Where: Kuscular, Turkey
When: two weeks in April 2016
Activity: Building a house
Our first workaway experience was at Erdem’s place in Kurscular. And it was the great, because Erdem is a guy with so many interesting plans and thoughts.The moment we arrived it already felt good. We were welcomed with: fish and wine in his lovely home where he lives temperately (because he is building two houses) with his wife Ashagul and their two cute kids Lemiz and Luna.
In 2001 Erdem was left out of money, finished studying and decided to open Istanbul’s first hostel. This became such a great success that he not only had to deal with overbookings, drunken nights, and chaos, but also the Turkish mafia, and greedy landowners. Oh yeah, and some tear gas every now and then because the Turkish government loves to use it. Because the hostel did so well, he opened another hostel, and another, and another one, and.. another. He eventually sold them all and left Istanbul after 14 years. It was enough, new plans were calling him and so he bought land at the countryside near Urla.
Three years ago Erdem decided to built the first Earthship in Turkey. An earthship is a house that adapts to its environment, mainly it is a passive solar house that uses both natural and recycled materials. Only Erdem could not call it an Earthship because the inventor is a bit of a shitty guy and only allows you to call it that if you pay for his whole team to come on over and built it for you. But Erdem wanted to built it himself. So it did not become Turkey’s first Earthship, but the first Erdship in the world. Erd of course referring to Erdem but also to the German name Erd for earth because Erdem can speak fluently German.
So he started three years ago and with the help of many many workaway volunteers they managed to built the Erdship, now 70% is ready. Was it not that the German school of the kids moved 40 kilometers further. So what do you do then? You built another house. And this is where we helped Erdem for two weeks with the outer and inner walls of the house and the ceiling.
It were two great weeks, the first days we could sleep in their house, but later we moved with our tent in the garden of the new house. During the days we sometimes worked four hours, sometimes eight, and sometimes none because we were making a daytrip to Izmir. Sara had to find her role in the building activities, because it is not in her nature to build ceilings. But with some tips from Erdem and some tricks from Chris she managed to find the job that suited her the most: sanding the wood. Amazing.
For Chris it was his natural habitat, so he figured out how to make the ceiling, how to cut the wood in the best way, what kind of isolation material was the best and so on.
We had the best lunches: cheese with tuna. In the evening we always got some amazing food of Ashagul, watched a movie with the kids, played some guitar, learned about permaculture, different kinds of soil, the use of worms, because Erdem knows about it a lot and we found out that holding chicken has a lot of uses. The whole two weeks we got accompanied by one amazing creature: Oscar the dog. Oh my God, we were in love with him. So easy going, he was the only not barking dog, free to go wherever, because almost all dogs are tied up on little chains, day and night. They never get the chance to walk freely, which is really sad to see. and what do they do with their energy: they bark, and bark, and.. bark. But not Oscar, because he is freeeee. And every night he choose to sleep in front of our tent. That is why he is also called feet warmer.
We met some other workawayers, but unfortunately not for long. John and Lisa from Germany and Maleysia only stayed one night. And Anna and Peter volunteered before for a month and returned for two nights to stay at the Erdship. But it was nice to meet them and work with them.
We also got a chance to see the Erdship which was the best, because its amazing. That is the only thing you can say about it: amazing. It has an amazing view, it is an amazing house and an amazing concept. So we drank a beer, watched the sun going down behind these foresty hills that did not seem to end. Amazing.Next to two houses, Erdem also bought some land where he has vinyards. almond trees, fig trees and many more. He showed us around, cleaned the land, picked some almonds and wandered around the forest.
In our free time, we took Lemiz to the beach, saw some lambs trying to stand up after birth, Sara did some morning and evening runnings with Oscar and we chilled at the house.
After two weeks we had to go due to our visa. Three months we have for this amazing country. Way too short we discovered. In this two weeks Sara learned about the concept of permaculture and Chris could develop his building skills. We were both happy to meet this open spirit like Erdem and his family. A person that is not afraid of realizing his ideas, a person that is flexible enough to deal with changes, obstacles on his way and continues in a positive spirit. In the end the ceiling of the bedroom was finished, the walls were prepared and some painted. We said goodbye and continued to our next destination: Kusadasi.
We made it to the ferry, chasing through passport control, Etienne saw us running and helped us to carry the bikes up the small boat. Two hours later we arrived at our next destination: Turkey!
In the boat we exchanged stories with fellow cyclers Etienne and Marion, although Marion had to move to the back of the boat in 5 minutes because she became sea sick expressing big cries due to the heavy up and down bouncing of the boat on the waves.
When we arrived Sara had to pay for a visa while Chris as being a German could easily walked through. We had a place to sleep because friends of a friend of Sara had invited us. And this turned out to be the best introduction to Turkey. We stayed with Harun and Ekin.
Harun and Ekin
Harun and Ekin picked us up by bike and it was no problem to also host Etienne and Marion. They prepared fish, bought at a fish auction. And an hour later we were full of ouzo, fish with potatoes, white cheese, olives and good company. We laughed about each other travel story. Marion told about crazy border controls in Central Asia, cycling Kirgizistan in 5 days because of visa limitations, and the hospitable people in Iran. It was great for us to have ran into our first fellow cyclers and to hear some biking experiences from them. The next day they left for Izmir while Chris and I stayed for three more nights at Ekin’s place.
Ekin and Harun were the best hosts we could have. These two hippy souls traveled all around Europe with only a little backpack and a mandarin to play music on the streets in order to buy wine and food. Well, according to them they bought mostly wine. They slept in parks, on the streets or just ran into nice people that invited them. They discovered how easy it is to travel as a non-European for free by train in Europe. Ekin is a tourguide and had many stories in his pocket and mastered the skill to tell them. One night we got a lecture of two hours about the history of Turkey going back 15.000 years ago. Phoe, that was a tough one.
