The Dedegol Mountains, Isparta, Turkey. This year's challenge?

14th to 21st January 2008
6th Cycling Week Selçuk to Göcek

Lake Bafa

Day 47 Monday 14th January Selçuk to Söke

Another fine warm day to start the week. We retraced our way south and took a minor road to Kusadasi. For a while on the outskirts it was very pleasant. The roads were deserted and the only person present at the "Resort Hotels" was the security guard with whom we passed the time of day.

After that we had a fine example of what the Romans did for modern Turkey. We have seen the same in every country bordering the Med - the sprawling holiday slums. Presumably they make some of the people who come here feel at home. In this case it is no doubt sold as the resort for Ephesus.

As we cycled through Kusadasi it looked as if it had already shot its bolt. The centre looks completed but on the edges are many abandoned half finished high rises. With the inevitable increase in the cost of air travel the demand for destinations so far from wealthy northern Europe has to reduce. Will our descendants wonder at the ruins of Kusadasi as we wonder at Ephesus? Will they speculate on the lifestyle of those staying at the Paradise Hotel? Will they say in the guide book which building was the brothel and will they change their minds when it is expedient to do so?

We had plenty of time to ponder on these questions as we laboured up the many hills on the route. We were pleased to descend into Söke mid afternoon. This is a busy working town and far more interesting for us than the likes of Kusadasi. We were welcomed by everyone we saw. A man stopped his van in the middle of the road to give us directions to the hotel and he was not a tout and it was not a scam, he was just being helpful.

As we followed his directions the many children leaving school called after us, wanting to practice their English. We found the busy business hotel where we were given a huge room because all the smaller ones were taken. And the tandem was parked in pride of place in the lobby and the radiators worked.

At dinner time we were shown to a local restaurant. It seemed an unlikely kind of place but the food was good. We are amused by the charging regime. Some restaurants charge us a tiny amount, less than a cup of Starbucks coffee for a full meal. Others think their lucky day has come when they see us and hike up the price. Either way it is still a fraction of the price we would pay at home.

Returning to the hotel we wanted to use wifi and sat with the men downstairs. We did see another woman but are not sure if she is a guest. We took the opportunity to ask the men about hotels on the way tomorrow and received a good response. As we left to go to bed they were playing table games. The Turks, being a civilised nation, do this and some of the games we don't recognise.

Day 48 Tuesday 15th January Söke to Bafa Gölü (Lake Bafa)

During the night there was thunder and lightning and heavy rain. The final storm was during breakfast and turned the road outside the hotel into a river. Based on a good weather forecast from Janet for later in the day we put off leaving until the weather improved.

The management has had a bad cold for the past five or six days and reckons he is only going at about two thirds of his already slow rate. Because of this we plan to do a series of shorter days and take fewer days off.

When the rain stopped we cycled to the bank and had another fun ride around town. We then had more than 25km of absolutely flat straight dual carriageway. It was not busy and we had a wide hard shoulder to ride on. What little bit of wind there was was on our backs. Give us undulating country lanes anytime in preference to this mind and bum numbing terrain.

We finally climbed over a steep rise and descended to the beautiful Bafa Gölü lake which is over 15km long and surrounded by mountains. We were lucky to find a cabin beside the lake and near a restaurant for the night. It even has a wood burner to keep us warm and the management amused.

Dinner was served across the way and three generations were there. There were about ten people from granddad to a three year old. We were looked after and welcomed into their gathering. The phrase book went round and questions asked which could not always be answered but we all did our best. We were shown how to eat roasted sunflower seeds from the husk in two bites and taken to see their tea drying on a table.

There were maps on the wall and the family were really interested in our journey. Many people in far wealthier countries don't know what is down the road. We were delighted to explain our plans to these people who could see much further than their own backyard. After dinner and chat one of the young girls, an accountancy student, came back to our cabin with more firewood.

 Temple of Zeus at Euromos

Day 49 Wednesday 16th January Bafa Gölü to Milas

When we awoke it felt chilly. The fire in the wood burning stove was just embers. Drawing the curtains we could only just see the water's edge. A heavy mist had come down during the night. Furthermore the solar water heating system had not worked very well and a warm shower was out of the question.

