Day 12: Sultanhani to Selime: 75km and 400m of climbing (5637km to date)

Stuff happens when one is travelling – it just happens. The “nice spicy lentil soup” (see yesterday’s blog) proved that it was not quite so nice at about 2am for me (David). I suspected that the relatively low attendance at the cafe meant the soup was re-heated and thus bugs got in. Anyway it re-emerged powerfully at various points during the night leaving me feeling dehydrated, exhausted and generally ill. That led to a difficult choice – stay in an anonymous roadside hotel, which gave me the D & V, but would give recovery or press on slowly to reach Cappadocia despite feeling crap. Fine balance but we decided to press on. The wind had died and so we were assisted (or opposed) by a mild breeze instead of being driven along at 30kph.
Cycling when one is feeling crap is a totally different experience. It is still rhythmical but the rhythms are harder to keep going. Slow but steady progress was the order of the day.

 After 4km we came to Sultanhani and saw the incredible “han”, the massive building for travellers on the silk road. The sheer scale was impressive. This was a hostel, storage place and trading post for camel trains coming from the East and those coming from the west. It was eerily empty (apart from some Columbians we met who were on tour and the statutory Japanese or Korean tourists who seem at every tour stop).  

After Sultanhani the road went for another 45km across the plain towards Aksaray. It was at least fairly flat and a good surface. We were cycling on the hard shoulder of a dual carriageway which had cars and trucks every few moments. We have reported before on the reaction of drivers in Turkey but it shows something about the national character. All cars beep their horn before overtaking a cyclist. This does not produce a crescendo of noise because there are so few cyclists. But many drivers do more than give a simple warning beep. We get multiple horns blazing, windows being wound down, waves and cheers to celebrate the effort of cycling across their country (with trailers). The Turks are a relaxed, sedentary race and obesity is a major problem, particularly for women who are culturally confined in what they can do and hence are effectively prevented from regular exercise. Travel is by car or motorbike and a serious girth is traditionally a sign of prosperity. Men smoke in numbers which make a health time bomb inevitable. Those Turks that we have spoken to about this recognise that public health is a real issue and that they need to change deeply ingrained habits. Maybe that is why there is such a positive reaction to the contrast we present by cycling. Anyway it appears to give genuine moments of joy to car and truck drivers as they pass us.
As we approached Aksary we could see the end of the plain. The hills rose from the town steeply in a line, with an impressive volcano at one end.
We reached Aksary about lunchtime and had some delicious pide (thin cooked pizza type bread) at a cafe to decide whether to stay or press on. As Bernie said “Eat – it will make you feel better or worse”. Luckily it was the former and so we pressed on out of the town. The road surface was rubbish and the road wound its way through the town rubbish tip for the first mile or so – delightful. Then the serious climbing started.
The less said about the next 25km, the better. It was steep at times, hot and my mind was partially on the cycling and partly in many other places. However things improved with an ice cream at the aptly named Dogentaria and eventually – deo gratis – we reached the village of Selime about 3.30pm. We found a hotel and after a couple of hours being horizontal life was beginning to get back into focus. We went down to the main village for a meal (back in the tourist areas so plus side is we got a beer, downside was double the price).

We also saw the very first part of the Cappadocia rock formations that have made this area so famous. More of that tomorrow but they look fascinating. More exploring tomorrow.

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