We woke up with a Turkish breakfast: white cheese, olives, bread, chai (cay), and sometimes the luxury of an egg. During the day we played some chess, learned some basic Turkish, ate some local food, and we visited the hot springs in Cesme. We know it is not good to compare places, but these hot springs did not come close to the ones in Icaria in Greece.
In the evening Ekin prepared some fish, we some vegetables, and we drank wine and played some cards. One of these night Emre a friend of Harun and Ekin made Chinese noodles, because he studied Chinese and was planning to emigrate again. However we did not had Chinese sticks, so Chris and I went to the forest to make some. This turned out to be a great success.
Political life in Turkey
In our talks often the political situation of Turkey came to topic. And all three guys expressed their worries about the current political climate. They mentioned that in the last 15 years they have seen Turkey change mainly because the conservative way Erdogan is heading and how he entitles himself everyday more power and acts like a dictator. They explained that religion has become more a prominent role in politics while Turkey was one of the first countries to separate state and church. But they see it as a strategic way to keep the people dumb. They mentioned that many of his followers are uneducated people who are easy to manipulate.
These people are proud because Erdogan builts roads, railways and airports and therefore is doing a great job for the country. Also his hardline policy towards Europe makes Turkish people feel proud. Before Erdogan, Turkey was a bit of the black sheep depending on Europe’s moods. But now he makes the Turkish people feel strengthened by following an own discourse and not being just an European puppet. With having experienced the violent reaction of the government in Gezi Park in 2013 where several people died because of police bullets, they lost their hope for a bright future in Turkey.
They all had their reasons not be happy to stay in Turkey. Ekin is a tourguide, but now with the bombings and the political dispute with Russia this summer will not be a sucesful one. Russians are the biggest group of tourists in Turkey, they make up 30% of the total and there are no more flights going from Russia to Turkey anymore. Harun has spent six months in the army which is obligated for all Turkish male youngsters, and was unlucky to be chosen as a prisongarde. He experienced so much stress during these six months that his hair became to fall out. Now he is taking a course to work on ships and lives with his parents or sleeps at friends places. Emre studied Chinese and did an extra study for being a tourguide, but now due to the bombings there is almost no work. He is fed up by the political climate in Turkey and the social control that he is now planning with his Russian girlfriend to live and find a job in China.
Although the political climate is not the one they agree with, they seem to make the best out of their situation accompanied by some wine and fish of course. We said goodbye after four awesome chilled out days and were heading of to Urla. When we left we got some good travelers luck, where Ekin threw some water behind us to make us safe. A Turkish tradition. Now we could go to Kursuclar, our first workaway address, 50 km ahead of us.
We drove a longer way, recommended by the guys, along the coast. It was still not the warmest day and we were happy to arrive in the dark at around 20.00 o clock to be welcomed by wine and fish again, now at Erdem’s place, our host. This great experience can be red here.
Biking is fun
After Erdem we decided to take the biking very easy. Instead of thinking about time and making kilometers and seeing things, we are going to enjoy our environment and make breaks when we want to. This turned out to be a great idea, because it makes biking carrying 80 kilo with you more fun and chill. So the first day we drove 25 kilometers to end up at a nice place at the beach. After being chased by dogs again which turned out to be very sweet. As usual. We had found a camping which was open but had no reception, so perfect spot we thought. But no, a bit further there were dogs and people telling its closed. So we try to cycle around the spot and camp at the beach which ended us to the camping again, we stepped over the fence to eat our meal and then the dogs did their job well, alarming their bosses and running towards us. We were again send away, but we could sleep on the beach just outside the fence. After seeing Ice age on the laptop we both sank into a deep sleeping state and woke up the next day at a nice beach with a beautiful view and the sun on our faces.
This day we were heading to Kusadasi were we could stay at a friend of Harun and Ekin: Cengzihan, also a tourguide. So we had to cycle 55 kilometers this time, again we took it easy. We had a great break of two hours at a resort beach because of a flat tire. On our way we tried some food we had not tried befoe as: pide, kokoruc (the hangover food: the cologne of a sheep), durum, and we got offered free delicious food at a mini market. We got attacked on our way by muskito’s, but the road was beautiful: along the coast. At eight in the evening we arrived in Kusadasi!
Cengzis picked us up by bike again and had a little suprise for us: he took Harun with him joehoe! At Cengzis place of course a bottle of wine was opened and we talked the night away in his appartement. We had the chance to use a kitchen, sleep in a bed, have a proper shower and was our clothes. We stayed four nights at his place and with our third tourguide we more and more discovered how much history can be found and told at this Turkish west and south coast. For example we went to Ephosus, an important ancient harbour city of 3th century before Christ where the library is still in good shape.
We drove 15 kilometers with the bike in the heat, to discover at the entrance that the prices went up with 10 Turkish Lira (3,33 euro), in total we had to pay 40 tl per person. Cheap travelers as we are, and having seen many old ruins in our lives, we decided that is was already a great sight from outside the fence. so instead we drank a tea for 1 lira. Nearby there is the cage of seven sleepers, the story tells that there were seven Christians with dogs that had to hide from the Romans, fled into a rocky area and God made them sleep for 200 years so they escaped prosecution. They built a church to remember them.
Kusadasi is a nice ancient town, but very touristy and bit a of jet set town. So it was good to drive our bikes to the national park and sleep at the beach on the way where we met some funny Germans who worked at some insurance company. The national park was great, so quite and so beautiful. We hiked up a hill which was a though y.
In Kusadasi we had a great drunken nights with some fellow tourguide friends of Cengzis. We had quite a few beers, sang some great songs at the beach and talked the night away. Unfortunately Chris lost his wallet this night with his creditcard. Appearantly, one tourguide leads to another and another and another.. We learned that middle aged women and Indians are the less favoured tourists to show around because the first are complaining and the latter are demanding. In love couples however are the best, because they have primarily eye for each other and are fine with everything. We also discovered that being a tourguide is not that romantic as its sounds because it works with bonusses. So some guides over exaggerate historical facts to make you buy stuff ” this amazing traditional Turkish rob, typically from this area.” Of course.
