Saturday, 6 November 2010

15/10/2010 Gelibolu - Ucmakdere (Disatnce 93km)

I manage a slightly more respectable start time today – on the road for 09.00am. I hung my clothes on various parts of my bike and tent to dry overnight, but thanks to the persistent rain their moisture content has only increased. I opt for the rock'n'roll “sandals and socks” look, and prey for a rainless day so my boots might dry. I don't have much food for breakfast and so pull into the first garage I pass. There's not much on offer for a cyclist's breakfast – but a few chocolate bars and a coffee should keep me going till lunch.

At Kavakkoy I break off the main road to follow the coast. As it bends East I'm grateful that the head wind start to hit my left side (much more bearable for riding). After the town the road gets very quiet and I'm surrounded by fields and rolling hills. It's a grim, grey day. Mist hangs in the air and blends with the low cloud obscuring most of the scenery. A pair dogs lying in a field to my right hear me pass. I heave on the pedals, but thanks to the slight gradient, I can only manage 25kph. The eighty meters that separated us rapidly disappears and they clear the twelve foot drainage ditch with impressive ease. I give up on out-running them and hop off the bike. So far this tactic has not let me down. I make no eye contact and just push my rig up the road. Fortunately Fido & Lassie are all bark and no bite. After following me up the road for a while they loose interest. I hate admitting defeat – but it does beat getting holes in my leg.

Rounding a curve I see a big lake on my left. From the bank smoke rises from a bonfire. I see what look like wigwams dotting the coastline, and then a couple of huge trucks (maybe amphibious vehicles). Moments later I hear a shout from the trees to my left. I search for the source but see nothing. “Hello hello, how are you?” (“okay where are ya”) I think.

After some seconds I make out eight guys in full cammo sitting in a dug-out. A few more shouts go up and I see perhaps ten clusters of men in similar dug-out's in the trees lining the road side. Many of them smile and wave. I manage a quick exchange with one guy. He guestures that they are Army...that explains it then! I really want to whip out my camera but suspect that could go horribly wrong. I move on – quite chuffed with myself that I managed to interrupt some sort of training exercise...atleast I hope that's all it was.

For several hours I steadily gain altitude. After the village of Yenikoy I begin to descend. I know the the next town of Şarkoy is on the coast, from my current position it looks as though I'll be heading downhill all the way. My mornings riding has been somewhat sedate – it's nice pick up the pace. Thanks to assistance from gravity the eight kilometers disappears very quickly.

I stop briefly in Şarkoy for food. An English speaking women from Istanbul stops for a chat – apparently this area doesn't see many tourists – even less on bicycles. There's not much to see and so I continue on down the coast. The sky is grey but thankfully no rain so far. Cycling right next to the sea is great. There are many tempting campspots but with atleast four hours of remaining light I can't bring myself to stop. At a garage in Mürefte I stop for water. A guy approaches to ask my intentions for the day. He lives about ten kilometers up the road in a village called Hoşköy. He tells me he is a wine maker and invites me to visit him for a drink.

There nothing like the promise of some company (not to mention some good wine) to raise my enthusiasm. I find his place with little difficulty – as he said “ right on the main street by the harbour”. The rain and wind have picked up so I'm glad of the temporary shelter. I get a tour of the factory and then sample a few from the selection, and afterwards a tour of the vineyards. I'm disappointed to hear, had I been here a month earlier I could have volunteered for board and food.

I'm beginning to learn that such interactions often present an opportunity for a place to sleep. This time is no exception. I ask the question, a phone-call is made, and I have free admittance to a nice little campsite eight kilometers up the road. I empty my glass and say goodbye. After such a pleasant few hours it's tough to get back on the bike. Once back on the exposed coastline my (now relaxed and cooled) body feels the full bite of the icey wind. The road is cut dramatically into the cliff face – apparently with little regard to the potential for falling rocks (it appears as long as a sign warns of the danger, nothing more need be done).

I arrive at the tiny campsite (which is closed to all but me) and I'm handed a warm coffee. It's a great spot – I think with a running jump I could make it form the camping area and land in the Marmara Sea. I can see this place being popular in high season. The owner (who I figure is in his sixties) opens the kitchen and sits with me as I prepare and eat my dinner. He surveys his crossword through Bottle-Bottom spectacles while I noisily slurp my spaghetti. I've found that due to spending so much time alone, my eating (amongst other things) loses some "finesse". By the time I return home I may well be reduced to communicating through animalistic grunts and eating with my fingers - normal constuction site life then!  I pitch my tent in the dark and read under the porch light for an hour before hitting the sack.

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