We started the climb out of Kas at 9.30 am and much to my shock and dismay I was still climbing at 4 pm. I was moving slowly with the weight I was pedaling. A young lad came out of a house and began walking up the hill in front of me. I couldn’t keep up with him and he pulled away from me. For my own sanity I stopped looking when the gap reached 500 m between us. I was coming to terms with the inevitable that there was no way we would reach our destination of Hatay which lay 700 miles ahead.
What had I been thinking?
In total I was cycling a 25 stone load!
Up and over the Turkish mountains!
By 4 pm I couldn’t tell if we would make it over the mountain pass in time before sunset. The clouds were growing dark and a spot of rain fell on my cheek. We were high up the mountain when I passed a shepherd boy carrying wood on his back. I shouted, “Hello” in Turkish to which he called back, “Hello” in English. I emergency braked.
He invited me and Lucy to camp next to his family’s home. Lucy played with the farm dogs whilst I became shepherd girl and helped herd the goats with him. It was a great experience for me.
That evening I was invited to eat dinner with mother Ummu and son Toygar. I sat in the warmth of the family room whilst Ummu cooked dinner on the sober, a wood burning stove common to Turkish households. I noticed Ummu trying to stretch her back and she looked in some pain. I didn’t know how to explain that I was a qualified massage therapist so instead I just flipped her over on the couch and began massaging her. She was so thankful. I taught Toygar how to massage his mother when she returned home from the fields so over time she would not be in such pain.
We enjoyed a dinner of baked potato and onions, eggs, olives, peppers and bread. Food sure tasted better when you could hear the wind but not feel it on your face. I ate with fork in one hand and my Turkish phrase book in the other.
I’m sure no Turkish person will ever understand or comprehend why I reject their hospitality of sleeping inside a warm house in a bed. Instead I insist on sleeping in my tent with Lucy beside me. The late evening conversation ends with a sprint for the door to get out the house and into the tent!
I was pitched next to their cottage, with the mountain top’s gale force wind battering the side of my tent. I have yet to develop the awareness I need on this trip to make things that bit easier. Of course, that’s the well written version of saying I need to become less stupid. If I had pitched my tent on the other side of the house I would have had calm and tranquility. I have never experienced such bitter coldness before. Even that one time in Scotland on a November night when I had climbed a hill having forgotten my tent poles.
I couldn’t even put my jumper on because Lucy was using it as a pillow. I lay freezing all night wishing my tent was on the other side of the house. It was so cold my phone stopped working, this happens when you start hitting – 10 degrees and below. During the night a dog outside tried to walk through the 2 walls of my tent. It wasn’t comprehending that it was never going to make it and I felt awful for shouting it away. If it were up to me I would have all the ‘wannabe warm’ hounds in my tent but Lucy is protective of her house and I knew she would have none of it.
I’ve never been so happy for daylight when I could pack up and get cycling.
Before leaving it was back into the sober room for breakfast which was again baked potatoes, baked onions, eggs, peppers and olives – a perfect combination for the miles ahead. I relaxed enjoying tea and the last warmth before the inevitable freeze that awaited me. I don’t own a hair brush and I began detangling my hair with my fingers. I only do this because I had made a promise to my friend Gemma Neil that I would not under any circumstance grow dreadlocks on this trip. There was that one time many years ago …
Toygar came to my rescue and appeared with his mums hair brush in hand and brushed my hair for me. It was such a special moment. A belly full of good food, the supreme warmth from a wood fire and having my hair brushed. I thanked Gemma Neill in my mind for insisting I promise her.
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Love WBG & Lucy x
Ishbel, creator of World Bike Girl, has spent her life on bicycles, from road racing, to velodrome sprinting to cycling the world. She has pedalled across 20 countries solo and promotes commuting by bicycle. Much to the dismay of her friends, she is an avid wearer of socks and sandals.