In the end we had some amazing days at Cengzis, fellow biker and tourguide.We met is great friend Meliz, who brought us a delicious last breakfast. Thank you! He recommended us some awesome alternative roads along the coast which were a joy to ride. After Kusadasi we visited and made stops at some beautiful places on our way:
1. Bafa lake.
This is an amazing lake with many flora and fauna and no tourists at all. The first night we drove up a mountain where we could hear cows breathing next to us in the middle of the night. The second day we had breakfast at an awesome place at the lake. Where we had a little mud fight.
We continued a bit on this amazing road however soon we found our next camping spot while we were planning to “only take a dive in the water”: in Ismaels garden. Ismael was the sweetest man, we got some fresh milk from the cow for our muesli and in the evening we were invited for some cay and nuts with his wife. A little lamb was dropped on Sara’s lap and the little kitty was also super sweet. During the day the cows were checking upon us and Chris got some manicure by mini shrimps in the lake. In other words: awesome place to have a rest, thank you Ismael.
The way to Milas was amazing, because Bafa lake is big and we drove half around it. Having some beautiful old ruins on our way like Euromos. We endured two more flat tires. So we took it a bit easy the 60 kilometers to Milas, with ice creams and breaks with delicious dried figs and smiling dogs.
The day we drove out of Milas we were looking for water at the mosque. The best place to fill up our water bottles. We biked into Sultan’s house, a friendly old lady that offered us coffee, ayran (butter milk) buts and chocolates. We had a great break and are thankful for the invitation.
On our way to Oren we suffered two extra flat tires. A good chance for Sara to fix her first flat tire. Yes, she is ashamed. But after three flat tires she has become a pro, learned from the best of course. Oren is beautiful, we camped at a city park and we could see Marmaris.
From Oren to Marmaris we drove after climbing a heavy mountain, a fabolous coast road.
On our first night to Marmaris we met a group of Turkish fishing boys who gave us there first fish they catched and even some chicken for the BBQ and a back full of vegetables and bread. Great guys. That night we had a great meal.
Chris had some troubles with his bike, so we drove straight to the first bicycle shop we shop where we met the generous Tolga. He sponsored us a bit and we could camp in the garden of the bike shop because everything around was very touristy. Marmaris is touristy full of Dutch and English already, but the surroundings are amazing. Green hills, green hills, deepblue seatwater, green hills, flowers, light blue sea. We heared Datca is a great place to visit. however for us it was a bit too far: 60 kilometer out of our way. The way to Marmaris is also already the ancient Lycian road, which means everywhere around there are old ancient tombs and ruins.
Kaunos is a mystic kind of place. Very touristy, but outside the season it’ s just perfect. Ancient tombs from the Lycian period can be found here.
In order to visit the tombs and the ancient city, you have to pay for a boat. So Chris decided to swim these ten meters to the opposite side. Sara joined on the way back, so our electronics had a VIP boat ride. We camped near the center, a bit hidden in a grass field. To wake up with a turtle next to our tent. Just fabulous.
Our first hitch hike with a bike. Near Fethiye there is a tunnel where no bikes are allowed, so when we arrived there at the end of the day we took the chance and decided to try to hitch hike for five minutes. The moment we decided to wait for one last suitable car, we got lucky. It was even a car that supported the bike marathon that was going to arrive these days in Fethiye. What a luck, what a luck. So we carries our bikes in the van and hitch hiked 40 kilometers to Fethiye.
Fethiye is a big touristy coastal place where we had a beautiful camping spot at the beach. We decided not to stay for long though, because it is not the most charming city to be. So we followed our way to Kaya koye also called ghost town because of the many abanonded houses of Greek people. The Anatolian coast was inhabited by over a million Greeks and many Turkish people were living on the Greek islands. During and after WO I there were many killings from both sides and after establishing the Turkish state in 1922, a forced exchange between the population of Greece and Turkey was founded in 1923. This was not based on ethnicity, but on religion. Kaya Koye is a remain of this period. All the Greek houses are abonded and the old walls look into the valley, sad that they cannot warm anyone anymore.
We continued our way to hotspot Oludeniz. Recommended by almost everyone we met. However we were not the biggest fan of this place. The beauty of the place is beyond compare, but therefore also many tourist traps as paragliding, fenced closed beach places and one can of tuna is 5 euro. That is not the Turkey we know. We stayed one night and continued, but we got stuck at a beach in a national park area where there was wifi at the beach. One day cleaning at modern bathrooms and Internet sounded wonderful to us: and it was. At 7 we continued, it was getting dark and we had to climb a hill. Well mountain again. We were a bit sad that we could not enjoy the view, however we got fireflies in return.
After two hours of climbing and no dinner, Sara was getting tired but mostly hungry, so at the first town we saw we spoke to the first people we saw and asked if there was a mini market. The people we spoke to were a couple from England Claire and Peter who had suprised their son with a trip to Turkey for his 21 year old birthday. They recommended us a restaurant, where after ordering some great food they also arrived. It was 22.00 and we told them we did not had a sleeping place yet, so we had to look for a nice camping spot after dinner. Then these lovely people jumped right in and told us we could camp in the garden of their wooden chat, next to the pool. Arriving at their place we had some chats with beer and of course we could sleep at the couch instead of building the tent. They gave us a whole bag with remaining food and we could prepare ourselves a great breakfast. It was a joy to have met them.
But of course, luck cannot stay for long. We got up early to cycle our way along the coast to direction Kas. And for the first time Chris did not really check the way on Google maps. So after driving up and down some hills for 1,5 hour, we met a Swiss motorbiker that saved us a couple of extra hills, by warning us that the road did not continue. After drving the same way back. When decided to take a cold Ayran break (Turkish salty buttermilk, perfect booster) we met Yunos, a fellow biker!
