"...In Dogubeyazit there is a real
frontier atmosphere. I see mostly Kurds and Turkish
soldiers, but there are also Iranian businessmen,
Armenians, Russian prostitutes, and a handful of western
travelers. We're surprised to meet an English woman on
bicycle. She could be our mother, and she is going to
cycle into Iran like ourselves.." (from March 29
"...In the evening we get invited to eat dinner with the
mayor and his family. Well, at least the male part of the
family. The women eat in a different room.." (from
January 8 below)
Turkey - One of my favorite countries.
December 28, 1998 - Across the Sea of Marmara
(Yalova 3773 km)
To get away from the traffic, the pollution, and the big
freeways, I choose the sea. Instead of following the
northern coast of the Sea of Marmara, I catch a boat
across to the southern coast. It's less busy, and I get to
see the beautiful island of Heybeli on the way. I spend a
few hours on this island. A man invites me for tea in his
office, and I cycle up to a view point for a pick-nick.
It's already dark when I reach Yalova - A quiet coastal
town on the Asian side of the Sea of Marmara.
December 29 - Olive Gardens
(Iznik 3836 km)
I cross a low pass (340 m) on the way south. In Orhangazi
I turn left along Iznik lake. I cycle along beautiful
olive gardens where they are now harvesting. I get i head
wind in the afternoon. I go slow. It's my first day of
cycling with luggage for two weeks. I get to Iznik before
dark and meet Henk as planned. We eat some free food
arranged by the community during ramadan.
December 30 - The Pass
(Yenisehir 3860 km)
There is a mountain range between us and where we want to go. It looks high.
Henk is strong and takes the lead up the switchbacks. I
go on my two lowest gears. It's slow. I get a flat tire
right on the top. Then it's an easy ride down to
December 31 - New Years Eve
(Bilecik 3904 km)
It's a long slow climb to a plateau. This is probably the
edge of the Anatolian highland. We stop on the first hill
in Bilecik. A young girl comes out to talk to us. She's a
university student. She takes us to the huge student cafe
just up the road, where she is working. It's a beautiful
building. It may have been an old warehouse before.
We find a place to stay and come
back to the cafe later in the evening. It's New Years
Eve! The place doesn't get very lively but we meet some
people who take us to a small bar after midnight. The
beer is flowing and the dancing gets wilder. It's a good
party. Henk stays till four in the morning. I go home at
one. Happy New Year!
January 1, 1999 - New Year Without a Hangover
(Sogut 3934 km)
It's nice not to have a hangover. I only had two beers
last night. Not much for New Years Eve. We cycle east to
January 2 - Onto the Anatolian Plateau
(Eskisehir 3986 km)
Henk is cycling a different route today. I cycle
south-east and he rides off to the north-east. We meet as
planned in Eskisehir, at the end of the day.
January 3-4 - Winter Rain
It's raining. We decide to take a couple of days off.
Eskisehir means old town, but it feels very modern. We
find a lot of good food, internet cafes, and movie
January 5 - New Friends
(Cifteler 4054 km)
We cycle east and south to the small town Cifteler. Three
young men invites us for a few games of pool.
January 6 - Suspicious Police
(Emirdag 4099 km)
In Emirdag we, we talk to some old men in the tea house.
Everyone are so friendly. We decide to stay. We clean our
bikes in the afternoon.
In the evening we spend more time in the
teahouse. Playing backgammon has become a habit. When we
eat our dinner in a small restaurant, two police officers
com e up to as and ask to sea our passports. I get the
feeling they have heard about foreigners in town, and are
now checking us out. They are friendly, but I don't like
being hassled. Henk hasn't got his passport on him, and
has to go and get it from our pension.
January 7 - Another Pass
(Yunak 4168 km)
A cool day on the plateau. The last hours include a good
climb up a pass. Possibly the highest so far. It's
steeper on the way down. I break my speed record in the
outskirts of Yunak. A business man buys us dinner before
we find a cheap hotel.
January 8 - Kurdish Hospitality
(Suluklu 4226 km)
We stop to rest in a very small town and get invited to
drink tea in the town hall. We say hello to everyone in
the building and as we get a glass of tea each, everyone
except two men disappears out the door. It's prayer time.
Later in the afternoon we stop in
kurdish Suluklu. It's just a village. We thought it would
be bigger. We're soon surrounded by curious people (only
men). One speaks very good French. He turns out to be the
son of the mayor. He lives in Switzerland but has come
back on his vacation to see his family. The guy takes
care of us. He takes us straight to the village guest
house. We learn that every village in Turkey should have
a small house where invited or not invited guests can
stay. Most homes are not big enough for guests, and
hospitality is important.
In the evening we get
invited to eat dinner with the mayor and his family.
Well, at least the male part of the family. The women eat
in a different room.
January 9 - The First Fairy Chimney
(Cihanbeyli 4288 km)
It's an easy ride east in the flat landscape. We see our
first fairy chimney on the way.
