Thursday 22 June 2017
Here we go again (Ha! What’s this “we” business! (It’s use is a psychological trick to engage readers apparently. I think I’ll need to do more than that though). At quite short notice I have decided to cycle along some parts of the Phrygian Way in Turkey. (Will I ever grow up? What will I be when I do?)
For those of you who are not familiar with it, here is a link to a document that gives a good overview of the region.
I pasted the photo in above to help the lazy beggar who didn’t click on the link (you know who you are Adrian). Today I’m flying from Manchester via Istanbul to Kütahya – which is on that map if you bothered looking. I guess a proper cyclist would ride at least the Turkish leg but as I don’t fall into that category and as I have ridden (or more like grovelled along in the gutter of) some main highways in Turkey, then that option wasn’t even considered.
My route is not overly ambitious in terms of mileage but it’s in a very hilly area and so there will be a lot of climbing. And really I don’t really like climbing anymore really. Really. There’s a lot to see too and it would be a crime just to ride past everything. Excuses for stopping to drink tea, take bad photographs and amuse the locals with my comical Turkish abound. The weather this time of year should have be excellent for touring as it’s up on a high central plateau but the forecast for the region not good. It’s going to be very sunny and hot. Too hot. Well over 30’C hot. That’s proper hot for a fair-skinned follically deficient ageing Yorkshireman.
There’s now a decent hotel in Altıntaş (very near to Kütahya airport) which I will use when I arrive and depart but the rest of the time I’ll be staying in basic guest house and dormitory type accommodation in the villages That’s all there is – though I’ve not been able to make reservations at some of these. I hope there are free rooms. I really don’t want to have to make use of the emergency bivouac I brought a long. Really.
For the first few days, there’s also quite a good bail-out option not too far away in Gazlıgöl, which is a spa resort Aftonkarahisar, and so if it all gets a bit too much I can always coast down there and relax for a day or two.
I’ve spent a bit of time reading the excellent guide book, written by Hüseyin Sarı (Phrygian Way – Turkey, Official Guide Book https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/6058677831/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_c_api_tl-szbK1AP9NP ) which seems to be the area’s definitive walking and biking resource. Hüseyin has actually helped me with some of the organisation and provided me with some useful information and telephone numbers.
Some of the tracks aren’t suited to loaded mountain bike touring and so path selections will be critical. I don’t want to spend all my time on the roads (even though they are backroads and should be relatively traffic free) but I don’t want to be pushing a 30lb bike and nearly as much gear up unridable tracks either.
Friday 23 June
I’ve had a great day but lack of time and decent internet connection means I’ll have to try and post something on Saturday.
Friday 23 June part 2
A later start than hoped due to building my bike up, seemingly at times like a man with no arms, saw me leaving Altıntaş around 10am. They actually let me take my bike box up to my room (well I think that’s what the night porter said 😉 ) so it meant that dropped screws and stuff were easy to find. I certainly had a much better breakfast than the bread and tea I’d had last time I stayed in this scruffy little town.
I enjoyed a very pleasant 25 mile ride (flat then gently climbing) mainly off road along side the fields as I made my way up to Döğer which is one of the access villages to the Frig Vadisi. An uneventful morning with only a goose showing his mates who was the cock as I crept past his flock. I even got welcomed by a very animated braying donkey in one village and I wondered at one time if was actually going to attempt to get amorous with me as he appeared that excited.
Unfortunately all of the lokantas in Döğer were closed (for Ramzan as it’s know here) apart from one and the only thing on the menu was çiğköfte and a thin ayran (yoghurt drink). I’ll explain to Angela exactly what I ate when I get back …. I was offered ice cream too which was impossible to decline.
I’d planned to spend a couple of hours out of the sun as it was now about 30’C with hardly any cloud cover. Getting a bout of sunstroke would mess up my ride plan. All the kahves were closed and/or not serving drinks so I rested outside the restored Ottoman caravanserai (inn) under a wooden picnic type shelter. A couple of the old guys directed me the the muhtar’s office to get the key for a look inside but others told me he’d gone to Kütahya for medical treatment and so the office was closed. No deputy then?
