We spent a nice day food shopping, eating and relaxing on the beach front in Fethiye with Kathy and Nigel who are both keen cycle tourers too. Before he met Kathy, Nigel had been cycling for 6 years and has been everywhere including all over Europe and South America, a long tour following the full length of the Mississippi River and the famous Cairo to Cape Town tour. Needless to say we had lots to talk about and it was good to hear about their next trip which will see them team up to cycle around New Zealand.
In the morning we visited a local bike shop and made the unusually (for us) snap decision to have a new Shimano cassette and chain fitted to the bike. Initially everything appeared to be working well despite the fact that the shop hadn’t also been able to replace the front cogs. We cycled around Fethiye peer without a problem but as soon as we tackle a hill the new chain now starts to jump off the smallest front cog… It turns out that all the advice is right – once you need to replace the cassette, everything needs to be changed because it all wears together. After some researching on the net by Paddy, we also discover that the cassette we’ve been sold isn’t quite the quality we’d hoped for. Knowing that we had a good few climbs to tackle before getting to Bodrum we decided we were better off going back to the bike shop and having our old chain and cassette put back on – we had come this far with it and had developed some pretty good tactics to prevent it jumping in the easiest gear! We half hoped that the shop might give us a refund for the new parts in light that we had only cycled 3km on them… Unsurprisingly, the shop wouldn’t take the new parts back and so we were kicking ourselves slightly for not doing our homework before buying.
Anyway, these things are all trial and error and we now know for next time! Back on track we start to cycle out of Fethiye when the car in front of us suddenly turns right into a parking bay without any warning or indicating. We are forced to swerve quickly to the right to avoid crashing and start to skid on the wet ground. We both go over, Paddy taking the brunt of the fall. Things escalate and we end up having crossed words with the passenger in the car who was this big mouthy Turkish women. She claimed that we should have been in the cycle lane and this was Turkey not the UK so driving habits were different. This annoyed us because the whole thing was clearly the drivers’ fault.
Anyway, after brushing off most of the dirt we finally get going properly. Bodrum is 240km away which we hoped to complete in 3 and a half days. Despite being delayed first in the bike shop and then on the road we still hoped to get to Koycegiz Lake 77km away.
The day was spent on the main road; not unpleasant but not particularly scenic either. Koycegiz is really beautiful and the Lakeside park offers great camping facilities for 20 Lira a night so it was a great place to stop for the night.
Onwards the next day and we reach our turn off at Akyaka which will see us leave the main road and take us along the Bodrum peninsula for the next two days. It was really great to be off the main road and we stop at a very swanky harbour for lunch before spending the afternoon cycling along some beautiful small roads with gorgeous coastline to our left.
We reached the small cove of Akbuk and manage to find a local guy to open his little shop so we can stock up on a few things before camping on the beach.
We had two days to reach Bodrum from here before catching the 9:30am ferry to Kos on the 9th of December. It was only 88km but there were two big 500m climbs between us and the town. We spent most of the day getting over these. This would be our last major climb of 2016!!
It was a beautiful cycle up through pine forests and mountains and we enjoyed winding our way up through the small sleepy villages despite it being pretty tough in places! We stop to buy some hand pressed olive oil from this lovely chap who was also selling his own honey, olives and balsamic vinegar outside his house. I wish you could all smell the oil – it’s divine – and we buy a litre. A little taste of Turkey to last us through our time on the boat in Greece.
We dropped down to camp on a beach just around the headland from Bodrum itself. The next day would see us complete the final 16km to the town, and find the campsite situated in the western part. Suddenly it was our last night in Turkey so naturally we enjoyed a few beers overlooking the marina. Tomorrow we catch the ferry to Kos where we can then get the long ferry to Athens.
Our five days on Susanne and Orhan’s horse farm were a welcome break from the cycling. Each morning would start at 7:30am with the morning feed followed by the mucking out of the 15 stables.
Our afternoons were often spent separately, Paddy fixing the sink unit in the kitchen and me gardening in the veg patch.
We also spent a lot of time with Emre and his son Met collecting firewood and cutting down trees to fix a couple of rotten beams in the outhouse.
There was plenty of time to relax and we both got addicted to eating all the pomegranates, oranges and grapefruits from the garden.