Yunos is thirty four year old guy that lives at the Greek, Bulgarian, Turkish border and decided to bike to Antalya under the name “The code cyclist”. All over his bike was some advertising for his project and he was still trying to get some sponsors. Thank God, we met him because we had to drive a 1200 meter high mountain, where the last 600 meter was without concrete, so that meant steep rocky sandy ways. And it is much more fun to share difficulties with more people. Especially with Yunos, a guy that uses his Go pro as an extra body part. So we climbed and climbed, and climbed.. until the road changed into this rocky sandy devils path. There we had our first lunch break. When we continued this path we doubted if we could make it, because of the steepness and because the tires could hardly get some grip because of the sand and stones coming out of the ground. But after some hours, many victorious and defeated screams, and some heads that looked like juicy red tomatoes, we reached the top! Oh my what a feeling. And let’s not forge the view. What an amazing views. Cycling the down part was awesome, no need for mentioning that. And in the evening we arrived in Kalkan, a nice coastal town with a nice park near the beach where we could built our tents. We slept like newborn babies that night.
The next day we chilled at the famous Kaputas beach with some occasional rain showers, to arrive in the evening at Kas. A nice city in the south of Turkey. We found a sleeping place at the old hospital terrain with a view on the sea. Three nights we stayed in Kas with again some occasional rain. Yunos left after the second night, this night we met a nice group of Turkish youngsters. A group that had met each other via a hitch hiking Facebook group. This became Chris his fanclub, they all loved the Vikings and therefore they loved Chris his beard. They could not stop fighting who would sleep with him in the tent. All bluff of course. They shared their great breakfast with us and in the night we had campfire with marshmallows. We learned some Turkish slang, Yo Boobalie, ne’aptin? Hey brother, whats up? Sikte! Fuck (you)! And many other other useful stuff that is now hard to remember. Great adventurous group to have met.
After four days of Kas, it felt good to jump on the bike again. Our stay in Kekova was a special one. We decided to have a look, although it was not really on our way. However again there was lots of ancient history to be found, Lycian tombs and a “sunken city.” A part of a Lycian town that is now covered with water because of an earthquake. We chilled at the water site, had our shower and lunch, walked our way through the tombs until we met Durali on our way. A Turkish captain on a bike who was looking for some customers. ‘Want a boat ride?’ he asked. ‘Why’ Chris asked. ‘So I can make money and you have a boat tour’ he replied honestly. We chatted some more until he offered us some chai on his boat. We explained him we have no money to do such touristy stuff, but that we can maybe work for him, clean his boat to get a boat tour. We also told him about workaway, the website. He was very interested because he is in need for some extra help this summer.
Eventually he invited us for dinner, but because we did not know he was still planning to sell us a boat ride we decided at 19.00 to cycle out of Kekova and make some evening kilometers. We did not get far, because next to us on the hill that led us out of town a car stopped with Durali: what are we doing? We can sleep at his boat and he makes dinner. That sounded like an awesome plan, so we turned around. That night we had some oily pasta with red wine at a boat and some nice chats. It was a great experience to sleep at a beautiful boat that Durali built by himself. The next day we could get a free boat tour, but only if he could get some customers. And he did.. we rushed to the boat and at the end of the day we were two boat rides richer in experience. Thank you Durali for your hospitality.
We continued our way to Demre. We had some awesome roads on our way to Demre. A no go according to the Turkish youngsters, but I am glad we did not listen because we met some great people.
Demre is just like the whole Turkish south coast a green house wahala. But is also an ancient town with a great Roman amfitheater. We cycled to this theater but our way stopped at a house. The owner led us through his greenhouse and we could get into the theater through the back way. We walked over 2000 year old roman ruins to climb under the fence and to end up at the top of the theater, just awesome. Even more awesome was the bag of vegetables we got from the lovely people that showed us their greenhouse and the backdoor 😉
We arrived at the beach though because this is the best place to put up a tent. We jumped in the sea and chilled in front of a closed beach house, until Ozdun, a young Turkish father opened up the doors and welcomed us with some chai. This was the beginning of three great days. We were invited for breakfast, got massages of Ozuon and we could sleep at the zolder of the beach house. The owner, the young father had just bought this old beach house in order to renovate it with his Russian wife Elina. A great woman. We helped them frying fries for there first customers and the place became a place to rest for some more travelers. Because at day two two mini buses arrived. one from Namibia and one green Turkish hippy bus full of flowers.
So for the coming nights we had a great travelers group that would gather round the fire, share some food and some travel experiences and thoughts about ways of living. We had an awesome time at the beach house and are really grateful for the hospitality of Ozuon and Elina, we are sure they make a great restaurant and attract many interesting people.
From Demre we headed to Olympos. A great place according to everyone we met, and it was true. Olympos is one of the six important old ancient towns of the Lycians. It is built in a beautiful mountain area, next to the sea. There are lots of outdoor activities like climbing and paragliding, and it is a bacpackers destination. Therefore lots of hostels in the form of treehouses. We stopped at the first treehouse, because we had seen it on workaway. There was free coffee and free internet, free breakfast and dinner (if you just stand in the queue) so a good spot to hang out.
After our morning coffee’s, we headed to the ancient town with our bikes to end up at the beach. Riding your bike through ancient ruins is possible in Turkey, however you have to make sure you don’t get of the main road, otherwise you get scenario’s like us: getting totally stuck in narrow walking paths. Which is actually also fun, because many people look really surprised when they saw us. Eventually we had to carry our bikes, got help by some people, and then we appeared from the bushes to the main road in which we shocked Gabriel, a Brazilian backpacker. We hanged out with him for a day, after this great introduction. Afterwards Chris decided to do some diving of 18 meters deep. He was lucky to get a private session and going through some undersea water caves.
