, bedroom, bathroom and loo. Another result!
I had a good hour’s stroll around the town and liked the look of it. I got “tooled up” with CS gas (from under the counter) at a hunting shop as I’d had another dog incident, when one gave chase to me. Normally it’s folly to try and out-run a dog (well, they’re design to run their quarry down!) if you’re cycling but I had a good speed and he never got near me. I was quite shocked to see all types of rifles and pistols for sale in the shop. You could buy an 8mm pistol for under £20. Licenses are required apparently but if you can buy CS gas … what do you think? Anyway I don’t really expect (or want) to have to use it – but it’s good insurance.
Day 3 Friday 23 Oct Banaz to Uşak
There was quite a bit of rain last night – and, as forecast, quite a lot more today. The easiest option (apart from copping out completely and taking a dolmuş) would have been to take the main road to Uşak which is a flat-ish 18 miles and would have taken me under two hours. As I crossed that carriageway in heavy rain and speeding traffic it didn’t seem a good idea. My plan for a 30 mile detour would take me up into the mountains and along side the proper route. It would give me a perfectly good enough experience of the surrounding countyside without having to encounter any impassible tracks which I was sure there would be.
I climbed steadily and was soon in a beautiful forested alpine type environment. I reached the tiny hamlet of Kükürt which is one of those places where time seems to have stood still. I was just about to take a photo when two big dogs started barking and came after me despite the owner’s shouting. I tried to outrun them but the road was rising and so I dismounted and leaped into a fenced graveyard just as the dogs gave up. They’d done there job.
A teenage lad from the house came down and I gave him some animated suggestions on dog obedience (in my somewhat excited Turkish). Maybe it was what I said or the way I had said it which made him smirk so I felt much better when I’d expressed myself in English with some choice Anglo-Saxon and Yorkshire vernacular.
Anyway he was quite an affable lad and we chatted for a while and warned me that there was a lot of dogs on the road I was taking. Sheep dogs and wild ones too. Hmm …. I decided to retrace my path and take the main road – but then he changed his mind and said it would probably be ok! As his mother berated him for something I carried on with my original plan and made sure my CS gas was to hand.
The rain lightened a little but there was a lot of climbing and even with my light waterproof on I worked up a good sweat. After about 8 miles at place called Mıstıkdamı I turned north onto a tractor road and climbed higher up into the forests. After Burhaniye the way became a muddy puddled forest track used by loggers but it was all rideable with care.
It was raining steadily and there was low cloud and poor visibility but as I came to a small rise I saw a herd of sheep. There were four dogs and they didn’t attack me but barked a lot and blocked my path. I threw a stone at the nearest one and it backed off. I called for the shepherd and slowly he ambled up the hill in the mist and we chatted for a while. As I left he surprised me by asking me for a present and I hope I lightened his miserable day (he had no hat or waterproof jacket) with a bag of nuts and a 9-bar. I don’t suppose he’d had one of them before….
I started to descend now on steep broken tractor roads. I was drenched by this time, was still in my shorts and starting to feel quite chilled. At Ovacık (where the official route crossed mine), I stopped under a shelter to put some more gear on in an attempt to warm up a bit. I was beckoned inside a house and spent a good 30 minutes in front of a hot stove talking to an extended family being plied with tea and homemade cake.
There was a chap (about my age) stretched out on a bed who had broken the top of his femur in a motorbike accident who unabashedly showed me his scars in front of everyone. (They’re nothing like as neat as yours Bob!). I have never thought of Turkish society being in anyway matriarchal but his son Bariş (which means peace) was getting no peace from his wife, mother or sister-in-law who seemed to be giving him a piece of their minds over everything. He’d taken the day off work to supervise the installation of an electricity supply (for the fist time at the house) and the plastic fresh-water pipe had a leak which he’d futilely tried to fix with a plastic bag and wire. It all seemed to wash over the grandfather and great-grandfather.
