If there is one thing we learned from cycling along Turkey’s Mediterranean coast is that hard work is rewarded.
With hard work I mean climbing a accumulated ascent of several Everest equivalents (a measurement I just made up but I think should be a thing). With reward I mean beautiful scenery, delicious food, hospitable people and just plain fun despite our protesting legs.
We joined an international Mediterranean cleanup event (Let’s do it Mediterranean!) near Mersin, watched the eternal flames of Chimaera in Çiralı, went diving in Kaş, went rafting, went horseback riding, explored ancient ruins, waded through a gorgeous gorge (sorry) and drank litres and litres of tea.
We had so much non-cycling related fun that we also took several buses to stick to our entirely self-imposed schedule. Despite the buses there were still a lot of cycling to do. If you want to go through Turkey the fast way then don’t take the Mediterranean route. If you want to torture yourself with 10% climbs that never seem to end I’d recommend it. That being said, we were happy to see the sea again because it means beachside camping and diving. It also means inflated prices and occasionally being ripped off.
Despite it’s reputation for mass tourism, drunken Russians and all-inclusive resorts the coast still offers many quiet and undeveloped areas that are worth exploring and it offers plenty of adventure. Especially the road from Akyaka to Bodrum on the southern side of the Bodrum peninsula is quiet and beautiful. This has probably to do with the fact that the road sometimes just disappears and is nothing more than a bunch of broken up rock, mud and gravel. One way of keeping the tourbuses out, I guess?
This seemed to be a common theme: as soon as we would venture off the main road the quality of the road surface would deteriorate to a point beyond repair. The main roads actually suck too, most of the time. There is usually some kind of shoulder but the surface is just coarse gravel. Like they made the road, started putting the gravel but then realised they ran out of asphalt to glue it all together and just left it like that. Or what is marked as a paved road on the map is really just a not-so-recently graded gravel road. Fun when it rains! Not really a problem, but something you should probably know in case you ever plan to cycle through Turkey really fast. But then again, why would you do that?
Campsites were not always easy to find, especially where the road hugs the coastline and there’s steep cliffs on both sides. We slept in roadside restaurants twice because they occupied the only flat surface available, but this was never a problem, especially because they let you use their toilets. Luxury! On the other hand, there’s plenty of pine forest to camp in, and a few times we slept on the beach. We’ve heard good things about camping in petrol stations too although we haven’t tried.
All in all, Turkey has been pretty good. Really good, actually! We spend seven weeks there so it is impossible to summarize everything into a single blog post. However, it is such a big country (just stating the obvious) that I still feel like we’ve only seen a tiny corner of it. We’ll be back!