We ended up in the treehouse again where Chris was totally in his element playing volleybal with many travelers and Sara could use the Internet and played some card games. Eventually we also had dinner there and a party night, to search for a camping spot at the beach at 4 o’clock in the night. We stayed one more night, to eventually leave for Chimeara, a mythical place where a constant fire comes out of the earth. When we came there, we were suprised we had to pay entrance. It was only 6 lira (2 euro) however we have kind of a rule that we don’t pay for entrances, so we were in big doubt even though our eggs were waiting to be stirred. A German couple saw our troubled faces and asked what the problem was. We explained our thoughts about paying for entrances and traveling cheap, and for them that was a reason to pay our tickets, because it was a place you have to see. That was super sweet and so 15 minutes later our eggs were cooking on the fire of Chimaera.
From Olympos/Chirali we stopped on our at a Flora community. We heard of this community from different people, so we decided to make a visit. After cycling a though hill and a pretty steep hill which turned out to be the wrong in a pretty beautiful environment though we decided to built up our tent and look for the community tomorrow. The next day we found it on another hill. Up in the mountains the air is much more fresh and also the environment is super beautiful. So after all these hills we finally arrived at the community. There were three other Turkish visitors and one Israeli friend of theirs. The community was started by two Turkish people in their fifties that want to have nice people around them. They have their own garden, a super cute house full of books about nature, animals and the environment and music instruments. We stayed two nights and spend a nice time with the people: listening and joining a music jam in the yurt, going to a waterfall, working in the garden, and hitch hiking to a restaurant. It was a great time, and people who are in the area of Olympos should definitely make a visit there.
We continued our way to Antalya on a super touristy route we were already warned for: resorts, resorts, resorts. Architects go crazy here. For example a hotel that is built in a miniature of Amsterdam Central Station. It was however really fun to have a look. It made Sara almost a bit homesick. Thank God, we escaped to a quiet way to sleep next to a Canyon. This place was awesome, there were bunny’s hopping around and we woke up with chickens. We met some nice Ukranian travelers that told us about the current situation in Ukraine. The next day we went walked through the canyon until the part we had to pay of course. There we met a nice Polish couple which we stayed the rest of the day with. In the end we drove to their hotel in the form of a boat (yes, really). They had unlimited food and drinks so they smuggled cakes, cookies and a beer for us outside. That was so sweet!
We continued to Antalya, survived two tunnel rides with the bike, and narrow highways. To discover in Antalya that two people had accepted our couch requests, so we headed to Attila! He picked us up at a shopping mall where we bought a new tent which was extremely necessary because our former tent had turned into a non-waterproof one persons tent because the sticks were broken and it was 10 years old. Attila could speak German perfectly and his house was modern big and not in the busy center, so we were really happy. He even had three super cute dogs.
We tried to work at the Expo 2016 a fair of flowers and herbs, however after two hours of speaking with many people it remained very vague if we could work there. Chris was very excited to sneak in however Sara was a bit chicken because everywhere there were expo girls and guys hanging around the fences. Two nights we stayed at Attila, our last day we drove in the old town of the city to eventually take the bus at 19.00 to Burdur! The destination of our second workaway place. We took the bus, because we discalculated the kilometers and we already had such a delay (two months). Thereby it was almost Sara’s birthday and it seemed nicer to celebrate it at the farm. So for 2,5 hours we drove the mountains and we were very thankful to skip this part haha.
The moment we arrived in Burdur, we decided to drive some kilometers out of it to camp at the lake while the farm we were planning to work was still 40 kilometers away at the opposite of the lake. It was 21.00 o’ clock and we had to fill our water bottles to get prepared for the evening and the night. On our way we saw a police station and that seemed a good place for getting some water. I don’t know about the any other Turkish police, but the Turkish police in Burdur is the best. For travelers that want to fill up their water.. They were so surprised to see us, and immediately offered us food and chai. Which came in handy because we did not had dinner yet. The fridge was opened and we got some oily bread out (almost like donuts) and some cheese and vegetables. We made some selfies with Mustafa en he immediately Whatsapped them to Chris. It was strange. But good strange. We were totally happy and while waving goodbye Sara almost crashed into a car, but it was all good. Because the Burdur police is great. We camped at the lake and after one rainy day we decided to make our way to the farm at 17.00 o’clock. Our second workaway experience at the farm in Burdur can be red here.
The start of hitch hiking
After our great time in Burdur, it was time to continue. We cycled our way back around the lake, 40 kilometers to Isparta a bit higher up in the mountains. We decided to try hitch hiking Chris would look in his mirror for a suitable car and would yell: Hike! Then Sara got her thumb up. Just when we were climbing our first hill Chris yelled a couple of times hike! but no one stopped. However around the corner a white bus was waiting, and we were lucky, they had stopped for us! We carried the bikes in the van and we could drive 30 kilometers up a hill to mountainy Isparta! It was great, because it was cold and already a bit late. In Isparta we thanked the two guys and we cycled out of the city to find a great spot between some cherry and erik trees.
The next day we continued our way to Egidir lake, we tried to hitch hike again, also because in the back of our mind the fact that we are “running out of visa” is playing and because we have a next workaway spot in Kapadokya where we already have an arrival delay of two months. We had no luck though with the hiking and we could tell summer had arrived, it was really hot our road to Egidir. However the road was beautiful. We had some lunch at the Egidir lake and cycled a bit further around the lake to find a campingspot.