Then he tried to set off in his car to run an errand but it wouldn’t start. As I offered to push him to the start of the hill it spluttered and popped into life
I had a couple more climbs and I keep reasonably warm but when the big descents came I started to chill again which forced me to moderate my speed in an attempt to conserve my core temperature.
Sheltering in a bus stop in Karacahisar I saw an amazing site. Some of the local dogs started barking as a flock of sheep came up the hill being followed by two large sheep dogs. No shepherd in sight. Where they’d come from or were going to I’d no idea but they almost ignored me as they sauntered by.
Soon I was back on the level and I enjoyed the opportunity to pedal hard and get some warmth into my frozen legs. It was raining hard by now and some of the streets were in flood but that meant nothing to me. I soon found a comfortable hotel and they even had the heating on in my room. Comfort at last!
I’d only cycled just over 30 miles but that took me over 4 hours! I had climbed at least 900 metres though and lost a lot of time on the descents. I was out for over 6 hours but I really don’t know what I was doing for that other two hours.
Cliff asked for more maps!
This red line is the second part of the official route – starting at Kütahya and ending at Simav. The black line is what I’ve done so far with the detours due to weather and accommodation needs.
Evliye Çelbi Way
This black line is today’s route:
Day 4 Uşak to Gediz
This was today’s route, directly north from Uşak over the hills to Gediz.
The forecast last night was for more rain today and whilst I was tempted to spend the day in the Uşak museums (and not suffer like I had yesterday) it didn’t seem too bad when I looked at the sky.
I felt guilt about bot looking around the city the night before but it was a foul night and I was happy to be in a warm hotel. After breakfast I set off for the railway station. I’ve never been a train spotter but they always fascinate me and there can often be some interesting architecture or industrial heritage to be seen. The one in Uşak was built during the late Ottoman period, has been used in some film sets and is well maintained.
It’s useful to know there is a bale-out or return option from here with trains going to Izmir.
I had a quick ride around the city centre too but soon found the gentle climb north out of the city.
The sun was shining by now and the road steepened and passed through the village of Sorkun where a cow herder warned me not to drink from the fountain.
It was fairly uneventful and very enjoyable day of riding. Despite the forecast I had the sun on my back much of the time or I was in cloud but I could see there was heavy rain the the north east of me. Apart from a lot of perspiration and just few spots of light rain I kept warm all day. There were two huge climbs (which amounted to around 1000 m) and two long descents.
Of course there were a few sheep dogs but a found a stick and even a wave of that or a badly aimed stone sent them off.
When I stopped for lunch at a place where the official route met mine, a couple of motor bikes and side cars came down the off-road track and stopped to talk. They were from The nearest village (Eski Güney) and had been picking wild apples (or scrumping maybe ….). The two young teenagers were chain smoking in front of their father which surprised me.
I missed a fork to the right that I’d planned to take but as it was off road I decided not to track back to use it. I surveyed other off road sections and they looked very muddy. Evidenced by the streams and gullies, there had been a lot rain recently. Even so, with Gediz almost in sight I decided to test an off road section that had a hard core base. After around 500 metres my tyres had clogged completely and my bike seemed to weigh another 20lbs. Any automotive engineer will tell you, additional rotating mass is the worst sort of additional mass to carry. I headed back to the main road and into my hotel …. I’ve never encountered mud like this – anywhere. It’s like the stickiest sort of clay you can imagine.
Whilst most of the riding had been on roads, these mountain roads are almist deserted and you only see a vehicle or two every hour. They often break up completely for long sections with the hard core exposed and are frequently covered in large swathes of mud and grit from rain storms – so having off road tyres is not a bad option.
Day 5 Sunday 25 October Gediz to Simav
Did you enjoy your lie in? I hadn’t expected one, then had one – only to find out that l shouldn’t have. I checked the clock change situation before I left home and was surprised to see it was going to be two weeks after ours. It seemed strange but I accepted it. Then this morning when my watch alarm sounded I checked my phone to seen the clock (which was on Istanbul time) had moved back an hour. Ok I thought, I’ll have that and went back to sleep. At breakfast I mentioned to the waitress that the clock in the dining room needed putting back an hour but she said it was correct. Her phone had changed too but it was wrong. She said it was due some political thing. Hmm.
