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

7th to 14th February 2008
9th Cycling Week Anamur, Turkey to Yenierenköy, North Cyprus

The management holding forth in a Roman theatre

Day 71 Thursday 7th February in Anamur

It was mainly a planning, housekeeping and chores day. The morning was made easier for us because the hotel has both a good wifi connection and a washing machine we could use.

We woke late, needing our sleep after yesterday's ride. We put all the photos and files together, keen to get them on the web site. Not for the first time this year we could not get into the site to do the update. We were cross. What was worse was that the site was down all day.

The next job was route planning. To enjoy the hilly ride to Tasucu where we get the ferry to Cyprus we need to take two, or more likely three, days. From the information we have and searches on the web there is nowhere to stay at the places we need to stop.

The management drew up a list of place names and a rough map. We cycled into town and went to the bus terminal. We asked around using the list but everyone thought there were no lodgings at the places we needed them.

The stoker also asked at the Tourist Information Office. She asked politely as she always does whether the man there spoke English. He showed her the two pieces of paper on his desk. The first one said "The civil servant is not here" and the second "I do not speak English". She and he both did their best and came to the same conclusion. There is nowhere to stay.

Disappointed we then went with the tandem to the bus ticket office. There were a number of people touting for our business which was amusing. No doubt Margaret Thatcher would have been delighted with such enterprise. We showed them the tandem and they all said "no problem". We learned about a month ago that in Turkey no one ever actually says no. It is nice to be in a can do culture but we will wait and see.

The management was very miserable. He knew that it was only common sense to get the bus. There is no way that the stoker should be cycling for eight hours as she was yesterday. This would be needed if we cycled on. Furthermore the management's brain and muscles had also become jaded which is not good when mixing with Turkish traffic. We were disappointed not to be able to cycle this last little bit so we went to a chi and cake shop to cheer ourselves up.

Decisions were made. We would stay here a couple of days and cycle out to the local places of interest. The management would have time to reconcile himself to getting the bus and we would both be happier.

Day 72 Friday 8th February in Anamur

We retraced our route westwards a little and cycled out to the ruins of Anamurium. The site is very large. We paid to go in and then cycled on a made road right through the ruins and down to the beach. For much of the way there were ruined buildings all around us.

We walked back from the beach pushing the tandem, exploring the buildings as we went along in the sunshine. Just before we reached the city wall we came across the Roman public baths. It was fun to look for the coloured mosaic tiles which still decorate portions of the floor.

Opposite the baths was the odeon. This one is a small enclosed Roman theatre in a good state of preservation. With no one else around the management overcame his English reserve and tried the acoustics. He recited a little bit of badly remembered Wordsworth and Mansfield plus, to his regret, part of the Henry V speech before the battle of Agincourt. The stoker said the acoustics were good but made no comment on the quality of the delivery.

By lunch time a strongish wind had sprung up and we took the food pannier into the odeon. We had a pleasant picnic in the sun sitting on one of the fallen marble pillars from the proscenium arch.

In the afternoon we went on to explore the rest of the town which was mainly inside the walls. The town walls ran steeply down the mountain from summit to sea level. We looked at the main 900 seater theatre, the gym and the necropolis. We also may have climbed up to the ancient lighthouse if that is what the structure with a chimney was.

We returned to the hotel having had a lovely day. It was a very good way for the management to come to terms with going on the bus for the last bit.

 Stoke hole?

Day 73 Saturday 9th February in Anamur

Saturday dawned bright but very windy. Strong wind is not nice here. It cuts right through you and blows the dust about. Combined with the harsh sunshine it is very wearing and damages the complexion.

Our plan today is to visit Mamure Castle which lies some way east of where we are staying. While exploring the area we had discovered a new pedestrian suspension bridge across a wide river which was not on the Google Earth photographs taken in 2005. This seemed the obvious way to go.

When we got to the bridge it was moving, flexing and rolling in the wind. It is over 2 metres wide and about 150 metres across. We decided that while it may have a short life we would be unlucky if it collapsed while we were on it. Over we went.