So after a week stopped on the Workaway farm we left Susanne and Orhan and started our next leg of the Turkish coast. We were heading to Fethiye 370km away.
Day 1 – 57.8km
We didn’t do loads of miles on our first day as we stopped in Antalya for a couple of hours to get a new screen fitted for my iPhone – having dropped and smashed it two days before… While we waited we sat in the sunshine of the main pedestrian square eating sandwiches and looking out across the old city to the sea. Antalya sits on the east side of a large bay. We dropped down to the main road which curves its way round the coast and passed a few nice beaches and coves. After just 58km we decided that a bottle of wine and an early stop was too irresistible. We stopped on the edge of what was obviously an old beach resort area still with beachside changing rooms and delapidated looking pavilions. The whole place was fenced off by barbed wire which initially confused us as there were lots of people picnicking, fishing and generally milling about on the beach. After a short search we spotted a large gap cut into the fence. If the locals were happy to break in so were we. It was lovely sitting on the sand sharing this gorgeous Sunday afternoon with the local families. Lots of people had lit barbecues.
We had got ourselves a half bottle of some very nice Anatolian wine which we sipped on the shoreline looking out across the calm bay, the tantalising smell of kebabs wafting over from the other picnickers. Tanker ships moored in the bay peppered our view. At dusk a large puff of dark smoke rises from each of them in turn as their generators are switched on. Soon clusters of orange lights are floating on the surface and a few lonely stars appear overhead. We copy the locals and get a fire going after dinner and sit reading before climbing into the tent.
Day 2 – 63km
The second day saw us start to cycle through the impressive mountains which run parallel to the coast. They are covered in rich green pine forests. We turn off down to the small village of Cirali planning to find a spot to camp before walking to the Eternal Burning Stones of Chimaera which are best explored at night.
We knew that heavy rain was forecast that evening so finding somewhere undercover was desirable. Camping on the beach in prime tourist spots can be a problem around here. It’s not as bad as it would be in the height of summer though and after chatting with a lovely barman he offers us a space under his awning for that night. By 7:30 the rain is holding off so after dinner we set off on the 90minute walk up to the Chimaera stones which are pretty cool. They have been burning for over 2000 years! A big group of locals had claimed the biggest and most impressive fire toasting marshmallows on long sticks but we found a comfortable spot a few metres away and with our backs warming against the flames we sat talking about the prospect of coming home
When the rain started at 10:30pm it didn’t stop all night and unfortunately we woke in the morning to find that a puddle had formed under the awning right where our tent was… Things were in a worse state than they would have been had we just camped out in the storm – the bottom of our tent was pretty soggy and the rain was forecast to last all day and well into the next evening… so we decided to stay put, book into one of the rooms behind the bar and sit the storm out.
Day 3 – 37km
We managed to dry everything out by the next morning and with the forecast just promising rain again that evening we set off early wanting to reach Finike. The plan was to cycle along the 1km track which connects Cirali to the famous hippy trail, ancient Lycian site of Olympus which sits on the beach just around the headland. Unfortunately, the 24 hours of rain the day before had turned the track into a raging river. We had two options – push the bike across the beach instead and reach Olympus that way or go round by cycling back up to the road 400m up. We decided to push the bike along the sandy, pebbly beach. A tough 20 minutes but it would be much easier than cycling up a steep climb for 90minutes, especially with our cassette in its current condition…
The problem was, was that when we reached the headland we discover that the usual path through the archaeological site was now covered by a lake… To make things worse, while we had been pushing the bike along the sand, a giant rogue wave had come crashing towards us. Paddy had managed to escape but I had been holding the bike at the time and so ended up with very wet feet – not even goretex NorthFace shoes save you if a 2ft wave washes over you…
Our only option now was to find a way with the bags and the bike through the higgledy-piggledy, rocky, overgrown paths which wind their way up through the old ruins. It meant taking the bags through first and then going back to carry, drag and push the tandem through. It took us two hours to cover 1.5km of ground! Here I am with the bike after we finally meet back up with the main path which leads to the ticket office. We had just battled our way through the old amphitheatre arch behind me.
Back on track, we wash down the bike (and my shoes) thoroughly with a hose to make sure no sea water is left and then we get going. Its a really nice ride out of Olympus and we soon link back up to the main road and make good headway.
