Friday, 20th of April 2012
We leave Afyonkarahisar behind us and cycle though a long industrial area full of marble quarries and factories. I remember the bike shop’s owner’s words just a day ago: “There are only two or three hills, besides all the way to Ankara is flat”, when the fifth of those “hills” makes me break out in sweat.
We keep cycling but the landscape in the beautiful Phrygian Valley is a good excuse to stop and take pictures from time to time. This valley is full of fairy chimneys and rock formations. We climb to the inside of a rock full of holes and discover rooms in the inside with carved walls. Though I did not do any research on the way’s attractions I am happy about this wonderful surprise.
The way up is not easy but the landscape makes me forget that I am cycling. After a while we make it up to our highest point so far: 1416 meters above Sea Level. I think back on the suffering and pain not even two weeks ago and laugh out loud. Just behind Fethiye 345 small meters have made me burst out in tears and now I feel like on the roof of the world. I am in the best mood and my self confidence has grown with each meter.
While I cycle down again I sing which ever song comes to my mind. We pass endless fields and steppe when the chilly wind gets up and pushes us. I feel like I could go on cycling all night. When we finally decide to stop and move into one of the fields to camp the rain starts. While we put up the tent it converts into hail. When we are done with the tent rain and hailing stop but it is still pretty cold and in the horizon we see lightning.
All the area around us is flat and we do not want to have to flee from a thunderstorm in the middle of the night like we had to do in Fethiye once. While Roberto cooks the dinner (rice noodles with vegetables) I observe the lightning and realize happily that the wind blows the thunderstorm away from us.
By the following morning I feel tired. We have made more than 300 kilometers in the last four days and I feel like I need a break. The sky is grey, every now and then it starts raining. It is so cold that we root for our gloves down in the bottom of the bag. I did not think we would need them again this year.
The wind has grown on strength but changed its direction. It blows from the right side now and does not motivate me too much. While I cycle I dream of a hot chocolate, a foam bath and some warm and cozy house shoes. We reduce our average speed from 18.8 km/h to 14.3. After only 50 kilometers I convert into an uncomfortable bundle of nerves. Every truck driver that blows his horn, every street sign telling me that we have only made 5 km since the last sign, every rain shower and every hill make me more and more angry.
When we finally arrive to a town I want to look for a pension. The only one in town costs 70 Turkish Lira (30 €) what is double of what we paid in Denizli. I am tired but not that tired and though Roberto still seems to be full of power we go on. “Never mind, I am sure that we will find a great place to camp this night”, he tries to cheer me up. I do not believe a word he says. It takes less than 10 km to proof that he was right. On the other side of the street there is a gas station with a park on the side. When I have a closer look I read “Camping” on the sign. Roberto is as surprised as I am. The very first gas-station-camping place I have ever seen and it came just in time. We carry bikes and baggage over the median barrier of the busy street and put up the tent. I am happy again and I turn even happier when I find out that camping is free of charge.
We spent the night talking to Filiz and her sisters who own the gas station’s souvenir shop and feed us with coffee, cookies and Çiğ Börek (a turnover filled with minced meat). They are very nice and I forget my fatigue talking until late at night.
It stays rainy, windy and hilly and the landscape does not change too much: dry hills with bushes. We cycle nonstop for 48 kilometers because there are military areas around us and we would not feel too comfortable having a brake on the side. In Polatli we finally stop in a gas station and enjoy some cheap and good food. The waiter Ahmet is very curious about our travel and it does not take too long until the entire crew looks at the pictures Roberto shows them on his laptop. We spend the afternoon in the restaurant writing, editing pictures and looking for hosts in Ankara. The owner Hayati is very nice and offers us to camp in the garden next to the gas station, but we still want to go on cycling. In the late afternoon we go on. We cycle five kilometers only before we turn around and go back to the gas station. We have left the cell phone charging there. The crew is happy to see us again and though the sun is going to set soon we decide to accept the offer and put the tent in the garden. We spend the evening talking, eating and drinking liters of tea.
There are 80 kilometers to go to Ankara and finally the wind is soft and the sun strong enough to cycle without a jacket. On the way we meet another cyclist from Ankara who makes a day trip to Polatli and back. The traffic is heavier the closer we come to Ankara and after 50 kilometers we cycle through the suburbs. The big shoulder that we have been cycling on during the last weeks shrinks until it finally disappears. We cycle very carefully through the highway entries and exits but after a while we have to stop and cross them walking because the traffic is just too heavy. On one of those stops a young man talks to us. His name is Gürkan and he has just come back from a bike tour to Japan. Soon he will start a 7-years extreme world tour. He is happy to see other cyclists and so are we. Just a few kilometers later we meet Hakan on his speed bike. He asks us where we are heading to and offers to show us the way. We feel far safer with him guiding us through the traffic. When we arrive to a steep hill Hakan offers me to change bikes. I walk easily wheeling his ultra light speed bike while Hakan spreads sweat drops all over his shirt. “Wow, this is really heavy” he notices every few meters. But still he does not accept (or understand?) my offer to change the bikes back. After an ice-cream break I grab my own bike again and after some more minutes we arrive to our host’s house.
We like Mahir from the first moment on. We all take a seat in his office, enjoy a delicious tea and talk about traveling. In the evening I enjoy a long shower and some great homemade Turkish food. Finally we made it. Now we deserve a break. So do our muscles. Mine would be full of pain for five more days.