I said goodbye to Ferda in Ayrancı and knew that I had a climb ahead of me. I was leaving the Konya Plains (Karaman, in this case, I suppose) and heading into the Bolkar Mountains. The first 40km climbed a barely noticeable 500m, but the scenery did start to change.
The climbing started in earnest in the village of Kesir: 1200m over the next 25km. That’s still a very reasonable grade, but it’s definitely, well, noticeable. I was heading into sheep country. Here they are on the road:
Here’s one with a broken ankle in the trunk of a car:
And here’s Adem the shepherd, treating me to a filling lunch in his trailer:
Yufka with potatoes, köfte, and yogurt; çay with sıkma — Adem made sure I didn’t go hungry. I had just climbed 700m from Kesir, was hungry and ready for a break. It was also great to get out of the cold wind.
After lunch, as I climbed higher, the scenery was better but certainly not spectacular.
Another 400m of climbing passed Adem brought me to this structure:
just as the rain was starting. Inside the shelter I put my tent up with the fly which ended up being clever as the roof leaked quite a lot. However, there was a fairly dry spot to cook dinner so it ended up being a comfortable camp.
In the morning I came to the nondescript pass and practiced my very poor selfie skills.
I must say at this point I was disappointed with the mountain scenery. It wasn’t dissimilar to what I saw three years ago between Toros and Taşkale which shouldn’t be so surprising because those passes are only about 20km apart.
It was a short descent to an uninspiring high plateau:
Little did I know what was coming — Cehennem Deresi Milli Parkı (Hell Creek National Park) — wow! Suddenly the plateau was interrupted by this stunning valley (canyon? gorge?):
I spent the next few hours riding up and down on rough roads along the ridge to the right in that photo with frequent views across to the mountains in the center and left of that photo and less frequent views down into the canyon itself.
I was definitely no longer disappointed with the scenery. The plunge from the rim to the river was from 2400m to 700m. Wow, that’s a canyon! Here I am fairly near the top:
I was still in sheep country. Check out the dramatic setting for this shepherd camp:
I was a little confused about the national park status. Ahmet, the guard at Cocak Kapısı, explained that there wasn’t hunting or grazing allowed in the national park. What about this camp that’s certainly in the canyon (many camps were up on the rim, likely just outside the border of the park)? And the next day I saw cows in the canyon as well, oh, and logging, too!
I dropped about 500m that afternoon and found a stunning camp near Topaşır.
Here’s the camp in the afternoon light:
and again in the morning light:
Seriously? I had never even heard of this place before.
It was a long descent the following day to the river at Pınarlıbük.
I ate lunch and took a quick dip in the very cold water before starting the easier than expected climb out the other side. For the third night in a row I was pleased to get my tent up before it really started to rain.
The following day I limped into Çamlıyayla (via Sebil (the photo below — nice setting)) with an abscessed molar, quite scared about exhausting my supply of pain drugs before getting to the hospital.
Whew, always an adventure.
A warning: if you do this route, be careful with water. It’s scarce.
Wow! Wonderful scenery!
While writing to your parents this afternoon, I decided to access your blog and, as usual, was rewarded with your always-interesting verbal and pictorial descriptions of your latest biking adventures; e.g., your visit with Adem while he hosted you for lunch – in contrast, and being less adventurous, I don’t recall ever dining with a stranger; if only experiences like that were widely repeated around the world. You’ve clearly avoided our virus-induced, cloistered existence! All good wishes to you and Ferda. Ron Cohan