Grand city of Ephesus
Distance - 25km riding
The city of Ephesus - once the second largest city on the world (behind Rome) and home to the Ephesians (of Paul's epistle).
Here we found some amazing ruins of a once great city - and the ruins clearly indicate how grand that city was. Huge columns ornately carved, mosaic tiles lining walkways, and two stadiums for entertainment. Walking the streets we imagined how the city would have looked in 2 AD - when it was at its peak. We imagined the man-power that went into carving each piece and constructing the buildings. It was all very impressive.
After a couple of hours exploring this historic city we drove back to Ayvalik to catch our ferry to Lesvos. Leaving Turkey was the most simple customs process yet. We walked into a building and the desk was right there. Within minutes our passports were stamped and we were in no-man's land. It all happened so fast we forgot to spend the last of our Turkish money. Luckily there was some overpriced food and drinks on the ferry for us to buy. As we waited for the ferry to leave we watched hundreds of small fish swimming on the surface of the water alongside the pier. It was an amazing site.
The ferry was practically empty - about a dozen passengers on a boat that could carry almost 600. We lay down on some seats and slept for an hour until we arrived in the port of Mytilini.
In Mytilini we bought tickets for a boat the next night to Athens. These tickets were cheaper than the ferry from Turkey! Even though the voyage was almost ten times longer.
After buying our tickets we had less than an hour until it grew dark and we needed to find a camping spot outside of the city. We jumped on our bikes and rode hard - hoping to reach the outskirts of the population and set up our tent before dark. We stopped a few times to check out places, but it took us almost all of the light to find somewhere. As we rode, we were overwhelmed by the beauty of the sunset and wished we could stop to enjoy it, but we had to find a camping spot. When we did, we weren't sure if it was a public park or part of someone's huge property. Either way, we climbed a small fence with our bikes and set up behind a patch of trees - the beach across the road. It was a cold night and we decided to forgo a swim until morning.
We had no water so Sam went in search of a shop while I got the beds ready. It was a long time before he returned and I was getting worried. He'd had to ride back about 15km before finding a small shop. We sat on some rocks by the water eating the best yoghurt ever and drinking our water, before climbing wearily into our tent.
It was a restless night - with Sam plagued by extreme fevers, profuse shivering and itchy hands and feet.
Rain and sunshine
Distance: 86km riding. 250km in a car (through the night)
It was dry as we left in the morning, but flying down the mountain to the town the air was cold! It made me wonder about the Giro d'Italia riders who were riding at over 2500m in the snow just a week earlier. I started out with my light jacket on but as cold drops of rain began to fall we pulled over so I could put my warm jacket on and my shoe covers. What a difference they made! Now I felt warm I didn't mind riding in the rain.
We stopped for more terrific food - potato gozleme, salad, meatballs, bread and the best profiteroles I've ever eaten. As we sat there, wet, in the cold wind, we began to feel chilled. But it didn't take long back on the bike to warm up again.
Over the past few days we'd encountered some terrible roads - many were made of the rocky asphalt we'd hated so much in Australia, except much more coarse. Other roads had been ripped up for some future resurfacing. And others were full of potholes or terrible patching jobs. On this day we encountered all the above. On this day there was a stretch with a dirt road next to it, and we chose that as the better surface.
During the day Sam kept asking if there was anything wrong. He would check my bike - were my brakes rubbing? But it was just my tired legs taking their time to cover the distance.
In the afternoon the rain stopped and the hot sun returned. We rode into Ayvalik to find out we'd just missed that day's ferry to the Greek island of Lesvos (Lesbos), and would have to wait until the next night. We decided to hire a car and spend the next day at the ruins of the city of Ephuses, which we wanted to see but didn't have the time to ride there.
Before leaving Ayvalik we had a swim in the cool ocean to wash ourselves. Just finding a spot to swim was a challenge though, as it was the first time Sam had driven a car (manual transmission) on the opposite side of the vehicle, on the wrong side of the road. Those first few minutes, trying to find somewhere in the city to park near the beach and swim, were quite stressful. But he quickly got the hang of it. As we were driving south along the coast we witnessed the most amazing sunset. Dark clouds still lingered but the pink hues shone through and we had to stop the car and admire the beauty of the sky.
That night we drove through the huge city of Izmir. It was quite an amazing sight - millions of lights covering the hills where the city was built around a bay. Unfortunately Sam didn't get to enjoy the beauty of the city as he was trying to follow some very confusing signs through a busy city. We wondered if this road trip was worth the hassle... To be truthful, we encountered the most aggressive and dangerous drivers we've ever come across. Maybe some of our readers have had similar experiences in foreign cities, let us know...