Riding out of town three young lads challenged me to a race but clearly they hadn’t heard about my retirement from any sort of competitive cycling (well, one or two sportive a year is competitive). Asking them if they spoke English one of them replied muzzerfugger and fukyu and then his mate asked me what it meant. They were suitable embarrassed when I told them and chastised them. I guess they’d been listening to too much hip hop …
Soon I was heading down one of the official off road routes and came across some stunning natural rock formation and Phrygian carvings right next the the track. I’ll let my photos do the discriptive duties when I can up load them. I then toured around Emre Gölü, which is a man made lake near the lodge of Yunus Emre, who was an important Ottoman that really should find out a bit more about …
I had then just an easy couple of miles down a rough track (off the official) route to my accommodation in Üçlerkayası. That went a little pear shaped when the track petered out into a sand pit and I was forced to push for a while and even more so when a new dam crossed the path which I had to manoeuvre around.
This is what I love about GAIA (the GPS App). It gets me out of trouble but I do find it can often allow me to get myself into trouble too. Oh look, there’s a track there I can use let’s give it a try. Cue, much pushing and shoving and cursing.
I’d done a really good job of keeping my blood sugar and energy levels up in the morning but I’d forgotten to snack in the afternoon so when I got to Tanju’s house I was ready and hoping for a rest and a snack. However he took me straight out for an hour’s walking amongst all the stone carving in the town. I hadn’t realised it when Hüseyin (the guide book’s author) had made the introduction that Tanju is actually a guide for the area. He’s got impressive knowledge and there seems to be a long historical oral tradition how the stone carving were used. My limited Turkish got worse and worse the further we walked as completely fascinating as it was I was relieved to get back to his house and get cleaned up. Later his parents in law came around and we ate a huge buffet as soon as the sun had set. Most of it was home made from their garden crops. Tanju’s family were fasting hence the wait. With everyone well fed, he then very kindly made a few phone calls and fixed up my room for the following night. The pansiyon in Alanyurt was full but someone else had a room in their house.
Interestingly, I ate in one room with Tanju and his father in law and Tanju’s wife, mother and daughter at in the kitchen. I asked him and he said that was the usual arrangement.
They put me up on their sofa bed which was as comfortable as any hotel bed as I’ve ever slept in.
Saturday 24 June
Another great day but it looks like my blogs are going to be at least a day late . Zzzz… zzz..zz
Saturday 24 June part 2
Tanju rode with me for the first couple of miles today and showd me a few more local sites. We actually turned off the track the opposite way to where I was supposed to be going and I did get a bit anxious with him about my schedule but the detour was worth it as he took me to Küçük kapıkaya (small door-rock) and pointed out some detail on Alsankaya (Lion Rock) which I’d overlooked the day before.
His gears kept slipping when the going got hard and I said that he ought to put a new chain on his bike. He said a new bike would be a better idea to which I just had to agree.
I then had a fairly steady ride and uneventful journey until I went off road when I entered Köhnuş Vadi where I dropped a basket full of navigational clangers. I missed a left turn intentionally as I wanted to follow the off road route and the end of the flat valley. Should be easy I though. This (to my embarrassment) made me miss two of the main carvings in the valley, the Lion Stone and the Snake Stone. I did get to see Maltaş though.
Maltaş (Hüseyin help! Not sure of the exact translation here, could be Material/Goods/ Cattle Stone)
I think I must have been distracted by the tented camp of some itinerant worker as my dog paranoi hasn’t left me yet. I did speak to one of them but I forget what they were collecting!
The track then seem to get blocked by some spoil heaps and I then turned down a bank to find this blocking my way.
The track seemed to be on the other side of the water. Whether it was the sun affecting my internal compass or the magnets in my gloves (really!) affecting my GPS I don’t know but I decided to turn left. I spend about 40 minutes pushing my bike through scrub and dragging it over large rock and up steep ramps. I’m glad it was dry though. I even left the bike at one point for a recce and had trouble finding it. (This has happened to me before!) I almost made a full circumnavigation of the excavation to find that had I turned right initially then it would have brought me to where I ended up in about three minutes. Glad my riding pals weren’t with me …
The track petered out and I was forced to push it through long grass for about a kilometre until I reached a broad track that was perpendicular to my route. This would soon have me on a main highway. Well it would had I turned left instead of right.
