TURKEY part 2

Day 44 (Alapli – Zonguldak)

We had too much food at the hotel buffet breakfast and got dazed and lazy and didn’t start to cycle until after 10 AM.

Last November the two Turkish cyclists Burak Yalciner and Gökhan Kutluer did a cycle tour between Oslo and Copenhagen and stayed at our home for two nights. When we arrived Istanbul we were invited to stay with Burak’s family and we immediately became good friends with all of them. Burak studies in Istanbul while his parents split their time between the family’s home in Zonguldak and an apartment in Istanbul. 

When we stayed with the family in Istanbul they gave us many advices regarding the route and they insisted we should try to pass their hometown Zonguldak which we promised to do. 

Today’s mission was to reach Zonguldak and stay with our friends there and enjoy their company and a few days of rest. The only thing that was between us and them was a climb of 500 vertical meters across a mountain.

The hill to climb before arriving to Zonguldak and our friends

It was a nice sunshine when we left Alapli but only 6-7 km along the way towards Eregli we cycled into a dense fog and when we arrived in Eregli it was even a bit cold. At the outskirts of that city we passed some big shipyards but the work seemed to have ceased at two container ships. Nobody was working on them and we later got the explanation why – the financial crisis and problems with the banks.

Turkey may have avoided much of the financial crisis, but not the owner of these two ships that no work is no longer done on.

Wej had not completely recovered from her sore throat and a few times I got a stinging feeling in the central part of my right calf which I had injured severely last year. The chilly weather and our physical conditions made us move forward with great caution. 

The climb started right after we passed the city of Eregli. It was not steep, only 5 % on average, but it was almost 10 km long. We rode up very slowly and didn’t stop a single time until we reached the pass. Climbing 500 meters in one long go is much more fun and challenging than doing five climbs of 100 meters that once you have passed the pass immediately takes you down to where you started. Those small climbs are both physically and mentally de-motivating.

Trying the famous strawberries from Ereglie

Eregli is famous for having Turkey’s best strawberries and we passed numerous small stalls where the local’s sell these red delights. Even if we really wanted to buy some we kept going since we didn’t want to break the momentum we finally had gained, but we stopped at the first stall after the top. The strawberries were more expensive than we expected but they tasted great.

When we got up on the hill we suddenly had the fog below us. It was sunshine and a nice temperature as we cycled up and down the small hills on top of the mountain. The descent from the mountain was a bit difficult since the surface was not in the best condition and there was a lot of traffic. Road constructions was going on at several places and it was sometimes very dusty.

Road blocked by truck

When we came racing down a slope we saw a truck parked across the road. It looked strange and when we got closer a police man walked up to us and raised his hand to show us to stop. Yesterday the police escorted us, so we wondered why they stopped us now.

Once we had stopped they put up cones across the road and a sign telling ”traffic control”. We couldn’t understand why they would want to include us in their traffic control, but we had to stop. Nothing happened and soon more cars stopped behind us and a short while later we got the explanation by a police officer who could speak good English. He told us that the construction workers were going to blow up a big rock and that we had to wait about 20 minutes.

Talking to the police officer while waiting

We chatted with the police officer when a loud ”booom” echoed between the mountains and a huge dust cloud raised from the valley in front of us. We were first in the line but we decided to let all cars pass before we started to cycle again. I had parked my bike at the side of the road and when it was time for us to roll I saw that my front tyre had got flat   

I had probably parked on something sharp and there was nothing to do than change to a new innertube. If I had seen what had happened I could have done it while waiting for that explosion.

All other cars in the que is gone and we are left alone to fix my second flat tyre 

Finally we could continue our descent down from the sunny mountain and into the foggy coastline. We had agreed with Özlem that we would send her a message when we approached town. Soon we got contact and she and her husband Volkan came to meet us by car.

Volkan told us to put bikes and panniers into the car. I asked how far away they lived and I think I heard him say 200 meters but I thought he meant 2000 meters. We loaded everything into the car and drove up some very very steep hills and I think their house is 200 meters above where we met so Volkan was right after all.