So that gave me a late start but no matter – the sun was out, the wind had moved around and was now from the north east bringing the forecasted much cooler and drier weather.
I climbed up into the hills to the northwest of Gediz and passing through Tepepınar I picked up the official route at Yelki. Not before it had turned to a very steep loose gravel track that was just rideable downwards with care but forced me to push (for the first time) the very steep uphill section.
When I’d planned my route the night before, despite my unsuccessful off road recce that day, thought I’d give an off-road section a try. My logic was that it looked all down hill from Gürlek to Üçbaşı and even if I did have to push the 3 miles it would save me a 12 mile loop which would also lose all the descent I’d made.
In Gürlek I stopped to ask the way and more importantly the condition of of the track. One of the guys said it had dried out a bit and was passable – but I was thinking he probably uses a tractor. I asked further on and the wife a farmer (who was fixing the soil leveller on the back of his tractor) suddenly started shouting “Aşure? Aşure? (Ashur-eh). Yes please! I responded and with seconds she’d plonked a large bowl of Noah’s Pudding in front on me. (Noah’s story is in the Koran and this traditional pudding is made with leftover grain, dried fruit and nuts). I watched the guys successfully nail the new piece of wood on and thankfully held back from interfering as I enjoyed the pudding that’s perfect fuel for any cyclist.
I could see on the map that they’d sent me down a different track to the one I’d really wanted to take but I took it as I knew that they used it.
It was quite muddy and soon I was descending carefully and with some trepidation and really hoped I didn’t have back track. Then it leveled off but I could ride it even when then it rose slightly.
Soon it clouded over and the air temperature dropped suddenly as it often does when it’s about to rain. I plodded on carefully but had to dismount as I passed a couple of sheep dogs who kept a good distance. The track then improved a little and I soon reached Üçbaşı. I thought I’d been a bit lucky and vowed to stay on good surfaces for the rest of the day – at least.
I caused quite a stir in the village as three young lads approached. The smallest one on the right of the photo spoke some basic English phrases quite well. He was well savvy on technology too, recognised my type of phone and even asked if I was using a navigation system. Lots of other questions followed from two guys in a car and four lads digging a trench. When I said I was a foreigner one of them said he was too and Russian. Well he was adorned in full Adidas sports kit, had a thick gold chain on, bright red hair and the palest skin I’ve ever seen – so I’d no reason to disbelieve him.
I then set off for Şahane and stopped for a snack, just after the turning for Kayran, at the point where a rock-filled dam has just about been completed. This could block the official route if the damhead roadway is not left open to the general public although there is a potential diversion, around a mile further back, where a track takes a higher route to Şaphane.
In the town I had tea and chatted to the owner of the lokanta. Do you get many English tourist through here? Well he surprised me when he said there’d been a solo walker through last year that had a good map and was heading north – deeper into the mountains.
I was then forced to drop down onto the main road to do the final 17 miles to Simav. A pity because the fire roads in the forested hills looked to be cut into limestone which makes a brilliant trail surface. The helpful earlier northeasterly was now from the northwest and I battled on into a strong head wind for a few miles and could barely maintain 10 mph on the flat. Then a very long chilling descent ensued and by the time I reached Simav it was almost dark and around 10’C. I was glad of the warm hotel room.
Day 6 Monday 26 Simav to Çavarhisar
I’d arrived at the end of the official route and now needed to make my way over to Kütahya (where I ended my tour last year) to complete the section from there to the airport near Altıntaş (where I’d begun my trip this year). I’d originally planned to ride to Gediz via the main road then take the bus from there to Kütahya. But then I found out about the Roman ruins at Çavdarhisar and I thought I’d ride there, spend the night in a hotel and then ride on to Kütahya. My plan was stymied though when I found that the only hotel (and accommodation) in town was closed for the winter. Even so I could ride there and take the bus back to Gediz.
