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Conquering the Tarsus Mountains – Pozanti to Nigde (92/14,653ks 1035 meters)

(written by Dave)

We had a pretty uncomfortable sleep last night in the old Arikan Otel.  Our room was facing the highway and it seemed like the trucks were zooming by all night.  We set the alarm for 5:45 in an effort to get on the road early; meaning brekkie was a big bowl of oatmeal in our room. It worked as we had we were pedaling by 7:15 – before hotel staff even thought about cooking anything.  (we negotiated a lower rate not including their brekkie)

We started out riding up a river valley under clear blue skies – not a cloud in sight.  The gradient was easy – not flat but not steep enough to push us into granny gear.  We had some traffic, including some big trucks that for some reason did not want to take the motorway, but we had a pretty decent shoulder most of the way so it was no issue.  Early on I spotted some strange looking sheep like animals drinking from the river.  They were a long ways off so the photo below is not brilliant but I’m pretty sure that they were Boar Ibex – which I didn’t even know existed until looking up animals of Turkey on the net and matching my photos.

The views were great along the way as we made our way through canyons surrounded by rock walls with the river beside us.  Just off in the distance on either side we could see snow-capped mountains – would have loved to have a really good camera today.  The photos turned out ok but there is only so much you can do with the light in a point and shoot.  We know some folks who rode this same route in January 2011 in a snow storm.  Too bad that they missed the views, I can’t imagine riding out there in such conditions – crazy.

We had about 38k or so of gradual uphill when we hit the turn-off to head toward Nigde.  We knew from our maps that there was a pass soon after the turn-off.  By then the terrain had gone from rocky mountains to rather barren hillsides, with nothing much around us.  We could see the road climb a bit but by then we were already at about 1300m and according to our map the highest elevation was 1600m.  We had really climbed most of the pass elevation already coming up the main road so the actual pass was really nothing – really just an addition 5k or so to get us up to the summit sign and the 1600m mark.

We had a bit of a dip and then a small climb to another pass at 1490m and once we came over that pass we could see the big valley out below us.  We had a wonderful decent down for at least 10ks, turns out that we are now riding in the Alaca Plateau.  I can report that it is a lot of nothing as far as you can see.  Reminded us the trip we took across Highway 50 in Nevada – distant mountains and massive open valleys.  Though there was one nice mud brick village as we started the ride off the pass – that’s something we never saw in Nevada.

With the early start and surprisingly easy finish to the Tarsus Mountains we reached 60k by noon and 70k by the time we stopped for lunch a servo near the junction of our road and the new motorway that they are building.  It was in the middle of nothing much else and run by two rather entertaining fellows.  One was in servo uniform and appeared to be doing most of the work.  The other was younger but referred to by the older one as the patron – we think.  We ate our sandwiches sitting on their porch and chatted.  They had no customers until the very end and it was fun them asking us questions we could not understand, us doing the same and no one really getting any more information.  All good natured and worth the stop.

Nancy was feeling the last few days after lunch but we still made it to Nigde by 1:30.  Finding a hotel was not too difficult.  We ended up at the Grand Hotel Nigde – I know, sounds fancy doesn’t it?  We are paying over budget but got them to come down a lot off their initial offer – we are getting better at this bargaining stuff.

As we took all the bags off the bikes to go into the hotel I noticed the hoop part of my handlebar bag had broken and I needed to get it fixed.  Using google translate I was able to tell the hotel staff what I was looking for and they walked me around a few alleys to a bike shop – a local bike shop – not one that would have what I needed (and not one I would have found without the staff’s assistance).  I tried to talk to the shop owner but my problem was too hard to describe so I went back to the hotel and got the bike.  Upon return, the owner took it as a great challenge to fix the part – eventually crafting a new end out of a screw end that he removed the head from, then took to another shop to get welded and then used a few more spare bits to then connect everything back together.  It’s not the prettiest repair but I think it will last and it is 100 times better than I could have done – I left my bench grinder and welding equipment at home for this trip.  When it came time to pay, he pulled two lire out of his pocket to show me the bill – that’s about 60 cents – I couldn’t believe it.  I was back at the hotel almost before Nancy finished her shower.

We headed out a little later for dinner and had some of the best doner kebabs that we’ve had in Turkey.  I was thinking that we would need to order a third one but we were both stuffed by the time we finished.  We then wandered town a bit, finding a new electric emersion heater – our 4th one of the trip – costing all of $2.50 (maybe we should buy more expensive ones. – serious, this is all we can find!).  We stumbled on a guy playing a traditional Turkish instrument (a baglama perhaps) and singing.  Stumbled may be a bit of a stretch as it was so loud that you could hear it for blocks.  We listened for a while and he was really good, almost hard rockish – the Jimmy Hendrix of Turkey perhaps.  We never could figure out what was going on – he had a whole bunch of empty chairs around him and not many people interested in listening.  We actually thought it might be some form of “get even” with a bad neighbor given the volume and lack of audience.  Our last stop was a nut shop where Julia “the nut seller” helped us get some nuts for our brekkie – she also informed us the rock star out on the street was there for a wedding and that indeed it was not some sort of prank.  Glad we cleared that up – but hope we can’t hear him from our room tonight – Saturday night in Nigde could be hopping.

Tomorrow we head to Cappadocia and the fairy chimneys, rock temples and cave houses.  It is still early season so we’ve been surprised to find a lot of hotels booked out.  We managed to find 3 or 4 that have rooms so we’ll get there and have a look about.  We plan to take a few days off there to have a look around and rest up after the last few days of hard riding.

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6 responses to “Conquering the Tarsus Mountains – Pozanti to Nigde (92/14,653ks 1035 meters)

  1. Beautiful mountain views for your riding. Loved the story about the bicycle repair. Wonder how long it would take for a custom repair requiring welding in Portland? Certianly not as fast (or inexpensive) as your experience.

    • In Portland, or most cities, you’d have to get in a car and drive to a welder’s shop. Here, everything is still small, local and walking distance. The bike shop owner spoke no English but he pointed at a chair in his shop for me to sit in when he went to get the welding done. I should point out that there were no other shop staff or customers. I can’t see being left alone in a bike shop in Portland or Sydney. All and all, a great experience. And best of all, the repair held today’s ride – so far so good.

      ________________________________

  2. I love the mountains, too. They look pretty 3D and I stole one…

  3. Wow, What a couple of days you’ve had! The scenery looks awesome – much nicer than Hwy 50 thru Nevada which you will NEVER get me to ride! I rode to Woodfords, CA today with perfect spring weather, and Pete is currently riding Ebbetts Pass (not open to cars yet -fun) Love the pic of Nancy celebrating the top of the pass…brings back lots of memories for me. Have a great day tomorrow!

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