January 10 - Dog Damage
(Eskil 4363 km)
Aggressive dogs are chasing us every single day but they
have never bitten me, or my bike, so far. Today we cycle
on a remote road near the Tuz lake (Salt lake). In a
small village we see four dogs running at full speed
straight at us. We're doing 25 km/h, so they have no
problem getting up to us. Henk is ahead of me, and get
away. The dogs next to my legs look ready to attack so I
pull up my legs on top of the frame. Then the bike stops,
and I hear something snap behind me. The most aggressive
dog has gripped my bag on the rear rack with his teeth.
He's managed to stop me and the bike. The force was too
much for the elastic strap that held the bag. A young
woman comes out to chase the dog away by throwing rocks.
It takes quite a few to make the beast walk away. I get
my bag back and move on.
We don't find any pension in the small
town of Eskil. We talk about camping or cycling in the
dark when a man comes up and offers his office floor.
January 11 - A Caravanserai
(Aksaray 4436 km)
Our host wakes us up before seven. His sign language says
"Breakfast time, come along!". We get invited
to eat a typical Turkish breakfast in his home. We get
beautiful goats cheese, black olives, white bread, and
tea. A lot of tea. We feel very grateful for all the
help, and buy a box of locum (Turkish Delight) for the
man when we're back in town. He refuses at first. He
seems insulted. We insist that he would take it to his
wife. He does in the end, but I have learned another
lesson about muslim hospitality.
We cycle toward the city of Aksaray. The
weather is great. We stop for sightseeing at a
caravanserai on the way.
January 12 - Near Mount Hasan
(Ihlara 4481 km)
We cycle into Cappadocia. Mount Hasan (3196 m) dominates
the scenery on the way to Ihlara Valley.
January 13 - Star Wars
(Ihlara 4504 km)
We leave our luggage in the pension and make a day trip
down the Ihlara valley. It's rather a gorge and not
really perfect for cycling. We have to carry the bikes a
lot. The gorge is famous for all it's cave churches. We
run out of time in the end and have to carry our bikes up
stairs to get out of the gorge before dark.
January 14 - Underground
(Guzelyurt 4528 km)
We only cycle up to Guzelyurt. The place has a small
"underground city", a maze of rooms under the
surface where people used to hide during invasions. There
is a also a valley with a few cave churches here. We have
a look and end up staying. We camp in the Monastery
January 15 - A City Below
(Derinkuyu 4592 km)
There are two passes to climb on the way to Derinkuyu.
The first is the highest on the trip (so far). We are
prepared for a tough climb but reach the top after just
half an hour. We were obviously at high altitude even in
the little valley. The next pass in not difficult and we
reach our destination well before dark. We meet four
students who show us around and beat us in backgammon.
The town boasts an eight level "underground
city", that I visited on my last trip to Turkey
January 16 - Nice to Be Back
(Goreme 4629 km)
Henk explores the underground city, while I sleep in. We
make it to Göreme in the afternoon. This is a famous
traveler hangout. We plan on staying a while.
January 17-24 - Rest
(Goreme 4687 km)
It's a great place to hang out. I do a lot of day walks
in the smalls valleys and gorges around Goreme. Zelve and
The Valley of the Fairy Chimneys makes a good day trip on
January 25 - February 11 - Extended stay
I say goodbye to Henk. He rides toward Syria, to get away
from the winter. I go back to Istanbul, by bus, to meet
my friend Jörgen from Sweden. We have planned to cycle
east from Göreme together. It's nice to see him, and I
have a great time in Istanbul for the second time. I also
make a day trip to Bulgaria to extend my stay in Turkey
(I get another 90 when I enter Turkey for the second
February 12-20 - Cozy Köse
(Goreme 4688 km)
We make ourselves at home in Köse Pension for quite some
time before we get going again.
February 21 - Sixteen
(Mustafapasa 4704 km)
We start the day with a 16 percent climb, and stop early.
It's Jörgen's first day.
February 22 - To Open a Hotel
(Yesilhisar 4755 km)
The weather is lousy and get worse after a hard climb up
on a plateau. We get rain, wet snow, and a strong head
wind. We're wet and tired when we reach the next town. We
stop till the rain is over end get a good easy ride down
to Yesilhisar as it gets dark. The town is not that
small. -There, must be a small hotel here, we say to
ourselves. We ask around and find one, but it's closed
for the winter. One man points down the road. We go there
and ask again. Another man points back to where we came
from. The confusion goes on for a while before we meet
the guy who knows the hotel owner. He runs off and comes
back with good news. The hotel is opening up, just for
February 23 - The Wind
(Dortyol 4771 km)
The sky is blue, but there is a very strong wind from the
east. We head north toward the turn off for Develi. We're
leaning against the wind and go slow. The wind is getting
stronger. At the crossroads (Dörtyol) we stop to relax
away from the wind. We eat lunch in the gas station
restaurant. After one hour there is no change in the
wind. We decide to try cycling. The road is completely
flat but I have to use my lowest gear. We travel at 5
km/h and are exhausted after a few minutes. We'll never
get to Develi (35 km) this way. We go back to the gas
station and get to stay the night.
