Wintry songs weren’t the only reason it felt like Christmas. Kurt arrived at the İzmir airport laden with gifts. Schwalbe tires from my parents, an ipod and chocolate from my sister, a Kindle from Cher, panniers from Krista, a helmet-mounted mirror from Father Christmas himself, a stove, fuel bottles, books. The list went on and on.
Kurt built his bicycle at the airport, and I put on my new tires and new kickstands for both Snežana and me. It was dark and pouring rain by the time we left the airport. We camped that night just a couple hundred meters from the arrivals terminal where it was surprisingly quiet and dry. Welcome to Turkey, Kurt!
The three of us pedaled together for about a week south from the airport to Bahçeyakası (near Mumcular, Bodrum). We stopped briefly in Torbalı where Can and his parents treated us to a couple great meals and a warm night inside. Can was kind enough to store Kurt’s bicycle bag, but in the end, I think, it was more trouble than it was worth as Kurt booked a hotel near the airport for his last night in the country. He could have simply left the bag there.
Next stop, still before the river and the woods, was Efes/Ephesus where we wandered around in the cold for 3-4 hours looking at old rocks. Efes had 200,000 inhabitants 2000 years ago. Most of the city has disappeared, but there are a couple theatres, the main street lined with shops and houses, the public toilet, and Efes’ highlight, the library façade. It is a rather impressive site. I saw more tourists in one place than I’ve seen all winter.
Over the Menderes River we went. On the map it looked like endless meanders. Indeed the English word, meander, comes from this Turkish river. On the ground, however, we didn’t see any meanders. We didn’t even see any ground. Much of the area between Injirliova and Koçarli was flooded. There were a few houses out there in the floodwaters — we ended up camping next to one of them — but mostly it was flooded orchards and other fields. Some people claimed this happens every year while others seemed to indicate they’ve had a wetter-than-usual winter.
The woods were a mysterious land filled with Dr. Seuss trees. We climbed a lot from the flooded lowlands through mountain villages and pine forests. People collected nuts from the pine trees and logged the lower branches off the trees, creating a huge Dr. Seuss forest. It was mostly quiet, green, a bit dark, wet with moss. There were lumpy rock outcrops, mist and low clouds. It all felt dream-like to me.
Up and down, up and down. We descended to the low green hills around Mumcular, an area of bucolic views and narrow, curvy, empty, paved roads — a cyclist’s dream.
A Serb and a Turk were our hosts in Bahçeyakası. Bojan took us to an olive oil factory in nearby Çömlekçi one day. These hills were covered with olive trees, and every third village seemed to have a small olive oil factory. It was interesting to see how the olives are separated from the leaves and dirt, crushed — pits too — into paste, run through a centrifuge to separate the oil from the detritus, and finally passed through a filter. It smelled great in there. Bojan and Fu’s ~15 olive trees produced 130 liters of olive oil this year, a very good year.
The morning that Kurt and I left Bahçeyakası, Snežana, Kurt, and I pedaled together to Mumcular to visit a bike shop and buy some groceries. Snežana stayed on a few more days with Bojan and Fu while Kurt and I headed off toward Antalya. The consequences of this parting are still not fully apparent…