June 1 – 2, 2013
Distance: 35.3 miles Climbing: 1866.8 ft
After a good night’s rest, we both popped out of the tent the moment the alarm went off. The days have been so hot that we have been trying to get up earlier, so that at least some of our riding takes place in the cooler hours. Our attempts don’t seem to be working too well though. About 10 minutes after finally getting on the bikes, we came across a man selling veggies out the back of his truck. We picked out green beans, potatoes, tomatoes and onions. I got about 5 pounds off fresh vegetables for less than $5. I love this country!
Once fully loaded with produce, we were ready to go. Until we almost immediately saw a market and had to stop. We purchased fresh bread, juice, water and something for dessert. Now, we could finally hit the road.
The road immediately headed straight up a big hill. We took it slow with lots of stops for water or juice. A young man in a dump truck actually offered me a ride up the hill by holding to his truck. I had to decline because I was too scared of what could possibly go wrong. At the top of the hill, we were rewarded with an amazing view of the Dardanelles.
The highway we had been traveling was wonderful with a huge shoulder, perfect pavement and polite drivers, but when the opportunity to get off the highway presented itself, we took it. The smaller road we chose also took us near Truva, better known as the ancient city of Troy. Chandler and I both took Latin at in school and read the Iliad, so the chance to actually see this ancient city could not be missed.
We paid 15 lira each for admission and parked our bikes by the guard station. It was pretty interesting, but nothing really stood out. The area had been extensively excavated over the years, initially by a treasure hunter type who apparently caused a lot of damage through his crude techniques. The main things to look at were random unearthed walls, wells and an amphitheatre. The ruins were not in the best condition, so it took some imagination to visualize what everything had looked like. What made things even more confusing was the city was inhabited over thousands of years, so there were actually several versions of Troy numbered Troy I through Troy IX or something, all on the same site. It was really difficult to keep straight what we were looking at and when it was from. One of the more interesting pieces of trivia we learned was that Troy was a premiere tourist attraction for Romans who would sail over to see the ruins. There was a bustling tourist industry and lots of touts giving “tours” of fake ruins, as there was apparently even less to see back then.
As I was looking at one of the sites, a girl got my attention by asking if we were biking. Chantelle and her friend Roxanne are teachers working in Istanbul for a year. Chantelle had done a month long bike tour of the West Coast of the US and was contemplating bike touring in Turkey. It was awesome talking to someone familiar with the up and downs of traveling by bicycle.
There were a number of campgrounds surrounding Troy which I would have been happy to stay at, but Chandler convinced me that we should put in a few more miles. Chandler had another campground picked out from the GPS that was 20 miles away, so off we went. We stuck to the back roads again, which turned into a bit of an off road adventure.
We reached the campground about an hour before sunset and were greeted by several people smiling and waving. The campground also hosted a restaurant and we were immediately invited over for some tea by a family dining. The men ended up being a battalion commander and a captain with the local gendarme, which we gathered was a semi-military force that acted as law enforcement in the rural parts of the country that didn’t have local police. We had a nice time chatting about Turkey, history and traveling while watching the sunset. They gave us a brief overview of the military history relating to the action at Gallipoli during the “Great War” which was obviously a bit different than what we learned in school. They were disappointed that we hadn’t crossed over to visit the memorials and the museum, and we were too by the end of the conversation. We went back to our campsite and took in the sunset from our spot on a little cliff over the Aegean. It was a great ending to a nice day.
We woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of big raindrops falling on our tent. We reflexively shot out of the tent and put on the rain fly which is really waterproof, but doesn’t vent well and makes the tent unbearably stuffy if it’s warmer than 50 degrees or so. We threw plastic bags over our leather saddles and made sure the stove was under the fly. Our bike panniers are completely water proof so they stayed on the bikes which were parked under a tree giving them some protection. We settled back in the tent and fell back asleep.
When we woke up, it was still raining. We told ourselves it would let up in awhile and should probably go back to sleep for a little while. When the rain lessened, we got out of the tent for coffee and breakfast. Considering we had been riding for 6 days without a break, I convinced Chandler it was time for a rest day. He agreed under one condition: I had to catch up the blog by writing drafts for all the India posts. It sounded like a good deal to me. So, while Chandler rode to the nearest town and resupplied our kitchen, then relaxed in the hammock reading, I wrote 11 blog posts and edited a few pictures.
That evening, we went to the restaurant for tea. We found out that they had internet and uploaded a few posts to the blog. When Chandler checked his email, his inbox was flooded with concerned emails about our safety. We had no idea that the protest we had witnessed in Taksim Square had turned into nationwide protests and riots. We hadn’t seen a single sign of unrest in the past few days and were oblivious to developments. After a little research we found that the violence was pretty much isolated to the major cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. We had planned on leaving Turkey by ferry through Izmir so we started researching other options for departure. We registered ourselves online with the US Embassy in Ankara, and decided to just play things by ear. It was a little unsettling to hear that things were escalating, but considering that we hadn’t seen anyone protesting and that everything seemed “business as usual” we weren’t especially concerned.
We went to bed after watching another spectacular sunset over the Aegean while cooking what had become our signature dish: stir fried veggies and local cheese over pasta with an extra large dose of olive oil!