We were invited to join the Italian bikers. There is a natural affinity between two wheeled travelers, respect even. You know you are going to have things in common, and tales to tell. ” I was in India, began biker 1, in Deli and hired a bike “. A further beer was placed on the table in front of the two bikers. It took me 5 hours to get out of town, but I was trying to realise a lifelong ambition. The guy is a big Beatles fan and wanted to visit the Ashram where they had stayed. ” I got to the door, knocked and an old man came. Were the Beatles here? “. The biker started to laugh even before he got to the punchline. ” No beetles here, we very clean “.
Erol had appointed himself, protector, guardian and host come tour guide, during our stay in Dinar. He had done a good job, and we had shaken the hand of just about every person in the town. It was time now to push the bikes out of the hotel door. Factor 50 sun screen, paying particular attention to the nose, and off we went into the early morning heat.
We turned left, climbed out of town and found ourselves on one of the most perfect touring roads we have ever stumbled upon. Clear horizons, and Magritte clouds in a deep blue sky. Off to our right were hills that within a few kilometres would run up to slopes of mountains where the ruins of Greek forts and cities stood.
We had waved at the guy on the motorbike as he moved the cattle across the slope of the hill. A few minutes later and he is by our side. He has two Ayran, the local, and rather tasty milk drinks. ” For you, for journey “. We were going to have a series of these ‘ random acts of kindness ‘, in the next few days and this man on the 625 to Civril was the first.
The road was joyously flat, and the granny gear was not even troubled for the rest of that day. Lake Isikli, when it came up on our left was as near mirror calm as you could hope for, giving twice the value of sky and clouds. We stop for a random tea in the village of Beydrilli. It would be a crime to be on a tight schedule as you travel here. These moments when we drop into village life, into the lives of the men at the tea stops, are priceless. Payment is refused. We are trying to remember if we had paid for any teas in Turkey.
Not much further and we stop for an early lunch. It is an unpromising looking place but we have stumbled across a gem. The guy speaks many languages, is well-traveled and has a series of companies. One of his sidelines is honey, and the ‘ Bee Man ‘, is in with a sample of the new years crop. It is apple blossom honey and is wonderfully light in taste. Esther has her first experience of honey straight from the hive to the plate.
Towards late afternoon we pull off the main road, taking a right, onto a minor road. This road sits in a flat bottomed bowl of fertile land, between high mountains. We are heading to the town of Süller and are running with apple trees and ripening corn. We stop once more for tea, not realising that this is not a cafe. No problem, a table is made up and tea brewed. It takes the best part of an hour. A simple joy.
We turn from the road, picking a likely looking track into the field. There are fields of white poppies, the sound of bells from flocks of sheep and goat. We have found a perfect pitch. We are just settling down when a motorbike pulls up. The guy looks young, but he has his teenage daughter with him. He is the driver of one of the buses that had passed us on the road earlier with a great deal of horn blowing and waving. They have bought a thick brown blanket with them as it is going to be a cold night ‘ For you to keep warm ‘. How did they know we were here?
The fun times come to an abrupt hault. Straight onto the road and a big climb ahead. The word ” RAMPA “, needs little interpretation and had featured in tea conversations increasingly yesterday, along with the gesture of hands held at depressingly steep gradients. It was universally obvious that we were going to have a hard start to todays ride.
We have entered the wine region. It starts with a single field, an outlier amongst the corn and scrub pastures. It soon becomes the dominant crop, the cash turner in this dry landscape. We are not carrying a corkscrew at the moment, which may be a mistake. We try to beg one at our lunch stop. The only way appears to be to go and sit with the people at the old age centre, listen to a few stories, and then take a glass or two of wine before asking if we can have the corkscrew. There does not appear to be the simple option of buying one at a shop.
Lunch at the village of Cal has turned into a bit of a meet and greet. We get our photos taken and there is an almost presidential quantity of handshaking to be done. The owner of the cafe has gone online. He brings the laptop over. Google translate, and he wants to make it clear how much he appreciates the spirit of travellers and welcomes us to his town. Again our meal is paid for.
I have had poor ‘achey’ legs since the moment I got out of the tent in the morning. It takes you like that some days. Today there is nothing in the tank. Bit of an inconvenience that, as a series of brutal hills come along. A storm is brewing and we are gaining height and feeling increasingly exposed. It is best to pick a pitch before we are forced to make a bailout wildcamp. We pull off the road and find a track through vines and on to a field of rough grass. We try to get some shelter for the tent behind a ruin and push the stakes into the red soil a little further than usual. It is still exposed, but with that comes a wonderful view.
The light starts to fade. What we thought was inhospitable and empty land stretching to mountains and a far horizon turns out to be quite well populated. Street lights of scattered villages can be seen even onto the higher slopes of the mountains. This is not quite as remote as we had thought. A shepherd turns up at our tent in the last of the light. He has attained the colour of his soil and home. He is uniformly brown from outstretched hand to sturdy boot. Years outdoors have turned him into landscape.
He has bought with him bottles of water, fruit, vegetables and pancakes that have been formed the local way, with a stick. Folded four times they are still the size of an iPad. There are salad leaves, spices and herbs in two of them. So wonderful. One of these times we will not be able to hold back tears. Breakfast is taken care of. A massive thunderstorm keeps us awake until 4 am. You feel so vulnerable in a tent.
Late start, as we try to get a bit of additional rest until forced up and out by the heat of the day. We pass a cemetery and one of the headstones has the name, Aladdin. I thought that was a mythical name from the Arabian Nights. Never have I known pancakes that weigh so much. The two plain ones sit in Esther’s panniers waiting for the right moment.
We are on the 20-77, going west, and by 12 noon it is 33′c. This is not too hot as long as the road behaves and does not go rise up. We are trying to have an easy day and with the usual inevitability, it ends in a hard climb to a village on a hill.
Buldan, even from just a kilometre away looks bleak. There was nothing in any of the gps files that would suggest we had made anything other than a bad choice that involved a hard climb to a dead end. We asked in a shop, and got the encouraging news that there was a hotel. The head-scarfed lady came out and pointed to the sky, which was less encouraging. With just 200m to go Buldan opened out into a picturesque square, with cafes and bars. It is on a dead end road into the hills and exists on a historic textile trade.
Men were walking around. With the bravery of a few glasses of wine and a bit of Raki, they were keen for a chat. ” What is the celebration? “. There were flags flying and clearly it was something of importance. ” Galatasaray are champions! ” and the men were beaming with ear to ear grins. ” We are very happy, we are Christmas Happy “. This is going into our dictionary as the expression of pure joy in someone inebriated but still very sociable.
We make a bold change of plans. We are going to Pamukkale, for no other reason than we were there 20 years ago. It feels like a strange thrill to close a loop by going to somewhere we have been before. A place that we travelled to when we had just met and were young. We celebrate with a glass of local wine, which turns into ‘ bring the whole bottle ‘.
It is actually a very nice little town and somehow scrapes together enough of a tourist trade to have good restaurants and a bit of a buzz. We get encouraging news, the road ahead is down hill, our favorite sort of hill.
We are dropping into a bowl. It holds the heat but provides good land for vines. It smells wonderful and as full of fruit as last nights glasses of red. We are linking tracks and rough narrow roads using the gps to keep off the main road. It all goes well until we come to a ‘ road closed ‘ sign. Bugger.
The alternative is a loop back on the highway. We always go and have a look if a road are really blocked in a meaningful way. You expect a bridge out, or a hole. What you do not expect is the ‘ Lost City of Tripolis ‘ blocking your way. It is huge and we have it all to ourselves. It always amazes us how something so important can become lost and in this case buried under metres of soil.
It flourished for a thousand years, is mentioned in writing by the Greeks, Romans and Byzantine civilizations. But then it sits on an active fault and a few earthquakes led to it’s abandonment. We get a tour from the solitary guardian, an enthusiastic archeologist.
We continue through increasingly rough tracks that link together small, sun baked villages. It is hazy today and we can only see the outline of a huge mountain range ahead. We stop for tea. The village has a blue tilled mosque whose minaret is home to hundreds of Martins. There screaming calls are the loudest sound in the village until the speakers call the faithful to prayer. A good, cheap hotel in the tourist hotspot of Pamukkale to see how things have changed. The guy doing the call to prayer is rubbish – 5/10.