The next day we had a good cycling day of 70 kilometers, to end up with a hike in the end of 14 kilometers to the next town so we could buy some food and find a great campingspot on some farmer land. The next day we continued our way, which was again a beautiful road. We were heading our way to Konya, a major city in the outback of Turkey. We tried to hitch hike a bit, and in the middle of the day we were lucky, we got piked up by a trucker Osman and he could drive us 130 kilometers to Konya. The first part was a bit of a ashame that we did not cycle it, because it was beautiful. However, the second part became construction and dusty roads so we were happy to sit in a truck. We chatted with our truck driver with our little Turkish and we sat down seeing Konya appearing in front of us.
Many people on our way had warned us for Konya somehow. Some said it was dangerous, others super conservative and that girls cannot wear shorts, others told us that the people are just not nice, that this city is totally different from the rest of Turkey in a negative way. For us this sounded a bit weird, especially because the Sufi’s, a mystic stream in Islam comes from here and Konya is known for the spiritual Dervish dance of the Sufi’s. It made us a bit curious. And we had met our first nice guy: Osman the truck driver, born and raised in Konya. We experienced though that the closer we got to Konya, the more people answered positive on our question if they liked Erdogan.
Osman drove us through the city and and dropped us at a convenient industrial part of the city. At the gas station we already experienced some weird stuff, all the people were extremely looking at us, and two guys made some sexual offences gestures to Chris as a joke. We got a weird vibe, so we decided to find our direction and to get the way out of here. Which was not so easy as we thought, we found a field between the roads and industrial buildings to make some egg dinner which made some street dogs nervous. When we headed our way to the mosque to get some water, we had to drive through several street dog gangs. Over more than 20 dogs were not happy to see two bikers and chased us around the corner. At the next corner another gang was waiting for us. We screamed at this terrible creatures running next to us and Sara used her dog whistle, which gives a very high pitch that most dogs don’t like. However some of these Konya diehards did not seem to care. We survived, however and were definitely happy to leave Konya and arrive at the highway.
Finding a camping spot turned out to be hard, because we were surrounded by a desert environment. We cycled into a small town and asked the sheep herder if it was okay to sleep behind a bale of hay. That was totally fine and even the neighbor brought us fresh milk when we had set up our tent. This desert environment became eventually very mystical and it was one of the best sleeping places we experienced where beetles went crazy in the night.
The next day we improved our hitch hiking skills with signs on our back. Heading to Goreme, Kapadokya!
We drove a few kilometers in the morning heat to get suddenly yelled at by a guy at the other side of the street. A gasstation employee was surprised to see us and called us in for some cay. We had a break with ice cream, cay and funny chats. And we ended up with a few extra unknown Turkish guys as Facebook friends in the end.We cycled 25 kilometers in the desert, no man’s land in the heat, with the signs on our back. We stopped just before the first hill at a water resource to fill up our bottles and suddenly a truck stopped next to us. And of course we could hop on! All the way to Goreme! It sounds exciting, however Sara began to feel a bit guilty with all the hitch hiking. Also because this no man’s land is so mystical and also special to ride by bike. It feels invincible when you drive into your next destination: by bike. Chris disagreed, for him it also felt really good to hitch hike.
In the end it was pretty luxury to arrive at our next destination Goreme in three hours instead of two days. Also Sara began to feel bad during our truck drive. Maybe because of the sun, the water we drank, it is a mystery. In the evening we both were strucked by a big headache, that did not disappear for days.
However when we arrived in Goreme we still had the capability to drive around this magical area, stopping at the houses carved in the rocks and sneaking into Zelve open air museum. This area was closed but beautiful Turkish music was coming out of large speakers in the middle of the area. We danced and wandered around in this old magical city until we crossed the terrain and were caught by one of the guards. We saw the angry look on his face and innocently apologized. We hopped on our bike and found a camping spot at a sheep base. To read more about our workaway experience and Kapadokya adventure click here.
The biker group
In Kapadokya we met three fellow bikers: Mark, Julian and Koen. Two Germans and one Dutchie. We cycled five days with them, which was super fun. It was like we were part in a mini Tour de Turkey. Julian and Koen are two giants that had met each other before and had a speed that was hard to keep up with, the first day after not cycling for a month. Koen was equipped with a loudspeaker and Queen, Michael Jackson and the Beastie Boys were accompanying us through this long distance of plus 500 kilometer towards the black sea. These five days it was freaking hot and we were in the middle of desert Turkey. However, it was beautiful and “gezellig” with the five of us.
The first day we cycled 60 kilometer and arrived at a farm field where the owner was living most of his live in Leeds, UK. He spoke perfect fabolous British English and welcomed us at his property. We woke up with a herd of cows, the herder was a Syrian guy livig in Turkey for four years. The second day we had a perfect cycling day, made 90 kilometers to Kaisehir, a big city in the middle of Turkey. We cycled up a hill where all the Turkish people still enjoyed the holiday week of Bayram (Ramadan) and the whole park was filled with families enjoying Mangal (BBQ). We got stalked by a group of 8 kids that eventually gave Sara two roses. We camped in the park at a quiet spot near a restaurant. The restaurant guys were happy to see us and very welcoming. After some rounds of shithead (cardgame) we dived into our tents and slept like babies.
The third day we cycled plus 80 kilometers, again it was a very nice cycling day and arrived at a little town where we got bullied by a 12-year old Mohammed, yelling stuff to Chris and saying Sikte (Fuck you). However when we drove into the town the town ladies gave us self made yoghurt, Mark could charge his battery for his bike at a house and we filled up the water at the town. We ended up at a crazy beautiful grassfield on the other side. We prayed Mohammed and his friends did not find us. Next morning after breakfast, when we were just about to go they came with sticks. However only to give us a high five and say goodbye haha. View.
Fourth day was cold and windy. Julian and Koen went in front and pulled the bike train forward to Sivas. Here we got invited by the owner of a restaurant that invited us for lunch behind the restaurant which was super delicious. We continued to Zara the next day which was a beautiful sunny road, after Zara we knew some 2100 high mountains were waiting for us. So after some shopping we went for it.Chris took a hike till 1500 hanging behind a truck. On top he was waiting for us. Just when we arrived he already stopped another truck that could manage 5 bikes in the back. So we squizzed in and we got a hike till the top of the mountain. From there on we raced down found a camping spot at a lake quite late, knowing we had to climb the biggest mountain the next day in plus 30 degrees. Everybody was tired and we went to bed early. It was a long day even with a hike.
