One man and many petrol stations
After a sad farewell with a waving crowd, I was ready to get some miles in my legs. I got 8km down the road to a much smaller village, where I was pulled in for a second breakfast. After meeting the lovely locals and chatting for an hour or 2, I really was ready for some cycling. The people here make it so difficult to leave…. “Chai?”, “it’s too hot”, “have some food”. It’s not the mountains that slow you down in Turkey…. It’s the hospitality, and I’m more than happy to take it all in.
Once I got going, I really got going. Cycling on euphoria from the past few days, I was racing tractors up hills and speeding on the way down. I was feeling great. That day I would be arriving in Soma, now famous around the world for the mine disaster, I had contacted a host before knowing about it. Lining the road into Soma were police every 10 metres. I had been told police in Turkey are unfriendly so I decided to have some fun. Every policeman I passed I gave the polite Arabic greeting of Salam Alikum (wrong spelling). This greeting warrants a response of Alikum Salam. I was told in the villages using this greeting is like a key that opens all doors. Every single policeman (bar 2) gave me the reply.
I won’t talk much about Soma, you probably know more about it than me, but I felt weird being a tourist in post disaster town. I didn’t want people to think I was there because I heard about it on the news. I had my hosts phone number, but unfortunately I didn’t have the ability to call her. I came up with a little test to discover just how friendly and helpful Turkish people are…. I stood at a busy junction looking lost and confused, within a minute I had an old man talking with me, another minute I had more people. They didn’t speak English but with international hand gestures, I was able to use their phone. Another minute later and a super friendly guy called Tahsin offered his assistance. He had shouted me from his car, but my deaf eyes didn’t hear him, so he parked up and came to help. That’s Turkish people, they are super curious and extremely kind.
My hosts in Soma were simply amazing… Incredible food, my clothes clean and sewed (fixing my botch jobs), great chat and even some FIFA.
The landscape has been so beautiful. The hills are starting to turn into rugged mountains, olive trees and vineyards are everywhere and tarmac has often turned into tractor tracks. A few times I doubted the ability of my bike, but I don’t worry, the noise from the uneven surfaces hide the mystery squeak coming from my pedals. Bonus.
One day I lost count how many times people pulled me in for chai. Each time I’m given water, chai and the offer of food. I repeat the little Turkish I know, tell them how many kilometres I’ve cycled and watch their face turn from curiosity to amazement. It’s a good feeling.
Late in the day I found myself on a main road, this presented me with the chance to try a popular trick – using a petrol station as a campground. I found one with a well kempt lawn and went to introduce myself. I was immediately invited for chai and then in my best Turkish said “I camp there”. No problem was the answer. Unfortunately, there was a slight misunderstanding and he didn’t want me on his lovely grass, so I was forced onto the concrete instead.
Camping in a petrol station has advantages, like free chai and toilets. But if you’re really lucky, you might wake up and have breakfast waiting for you, courtesy of the station attendant.
Petrol stations are also extremely useful for shade. After a particular sweaty afternoon, I rolled in and was invited for a free lunch at the restaurant and of course lots of chai. After lunch I looked up to the skies and saw a whole lot of rain coming my way. I raced the rain into Denizli where I would be staying with my mate, Onur, who I met at the wedding a few days before. Tonight will be my 4th night here… Clubbing, Raki, amazing breakfasts, meeting loads of people and Ali’s house – the most comfortable in Denizli.