Pedaling from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
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Day 55 (Turkey): Kapakli - Topraklik

today’s distance: 132km
total distance: 4557km
riding time: 6h

Waking up to sunny weather is a good thing and for the last few days this has largely been the case. It has been kind of cold though during the night as well, going down to 5C last night if not colder. Good thing the sleeping bag keeps me warm.

I left the nice spot I had found the previous night, ran some errands in Ilgin and continued along the way with a beauty of a tailwind which was to last all day, hence the distance today. I have been following a good-size road for quite a while now and was happy to turn off finally and get into some quieter territory. The turnoff to Sarayonu signaled just that. Hardly any traffic from there on out. It was great … gently rolling hills and a tailwind and hardly a car to be seen. Temperatures have now risen during the day time to the point where for the first time I am riding in only a t-shirt and bike shorts. Good stuff.

After finding another Fenerbahce fan along the route who was - despite them not winning the championship - in a great mood (the other team - you know who - shall not be mentioned). Even less cars after Sarayonu through farm territory with mountains in the background. In the places that I stop the same story repeats itself every time. Kids try out the two sentences they know in English - mostly how are you and what is your name without really wanting an answer. They just bugger off and eventually find the bike extremely interesting. When I leave they want to race me and after a while of following the strange foreign guy who doesn’t know their language, they drop out of sight.

Well, on to Altinekin, or so I thought. I cross a highway, had seen the Jandarma (some form of police, quite military style) at the red light. Didn’t pay much attention to the van. It pulls away, I mind my own business and realize it stops. Me thinks this is because of me. Oh well …

Two young guys get out, slight their assault rifles around their shoulders and stand on both sides of the van. One motions me to stop. I laugh and can’t believe it. Guy from the shotgun seat gets out, the others become a bit stiffer even and the conversation ensues:

“Where are you going?”
“China.” (as if that isn’t obvious)
Perplexed look on the face.
“Where are you going now?”
“No, you are not.”
“Yes, I am.”
“You are going to Ankara!”
“No, I don’t want to go to Ankara. I quite like it here.” (smartalec Markus, stay where you are)
“You are on the wrong road for Ankara.”
“I don’t want to go to Ankara. I want to go to Aksaray. I can show you on a map.” Markus pulls out the map and shows where he wants to go. “Is there a problem?”
“But why not Ankara?”
“Because I don’t want to.”

Surreal conversation. I ask why I was stopped and all of a sudden he doesn’t understand any English. I ask again and he says that he thought I had gone the wrong way. Hm … makes me wonder with all those huge signs at the red light. At any rate, I try to end on a lighter note and ask them for a picture. Here is the result.

In Altinekin I am introduced to the caiphone and the caitokens. Ingenious. A cell phone store is my internet connection and all of a sudden, the whole place is full of people. The caiphone is like an intercom that is hooked up from the store (from almost all stores it turns out) to the cai cafe. Cai comes a minute later and in return the cai server takes cai tokens with him that are in a big plastic cup. I should have taken pictures … next time.

A geography teacher serves as translator for everyone (more or less), but expertly draws up a map for the next 20km. It worked like a charm. He also hooks me up with oil which is not a gallon or 5 liters and keeps the now 20 kids surrounding my bike in check. 

I go up the final climb of the day, no one on the road now. I pass through pretty desolate villages and flat farmland. Riding is great. No good places to camp though. Everything totally open, no trees. Hardly any area which doesn’t serve as a field.

Just as I was nearing the 130km marker, two dogs come after me - I just barely saw them and just outdo them. Kind of close. They were nasties, one of them wearing a big nail-spiked collar.

I finally get to a place with lots of trees. Looks like Fort Knox kind of. Mehmet makes short shrift of things, asks me in, continues to fix his roof while I set up my tent and eventually we set up dinner. He had learned some German in school, his wife is a teacher, speaks a bit of English and so we pass the time communicating about this and that. She keeps asking me Why? Why? I should point her here. But she doesn’t really want the answer. It’s a beauty of a night though.


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