Koen’s finger and the hospitable hospital
Next day was like expected super hot and we started to climb the mountains. After an hour or so Chris stopped a truck in order to hang along. Sara was the next one to stop the same truck and hang on the other side. Koen did not want to pass this chance and grabbed the truck while it was riding on the back. However there was a sharp piece of metal and when the truck gave some extra power Sara let go. Koen also wanted to let go but his finger got stuck and before we knew Koen was crashing down on the ground saying that his finger might be broken. We looked at it and the top of his finger was ripped off. Well, that was not a pretty sight. Fortunately immediately a pick up stopped in order to help us. Chris managed to get Koen in the shade and to clean and band his finger. Sara had to sit down for a minute in order not to get too dizzy and nausea of what she had seen. Soon after she went to look for the top of the finger and got all Koen’s stuff that was laying around because of the crash. The pick up brought Koen and his bike to the nearest hospital. Julian was in front of us and had not noticed anything of the crash. Mark arrived just when Koen left. So we continued the rest 30 kilometers with hikes in a tractor and some biking to finally arrive in Sebinkarahisar where hospital people were already looking for us to bring us to Koen.
Three hours later we arrived at the hospital and met Koen sitting sad on a hospitable bed, his finger wrapped in bandage. He needed an operation and could not drink or eat for three hours. Then we met the hospital angel. A 27 year young Turkish doctor that was the only one that could speak English excluding the busy surgeons. For the next three days she helped us out a lot. Koen, Julian, Mark, Chris and I got VIP treatment, eating with the hospital personnel. The doctor was checking up on us every hour if we were still oke, talking about her problems in the hospital and admiring our traveling life, it was also calling her. Only instead she worked almost every day, because they did not had any other doctor and she had to survive on 5, 6 hours of sleep if she was lucky. She was definitely our angel and we and especially Koen was really thankful for her presence. The other hospital personnel was also extremely curious and the nurses gathered around us the moment they saw us. We kind of got the feeling we were the talk of the town. Koen especially.
We slept on a terrain close to the hospital, surrounded by street dogs that in the end did were getting sort of used to us. Sebinkarahisar is a beautiful mountain city, and we hiked upon the castle on top to be treated with an amazing view. One evening Chris and I went back to the tent and we saw our tent hanging 5 or 6 meters high in the trees. Also Mark’s tent was gone. First we thought it was a sick joke of someone, second we thought about the dogs. Then Chris remembered that he had seen a whirling storm at the hospital, a really strong. So Chris climbed up in the tree to get our tent with all our sleeping stuff still inside. Mark’s tent was thrown 30 meters further down the field, that was easy.
Koen’s operation went well and after three nights, Julian and Koen decided to take the bus to Trabzon, a coastel place where Julian had to pick up his Iranian visa. Mark, Chris and continued our way to the Black sea by bike and hike. We left a bit earlier than Mark and arrived with a hike over the mountains the end of the day Giresun, a coastel place.
This was the day the coup happened in Istanbul, we were very curious what excatly had happened and how it would continue, but we had no Internet access, so we asked a bit around. We were situated in the northeast, the “territory of Erdogan” while he is from Rize, not far from Sebinkarahisar. So the first persons we asked at the hospital or at cafe’s, said not to worry. Erdogan had everything under control. Our favoroute doctor was worried, but too tired to talk about it. It clearly depends whom you ask. Students, travellers and open minded people are worried seeing Erdogan getting more power due to the coup. People who are in favour of Erdogan believe in his strength and are proud of him and Turkey: “Turkey is a beautiful country, we can handle this.”
The hike we got of Czengis, father of two children and owner of several buildings in Giresun that he rented. He drove us around the area to show us some nice views and he invited us for lunch. So we stopped at a restaurant where we were treated with awesome fish and salad. At top of the hill we got out to cycle this fantastic part down. Czengis gave his number and said we should call him we arrived in Giresun, than he could host us. So when we arrived in the city in the early evening we gave him a call and he picked us up from the main square. Again our bikes were lifted in the car and he drove us up the hill and showed us the old ottoman castle. He treated us for the best icecream in town and drove us to his house. The language was a bit of a problem, we had to do it with some body language and our little Turkish.
We ended up in a super modern apartment were everything was brand new and Czengis lived out of a suitcase. When we decided to cook our vegetables for him with rice he panicked a bit and ran of to buy some beers, he would not join dinner. After two hours he returned, we had taken the opportunity of a wonderful shower and had finished our delicious dinner. We discovered that he was the owner of this apartment and that this room was for renting. After two beers he began to act a bit strange though. When Chris did not participate in the conversation because of Internet or when he went to the bathroom, Czengis was signing to Sara that when Chris was going to sleep eventually that he and her would drink raki and dance. Sara had to laugh but also got some strange vibes because he was very insisting. It did not help that Chris and Sara had a bit of conflict before, so maybe he felt some space for interference. When Chris eventually decided to go to bed, Sara knew it was time for brushing teeth too because Czengis -that in the afternoon had proudly shown his wife and kids on his phone- now really became enthusiastic about the idea of Sara and him finishing the night together. When Sara came out of the bathroom , Czengis stood in his bedroom door trying to get her into his room with hand signals. Thank God, our bedroom was closer, so she quickly smiled goodnight and closed our door and just to be sure locked it.
