Week 11 Unexpected Rest in Konya
Waking up from a fruit field, I took another free apricot with me on my journey and continued towards Konya, passing a large lake near Beysehir. The landscape changed from agriculture and mountains to hills and drier terrain, indicating that I was almost halfway through Turkey towards the Middle East. As I climbed the last hill, I was offered to hitch a ride with a heavy truck, but I preferred to do it myself. I had to accept the challenge of conquering the hills, knowing that my fitness would improve with each hill and mountain I tackled. A while later, a car stopped, and an enthusiastic man got out, eager to learn more. He even offered me a place to stay in Konya. Of course, I couldn’t refuse, especially since it had been a few days since my last shower. We planned to meet in the city center of Konya in about an hour. That seemed a bit tight to me, but he assured me it was all downhill from there.
I met him about 10 minutes late after some navigation, at the sign in Konya near the old Mosque in the center. He showed me around the city and led me to the apartment. Afterwards, I chatted with a friend of the owner.
Originally, I had planned to leave the next day, but after some stubborn reflection, I realized it was a good idea to stay a bit longer and rest. After all, Achmed from Konya had told me, “Stay as long as you want.” Over the next few days, I hoped to work on my website and do some maintenance. Unfortunately, the website had crashed due to some updates. So, I focused on repairing it first. After dealing with headaches and stress, I managed to fix it using backups and settings. However, I didn’t feel like continuing to work. Laziness tends to accompany rest, I noticed. After trying some special dishes in Konya and Syrian cuisine, and visiting the mosque, I felt ready to leave again.
Day 6 Konya to Sultanhani
A long flat road led me to Sultanhani, with a few interactions with road workers along the way. Listening to music with my earphones made the long road feel a bit faster. After a long straight day and covering about 110 km, I arrived at an old caravanserai in the city. I had initially planned to go further, but I spotted a camping site on Google Maps and decided to stop. I was the only one at the campsite, and to my surprise, the owner knew about my hometown region and mentioned travelers from Enkhuizen coming there. What I couldn’t muster during the previous rest days, I could now easily achieve after some cycling – it’s strange how motivation and energy work.
The next morning, the owner’s father suggested over a cup of tea that I take a different route to Cappadocia. He advised going through Aksaray to the Ihlara Valley, where houses were carved into the mountains and you could bike along a valley, albeit a detour. It was worth seeing. Afterward, I headed towards Derinkuyu, passing through an area with many craters and eventually setting up my tent next to a crater.
Day 1 Cappadocia
I messaged the large community of bike travelers and, to my surprise, the Englishman I had cycled with in Greece was there. He mentioned a campground with a panoramic view of the beautiful landscape. I first visited Derinkuyu, walked through the underground caves, which were a bit underwhelming as an attraction and could make you feel claustrophobic. Then I had some Turkish pancakes and continued my journey to Cappadocia, where I arrived at the campsite around 3 PM. The campsite had a pool with a beautiful valley view. I had dinner with the Englishman, went swimming, and then enjoyed a beer while taking in the view. Later, I explored the valley on my bike, walking and cycling for hours among the rising mountains with houses built into them. I returned to the campsite, where the Englishman was waiting to welcome another cyclist.
The next day, I realized my bike’s outer tire had suffered from the adventure in the hills the previous day, resulting in a flat tire. I had to find a bike shop. Luckily, it wasn’t far away; there was one at the base of the hill. With some assistance, I managed to obtain a relatively good, second-hand Schwalbe tire. Thankfully, it wasn’t too far from where I was staying. I had planned to camp somewhere that day with a full view of the valley, where the hot air balloons would rise in the morning – a sight that had been waking me up. I swam some more at the campsite and chatted with other cyclists. Around 5 PM, I found a nice spot to camp. There were picnic tables next to a café, and someone said, “Yes, you can camp here.” I waited a bit and then set up my tent once the other tourists had left.
I went to bed early since the balloons started around 5 AM. However, after checking a few times around 5:30 AM, there were still no balloons in sight. It seemed to be the only day without any balloons. Disappointed, I got up and headed towards Kayseri, where I was to meet a friend of Achmed from Konya. The meeting was a bit disappointing as it was communicated via phone, and the man had to leave quickly. Regardless, I visited Kayseri and typed in a café. Afterward, I looked for a place to stay outside the city, and I encountered an extremely foul smell while passing piles of sheep carcasses stacked on a pallet – a scent that’s hard to forget. I was almost out of the city but hadn’t found a place to sleep yet. Eventually, I asked a man living by the road if I could set up my tent next to his place. His brother also came by, and we had some drinks and food, accompanied by Turkish tea.
The itinerary included hills and mountains, with a lot of climbing in the heat. The next city on my route was Kahramanmaras. After climbing and cycling in the heat, covering about 140 km that day, I set up my tent in a mown field of grain.
Day 5 Tunnels towards Kahramanmaras
Some more climbing awaited me before I could continue my journey. Fortunately, it was time to descend. It was a beautiful area with many mountains, and I wondered how it could contain so many descents. Soon, I realized it was tunnel time. I considered waiting to be transported through the tunnels, thinking it might be safer, but after waiting for half an hour and no one showing interest, I decided to cycle through the tunnels using my bike lights and a headlamp with blinkers. There were more tunnels than I initially thought – around 10 of varying lengths. After exiting the tunnels, I reached the city of Kahramanmaras, and I quickly noticed I wasn’t at a high altitude anymore; it was scorching hot. Despite the climbing, I was truly exhausted due to the heat. I cycled through the city, where I could
see the extensive earthquake damage – entire neighborhoods flattened. It wasn’t a city with much to offer for tourists. I left the city for a park, where it was intensely hot in the evening. However, it was a peaceful place to camp. I was woken up by a turtle attacking my tent during the night.
Having had little sleep but feeling ready to cycle, I headed towards Gaziantep. I was in need of a good night’s sleep. So, after about 70 km, I found a hotel since I heard they were quite affordable. You could get a hotel room for about 10-15 euros – roughly the price of camping in Europe. I walked around a bit, visited the fort, which had suffered damage due to the earthquake. At the hotel, I met a man from Gambia, and we had dinner and a chat. It was time for a good night’s sleep with air conditioning.
I woke up calmly and looked for a place to wash my clothes before searching for a spot to sleep. Finding a place to wash clothes turned out to be a challenge. Everything seemed closed, and one place seemed too expensive for just washing a few shirts. I headed out of the city towards Nizip, looking for a place to sleep near Birecik. It seemed simple to find a spot near a fish farm, but ultimately, the owner didn’t allow it. I chatted with a Syrian refugee who worked 12 hours a day and dreamed of going to the Netherlands. I found another spot further along by some water and a marshy area next to a small river. I thought there might be mosquitoes, but I wasn’t in the mood to search any longer. A Turkish shepherd came by, complaining about everything – life, refugees, and his own situation. He was married, had an education, and earned a living with a herd of sheep that didn’t belong to him. It was quite a contrast. After all, I was just 30 km from the Syrian border. However, he insisted on showing Muslim hospitality and brought me some food in the evening.