Now after I received my new mandolin in Alexandroupolis I was ready to leave Europe and to finally enter Asia. Exciting!!! I crossed into Turkey close to Ipsala and heard a lot of nasty stories about very intense luggage security checks and looooong procedures but as I was entering the border post it was all pretty relaxed. At the luggage check a woman came over asked me if I’d have any alcohol, drugs ect. Of course I didn’t and replied with a honest „No“. She looked a bit skeptical, pulled out a stick and gave all my my panniers a gentle beat to listen how it sounds. Convinced now I wouldn’t have anyhing she smiled and welcomed me to Turkey. I was in and the world just changed within a few kilometers from the familiar Europe into a country with a super different vibe. In the first town that I went in I bought some honey in a small shop and was impressed by the cheap price and loved the fact that it was sold with the comb. The weather was an interesting mix of insane hot sun and insane intense rain showers with really huge drops. I remember that I woke up once on a field and at around 9 am my thermometer just displayed 53°C in sun before the LCD screen went black and stopped working. At 9 in the morning!!!
My first stop was planned to be in Çorlu to meet Melih. I got in touch with him just before entering Turkey through a Facebook group („Long Distance Cyclists“) where he invited me to come over and visit his bicycle shop. My pedals were too agressive to my shoes, my tires needed to get replaced and a bit of maintenance would be nice for the bike before I would dive deeper into Asia. So after a couple days of cycling in the heat I was happy to arrive in Çorlu where Melih was waiting already with some dinner and his family. He told me about his bike trips thought the Stans, showed me some crazy pictures about cycling in snow and he just started to produce touring bikes/frames where I saw the really first proto type. He and his buddy Burak hosted me for 2-3 day lovely and we gave my bike a cleaning, changed a couple parts and I took a few product photos of the first SATRAI bike ever. A rigid steel frame with very smart solutions for touring cyclist. Top pull or bottom pull front derailleur, Canti Sockets or Disc breaks…this frame had to option to use everything and the front fork was designed to take rear racks in the front aswell!!! Thats amazing…so anyone who needs a bike??? I’d like to give them a little advertising here: CHECK THEM OUT
Equipped with a set of new Schwalbe Marathon Tour Plus tires and Shimano Saint pedals I was ready to set off to make my way to Istanbul which I reached just 2 days later. It was a huge city and for me as a cyclist I honestly don’t really enjoy cyling in this dense and busy traffic but somehow I managed to get quite close to the center where I randomly bumped into an english cyclist who looked like he’s going to cycle a bit further than most of the cyclist I met until now. Paul used to have a plumbing company in the south of France and is now on a mission to cycle around the world in search for a nice place to possibly settle down somewhen. So we spend a night together in Istanbul sleeping on a playground and decided to cycle for a while together because we basically had the same direction and a similar mindset. Next day in order to avoid the even busier eastern part of Istanbul we took a ferry to Bursa and started now, technically on a new tectonical plate and officially on the Asian continent to cycle towards Ankara.
As we arrived in Bursa we finally found ourselfs back on some smaller backroads and got a first taste about cycling in Turkey. The roads were actually quite well made but hilly. Climbing up slowly and rolling down on full speed was pretty much what we had to do day after day. But the people we met have been just incredible welcoming and where ever we stopped we got invited for Çay (tea) or just got it served without even asking. In an average day we had about 6 tea from different people and we really enjoyed this incredible hospitality, the amazing landscape and all the colours that just popped up.
After 5 days we eventually reached Ankara and actually didn’t had any big plans for this city. We knew there would be a Decathlon and Paul wanted to get a hammock and I had to replace my bike computer because my last one stopped working just after Bursa. But as we reached the suburbs we met a guy in a park who told us that he could get us some cheap weed and this changed our plans a little. So we followed him 10km into town where we ended up in kind of a dodgy area with lots of car mechanics garages and we were told to sit down at one of these garage and wait. After a while this guy returned with two cigarettes in his hands and told us to smoke them so we could have a try and decide. We lit up that thing and BOOOM!!! This was a very different feeling than everything I’ve experienced before. We saw people smoking bonsai in Istanbul which is some chemical bullshit and fucks up people a lot so we thought thats it…they’re trying to make us pass out and take our stuff but we were wrong. These dudes were just cool guys and the stuff was just pollen… or lets say kief. Very intense for a couple minutes and dissapeared then very quick. Strange stuff but we said yes got a bit of that stuff, cycled off to Decathlon where Paul got his hammock and me my bike computer. The traffic again was just too much for us vulnerable cyclist and because it was about to get dark we decided to camp in the middle of Ankara on a hill that I spotted on a map just in time. Boy, this was a good choice. Surrounded by this huge city we had some incredible views and played a little music (at least Paul tried harmonica) with the moon rising in front of us. Camping in a city could have been worse!
On the next day we left Ankara to go more south in order to see Tuz Gölü and later on Cappadocia. On the way out we got surprised by a very intense rain shower and at the time I was charging my phone which was a little bit exposed by this. Even though my phone is rated as IP68 – so more or less waterproof – when water finds its way into the socket where the carging cable goes into then is not waterpoof anymore and this is exactly what the water did. As we stopped at a gas station to seek shelter I noticed that my phone was dead and when I tried to turn it on I just showed me a bunch of chinese signs. Fortunatly I took my old phone with me on my journey as a spare so I was still abled to check maps and keep contact with my family. Later that day we struggled to find a place to sleep because a bigger storm was just coming closer and we tried to find something that would offer a little bit of a shelter. After a while we ended up in a kind of a fun park (Mogan Park) and this one was just full with plastic objects like huge animals, dinosaurs, little houses for kids and a plastic fake tree which had an opening on two sides and toilets just nearby. Of course we occupied that thing, closed one opening with my ground sheet and had a perfect place for the night. At least thats what we thought…about midnight a security guy came and told us that he is sorry but we would have to leave and find another place. So we packed all our stuff and left to look out for another place where we could sleep. Eventually after a couple kilometer of cycling through the night we managed to find another place and spend the night there.