Raki in the left glass and cold water in the right one

We were warmly welcomed and given a bedroom and a bathroom and showed around. The view of the Black Sea from their cosy balcony is stunning…..if it wasn’t for all the fog.

Özlem and Volkan prepared a very nice dinner to have on that balcony while the sun was setting in the Black Sea and finally I got to try the national drink of Turkey – the famous Raki.

Cheers my friend…

Statistics cycling day 44 

Distance:               57.7 km
Traveling time        7.46 hours
Cycling time           4.34 hours
Average speed      12.6 km/h
Top speed              51.5 km/h
Altitude gained        874 m
Altitude lost             875 m


Restdays in Zonguldak

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Reunion with the Yalciner family
We have a joke based on a fact and that is that where ever I go I bring bad weather. Blizzard in Hungary, intense snow fall in Romania and cold and strong headwind before arriving in Istanbul. This story has continued and been proven correct here in Zonguldak too.

The Yalciner family live on 5th floor in an apartment building located high up on one of the city’s hills and they have a grandiose view of the harbour and the Black Sea from their very cosy balcony. Have we seen the Black Sea from their balcony during the three days we have spent here? No – there has only been a light grey almost white fog all the time so we will have to come back to enjoy the view another time.

Visiting Volkan’s mother opposite the street

Department store
Both of Volkan’s brothers live in the same apartment building and his parents live in another one just across the street. Özlem’s birthday is on 1st of May and Volkan’s mother hosted Özlem, Volkan’s brother’s wife and daughter and us for a Iskender lunch at Zonguldak’s only deparment store some very steep switchbacks below where they all live. It was a tasty lunch and it was also nice to see a department store again. We haven’t been to any since we were in Krakow almost two months ago.

Post office
We have visited the local post office and sent home a little more than 3 kg of clothes, a camera that has stopped working, some tools not needed, our map of Bulgaria and a few other things we don’t need anymore. Besides making our luggage lighter, this will open up some space in our panniers where we will be able to carry food which will be needed later in the tour.

4 days of intense training in making turkish coffee…

After having been to the post office Volkan took us to his football field. Volkan and his two brothers have a electrical company that makes electrical installations and also has two shops selling deisgner lamps. Besides this they have a football field with adjacent changing rooms, showers and a little cafe that they rent out to local teams.

When Volkan told me about his football field I couldn’t understand why people would pay for that – local kids usually play football on any open space. Then I looked around me and saw the houses and apartment blocks clinging to the steep hills of Zonguldak and thought that maybe there is no unused flat areas where kids can play football so having a football field for rent may be a lucrative business in a town like Zonguldak.

Of course we had to try play some football. I am quite fit after having cycled all the way from Sweden to Zonguldak, but I am not used to play football and after 10 minutes we were all completely exhausted.

Jam session in the kitchen
Özlem and Volkan are very hospitable people and they have had friends over for dinner almost every night we have been staying with them. The last night of our stay their close friends Fatma and Levent came over. Levent is a teacher in traditional turkish music and I guess he came straight from work since he wore a suit while Volkan and I wore shorts and T-shirts.

Volkan is a serious hobby musician and has appeared in TV shows. He likes to sing traditional songs and soon Volkan and Levent started to play and sing. Levent played on his Ud (traditional instrument) while Volkan was percussionist using a very untraditional instrument – an empty cookie tin from Ikea. He later found a more traditional drum and played along with Levent for quite a while.

Turkish coffee made by a Swedish cyclist 

Haircut and shave
Last time I got a haircut was during our short break in Sweden. It was now time again and Volkan took me to the barber shop he uses.
After cutting my hair it was time for the shave. I am not being used to being shaved by others so it was interesting to watch the process. First I got a big load of shaving soap brushed into my face for two minutes and then the shaving started. My face soon appeared from the thick layer of white foam and when the foam was gone the barber went over my face with his razor once more before he applied after shave. After a short feeling of burning pain I felt like a baby face….