February 24 - Cheating
(Develi 4777 km)
At lunch time the wind is still strong. We try leaving
Dörtyol a second time. We fight the wind for six
kilometers and give up when a truck pulls up and offers
us a ride. It really feels like cheating to go the 29
remaining kilometers on a truck.
February 25 - Fresh Snow
The wind is gone in the morning. Develi is covered in
fresh snow. From the hotel roof there is an excellent
view of Mount Erciyes (3916m). We have a relaxing day in
the sun and get invited to a family in the afternoon.
February 26 - Police Hassle
(Guzelce 4840 km)
We start the day by saying goodbye to our new friends
from yesterday. Then we start cycling north-east. A rest
in a village turns into a school visit. A teacher sees us
and invites us to meet the other teachers and the
principal. We drink tea and chat for an hour. On the way
out we get to say hello to all the kids. They are lined
up on the schoolyard.
We eat lunch in Tomarza, and make it to
Toklar by sunset. We get hassled by the jandarma
(something between army and police) as soon as we stop.
They take us to the station an we get asked a lot of
questions. Jörgen are told to talk to a man on the
telephone who speaks English. The problem seems to be our
passports. The people here thinks we need a visa. We know
we don't. The mayor of Toklar arrives in the end. He
speaks German. The problem with our passports gets sorted
out, but he explains that the jandarma officer wont let
us camp. He says it's too cold. We have to stay at the
station or continue to the next village where we can
We continue in the dark
to the village of Guzelce. It's snowing and it's dark. It
takes a while before we see someone to ask. A woman
understands our sign language and takes us to the village
guest house. Five minutes later there are five curious
men there. An hour later we are twelve in the little
house. We drink tea and try learn some more Turkish
February 27 - Drinking With a Chechen
(Pinarbasi 4897 km)
The women come to see us with their men in the morning.
The bring tea, bread, and cheese. We get a group photo
before we take off.
It's a beautiful day. We get to Pinarbasi.
In the evening we end up drinking beer with a friendly
man from chechnya.
February 28 - Cold Camping
(20 km before the Ziyaret Pass 4938 km)
It's another great day for cycling. We get up to 1800
meters. The snow is still deep up here. We camp behind a
deserted gas station on the high plateau. It's very cold
March 1, 1999 - Two Passes
(Gurun 5003 km)
Easy cycling up the 1900 meter pass. Then a very long ride
down the valley. There is a another pass (1800 m) before
we reach Gurun.
March 2 - The Gorge
(Gurun 5017 km)
We make a short day trip to a beautiful canyon near Gurun
and return to the hotel in the evening.
March 3-10 - The Eufrat River
(Erzincan 5395 km)
We cycle into an area with fewer roads. The Eufrat river
flows here. There is a railway line at the bottom of the
valley. The roads are bad and climb up and down the
mountains. It's beautiful but hard work. We stay in
Kangal, Divrigi (3 nights), Demirdag, Ilic and Kemah on
our way to the next city, Erzincan.
March 13-16 - A new level
(Erzurum 5597 km)
The road continues up the Eufrat river valley toward
Erzerum. We camp the first night, and stay in pensions in
Tercan and Askale on the way. The third day involves
climbing to a pass at around 2000 meters. We get into
heavy snowfall on the way up. The gears start to freeze
near the top. I can only use three gears as I ride down
the mountains to Askale. The last day is easier.
March 17-23 - Palandöken Ski Resort
(Erzurum 5614 km)
Erzurum is at 1850 meters altitude, and surrounded by
mountains. Turkeys best ski resort lies just 10 km out of
town. The slopes run from 3200 down to 2100 m.
Unfortunately they don't open the higher ski areas when
we're here. The wind is too strong. J and I do however
cycle up to the Resort one day. The highest cycling on
the trip (2450 m).
also do a lot of internet, get our Iranian visas, and drink
March 24-29 - Mount Ararat
(Dogubeyazit 5921 km)
On this stretch (Erzurum - Dogubeyazit) we follow the
main highway. There is not much of a choice. The road
climbs over three passes (2000, 2300, and 2000 m). In
Dogubeyazit there is a real frontier atmosphere. I see
mostly Kurds and Turkish soldiers, but there are also
Iranian businessmen, Armenians, Russian prostitutes, and
a handful of western travelers. We're surprised to meet
an English woman on bicycle. She could be our mother, and
she is going to cycle into Iran like ourselves.
March 30-31 - Dancing With the Kurds
(Dogubeyazit 5935 km)
We're about to enter the next country on the route - The
Islamic Republic of Iran. The preparations include
drinking alcohol (forbidden in Iran). We drink and dance
with the Kurds (only men go out to drink and dance).
April 1, 1999 - Time for Hejab, Ladies!
(Gurbulak border crossing 5972 km)
It's three cyclists who ride past the mighty Ararat
toward the Iranian border at Gurbulak. Janet has to get
herself all covered up before we enter the Republic (she
purchased the gear in Dogubeyazit).
© Tallabomba 1998-2005