When I look at my recorded tracks for that day I actually made four wrong turns like that. And I’m finding it hard to explain why.
This was soon forgotten though when, after crossing the main Eskişehir to Afyon highway I entered the amazing little village of Ayazini which is littered with Phrygian, Byzantine and Roman dwellings, carvings, churches and tombs.
It was a bit too hot to do a lot of exploring as I’d got quite a few more miles to do and didn’t want to get sunburnt or sunstroke. I elected to spend a couple of hours at the Şefika Teyze’nin Yeri (Aunt Shefika’s place) but her cafe was closed for Ramazan. I sat down in the shade opposite and made a plan which involved trying to have a snooze amongst the sound of tractors, cow bells, kids letting off fire works and noisily talking villagers. I gave up when the Dolmuş arrived (unfortunately it was only going back to Afyon otherwise I could’ve been seriously tempted). I did my good deed for the day by helping to push it off.
I chatted to an old boy for about 20 minutes and he told me about 50% of the village were fasting. One of the unusual things for me to see in the villages on this trip are the twenty-something girls returning from the cities for the holiday in all their finery. It seems that almost all the girls that live in the villages permanently wear a head scarf and patterned trousers. A lot of those coming back from cities to the villages were in full make up, hair recently done, dressed up to the nines in heels and very smart clothes which all seemed incongruous to me … I guess they want to appear modern and sofisticated to their friends and family.
I sent off up a steep hill to see Avdalaz Castle catching glimpses of some of the Peribacaları (Fairy Chimneys) but I could tell I wasn’t on top form and once I’d seen it took a very poor photo (the sun was on the wrong side, ok?) and went back to follow my route. Apologies to the Tourism Gods and League of Cycling Tourists.
Anyway, I needed that saved energy as though it was after 4pm it was still over 30’C and I had a lot of climbing to do. I did about 850 metres all told and most if it was that afternoon in that heat. I boiled up, drenched the road in my sweat and was followed by swarms of flies, keen to get a taste of my dermic excretions.
Then I had my first quite scary dog encounter. This savage and vicious little monster ran out from a wheatfiled and chased after me. I stopped to gas it and whip it (only joking dog lovers!) and take a photo but it wanted to get too close and it was clearly covered in fleas by the way it was a scratching itself. So I was a bit scared of touching it really. 🙂
So didn’t get to Alanyurt until about 7pm. The muhtar has ignored my request for a room (or maybe I had the wrong number) but Tanju had fixed me up with a guest room owned by the local cafe owner (Cuma Ablak – lit. Friday Chubby Face). His son, Hüseyin, gave me tea and even though the sun hadn’t set brought me some cheesy bread and tomatoes. When Cuma arrived he delivered another plate of food for me. Amazing!
Akbulak’ları: Hüseyin, Cuma and Kemal
The room was quite basic (outside loo and no shower) but comfortable and I slept well until a massive cramp attack in my left hamstring saw me wriggle out of my sleeping bag liner for a stagger and hop around the room. My family and regular traveling companions know exactly what this looks and sounds like …
Anyway, you may have guessed – I’ve got decent wifi tonight. 🙂
Sunday 25 June
Each day has just got better and better! I was given a great Turkish village breakfast by Cuma and waved off about 8:30. I made a slow steady climb up a broad limestone track into the forest of Şaphanedağ. The last night’s tales of deer, wolves and wild boars ran through my mind ( … but you never see any, I was assured). Fortunately I only came across a cattle herder and a smiley-faced hunter in a van with a shotgun next to the handbrake. I asked, but he wouldn’t lend the gun to me. I made an observation to them that I was in a t-shirt yet they both had a t-shirt, a sweater and a jacket on. Well, said the hunter, you’re riding a bike but I”ve just got out of bed. I wasn’t sure whether he meant he’d slep in his clothes or not.
