(written by Nancy)
We rolled out of bed at 5:30am this morning, determined to get an early start on our long day. It wasn’t too hard to get up, as we were already awakened at 4:30 by the call to prayers. Not sure why but they seem to have moved the schedule back by an hour as the first one used to go off at 5:30. It seems a bit extreme to start calling at 4:30 when it is still pitch black outside…
We ate some of our newly-acquired oatmeal for breakfast with a fresh banana thrown in for good measure. These are not quick-cook oats though – the instructions call for cooking them for 5 minutes. Well, that’s not really possible so we did the next best thing and let them sit in the hot water for a few minutes more than usual. Makes for a bit of a chewy bowl of oatmeal but I don’t think it will kill us.
Our friend from the restaurant across the road drove up on his motorcycle around 6:30 as we were packing up the bikes. He really wanted us to come have breakfast with him or a cup of tea or coffee but we knew that would be no less than 30 minutes, probably more, so we had to give our apologies and give him one last thank you and a handshake before we headed out.
The first 80ks of today’s ride were pretty good. We had nice pavement again, smooth and with a wide shoulder for most of the time. Traffic was not too heavy and gave us lots of room when the road narrowed for construction. The first 30k or so was right along Tuz Golu (Salt Lake). Not too far into the ride Dave stopped to take a picture of the lake and discovered that the camera was dead – looks like it inadvertently got left on and drained the battery. So, no pictures from the ride today, other than one he took with the iphone and the photos he snapped when we the camera charged up a little during our showers.
According to the weather reports it looked like we might have to face some rain today and the sky was pretty dark all around us when we left our hotel. But we lucked out – we pulled into a petrol station/rest area at about 45k just as it started to rain. We sat under some umbrellas to wait for the rain to pass, which it did by the time we had a couple of cups of tea. This is twice in the last three days that we’ve pulled this trick – the rain gods must be on our side so far.
We also ran into our second set of touring cyclists today just before our tea break. Janin and Dominik are from Switzerland and are two months into their grand cycle adventure to Singapore. Of course they were going the opposite direction to us but we pulled over and ran across the highway to have a chat with them. You can follow their journey at www.trittumtrit.com. It is in German but there is a handy Google translate button so you can get the gist of their entries in English too.
The first 90k were all along highway D750 and we reached the turnoff to get us to Haymana before noon. While our paper maps did not show the roads clearly, google maps showed some small roads that we could take that would cut off at least 20k from the signposted 66k when we hit the turnoff. Well, you can guess what price you pay for those kinds of cutoffs… up and down and up and down and up and down….
We had had the wind at our back for much of the morning’s ride but as we turned west and rode through cultivated fields we paid for that with a headwind. We went the small little village of Calis and stopped to check with some locals that we were on the right track. Yes, they said, only 24k to Haymana. From there we started to climb up through the rolling hills. We had thought there might be some climbing but this was a bit more than we expected – literally like a roller coaster but the downhills were never very long and any speed you gained going down immediately disappeared as you hit the next incline. At one point I looked at my bike computer and we were going 7kmh – gosh, this remaining 24k is going to take us at least another 3 hours at this pace.
We went by a few farmers out in the fields who looked at us strangely – I am sure they wondered where the heck we were going, and perhaps what planet we might be from. We finally saw a “Haymana 10k” sign and figured we could make that and wouldn’t be camping in a field somewhere. Two more climbs and we finally could see the town down a little hill. We stopped at a petrol station at the edge of town to get something to drink and check directions – just down a bit further, the fellow said, turn left and go another kilometer into town.
We followed the directions and rolled into the little village (pop 9,100) of Haymana, known for its thermal resorts. We had the names of a couple of hotels, but before we could make much progress we were hailed over to have some tea with a group of fellows sitting on little stools under umbrellas shading them from the sun.
We ended up at the Saracoglu Termal Hotel, a funny place full of Turkish folks on holiday. I am sure it was once a very grand place (perhaps back in the 60s) but it is now a little worse for wear. But, everyone is very friendly and we seem to have been assigned our own little helper, who keeps an eye on us to make sure we have everything we need. Her English is minimal but she tries very hard.
The price includes dinner and breakfast. Dinner was decent, though we were a bit full from having snuck out to get a lamahcun before dinner. We didn’t really have enough to eat today on the ride so were both very hungry by the time we got here and should have probably eaten before we went hotel searching. We were only trying to get a small snack but the folks at the restaurant were insistent on giving us extra food so of course we had to eat it all.
We were going to try to go down to the baths tonight but it looks like we are too late as it closes at 8p. Actually, I think at this point we would probably fall asleep and drown, given how tired and full we are now! It would seem that the hotel allows folks to wander the halls in the bath robes provided for the baths – As everyone baths clothed at some level this is not too bad. But both of us will have to admit having a “too much information” moment when a passing bathrobe opened a bit in the breeze.
Tomorrow is a short day – only 40k into the larger town of Polatli – so we should be able to have a sleep-in, assuming we aren’t woken up early by hordes of Turkish folks heading for the baths. We are clearly the only foreigners here as everyone knows that we are from Australia and we’ve both overheard Turkish guests whisper to each other “blah blah blah Australia blah blah blah” – or at least that’s what it sounds like.