We were the first at breakfast, the extended family turning up in dribs and drabs. Turkish breakfast is always substantial but this one was more than we could eat. As well as fried eggs, cheese, bread, local honey and olives we were treated to gözleme, local herby pancakes.

The mist showed no sign of clearing and we left with our lights on. The lake is only just above sea level in a large depression. The sun did not start to burn through until we had climbed out of the bowl. On the way we passed through a disreputable looking village where tourists turn off. They go into the countryside here to experience "real" Turkish village life at Herakleia. The stench in the village where people were eating and drinking at the cafés was really unpleasant and so untypical of this country. We held our noses and pressed on as quickly as we could pedal.

Speaking of unpleasantnesses we also need to mention the road kill here. We have seen two wild boar dead on the side of the road. They were large animals with very dangerous looking fangs. In many poor countries they would have become meat. Here of course Muslims do not eat pig meat so they rot away in the sun.

At the top of the bowl we passed out into the rest of the world via a shortish unlit tunnel. As we descended in the sunshine we came across the ruins of Euromos. This was a very important Roman city and has one of the best preserved temples in Turkey. There was no one at the pay desk and only one other couple turned up while we were there. We spent a very pleasant time exploring and having our picnic lunch in the sun.

Milas is a big town and we had difficulty finding the hotel quarter. This was solved eventually by the stoker going off and exploring on foot. The management found a sunny spot to park the tandem and await a text from the stoker with directions.

Days 50 and 51 Thursday and Friday 17th and 18th January Milas to Akyaka via Yatagan

The original route for these two days involved too many risks for us. It involved a nice quiet ride to the coast. That bit would have been easy and pleasant. Then the next day either an off road route along the coast and cliffs or some serious minor road climbing, both around 50km long with no accommodation or back up buses along the way. We had not brought emergency camping equipment on this trip.

We got to the cross roads out of Milas town before making the final decision. What tipped it was the fact that we have not been able to buy detailed maps. The other thing is that the management's cold is nearly better and he felt he could manage two straight days of climbing providing he had somewhere comfortable to sleep afterwards.

We climbed over 600 metres through beautiful mountain scenery. Unfortunately the main road is narrow and without a hard shoulder. It is not all that busy but traffic here is not what it is in the UK. Most of the vehicles are commercial and a good number elderly and decrepit.

Many lorries can only climb in their crawler gears and descend with engine braking. Cyclists and just about every one else, including donkey and horse riders, pedestrians and stray dogs are expected to get out of the way.

White van man behaves the same the world over. We have a friend who claims they are specially bred gnomes with a death wish. Then there is the occasional relative of Saddam Hussein going at warp speed in a Mercedes with blacked out windows. There is no room for error and we needed to be very careful.

Having completed the first big climb we descended a couple of hundred metres in a few kms and and found a useful but boring motel for the night. It gave us a chance to dry our cycling clothes as we had an hour or so of rain today.

We cycled on some way in the early morning mist before finding a café for breakfast. According to the guide books Turks enjoy their very adequate breakfasts and, like Hobbits, sometimes have two. In this neck of the woods they would have to cycle a long way to find two breakfast cafés open.

In the morning the views were not wonderful. It was safe and easy to climb on a dual carriageway which was not all that busy. We eventually went over a ridge at 670 metres and thought we had cracked it. No such luck, we had reached Mugla which is a shallow bowl in the mountains.

Thinking we just had a massive descent to do we put off lunch, preferring to have it when we arrived. It was a mistake and we still had two more long climbs. The management in particular is not one to postpone a meal lightly.

On the way we passed the other end of the road we had chosen not to take yesterday. The sign said 60km and the mountain was almost vertical. We had made the right decision.

The descent into Akyaka is one of the most spectacular we have done. The dual carriageway road sweeps down 600 metres in a series of hairpin bends. The extraordinary width of the road confuses many car drivers who waste a good deal of rubber. They, like us, are also distracted by the views of sea and mountains.

The management was especially pleased that the rear disc brake worked well. The stoker does not worry her head about matters of a mundane technical nature although she has imposed a speed limit. She was however pleased we were able to stop to look at the views. She also took pictures of one of the many road side traders trying to sell fluffy toy camels to passers by. We have yet to see them achieve this feat and are not sure what benefit a fluffy camel has for the purchasers. One can only assume that the mark up is exceptionally high.