We could now see the castle in the distance, a large and very impressive structure. We manoeuvred the tandem over a heap of earth blocking the road. We then headed on tracks across the wetlands just inland of the sea. After a number of deadends we reluctantly came to the conclusion that we would have to turn back. This was made even more aggravating by being able to see people only 50 metres away on the other side of the water blocking our path.

Leaving the area the management was bitten by a dog. We were cycling through its backyard but were still annoyed. In this country, we think rightly, dogs are treated as subservient. They often have a job to do but otherwise have no special status. Vehicles don't go out of their way to avoid them on the roads. We don't think that they would last long here if they bit people. From a cyclist's point of view it is a much better approach than that of the sentimentality in the UK.

Unusually for a cyclist the management has not been bitten since his childhood. He takes the approach that human beings are far more dangerous than dogs. In the past the dogs seemed to have understood this when he looks them in the eye. They have used good sense and backed off. He is firmly of the opinion that this dog was maladjusted and will not last long.

In theory dog bites here should be taken seriously. Even though the dog had hardly broken the skin the stoker wanted him to see a doctor. His philosophy based on working with doctors for six years is similar to that of the much lamented Spike, "Steer clear of doctors my friend or they will be the death of you." By the time you read this you should know whether he was right. In Turkey a doctor would no doubt have a field day dealing with a wealthy foreigner with a minor dog bite. After they had fallen about laughing the lira signs would start to flash before their eyes. The management decided that if the worst came to the worst he would be better off in the military base in Cyprus.

We went on with an aching front leg in a bad humour. Mamure Castle is magnificent. It has 36 towers all of which are intact. The front sits almost in the sea. On a less windy day when we were in better humour we could have spent a long time there. As it was we explored the easy bits. Like many places outside the UK where the public are admitted it is not just unhealthy and unsafe it is plain dangerous and great for an adventure. We climbed up and down crumbling stone stairs. The management even made it to the top and clung to the flag pole in the gale force wind.

We returned to the hotel via the bus station and it is a good thing we did. Originally we had planned just to turn up early for tomorrow's 10.15am bus. It would give us a degree of leverage to get the tandem on board if there was a problem. The 10.15 was however fully booked and we reluctantly agreed to go on the 7.15am and bought a ticket in case that too sold out. Apparently many students are travelling back to university this weekend filling the buses.

The hotel had a function on tonight. Try as we might we could not establish what it was for, possibly a group of friends or maybe a work group. They were certainly several rungs up the social and economic ladder from most of those we saw when cycling along.

This social occasion seems to us to bring into focus the diversity in Turkey. Several of the women wore scarves and only danced with other women or children. Other women wore short skirts and high stiletto shoes and danced with the men just as they would in the west. The music and dance was also just as varied. There were traditional Turkish dances including a sort of conga led by a man with a silver cloth to wave. In some dances men danced with men and women with women. There were also all the types of dancing we are familiar with in the UK. The music was equally varied and much to our amusement the western music played in the break was very similar to what we would expect in England.

Days 74 and 75 Sunday and Monday 10th and 11th February Anamur, Turkey to Kyrenia (Girne) Northern Cyprus

We set the alarm for 5.45am in order to have time to pack and get to the bus station half an hour early. It was not a welcome sound when it went off.

We crept out trying not to wake anyone as we went. The Ünlüselek Hotel had done us proud. It was the longest we had stayed anywhere since Christmas and the food and service were excellent. Despite being up to their eyes with work because of the function we even left with a packed breakfast.

We knew from previous experience that the tandem would fit across the underneath boot of a large coach. We were pleased to see a very modern large Mercedes Benz coach arrive with our destination on it. The staff put the bike on and then piled everyone's luggage around it. It was no problem and not the slightest suggestion that it would not be carried.

Turkish buses are extremely cheap and all the long distance ones we have seen are modern and comfortable. Most people here do not have cars and travel by bus. They are frequent and there are connections to most places. There is little real incentive here to have a car with fuel prices in real terms being four times as high for a Turk than in the UK. They will also have a great advantage when the oil runs out.

Bus stations are a real experience. All human life is here from touts to tramps and mullahs to mini skirts. Every bus leaving has crowds of people to see it off, far more than are actually travelling. We felt quite lonely having no one to wave to.