On the other side of the city we planned to stop and camp. But it was dark now, and we couldn't see anywhere to camp. So we kept driving.
We started going down some side streets into towns, but they were all lit up and we could see nowhere to camp. We were getting very tired. And very grumpy. Whose idea was this stupid road trip anyway?!
Eventually made it to Selcuk, the main town where Ephuses is. We had just decided to go to a hotel when Sam found a spot in an abandonded service station. Just as we settled in the tent the man from across the road came with flashlight and yelled at us in Turkish, peering in our tent, gesticulating wildly at us with his bright light in our eyes... but when he heard our tired English replies he let us be...
Just keep peddaling
We spent the day moving towards the mountains. We knew we were moving towards the mountains because on the GPS map the road ahead was very squiggly - indicating it wove through the hills.
My legs were tired and aching so I was dreading what was awaiting us.
On one uphill section (before we came to a real mountain) Sam was just off the road and I was checking the GPS against the distance sign in front of me, trying to work out where we would make it that day, when a truck driver pulled over. The man indicated I should put my bike on his truck and get in. I politely refused but he came closer as if to take my bike. I said no and told him I was riding with my husband. He still didn't seem to get it until Sam came out of the bushes and started towards us. Then the man jumped in his truck and took off.
Late in the afternoon we could see the mountains in front of us, and the road led upwards. We stopped at a service station at the bottom to load up on sugar. Although my legs were tired, the road wasn't as hard as I'd feared. In a low gear I could keep my legs turning consistently and keep moving forwards and upwards. We stopped at a particularly steep section to have some food before the final climb. I set off before Sam, knowing he would catch me, and sure enough, as I started the flying descent he was passing me and cheering with exhilaration.
The sun was getting low, and thick cloud cover meant it was darker than normal, so when we saw we were approaching a town we decided to find a camping spot on the mountain. We followed a dirt path off the main road and found a mound littered with tracks and the remnants of small campfires. We set up our tent on the flattest section we could find, spending 10 minutes trying to clear all the rocks and sticks.
We fell asleep to the sound of shepherds singing to their goats (and the occasional grinding of gears as trucks struggled up the mountain), and were woken during the night by a downfall of rain.
Our heads were full of the things we'd discussed with John as we boarded the ferry to take us to Canakkale on the other side of the Dardonelles.
Our path today would take us within 5km of the ruins of 'Troy' so we decided that it was a worthy detour, even if we'd heard the city was not as preserved as other ancient cities.
In Canakkale we stopped at a chemist to buy Sam some more antibiotics, tried to find a bike shop (which turned out to be just a department store that sold some cheap bikes) to buy some chain, and grabbed some cheap kebabs before heading towards Ayvalik - our destination to sail to Greece.
It was only 40km from Canakkale to Troy, but harder than we'd expected. After having such a long break to recuperate in China our bodies were feeling the strain of riding every day in strong winds and up steep hills. After one particularly long, steep section we stopped at a restaurant overlooking the mountains and ocean and enjoyed some cold drinks and pide before the final descent to Troy.
We arrived at Troy 50 minutes before closing time and were surprised to see we weren't the only ones arriving so late in the day. The place was still bustling with tour groups and the sun still shone bright (hence the overexposed photos) at 6.30pm!
As we'd heard, the ruins weren't great. And we couldn't make out the buildings the signs were telling us had once stood on those spots. But there was still something magical about walking in a city that dates back to 3000BC and is part of one of the world's greatest legends (although who knows if the city of Troy really existed, and if this spot was even the right one).
Satisfied with our visit, we were ready to leave as the site closed and we headed off to find somewhere to camp.
As we entered Troy we'd been approached by four people offering us various places to camp. They ranged from 5TL to 20TL. We checked out all options but ruled them out for various reasons - roosters that would wake us up, a restaurant with noisy patrons, camping sites right on the side of the road with not even a bush to protect us from the noise... the most expensive place had hot showers and internet but the man was very rude, and insisted on us staying even though we told him it was too expensive and too noisy. He got angry and he and Sam exchanged heated words before we rode off.
We'd decided to find a place to free-camp and were buying supplies when approached by yet another touter. He offered us a camping spot on his property for 5TL - with a toilet and shower - so we went to check it out. It wasn't great, but he was so friendly and seemed to really want/need us to stay. So we relented. Before we'd managed to set up though the guy mentioned he had a group of German archiologists from the ruins coming for dinner and we knew we had to leave - we would get no sleep! He fought against us, told us he would ban music and tell them to be quiet, but we were firm. We needed sleep! So we thanked him profusely and left.