The pass around the northern flank of Şaphanedağ levels off at about 1570 metres and it felt lovely and cool under the trees even though I’d had a bit of serious toil for the last 3 miles. The road down to Han was almost all down-hill and forced me to give up all that work. It passed down a very picturesque valley at the side of Köserelik tepe which I failed to capture in a representative photograph.
Valley to west of Köserelik tepe
I was soon in Han and in the course of a couple of hours got to love this little town. I first followed the sign for Yeraltı Şehir (underground city). Underground, – yes, city – not that big really, but it was still an impressive bit of early urban engineering. I wondered how they had kept the rain out though.
It had started to heat up and I found a comfortable little lokanta to get out the worst of the sun for a couple of hours and relax and hopefully get some lunch. I was plied with tea and soft drinks immediately which they refused to take money for as they were ikram (a treat for bayram). Whilst I was sorting through my maps and plans three young boys came up to the counter near to where I was sitting to order drinks. I thought at first they were with other guests but later found out they were from the town. They started bombarding me with questions about my bike and what I was doing. “Abi, abi nereye gldeceksin?” After they’d quizzed me, the eldest one asked me if I wanted to him to show me the secret statue and stone carvings. I hadn’t read about these but of course I said I could only do that with his families permission. This was all in earshot of the head waiter who came over and said it would be ok. I went through the stranger-danger conversation which they all seemed to understand but the waiter said it would be just fine.
Unfortunately there’s was not going to be no food for an hour or more and so I left to find another lokanta.
The lads followed me out and then led me on a tour of the village whilst riding their cronky old bikes , showing me the hidden statue and other artefacts and relics. Everybody was out in the streets and it was the holiday and the town was full of visiting relatives. It was quite funny as people were shouting out to them and asking about me not knowing I could understand quite a bit of what they were saying. “Where’s he from? Is he German? Why is he in a bike? Where’s he going” I oft heared.
The eldest one (Arda, I think he is called, who is eleven) actually seemed to know quite a bit and pointed out a lot of the features of the carvings. I was quite impressed. We then returned to the market square where I had tea with his father who then cooked me a beef sandwich in his adjacent shop. The lads had done such a great job that I wanted to give them some money but they refused and it was only on the third offer that they reluctantly accepted. I told Arda and his dad that I though one day he’d be an excellent tour guide. I’m sure he will.
I’d never dream of doing such a thing in the UK. You’d probably get arrested! Of course, that’s a great shame really as it’s an innocence lost on us.
After most of the heat had subsided I set if for Yazılıkaya (Rock with Writing). I did take a peek at one of the off road section, to cut a corner off, but it started uphill across a very grassy hill and looked very hard work so I took the easier road option.
In Yazılıkaya I encountered my first security event when I was waved through a check point by what appeared to be a 14 year old boy in an Army uniform carrying an automatic rifle. Clearly I did seem a threat.
Midas is a Phrygian settlement site and cult centre of great antiquity, consisting of a raised tufa platform surrounded by cliffs, on the south side of the Yazılıkaya valley. It is thought to have been a place of religious pilgrimage and cult centre for all of Phrygia, and was linked to Gordion, a great Phrygian settlement, by a road which later became the Persian Royal Road. Many monuments are found here but the greatest is the Midas monument, which is 17m hight and 16.5 m wide. Currently it is undergoing extensive conservation work to protect it from possible falling rocks and erosion damage. In this carved rock face is a niche with it thought to have contacined a statue of Kybele, the mother goddess. It has various inscriptions in the Phrygian language, which is not yet fully deciphered, but it is believed that the Phrygian name was ‘Midai’.
Yazılıkaya was simply stunning. I had a good wonder around the main part but it was so hot that I went to a small cafe and had a few drinks. I chatted to a friendly lady from Antalya, and then her husband and another couple joined us. One of the chaps was very talkative but the other was a bit of a political grounch and commented that England was higher up the pyramid of countries than Turkey. Whats was I supposed to say?
