Day 1 Sanliurfa
After one of the many nights of poor sleep in the heat here, I continued towards Sanliurfa. While looking for some food on the way, I came across someone who spoke Dutch. He had a girlfriend in the Netherlands whom he had met in Cyprus. After chatting and having some soup in Birecik, I still had to climb a bit to reach Sanliurfa in the heat, but fortunately, there was plenty of water everywhere, so I didn’t get dehydrated.
After about 80 km, I arrived in Sanliurfa, descending and seeing signs for Göbekli Tepe, which made me quite happy. That’s why I had chosen this route, even though it might not have been the best choice given the heat. But you never know when you’ll get the chance to see something so ancient again.
In Sanliurfa, I checked into a hotel, called my family and friends, and had some ciger kebabs. When I returned to the hotel, I had planned to type and sleep, but to my surprise, there was music playing. Later, a singer and some folk musicians appeared, and I didn’t get much typing done. I had a few beers and, of course, talked about the journey, but unfortunately, I discovered when I went to bed around 1 am that the air conditioning wasn’t working. I asked for help, but they told me to open the window. Not great in 45-degree heat. Eventually, I found a way to turn it on, and I managed to get some sleep after the fourth attempt.
I left the hotel and did some typing in a cafe. At night, I thought about asking for a refund, but the hotels were so cheap that my Dutchness didn’t push me to complain. Besides, the only staff member at the hotel was a 16-year-old, so it wouldn’t have made much sense.
I had a meal at a small eatery, and after some relaxation around 2 am, the owner offered me a place to sleep on a couch in a small storage room. Then, I had a lot of conversations with people in Sanliurfa and even watched a friendly football match. Afterward, the host’s uncle insisted on offering me another place to sleep, which I wasn’t particularly keen on since my belongings were elsewhere. However, he was insistent and said, “At my pepper farm, it’s cooler with the wind, and you can sleep well.” So, I reluctantly agreed. We had some ice cream, and later, the motive behind his persistence became clear.
While we were eating ice cream, he asked, “Have you ever thought about Islam?” That conversation took a while and ended after I warned him that I might offend him if I spoke freely about the role of women in religion. Eventually, I did manage to sleep, although not nearly enough. The workers on the farm started early in the morning.
I had to wait a bit for breakfast and then headed to the place where my belongings were. I felt really bad due to the heat and lack of sleep. But I hadn’t learned to be impolite yet, and I always enjoyed the hospitality of the incredibly welcoming people. So, I continued on my way. After all, I was planning to visit Göbekli Tepe that day. After some relaxed cycling and climbing, I reached the site on a hill. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I were well-rested, but it was still quite remarkable. After the midday point, I started feeling better. When I’m on my bike, everything seems fine again, at least up to a certain point. Later in a small village, I chatted with a doctor, and then I had more conversations with a Kurdish shepherd. The day ended with me sleeping on another Kurdish family’s roof. It was indeed a very special day, filled with unparalleled hospitality in the Kurdish part of Turkey.
I could really feel that I was in an area where people had less, but were even more hospitable. Of course, it was scorching hot, too hot for cycling, really. After I had somehow lost my shoes in a different way the previous day, I continued that day wearing flip-flops. I missed my comfortable running shoes, but things happen when you’re not at your best. After a tough journey through agricultural areas and impoverished villages, I reached Siverek. There, I bought new shoes and some bread and continued my journey along a long road with a strong headwind. About 20 km later, I planned to have a drink, but I realized, after a moment of panic, that my waist pouch with my passport, credit card, and money was missing. So, I had to backtrack.
Fortunately, I’m not one to stress out easily, and I remained calm. I cycled back quickly since it was downhill and retraced my steps to the places where I had last used it, but unfortunately, I had no luck. So, I went to the police, hoping they had found something or received any information. No luck there either. I continued searching and returned to the police to see if they could assist me. I didn’t have any identification left, only a credit card hidden deep in a bag. After some relaxation, a school principal offered me a place to sleep. I followed him to his family’s house and had a great evening with his family. However, my thoughts often drifted, and I often thought about how I would get home without my passport. But I remained grateful.
I retraced my steps to where I had been and last used my waist pouch. After having some breakfast and leaving my belongings behind, I went in search of it, hoping to find it. Just outside the city, in a valley where roadwork was happening, I found the waist pouch. After some laughter, self-mockery, and feeling very lucky, I found my waist pouch with everything in it. Unfortunately, a few cars had run over it. Some bills were torn, the cardholder was unusable, and my passport was slightly damaged. But I accepted the loss and went to retrieve my belongings. After chatting with the teacher, I went into the city to find a new cardholder. They told me that I could exchange the damaged bills at the bank. So, I went to the bank, where a group of bank employees came out, laughed at the bill, and then took me out for lunch. Eventually, we exchanged the bill, and one of the employees offered me a place to stay. However, he still had to work, so I took a rest day, typed in a cafe for my blog, where I received a lot of attention, and even had someone offer to cut my hair. After about six hours, I had dinner with the bankers and then had some beers.
After a day with reasonable sleep, I continued towards Argani. Everyone advised me to take a different route through Diyarbakir, but that would have been a detour, and I wasn’t interested in that. At a small farm, a man offered me a place to sleep on the rooftop, which I couldn’t refuse. Fortunately, it cools down at night, and you can sleep with the breeze.
After getting some good sleep again, I was warned by a policeman that it was dangerous in the area. So
, after having some food in Argani, I headed further into the mountains to find cooler weather. After a calm day of cycling with some hills, I had to stop at a farm where a Turkish purebred dog barked with an iron chain around its neck – the kind of dog you definitely want to stop for. Usually, they don’t pose any threat after that. Then, a lady came over to offer water, and from water, it turned into an offer for a place to sleep. That’s how Kurdish hospitality works. It seems that the less people have, the more they offer. It was only about 3 pm, but given the stressful week, some extra rest couldn’t hurt in the heat. After chatting and setting up my tent in the garden, I went for a walk with the brother of the farm’s family and we were back before dark, in a beautiful valley.