It stays dry all day and we do manage to reach the long stretch of beach which leads up to Finike. We camp underneath this handy picnic area which are dotted all the way along the shoreline. Day 4 – 75km
Having stayed dry after another overnight storm hit we wake up early and find snow has been dropped on the mountains above Finike. It’s still raining but thanks to our large roof we eat breakfast and pack down easily. We have an hour of rain on the bike but the weather soon turns pretty good with some nice patches of sunshine. It’s pretty flat for sometime and we speed along stopping to eat lunch on this pebbly beach.
We then turn off the main road down towards Ucagiz which is where we were headed.
When we get there it’s as beautiful as the guidebook promised – normally teeming with tourists in the summer I think we were lucky to be here on the 1st December! The whole place was idyllically sleepy and quiet.
After walking around the harbour for a while we spot a small patch of grass just off the main path next to some old ruins. We pitch out tent and cooked dinner right on the water front over looking the gorgeous harbour. The clouds slowly part and we enjoyed an incredible sunset and then a spectacular nights sky. A couple of locals walk by with a quick glimpse and ‘merhaba’ as we sit drinking our beers and eating dinner. At sunset the Mosque lights up green and rings out with the usual call to prayer; cats flit here and there along the path. The lights from the many boats make silver ribbons across the flat calm water and we watch the last few vessels arrive back to harbour and drop anchor. It’s very sheltered and we have a very peaceful nights sleep.
Day 5 – 52km
To join back up to the main road we had a very hard 20km climb out of Uclgiz the next morning. There was a bit of a headwind but clear blue skies. It was really nice to have an extended cycle away from the main road and we had some lovely views of snowy mountains.
The wind picks up quite a bit in the afternoon but we manage to find a sheltered ‘shelf’ of land in between a few houses on the outskirts of Kalkan. Nobody seemed too bothered about us setting up camp.
Day 6 – 90km
After stopping in Kalkan for a cash machine we got going and ate up the miles towards Fethiye where we would be staying with Kathy, a warm showers host from the UK! After the climb away from Kalkan it wasn’t too hilly and we arrived into Fethiye by 4pm. We met Kathy at her apartment and got fed delicious food and good company that night. Here we will rest up for a day as rain is due tomorrow before completing the last section towards Bodrum!
It’s been a really nice cycle along the Lycian coast. Keen walkers should definitely check out the Lycian Way path which stretches across this stretch of coast.
We really liked staying with Kadir and his housemates. It was really interesting talking to them about the current situation here in Turkey with Erdegon’s illiberal agenda. Kadir is Kurdish so it was good to get his perspective on the PKK and Kurdish history.
He joined us for our first 10km out of Mersin the next afternoon. The city is actually a really big place with hundreds of new apartment blocks constructed in neat lines along the coast line. They go on for miles… and we were caught on the busy dual carriageway meaning we didn’t catch our first sight of the sea for some time. The road was completely flat so we easily completed 40km in a couple of hours before starting to scout out a potential camping spot. It was still very built up here and after reaching our first bit of beach our hopes of a sea side sleep were soon dashed when we spotted a group of guys with motorbikes drinking and wrestling each other on the sand.
So instead we turned off the road and headed north through a big orchard and polytunnel complex. After cycling through a sleepy village we reached a road stretching through an impressive gorge. As in other parts of Europe at this time of year it gets dark here really early but just as the sun was setting we spotted a riverside grove of lemon trees reached via a rickety bridge, a perfect hidden sanctuary, and we pitched the tent and cooked up dinner in the semi-darkness.
The moon was incredibly bright that night and at about 10:45 I stirred initially thinking it was the light that had woken me. Suddenly I heard a kind of loud snorting near the tent. A VERY large something was making its way towards us, padding its way forwards. Trying not to panic I shook Paddy awake and by the light of the super moon we lay facing each other, wide eyed and listening, as the beast drew ever closer. It circled the tent and then headed down towards the river where it went out of earshot.
‘What do you recon it is?’ I whispered to Paddy. It sounds like a pig, or maybe a really big dog…’ After a long pause where we both strain to listen again, Paddy answers. ‘It could be a pig… or maybe it’s a bear…’ At once, an image of us fighting off a large, fierce grizzly with our inflatable mattresses and Swiss Army penknife flash through my mind… ‘I’d better put in my contact lenses’ I say defiantly.