There’s such a lot to see in this area and I soon began to regret my decision to only stay for one night. This was magnified ten fold when I arrived at Midas Han which is a small boutique hotel in Çukurca. What a find! There’d been some confusion about my booking but luckily I’d sent a confirmation email that they received. I soon had done my daily laundry (an essential task when you’ve only got one set of biking clothing), got showered and later was given a lovely meal. I then had quite a long and interesting chat with Reiner (one of the owners) who is a Professor of Archaeology at Uşak University and is managing a Hittite dig on the Black Sea where they accept voulunteer dig assistants (for a small donation and with all found). I hope you are reading this Bob beceause I put our names down for 2018. Dates to follow! 🙂
Whilst my other nights had been comfortable this experience was something else. The view from my room and the main building looks out over Gerdekkaya (Bridal Chamber Rock).
Gerdekkaya. This magnificent rock-cut grave is high in a block of rock above the track and is reached by a metal staircase. The Doric pillars in front have been restored and behind the porch are two doors leading into separate grave chambers with niches and benches for the deceased. It was constructed in Hellenistic times (1-3rd CBC) and altered later in Roman and Byzantine periods. (Source: Phrygian Way App).
Monday 26 June
Apologies! I’m switching between English and Turkish keyboards and it’s throwing up some howlers when auto correcting. Byram just came out as Bryan.
I was given a splendid breakfast at Midas Han which included all the usual Turkish stuff and several home made products, such as a cornbread and a marmalade, though I’m not sure if either of these are original Turkish dishes.
I sent off on an off-road section that took me right past Gerdekkaya. It was a broken and rutted farm track that rose gently into a forest area. Easily rideable normally but with my heavy bike and heav-feeling legs I did get off and push in a few places. I was then treated to a wonderful semi-technical descent through open country side and later on farm land all the way down to Kumbet.
As I approached a very small settlement I saw a large spike-collared Kangol sheep dog. Not a good combination, I thought. I dismounted and stood perfectly still. Eventually he saw me but seemed as weary of me as I was if him and he trotted past me keeping a good distance though occasionally throwing me an inquisitive glance before stopping in the shade of a small tree. Setting off I found the settlement was abandoned hence the dogs lack of territorial defence, I assumed.
I used a little of the Eskişehir – Afyonkarahisar highway to calll in at Kırka as wanted a little more cash for my contingency fund (Midas Han does not take credit cards). I asked a young guy who was drinking tea and he insisted on leading me there and supervising my withdrawal. Not something anyone would normally be comfortable with but it was clear he was just helping out. Returning he gave me tea and we talked about the the open cast borax mine where he had his friend work. It’s a huge blot on the landscape I’m afraid and can be seen from miles away. I only hope it will be planted over once they’ve finished.
The climbout of Kırka to Salihler was another gruelling sweaty climb and I had to resort to frequent hydration and perspiration rinsing-off stops. But from here I was on very quiet back road with the odd car or two passing every 10 minutes or 15 minutes. A beautiful agricultural to ride through.
I just got hotter and hotter. In places the tar actually melted and filled the groves on my tyres with it which turned them into slicks. The off road sections here were unsuitable so I had to use the village roads but they were quite enjoyable.
I then climbed up a limestone track through a stunning forest landscape.
Eventually I arrived at Lütfiye. I’d originally tried to find a room here by text but the muhtar probably hadn’t received it or (very very doubtfully) hadn’t answered. I looked around (just out of interest) for where the room could be including the buildings near the mosque. There was no one around to ask. There was a lovely well kept two-roomed externally-tiled building nearby with a sign containing a word that I didn’t recognise. Looking up gasilhane I found it described the place where corpses are washed before burial. Hmm … I guess the marble slabs would be a bit hard.
I set off on my way and as I rounded the corner saw three young men walking with large backpacks and clearly doing Frig Yolu (the Phrygian Way). Arif, Caher and Çağlar had set off from Yenice Çiftliği and were heading for Yazılıkaya (I think they said). I found they were camping and had huge packs but were covering 20 to 25 km per day.