It had been quite cold night and the temperature was still in single figures when I set off from Simav. It was a bright sunny day although I was faced with strong headwinds almost all the way. I gave my chain a clean and lube (the shoe cleaning cloths they put in some hotel rooms are ideal for this!). My tyre pressures were good but I jacked them up as hard as I dared brcause I knew I’d be on tarmac all day. About 6 miles into the ride, as I stomped up the big climb, I felt the back tyre squirm around under the load. A slow puncture. I’d put “slime” in my tyres which is brilliant at sealing thorn holes (it had plugged two on last year’s ride that I never even noticed until I checked them at home). I could just see the tell tale sign of the sealant seeping out so I pumped it up hard again and it stayed up. Lucky!
The ride back to Gediz wasn’t easy in places as there was a big climb and those dammed head winds. I had a brief stop at Ilıca to see the thermal springs and arrived in Gediz in about half the time it had taken me the day before – when I’d used the mountain roads. A check at the bus station confirmed they’d let me put the bike on the bus and after refuelling on lentil soup, rice, beans and yoghurt I was off again.
I must pay more attention to the contours when I plan my routes. There was a long steady gruelling climb up onto the plateau, into the head wind and the 18 miles took me well over two and a half hours. So that meant I’d put 60 in that day and another good 1000 m of climbing. But when I saw the sights at Çavarhıdar I felt all that effort had been worth it. What a find! A Roman temple (to Zeus), huge theatre, stadium bathhouse, collonade and exchange market. Plus some old Ottoman style houses.
I spent a good hour exploring the ruins and the old town then headed for the bus station. Within 20 minutes or so the Gediz bus arrived and as I walked over with my bike the driver looked at me as if I was leading an alligator. Olmaz! He said. Why is it impossible I asked? Too big he replied – and set off. I went around to the “closed hotel” which only confirmed what I really knew anyway. I had my survival kit but it would be a really cold night outside up here at about 1,000 metres above sea level. Back to the bus office. Are there any taxis? Yok was the negative response. Then the clerk said that the next bus (an hour later) would be a much bigger one and I’d be able to get my bike in that one. Then he brought me a coffee. Things didn’t seem quite so bad now ….
Day 7 Tuesday 27 Çavdarhisar to Kütahya
Well of course the bus did come to take me and my bike back to Gediz. Turkey has got an excellent, cheap inter city and town bus service. And it was only £1.50 for the 30 km – so I suppose there’s no wonder everyone is bemused that someone would even think about cycling it.
Yesterday and today had both been one of those long slogs on main highways that I imagine long distance cyclists and round the world record record breakers have to endure day-in day-out for several weeks. It’s not my sort of cycling at all. The highways weren’t too busy (until I got to the outskirts of Kütahya today) and there was always a wide hard-shoulder for me to ride on and avoid the main carriage way. The dog-stick on my rear pack now became a sort of width-gauge to help to keep the cars and lorries away from me.
When the bus dropped me off in Çavarhisar this morning, I just had to have another look around Aizanoi. There are actually two Roman bridges which are still in use but both currently under repair. That’s incredible when you think that this is an earthquake region and shows they had some good engineers and craftsmen. As well as the Roman ruins there are lots of old farm houses and buildings, quite a few are derelict but many are still in use.
I could happily spend a full day just wondering around this place. I also found an exhibition house where an old lady showed me around a small room full of old artefacts.I asked her how much it was to enter and she looked me up and down then said “Peş lira” (five lira), probably thinking that’s all this scruffy tourist can afford. “Beş lira mi?” (Five lira is it?) I responded thinking she wouldn’t know how to take the Yorkshire war cry of “Ow much!” but actually I was just checking her pronunciation – as she’d started the word for five (beş) with a ‘p’ So, as well as having to try to understand spoken Turkish I was also having to cope with local accents. Another time I’d asked for “Kuru yemiş” (a fruit and nut mix) and the shop keeper’s response came back as “Guru yemiş”. In the towns and cities I’ve hear fed some very clearly enunciated Istanbul Turkish but is the countyside there’s some very challenging accents. Anyway, as helpful as she was, she could only describe the use of everything and didn’t appear to know the age or origin of anything. She said the metallic objects were copper but they didn’t seem to have a type of copper patina to me.