With hair, face and eyebrows done the barber opened a drawer and pulled out a pair of scissors with a big chunk of cotton on its sharp end. He dipped it into a liquid and then set the whole thing to fire. The scissors were now a burning torch that he started to move towards my ears…

After a brief confusion I rememebered that my Australian friend Michael who cycled around the world had mentioned something to me about the Turks having a interesting way of removing hair on the ears and this was just what was about to happen.

The barber waved the burning scissors past my ears a couple of times to burn off those little hairs. I could clearly feel the smell of burnt hair so apparently the method works just fine.

Tea with a view
One of the days Özlem and Volkan took us out for a walk in a little park which has good vies of the Black Sea, a cafe at a lighthouse and some nice areas to stroll around in. It was neither hot or cold but a little foggy so we couldn’t see the Black Sea clearly.

These concrete toy cars has been in the park since Volkan’s childhood

I write this in the early morning of the day when it is time to say good bye to the Yalciner family. We stayed with them for three nights in Istanbul and now for four nights here in Zonguldak and we have had very fun, lots of discussions and eaten lots and lots of super good food. This is definately not the last time we will see these new friends of ours and we will definately come back after having concluded this trip. We also hope to some day see them in Thailand and/or Sweden.

A big big big big thank you to Özlem and Volkan for letting us stay and enjoy some really fun days in your company.

Day 45 (Zonguldak – Gökcebey)

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Volkan said he would leave early for work today so we set our alarm clock to go up and have breakfast with him. That breakfast took a long time and then his parents and sister in law came to say good bye. We packed, talked to the visitors and weren’t ready for take off until 2 PM and Volkan still hadn’t gone to work. 

Özlem and Volkan had promised to lead us out of town but first to his shop to show it and take some photos of us there. The road leading down from the hill were the Yalciner family lives is extremely steep and when passing a sharp turn on the inside it felt almost vertical…. Our breaks did a good job and soon we were at the shop and got our photos taken.

Saying good bye to Volkan’s father (left) in front of the shop

We were guided by Volkan driving slowly in front of us with his mother and Özlem as passengers. He stopped at the outskirts of town and we took more photos and said a dear farewell. We have become very good friends with the familiy and when we left them a feeling of loneliness struck us since it was only the two of us now. It took an hour or two and then it was like normal again. 

Only 6-7 km after exiting Zonguldak a car with a bicycle hanging on its rear passed us. It stopped and two guys came out and wanted to talk. They presented themselves as Umit and Ramazan and told that they were touring cyclists themselves and asked if we wanted to come and stay the night in their town. It turned out that each of them were hosts in the warmshowers.org which is a hospitality network for cyclists that we have used a lot so far. This network gets better and better since we don’t even have to send e-mail any longer and the hosts pick you up along the road.

Unfortunately the town where Ramazan and Umit live was too far away so we decided to decline their kind offer and continue. We are however grateful for the offer and would like to say thank you to Ramazan and Umit.

The road was slowly upphill, had many curves but for most of the time a good shoulder for us to cycle on. Being a main road it had some traffic but it was never a problem. We passed two tunnels, the first one about 200 meters and the other one more than twice as long. When we exited the second one we were at >400 meters of altitude and could start descending. We didn’t know how far we would go and if to stay in a hotel or camp. 

At the entry of the town Gökcebey we met another cyclist. He stopped and came over to us. Unfortunately his English was worse than our Turkish and besides that he spoke very fast too. It seemed he was out on some sort of cycling trip himself, but although trying very hard to understand each other, we were not able to have any meaningful conversation. That was really sad because I think we would have had a lot to tell each other.

5-star camp site

Just after passing Gökcebey we saw a gas station that looked as a potential camping site  We rode in and even before parking our bikes we were offered tea. We sat down to drink our tea and one of the guys proudly said that the gas station had a free shower. We then asked if we could camp there and the answer was ”of course”. Another guy came out and told us he was about to drive and buy some food and asked if we would like join the staff for dinner 

When sitting drinking tea at some tables outside the gas station we got a big surprise when a car came and parked. It was Volkan and his friend Hassan who we had met before. They were going to Hassan’s house in the next town and have a nice Saturday night with some friends and stay the night. Volkan had suspected we would be at some gas station and came by to look for us. It was a happy re-union only a few hours after saying a sad good bye.

Dinner with the gas station staff….

After shower and with tent pitched and sleeping bags rolled out we went to the staff room of the gas station to have a dinner consisting of a giant tray with some kind bread in the bottom and grilled chicken on top. It was to be eaten with the bare hands and tasted wonderful.
This is truly a 5-star gas station. 

* unlimited supply of tea
** wifi internet
*** camping allowed
**** shower
***** dinner 

and all for free……

Statistics for cycling day 45

Distance:               48.8 km
Traveling time        5.10 hours
Cycling time           2.59 hours
Average speed      16.3 km/h
Top speed              45.0 km/h
Altitude gained        468 m
Altitude lost             518 m


Day 46 (Gökcebey – Safranbolu)

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Do you remember that we 2-3 weeks ago complained about having forgotten our foldable plastic coffee cups at home?

I am happy to tell that the problem now is solved…..

Özlem and Volkan had a got a picnic set from a friend who has plenty of such sets at work to hand out as souvenirs from his company so they could easily get a replacement set. We were very happy for the gift but only accepted one to save weight and space. The new cup is insulated and will keep our coffee hot if it starts to snow again or the beer cold if it is too hot. Let’s hope for the latter being what is going to happen….

Enjoying morning coffee in our new mug

Özlem provided us with food to heat for dinner before we left her. We got ”dolmas” (stuffed paprikas/peppers), spagetti and pieces of fried meat left over from the previous dinner. Since the guys at the gas station offered us dinner yesterday, we still hadn’t started to eat all the food we had so we decided to have dolmas and spagetti as breakfast.

We heated the dolmas and spaggeti on our stove and then enjoyed them together with coffee. Thanks for the breakfast Özlem and also thanks a lot for enabling us to drink coffee in the mornings again.

Having the dolma dinner for breakfast

In all other gas stations we have visited there is one guy who works with cleaning cars. The car is sprayed with some white foam that I believe is some kind of car shampoo. In Sweden we need to use degreaser to get rid of salt stains from the road and I have for some time wondered if this shampo maybe contains some degreaser.

Car wash. Any degreaser in that shampoo???

Last time I changed chains was in Elhovo in Bulgaria some 800 km ago so now it was time again. Cleaning chains is a dirty job and one good way to find out if the car shampoo had degreaser in it was to try to use it. I put the dirty chains on the ground at the cleaning station and let the guy spray them.

Trying new method to clean chains

The chains moved around as frightened snakes when the guy sprayed them with his high pressure water hose and we had to stand on one end each to prevent them from moving around. The guy was wearing rubber boots while I had shoes on that got wet.
For your information I can now tell that the shampoo contains absolutely no degreaser. Our chains are still covered by the mix of oil and dust we wanted to get rid of and I need to find some degreaser or diesel to wash them in instead. 

We bought a loaf of bread in a town and put it on my rear rack to eat with the fried meat at some beautiful place when we got hungry. As usual we got hungry at a gas staion…. When we rolled in to a little station the single man working there pointed where the toilets were and when we came back he asked: 

”chai?” (tea)

We sat down in an empty room that had been a shop but now was used as staff room. The man immediately heated tea and we could enjoy our lunch sandwiches with hot tea. 

The afternoon was hot, but it had one very pleasant thing – a strong tailwind. This wind was very much appreciated since we were slowly climbing up to higher altitudes but most of all we enjoyed it in the tunnels.

Tunnel number X of 16. This one was short.

Between the town of Yenice and the city of Karabük, there is a section with tunnels. The man at the gas station had informed us that there would be 15 of them. We have mixed feelings for tunnels. They are difficult to cycle in if there is a lot of traffic, but if they weren’t where they are we would be going up and down the hills like yo-yos while we now can ride straight trough.

Bring a Sunday afternoon it was very little traffic on the road so it was easy to pass them. The wind that gets compressed and can be strong in a tunnel was on our way and we passed most of them in a high speed.

We wanted to know how many tunnels there were and Wej counted them while I added their total length from the signs in front of each of them. The longest was 750 meters and the shortest only 39.

Number of tunnels: 16
Total distance: 4081 m.

When arriving in the city of Karabük Wej suddenly remembered that Özlem had adviced us to visit the nearby town of Safranbulo which has a historical center with old wooden houses that is declared as a world heritage by UNESCO. We had forgot about this and hadn’t checked any information about it, but we turned left to go there anyway. Had we known what kind of uphill it was to Safranbulo, we would definately had skipped visiting the town and continued along the planned route… 

Since it was late in the afternoon and plenty of guesthouses we decided to change the plan from camping to indoor sleeping instead. We found a guesthouse, negotiated the price and then put our stuff in our room and took our bikes and rolled down the steep slope to the historical city center where we looked around and sat down to have a coffee and beer at a little cafe.

I wonder if moslems have the same feeling for old wooden minarets as we have for old wooden churches?

Old house in Safranbulo. I guess this house was built before plummets (lod) were invented.

Old town houses

New town of Safranbulo seen from the road back from old town.

Statistics for cycling day 46 

Distance:               68.3 km
Traveling time        6.50 hours
Cycling time           4.10 hours
Average speed      16.4 km/h
Top speed               N/A km/h
Altitude gained        711 m
Altitude lost             271 m


Day 47 (Safranbolu – Arac)


Wej prepared coffee and sandwhiches for me to enjoy at the bed in our room at the guesthouse  Isn’t she wonderful? Then the owner himself came with lit sparklers to celebrate the birthday child still in bed… 

We allowed ourselves to be slow in the morning as a birthday gift and didn’t leave the guesthouse until 10.30. The bikes were parked in backyard of the butcher’s shop beside our guesthouse and when I went to get them he was busy chopping up a few dozens of chicken. 

Outside the chicken butcher’s shop

On our way out of Safronbolu we passed the historical center and saw even more than we saw yesterday. Most of the houses look really well kept and I understand that this city is a tourist attraction. Safranbolu is declared as world heritage by UNESCO and I wonder what it means to the owner of the house that we passed that unfortunately had burnt down. Do they have to make an exact copy of the destroyed house or can they build a new one in the old style? If any of you readers know anything about the rules for renovation and rebuilding in a world heritage, then please tell me what will happen to that burnt house. 

A mosque with a different looking architecture at the old town in Safranbolu

Yesterday it was a tough climb of 150 meter to reach the guesthouse which our GPS said was at 503 meters above the sea level. Knowing that we during the coming two days will have to climb to 1200 meters altitude it felt really unnecessary to start the day with rolling down to 450, then climb back to 500 before descending to 350 m.

When climbing the last part out of Safranbulo we once again noted a turtle on the road. This road was wide and the turtle was just in the middle of it. Fortunately there weren’t many cars passing by. Click on the arrow in the video link below and you can follow Mr. Turtle’s adventure when crossing the street.

Starting late is equal to not getting far when the mid day heat strikes. Since we started to cycle late we were out of our eating routines and got hungry only after some 20 km. Finding places to eat in Turkey is mostly easy, but not today. We had to ride for almost 45 minutes before finding a truck drivers’ lunch restaurant. A dozen of trucks were parked outside and the food was pre-prepared and we had to go to the counter and point at the food we wanted to order. It tasted good but not even being hot we felt that the 10 TL we had to pay per person was a bit high. 

Our lunch at the truck drivers’ restaurant

After lunch we wanted coffee and found a tea vendor along the road some 6-7 km after our lunch break. It was a simple stall and we weren’t sure the vendor would have coffee for sale. When asked he showed he had Nescafe 3 in 1 (coffee, coffeemate and sugar) and none of us like sweet coffee so we asked if he could prepare coffee with the instant coffee we had instead, which he happily did. 

The tea and coffee vendor’s stall

Our mission today was to try to climb the remaining 900 meters before the road starts to descend to the Black Sea again. Starting late, being tired and suffering in the heat we moved far slower than planned. In Turkey it is common with water taps along the roads for travellers to drink or wash their faces in. We stopped to soak our caps and sleeves to get a bit of refreshment. 

3 minutes after leaving the well Wej said my wheel looked strange and when I looked at it it was half empty. We stopped to take a look and could only confirm that in the league of flat tyres the standing is now 3-0. 

My birthday present: Flat tyre number 3 due to parking on something sharp

It was hot in the sunshine so we decided to take our bikes to the shade of a tree on a field beside the road. Right in the middle of the job to fix the flat tyre it started to rain – not very fun when a lot of the bags are opened, we already had our sleeves and caps soaked in water and especially not on my birthday…

Wej pushing her bike from the shade (!!!!) of the trees

When the tyre was fixed we came to a section which very much resembled Sweden in the summer. A wet road and a forest of pinetrees. It felt very much like it does at home. 

It looks like Sweden…

We were tired and a bit disappointed for not being able to reach where we wanted and decided to skip camping and instead check in at the first motel we could find to celebrate my birthday there instead of in the tent. The hotel we found looks like an alpine mountain lodge and we are the only guests. We were too tired to eat anything proper so we only had some light food and went to bed early in order to be able to start early and avoid much of the early afternoon heat.

Statistics for Cycling day 47 

Distance:               60.5 km
Traveling time        6.52 hours
Cycling time           3.33 hours
Average speed      17.0 km/h
Top speed              55.4 km/h
Altitude gained        591 m
Altitude lost             419 m


Day 48 Arac – 13 km west of Tasköpru (camp 7)

The unburied and unsalted pasta

After an early start from our mountain lodge looking hotel we had a nice downhill for 5 minutes before it was time to start climbing again. It was a big main road and that kind of road is usually not so exciting from a pure cycling perspective. Eventhough the road itself was dull, the view from it was very nice. As we got higher and higher the nature started to change. Below it was dense forests but on the higher altitudes the forests were replaced by mor bush looking smaller trees.

Mountain lodge looking hotel where we were the only guests

Our aim was to reach the pass before it got too hot and then enjoy being cooled down while rolling down in the heat during the early afternoon. The wind had been on our backs for a few days and helped us climb the slow ascent, but all of a sudden it changed and we had to ride the last 5-6 km to the top with a headwind.

Look at the cloud. Are they testing nuclear bombs somewhere nearby?

We got a nice view of Karabük city from above and we could then see that there was some kind of ring road around the city. It also appeared that if we went to the city we would have to climb out of it again while we would remain at the same altitude if staying on the ring road. Staying on a boring ring road or ride through a city we didn’t intend to see anyway was an easy decision to make.

Let’s hope we won’t see more snow on this trip….

Deniz – the kind woman who hosted us in Istanbul when Wej’s bottom bracket broke – had told us that we had to go to town of Tasköprü which is known to have the best garlic in all of Turkey. Since we trust Deniz the aim for the day was to get camp somewhere before Tasköprü.

Finally at the pass at 1230 meters altitude. The highest so far on this tour

We have visited hundreds of gas stations since we left home and all those outside Sweden have had staff filling the customers’ tanks. In Sweden, and maybe in Poland too (can’t remember), the customers have to fill their own tanks and go inside to pay. I don’t know what such a position at a gas station would be called, but since we meet a lot of people working in that position we need to call them something and the word we use is ”tank-filler”.

All Turkish gas stations have toilets that visitors can use for free. Some even have a simple shower and in the late afternoon we stopped at such a station to shower and see if it maybe was possible to camp there.

The owner of the gas station and some of his tank-fillers where sitting at a table drinking tea and as usual it took about 30 seconds after our arrival before we were offered tea. While Wej went in to have a shower I started to talk to the staff. Unable to communicate I asked if there was a wifi internet, which it was. With my iphone now connected to the internet we could start to have a meaningful conversation.

I started the google translate app and wrote in simple English:

– We, put, tent, where ?

The tank-filler pointed at an empty house on the other side of the road and I typed:

– safe ?

He nodded and I walked to take a look. Having passed dozens and dozens of graveyards the place looked to me as just another little cemetary so I picked up my iphone and typed:

– cemetary?

The tank-filler asked to borrow the phone and typed in something in Turkish that was translated to english as.

– unburied

I started to visualize the plot for a new horror movie called: 

”The cycle tourists and the unburied – based on a true story”.

What was it that was unburied that he thought it would be a fine idea for us to sleep beside. My confusion got bigger and I once again turned to the Google Translate, our saviour, and typed:

– coffins?

He once again nodded as an answer and I started to get second thoughts and typed:

– corpses ?

He didn’t understand so I tried again by typing:

– dead bodies?

He than laughed, took the phone and typed something that was translated as:

– empty

Hmmmm…….I now thought that I had started to understand what this was all about but to be sure I typed:

– coffin factory ?

The tank-filler then nodded as a confirmation.

So what to do – should we sleep beside a bunch of ready made or half ready coffins laid out on the lawn in front of the house opposite the gas station or go on cycling to see if we could find another place that would bring us more peace of mind? We decided that sleeping beside coffins is something we all will have to do sooner or later and not anything we wanted to do right now so we said good bye to the guys at the gas station and their neighbouring coffin factory and continued along the road.

Camp site photo taken the following morning

After half an hour of cycling we found a place we thought would make a decent place to pitch our tent. It was in the corner of a field where cows had grazed, there where some high walls around it that prevented us from being seen from the road and 50 meters away there was a well with a tap where we could fetch water to drink and do our dishes in.

We put up our tent and started to make cook our pasta but soon discovered that we had run out of salt. Unsalted pasta tastes very plain but we managed to spice it up with some tomato salsa and canned tuna fish that we had bought in Bulgaria. Not any 5 star dinner, but at least we didn’t have to go to bed hungry 

Cooking unsalted spagetti

Statistics for Cycling day 48 

Distance:               78.8 km
Traveling time      10.06 hours
Cycling time           5.46 hours
Average speed      13.7 km/h
Top speed              53.3 km/h
Altitude gained        943 m
Altitude lost             992 m


Day 49 (Tasköpru – Boyabat)

As mentioned in previous posts our ad-hoc host Deniz in Istanbul had told us not to miss Tasköprü which is famous for its garlics. People we meet often ask where we are going and during the last few days our reply has been ”Bangkok, but first a stop to enjoy garlic in Tasköprü”

It is interesting to see the reaction in people’s faces when two complete strangers on bicycles tell that they are on the way to visit what their local community is famous for. So thank you Deniz for informing us about Tasköprü and providing us not only with an interesting place to visit, but also an icebreaker in our communication with people we meet along the way.

Garlic fields forever….

After having chosen not to camp beside any empty coffins the previous night we had pitched our tent 13 km west of Tasköprü. We left the camp in the early morning with the plan to have a breakfast with intense garlic aroma in Turkey’s own garlic capital. As soon as we entered the town we quickly found out that garlics are not in season now and we had to leave the town without being able to stock up on garlic to use in our coming dinner. 

Finally arriving in Turkey’s garlic capital

The town looked nice with a little stream flowing through its centre and an old stone bridge with beautiful arches across. Tasköprü has an annual garlic festical in September when Miss and Mr. Garlic are choosen. The festival attracts thousands of visitors and I bet it will be much easier to find fresh garlic then.

One interesting thing about Turkey is that gas stations don’t sell road maps. We have one that we bought at the border shop when entering from Bulgaria. It covers all of Turkey and is not detailed enough for our needs. Turkey is a large country and even our lousy map has a few places marked as sights worth to visit. If a map with too few details tells there is something to see, then it must be worth to visit for sure. 

Tasköprü has one of those few places and it was called Pompeipolois and is located just outside town. We rode there and found a steep track up on a hill. We didn’t know what it was and couldn’t ask anyone about it either. When we got to the top of the hill we met a sheperd and asked for ”Pompeipolios” and he pointed to two fenced areas. When arriving there we understood that this probably was a place that had been excavated by archeologists. 

Pompeipolios excavation site

There was not much to see so we rolled back down again and then met a guy walking towards us with a walkie talkie in his hand. He asked if we were tourists and pointed towards a building and made a sign that we interpreted as to wait while he went for the keys.

Part of some very old greek inscription

It turned out that Pompeipolios was a Roman city that had been abandoned and that was now being excavated. In the building they stored 2000 year old artifacts that the man with the walkie-talkie wanted to show us. Later we went to have tea with him in his little office and chat via google translate and do some reading about the site in English information leaflets he had. 

Old stuff in the warehouse. I wish I could recall more of my history lessons…

We then continued towards Boyabat. It was hot and after a while I got completely exhausted due to low levels of both glycogen and motivation. This is not a new situation for me and when it happens when riding with my team in Elmhults Sport Club there is always some kind team mate who will push for a while. When only being two people carrying large panniers it is not so easy to push and certainly not for Wej. The only thing I could do was to stay close to her rear wheel and just keep going.

I was so exhausted I needed to stop to get some sleep on a bench at a gas station. Meanwhile Wej sat and red the Lonely Planet guide book on our Ipad

After a late döner lunch I got my energy back and we could go on riding. We entered a big valley with rice paddies in the middle and dry mountains around it. There were also a large number of factories producing bricks and other kind of building materials. 

In the late afternoon it was time to try to find somewhere to sleep. After a day of hard work in the sun on dusty roads we really wanted to shower. Just a few kilometers before the town of Boyabata we found a gas station and stopped to check if we could sleep there.

The AyGaz station outside Boyabat – our home for the night.

In yesteday’s post I started to call the guys who fill tanks as ”tank-fillers”. My friend and cycling team mate Iain, who is from Scotland dropped me a mail to tell they are alled ”gas station attendants”. Thanks a lot for the clarification Iain…. 

The attendant at this station got exited when he saw us and started to talk for a long time about something that we understood as another cyclist who went from Spain to India and who had pitched his tent at this gas station. When we asked if we could camp there too he took us around to show possible places to put the tent. 

Wej and the happy gas station attendant / tank-filler… 🙂

After an acrobatic shower in ice cold water with a less than one meter long water hose connected to a tap 30 cm above the floor, we were ready to socialise with the local people
This gas station had very few customers so the attendant had plenty of time to take care of us. We got lots of cups of tea and in later he shopped up some cucmbers, tomatoes and sliced some bread for us to have as a shared evening meal. 

The German speaking truck driver and his son.

At the attendants office there were two more people sitting watching football on TV. It was a middle age man and his teenage son. The man spoke a bit of German and acted as interpreter. He told us he was a truck driver who had been driving his truck almost all over Europe and was now waiting to go to one of the nearby brick factories for loading. His and my German was just as bad and we could hardly communicate. He seemed to know the attendant and spoke to him as they were old friends since long time. Maybe he usually stops at this gas station while waiting for loading, or maybe it is simply the Turkish way of life of sharing an evening with a complete stranger….

It was a nice evening and we went to bed later than planned. Since it was warm we had only pitched our innertent to improve ventilation. It was nice to be able to fall asleep while watching the stars from inside the tent.

Using only the inner tent

Statistics for Cycling day 49 

Distance:               80.4 km
Traveling time      10.55 hours
Cycling time           5.01 hours
Average speed      16.0 km/h
Top speed              49.7 km/h
Altitude gained        624 m
Altitude lost             916 m


Continue to Turkey part 3