Soon it seemed most of the street were out to talk to us and immediately we were offered baklava. I was very surprised to see a young lady from Cameroon amongst the locals who’d recently married a chap from the village. Her Turkish seemed very good to me though she was fluent in French and had basic English too.
I don’t know why I was surprised to see her though because I travel quite a bit with my work and I often bump into working Turks in far away places such Ethiopia, Chile and even Oldbury once.
Arif was the best English speaker which delivered in a very obvious German accent. He’d cycled all the way from Germany towing a buggy with his dog in it, before starting the walk. He asked we whether I’d cycled from the UK. I gave my age as an excuse for not doing so …
I then enjoyed a short decent through the forest to the tiny village Yumalı. I found the Muhtar’s house and he told me to go in the room next to the mosque and let myself in. It would have been rude to ask for food soo was preparing myself for a bread and cheese supper. However, his nephew Ahmet met me at the room and introduced himself. After making a large pot of tea, he then left me to get cleaned up.
Guest house in Yumaklı
I’m not sure what made me look out of the window just at that time. May be I heard their tyres. Peering out I saw two touring cyclists just passing by. I should selam and after a few pleasantries invited them in forct a. That seemed a bit cheeky of me really but when Ahmet returned with a huge tray of food for me he said it was fine. Kübra is a research assistant doing a PhD in tourism and Mumtaz is an aircraft maintenance technician. They both live in Eskişehir. They were riding hybrid bikes set up as tourers with rear panniers and full camping gear. They were riding mainly on the village road and not venturing off road unless really necessary. I though my ride was heavy but they were 5 to 10 kilos up I’m sure. We had a great chat about our experiences in a mixture of English and Turkish.
After they’d gone some of the younger lads who’d come to the village for Bayram came around and quizzed me. One of them was an 18 year old semi-pro footballer for a team in Kütahya. He seemed to steer every conversation onto his carnal thoughts and wanted to find an English girlfriend for “crazy sex”. He spoke no English and he could not even moderate his very fast colloquial Turkish so I could more easily understand him. He was still a virgin and so wished him good luck with that. We talked about having children out of marriage and they seemed to know it was normal in the UK but said around they’re you’d get yourself shot for that.
Tuesday 27 June
I’ve had better nights sleep. The benches were hard (yes I should’ve doubled up on the mattressess) and there were a few flies buzzing around as soon as daylight broke. Ahmed had left me some bread so I was on iron rations of tea and toast made on the gas burner. I found a bit of cheese in my feed bag – and that was my breakfast.
Mümtaz and Kübra had given me an alternative route to avoid both the walking path (unrideable apparently) and the village roads (a long diversion) down to Inli. This was via a forest road to Bayat and Çobanlar. It started with another pleasant climb in the shadow of pines. Up on the tops, there were some itinerant workers camped in wooden framed, plastic sheeted house that had burning stoves with chimneys in them. Hmm …
This forest opened out into a very picturesque meadow and then from Bayat it decended down in to Inli on tarmac.
I turned down the track to Sökmen where there were more Phrygian ruins. I wanted to try the off road section to Doğluşah Göleti but the start was a very steep unrideable rough climb so I retraced my route to the road and was soon in Doğluşah. From here I took the off road track down Fındık Vadisi. This follows the side of a small river along what appears to be a flood plain.
An uneventful but very pleasurable morning soon had me arriving in Sabuncupınar where I have the luxury of staying two nights at a Frig Evi which would allow me to do some exploring.
Gürcan and Mürvet made me most welcome and I was soon enjoying a lunch.
I decided to keep out of the afternoon sun as I was down at 900 m above sea level and it was much much hotter. The bed seemed a good place to try for 10 minutes.
In the late afternoon I set off to ride to the official start of this section of the way at Yenice Çiftliği.
I was stopped in Seydiköy my Mehmet who was filling up water containers from a popular hillside fountain and he insisted on filling my bottles from it. He was driving an old Land Rover and I don’t think I’ve seen too many of those in Turkey. He said it would be much easier if I went the other way to Akpınar.