I thought today was going to be an easy-ish 30 miles but I had strong headwinds all the way and a couple of big climbs where I crawled along at 4 mph. Even on the steep downhill sections I had to pedal to keep moving. And that 30 miles became almost 40.
Due to the road position and topography I couldn’t get a decent photo that properly showed the full ascent or countryside and high rolling plains. It’s quite featureless with a few sparse deciduous trees, distant hazy mountains and ploughed-up rich-looking soils.
A more interesting dog incident happened today as I was rolling off the high plains towards Kütahya. In the valley down to my right, something startled some sheep (on the road above them – maybe me) and two sheep dogs heard the ringing of the sheeps’ bells. Without a command, the dogs ran over to the sheep and at the same time corralled them up together and stood barking at the “danger side”. The shepherd never stirred and another bigger dog stayed by his side the whole time. Presumably he’d only be needed if that daft “German” came down the hillside and needed scaring off …
When I stopped for breaks it was quite comfortable in the sun but on the bike the northeasterlies were really chilling. Kütahya and a hot bath couldn’t come soon enough.
Day 8 Wed 28th Kütahya to Altıntaş
I don’t think I’m going to be able to complete this day’s blog tonight but I did finish the ride today in Altıntaş, where I started from last Wednesday. It turned out to be quite a bit more of adventurous route than I thought it would be but I think it was my favourite day in terms of the landscape, scenery and biking – even if there were a couple anxious moments. Unfortunately my photos don’t do it anything like enough justice.
In the morning, I did a bit more sight seeking in Kütahya and really enjoyed the geology museum (yeah!). This is in a former Hammam (bath house) which, if my Turkish translation is correct, is one that Evliya Çelebi counted when he passed through in 1671 or 2.
Around midday I set off up the steep hill at the back of the city centre. I struggled to find the main road and found myself zig-zagging through houses and flats and even pushing up some long steep steps to avoid dropping back down and losing some hard earned altitude. Once on the right road I had a long steady climb of over three miles to around the 1550 metre level. It had only been about 9 degrees in the city but up on the hill top I reckoned it was about 4 degrees.
Having worked up a good sweat then I started descending. And I was in shorts. I soon had to stop and put a second jacket on and my windproof over-trousers. Plus a warm skull cap and my winter gloves. This is a beautiful wooded mountainside and I only met shepherd up there and was passed by a couple of cars with bemused drivers.
I was still descending and finding it hard to stay warm. When I got to Aloğlu I decided not to take the shorter downhill 3 mile off-road option as I didn’t want to be in the middle of nowhere and risk a puncture or breakdown with hands too cold to fix it. So I decided to take the longer 5 mile up-and-down route on what I thought would be a road. It turned out to be a tractor road though it was the main road i. I great ride ensued through the sparsely wooded valley.
Further on I stopped to take some photos in Sağırlar then I suddenly came across this:
The road had been completely washed away in a landslide. They were building bridge but I didn’t have time to wait for that. “No! Go back” shouted one of the workmen. But “I’ve an aeroplane to catch!” I replied. “I don’t believe this” he responded.
That photograph just does not show how wide and steep sided the gulley was, how loose the soil was and how wet and muddy the bottom of it was. At first it looked impossible to cross with my bike. I could scramble around the rocks to the side but would not be able to carry my bike over them too. It looked like I’d have to go straight across it which would means wading shin deep in water and loose mud. My feet were already frozen but I didn’t fancy that misery too. I could have gone back the way I came but it had taken me two hours riding to cover the 12 miles plus another 30 or 40 minutes faffing about (taking photos, eating, putting clothes on and route checking). Returning would mean taking the bus and missing out on completing an important section of the route. I started the climb down through the loose soil and one of the workers shouted “Dur!” I stopped as demanded and he offeredto help me. He was wearing Wellington boots and said he’d carry my bike through the mud and I could scramble over the rocks the dry way. I was so grateful for this but he seemed perplexed by my gratitude.