It’s difficult to be completely rational when there is only a thin piece of canvas between you and a potential attack from an unidentified animal but we did our best, and we spent the next few minutes formulating ‘operation intimidation’ for if it came back and approached the tent. We knew it had been close and it hadn’t been too bothered about us but our biggest fear was that it would detect the food bag… We heard it again roaming through the trees but it didn’t get close and we finally concluded that it wasn’t too bothered about us. We both managed to get back to sleep.
Nonetheless, we woke up early and packed down quickly the next morning and decided it would be best to have breakfast on a beach somewhere instead. We had lived to cycle another day!
After speaking to some locals on the beach we get told it was probably a wild boar. Feeling initially relieved I google ‘Anatolia, Turkish Wild Boar’ and get this image.
Not a hog you might exactly call piglet in any case…
Day 2: 88.9km
Our second day saw us see much more of the coast as the string of apartment blocks gave way to more beaches and coastline. The Eastern Mediterranean with Cyprus’ mountains just visible through the ocean haze. Lovely!
Farming is big here and fruit is in abundance in this part of Turkey so we spend our breaks picking fresh oranges, lemons and pomegranates from trees. There are also loads of muzler (local banana) trees which means they are really cheap to buy. After the morning clouds were swept away it became pretty warm, although a nice off shore wind kept things a decent temperature. We cycled through a few more towns and passed our first Roman ruins and reached the island Byzantian fortress of Kizkalesi castle.
We stopped for a couple of hours at the caves of heaven and hell – two impressive sink holes which both have great mythological relevance. The 200m mammoth ‘heaven’ cave is incredible and visitors are able to walk right down into it. At its mouth is a lovely old 5th century Byzantine chapel ruin. Locals believe the underground river connects to the hellish river Styx.
After lunch the wind really picked up and was blowing in our faces the whole time. We were heading to Ovacik where the house of another warm showers host, Bayram is. By the time we reached the town it was blowing a proper gale and we were being blown all over the place. The storm was so bad that the whole of Bayram’s neighbourhood had no power when, very wind swept, we finally arrived.
Day 3 – 62.1km
The storm blew itself out overnight and we enjoyed a cloudless, 28 degree blue sky the next day. The flat coast road turned away inland for a while and we had a couple of hard 300m climbs. They are in the process of widening the road to form a dual carriage way which I guess will eventually span the whole coast line although the road works didn’t really affect us too much and the road wasn’t too busy. Paddy is very happy to be spending so much time on the coast and I’ve caught him on more than one occasion staring at the sea, a contented smile spreading across his face.
That night we camped right on the beach under a grove of olive trees and fell asleep to the waves gently crashing onto the shore. The wind picked up again but we were very sheltered under the trees.
Day 4 – 64.14km
We woke at 6:30am with the call to prayer blasting from a nearby minaret. Another clear sunny day and we stop at the ancient city of Anamurium for lunch. It’s an amazing complex first dating back to the Phoenician period in 400BC although most of the ruins are from the Roman and Byzantine period. It’s a sprawling site which reaches all the way down to a pebbly beach. Interestingly it’s the southern most point of Asia Minor. We would be heading Northwards from now on…
Much of the amphitheatre, bath houses, basilica, city walls, and long aqueduct are still standing so we spent a good couple of hours walking about the site.
We had a long very steep climb at the end of the day which we managed to complete before dropping back down to sea level and into a beautiful little bay. A group of fishermen were sorting their gear out on the beach and one of them offered up his tent and little campsite set up which meant we didn’t need to bother erecting our tent and bed. This would mean a speedy pack-down the next morning, a good thing as we knew we had two big 500m climbs the next day.
Day 5 – 93.5km
So began our big day of climbing but we managed to set off at 8am and despite stopping to chat to Martin, another cycle tourer from Canada who was heading the other way, we managed to complete the first climb by 10:30am. There were a few stiff parts of the climb and our chain continues to jump so there were a few sections in which we had to get off and push for a bit. Although we were climbing, the sea remained on our lefthand side all day and we had great views across the Mediterranean. Another super hot day.
