Friday, December 3, 2010

Turkey wrap-up

Total Kilometres: 1052
Cycling days: 21
Average kilometers per day: 50
Camping days: 11
Longest Cycling day: Mersin to Taşucu - 102km

Hardest section: Amasra to Inebolu on the Black Sea coast. Steep, steep hills with equally vertiginous descents. Some pushing required, though with big, big rewards. Highly recommended.

Most enjoyable section: See above. But also the almost empty roads around Camardi through a rocky mountain valley, alongside commercial apple farms (they won’t miss a few right?) and hence well-irrigated and lush.

Best downhill: From the rainy heights of Anatolia, where the pine forests and the clouds were thick and visibility was less than 30m, down to the suddenly Mediterranean fields inland from Mersin, where goats roamed the olive groves and the warm air tasted of salt.

Number of different seas we cycled by the sea-shore: 4. Black Sea (Karadeniz); Mediterranean (Akdeniz); Sea of Marmara; Bosphorous (if that counts).

Number of crossings from Europe to Asia: 4 (two by bus, two by ferry). Things get complicated when you consider Cyprus though (is it Asia or Europe? Or both?)

Best coffee: The 75 kurus (50 cent) Turkish coffee in Kurucasile, a town almost entirely composed of boat-builders.

Most puncture repairs in one sitting: 11. Thank you tribulus terrestris.

Best convenience store snack: Undoubtedly the delicious, cheap and widely available simit. A circular bread roll coated in sesame seeds that fills and delights.

Best kebab: Iskender kebab, devoured heartily in Mersin.

Metres of cling-wrap used to envelope each bicycle before leaving Istanbul’s Atatruk Airport: 66

Cycle Tourist Verdict:
As the gateway between East and West, Turkey is a regular feature on cycle tourist’s itineraries. We’ve noted that the majority of cyclists will make a bee-line from Istanbul to Ankara, take in some Kappadocian fairy chimneys before heading directly to Syria, Georgia or Iran. As these cyclists will probably state, Turkey deserves to be far more than a thoroughfare. It is varied country, ethnically, culturally and geographically. Provided you are prepared for Anatolia’s mountains (and the slightly higher than expected prices) it is difficult to be disappointed. The Black Sea Coast from Amasra to Sinop was superb. The bus system is brilliant and bike friendly, allowing one to jump between stretches of cycling. The food was very welcome after Central Asian fare. If Turkey is just a link between Europe and Asia, then we’d suggest choosing a less direct route and if needs be joining the dots with some buses.


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