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

22nd to 29th January 2008
7th Cycling Week Göcek to Kemer

We shared our lunch with the shepherdesses

Day 55 Tuesday 22nd January Göcek to Fethiye

Breakfast was served beside the pool in the sunshine. We were not sure it was really warm enough but it was a first. We cycled along the promenade realising that all of it was set up as yacht moorings. There are power hook-ups and bollards. It must be a very different and busy place in summer, probably not our thing.

Our ride continued on the quiet main road through pine forests. It was hilly but we rolled into Fethiye and had a picnic lunch at the seaside.

We explored the town and harbour. It was flattened by an earthquake in 1958 and all the buildings are recent. There were a very large number of the pseudo sailing ships which take trippers out for the day, swimming and eating, to secluded coves. There were also a very large number of charter yachts.

In the process of wandering around town we came across the dilapidated amphitheatre and rock tombs. Our main purpose was to find somewhere to stay and we found an 'otel' in the centre. The outlying areas which would be nicer in summer are just deserted this time of year.

The stoker found the Tourist Office open which was a shame. All they did was to upset her. If it is not bad enough feeling homesick she worries about finding places to sleep. Tomorrow looks uncertain. All the Tourist Office did was to make her worry more.

It is a good thing one of us worries. The management goes on in a happy go lucky irresponsible way, confident that something will turn up. It is good to have some balance on the tandem.

Day 56 Wednesday 23rd January Fethiye to Saklikent Gorge

We pedalled out of town rather late. The stoker wanted to sell or donate our copy of Ian McEwan's 'Atonement' at the local book shop. Yesterday she had bought 'A Thousand Splendid Suns', a very large book but the only one they had that looked worth reading. She found the shop locked up. The management thinks the book lady had gone away on a binge with the amount the stoker paid. He is however very grateful as we are both lost without a good book to read.

While this was going on the management parked the tandem outside the Sultan Café which has an insecure wifi link. The hotel's wifi was down though the hotel was fine in most other ways.

The route worked out on Google Earth went out of town and via the villages on the edge. This is actually not a bad description of them. Centre of town could be almost anywhere in Western Europe if we had mosques. At the edge some people are living in tumble down buildings. Most of them however wave to us and because everything is labour intensive there are always people around.

After an hour or so we were finally in the countryside and surrounded by very high snow covered mountains. It was a lovely ride in the warm sunshine. Eventually we joined the quiet main road for a short section.

We were aware that it was getting near lunchtime by the muezzins calling the faithful to prayer. Not only do they seem to start just before or after we pass a mosque but if we are going down hill we can also hear the chanting from the next village. It is not good on the western ear. But we can't help thinking that the western black crows have missed a trick. It is hard to ignore a religion that chants at you four times a day. Church bells on Sunday are just a minor aggravation by comparison.

By lunchtime the pressure to find somewhere to stay was always in the background. By now we were on the pleasant country road going south. The villages and farms we passed offered no sign of accommodation of any kind and we seemed to be getting further from the beaten track.

We came to the signs saying that Tlos ruins were 4km off the road. Even further away was a pension but with no phone number or distance we could not risk it. We also gave the ruins a miss. We asked some locals about places to stay and replies were not good.

We had little choice but to go on. As a last resort we were on a dolmus bus route and could get back if we had to. And it was very nice cycling.

At about mid afternoon we passed a roadside kebab seller. He was very positive about there being a hotel in 6km. It cheered us up. 6km came and then at 7km we came across a very closed motel. A km further on we found a fine large hotel.

Priorities are a warm room then hot water. Once the sun goes down behind the mountains it gets very cold. We had luke warm water and a room that needed several hours of air conditioning on heat mode to get warm.

As with everywhere we have been in Turkey except Tourist Information offices everyone here was helpful and friendly. The family and local men met downstairs where there was a woodburner. We had dinner there and only retreated to our room to sleep.

 Pelicans drying their wings just as the cormorants do in Weymouth

Day 57 Thursday 24th January Saklikent Gorge to Patara

Even with the air conditioning on full blast the room was cold. The stoker resorted to sleeping fully clothed. It was a port in a storm and, like an uncomfortable mooring, we were pleased to be underway.

After only a couple of kms we came to the Saklikent Gorge itself. All around was the detritus of the summer tourist trade, most of it in a very dodgy state of repair. The gorge itself is very impressive. We risked walking along the rotten looking board walk cantilevered over the fast flowing river. The sides of the gorge cut by the river rise almost sheer to a great height. The guide book says the gorge is 18km long but only climbers venture much beyond the first 200 metres.

Back on the little used country road the sun finally got high enough for us to take off our warm wear. The east facing mountains put this side of the valley in shade till mid morning in winter. As we went on it felt very remote. The road is only just above the flood plain and we saw few people. Those living here show more sense than many in the UK and tend to live above flood levels.