We had a three hour journey through winding mountain roads. The gradients were similar to those on the road to Anamur but nothing like as lovely, spoiled by extensive forest fires. The stoker was glad she got the bus as the roads looked very difficult, dangerous and steep, often with unguarded drops to the side.

The journey went quickly with the conductor bringing tea and biscuits despite the bus navigating hair pin bends. It was very interesting to see the roads from the driver's point of view. The main vehicles are HGVs and buses. Anything else is rightly regarded as a nuisance and is expected to do its best to get out of the way. The management has always endeavoured to do this on the tandem mainly for our own safety.

We arrived in Tasucu in time for the morning ferry to Cyprus but had however decided to spend at least one night here. We checked that a ferry would go tomorrow and then booked into a seaside hotel. Unfortunately Cyprus prices are charged here but it is still a lot cheaper than in the UK.

At 10am Monday morning the stoker went off to the ferry port and bought our ticket for Kyrenia (Girne) in Northern Cyprus. The sky was overcast but the wind had moderated.

We boarded the medium sized passenger only catamaran. The tandem was put at the front (port bow) and we left at midday. Once we were at sea we began to realise that it was going to be a very rough crossing. For the first part our minds were taken up with a Mr Bean goes to Cannes film. It then began to rain hard and we had serious thunder and lightning.

The rain flattened the sea but the little cat was still doing a lot of bashing and crashing. Even though we seemed to have retained our sea legs as far as sea sickness was concerned walking about was difficult.

We arrived in Kyrenia at 3pm in the pouring rain. The tandem had survived the voyage, the management had been concerned but would not have been allowed on deck to check. Getting into the arrivals hall required humping the bike up a flight of steps. Even though this is a new facility there are no ramps and the disabled have been completely ignored. The stoker asked a soldier to help lift which he did with enthusiasm.

Passports checked we were guided the back way out because the tandem would not go round the silly screens. Wheelchairs would not be able to get through either. Our guess is that if a physical barrier could be effective against letting women in that would be in place too. What a bunch of shortsighted idiots.

We waited an hour for the rain to stop. It is the first rain Cyprus has had for ages and everyone was excited. We understand they currently have a serious water shortage. As most of the drains were blocked we cycled through fast flowing rivers to our hotel beside the old harbour.

Another nice bridge for cyclists and walkers

Day 76 Tuesday 12th February at Kyrenia (Girne)

Because of the weather last night we had not made any effort to shop around for a hotel but had just gone straight to the one listed in Lonely Planet. It was in a lovely and convenient situation next to the town centre and our large room overlooked the harbour. It was however a strange place.

In some ways the hotel's strangeness suited us very well. The breakfast room had a kitchen which we used to make tea and snacks. The hotel was entirely lit with fluorescent tubes which made it easy to read maps but rather harsh otherwise.

We were slow at getting used to the idea that Cyprus is a new country. While the people speak Turkish they are nothing like as helpful and friendly as Turks. This was something of a shock after being in Turkey for five weeks. Food here is also mainly western which makes getting nice veggie food difficult. Looks as if we might be back to omelette and chips and pizzas.

We had jobs to do. The first and most important was to get a decent map. This proved impossible even though they are available in the Greek part of the island. After walking lots of kms we found a poor 250,000 scale map. We reluctantly bought it as the best we were likely to get.

Unfortunately for them the Cypriots have adopted two of the sillier features following on from British colonialism. They use our outdated 13amp sockets and drive on the left. We therefore needed a 13 amp plug and readjust to where the traffic is coming from.

Having done the chores we spent the afternoon visiting the castle. It is not a bad castle with lots of walking up and down with good views and a look in the dungeons. For us the most interesting exhibit was a recovered wrecked ship, sunk about 2300 years ago. It was an older and much smaller Mary Rose type of exhibition.

Day 77 Wednesday 13th February Kyrenia (Girne) to Kaplica

The stoker decided to pay the hotel by visa. The morning staff was female and presumably authorised to take cash but not cards so she went to wake up one of the boys. He eventually came out fully dressed thank goodness but yawning and rubbing his eyes.

