Days 74 - 76
The next couple of days were full of back-to-back admin. I took the bike to get serviced, knowing there were issues. Sam arrived with new wheels (thanks mate) and Alex shortly after.
Alex and Sam both rode with me for the first five days of the trip. It was nice to have part of the crew back together. We caught up over dinner and a few beers. Initially, it felt strange to talk about normal things like life at home. But, the more we spoke, the more it felt like I could have been in London.
Straight out of Kayseri was an eight percent incline. It was tough, but a good introduction to bike touring in Turkey.
The cycle into Cappadocia was the best day’s ride I’d had in Turkey. We started in the valley, so the closer we got to Cappadocia the more the landscape changed. The scenery was incredible and a completely different cycle to the first visit.
After 45 miles, we reached Goreme and unloaded our bikes at the hostel. We went for dinner at a rooftop restaurant. I couldn’t think of a better way to kick start their trip. Mid-way through the evening, Harriet and Ali joined us. I had been speaking to Harriet on Instagram for a while. Just like with Mckenley, it was nice to finally meet in-person. Harriet and Ali met on the road and had been cycling together for a few days.
A car is by far the best way to get around Cappadocia. We explored the Rose Valley, Zelve Açık Hava – an old rock settlement which used to be inhabited, and drove to an underground city. The city had a population of 20,000 and was set over 10 floors. It was kitted out with a church, wine cellars, living quarters, and a market. The city dates back to 780AD and was used to hide from religious persecution. This continued up until 1923, when its inhabitants moved to Greece.
Back in Goreme, the rain poured and the mercury dropped to 15C. The bad weather meant the balloons weren’t flying in the morning, so we reluctantly stayed in the hostel for another night.
We went for dinner with Harriet and Ali again, before settling in for an early night. A strong headwind was due the following afternoon, so we planned to be on the road early.
Day 78 – 79
The early morning start paid off. We beat the wind.
We cycled north to Sarikaya. It was a beautiful ride with rolling hills and more farmland. Surprisingly, the scenery in Turkey doesn’t change much. Although the ride’s are good, it’s not mentally stimulating.
In the evening of day 79, we reached Alaca. We found a beautiful camp spot next to a lake – hidden from the road and close to an ancient archaeological site.
As we drifted off to sleep, a wild dog made himself known. He sounded close enough, but was on the other side of the lake. I’m used to the sound of dogs howling at night, so I quickly forgot about it and hit the pillow.
I woke up after an incredible sleep – 5/5. The same can’t be said for Alex and Sam. They were kept up with dog-fuelled stress and anxiety. Every time the dog barked, Sam sat up in bed and looked around his tent. Alex lay in the tent unable to move, concerned that any noise would attract the dog. The sound of my snoring was a constant worry.
After reading about wild dog horror stories, the encounter with one was a daunting prospect for them. I understood their fear. But, I did find their worry that night a tad humorous.
Camp packed up, we braved the rain and 12C heat and headed to the archaeological site. After half an hour at the site, we sought shelter in a coffee shop. I was freezing. Once the rain stopped, we cycled towards Corum.
We had over 90 miles to achieve throughout the day, yet made incredible progress. 16 miles of downhill meant we reached Corum (our lunch stop) in a couple hours. Just before entering town, Sam rode over a glass bottle which shattered and sliced open his tyre. We found a bike shop and replaced the tyre. The remainder of the day passed with rain showers.
At 8pm, we reached the outskirts of Amasya, our destination that evening. As we pulled into a lay-by for a quick pitstop, a German Shepherd jumped out of a bush. The dog barked aggressively.
Sam, who was in front, swerved to the other side of the road. I was sitting on Alex’s back wheel when she pulled out a water bottle to squirt the dog – a deterrent that works, usually. I could tell she was mid-panic, so I was about to accelerate and sit in between her and the dog.
But, before I could do this, Alex lost balance and swerved left into the road. She had almost corrected her balance when a car smacked into the side of her. Alex came off the bike and hit the ground hard.
