Well, this might be the last of these “spring weekend” posts. After all, summer is coming, and I actually might just get on my bike and do a little touring. Seems like I did this last year as well — spend the wonderful spring weather in Antalya and then ride into the heat. Whoa, I’m getting way ahead, I haven’t left Antalya yet.
Thanks to Çocuk Bayramı this weekend was extra long. Tuesday was the holiday, and I ditched school on Monday. Instead of two one-day excursions, I took two two-day excursions.
The first excursion was another fun snow climb. Although I’ve climbed a couple mountains in Antalya (Alabelen, Tunç), Kızlar Sivrisi seemed more like a real mountaineering experience complete with a long drive, below-freezing night at camp, a 4am start, a rocky crux section, and a short fantastic summit ridge. At 3070m it’s the highest summit in western Turkey.
With Turkish class keeping me more than busy and a bit cooped up during the week, I’m starting to take advantage of the weekends to get out. Climbing and biking seems like a good combination though I haven’t combined the two in one day here like I did in Colorado.
My second attempt at Tunç was with Cemalettin, Ahmet, and Mehmet (a.k.a. Komutan, due to his military service). Ahmet and Mehmet are such ridiculously common names, it’s funny. I’ve met countless Ahmets and Mehmets in Turkey so that if I don’t remember a guy’s name, one of those is a reasonable guess. The Dick and Jane of Turkish are Ali and Ayşa, but I’m not sure if I’ve met a single Ali or Ayşa. However, the same thing goes for Dick and Jane in the US, doesn’t it?
During my previous attempt on Tunç we were thwarted by ice on the road so that we couldn’t even get to the trailhead. Also on this trip the driving part turned out to be the crux. On the 2000m auto descent back to Antalya, the brakes failed. The road is steep and curvy and has no guardrail. I was certainly scared. Cemalettin kept his cool and stopped the vehicle with the hand brake. However, that wasn’t before bouncing along on the rocky shoulder for a bit which caused a flat tire. I was impressed that Cemalettin had a spare tire (with air even!), but a working jack would have also come in handy. A generous couple stopped, we borrowed their jack, and we were rolling again (the brakes had cooled by then, and Cemalettin mostly used second gear for the rest of the descent to keep us from going too fast).
But wait, the climb! We started from the upper section of Fesliskan Yaylası and climbed the standard north face route on Tunç. There are other more interesting routes, but as I’m learning, Ahmet likes to repeat routes that he’s already done. Komutan had never used crampons or an ice axe before so the standard route was a good choice for him. Cemalettin gave him some lessons as we slowly ascended.
What funny names. I asked a number of people what this “sos” suffix means, but I never could get a straight answer. Even people who seemed to know something about the etymology of some of the names just made up an answer on the spot. They’re both very strange sounding words in Turkish, and “Sagalassos” in particular is even difficult for Turks to say and has two different spellings (with rather different pronunciation) in literature about Turkey’s archaeological sites.
The area around Antalya is packed with archaeological sites. Termessos and Sagalassos are both Pisidian cities, whatever that means. I don’t really know anything about the archaeology here so I think I can get away with just calling this stuff “Roman”. The collection of Roman statues and such at the main museum in Antalya (simply called Antalya Müzesi) is impressive.
I went to Termessos with Gül. We took a Kortuteli-bound dolmuş to the turnoff from the main road and then an expensive taxi steeply up the last 10km to the site. The setting of the ancient city is impressive. We spent quite a few hours walking around the large site. One could think of it as a National Park in the nature sense (it is in fact a National Park…) with the added bonus of a bunch of old buildings and walls.
Given the amount of time I’ve spent in Antalya (about 6 months now), I’ve done surprisingly little exploring nearby. I’ve certainly travelled and visited more places in NE Turkey than I have in Antalya İl (an İl is somewhat analogous to a US state; Antalya İl is about the size of New Jersey (or Belize); Turkey has 81 İls, and they’re all named after their capital city).
A couple weekends ago, however, I did get out of the city. On Saturday I went with two friends and climbed on some of the quickly melting snow. We summited Alabelen. Alabelen is certainly not the biggest or most prominent mountain that you can see from Antalya. As a matter of fact, from most of the city you can’t see Alabelen at all because the foreground peaks (mostly Geyiksivrisi) block the view. Tunç is the big, snow-covered peak that provides such a beautiful, snow-covered backdrop to the city in the winter months.
Here’s Tunç from the summit of Alabelen:
Terry, Cemalettin, and I set off from Antalya around 6:30am to climb Tunç. We drove up to Feslikan Yaylası, a typical Turkish yayla in that no one’s there in the winter. We had planned to drive passed the yayla to get close to the base of Tunç. However, ice on the road stopped our vehicle progress. We parked and proceeded on foot. The weather was rather cold and windy and given how far we still were from Tunç, we made the decision to climb Alabelen instead. Or rather, I should say that Terry and Cemalettin made the decision. It was my first time there, and I didn’t know how long or far anything was.
I don’t really have any travel stories. Instead I have some small world stories.
I’ve spent a bunch of time wandering around Antalya looking for a place to stay for a month or so. One day I met Charley, a British cyclist, who’s been on the road 2-3 years now. We got on the topic of slow cycle tourists, and he couldn’t help but mention Laurens who “spent nine months cycling through Turkey.” Hmmm, what am I supposed to think about that? I spent nine months in Turkey last year, and now I’m planning a little four-month tour for later this year…
Charley had spent some time with Laurens in Iran, and I was excited to hear some news about Laurens who I met in Antalya last year. To make the small world story even better, the next day I was catching up on Will’s blog, a cyclist who I met in Erzurum last summer. He’s met up with Laurens, and they’re part of a small group that will be cycling the Pamirs together shortly. It’s a small, small world!
On my second Friday night in Antalya I went to an expats trivia night at the Shaker Pub in Kaleiçi. It was my first time at one of these expat functions even though I first heard of them over a year ago. There are heaps of expats living in Antalya, but this is an English-language group so it’s perhaps not surprising that I met more people from the US that night than I did in four months in Antalya last year. A majority were English teachers.
Of course I sought out the cyclists as well. One was Rose who cycled from Britain to Antalya with her partner, Jim. Later I checked out their website and was surprised to see that they had cycled with Rhiannon, another cyclist who I met in Antalya last year. A little more blog research, and I learned:
- Rhiannon and Jim are siblings.
- They liked Montenegro’s Bokokotorski zaliv (Bay of Kotor), something I described as “one of the most spectacular flat bicycle rides I’ve ever done”.
- In The Hague they stayed with Dick and Els, two Dutch cyclists who I hosted at my house in Boulder many years ago.
What a small world (again), and then I remembered that Rhiannon had asked me about cycle route advice through the Balkans. I found that e-mail and read that the strongest piece of advice I had was not to miss Bay of Kotor. Maybe they listened?!