In the villages and hamlets we passed through we saw exactly what tourists look for and seldom experience. We saw women lace and carpet making. They were also collecting and carrying firewood and water. Occasionally we saw a donkey being led carrying all manner of things. The cafés were busy with men sitting around chatting and sometimes playing board games. Men's work seems very much preferable to women's work here.

When we emerged onto the main road we immediately saw a sign to Xanthos. There was also a jandarma control point. We have passed through several of these. Gun toting men in fatigues demand our passport and so far have let us pass. We have asked several people why they do this and have been unable to get an answer. This kind of thing has been unacceptable anywhere in Europe since Franco and even then Picasso had the right idea. We don't like it and on this occasion went behind them following the road to the ruins. They did not shout after us as we half expected.

Xanthos was once the capital and grandest city in the area. We took a leisurely walk seeing the Roman theatre, pillar tombs and Byzantine church. A good deal of it is in the British Museum, the site having been looted in 1842. As usual there were few other visitors and we made tea and had picnic lunch on the café terrace. We offered the few men sitting on the terrace a little of our lunch as tradition and good manners demands here. It was a gesture they appreciated and they each took a little as a token.

Deviating about 4km from the route we reached Patara. It is a strange place especially in winter. Despite having a superb beach mass tourism has been resisted. The strange thing is that while there is a thriving summer trade it now feels downmarket and beach bumish.

We had a job to find somewhere comfortable to stay. We also paid way over the odds for a nice meal in the only café which was open. It is almost impossible to get a price before ordering and overcharging is bad news here. It breaks down the trust we have in the friendly Turks we have met along the way, most of whom charge a proper price.

Day 58 Friday 25th January Patara to Kas

We returned on the meandering and more or less flat lane to the main road. We were then lulled into a false sense of security by a gentle descent into Yesilköy. The village is a working place full of joiners shops and metal workers. There were many people about and it was a good place to get supplies.

As we left the village the road went steeply up. There were then a series of very steep hairpin bends. We were reduced to bottom gear for much of the time. It is the first time this trip that we have climbed in bottom gear in the morning when we have new legs. It is actually quicker to walk but not pushing the loaded tandem.

We emerged at the top of the hill just as the mosque was calling midday prayers. Being Friday quite a few men were going into the mosque. We went on towards Mecca as best we could. The road skirted the deserted package holiday town of Kalkan before descending to the coast.

The coast road which we followed for the rest of the day is superb and there was very little traffic. The sea was blue and dotted with rocky islands and headlands. We had the wind and the sun on our backs. The road is cut into the steep hillside and there was only one significant climb. We have no idea why it was built but it looks new. Whatever the reason we were very grateful.

We, or should we say the stoker, are very wary now when looking for accommodation. The first requirement is warmth. If a building is cold it can take our whole stay to make it habitable. The next thing is hot water and the third wifi. On this occasion she tried an 'otel' in the main street and inadvertently started bargaining.

The otel was not quite up to our standards and as she walked away a third was cut off the room rate. As it was we moved into the comfortable Ates Pansiyon even though it was more expensive.

As we arrived at the pension we were approached by a gentleman of the press. People tend to note our arrival in small towns and the word had got round. He took photos of us and interviewed us with the manager of the pension interpreting. The stoker was not amused that the reporter wanted all the management's employment details but not hers. Still, the Echo is much the same. The reporter said he would email publication details but often things like that don't happen so we are not holding our breaths.

Road up Turkish style

Day 59 Saturday 26th January day off at Kas

We slept so well after six days on the road that we almost missed breakfast which stops at 10am. We even slept through the morning call to prayer at 6.30am even though the mosque is in the next road.

The pansiyon meets all of our requirements and we found it very comfortable. It is the highest building in the main town and we had breakfast on the roof in the sunshine. The views both towards the sea and the Greek island of Meis are lovely. The only drawback as far as we are concerned is that it is the television relay station for the town. The building is packed with electronic equipment and the mast towers into the sky. Because of the radiation we would not want to stay here long. Amusingly, security of the equipment is nil and it would be easy to cut off the whole town.

No one would make a special trip to Kas to see the archaeological remains. We did however enjoy exploring the amphitheatre and looking at the rock tombs in the sunshine. All very low key and free.

One of the features of the town is that the mountain above takes the shape of a sleeping man called Yatan Adam. We have seen features like this everywhere from the Outer Hebrides to southern Europe. They usually take the form of women with big boobs but there is the notable elephant in Javea in Spain. The one here is the best we have seen.

We lounged around in the sun for the rest of the day. Down in the harbour among the men repairing boats were a pair of pelicans. They had their wings out to dry just like the cormorants in Weymouth though they are about the size of a swan. These birds which we find unusual received hardly any attention from passers by.

We also did the usual chores and shopping that have to be done on a day off. We made a mental note to buy as much as possible in the villages we pass through. Not only is it better for their economy but it costs us less that half this town's prices.

