(written by Nancy)
We debated a bit last night about whether we would stay another day at Kizkalesi – the weather was nice, we had a good comfortable hotel room and we knew we had potentially some hard days ahead as we leave the coast and head inland. But after checking the weather reports for the next couple of towns it looked like we had a bit of a weather window before a weather system with a bit of rain settled into the area where we were headed. Given that we have a bit of climbing to do to get us to Cappadocia, including a ~1500m pass to get over, we decided we had better hit the road today to take advantage of the sun we had now.
After another good breakfast at the Hotel Hantur we said goodbye to our hosts and rolled out about 8:30. It was warm already and we had a bit of a headwind when we first left town. We continued along the D400, the same road we had been on for several days. It is the main road along the coast but traffic was very light.
We had a few rollers this morning but most of the day was relatively flat, which was a nice surprise. We were expecting a bit more climbing but it was nice to have some flat k’s, given the long day we had planned. And even better, the headwind died down and became mostly a light crosswind so we didn’t have to fight the wind all day. We passed several towns with massive apartment buildings set along the road and the coast. Amazing to see how big they are and how many there are – I can’t really figure out where all the people are that live in these huge buildings. It really doesn’t seem like there are anywhere near enough people to fill them. The only thing we can think is that perhaps many are holiday homes for people living in the large inland cities.
We seem to have moved away from strawberry fields back to oranges and other citrus again. We saw lots of small stands along the road with bags of oranges, grapefruit and lemons. The smell of orange is very strong in the air. We passed one stall with its own guard dog – he was tied up to a nearby truck and barked at us as we stopped to take a picture. It only took a few nice words though and soon he was wagging his tail at us – I felt sorry for him stuck out there with no company and only a 5 liter water jug cut in half with some water nearby. Hopefully the owner would show up soon – he won’t make many sales if he expects the dog to be the salesman!
Further on down the road we started to see stands with baskets, similar to the ones we often saw in SE Asia. We stopped at one to take some pictures. One of the women was busy working making a basket but the other one hopped down and quickly came over to show off the baskets. I think she understood right away that we could not buy one but she was happy to practice her English, telling us her name, the other woman’s name and the name of the young girl who shyly stood behind her (who she proudly told us was her daughter). We watched a bit as she stripped leaves off a branch taken from a nearby pile of shrub branches, expertly slicing off the end and putting it in the pile for the woman weaving the basket. We finally waved goodbye and continued onward.
Traffic got a bit heavier as we neared Mersin, the major port town for the area. There was a big shoulder but the local buses basically used it as their lane, weaving in and out to pick up people standing along the road. There doesn’t seem to be any designated bus stops people just stand alongside the road and flag down the bus they’d like. The buses tend to go slower as you get near or into towns, honking as they go along to make sure the folks standing along the road are paying attention. It gets pretty old after a bit, as you are forever weaving around the buses – either they are right behind you honking away, or they come around and pull right in front of you and stop, blocking your way and forcing you to ride out around them again.
As we got into Mersin we took a right turn and headed down to the waterfront. Dave had checked the maps before we left and knew that we could continue along the waterfront and avoid the main city center area. There was a nice waterfront park for a bit, though there were some pretty odd statues – dolphins, cows, a squirrel and an elephant, to name a few, with a few brightly coloured water features thrown in for good measure. Looks like they couldn’t quite decide what the “theme” for the park should be.
It was about 30k or so from Mersin to Tarsus and this was probably the worst traffic of the day. Mersin is a working port with lots of container ships coming and going and we were riding the main road going east so not surprisingly there was a lot of truck traffic. It was a dual lane divided highway most of the way though and we had a decent shoulder so we made pretty good time, stopping once at a servo for a quick juice break before getting into Tarsus about 1:30.
We didn’t have too much information about hotels here in Tarsus – our guidebook only listed two, one which was pretty expensive and the other one that it said was pretty bad. Hmm – it looked like there was supposed to be a tourist information center somewhere near the railroad station so we headed that direction trying to find it. We weren’t lucky enough to find the information centre but we stopped at the railroad station and Dave went in to see if he could get some help locating it. He came out a bit later with the name of another hotel that several people had told him about.
We made our way toward the hotel, following the hand-drawn map that Dave was given, and all of the sudden came upon a fast running river and a set of waterfalls called the Berdan River falls. There were several restaurants and a park area around the falls – a very picturesque spot so we stopped to get something for lunch before making our way to the hotel, which we could see not far away.
The hotel, called the Selale Hotel, is a bit odd, this big multi-story blue building in the middle of what is mostly a residential area and a fair way away from the city centre. It is a bit expensive compared to our usual digs but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of options in this town so we went ahead and took the room the offered. It is a very big room with the most ‘interesting’ carpet I have seen in a long time! You can’t look at it too closely without getting seasick, it is so busy with patterns.
After cleaning up we headed back out to take a look around and wandered down toward a little village area where we were met with two very enthusiastic little girls coming out of a small market who really wanted to chat but the only English they knew was ‘my name is [ ]’ and ‘how old are you, I am [ ]’. Very cute. We continued on and stopped to by some cookies at a patisserie where Dave asked the fellow where we could get a kebab. He pointed across the street and yelled excitedly to a fellow sitting on the other side to come get us and take us over to the kebab shop. So, that was dinner settled!
On the way back to the hotel we went by a large cemetery. Very interestingly place, much more like a large garden than what we are used to in the US or Australia. Most of the graves were elevated with a planting area right on top that was planted with various types of flowers – many rose bushes, iris, daisies, all kinds of colourful flowers. Small shrubs and trees were planted between the graves as well. Obviously a lot of care goes into keeping the plantings in good order.
Back to the hotel for an early night. Tomorrow we hope to be on the road early as we have some climbing in the ~75k or so it will take us to get to the next town of Pozanti. We are not sure what we will find in this town but hopefully we can find a place to stay. We bought some pasta so we can camp if we need to or if the accommodation options don’t look great. Hopefully the weather will hold for the next couple of days to get us over the mountains and into Goreme.