“ALEX!!”, I yelled.
I had never seen a car hit a bike with that much force before. I immediately jumped off my bike and ran over to her. Alex got up and we pulled the bike off the road. During this time, Sam had stopped the oncoming traffic.
“Alex, are you OK?”, I asked.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Is the bike OK?”
“Who cares about the bike, are you OK?!”
“Yes, I’m fine. What about the bike?”
I couldn’t believe she came away with no injuries. The rear panniers had taken the brunt of the fall, luckily. The bike had a slight bend in the handlebar, but was also fine. If Alex had been holding the outside of the handle, there’s no doubt she would have had a broken hand.
The driver of the car immediately growled abuse at us. The police turned up. Visibly shaken, I asked them to take Alex and her bike to our hotel. After some hesitation, they agreed.
Sam and I continued by bike. This helped us process what had happened. Over dinner, the three of us were still in shock. We went through every scenario, reliving the accident to understand how it could have been prevented.
I’ve had two months of wild dog experiences – they’ve had none. So, we spoke about what to do if a wild dog comes onto the road again – slow down, stop, water.
We spent the day in Amasya. It’s one of the nicest cities I’ve been to in Turkey. Sat in a deep valley and surrounded by mountains, the old houses are either nestled in the hills or hang onto the riverside. After getting Alex’s bike fixed, we hit up every historical site in the city – a castle and collection of tombs carved into the rock face.
That evening, we enjoyed dinner with live music. The venue had a wedding-esc vibe – we received a lot of curious eyes.
Alex and Sam’s last ride was a long one. After 250 miles in four days, it was a tough ask. Luckily, we were gifted with a tailwind which helped us cover 20 miles at pace. We stopped at a Shell garage to quickly regroup and have a coffee.
As we left the petrol station, Alex was upfront, I was in the middle and Sam quite a distance behind. After I placed my earphones in, I looked up and saw a wild dog jump out at Alex. Alex panicked, veered left into the road and missed a car by a few inches. I was in disbelief.
I raced up to her.
“Alex, you almost got hit by a car again! If a wild dog jumps out at you. Stop. Slow down. Get off the bike. Do not panic and turn into the road. It’s the worst thing you can do.“, I was annoyed.
“I know, I’m sorry. I just panicked”, she replied.
I looked behind and noticed Sam had stopped, he was sorting out his headphones. He’s quick, so knew he’d catch up. Alex and I continued along the highway.
It had been five minutes and Sam still hadn’t caught up.
We turned a slight corner when a truck driver repeatedly beeped his horn. We looked round and he ushered us to pull into the lay-by.
As we came to a stop, another car pulled into the lay-by. The truck driver spoke fast and with a hint of panic in his voice. All I could understand was “Oto” and “Biskelet” – “Car” and “Bicycle”. With his hands, he made a collision gesture. Over and over, he banged his hands together.
The man in the car yelled at us through his window: “COME, COME, COME!”. I glanced at Alex. She looked worried.
Without saying a word, we followed the car the wrong way up the highway. We eventually crossed a bridge that allowed us to cycle in the right direction.
As we rode, every scenario ran through my head. ‘Don’t panic, stay calm’, I told myself.
I turned the corner and saw a coach parked on the side of the road. There were three cars close to the scene and a crowd of thirty people.
‘Don’t panic’, I repeated to myself.
From the opposite side of the road, I frantically searched for Sam in the crowd. I jumped off my bike and over the barriers.
Sam stood in the crowd with his back to me. I walked over to him.
“Sam, mate. You OK? What’s happened?”, I enquired.
Sam turned around. Blood poured from one side of his face. He had deep cuts from his forehead, down to his cheek. His nose was bloodied and legs covered in blood, both knees had deep incisions.
“Err, yeah. A car crashed into me.” Sam was shaken. His answers, vague. His speech, slow.
