To Turkey

2013-05-03 Friday


At 35000 feet headed to Amsterdam. Somewhere below me in the baggage hold my bicycle should be stowed along with my panniers. They are checked through to Izmir Turkey; I don’t have to deal with them on my overnight stop in Istanbul.

It has been a smooth day so far. I didn’t expect that KLM would check the bike all the way. The flight from Istanbul to Izmir, while purchased on the same ticket from KLM, is on a Turkish airline and I have a one night stopover in Istanbul.

I even have an empty seat beside me and an interesting guy in the next seat.

Discovered that Teis, a Dutch friend of ours, is on the same flight. He’s going to Amsterdam.

KLM has become a favourite airline: good service, good computer systems, one of the few non-stop services from Vancouver to Europe, competitive fares, modern aircraft (Boeing 777), good legroom in economy, even the food is decent. Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport is efficient, has a major railway station, and KLM has good connections to everywhere in Europe.

My concern is the one hour connection in Amsterdam. I hope the bike makes it onto the flight to Istanbul.

2013-05-05 Sunday

In Selçuk, Turkey, our starting point for the ride. The bike and bags arrived, safe and sound, although the bike box showed considerable signs of wear.

Istanbul was busy and interesting but it was only a one evening visit. I stayed in a small hotel near Taksim square, walked through the busy streets for a few hours, had dinner and slept well. Sunday a short flight to Ismir and a bus ride here. Everyone was very helpful.

Sunday I met the group and we did a sort ride to the beach. The bike worked well.

2013-05-06 Monday, Selçuk

A short ride this morning, just a warmup, but a fairly steep climb to a small nearby town with a market.

Afternoon was a guided tour of the ruins of Ephesus, at one time a city of 250,000 people.

20130506-184903.jpgStreet full of restaurants in Istanbul

20130506-185045.jpgBike after unboxing and assembly in the square where the bus dropped me in Selçuk. Box is travel worn, but the bike is fine.

20130506-185107.jpgLibrary at Ephesus

20130506-213534.jpgHillside houses

Cycling in Turkey, day 3

2013-05-08 Wednesday

Day three of the organized bike ride in Turkey. Eight of us on the ride plus the organizers. A good group – not too big, interesting people, all experienced riders.

The country is dry and hot, although today was cool and cloudy with a few drops of rain. The Turks are friendly and extremely helpful. The food is great. Divers are courteous, although they will cut you off if they can sneak in.

The roads are awful. The pavement is a type of chip seal, gravel sprayed with tar. Unlike home where the chips are chips, here the gravel is 2 cm stones. Rough when new and ugly when pot holes develop and loose gravel abounds. It is amazing how much effort it takes to ride on a rough surface. And there are steep hills.

The group is fun and that makes up for the hills, the bad roads and the loudspeakers summoning you to prayer at 5:00 am. We are having fun and lots of laughter.

John negotiating a carpet purchase
Stork with chicks
End of a tasty lunch
Chilly day on the beach

Cycling in Turkey, days 4 to 7

20130512-164221.jpgRoy wears the silly hat

We are having a rest day in Bodrum. That’s me in the silly hat. It is a helmet cover. Each day one of the ride leaders selects a victim to wear the hat; a few days ago it was my turn. You only need wear it for the first few kms and after that I slipped it over the top of my handlebar bag.

We have had every sort of weather from hot sun to cool cloud, a few showers, one drenching thunderstorm (we were at the hotel by then), and the occasional headwind.

The daily distance has gone up with an 80 km day and a 90 km day, and we’ve ridden on everything from the smooth shoulder of a busy expressway to quiet but rough rural roads where all you can do is select the least of the potholes rather than avoid them. I prefer the hilly rural country to the beach towns which are depressingly commercial and full of foreign-owned condos.

We’ve seen lots of ancient ruins. They are both sad and inspiring. Sad to see so much effort and such majestic buildings reduced to tumbled piles of stones. Sad to think it was done by slaves. Inspiring that people could conceive such things and build them with primitive tools. Art and craftsmanship are always inspiring.

It is a poor country full of contrasts. Women collecting sticks for fuel at the side of the road while transport trucks roar past. Small farms with a scant few cattle beside a modern agribusiness farm. Lovely beaches in a tourist resort town but the roadside in and out of town is littered with garbage and thousands of plastic water bottles.

I’m enjoying the rest day. Bodrum is a large and busy tourist town, one of the major ports for pleasure boats at this end of the Med. It has an interesting castle built during the crusades. The ride is hard but a good warm-up for the rest of the summer. I hope the pavement in Europe is better, but on the bright side, I am becoming much better at riding and especially doing steep descents on poor surfaces, and after the really bad sections, even the rough Turkish chip seal seems smooth.

Some photos…

20130512-164258.jpgStay dogs in a parking lot with our bus

20130512-164733.jpgSmall amphitheatre

20130512-164919.jpgRuins at the Temple of Apollo

20130512-165136.jpgOur bikes against a wall, tea break in a small town

20130512-165345.jpgMen at a cafe

20130512-165445.jpgAll hills in Turkey are 10% grade. Seems to be the only grade sign they have. Some cyclist disagreed.

20130512-165654.jpgThe mighty moose on my handlebar bag

20130512-165847.jpgWater reservoir in the hills

20130512-170033.jpgBeach at Bodrum

20130512-170139.jpgClowning with a headless statue at Bodrum Castle

20130512-170314.jpgTurtle at the castle. They are common in this part of Turkey.

20130512-170431.jpgThe English Room at Bodrum Castle

Cycling in Turkey, Day 8

We are in the small seaside town of Oren after an 80 km ride from Bodrum.

I should not have been so smug yesterday about escaping thunderstorms. We spent this afternoon riding in one. The morning was lovely with some cloud against the hills. At lunch the clouds turned dark, the wind came up and the temperature began to drop. We set off on the biggest climb and descent of the ride, about 450 m, just as the rain started. It was quite spectacular with loud thunder, sometimes nearby lightening, rain at times heavy, and wind. The temperature dropped from the 20s to around 10, making the descent uncomfortable. My hands were so cold I had trouble using the brake levers at times. Quite steep with rough pavement in spots.

But at the end of the ride after a final rolling 20 km stretch along the ocean to reach the hotel, it felt like a good day. It was pretty in the hills and part of bike touring is taking what nature hands you each day.

It is warmer after descending from the hills and the weather is clearing. I’ve had a hot shower, washed my clothes, shaved, and a cold beer with friends awaits. Life is good.

No photos from the afternoon. Here are some from the morning…

20130513-174419.jpgBeach by our morning tea break

20130513-174439.jpgTurkish countryside

20130513-174510.jpgDog asleep in the street

Cycling in Turkey, Day 9

We are in Akyaka, another small seaside town, a 50 km ride from Oren. Another big thunderstorm this afternoon, but it was down the bay from us and we only got a few sprinkles.

We are here for three nights. Day excursions tomorrow and Thursday, then Friday we go our separate ways. It seems too quick to be almost over.

The ride today was very pretty, mostly in hills with a stretch along the coast.

One thing I have had to change my attitude about is drivers using their horns when I’m cycling. At home, my immediate reaction is “Who the f… do you think you’re honking at?” Here drivers discretely warn you with a quick toot that they are about to pass, or, from both sides of the road, they say “Bravo, go cyclist go!” with loud honking and waving. There has been the occasional unfriendly motorist, but they are rare. A refreshing difference from home.

Photos from today…

20130514-163500.jpgOld road sign

20130514-163530.jpgIt is hilly here

20130514-163626.jpgSmall town by the sea, our lunch stop