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83km Hatay to Urum as Sughra

Posted November 3rd, 2007

3am bus stopIt’s hard to know where to start with our latest journey, one that took us from the southern coast of Turkey and plunged us less than a day later into Syria – a country we already feel very much at home in. Our marathon leg started with a night bus from Antalya to Hatay, a city near to the Syrian border. Yes, another bus!

We have already hinted in our journals that buses will have a role to play in our travels in the near-term and with the choice of taking a bus or cycling miles of highways, lined largely with 5-star holiday resorts, we knew what the better option was. Our time is short. The list of countries we want to see is long and so it made sense to us to hitch a lift past the less interesting parts of Turkey, giving us more time to explore Syria, a country we’ve been looking forward to for some time.

Before we got anywhere near the border, however, we had the 14-hour bus ride to endure and what a ride it was. Turkish buses are known for their service and on this ride we were treated to an offering of motion-sickness pills before the usual rounds of coffee, cold drinks and that pervasive lemon-scented cologne Turks love to rub over their hands and in their hair. (more…)

37km Üçoluk to Antalya

Posted November 1st, 2007

Coming out of the mountainsDownhill, baby! After pushing our bikes up some severely graded hills yesterday – a climb that left our calves aching even after a good night’s rest – today we reaped the rewards with a eye-watering descent that lasted all the way into Antalya. And a good thing too since we were running close to empty on food so lunch was looking sparse if we had to eat up in the mountains. It was a wonderful feeling coming into Antalya; first seeing it spread out beneath us as we emerged from pine forests to views of the city and beach and then coming into streets we knew and didn’t have to think about to navigate our way around.

Cycling into a city is one of the more stressful parts of travelling by bicycle for us since we almost always get lost. The other lovely part of our day was arriving at our hotel to find Friedel’s bike part waiting for us. We quickly installed the new brakes and gear shifters and they work a treat. All ready for the next 20,000km or so. The rest of our afternoon was filled up with boring but necessary tasks. We changed some money into U.S. dollars in hopes of getting into Syria, where apparently a few dollars are good to have. We also hunted around for bus tickets to take us as close to the border as possible, since we decided the coastline between here and Syria is not so interesting to us and filled with its fair share of motorways. We hope to get a night coach from Antalya but first we have to do some more research and see who will take our bikes on board. With luck we should be at the border in a few days and with even more luck we will get a visa! If not, it’s off for a commiseration lap around Turkey’s interior and possibly towards the Black Sea.

50km Kumluca to Üçoluk

Posted October 31st, 2007

Abandonned houseClimb, climb, climb for all you’re worth. That’s a pretty good one-line summary of our day. The warnings from the locals turned out to be true; the back road to Antalya is a strenuous workout for cyclists. Still, despite the steep ascents, the all-too-rare descents and poor road conditions, we managed to enjoy ourselves.

We were in a good mood, on a road with hardly any other cars, a view over the mountains and plenty of fruit orchards offering a bounty of goodies to keep our energy up. Grapevines and apple and pomegranate trees lined the roadside. A good thing too since we only came across one sparsely stocked corner store and nowhere to buy gas.

That’s a first for us in Turkey. Normally petrol stations pop up on even the quietest of roads, often two or three at a time. With gas running low in our little stove, we tucked into the fresh fruit and a stash of cookies instead of making a hot lunch, saving just enough for supper and the required morning coffee. (more…)

40km Olympos to Kumluca

Posted October 30th, 2007

Andrew and PaddyOur day started in the quiet valley of Olympos, woken up not for the first time by a rooster crowing, but without the normal call to prayer that sounds just before dawn. Here, among the treehouses and next to the beach, there are no mosques within earshot. Just many tired backpackers, sleeping in after a night at the bar or playing backgammon with friends.

We rolled over, snuck in a few minutes of extra sleep, braved a not-so-warm shower and feasted on a deluxe breakfast omelette. Three coffees each down the hatch and it was time to pedal again. We’d just gotten into the groove when we heard a shout behind us and then watched another cyclist swerve round us and screech to a stop.

“Can I take your picture?” he asked. (more…)

18km Ulupınar to Olympos

Posted October 29th, 2007

Andrew in our treehouseAfter so much hard work yesterday, we enjoyed a little bit of a late snooze, dozing right through the call of two mosques and the dawn cries of several roosters down in the valley.

Craving a change of breakfast as well – there’s only so much bread and jam you can take – we cooked up a deluxe breakfast frittata in our little frying pan, complete with peppers, onions and potatoes. A pot of large coffee on the side and we were well and truly happy campers. The only thing missing was some melted cheese on top and a side of crispy bacon and buttery toast. Oh, the things we will cook when we get a kitchen again one day!

Just as we rolled out of the field a local man walked by, perhaps coming to check on his bees, and looked perplexed to see us. He gave us the “where have you come from” look; one we know well by now. We just smiled and jumped on our bikes for the downhill cruise towards Olympos. (more…)