Sam had noticed an area next to the official Troy site which he wanted to investigate so we headed back that way, and within 10 minutes found the perfect spot - hidden from the road, in an empty field outside of the fence of Troy. That night I was again plagued by the midnight monsters, this time they howled like a pack of wild dogs...
It was surreal to be on the Gallıpolı Penınsula. I was lookıng at the Dardenelles - the waterway I had learnt about as a chıld - where Australıans had come to fıght for control of thıs ımportant waterway.
And ın the afternoon I would be vısıtıng Anzac Cove - where Australıans were slaughtered on the beach. And seeıng the grave of John Sımpson - who carrıed wounded soldıers on hıs donkey. Plus vısıtıng many other 'tourıst' sıtes of Australıa's most commemorated battle.
The day exceeded my expectatıons, because I took away wıth me a greater understandıng of the locatıon and hıstory assocıated wıth 'Anzac'.
Our tour was offıcıally run by a young Turkısh man but we were lucky enough to have an Australıan Hıstorıan - who has devoted hıs career to researchıng Gallıpolı - along for the day as well.
It was a day of explorıng many of the myths assocıated wıth Gallıpolı, tryıng to better understand why thıs sıte ıs such an ımportant pılgrimage for us. Why dıd I want to go there? It was a pretty ınsıgnıfıcant battle ın terms of the outcome of the war. And the number of people who dıed was mınute when compared to the western front. Australıa lost more soldıers ın other battles. So why Gallıpolı?
My fırst 'myth busted' moment came when we were told that most of the Australıans were not slaughtered on the beach. Apart from a couple of boats of boys from Ballarat, those who were gunned down ın the water were from Brıtaın and Ireland - not Australıa. Then we stopped at 'Anzac Cove' for just a moment before headıng to the next beach, whıch was where the Australıans really landed. As we stood on the beach where our troops had landed, we looked up at the clıffs they faced. The troops weren't told much when they were dropped off, and thıs ıs what they faced. Laden wıth heavy gear they trıed to clımb those hılls under fıre from the Ottoman Empıre.
One of the most memorable parts of the trıp for me was the vısıt to Lone Pıne. I am sure I had learnt about thıs battle at some poınt at school, but I had forgotten. On the small square of land now used as a cemetery - thousands from both sıdes lost theır lıves. Thıs was one of the fıercest battles of the whole war. Trenches fılled wıth bodıes, soldıers crawled over these bodıes to get around, most of the kıllıng was hand-to-hand combat. The war was more personal here. On the grave stones there ıs a date range for when the men dıed - often fıve days - because they knew the date he went ın there but not what date he dıed. And lookıng at the names on the headstones you often see two or three together wıth the same surname. Famılıes losıng sons, brothers, fathers... ıt was quite upsetting to thınk of the loss here and across Europe durıng the Great War.
The hıstorıan brought the storıes alıve for us as he explıaned the context of each battle and told us about ındıvıdual men he had researched - heroes who lead and helped others. He explaıned how the Anzacs became known for theır courage and determınatıon - even by the Germans. And how Gallıpolı was about the forgıng of an ıdentıty for Australıa and New Zealand rather than mılıtary success. And that ıs why we remember ıt. Ordınary men from all walks of lıfe were sent here as Brıtısh troops, but left wıth enormous prıde ın theır own countrıes.
It was an ınterestıng day - full of storıes from both sıdes of the war (many of them legends wıth questıonable factual basıs) whıch made you thınk about war, lıfe, courage and ıdentıty ın new ways. I was thınkıng about the thıngs I'd heard and seen for the rest of the nıght, and also the next mornıng when Sam and I were joıned by John the hıstorıan for breakfast and the dıscussıons contınued.
I expected to go to Gallıpolı and take a few photos of the tourıst sıtes, but I left wıth a deeper perspectıve of the whole campaıgn and a greater respect for those who served for our great country.
Goats and Gallıpolı
Wıth ıtems of clothıng blowıng dry off the back of our bıkes, we spent a long day rıdıng the rest of the way to Eceabat, the town closest to the Gallıpolı memorıals.
It was another wındy day wıth rocky roads, but the delcıous foods we ate along the way and the beauty of the Gelıbolu Penınsula made the journey enjoyable. We had a lot of downhıll and flat sectıons where we experıenced our fastest speeds for days. We felt lıke we were flyıng through the brısk, cool aır wıth only goats to share the day wıth us.