Having done much reading and umming and aahing we had decided to plan a clockwise tour of Cyprus. This island is pretty much overrun by package tourism and the best chance of avoiding it for as long as possible is to go to the far east of the island.

The route today, mainly following the north coast, promised to be very pleasant. The guide books said it was.

As we left the town the traffic was in chaos. The military forces in ceremonial uniforms were congregated near what looked like a war memorial. We know this because the management twice ignored the traffic police instructions to be diverted. This may be unwise here. In Turkey no one takes much notice of traffic police and we had got used to it.

After all the military posturing here over the last 35 years it would be better if the military including ours just stayed in their barracks or better still went home.

To our surprise once we reached the town outskirts our road continued wide, smooth and direct. We had expected a country lane and it carried hardly any more traffic than a country road. We came across signs saying that the road was built for land parcelisation. That is to enable villa developments to be built.

It was interesting to see that the little boxes going up everywhere were priced in pounds. Presumably British fools and their money are soon parted. Owning a villa here, unless you did the Brinksmat robbery (£53million was allegedly laundered by property development here) can only possibly be viable if Cyprus unites. This could take years. Even then it is a long way here and too hot in summer and too cold in winter. Still it could make good television when the losers recount their sad stories in five years time.

These developments in various stages of completion went on for 45km. We needed some bread. There was not even a roadside market for that whole distance. The new villa owners will need to stock up well for their stay.

Late morning found us sheltering in one of the empty villa porches to put on waterproofs as we were caught in a thunderstorm. The management was fairly confident that the tandem tyres offered a degree of protection from lightning strikes but the stoker was apprehensive. Fortunately we came across a café and took shelter. We had also come to the end of the new builds.

The sky cleared after a while and we went on our way. Though the main road is being continued east it was still being built and we were back on the coast road. It was mainly single track and meandered down into one bay after another. It was the ride we had been expecting when we left this morning.

We came across the beach hotel and booked in as planned. We do not blame the Turkish Cypriots for wanting a share of the wealth which comes from tourism. Rather than grumble about the end of steam John Betjeman said that he was privileged to have seen it. We feel the same about this coast which will certainly be quite different in a couple of years time.

Day 78 Thursday 14th February Kaplica to Yenierenköy

During breakfast it rained hard and we put off going till 11am which gave us time to talk to the family who own the hotel. They are strongly opposed to unification of the island, having come here from Turkey in 1974 and built a successful business. We did not ask about the ownership of the land. Unification would enable dispossessed Greek Cypriots to recover land occupied by the Turks.

We also asked what they thought of the changes the new coast road would bring. Their response was ambivalent which surprised us. We wondered whether they were just not able to affect such things in their society. They will almost certainly profit financially but their lives will be changed.

Before progressing up the Kirpasa peninsular we first had to climb out of the coastal strip over the mountains. This was a pleasant climb on the winding single track road with almost no traffic. When about two thirds of the way up the stoker realised she had the room key in her pocket. Soon after this a delivery van came the other way. We flagged him down and he agreed to drop the key in as he was going by.

We descended to the remote little village of Büyükkonuk and had early lunch in a restaurant. It was still rather overcast and picnicking did not appeal. Getting out of the village proved to be something of a challenge.

The management is now navigating by maps. It was not part of the original plan to come this way. He had not printed the Google Earth view nor done a gps track. The first signed route started fine but soon became a very wet unmade track and we retraced. We then went an alternative way. It did eventually become track but at least it was not too wet.

The stoker, concerned that we might have to go a very long way on tracks, examined the map. Unlike the colour blind management she was able to identify the made roads on the map. We were relieved to find that most of our routes on the peninsular were tarmaced except for the potholes.

Once over the mountains we were in very different countryside. The nearest similar place we have been to is the Somerset levels. The whole area looks as if it was once under the sea. The larger hills and mountains were islands. Unlike the Somerset levels it was far from level at least from a cyclist's point of view.

There was also a change in the vegetation and agriculture. There were now large grassy meadows, some covered in yellow flowers, and far fewer trees. Some of the fields were even neatly ploughed. Near the villages were occasional almond blossoms, grapes and oranges.

Just at the right moment we came across a brand new beach hotel. We checked in and enjoyed the last of the sunshine beside the sea.

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