I sped on and was soon crossing the main road I’d come down the day before. The sun appeared briefly whilst I had a quick snack but not for long enough to warm me up. The picturesque steep rock sided valley through to Koçak was completely deserted and peaceful.
It was a marvellous place to ride through. Again my photographs don’t do it justice. More climbing now into the village which I slipped through silently and seemingly unnoticed apart from a toothless wizened old women who, on seeing me, just deepened her natural gurn. The road to Yenice turned to a track and I carried in climbing slowly to the village. Here I met a bemused farmer who I spoke to briefly.
I then found the road down to the main highway and on reaching that I realised that my schedule was blown and, if I wanted to make my final destination by night fall the only chance I had was to hammer it down the main highway. On here I had a little wind assistance and in many places could spin along in top gear at around 20 mph – which was a pleasant change on this trip.
I made Altıntaş with about 30 minutes of twilight left. On arrival at İbrahim’s workshop (he repaired milking machines as well as running a taxi service) I was greeted by a group of kids who battered me continuously with questions about my trip.
I sat in the workshop, had tea and aşure whilst I thawed out a bit and discussed my journey with İbrahim’s father who was very interested and familiar with most of the places I’d been too. Then I set too and stripped the luggage and kit off my bike and boxed it up. One of the kids (Polat) hung around and watched my every move. He continued questioning me about my bike and what it’s like in England. He had a bike and I hope I managed to inspire him to explore his amazing country.
Then İbrahim took me to my hotel where I had to endure a barely luke warm shower but ate very tastey meze and a huge kebab. Here I slept poorly. There was a very noisy meyhane nearby and I could hear very loud drunken voices and arguing into the small hours. Then eventually fast asleep at about 3am there was a loud knock on my bedroom door. Someone shouted something about the police and my passport. Better get up then. The owner’s son was asking for my passport as he needed to my number on the police IT registration system. My idleness had backfired on me. Away from the airport, whenever I’d been asked for my ID card, I’d invariable offered my driving licence which was always to hand in my wallet and not buried in a waterproof bag as my passport was. Nobody has assumed it wasn’t an ID card (which are compulsory in Turkey). Anyway Oğuzhan brought me tea when he returned my passport. I guess it was far more convenient for him to get it at his going-to-bed time rather than at my departure time.
When İbrahim nonchalantly collected me at 7:20 am (for an 8 am departing flight) it was -1’C and I was very happy not to have to set-off riding in that temperature.
So that was the end of this little adventure. I’ll post a reflections page later.
ECW Part 2 Reflections
Well, I’m pleased to be able to say that I did it – and a got a few more miles than planned. After my fall and subsequent enforced abandonment of our walk of the Lycian Way, last year, I really hoped I was going to get through this trip without such disappointment and frustration. I loved every minute of it – even the tough parts.
It’s an epic route and continued the marvellous journey that I started last year through varying vistas and largely unspoilt villages, spectacular landscapes and in parts quite remote wildernesses. There’s a bit of quarrying in places which I didn’t find half as offensive as the fly tipping that’s a bit too prevalent in some mainly semi-urban areas. I visit numerous large capital projects in Turkey and like most countries, the owners and contractors hire environmental specialists to ensure that the tight laws and regulations are followed properly – which they generally are. This is in sharp contrast to the general populace who just seem to tip where they wish. It’s a big country and it wasn’t so bad as to spoil my trip it but it’s something that local pressure groups should be lobbying government about if they want to a better place to live and to encourage tourism away from the current centres.