A steady down hill section helped us rack up the miles in the afternoon and we took the smaller coastal detour for a while before meeting back up with the highway. We completed the last 15km to Turkey’s longest beach and here we treated ourselves to our first Turkish restaurant meal and enjoyed an overdue (albeit pricey) beer as we watched the sun set over the sea. We managed to find a hidden spot for the tent just a few metres from this beachside restaurant meaning we could sneakily access their shower and wifi the next morning. After a stint of reading the international news in bed I ran down to the shore and plunged into the sea. It helped to wash away most of the Trump madness…
Day 6 – 51.1k
With only 153km over two days left to complete and no substantial climbs we had a couple of easy days ahead before reaching Aksu where we would be staying on a horse farm for a week. However nice it is to be clinging to the coast we both feel sad that we haven’t had a chance to cycle through some other parts of Turkey. Clinging to the south coast means we’re spending a lot of time cycling through resort towns, marvelling at some of the big hotel complexes with their Taj Mahal style towers and luxury beachside bars. The convenience of having access to beach showers and supermarkets means camping day after day is easy and we’re eating a much more varied diet; things like muesli with fresh milk which is a real luxury for us!!
After a while though the restaurants, bars, tattoo parlours and shops all start to look the same and although its low season and there are lots of secluded spots between the towns and plenty of ancient sites along the way we both feel a little sad that we won’t be cycling through some of the more remoter areas of the country.
Day 7 – 103km
The last day saw us stop at Side which is a nice resort strip popular with German tourists and also home to a large Helenistic and Roman ruin complex. We spent a nice couple of hours cycling along the beach front and visiting the old amphitheatre, temples and city walls.
It was slightly further to our Workaway host than we had originally thought so we ended up doing 103km on the bike that day. Here we will stay for five days helping out on the farm and in the house in exchange for free board in their cottage in the grounds.
So believe it or not we were in the final month of this 11 month trip and although the plan was to carry on back home from Greece after a break at Christmas it certainly felt like we were coming to the end of something substantial.
Not wanting to spend half of our final month in snow, rain and cold temperatures we decided to take a long bus journey from Tbilisi all the way to Mersin on the south coast of Turkey. It was a hard decision to make because cycle tourers never like getting public transport if they can help it but the draw of 20+ degrees, coastline cycling and lots of camping opportunities was too inviting.
We had also recently signed up to Workaway and after two long stints in capital cities (Yerevan and Tbilisi) the idea of spending a week working on a farm in the Turkish countryside was really appealing. So via the site we organised a week with Susan and Orhan who have an olive farm, boat building and horse riding business just west of Antalya. Right up our street! Spending a week on the farm would mean we would have three remaining weeks to cycle along the coast to reach Bodrum where we would get a ferry over to Athens before flying home for a month to spend time with family and friends.
We crossed the border without too many problems, it’s always slightly stressful pushing/carrying and lifting the tandem through the various custom buildings, especially when we didn’t know how long we had for our bus connection to Ankara but all was fine in the end. Luckily this second bus was only half full which meant we could both stretch out over two seats and get a half decent nights sleep. By 8am we had arrived in Ankara with just the 7 hour journey to Mersin left.
The Turkish people are incredibly forthcoming in their friendliness and hospitality and we easily found our connection bus to Mersin, storing the bike and the majority of our bags easily in the luggage compartment before heading off to find some breakfast. We didn’t rush as we had 90 minutes before the bus left. Or so we thought… Returning to the terminal in ‘plenty of time’ we discover the bus had already left and looking up at the large station clock we realised, to our horror, that my phone had set my clock to the wrong time zone. I officially hate apple products…
A really nice guy who spoke good English helped us explain what had happened and we were given a new ticket free of charge and assured that the conductor had been called and would ensure everything got safely stored in Mersin station’s luggage storage. Considering the whole thing was completely our fault we were very well looked after. All was well, and we were reunited with tandem and all of our bags on arrival with lots of lovely people helping us along the way; including a Syrian refugee who had perfect English and who told us all about his successful family run hostel which he had owned in Palmyra before he had fled with his young family to Turkey. I kept thinking what a pity it was that we didn’t have such an energetic, intelligent and generous person coming to relocate to the UK…
It was downhill all the way to our warmshowers host so the 10km to his house in the dark wasn’t a bad ride. We enjoyed the warm sea air and spent a really nice evening with Kadir and his two housemates who were preparing for their English linguistic exam the next morning.