Upon the top of the hill to the north of Sediköy the track petered out as I’d missed a right turn some how. There were numerous tracks up there so I guess it wasn’t surprising. Most people would have back tracked to the correct place but for some reason I decided to take a bearing and cross open ground to bisect the track I was looking for. Big mistake. I could see it was down hill but it soon became a push and shove down a steep rocky bushy hill side that had be cursing the daft beggar who’d made that decision.
After ten minutes of sweaty scratchy toil I was on the proper track but even that was unrideable at first. Then it levelled out and I was able to enjoyed a fast technical 200 m descent to the main road. On the way down I startled a large dog fox who sped off and by the way he jumped and flipped around must have thought I was chasing after him.
Unfortunately my off road diversions had left me with insufficient time to get to the official start so I had to follow the back road, up a long 10% gradient, then back down to Sabuncupınar
I wasn’t too disappointed though. I had dispensed with a little weight and it was wonderful to get out and ride purely for pleasure with no real concern about my schedule getting to my final destination before I was too beaten up to ride. After 6pm it had cooled down and the riding conditions were actually very very good.
Wednesday 28 June
I actually had hash for breakfast this morning. No kidding. Not hash browns but proper hashis pancakes (haşhaş gözleme). And they were lovely! Opium poppies are grown legally aii around here. One of the main cities, Afyonkarahisar is even named after the crop (its name means Poppy-dark-fortress). The government take the husks for medical use and the farmers are allowed to sell the seeds for food use. All of the opiates are in the husk so the seeds only have flavour. When I stayed with Tanju at the iftar on the table was a cake made with poppy seeds. I asked Tanju whether there was any illegal trade in the husks. He said no because the fines are very high for illegal trade and there are many government inspectors who pay regular site visits. It’s all very tightly controlled.
However, this does not explain why (when I was cycle touring the Evliye Çelbe Yolu a couple of years ago and waiting in a shop in Banaz, I think) a chap came in with a small plastic bag full of poppy husks for the shop owner. They offered me to taste some. What should I do? I’ve never taken recreational drugs before. (One shared joint of dakha in Zimbabwe with Alan Jenkins (no relation) doesn’t count, as, like Bill, I didn’t inhale. 😉 ). Of course I tasted it and it wasn’t particularly enjoyable but it left my gums with a slightly anagaesic effect. And of course I didn’t swallow it. 😉
Breakfast before the hashish pancakes, omelette and sucuk came.
Today was always supposed to be more like a proper holiday as I’d booked in the Frig Evi for two nights. That left me with a day to explore the area at a leisurely pace. It was great get out and ride with no thoughts to my schedule so I could just tootle around. And I did.
I explored some ruins in the village then rode up through Fındık to the foothills of Kayzer Kale (Kaiser Castle) but decided not to do the last part as the flies were really annoying me and it was clearly unrideable. On the way back, stopping for a drink a small swarm of some type wasp attacked me and I noticed a couple of swollen stings when I got back. None the less, it was another enjoyable easy ride in beautiful scenery. I’ll let the pictures do the talking as you’ll have worked out by now I can’t do descriptive prose (can I Bob? 😉 )
Findik ‘castle’ a natural formation used since Phrygian times as a fortification and habitation
My only real excitement in the morning was when I caught sight of a medium sized raptor, flying low across my path, that dropped a long snake onto the track side and almost right on top of me. I jest ye not!
I jumped straight off my bike, and quickly pulling out my hunting bowie, dashed over and deftly severed it’s head – just as it was about to bite me. The hell I did!
I braked sharply and kept my distance as it squirmed around, clearly suffering from a head wound. I didn’t rate it’s chances and when I returned about an hour later it had died. I’ve been unable to positively identify it so far by think it’s a non-poisonous Balkan Grass Snake (natrix natrix persa).
The Antik Yol (ancient road) near Findik. Kayzer Kale a blimp in the distance.
The Antik Yol (ancient road) near Findik.
I had lunch and kept out of the shade for a couple of hours then went out to explore some more of the local area. An uneventful afternoon but I did rescue this little fellow and put him on the verge before he got flattened.
He hissed at me when I picked him up!