Day 60 Sunday 27th January Kas to Demre

It was a lovely day again but like true gypsies we are ready to move on after a day in one place. We knew the only way out was up and we got into a steady rhythm for what turned out to be a 600 metre climb. The coastal views expanded as we went higher and we could see the many inlets and islands laid out below us. The green of the mountains and islands contrasted with the azure blue of the sea.

Once we turned away from the coast the snow covered mountains appeared. It was still not an easy ride with a whole series of switchbacks. But the road was smooth and quiet and although colder than at sea level it was still pleasantly warm.

We stopped for lunch in a broad valley with a tiny village on one side and a complete panorama of snow covered mountains as the backdrop. It was an exceptionally lovely place and the only noise was the occasional sheep bell.

We set up the trangia and our three legged stools on a grassy bank and put the kettle on. Gradually the sheep bells became noisier and a herd approached us very slowly. In charge as shepherdesses were a mother and two daughters. When they came near the stoker, as tradition demands, offered them some of our lunch. She took them a plate of nuts and figs all of which they ate. We are not sure of the tradition here as so far when we have offered food only a token amount has been taken so we were a bit surprised. When they had their lunch a little later they offered us gözlemes which are savoury pancakes and very nice.

The husband turned up complete with a shotgun and took charge as men and particularly Turkish men tend to do. We had sign language conversations and shook hands as friends when we left.

Eventually and none too soon we reached the top of the 15km descent into Demre. It was essential to put fleeces on as we were going at speeds in excess of 70kph. We circled around the town on the most amazing and almost totally empty road. The final approach was along the seafront.

We went into the town centre for an otel. All the eating places on the seashore were shut. After a lovely but hard ride we just like to be able to wander a few yards to eat and the town centres are best for that.

Day 61 Monday 28th January Demre to near Kumluca

Janet, the team weather forecaster, texted us bad news just after we had gone to bed last night. Snow is on the way together with high winds. She said travelling would be difficult.

When we awoke it was overcast, something to which we are not accustomed now. We doubted the possibility of snow. This was because the temperature display in the street said 15 degrees. Even taking into account its likely inaccuracy that ruled out snow.

As we left the sun came out and we had a very nice morning cycle ride. Leaving Demre we cycled around the lovely lake just outside town. We had hoped to see flamingos but had to content ourselves with coots, grebes and what looked to us like oyster catchers. We also saw several large hawks during the morning, both at the lake and along the sea cliffs.

After circumnavigating most of the lake we took to the coast road. It must have been a major engineering achievement to build. It zig zags like a mountain road in and out of the deep inlets. On the map it looks so winding that steep climbs seemed inevitable. This was not the case and instead of major climbs we had superb views in all directions.

Eventually and rather reluctantly we came to Finike, a holiday place. We had expected wall to wall high rise but it was not that bad and did not go on for too long.

By now the weather was beginning to look pretty black over the mountains. The stoker was also beginning to wriggle which tends to indicate that a lunch stop is due. We found a pleasant place by the sea and debated whether to go on or try to get a quick lunch.

It rained hard just as the kettle boiled. There was also the odd flash of lightning and for a few seconds hail stones. We did a quick soggy pack and waterproofs on got underway again.

By the time we got to Kumluca the rain had stopped and our waterproofs had dried on us. Kumluca is a medium sized agricultural town in serious need of a good hotel. We did find a hotel but it looked as if it was falling to bits. They claimed to be full but most likely they didn't have a room they thought we would accept.

The next place along the route with a guaranteed hotel is at least 40km over the mountain. Alternatively we could either go 20km to the backpackers Mecca of Olympus or retrace. Olympus was slightly the wrong way and the guide warns of the risks of being robbed, drugged, raped, poisoned, ripped off and having to share a bathroom there. We decided to leave that to those on their pre university year out and retrace.

We were lucky. Only about 10km of flat road back we came to a pleasant motel with a restaurant either side. It even has hot water and wifi. The electricity seemed to have been affected by the rain and we took a candle to bed.

Day 62 Tuesday 29th January near Kumluca to Kemer

Having shaken hands all round we headed away from the motel against gale force headwinds. The wind was so strong it blew the maps and Ortlieb map case away which the stoker ran after. We doubt if we followed all of the German attachment instructions to the letter but even so we were surprised it came off.

We were also surprised as we struggled along against the wind how little damage had been done by the weather. There had been several thunderstorms during the night. Turkish constructions of all sorts look makeshift but few of them had fallen down.

The ride today is long and involves a climb of about 600 metres. We thought we may need to turn back again. To the management's surprise, as we started to climb the wind eased. It was very pleasant gradually gaining height in the morning sunshine.

Just before we reached the summit we stopped off at a café for pancakes and some chocolate for energy. We still had a long way to go but were lucky that there was not another long stretch of uphill. Just after lunch a white van man offered us a lift. We declined but it was a nice gesture.

By the time we reached Kemer we were tired and cold but that was easily fixed. We had again had the privilege, in mid winter, of cycling through glorious mountain scenery. It was also nice to reach our objective.

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