Next morning was one of the strangest moments we experienced. We woke up and he had put our stuff – even the yogurt that we had placed in the fridge- in the hallway and he had locked the living room. First we were in the understanding he was sleeping in the room next to us, but after knocking for 15 minutes we discovered his motorbike was gone, so he had taken off. The problem was that still all our food (spices, oil, vegetables rice etc etc) was in the kitchen cabins and some of our clothes that we washed on the balcony. We called him, but he had a strange excuse that he was already heading to Sebinkarahisar again, he would send a friend. Chris tried to open the door in a Macguyver way, but turned out to be difficult. The friend was not very sympathetic to us, but he did climb up the balcony in order to hand us our clothes with a stick. But suddenly after an hour, Chris managed to open the door! Waauw, this was a precious moment. We looked what was left in the fridge and decided to use it, to give ourselves a little present, we made a great breakfast and took some salt and lentils as a present. Chris repaired the door but left the door handle horizontal instead of vertical, just a joke. In the afternoon we left this crazy guy’s apartment and headed for Trabzon where we would meet the others!
The way to Trabzon was not the nicest. The road to the black sea is pretty new, 15 years old and all the nice old sand beaches have been replaced by rocky stones that make it look a bit like a very long harbor instead of a nice coastal road. It is also super busy, full of traffic and the moment you get close to Trabzon it’s really not nice. Trabzon is a big busy town, where Chris and I were looking for the hostel of Koen and Julian and found it after some difficulties. The moment we arrived in their room it felt like the old days, shared some experiences and pictures. Koen was doing way much better and with the help of Julian he could even replace his own bandage only it was still very hard for him to look at his finger.
The hotel was really new and there were almost no tourists. The owner walked in the room and said to Chris and me that we could sleep in the spare room with the two persons bed. We explained we did not pay for sleeping, he answer was that it was for free. So we were extremely lucky sleeping in a heavenly bed with shower attached to it. Thank you Koen and Julian. Mark arrived later that day and we headed of for the shopping mall where Chris and I were looking for wedding rings in order to not experience this Czengis confusing moments anymore. Also because we are going to Iran and we will need this anyway. But no rings were found. The next day Koen left by bus to Batumi, Georgia to meet his friends there. Julian had to wait three days in Trabzon for his visa and Mark, Chris and I headed for Rize, the town of Erdogan.
On our way to Rize we met the 50-year old Claudia from Berlin on the bike. A mom that was driving her bike to India! So we lost Julian and Koen but gained Claudia. We arrived at the end of the day in Rize and decided to have a famous tea there. 30 kilometers after Trabzon the road gets super pretty, everywhere you see old cay factories, plantations, it super green and looks like a jungle and you smell the cay in the air. Just before Rize we experienced heavy rainfall so we were glad to hide in a restaurant where we got 3 cay rounds for free and Mark ordered delicious local desserts. We stayed there for a while and decided when the rain got less to cycle 20 kilometers more to Claudia’s couchsurfer host and see if he could host three more people. Claudia got a flat tire and after some troubles finshing his address, also a Czengis walked around the corner and it was no problem to host us all. That was really a present. On our way we saw by the way a lot of Erdogan flags and a parade of honking car’s holding this flag. It was for sure: we are in Erdogan’s town. There is even an university called Erdogan in Rize.
We arrived at his luxury apartment. Czengis is from Istanbul, studied history, but works in Rize in a mine company on a project for social rights for the workers. He is a bit bored though working 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. He really would like to travel to practice a bit more his English. We prepared a delicious lentil/vegetables dish and we spend the evening talking with some beer. Czengis was clearly not fond of Erdogan, but it was hard for him to say this out loud in this area. Fortunately he had three good friends who thin the same. He is worried about the future of Turkey.
Chris and I were so lucky to get the two persons bed in the appartement while Mark and Claudia slept in the living room. The next day we waited for the late afternoon for the rain to stop but this seemed hardly impossible. At a dry moment we left but soon we found ourselves in heavy rainshowers again. It was still 90 kilometers to the border of Georgia. In the evening we hide at a restaurant on a hill and we were invited for some local fish by a big guy that was having dinner there with his friends. He gave us beer and food, what a guy. And the fish was Delicious, wauw. But really, wauw. We built our tents under the terrace of the restaurant. Chris and I had a nightly visitor, a little black kitten that we called Kara. She was toooo cute and it was hard to leave her the next morning when she would cry for you or her mother the moment we left.
Moment of truth
So up to the Batumi border! Of course it was raining, endless rows of trucks and lots of tunnels. The moment of truth had arrived for Chris and I. We had stayed a month overtime in Turkey while we were only allowed to stay three months, and we stayed four. After hearing so many different stories: ‘you just pay 25 euro a month’, ‘you have to pay 500 euro and you get banned for five years!’ We would finally know. The moment we arrived at the border a friendly Turkish border police employee welcomed us the first moment with: friends! come here! He made sure we did not had to stand in line and went to to guy who was checking the passports with: these are my friends! It all looked good so far. Chris and I gave our passports and then some troubled faces appeared. Our friend sighted and said: ” little problem.” We explained that we had one month extra in Turkey, because it is such a beautiful country! Again, he said, “okay no problem, only little problem, you come with me.”
After waiting and chatting for a while in another office, we were faced with a fine. 613 (around 200 euro) lira for Chris and 240 (around 80 euro) lira for Sara. If we pay now we could enter Turkey again after three months if we decided not to pay we could not come into Turkey for the next five years. We discovered that we could always pay the fine at a Turkish embassy in a country in order to get back to Turkey, so we decided not to pay with our travelers budget. For the border police this was all okay, still best friends with our officer. We thanked him for his help, made a picture and crossed the Georgian border!
That was it, after four months leaving this beautiful country with so many different sights. After four months: Merhaba! (hello) Tessekular! (Thank you) Nassilsin? How are you? And all the basic words we learned for food and basic communication, we now had to switch to crazy difficult Georgian language. Bye Turkey, thank you for these beautiful four months and I am sure we will pay the fine eventually.