Week ten - Crossing the salt flats

“No visit” he says.

I squint at my phone, struggling to decipher the Turkish translation for “why” in the bright sunlight.

“Niye ya” I retort.

The security man indicates behind him at the gated compound which sits on the road between me and Tuz Gölü, Turkey’s largest salt lake.

“Special” he says.

“What's special about it”

“Special” he answers and nods his head assuredly.

I'm not getting anywhere.

“Cheers” I mutter as I wheel round in the dust. Check the map, this is the only ingressing road this side of the lake. It has taken me all day to get here. I am hot, hungry and only five kilometres short.

Screw it. I set out cross country into the shrub land. If I can’t go through the special zone I will go round it.

Forty minutes of bone jarring off piste later I reach the shore. For three hundred meters I push hard into the lake. If I don't maintain momentum, my wheels sink into the créme brûlée crust. The salt lake glistens brilliant white around me, seemingly endless. The opposite shore is out of sight.




Tuz Gölü was the first of three major sights I would pass this week. The next two are both in the Cappadocia, a region famous for its unusual rock formations..

A few days later I reached the Ilhara valley, a deep river valley lined with precipitous volcanic rock caves and churches. To my dismay I found that the valley floor wasn't cyclable, but dropping steeply down to the halfway town of Belisirma allowed me a look.

More enjoyable were the ten kilometres of the Melendiz Çayi river preceding the Ilhara valley. I followed a riverside track, stopping frequently to investigate the abandoned shepherds huts and houses etched into the cliffs on its eastern bank.



Unfortunately, the largest and most spectacular of these historic settlements had become the dumping ground for the adjacent town, Kizilkayer, and was full of rubbish.




I made the Goreme national park that same evening. Turning off the main road, I twisted and turned on dirt tracks through the terrific stone stacks of “Swords Valley”. I found a flat spot nestled between two 20 meter high shark fins and collapsed into unconsciousness, resolving to absorb the exquisite landscape in the morning.

The next morning I was awoken to the whoosh of gas burners as hundreds of hot air balloons took to the sky. The nearest was so close that there can't have been more than 100 meters between my bleary face poking out of a sleeping bag and the Asian family staring confusedly back at me from their lofty basket.


I hope that this journey will teach me about cultures with different values to my own. A poignant encounter this week taught me something about Turkish values.

A day shy of Cappadocia I pedalled through agricultural fields searching for somewhere to sleep. The land was interspersed with small cabins used by the farmers in the day time.

I stopped alongside one that looked inhabited, and called out. The door was answered by Sedat, a wiry young man with tanned arms and a shaved head at the back and sides. Sedat is 24 and spends three days a week at the cabin, looking after the hundred surrounding fields of beans owned by his family. When he is at the cabin, he works all day and all night to moderate the water supply to the crops.

We chatted over a Turkish omelette. Sedat told me he didn't enjoy his work in the fields, and that earning enough to live on was a struggle. When I asked him if he would move elsewhere given the chance, he laughed, flicked his hand into the air dismissively and shook his head.

Turkish people are proud of their country, and loyal. Everywhere Turkish flags fly, in shop windows, over front doors, on the wall of every çay bar. As an outsider it occurs to me that perhaps money is not the defining currency in Turkey. It is a country which values friendship and conversation, and the people are proud of that. Sedat at least was not willing to sacrifice these values.










Comments

  1. Revelling in these wonderful weekly updates nephew, please please keep them coming. The photos are stunning....iconic shot of your mode of transport in splendid isolation on the salt flats! Thinking of you....from the bandits of Bruisyard

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  2. Brilliant photos. You have a way with words that leaves the reader feeling they are there with you. Well done.. Sharon

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