Stoker buying oranges

Day 52 Saturday 19th January, a day off in Akyaka

We found a very pleasant family run hotel one street back from the beach. They cooked us some very tasty food and the facilities are excellent. We did try the local resort hotel first but they would not negotiate on their price which was about twice the going rate. We guess they have still to learn about marginal costing.

This little town has a lot going for it with mountains, sea and sun. There has been quite a lot of development but its location could prevent real stupidity. Unless rising oil prices do that anyway. It is on a narrow plain below the steeply rising 600 metre mountains. On one side it is too steep for any but the Spanish to build and on the other are natural wet lands. There are plenty of modest holiday villas that are being aimed at the likes of us. The holiday traders here do English and lots of places advertise English food. But it is still very easy to find the real Turkey.

We enjoyed our day off walking in the sun and in the evening catching up on the emails. The management even cleaned and oiled the tandem. Another day here is tempting but in our experience it is best to leave before you tire of a place.

Day 53 Sunday 20th January Akyaka to Köycegiz

We had a bit of an adventure and a bit of archaeology to start the day. To avoid a pointless climb we experimented with the back road out along the river. Just after the end of town we came across some rock tombs. The management thought they were troglodytes. The stoker assured him that the original occupants would definitely have taken over tenure while dead.

It is very pleasant just to come across archaeological sites like this. We were able to climb inside the tombs and explore them in peace and quiet. There was no explanation board or even a brown sign, it was very enjoyable.

Continuing along the minor road we were prevented from joining our route by a deep river valley. There being no sign of a bridge the management seeing a crossing took it. The stoker was not given the opportunity to get off. She complained loudly but was conveyed safely to the other bank. It was all to no avail. The crossing led nowhere and from the vantage point of the other side we could see a bridge about 500 metres away. The stoker refused to remount for the reverse crossing.

Until lunchtime we were on a very wide main road. There was however very little traffic and it undulated in pleasant pine woods with great views of the snow covered mountains inland.

Picnic lunch taken in the warm sunshine we cut off the main road towards Lake Köycegiz, passing through orange groves and villages. The farmers were busy with the harvest. The fruit was just too easy to scrump to present a challenge. Instead we bought from one of the picturesque roadside stalls. Small change was a problem, the two young girls would not accept a gift of too much money, instead giving us a grapefruit and a lemon. Most buyers want 4kg not four oranges.

It was all change when we reached the lake, busy and noisy with families enjoying a sunny Sunday afternoon beside the water.

We booked into a pleasant lakeside hotel. We enjoyed the rest of the day relaxing on the balcony overlooking the glassy calm waters with the misty mountains in the background. It had been a very good day of cycletouring even though we had not been that far.

Day 54 Monday 21st January Köycegiz to Göcek

We awarded the hotel our lemon because it was one. Lovely views don't make up for no hot water or wifi. We think the Lonely Planet correspondent must abe having a relationship with the proprietor who was nowhere to be seen.

It seems to be getting warmer each day though the nights are still very cold. At 8am people were scraping mushy unenglish ice from their cars. We cycled in short sleeved tops all day only putting jackets on for the long descents.

The traffic level on the road was just about ok but the route was slightly hilly. The stoker is feeling a bit down today which affects road speed. The management seems to wander on, happily going home at the end of the trip. The stoker misses home but not every day.

Realising that cheering up was in order the management was lucky to find a nice picnic spot in a warm pine wood. He declared it a two teas day and commiserated with the stoker by taking a siesta in the sun.

Soon after lunch we unexpectedly came to a tunnel. The road on the map had a huge number of hairpin bends. The tunnel, opened in 2006, bypassed these. Unfortunately cycles and, rather oddly, lorries are not allowed to use it. Presumably it speeds arrivals at the airport to the ghettos without the risk of touching real Turkey. We could not have just gone through because there was a toll gate.

We had a pleasant climb through the forest and over the ridge. It was then a technical descent down the hairpins relying on the Hope disc brake.

Göcek is a pleasant small seaside town at the head of a deep bay. It is an upmarket resort and several well known yacht charter companies are based here.

We booked into a small hotel which had everything we needed but had missed last night. Our favourite nice touch was the warm bathrobes.

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