I didn’t see a lot of wild life. A couple of red squirrels, a few distant raptors, an un identified hawk. I had hope to see deer or wild boars though the nearest I’ve ever managed was to hear these on other walking trips. Wild boars are quite prevalent in this area, according to those I asked, and are hunted to reduce crop damage – though I suspect it’s more for sport. I did hear distant shot guns on some occasions. I was looking at the outdoor gear in the window of a hunting shop in Gediz and the owner came out and invited me in for tea. Whilst we talked a guy came in to look at a used shot gun. I don’t know which mountain he’d came down from but he was wearing a jacket and three other layers. I was just in a t-shirt. Anyway, as the shop owner tried to cut a deal with him I noticed that he held hands with him over the counter for several minutes. It seemed 200 lira was more than he could afford. Then a well dressed came in with a high powered hunting rifle for repair and the owner’s attention soon switched to him. What disturbed me a little was the way the guns were handled. I’ve had no proper weapons training and only fired shotguns and air rifles on ranges but I know you never point a gun at anyone – even accidentally and if it’s unloaded. Here the guns were passed around with gay abandon – and I felt uncomfortable about it. It just underlined the different attitudes to risks that are so evident on the roads, in the workplace and all walks of life.
I knew before I set off that the weather was going to be a key factor. Four wet days were forecast followed by cooler weather. But this was my only available slot and so I decided to risk it. So to get well-drenched only on one day was quite lucky. The last day was really quite cold but tolerable if I kept moving.
The wet weather forced me to do less off road riding than I’d hoped but it didn’t spoil it as away from the main roads, the village access roads are so quiet and often take you through similar landscapes to the tractor roads. I’d often ride for an hour and maybe only see one or two vehicles.
On this second part there was generally more accommodation available and the distances between the main centres were shorter (than last year) which enabled me to have slightly shorter riding days which reduced my fatigue (somewhat).
I’ll post a table later which will show more of the ride data and accommodation details. I think I covered about 340 miles and 6,500 metres
of ascent. Not a lot by many touring standards but some was off road and whilst I enjoy the physical challenge I didn’t want it to totally dominate my schedule.
The “hotels” in Altıntaş and Sinanpaşa were no more than basic workers hostels that were a bit rough but appeared to have clean linen – though no food service. The Zafer Hotel in Altıntaş (where I stayed on my return) was much better and had good food even – if the hot water was having a day off.
The other places were all those typical no-frills three star Turkish hotels that were a bit spartan but clean (apart form some of the carpets). Most of the rooms had been smoked in. The great find was the apartment in Banaz which was a bit of luxury. All the proper hotels were about 80 lira (under £20) and so great value. They were all happy to store my bike inside and I never used my bike lock once. They laughed at me if I suggested using it.
Everywhere had free wifi in the hotel and bedrooms which is something a lot of the big international five star hotels don’t offer (and is quite ridiculous).
I probably should have put more effort into arranging my transfers and hotel accommodation. Everything worked out fine but this region is not really used to foreign tourists.
Any regrets? Well, I guess I should have visited Afyonkarahisar but I didn’t go there to ride through cities unless I really had too. This was underscored in Kütahya where three times I passed stationary vehicles to have them pull out on me as the drivers hadn’t looked. I also knocked over a precariously balanced moped when I had to move over quickly to avoid being reversed into by a car. I apologised about it, he was cool and offered his hand. I think it could have been my dog stick that did it -woops! Talking of which, I think I’ll do a post on this topic, but for now, in no way should the dogs put you off walking or riding in Turkey.
I wished I’d taken more photos too especially of people but this can be difficult. I asked the old lady at the exibition house if I could takes hers and he said no as she was superstitious about it.
The return from Simav to Kütahya was a slog against that wind on those main roads. After Şuphane I probably should have turned back to Gediz and saved half a day. I didn’t think Sinm
av had much going for it. Then taking the bus back to Kütahya (as originally planned) would have given me even more time at Aizanoi and Kütahya.
The reason I did the extra return miles though, in part, was to make the ride into a complete circular route which is particularly satisfying.
What next? Well Caroline (Finkel – who mainly put the route together) is planning an extension to Izmir which looks interesting. Also there are numerous other trails on the Cultural Routes website. Far too many too choose from in fact …