It’s truly amazing how short a distance you have to cover to be off the beaten tourist trail. Just a few kilometers after leaving Selçuk with its coach tours and touts (we enjoyed the ruins of Efphesus but were starting to be annoyed by the crowds and hassle factor) we felt like we were in another world. We quickly moved into farming territory and it is the time of the cotton harvest so we passed field after field of men and women out picking this year’s crop and nearly every tractor was pulling a trailer stuffed full of fluffy white cotton balls. It was also market day in one town so everyone who wasn’t in the field seemed to be heading to the main square to do the weekly shopping. Melons must be the fruit of the season because they were piled high at the entrance.
We stopped to do some shopping at a store in the same town and while Andrew was waiting outside three kids about 10 years old came to inspect us and the bikes. One spoke a little English and we were able to exchange names, nationalities and the fact that we are cycling towards China. People don’t always understand if we say “around the world” but everyone seems to know China as a country, no matter what their language, and so far it has always elicted a sense of something far away and exotic. Perhaps not for much longer since China is growing ever closer! It still worked on this occasion though and three sets of eyes grew wide. There was a pause, then one boy had to double check. “By bicycle?” he said, making the pedalling motion with his hands to be sure. Our positive reply started a flood of questions but unfortunately our Turkish wasn’t up to the job so we had to move on with a toot of our new bicycle horn and a goodbye wave.
The rest of the afternoon was a series of small farming villages, some of them surprisingly lively for their size. Even the tiniest ones had a cafe where the men of the village gather to drink tea and play backgammon. They actually seem to play several games but we don’t recognise any of them except backgammon. One looks a bit like a numerical version of Scrabble, with numbers written on domino-sized plastic playing pieces, which each player stands on a tray and keeps hidden from the others.
We haven’t drunk enough tea to figure out how it is played yet!
Late in the day we settled on a farm field as our home for the night. It was hard to find a spot with good cover from the road as all the land is taken up by fields but finally we found a little corner with trees on both sides. A few farmers noticed us as they went home for the night but they all gave a friendly wave and the area is very rural so we should sleep well.