Travelling by Pedalling


Kurban Bayramic 

We leave Konya after a day of rest. There is more than a hundred kilometers on a big road planned today and we are not looking forward to that. While we are cycling we are talking about hitchhiking.  We will not finish this road in a day, so that means two days on a road with cars and trucks that are constantly racing past.

We cycle a bit out of the city so we can hitchhike on a spot where there will only be a few intercetions on the road. We stand on the side where we are clearly visible and there is enough space to stop and put our thumbs up.  We stand there for a while, get nice reactions from motorists, but most of them have no space for two people and two heavily packed bicycles. We notice that a lot of pickups with cows drive by and cars with sheep in the trunk. And wonder what’s going on.  And then a van with an open cargo box stops.  We indicate where we want to go, he smiles and nods exuberantly yes.  We also add that we have two bicycles and are very happy.. that went quickly, we say.  We walk to the bikes to load them and suddenly the man goes full throttle.. gone.  We look at each other in surprise and laugh very hard. This was another nice misunderstanding.  Then we try again with our thumbs up. Not much later someone stops and we load all our stuff. He does not go to our final destination but can take us a long way.

On the way he tells that tomorrow ‘Kurban Bayrami’ starts. The Three Day Feast of Sacrifice. The most important festival of the Islam. Every family that has money for it sacrifices one or more animals. 1/3 is for the family itself, 1/3 for the community and 1/3 goes to the poor.

We are dropped off just before a intercection, so we cycle a bit to find a place to hitchhike further. We stand in front of a large company. The gatekeeper of the company asks what we are doing and says he can help us. There’s someone who can take us who’s leaving here in an hour. He gives us chai, food and later Fanta. We sit inside with him to escape from the scorching sun. An hour passes, another hour passes and we start to get a little restless because we could have stood on the side of the road. But he assures us that our ride is almost there and tells us to sit down. Another hour passes and we decide to stand on the side of the road. We see that he is approaching cars if they want to take people on bicycles. Just as we raise our thumbs, the promised ride arrives. There he is, finally! We are back on the road!

When we are dropped off we still have 40 kilometers to cycle to the salt lake Tuz Gölü. We want to be there before sunset and have to push hard to see the beauty of the lake with all the colors that the sunset brings. We cycle past camps with people who live in tents and move their herds on horseback.  

We made it and the setting is breathtaking. We take the time to take it in and slowly cross the road across the lake to the other side. We see a side road where a van from France is parked. We ask if they mind having neighbors tonight and that’s no problem at all. The rest of the evening we chat with our neighbors and go to bed early.

The next day we walk on the salt over a small layer of water and we have to fix Q’s 13th flat tire before we leave. When we have only cycled a few kilometers we see the first animals hanging on hooks. We are approached by a number of Turkish German men and are invited to experience this special moment. We sit down and watch the sheep get slaughtered and filtered one by one. Prayers are said and what strikes us is that it is very serene. The animals remain very calm while another sheep is already being filed next to him and a man with a large knife is already ready for this sheep. It’s less gruesome than we expected. After some conversations in our best German with the family, some chai and fruit, we say goodbye and want to continue cycling.

We go back to our bicycles and see  two cyclist in the distance. It turns out to be Henri and Tineke (Tini).  We first met them in Kas. A Belgian couple who cycled with Sixtine and Tom for 10 days before we met them. We cycle on together and chat a lot. For the first time we cycle together with people who speak the same language. They are very nice people, they have a lot of travel experience and we hit it off well. They also go to Cappadocia from here and Sixtine and Tom arrive around the same time so we cycle that way together and we will all discover Cappadocia together.

Henri and Tini always aim for villages for a place to sleep where we usually look for wild camping spots in nature. But we like to travel in different ways. The first night we sleep in a School. It’s really just a room with carpets on the floor and piles of chairs on the sides (probably because it’s the holidays). We have been invited by people to eat with them and they don’t take any no for an anwser, so before we settle down we eat something with the family in the garden and then go to the school after a grateful goodbye. We enjoy a quiet evening. Chat some more with Tini and Henri and go to sleep.