“Where’s the bike?”. Sam pointed to the floor behind him. I looked at the bike and the reality of the situation became apparent. The back wheel and disc had folded. Bent almost in half. The hit had been hard.
Alex and I tried our best to help, but Sam was already being looked after by a number of people. Thankfully, the ambulance arrived quickly. The paramedics immediately put Sam into a neck brace and urged him to go to hospital.
Sam wasn’t insured for bike touring*. After a long back and forth with the paramedics about whether he should go to hospital (and after finding out it was free), Sam agreed to go. Alex jumped in the ambulance and accompanied him.
I stayed behind to sort out the bikes. After the police showed up and took photos of the scene, I took the bikes to the Shell garage. The employees at the garage helped put the bikes in a secure area and offered to drive me to the hospital. They made sure I was fed properly before we went.
I arrived at the hospital an hour after Sam and Alex. In that time, Sam had gone through blood tests and a CT scan. We had to wait for three hours until we got the results. During this time, the police took a statement, but it was agreed no one would press charges.
“Tell me a joke”, Sam urged as he lay on his hospital bed, unable to move due to the cone around his neck.
“I’ve got one!” I proclaimed, proudly.
Midway through telling the joke, I stopped. I had just remembered the punchline. It was about a woman who got run over by a car.
“Err…err. It’s not a very good joke. You don’t want to hear it”, I confessed.
“No, go on”
“It’s inappropriate, a badly timed joke.”
“Ed, finish the joke!” he pressed.
I finished the joke.
“It’s too soon for that kind of stuff. I’m still in the hospital, mate”.
“I know, I know. Sorry.“
Thankfully, the tests came back negative, which meant the damage wasn’t permanent. A week or two of rest would do the trick.
Bikes packed into the back of a taxi, the 60 miles to Samsun were quiet and sombre. We were pretty shaken by the day’s events – a reminder of our heightened vulnerability on the bikes.
In the safety of our apartment, we devoured a tsunami of chicken nuggets and Big Macs. None of us felt like venturing outside. Over dinner, Sam began to explain what had happened. In short: The wild dog jumped into the road. Sam had a truck to his left, which left few options. He braked, so he wouldn’t hit the dog. A car, travelling at speed, crashed into his back wheel. Sam jumped off the bike to stop himself going under the car. The car skidded off the road and came to a halt on the pavement. He was lucky his injuries weren’t worse.
*In Turkey, if it’s an emergency, the treatment is free. Insurance or no insurance.
It was Alex and Sam’s last day in Turkey. We forced Sam out of the apartment for a Turkish breakfast. His face now swollen and bruised.
We went for a walk along the beachfront before Sam returned to the apartment to rest. His knees were heavily bandaged, so he struggled to walk. Alex and I cycled up the coast, found a beach and beach bar. We stayed there for the remainder of the day.
Days 85 – 90
Sam and Alex left early in the morning. The accidents had left their mark on the trip. It could have been worse, but it wasn’t how the trip was supposed to play out. I think they were relieved to fly home.
I stayed in Samsun for another day to plan the route through Turkey and Georgia. After everything that had happened, I was keen to leave Turkey. I planned a five day route which followed the highway along the Black Sea. Mckenley was a couple days ahead, so we agreed to meet in Batumi and cycle across Georgia together.
The next few days I spent on the highway, tackling tunnels and breaking PBs. The road was smooth and flat – the perfect conditions for a quick time. The fastest day covered 70 miles in two minutes over four hours. I slept on beaches, in a hotel and by a canyon. The scenery was beautiful – heavy forests lined the road, which acted as a physical barrier between the sea and the inland mountainous area.
Turkey had been incredible – by far the best country I had travelled through so far. Its culture, hospitality, and scenery are some of the best I’ve experienced. For a country that is going through turbulence, it’s amazing to experience such kindness.
On the last day in Turkey, I bumped into a German-Russian tourer, Julia. She was also cycling alone, so we rode the last miles of Turkey together – a nice and fitting end to the Turkish leg.