If yesterday was a taster to get us back into the feel of cycle touring again, today was the real thing. Sitting in a cafe this evening every part of my body aches and I am desperate to be horizontal. I know that I am getting fitter and total exhaustion is part of the process of getting there – but maybe there are easier ways to be on holiday.
But – and it is a big “but” – it was a brilliant, fascinating day which brought out the best and worst of Turkey. We started with a climb and then noted a problem with my front derailleur – the mechanism that changes the chain between the front chainrings. As we were about to start a 500m climb this was IMPORTANT. Not being able to get into bottom chainring on a 10%+ climb with a 25kg trailer is a degree of masochism I will forgo. They are tricky things – another casualty of the flight handling I think. Anyway 40 minutes later it was stripped down, rebuilt and working (well good enough).
The road climbed above Lake Iznik, giving some brilliant views. Then, after about 400m of climbing, we called a halt at a group of huts. There were some workmen who we asked for water – and in true Turkish style insisted we had both tea and water. Relieved, we sipped tea and tried to converse in a limited way.
Many thanks at this spontaneous hospitality and we were on our way. Up and over the top at 550m and then whizzing down at high speed on this excellent but largely empty road to Yenisehir – a dusty but affluent town. This is a fertile part of Turkey. The fields are productive and many of the cars all look in good condition. There are still farmers coming in to town on tractors, with women in the back in full dress for the wind and dust, but we have seen hardly any full burkas. Lots of head scarfs on young women – and there are lots and lots of young people. Large families are still common and there are happy children and young people everywhere, to a far greater extend than at home.
The mission in Yenisehir was to find a bike shop and get Bernie’s saddle fixed after the damage caused in transit. My string repair at the airport would only last so long. We paused to wonder which way to go and immediately asked by a friendly young man, Samet, if he could help and he guided us to a bike shop. The wonders of googetranslate! The repair took an hour or so – and we had tea whilst they fashioned the piece from scratch that was missing. Ultimate ingenuity – “Turkish” said the repair man proudly at the end clearly proud of both his work and his country. It cost TL10 – about £2.50 for that brilliant job – and some smiling photos.
Then to Samet’s shop to buy sausage – which was delicious. He is a 21 year old butcher and has a wife and (I think) a child on the way. He expressed his endless admiration for Bernie who, we reckoned, was probably older than his mother, and was cycling across his country. He guided us out and we said our goodbyes. If he is reading this (and we gave him the website) – he is a credit to his country.
The road took us across the valley and then we stopped by a stream for lunch, just before the next big climb. The temperature was now between 35 and 40 – climbing to 41 degrees at the height of the afternoon. We were at 320m and had to climb to just shy of 700m. It was a tad tough – but with lots of breaks we did it. The scenery was hazy and difficult to photo, but more vegetables and corn growing along the road. Beautiful and green with lot of wild flowers.
The road was a mixture of old and new. The new was dual carriageway with a good shoulder but the old parts had tight corners. Lack of any ability to see around the corner did not stop some trucks overtaking. Others showed patience and overtook when it was clear. There was one near accident – not involving us. An on-coming truck came around the corner to see a truck on its side of the road as it had just overtaken us. Screeching of brakes, on coming truck slides to the edge (well slightly off) the road and no one bats an eyelid. Just another day on the roads. But they all give us a very wide berth and most beep their horn in a friendly way. The impatience is just a potential for accidents.
Eventually we dropped off the plateau and into the town of Bilecik – a modern, friendly place, with its wealth built on aluminium smelting. We planned to camp but were too knackered to go any further so found a cheap hotel. We were starving, which probably did not help our state of collapse, but passed the Turk Telecom shop and decided to get a SIM card for our ipad mini. If we had known the process would take an hour we wouldn’t have bothered but aided again by the google translate app we got through it and got it all working. Finally we ate and then collapsed at last. Fitness will return but the process of getting there seems harder each year.