Me and Sylvain left Istanbul early in the morning to catch the ferry to Yalova. It was a hard goodbye for both of us so we were glad we could make this step together. Only a couple of hours later I already discovered how hard it is to climb with my upgraded bike. I don’t know if it’s due to the extra weight or the fact that most of my muscles quietly dissolved in Istanbul. At least in Turkey you’re never the only one hauling an overdated, overweighted vehicle uphill.
Sylvain is a remarkable person. He started his trip a year and a half ago and is slowly moving around the Mediterranean Sea, or wherever he’s going, because he’s not planning to go back to France ever again. He tries to live a life in wich money doesn’t exist and comes pretty close to that. Food he recycles from shops and restaurants. His permanent good mood is contagious. He is the kind of person who walks into a bakery to ask for directions and walks out with 5kg of free börek. And when he really needs some money, for bike parts or a ferry, juggling on the street – his other passion – brings the solution. No wonder he’s one of the most relaxed, cheerful people İ’ve ever met.
Together we cycled through the mountains to the west coast of Turkey, pedalling from village to village, frequently being invited for a çay or a meal. People were extremely friendly and hospitable, even the policemen waited patiently till our pasta was cooked properly after they caught us making a fire. I can’t imagine this happening in Europe.
It got to my attention that people – especially drivers – can turn their heads like owls. They really should watch the road instead and ignore me. This time it happened. I heard the noise of a skidding car and thought for a moment that it’d hit Sylvain, who was cycling a bit behind. Fortunately the car just missed a curve, and the 7 passengers were unharmed. After a quick check up we sneaked away before we got accused of anything.
Our last days together we followed the coast to Izmir, where we met Volkan, a friend who lived in Puurs for some years. We got invited in his friends’ cafe, where we got treated like kings for 2 days. Many thanks to Kahn, Belma, Merve and Volkan, you were the most wonderful hosts one could imagine, it almost got embarrassing. Sylvain had to hop to Greece for his visa so it was time for another difficult ‘adieu’.
Fortunately, Julia, my Istanbul flatmate who had a break from university, joined me there, and we started cycling south together. We took the time to enjoy the beautiful weather and astonishing landscapes, and to find the most idyllic camping spots. Without knowing it we spent easter at a farm, drinking as much çay and eating as many biscuits as a stomach can handle.
everything went smoothly except for that one morning my brand new front panniers had disappeared. Inside: All our food, my passport and wallet. It strongly looked like theft but after some hours of searching we found a trace leading us to all my belongings scattered around an olive field. Luckily the thief was just a hungry dog and my bags passed the quality test successfully.
This part of the coast is a mix between the well-known touristic towns like Bodrum, preparing for the start of the season, and untouched mountain villages. Julia’s Turkish made our lives easy, and meanwhile mine improved, with ups and downs, almost to the level where smalltalk becomes possible.
unfortunately, in Marmaris the time had come for another hard goodbye and since than it’s just me and the bike again. I’m writing this in Fethiye, where the weather has changed drastically. It hasn’t stopped raining for more than 24 hours now.
This is only the first impression of cycling in Turkey and I Really feel pity for the dozen of cyclists I met with Istanbul as final destination. The long stretch of motorway with terrible traffic leading you into that city gives you a completely wrong image of cycling in this beautiful country. Sylvain inspired me to focus less on distance and goals, and just enjoy the moment instead, wich I will do from now on. So I’ll probably need another visa extension, possibly in Cyprus.