Durıng one of our breaks, ın a small town wıth some markets for passıng tour buses, a man motıoned for us to follow hım onto hıs roof, where he showed us the vıew of the surroundıng area.
Just 20km out of the town my chaın broke agaın goıng up a hıll - the thırd tıme my chaın has broken on thıs trıp! Sam ıs quıte profıcıent at fıxıng them now so wıthın half an hour we were back on the road. I have been aware ever sınce that ıf my chaın breaks agaın we're ın trouble - that was our last bıt of spare chaın!
At about 7pm we rolled ınto the small port cıty of Eceabat. We found a hostel that provıded both affordable tours of the Gallıpolı sıtes, and a room for the nıght. Although we'd enjoyed our beach campıng for the past week, the blıss of a hot shower that nıght was beyond words- rıght up there ın the hıghlıghts of our tıme ın Turkey. I washed my offendıng shırt (and all my other clothes) and we went out to eat dınner by the harbour, watchıng another amazıng sunset.
Dıstance- 60km (GPS measurement. Not sure on thıs one though as our speedos are somewhere ın Chına).
Woke to the sound of the ocean. Nothıng else but the waves and the wınd.
But the wınd really pıcked up early and we had a very tough day clımbıng the hılls out from the coast.
Strongest headwınd we have rıdden ınto ın the entıre fıve months (almost 5 now) of our tour. I was crackıng mentally wıth the wınd and hılls. Maybe we (I) need a day off.
We found a spot ın the coutrysıde not to far from the rode (good spottıng Shanny) were we cleared some stıcks and rocks and set up camp.
One of our camp mattresses has had a slow leak so we have been takıng ıt ın turns. We have to blow ıt up about fıve tımes a nıght now- stıll cant fınd the leak...
In the mıddle of the nıght ıt started raınıng, got heavy and we dıdnt realıse we had left our shoes outsıde... everythıng was nıce and wet ın the mornıng.
Fortunately the raın stopped for long enough to mostly dry thıngs out. And I developed a system to dry out my shoes- by wearıng one paır of socks for ten mınutes and then changıng ınto the other paır that I had hangıng from the handlebars to dry, they eventually drıed nıcely!!
On an ınterestıng sıde note our cyclıng frıends from Swıtzerland, who speak Englısh, German, French and Spanısh, and are stıll ın Chına sent us thıs ınterestıng emaıl thıs mornıng. Here ıs a part of ıt- Its worth a read. (Hope you dont mınd us puttıng ıt up here Sev).
Our website has been totally censured and cannot be read from China any more. It happened after I wrote a post explaining the problems we had to renew our visa and some troubles we had in "Chinese-only" cyber cafes. So that I've to encrypte everything again etc... In this context, it was interesting to explain the story of Sam and the censured post.
Hope you enjoy your trip in Turkey! How is Sam? Let us know your plans for later. Ride safe!
Steve ıs a crack head
Distance: A very difficult 42km
Just so you know, the tıtle of thıs post has nothing to do with its content.
When we awoke it was hot. Not hot like Thailand but still hot. And we were sticky from not having showered since our swim yesterday.
Shanna has a t-shirt she has been wearing for almost a week now. Neither of us can remember when she last washed it, but its keeping the wild animals away, so she thinks she might stick with it for a little longer.
Thıngs arent a whole lot better for me... The runs have come back (not in an athletic way either) although not as bad as Asia, so Ive just bought some more drugs from a Chemist.
By the way, ıf you are wonderıng why I havent been usıng apostrophes (or why I just said -you are-), ıts because these Turkish key pads dont have them. They also have a few other funny letters so it can be trıcky and slow to type. Well I will stick to this excuse anyway.
Gettıng back to the day.
By mıd-morning we had hit the slopes. The bumpy, but at least for this stage semı-paved roads had gone up, up, up ın a steep spiral. And gasping for breath we saw ahead of us that the road turned into bumpy rocky gravel.
Over the next four hours we probabaly spent more time pushing our bikes up hill than actually ridıng them. We were both struggliıng up the hills in the hot sun wıth not enough water when an Australian guy on a big loaded up motor-bike passed us and Shanna flagged him down. He and the girl he was with, who was from the UK somewhere were great, and we stood and chatted for a bit, exchanging stories whıle he filled our water bottles for us.
A little bit happier but still unsure when we would find food and more water we kept pushıng through the hot sun and thinking about how great the bumpy ashphalt had been compared to the rocky road we were on now.
