Ruins everywhere

June 3, 2013

Distance: 31 miles       Climbing: 2657.5 ft

We slept in the next day. Rest days are important for recovery, but just one day off the bikes makes us feel pretty lazy. We cooked up a breakfast of fried potatoes and eggs, and made some coffee. One thing about Turkey is the coffee situation isn’t great. In my head, Turkish coffee was some sort of legendary nirvana state of coffee. This is based solely on the fact that at Costco, when you grind the coffee in the giant machine near the hotdog stand, the only setting beyond espresso grind is “Turkish” which clearly meant that it was another 10 times or so more powerful than espresso. In reality, it tasted like burnt crap. There, it’s out there, the dream is over. We had settled into drinking instant Nescafe 3 in 1 which is just as awful as it sounds.

We headed over to the restaurant, only to find it closed and totally abandoned. Luckily, the internet was still on, so we uploaded some more stuff, checked out the security situation and did some route research.

Finally, at around noon we got on the bikes and started heading south. Our legs felt leaden, and progress was slow. After just a few miles we came across part of the ruins of Troa Alexandria. The place was fenced off, but there were some interpretive signs inside so I jumped the fence to explore a little while Jenny stood guard. Unfortunately, the archeological team was German, so the signs were just in Turkish and German, and I have no idea what was going on there. I did walk through a pretty cool masonry tunnel structure.

Ancient tunnel

Ancient tunnel

More awesome ruins

More awesome ruins

Another few kilometers down the road I saw a column rising above the trees at least 10 meters high or so. As I rounded the bend I slammed on the brakes as I saw an intact stone arch rising out of the forest off on my left. It felt like a real “Indiana Jones” moment because we were in the middle of nowhere on a little country road and the arch was just off in the woods over there. We got off the bikes and followed a little footpath which meandered past some other overgrown ruins. We finally got to the arch and found that there were actually three separate arches making up the sides of a square courtyard area. One of the arches was buttressed with a timber truss, but the other two were freestanding. It was amazing to see such massive and ancient structures intact, off in the woods, seemingly forgotten. Some internet research after the fact indicated that the arches were part of the ruins of a gymnasium or bath structure.

Arch

One arch

Two arches

Two arches

We cruised along for a while near the sea but unable to see it over some small hills obscuring the view. There wasn’t much traffic and the road was nice but it was hot. After a little while we hit a town called Tuzla and suddenly the landscape changed. We went from stereotypical Mediterranean olive trees and ocean to something that seemed out of Arizona or Nevada. Hard, little shrubs grew on the mountain slopes although there were still well tended fields of hay and wheat. Iron, red water flowed from broken rocky slopes and the sun seemed even more intense for the almost complete lack of shade. We stopped for some ice cream and water before plodding along through some small towns where the only action was a gaggle of old men drinking tea at the café.

Desert terrain

Desert terrain

Halfway up a big hill, my chain started to make a really bad noise, so I stopped to check it out. One of the pins holding the links together had come out so the side of its link was grinding on both derailleurs as it went around. I managed to press it all back together with a chain tool, but the link was damaged and kept binding as it went around the rear derailleur. On the steepest part of the climb it blew apart and my bike sprouted a tail as it shot the tired chain behind it into the gravel. Luckily, I was in some shade and could stop in place. I extracted the offending link and patched the chain together with a spare powerlink we had in our repair kit. With two major chain issues in the past week I was considering how wise it was to only have one spare chain with us.

Chain in working order again

Chain in working order again

We continued along in the broiling sun, not unhappy but a little weary with so much climbing after the relatively easy past few days of riding. When we crested a hill an hour or so before sunset and looked down the long descent and even larger climb after it, I suggested we just stop for the day and regroup in the morning. We were in a rocky highland area used to graze goats, but we happened to be by a small stand of pine trees which didn’t have any poop around, so we rolled our bikes in, set up the hammock and made ourselves a camp for the night.

Another great camping spot

Another great camping spot

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