Banu and Deniz were terrific hosts in Ankara. I arrived about three days earlier than I had originally told Banu, and she had no problem with that. Even after so many months on the road, I still have a very hard time estimating when I’ll arrive somewhere. In this case it had been so hot that I was completely unmotivated to make any detours. I just wanted to get somewhere where I could sit in the shade.
It actually worked out great to arrive in Ankara early because I was able to spend some weekend time with Banu and Deniz. On Saturday we were out for more than 10 hours to go climbing. It wasn’t really climbing as much as rappel practice for the group, but I did get up one really fun pitch. Banu, Deniz, Ateş, and Mert (Rock Lizards) are preparing and training for their first adventure race later this year.
The following day the Rock Lizards put a small group together for a short late afternoon ride in the extensive grounds of the ODTÜ (Orta Doğu Teknik Üniversitesi) campus where both Banu and Deniz work. It was another terrific group of friends with great light and nice temperatures in the setting sun.
My main reason for coming to Ankara was to meet Sage at the airport. She travelled from Anchorage via Boston with her Bike Friday to spend her summer vacation riding some mountains in eastern Turkey. East Turkey, however, is a long ways from Ankara so before she even put together her bike we got on the train. We took a sleeper to Erzurum, my first overland motorized transport since the bus ride to Miami last summer! However, I think we skipped a lot of good areas. As I’d like to see Çorum, Sivas, Tokat, Erzican, and Tunceli, I’ll have to come back and ride that stretch at some point.
But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. I was a good tourist in Ankara and visited some of the main attractions including the Kocatepe Mosque (with room for 45,000 worshippers, one of the biggest in Turkey), Ankara Kalesi (not as interesting, well-kept, or attractive as Antalya’s according to my biased opinion), Gençlik Park (a large park in the middle of the city), a museum or two, and Anıtkabir, Atatürk’s mausoleum. Anıtkabir was the first place in Turkey I visited 15 years ago that I also visited this year. It’s just as I remembered. Atatürk is still dead and has hardly budged since I last said hello.
The craziest thing this week, however, comes down to bicycle tourist connections. In my last blog I mentioned Anneke and Jan from Groningen. Coincidentally we had pedalled with the same cyclist, a fellow Coloradan, who I met cycling up Fremont Pass about 15 years ago. Anneke and Jan had met him on the road in Austria and stayed with him on their Colorado cycle trip.
A week or so later in Erzurum Sage and I met fellow cyclists, Céline and Philippe, who live in Chamonix. Philippe is actually from Chambéry and knows Frédéric and Juliet who I stayed with on a cycle trip in France 10 years ago. However, it gets better. Céline and Philippe talked about getting advice from their friends, Yvon and Delphine, who pedalled from Kashgar to Lhasa a few years ago. Who did Yvon and Delphine ride with on that trip? Sage, of course!