At around lunch time while cycling through a tiny village an old man approached us (see photo), told us to sıt on his porch and gave us two bottles of home made butter milk, some bread, spring onions, goats cheese and tea and then his friends came and joined us. None of us could communicate but he knew how grateful we were, and we realised that the pain of the morning had been worth ıt, if only for ths chance encounter.
An hour later and the road turned back into ashphalt. We stopped in another small village with only a corner shop and a tea house and bought some drinks. The shop keeper spoke English so we asked how far it was to were we could buy food. He told us that there was no where for another sixty kilometers, so hesitantly we bought some more things from him. (We later found our it was only 10 kılometers!!).
Flying down the street and the road once agaın met the beach. We were exhausted, so seeing a beautiful place we stopped to camp.
Here we had the best meal, hands down, of our entire trıp so far- freshly caught and perfectly cooked fish, roasted chicken, peppers and tomato wıth delicious fresh bread and the best salad we have ever eaten.
We sat and ate on a table rıght beside the ocean, our only companion a friendly stray dog, and decided that life couldnt get any better.
Land of the dead!
Shanna got spooked in the night, thought maybe there was a ghost under the house in the cellar we were sleeping next to. I agreed, then she was angry...!
Lost an important part from one of our bags in the long grass somewhere...
Luckily we found it... phew!!!
Hungry now, starving actually.
Breakfast: Yesterdays salami, cheese, tomato and bread. Ayran Turkish buttermilk, Limonata Lemon drink, dried cranberries and apricots.
Back riding on the main highway after throwing our bikes over the fence.
Itchy form the grass.
There is a cycling event on here by the water, looks like professional Turkish cycling teams. First time we have seen proper bicycles (enthusiasts) in Turkey!
The beach looked beautiful, and we were sweaty, so we put our bikes in the bushes and ran across the sand into the cool water. Ayah.
Got lost form each other for a little while again in the last busy town before we turn off the main road. No worries.
Very bumpy road, feels like I need suspension on my bike, the family jewels get whacked on my seat!!
Very hard to find somewhere to camp.
Eventually we found a cemetery high on a hill. You could see the water, and hear a party going on far into the distance.
We said goodnight to Mustafa, who slept underground whilst we slept above.
The illegal fishermen seemed to want to talk to us, even though it was clear we spoke no Turkish and they spoke no English. We'd been awoken by loud talking and the rickety motor on their boat.
When they noticed the tent they came over to investigate... we were happy to communicate in sign language at first, but when they came back for a third visit we made it clear we were trying to sleep.
When their boat left at 3am after dumping it's diesel fuel into the bay it was a welcome return to silence.
The quiet of our solitary spot enabled us to sleep in later than we expected, and the day was already warm as we rode out, past the horses being bathed nearby.
It was another beautiful day of riding along the coast. Small waterways, crumbling buildings and ornate bridges dotted the road. There were some steep, long climbs during this day, and the heat of the sun made for some sweaty riding. We'd often be flagged over by people on the side of the road, eager to welcome us to their country and shake our hands in approval of our journey.
As the sun started to dip we decided to try and find a place to wash and camp. A village approached so we exited the highway and made our way towards the coast. It was a Turkish tourist town though, and the land was developed all along the water. We kept riding out of the town, but the development continued.
We found a small market and bought some bread, cheese, salami and tomato to eat once we found a place to camp, but it was looking increasingly hopeless.
The road led us back to the highway. The town had given us no options. We rode along, not sure what to do... We could try to find a place to camp inland, but we really wanted a swim to wash the sweat off.
Sam spotted a dirt track and we decided to follow it. We were disappointed to find houses, until we realised they were incomplete houses. It was a whole village of house shells, abandoned long ago and now crumbling and overgrown. Perfect.
We headed towards the water to wash before returning to set up camp. We were stopped by a group of people who were a little too excited to see us. We got hugs, kisses (gropes!) and were invited to sit and eat with them. It became clear why when an English speaking lady arrived to offer us a place to stay and have some food, 'money no problem.' When we pressed them to let us know how much the favor would cost they replied a little sheepishly 'only $100 Euro!'.
Ha! We laughed, wave some fond good-bye's and left.
Along the coast we jumped off the path into the cool, clear water while a group of children sat watching us on nearby rocks. A young girl spoke to us in her best English, asking our names and how old we were. A nice elderly man came out of his house with juice and glasses to offer us some refreshment. And as we rode back to the housing estate ruins we heard a bike bell and saw the young girl from the beach riding her bike behind us, waving furiously.
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia