May 29, 2013
Distance: 33.6 miles Climbing: 1358.3 ft
We woke up late today despite being a little pooled at the end of the tent due to our campsite’s incline. We fried some potatoes and made some eggs we had picked up the day before. After breakfast we packed up pretty quick and got on the road. The highway veered away from the coast here, and despite some creative routing attempts it looked like we were going to be funneled into the town Biga whether we wanted to or not.
As we cruised in we saw a sign for a “Kipa” which appeared to be a big supermarket. We parked our bikes outside, but as I was heading towards the door I noticed steady stream of people walking up the street carrying large plastic bags filled with vegetables and roller suitcase looking things. I realized that it was Wednesday, which is one of the market days in Turkey. I walked upstream of the grocery toting folks and stepped into a massive warehouse, with scores of people selling produce and clothing. It had some similarities to the large covered markets I’d wandered though in Asia, but the most remarkable thing here was that the floors were spotless! No river of blood, fish gut water and who knows what else to wade through! Although the stalls were packed with vegetables like eggplant, potatoes, cucumbers, peppers, olives, onions, garlic and fruits like cherries, tomatoes, strawberries, peaches and apricots, the place was neat and clean. I stocked up on fruits and vegetables, olives and some cheese, both peynir and some stuff that was like mozzarella string cheese, very fresh but salty and full tasting.
Staples are very cheap in Turkey. A loaf of very good bread similar to a baguette costs a Lira, which is around $0.55. Fruits are generally around $1-2 a pound, vegetables around $1, though potatoes are more like $0.20 a pound. Cheese runs from 10 to 20 Lira a kilogram which works out to $2.50-$5 or so a pound. The more expensive cheeses have more complex flavors almost like a subtle blue cheese, but they are all soft, kind of like Greek Feta. Olives, we haven’t quite figured out- there are tons of options and big ranges in prices, all still dirt cheap, around $1-5 a pound. We usually stick to the big pitted green ones, although the black shriveled ones with the pits in have a wild flavor that has hints of alcohol, so maybe they are partially fermented?
After my shopping spree we had a leisurely lunch of bread, cheese, tomato and olive oil sitting on the fence of a mosque. Lots of people seemed interested in us, and a few tried to chat, but the language barrier once again limited the depth of the conversation to where we were from and where we were going. Refueled, we headed west, and back towards the coast.
It was HOT. We really need to start getting up earlier and get miles in so we can just rest from 1-4 PM or so. We passed by one end of a traffic police speed trap in a construction zone and when I got to the top of the next hill I stopped in the shade of a lone tree next to the other end of the speed trap: two bored looking officers sitting on a bench next to their car. While I waited for Jenny, they motioned that I should come over and take a break. When Jenny reached us, she was really ready for a break so we sat in the shade eating white berries out of the tree. They ended up knowing enough English for us to hold a decent conversation and we received a detailed Turkish language lesson, which turned out to be pretty useful. Over the 45 minutes or so we sat chatting, they had to stop and pull over some speeding truckers, which involved the younger officer standing in the middle of the highway waving the offender onto the shoulder. The driver would get out and walk back to the cops who would then write him a ticket. After they were done, the older officer showed us his book of tickets saying, “80 limit, 82 OK, 83 problem” he shook his head and pointed to the fine on the ticket: 166 Turkish Lira, which is over $90, “expensive problem”. They took a few pictures with us and then we got up to ride. As we parted with the older office said to us, as if it were a very important piece of information “we are the best police officers in Turkey”, I responded “Number one police officers” which they seemed to like the fit of and got a huge kick out of as they repeated it.
On we rode. We were feeling pretty good despite the heat and not riding for almost 2 months, but we were still adjusting to our new riding style. In Asia we always had a daily destination, a town or city we thought we could get to and find a place to stay. From now on it will be kind of the opposite, where we seek out the areas between the towns and cities where we can either find a campground or a free place to pitch our tent.
We didn’t really have a destination in mind today and when we saw a small cleared area next to a creek along the road we u-turned to check it out. At first, we thought there had been a wedding recently, stacks of plastic chairs and tables were scattered around the shaded clearing. I spotted a farmer and asked him if we could put up our tent in the clearing. He quickly understood what I was pantomiming and showed us a nice spot next to a table and pointed out where there was some water. As we were setting up the tent a bunch of local people in a tractor came by to pick up some of the chairs, the leader of the group came over for a chat, which as usual, didn’t amount to much, but we were able to understand that the celebration had been for a funeral, not a wedding as he made gestures to the cemetery across the street, while profusely gesturing it was OK that we were camping there. They packed up and left us to ourselves.
A little after dark as we were watching Gallipoli on the laptop, two boys on bicycles rode up. One of the primary objectives when searching for a campsite is to find one where the local youth will not find you, as we have found they can range from annoyingly inquisitive, to hostile and unpredictable. These boys were about 10 years old and ran through the English questions they knew. They rode their bikes around and came back to chat some more. We said, “Ok we’re going to sleep now” and they looked surprised and said apologetically, “Oh, ok, sleep!” and politely “Good night!” before riding off. We felt bad for having been so presumptive about the kids here- in our experience they have been as rambunctiously curious as in other countries, but very well mannered.