We woke to the sun streaming into the tent and packed up from our riverside camp and were on our way by 7.30. These early starts are often my favourite with an hour or two of fresh air and fresh light. We gradually climbed, the road undulating but taking us a bit higher each time.Although we were still on the main road it was very quiet and there was no sign of life apart from a few far distant villages. We finally hit just over 1800m – our highest elevation so far – and we found ourselves on a massive high altitude plain.
We turned off the main road and it immediately felt much more remote. There was a small village a few km on but very little sign of life. There was a school but no sign of any children. No shop but there was a small petrol garage. The man there invited us to sit down which we did for a few minutes while he smoked but no offer of tea – it obviously wasn’t brewing (it takes about 20 minutes to brew turkish tea). We turned on to an even more minor road with the road stretching into the distance. Some of the land was cultivated even at that elevation but in winter it must be bitter. Aziz said there was snow on the ground for 2/3 months a year at 1100m – so it must be much harsher at 1800m.
There were post markers along the road, we presumed to show the way when there was snow. We passed a couple of other tiny villages that huddled into an occasional dip, giving some shelter – just a few shacks/houses and a minaret but very little sign of life (but serious smells of cow slurry). At a village after about 20km the tarmac ran out and we found ourselves on a dirt track. We bumped and rattled along, our speed markedly reduced as we concentrated on finding the best line along the ruts. Luckily the track was dry and compact so not as bad as it might have been. We had no idea how long this would go on for – it was 30km to the junction of the main road but fortunately after 12km at the next village some tarmac of sorts returned (at least in patches around the pot holes) and then improved to a reasonable surface and we were able to cover some km again at a reasonable speed. We had dropped into more of a wide valley then finally followed a stream gently down hill. As always there was climb out of the valley to the main road over hills stripped horizontally white and pink.
We had covered over 80km by now and were beginning to tire but there were more valleys to cross and more undulating hills which seemed to go up for ever, but at least it was not steep.
We finally reached the small town of Kangal. It was market day and the town was bustling. We did some shopping and stopped at a tiny cafe for some tea, several glasses in fact having been deprived all day. They also sold fresh laid eggs so we brought some for a few lira and with the usual Turkish kindness they refused to accept anything for the tea. Although we had covered out longest distance yet it was still on 4pm as we had left so early so we pedalled out of town to where we could see a minor road crossing a river and found ourselves a camping spot.
As we left town a car passed and the cafe owner emerged with David’s headband – which he must have left at the cafe. He knew which way we were going as he was seeking to persuade us to go to a Fish Spa, 15km away. However nice a fish spa may have been, we did not have another 15km in our legs! In fact our camping spot is great and probably better than a fish spa – apart from croaking frogs (something of a perennial there) and mossies. We were so grateful to the cafe owner for his kindness – but it is typical of Turkey.
As it was still warm and the river was easily accessible, we were able to have a wash and ‘bucket’ shower. Not quite steaming hot water but fresh and blissful after a long day. After we had been in the field for a few hours, the farmer turned up to see what we were doing in his field! He was wonderful, showing us all his fields and having a conversation about farming in England and Turkey – all via googletranslate. He kept saying that us camping was no problem for him but he would have preferred to take us to the fish spa and get us into a decent bed. We declined which he took graciously even if without comprehension.
A really interesting cycle across some high, challenging countryside, even if we ended up at the same elevation as we started.