Çay to Ankara, the Central Anatolian Plateau

Çay to Ankara.  What a difference from the Antalya to Çay week.  It wasn’t Illinois-flat or even Kansas-flat, but after Çay I definitely left the mountains.  I tried to find the highest mountains out there on the rolling Anatolian Plateau by going over Arayit Dağı and Elma Dağ, but they were the exception and certainly not spectacular.

Any cyclist will tell you it’s a bit crazy to cross the central Anatolian Plateau in summer (it’s not my fault really; blame Antalya).  It’s hot, and there’s no shade.  Really, there are no trees out there.  It’s incredible.

DSCN9823 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9860 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9873 by bryandkeith on flickr

Hot, wicked hot.  35, 36, 37°C.  Mercifully it cooled off at night, but the nights were disappointingly short.  How I wished for more cool darkness when I was at camp.  The sun beats down for over 15 hours/day at this time of year.  One day I found myself sweating at camp at 6:30 in the morning and still sweating at my next camp at 8:30 that evening, 14 hours later!

In the middle of one day I made my own shade and actually fell asleep at this uncomfortable spot.

The only shade around by bryandkeith on flickr

Anneke and Jan from Groningen didn’t seem deterred, however.   They were cheerfully pedalling their way across Anatolia.  I was shocked to hear they left Budapest just five weeks ago and have been on the road 60-70 km/day.  That’s not a particularly fast pace for bicycle touring, but it’s taken me eight times as long to come from Serbia as it took them.

DSCN9816 by bryandkeith on flickr

I have now officially been passed by cyclists who left Europe a year after I did.  Hopping from shade to shade and trying to avoid the heat, I guess I’ve been going slowly, very slowly.

DSCN9837 by bryandkeith on flickr

There were a few notable things about this part of Turkey.  One, they grow a lot of onions.  In village after village I’d see and smell piles of rotting onions.  This was last year’s crop, planted in the spring, harvested in the fall, packed in bags ready for market.  But alas, there was no market.  The truckers who used to drive the onions to Syria got shot at and stopped going, clearly hurting Turkey’s onion farmers and also Syria’s onion consumers.  The latter, I imagine, have bigger problems to worry about.

DSCN9844 by bryandkeith on flickr

Two, they grow a lot of sugar beets (pancar).  Working the sugar beet fields in the brutal sun looks like horrible work, so hard in fact that the locals go to school instead, use birth control, and get better jobs.  The workers come from Urfa (Şanlıurfa) where couples apparently still have half a dozen kids (or more?) and haul their families around Turkey, doing seasonal agricultural work and living in makeshift camps.  Uff, hard life.

It was somewhat interesting to see the temporary camps set up to next to half-abandoned villages whose previous inhabitants had moved away to the bigger cities.  For a couple days I was calling it the abandoned-sugar-beet-village tour.

Third, finally, and perhaps a bit more uplifting, they grow a lot of poppies.  A significant portion of the world’s morphine originates from this part of Turkey.  Indeed the province (İl) is called Afyon which means opium in Turkish!  I’m not sure if they next two photos are related or not.

DSCN9808 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9845 by bryandkeith on flickr

I also saw a sheep butchered on the sidewalk, a sheep sheared in a barn, and am still being treated to wonderful hospitality and tasty meals.  Did I mention the intense rose farming around Eğidir in my last post?  Well, I’m away from those fields, but the rose gardens in Turkey are terrific.

Butchering a sheep on this sidewalk by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9861 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9848 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9876 by bryandkeith on flickr

DSCN9800 by bryandkeith on flickr

Another beautiful rose garden by bryandkeith on flickr

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6 Responses to Çay to Ankara, the Central Anatolian Plateau

  1. Kevin says:

    Such vast open country — not how I think about Turkey. I especially like the tortoise photo!

  2. Elise Davis says:

    I have to tell you that Kevin read this post laughing and groaning and making comments and commenting on your cleverness (the tortoise photo fit in beautifully) and making even more groans and sighs and laughter. I was only partially amused because we were supposed to be getting the kids ready to go to the local parade. I went on my bike today and after about a mile I found myself really wondering how the heck you are getting across that landscape!

  3. armin says:

    hi, in your pictures I do not see streets for cars (highways or something like this), but only secondary roads, only roads that are not used by cars, and I want to ask you if your intention is to travel only on this kind of roads? If this is posible…

    • Bryan Keith says:

      Hi Armin,

      Well, I’m not only taking small roads, and most of these little roads do have some traffic. However, I do prefer to take the small roads that go through the villages. I’m not sure that you can cross all of Turkey without getting on any highways, but you can certainly get close. Turkey is a fantastic country for bicycle touring because of it’s extensive network of secondary roads.

      Do you bicycle tour? In Romania? I also loved the bike touring there. Are you in Braşov?

      • armin says:

        Hi Keith, I like to travel with my bike, but untill now I didn’t get the chance to travel in a “big tour”, but only around my hometown, Brasov and here in Romania.
        And maybe because I like to travel, I enjoy reading your posts and to find out where you are heading to. 🙂

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