The next day we continue cycling. The people are all in a party mood because of Kurban Bayrami and honk just a little more often and louder than usual.  Which is a bit restless on the bike. Sometimes you automatically get a shock through your whole body when someone right next to you starts to honk loudly. Finally I put on a smile and wave to the people.

Today we aim for a village again. We eventually arrive. I notice that the last kilometers really had to come out of my toes. My energy is completely gone and I have very severe cramps in my back, stomach and legs. But I’m relieved if we can get off. But then a whirlwind of people comes around us. Everyone nicely dressed like we do at Christmas. All different families from all over the village are curious about those crazy white heavily packed cyclists who have settled here in their village. Everyone wants to talk to us. Sometimes it’s really like… ‘Now I want to talk to the tourist!’ We find out that we could spend the night here in this village. There are two brothers who are visiting family from France and Henri can speak French so he is talking to them and there is a girl who is from Germany. Q is talking to her. Eventually they arrange a place to sleep for us in one of the houses, but we can only go there after 10 pm when the visitors have gone. We’re going to go to town first for dinner and you’re coming with us!

So we get in the car and after a little debate because it is not fair that all tourists are in one car, we drive away from the village towards the city past Cappadocia. The Chauffeur is a prankster who finds it difficult to concentrate on one thing. He is very busy, is really a bit of a joker and knows how to find the accelerator. He races out of the village. We hold on tight and are a bit scared. We race past children playing ball in the street and fly around the bends. Meanwhile, he looks at his cellphone and at us as he talks to us. We are all tense and trying to tell him to slow down. He does that for a while, but soon forgets what we asked him and slowly but surely presses the accelerator a little harder. He turns on the music loudly.. So loud that it hurts the ears and starts to  hit the gas again.  If there is someone in front of him who is slowing down, he will drive close behind until he gets the edge to overtake. It goes from 80 to 100 to 120 and the moment it goes over 120 I scream in fear over the music… ‘and now you go 80 and no louder!’ He turns the music down to hear me. “EIGHTY, EIGHTY,” I yell again. He starts to slow down and we all heave a sigh. We can relax a little bit again.

Arrived safely in Avanos we look for a restaurant where we have delicious food with a large group of people! The whole table is filled with good food and we chat with the help of Google translate, our French interpreters and gestures with hands and feet. After dinner we drive back. Tini and Henri in one car and Q and I in the other because this time we had to be divided fairly. Q and I end up in the party car again and Tini and Henri in the quiet car.

When the village has said goodbye to the group, we set out for the house where we will sleep and we meet the homeowners for the first time. As it turns out.. they still have visitors to drink coffee at 23 o’clock. So we all sit there nodding on the pillows and trying to put on a smile every now and then at the people. Exactly at the moment when we all think it’s better to set up the tent somewhere, they say goodbye to their visitors and we can make our beds.

Finally we lie down. Our heads completely full from the evening, our bodies dehydrated and exhausted. We talk for a while before we think to go to sleep but then… a whirlwind of people comes in. They all want to talk to the tourists for a while. A fire of questions comes at us, they lay loudly and joke with each other in between. While we are half lying there in our bed and have almost no energy to react. When they ask if we are tired and we answer yes, but say that they have come for us and they continue their fire of questions. Our host finally manages to take them to the living room so that we can finally rest.

We leave the next day before everyone is awake. I have never felt so hungover as I do now without alcohol. But we are going to Cappadocia!! We have few kilometers to cycle and then we will see Sixtine and Tom.

We are reunited and drink chai together, talk about everything that has happened in the meantime and make a plan for today. It’s amazing to be in this setting because everyone knows each other well and we have build Some special friendship in the last couple of weeks.