Total to date: 4601km: Today – 106km; 1450m of climbing and against the wind all day!
This was, by some measure, the toughest day of our trip. It started fine as we packed up having only been interrupted by one barking dog (and no humans, barking or otherwise) in the night. We were on the road by 7.30am starting from seal level on the northern side of the Gallipoli Peninsular, the Saros Korfezi, where my grandfather fought the Ottoman troops in WW1 (and contracted the TB which finally led to an early death). We began a gentle climb out of the village towards Sarkoy. Did I say “gentle” – well it was to begin with and then got steeper and steeper as we topped out at 320m.
This was fairly remote farming country with little villages along the way. All had their own mosques and one sounded the call to prayer as we passed. Electronic of course and not by the mullah in person, so the sound was slightly distorted. But it was eerie as we passed by.
The wooded section finally yielded the top of the road. We suspected from the map that it went up but had no idea how much! We then descended (rather too steeply for comfort and hands on the brakes) into the seaside town of Sarkoy, which is on the Southern side of the Gallipoli peninsular, leading into the sea of Marmaris. It was a pleasant enough town which was busy without being frantic.
By now the “W” word was starting to worry us – Wind. We were cycling directly into a 15/20mph wind which was draining. I led and Bernie stayed as close as possible, keeping in the wind shadow as much as she could. Progress was slow and tiring as it is like cycling uphill all the time but with no benefit. After 13km we reached the busy market town of Murefte and sat at the side of the road feeling a bit washed out. Nectarines revived us and an old chap who scuttled into his shop and came out with a massive bottle of drinking water to top up our bottles. It is this unexpected kindness that continually blows us over.
On with the ride and, at least at this stage, it was pretty flat. As we came towards Gazikoy village spectacular cliffs dropped down to the sea, with the road clinging to a path at the base of the cliffs. Stunning and remote scenery which we would have missed if we had not come this way.
We stopped for a sandwich lunch under a tree near an “informal” campsite. It was 30km to Terkirdag and we hoped to make good progress after lunch. An old chap cycled by who spoke some English and was intrigued by the trailer, and knew enough to focus on the coupling mechanism which he clearly thought was ingenious. His friend also appeared who ran the campsite and was disappointed we were not staying as – he told us – all cycle tourists stayed there! But it was only lunchtime and we had miles to cover so we expressed our thanks for the offer and moved on.
Just before leaving our new friend muttered something about “good luck with the ups and downs” in an enigmatic way! About 3km further on the “ups and downs” began with a steep climb from sea level to 230m. It was mostly climbing at about 10% but my Garmin recorded 17% at the steepest bit (nearly a get off and walk section). The “top” was a corner which showed a descent and then another climb. So 100m steeply down (more brakes on as full as possible) and then more steep climbing – possibly even steeper than before because there was one “get off and push” section. The views were breathtaking but – of course – we had no breath to take away because it was all taken out of us in trying to do the climbing. That climb topped up at 350m, and then a smaller descent and back to climbing. The eventual top was about 380m, but the combination of ups and downs meant that this 20km section had about 650m of climbing. However it is not just the height gain that was killing but the combination of the gradient and the wind.
Nonetheless it was a brilliant section of road and neither or us would have missed for anything. There were loads of Turkish people who were driving these cliff roads just for the scenery. We got some mightily strange looks from some car drivers and their passengers. Google translate suggests that “kurbağaların bir kutu gibi deli” is Turkish for “mad as a box of frogs”, which just about summed up how we suspect we were seen.
We dropped down to the challengingly named resort of “Kumbag” and had a delicious meal of calamari, salad and a local fish – although we did not know what it was until it came! Fortified we carried on to towards the massive city of Tekirdag, still battling a fiery headwind.
By the time we got to Tekirdag we were nearly all in – but knew that we needed to make a bit more progress if we stood any chance of getting to Istanbul tomorrow (and hence having all of Friday off in the magical city). So we pressed on for another 10km on the side of the motorway, which is the only road. This took us into an even tougher wind with undulating hills, but then we admitted defeat. Our total distance was 106km (we have gone longer this trip) but a record climb of 1450m.
We were tempted off the motorway when we saw a sign for “Seker Kamp” Apart-hotel which seemed ideal. In 20 minutes we were off the bikes, in a room (then unwinding in a cold swimming pool) and settled for the night. A tough but brilliant day with another tough (but maybe not brilliant) day ahead as we try to reach our goal.