Saddle Snaps In Stunning Scenery
2 August 2000
Written by Kevin
Subject: Eastern Turkey

I knew it would be beautiful. I knew it would be amazing. But I was still completely blown away when I saw the valley unfold before my eyes. You know there is something special about a place when, despite the hundreds of photos you have seen, the sight of it still astounds you.

It had taken two weeks of hard cycling through the west of a hot Turkey to get us to this magical landscape - and as we arrived we knew it had been worth the detour. We spent a blissful few days cycling through the valleys of Cappadocia, sharing the scenery with hundreds of other Aussies and Kiwis.

Three local volcanoes exploded (thousands of years ago) covering the area in a thick layer of ash and mud. As ancient civilisations arrived in the area they quickly realised houses could be carved into the soft rock. Soon whole villages were carved into the local landscape - and some went even further. Complete underground cities have been recently discovered and are now open for tourists to wander through.

Since leaving Istanbul the people of western Turkey had been more hospitable and friendly than we could have imagined. Every kilometre someone shouted; 'Chai! Chai!' (Tea! Tea!)

We would turn around to see people grinning madly and waving teapots dangerously through the air. But after the first few cups of the day we would reach capacity and have to graciously decline the many offers that continued to fly our way.

After our visit to Cappadocia we continued east and quickly noticed a change in the social landscape. The number of donkeys on the road increased as the number of tourists decreased. Suddenly we were the centre of attention. During the 1990s terrorist acts carried out by Kurdish activists demanding a separate homeland ensured that the number of foreign visitors to the east of Turkey dropped through the floor.

As we passed through villages hoards of young shepherd boys would leave their flock and run to the road to greet us. Most of the time they were happy to run alongside us - but as we moved further east they became much wilder - throwing stones and trying to rip equipment from the bikes. Soon we were getting water bottles at the ready, to defend ourselves, as soon as we spotted a village in the distance.

After a particularly challenging day fending off shepard boys we met a farmer who not only let us camp on a field of soft green grass, but also brought us a freshly cut sunflower head overflowing with seeds.

We were within two days of the border with Iran when we had our first major breakdown. Kevin's saddle snapped off on a flat road in the middle of nowhere. It was sixty-five kilometres to the next town so he had no choice but to stand up and keep going.

We finally made it to dusty border town of Dogubeyazit just as the last of the light faded from the sky. To make matters worse a short-lived but intense mid afternoon thunderstorm had completely soaked us - and exposed some of our panniers as less waterproof than they had been at the beginning of the journey.

A half hour climb lead us to our campsite at 2000m. Exhausted but happy we sank to the ground and downed a last beer before entering the strict Muslim world. The Islamic Republic of Iran lay just ahead of us. With words of warning from the Department of Foreign Affairs floating around our heads, we fell asleep wondering quite what the next few weeks would bring.