Twice I was flagged down by cars who had turned off the Eskişehir to Kütahya main highway and had obviously followed a tourist sign for the Phyrigian Way. But they didn’t really seem to know exactly what they were looking for. One showed me a photo of Yazalıkaya (which was miles away) and when I pointed to Kocataştepe (which was right opposite us) they didn’t seem that impressed.
Wednesday 28 June part 2
The mornings (up until about 10:30am ) and the evenings (from about 6pm) have been the best cycling times and given really very pleasant conditions. The times between these, expecially when climbing, have been sweaty hell. Last night I went out for a fairly unfocused joy ride to make the most of my last night on the official Frig trail. Up on a grassy hillside, a couple of hours before sunset, there was a cooling breeze and the flies seemed to be having their night off at last. I laid out my emergency mattress (it’s just a small sheet of bubble wrap), rolled out my waterproof bivvy sack and put up a my survival tarp shelter, all in preparation for a night in the open. I could manage the night with a few nuts and some dried fruit. Then I put that daft day-dream to the back of my mind and rolled down the hill at full tilt to enjoy another wonderful sumptuous four course dinner at the Fig Evi. 🙂 I’ve been the only guest staying there and I was treated so well.
A few people have asked me if it’s safe in Turkey? Well is it safe anywhere these days? The most dangerous thing we all do is get in a car. Of course I did not see any trouble at all. I did meet one confirmed terrorist though – and he’s in the picture below. Gürcan (an ex-soldier and my host at the Frig Evi below) told me his youngest son (Furkan Efe, on the right below) was yaramaz which means naughty. I said you mean he’s like a terrorist?Yes, he said, he’s just like a terrorist. 🙂 Actually they were both great kids and filled the house with the sounds of their adventurous games.
Kuzey, Gürcan and Furkan Efe (Yücel)
Thursday 29 June
After the first few miles, today’s ride took me off the Phrygian Way as I had to make my way back to the start of my trip and box my bike up for my early flight on Friday morning. At the first junction I actually went the wrong way to what I’d planned and finished up doing a totally unnecessary climb. Well, I could have another look at Inli and see Söğüt. Apart from passing through a huge ceramics, glass, stone and materials manufacturing complex at Alayunt, even once I’d left the Phrygian Way it was lovely ride through quiet villages. I had to use the hideous Kütahya to Afyonkarahisar main road for a couple of miles but then was able to use the back roads to Altıntaş.
I was very pleased to get back to this rough little town. As a last minute idea, I went to İbrahim’s workshop, who’d helped me by letting me thaw out in his workhsop when I did my second part of the Evliye Çelebi Way a couple of years ago. His father was in and made me most welcome with tea and lokhum. He knew the Phrygian way well and was familiar with all the places I’d visited and others. We went across to his pal’s hunting shop to get on the internet. The owner had a picture of himself with a wild boar that he’d shot. I couldn’t believe the size of it. They said it was 500 kg which is very hard to believe but even if it was half that I’m glad I never bumped into anthing like it in the woods.
The hotel were great and let me box the bike up in the cool basement and lent me a hammer to help remove both my recalcitrant pedals. They also kept me topped up with drinks and biscuits.
I walked into the centre and found one of those honest little lokantas and filled my face for next to nothing. On the way back I called in at a barbers for a shave and trim (stop tittering at the back Smith). Yes, I’d like my ears done too please. However instead of bringing out the blowtorch-flamethrower thing as they usually do here, and before I could object, he was daubing hot wax into my ears. Well now I know what ağda means (wax). It stung a bit when he ripped it off but I didn’t cry too much and he did get a lesson in English curse words. ‘Kin ‘ell! He faffed about for about an hour trimming every bit of excess hair from every nook and cranny of my bonce then refused payment as I was his first English customer. I did force him to take it though. He then got his mate to take a photo of us and promised to put it on Facebook. I can’t wait! 🙂
I probably won’t post anything tomorrow as I’m expecting my travel home to be straightforward but I will produce a reflections page to sum up my thoughts.
Reflections on the Phrygian Way by Bike
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! 🙂