The day after the weather was fine again and we made it to the famous Tuz Gölü which is a saltlake that in that time of the year is completely dried up. So I was super keen to sleep on this lake. Paul feared the salt could cause damage on his bike and stayed on „land“ but for me it was just too tempting so I cycled a bit off from the lakeshore towards the middle of the lake and slept just under the stars with a nice breeze.
Cappadocia wasn’t anymore that far but Paul felt that he wanted to go up north again and so we just split up 2 days after that crazy experience of sleeping on the salt lake. We both had an agreement that we could just freely decide to split up whenever we wanted to and thats what we peacefully did. He went straigh up north while I kept on cycling towards Göreme/Cappadocia which I reached two days later. I knew that this place would be special but I didn’t really know what to expect and what its gonna be like. All I’ve heard is that there would be plenty of hot air balloons ascending at the sunrise and that it would be beautiful. Once I got closer I was blown away by the surrounding landscape and the old cave houses which were easy to access and to explore. I’ve spend 3 days there roaming round this area but because I decided to not get hostel I had to go everywhere with my 60kg bike and this limited me quite a lot. But I tried my best and explored some valleys, sleept in the cave houses and enjoyed just that amazing landscape and the hot air balloons in the morning.
From now I was going more and more straight towards east and had to deal with plenty of wind which was unfortunatly going to the west. This was seriously tough. Every morning I woke up the wind was just weak and sometimes even going in my direction but as soon as I packed my gear back in my panniers and sat on the bike the wind just turned 180° and gained power. Somedays I was doing on perfectly flat roads on full effort about 12km/h. I had to pedal downhill and how it felt to cycle uphill is something I probably don’t even need to mention…I guess you’re getting the idea. In all these harsh windy days once I was struggeling to find food. Well I still had pasta and oil but nothing else so I was looking desperatly for veggies but the distances between the markets have been just too big. I was in the middle of nowhere, already accepted that I would have to eat plain pasta with oil when a car stopped and an old man asked me where I come from. As I replied „I’m from Germany“ he smiled and talked to me in german language. He was working in germany for more than 20 years and now he is back in Turkey. He asked if he can help me, so I told him that I’m looking for a market to get some veggies. The next market would be 40km away and there is nothing nearby but he pulled out his phone and called somebody with an euphoric voice. Then he explained me that I just need to keep on cycling for 1-2 km more, just over the next hill and there would be somebody waiting for me to give me fresh harvested veggies. He owned a field a couple kilometers off the road and his brother just came back from picking the good stuff. Before I had nothing and after I met his brother I had way too much. I struggled to fit everything in my bags but somehow I fit fit and on that evening I was so happy about how generous are the people out here.
Next days I just did nothing else than just cycling, cycling, cycling and all the time with this nasty headwind. I wouldn’t say it broke me down but it surely was demotivating to deal with it every day and on top another issue appeared. I had so many punctures that I lost track on how many it actually was but I had to take off all the bags from the bike at least once or twice a day and struggled then to get the tire back on the rim in the right position. The Schwalbe tire was for some reason just not true and caused a wobbly feeling while riding but after a while I figured out that I could put a bit of vaseline on the sidewall, over pressurize it slightly and then I made a little „pop“ sound and it was almost gone … only almost. But good enough to keep cycling and to meet more great people on the road. Like a group of Kurdish people who invited me in their trailer and shared food and tea with me. This was lot of fun.
Eventually after weeks of cycling on perfect roads but with headwinds and bored by the fact that I miss the small roads I was just getting very close to the border to Georgia and already noticed how the landscape starts to change. The yellowish colour started to gain more of a greenish touch but the lack of trees stayed in the area where I was cycling through but I like moon landscapes anyway and had my fun as I got off the big main road and went back into the more rural areas. But I still struggled with a puncture in the rear where it was impossible to figure out the source. Luckily the deflation happened extremely slow so I was abled to cycle a half a day until I had to pump up again. But I decided to just keep doing that until the hole in the tube would get bigger and by this possible to locate. But until then I just had to be patient an keep my humor.
Just before the border crossing into Georgia I had to choose between two options: either to cycle along a perfectly smooth road around lake Cildir OR I could take an alternative route through some villages by following a gravel road on the other side of the lake. I’ve had enough tarmac the last month so I chose to follow the grave road and it was so much fun to be on a bumpy road again. I passed plenty amazing possible campsites but I decided to just keep pushing a little more to find the very best one. Stupid me. It got dark and I got stuck in the mud on the way up to the top of a little mountain pass. All the mud blocked my tires from spinning and it was all just clogged up. Somehow with a small stick I managed to get the mud off and it was all working again. Just on the other side of the pass was an extremly bumpy downhill with random appearing sections of big cobble stones which I had to master in the darkness while in the same time I struggled with all the flies and mosquitos that thought my head lamp would be the moon. But eventually I found a spot where it was possible to pitch my tent and enjoyed my last night in Turkey.