Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Turkey we were looking for!

Riding through the mountains and highlands in Turkey is very different from the coastline. Not just in scenery but perhaps even more so in people. Just look at the difference between the photo above and below, yet they were both made on the same day and in the same country. We had already noticed the sharp contrast yesterday and today this feeling continued as we travelled further and further into the land of Kebab, Minarets and trusty old Renault 12s. We were in for a real treat as Turkey, as we had seen it so far, was about to change.

Talking of minarets... The typical, almost wailing, religious singing can be heard in every town. No surprise there. What did surprise us however is the many beach clubs which simply drowned them out...! I would have expected them to be at least slightly respectful and stop their mind numbing 'music' for a moment. What also surprised us is to find women in typical western bikinis. I have nothing against bikinis but seeing strictly religious clothing and yet also virtually all exposing bikinis is surprising to say the least. Oh, and before you start, we don't condemn or even share an opinion here, it's just an observation. 

On a different note: I'm not ashamed to say that I wasn't happy on the bike today. It was hot, so hot the asphalt was melted in places. Especially in blind corners of course. Having had a bad experience with this in the past made me very uneasy. Steering into a corner not knowing when it's going to slide and by how much while being on a bumpy surface too isn't confidence inspiring. At some point I saw Mike's TrailRider leaving a tread pattern in the asphalt in front of me... 

Another problem I had was the bumpy roads, almost corrugated over dirt-roads in places. For short stints it isn't a problem, but having had well over 2,500 km of bad roads now has had a profound effect on my spine... The continuous hammering has by now given me a sore arse, spine, shoulder blades and neck. We hadn't taken the easiest routes perhaps. Although a few of them were 'major' roads, we also took narrow local roads as that's where you find the real Turkey, the rich culture and the historic way of life. Major towns, especially along the coast are too touristic for us and to be honest they are all the same. In the mountains, away from the main roads, life is different. And that is what we came to see! Mike had no problem with the roads at all, he was just floating over it... YSS calls it world class suspension, I call it out of this world! The YSS upgrade has been the biggest improvement to the XT and has made it into a real travel bike. I can only hope I can do something similar for my Bonneville one day...

Meanwhile we arrived back on the coast again and were stunned when we saw the amazing coastline. Our earlier visit hadn't been that impressive but this, from Gocek east is seriously pretty! We stopped for photos and enjoyed the views. To make it even better they have made a beauty of a road along the coastline too, not unlike the famous Australian Great Ocean Road in fact. Quite unexpected, there wasn't that much traffic either. We followed the road east towards Antalya and found a campground just before it. It seemed fine at first but the owners had found a simple way to reduce the usage of hot water: don't put doors in the showers, don't put a door in the shower/toilet block and never clean them. It works, no-one even thinks about using them. 

Still, it didn't dampen our more positive feel about Turkey, which had gradually been building over the last few days. Not even the madhouse traffic and anti-social driving could change that. Having been slightly disappointed with the previous Roman ruins we wanted to see, we had expected to find something similar at the Aspendous Theatre, but we were wrong. Luckily! Built around 161-180 AD, by two brothers, the Aspendos Theatre is very impressive. It towers high and majestic in an evenly impressive landscape. The mountains around it compliment the theatre and give it an even grander feel. The theatre has been beautifully restored and in a sympathetic way. So much so that the Aspendos Theatre is listed as the best preserved ancient theatre in Asia Minor and the most magnificent building in the province of Pamphylia. We haven't seen all the others yet of course but magnificent is truly is. What an eye opener. With room for no less that 15,000 people it's big too.

As you can see we took lots of photographs and were seriously glad we went there! The theatre itself would have been enough to justify the detour and the entry fee, but there is lots more to see!

Behind the theatre is a rocky path which leads up to an extensive collection of ruins. On a hot day, like when we were there, make sure you take enough water as sweat was pouring out of us in no-time at all.

The faded sign had simply pointed towards an aqueduct, but once there we found a large collection of ruins. Proper ruins that is. Completely untouched and by all accounts exactly as they found them. Parts were fenced off for safety reasons I suppose, but most of it can be seen from real close-up.

We found a stadium, an acropolis, a giant fountain wall and quite a few others. On the ground we saw beautifully engraved parts from columns and pillars which indicate these were undoubtedly grand majestic buildings.

No doubt these will be restored in the future too but even as they are today, they are definitely worth visiting. The slight disappointment of the previous ruins was quickly forgotten, this is really beautiful!

We left the coast, and with it the mediter-ranean sea, behind us and headed for Konya, which was a relief. As soon as we left the coast, the traffic reduced to virtually nothing. But more importantly we found ourself in a beautiful landscape. We rode through impressive almost semi desert like mountains.

The road wound its way to an 1800 mtr altitude, which was another welcome relief as the temperatures also dropped considerably as we went up. The humidity dropped quickly too.

In this seemingly inhospitable landscape, we found families living in tent-like structures. Goat herders who lived without any modern comfort. They seemed almost nomadic. I stopped to take a photo and was immediately spotted by two kids, who alerted their parents and before I knew it grandma and grandpa were watching too... I couldn't bring myself to taking a photo anymore... Later I found another similar setup, not as striking but I took the photo anyway.

We stopped at a small supermarket, operated by a young lady who had thoughtfully provided a shady spot with tables to enjoy lunch. We bought a loaf of bread, which is good and very cheap in Turkey, and some fruit. She came out with plastic cups for us. Since we can't take any refrigerated goods with us in the temperatures we are in now, we eat lots of fruit, dates and figs. Tuna in a can is always handy, as are veggies in jars. When we can find it, we always get a tub of yoghurt too and eat it outside the shop.

Later in the afternoon we turned into a gravel road and rode into the mountains, looking for a spot to park the bikes and pitch the tents. The road was a dead end, and ended rather abruptly into the courtyard of an old farm! We turned back, rode up a rocky track looking for a spot. Just as we were about to turn around, a woman with three donkeys approached from the other end... We switched off the engines and gave her room to pass. She didn't say anything and didn't even look at us, she just rode past on her donkey, with two others in tow carry sacks of something. We decided to go off the track a bit further and put the tents up. We always make sure our bikes and tents are not in a direct line of sight from the road for obvious reasons. What we hadn't taken into consideration however was the local wildlife. In this case a family of wild pigs... They came from higher up the mountain and went to the nearby stream to drink. We looked at them in disbelief... they were seriously BIG! Bigger than our bikes in fact! We could only hope they wouldn't come back during the night...