Eighteen months ago my partner and I made a decision. We’d give ourselves one more year working and saving in London before loading up our bikes and cycling around the world. Excitement, madness, months of planning and getting used to life in ‘technical gear’ ensued. And it was with a generous stash of lycra, a large dollop of vaseline and two very big smiles we set off in June 2014.
Our first days peddle took us North for our ferry to Holland. The journey across Europe and getting used to life on a budget of $15 per person per day, took some adjusting. Though cycling is at the heart of our relationship and hitting the saddle each morning not knowing what lies ahead, is undoubtedly what keeps us moving.
It was a rainy first couple of months and with me having Coeliac Disease it means most meals have to be prepared and/or cooked. Rain, wild camping and using a methanol stove can be a killer combination that, on occasion, pushes one to the limit. But this was, and is, our choice. We love it for all the sparkly and soggy bits in equal measure. So eight months on we’re feeling blessed with each turn of our pedals.
Cycling touring is a popular past time and each rider approaches it in their own way. We chose to keep off the beaten track. Our route has taken in some incredible and isolated mountain ranges from the Bavarian Alps in Germany to the Carpathians in Romania and the Staraplanina Range in Bulgaria. But we were delivered a warm buttery slice of heaven when our wheels rolled into the Tauras Mountains in Central Turkey.
In the edited words of Forest Gump ‘The Taurus Mountains are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get’. Be it her crystal clear mountain lakes of Egridir and Beyşehir, the snow capped peaks and plains of her central range or the ever present troglodyte dwellings that pot the mountainsides from the moment you’re in her company.
By the time we arrived at the Western edge of the range it was late October and winters grasp was starting to tighten. Our ascents were taking us beyond 2000m and we often found ourselves cycling through icy mist clouds on peak passes. Using every layer of clothing to stay warm was sometimes not enough and on one such pass I suffered a bout of hyperthermic shock. We stopped and as my vision began to fade I hit the foetal position on the side of the road, my limbs feeling empty and drained. No sooner had my head met the gravel, my partners voice bellowed me back to reality. A couple of Marathon bars and some vigorous body warming got us back on track. You never know what mother nature has in-store. But it’s moments like this, when you have to push on in the face of adversity, that you feel most truly, and literally, alive.
The end of the Taurus range meets the Unesco Heritage plains of Cappadocia. It’s very hard to express the magic, energy and sheer beauty of this region. The earth is made from solidified volcanic ash deposited thousands of years ago. And in line with the rest of central Turkey, this soft rock has been carved out by both nature and humans to form the most fantastical structures and dwellings. From the underground city of Derinkuyu, that at it’s peak held 20,000 inhabitants in a series of chambers up to 100metres underground, to the Red Valley scattered with churches and temples her entire length to the mesmerizing fairy chimneys and overground cities carved into the faces and roots of mountains.
Our journey from the start was a brave decision. To step away from everyday lives and open ourselves up to the world in all its colour. Getting a bashing from the Taurus giants left me questioning the sanity of the trip but being humbled by their majesty and power gave me the strength to go on. We were left speechless by the resourcefulness of the human species in harnessing nature as their home in the foundations of Cappadocia. In hindsight, my hypothermic episode paled in comparison to the vastness of what we as a people have, and can achieve. As we pedal on these memories will continue to inspire us to be brave, bold and perhaps just the right amount of crazy.
Anything is possible and we must strive to find our limits in order to better understand who we are. For us this is built around our tent, two bikes, a tight budget and a heart bound for exploration, all propelled by the everyday wonder of nature and the adaptability of the human race.
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