Day trip - disapearıng lakes and a hıdden cıtıes

Together with Celıne, Benoıt, Alkım, Javı and his wife (who had gamely hired bikes) I continued my burgeoning love affair with Cappadocıa by going on an expedition to Derınkuyu to visit it's underground city.

The roads were quiet, the hills hard but rewarding, the sun high but not too hot. In short it was nearly perfect.

Being in such a large group was refreshing and after the bashing my cycling self-regard took [with Fred]( it was satisfying to be the one out in front.

the landscape was lent an Alice in Wonderland feel by fields of pumpkins which stretched as far as the eye could see.


Cappodocia (or Kapadokya) is glorious.

It's geology begets vibrant colour and surreal shapes. 

I dropped out of the rolling hills east of Aksaray near Nevsehir. Immediately it was clear that I was somewhere very special. I rushed to Uchisar and climbed it's unique castle the better to appreciate these incredible surrounds.

Sılk Road or Safarı? Cold or hot?

When I set off from London the plan was to head east wıth the ıdle ambıtıon of makıng ıt to Sydney.

In and amongst thıs were romantıc notıons of cyclıng the extent of the Roman empıre, followıng ın Alexander's footsteps and of treadıng the sılk road to Chına.

Now as I am setting off for Georgian mountains and Armenia with Iranian visa in hand what I will do after Persia is very much on my mind

Salty Anatolıa

Cycling south from Ankara out of its bowl like geography I was soon sucking in breaths from the climb. Entirely too much time had recently been spent sitting around in cities smoking and drinking.

Fortunately I was diverted by a relaxing off road loop around Eymir Gölü, a small lake south of Ankara bathed in bright autumnal sunshine. I took an early lunch in the dappled light using the time to tlc the bicycle after its bus ride. My saddle and cleats successfully repositioned I got underway properly and joined the E90 south of Golbaşı.

My rhythm didn't return straightaway and I made hard work of the afternoon despite the good road surface. Gliding along with cheese cake hills flanking my left and large flat fields stretching away to my right I was flabbergasted to realise that this part of Turkey was in fact flat. Most disconcerting.

My one disappointing shot of the cheesecake hills


Having made a promise to myself during the harrowing ride into Istanbul I caught a bus out of the city.

Emerging from the cramped confines at 06:30 I discovered that the cheap front brakes I had bought in Thessaloniki hadn't survived the trip. This made for an interesting cycle to Christina's flat. Ankara's hills are steep and feel steeper still with only a back break and the sole of my shoes to slow oneself.

My host said there was nothing much to do in Ankara. A claim she almost immediately scotched by taking me to the fine Castle overlooking the city.

Ankara at ground level felt a staid city after Istanbul. Full of embassy compounds, banks and doctors offices. From this vantage a well situated city flowing up and over the surrounding bowl of mountains revealed itself.

Istanbul: City of the world's desire

Istanbul is a very special city.

Looking back across the Bosphorous at the Golden Horn to see the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque 

Turkish travails

This border felt rather different to the cozy, porous European crossings. I drifted out of Greece onto a bridge with marksmen posted periodically along its span. However receiving my visa quickly and hassle free combined with the border guards easy manner put me at ease.

That ease wouldn't last. It soon became plain that the Turkish highway from border to coast (D110) had zero regard for geography. Long, straight, busy and unpredictable. Turkish roads west of Istanbul were a trial.

It is seen as something of an accomplishment that the Romans built such marvelously straight roads. I say pah! Building a straight road reveals nothing more than a lack of on the ground knowledge and or care for the most suitable route. It's the same kind of detached arrogance that led British and French empire builders to draw the dead straight borders which still plague Africa and the Middle East. Great road building seeks to link valleys and surmount rises in the easiest manner possible perhaps, appreciation the gradient a traveler will encounter. Perhaps providing a switchback or two!

Such human design was entirely lacking from the D110.

This, combined with the unrelenting folds of the earth that characterise much of Turkey, ensured a relentless series of stiff rises and unnecessary descents. Up and down, up and down; straight and straight some more.

A miraculously traffic free moment

For the most part a wide shoulder ensured I was well out of the traffic, but without warning, this space would disappear for kilometers at a time throwing me into the inside line to fight for space and breath with large trucks and coaches.

Byzantine coast camping

After the excıtment of gettıng the bıke stuck ın a lıft ıt was wıth a sense of relıef that I rolled out of Thessalonıkı. Squırmıng thıs way and that tryıng to fınd a comfortable posıtıon on my 15 euro South Korean saddle me and Fred spent the early afternoon slowly clımbıng and steadıly becomıng more and more frustrated wıth the our map. Despıte beıng a very respectable1:250,000 scale the 'topo250 Macedonıa' by Anavası was an utter mess. ıt made lıttle dıstınctıon between road types and was often downrıght mıssleadıng and ıt was clear that ıt had been made by sımply takıng a mass of onlıne road data and dumpıng ıt unceremonıously onto the page wıth no thought for clarıty.

One mıght assume the top left of thıs pıcture (sw of Thessalonıkı) represents a major conurbatıon - perhaps a well planned resıdentıal area. You would be wrong ıts fıelds wıth the ırrıgatıon channels shown. Naturally. 

One result of thıs cartographıc clusterfuck was that the yellow route we followed (whıch the key claımed meant a sıgnıfıcant secondary road) looked lıke....

Bye bye Balkans hello Hellas: Thessaloniki at all costs

Greece promised a return to the EU, prices in euros, a wealth of history and a brand new alphabet for me to fail at learning. Crossing the border at Niki in the late afternoon having lingered in Bitola the change in scenery was almost immediately palpable as the lush greens of Macedonia were replaced by burnt golds, reminiscent of the palette I found Tuscany and Umbria. Stopping for a beer proved a wallet scathing experience. At three euros for a small beer at a nondescript bar it was more than treble the cost I had become accustomed to in the Balkans. (Well Kosovo at least.)

A satisfying conversation with some Greek old boys took some of the sting out of the transaction as we traded complements of each others civilizations. Dickens from him was greeted by exclamations of Thucydides by me, Plato - Shakespeare, Aristotle - Thomas Paine, and on and on. It was all most pleasing but with the sun dipping and a plan to head into the hills forming between me and Fred we hit the road again.

With the wind rising and the sun soon to dip behind the horizon we gave up on reaching Keli (where the old boys had mentioned some abandoned buddings) and instead set up camp behind the fold of a hill on an already harvested field.

The stiff breeze ensured a refreshing evening reading Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot and listening to Roy Orbison laid out under a clear sky learning astronomy from Fred.

It really was a marvelous spot with lovely views over rolling hills undulating in all directions

The changed scenery was a continued source of pleasure as we went our way though the hilly farms and pastures.