Muscat to Al-Ashkharah, an inland route

You can read on the internet lots of blogs from bicycle tourers who love the touring in Oman.  This isn’t going to be one of them 🙁  The weather is certainly perfect for riding in the winter, but the traffic is heavy.  Perhaps Jack and I started with unreasonably high expectations after reading the glowing accounts from fellow cyclists.  We found lots of new construction of buildings and highways and the associated noise, dust, and ugliness that comes along with it.  Sadly the sprawling, auto-centric development will not make the country a nicer place to live or visit even when the construction disturbances are over.

Another reason that Jack and I might have arrived in Oman with unreasonably high expectations for our tour is because the previous tour we did together — five years ago in southern Mexico — was one of the best five-week bicycle tours I’ve done.  I highly recommend the touring in southern Mexico.  Oman, however, well…

Jack and I met in Muscat at the house of a warmshowers host, Stuart, who does “ultra” bicycle racing, sort of like brevet but timed as a race.  It sounds crazy.  As I write this, he’s racing in the first ever of this type of event in the Middle East, a 1000-km five-day event in Oman.  Stuart will cover more distance this week than Jack and I did during our entire month in Oman!

Jack and Stuart, our warmshowers host in Azaiba, Muscat by bryandkeith on flickr

One of the tourist highlights in Oman is to visit the Wahiba Sands (aka Ash-Sharqiyah), a huge area (70km x 150km!!!) of sand dunes 150km SSE of Muscat.  Oman’s the size of Germany with a population of less than 3 million so I (wrongly) wasn’t worried about traffic anywhere in the country when planning our route.  Jack and I started in Muscat and took the main inland route towards Wahiba Sands.  Once we finally got away from the nasty traffic (~200 km south of Muscat?), it was wind that drained our energy and spirits for the next week.  The wind got so bad that we holed up in a hotel in Al-Ashkharah for a couple nights.  I think we needed a rest — both mental and physical — by that time anyway.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad, and I’ll focus on the positive, starting with spending the night in the Wahiba Sands for my birthday.  As biking in soft sand is nearly impossible, we hired Ali and his 4×4 to drop us off in the dunes and come back in the morning to retrieve us.  He said he knew a good spot, and indeed he did.  In spite of a bit of wind (and blowing sand), we were very happy with this excursion.
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Tavuk mangal at Etli Döner

The first time I climbed the trad routes at Hurma (Hurma Kayaları), I was surprised to find bolts on Etli Döner.  There are over 1000 bolted routes nearby at Geyikbayırı.  Why would anyone want/need to bolt some of the few trad routes in Antalya?  I asked the trad climbing guidebook author, Yılmaz, about this after seeing the bolts.  I was certainly surprised that he knew nothing about the bolting there.  He was shocked and said bolting definitely wasn’t allowed in that area.  He immediately sent someone up to cut the bolts (the two-bolt anchor halfway up the route was left in place for ease of descent).  Of course, it’s important to do this sooner rather than later to send a message to the bolter that this won’t be tolerated.  As far as I’ve heard, no one knows who did the bolting.

Ferda and I went up there again and climbed a couple routes on the same face with Fahri and Kevser.  It’s a fun place to spend the day.  Here’s Ferda making her way up to the first belay station:

DSCN0971 by bryandkeith on flickr

Look, you really can use trad gear in Antalya:
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Likya Yolu segment: Kaleüçağız to İnişdibi

My favorite place to backpack in Turkey is the Kaçkar Mountains.  I’ve backpacked there three times, and there are many other routes I’d like to do.   I’ve also backpacked in Aladağlar a couple times, and in Sarıkamış, Yenice (Karabük), and Köroğlu Dağları in Bolu.  Küre Dağları in Kastamonu are high on my list.  I crossed them by bicycle once but haven’t backpacked there yet.  However, the most popular place to backpack in Turkey is probably the Likya Yolu right here in Antalya.

The Likya Yolu (Lycian Way) is a marked 500km trail from Antalya to Fethiye.  Because there are lots of road access points, it’s possible to do most (all?) of the route as day trips if you’re willing to organize a lot of transportation.  The Antalya hiking groups often do just that.  They hire a dolmuş with a driver so getting the vehicle from the start to the finish point is no problem.  I did one of these hikes when I was first in Antalya in April 2012 from Adrasan to Karaöz.

This short stretch from Kaleüçağız to İnişdibi is, somewhat amazingly, only the second section of the Likya Yolu that I’ve walked.  It’s a good section, taking in the archaeological sites of Theimiussa and Simena.  I had been to Kaleüçağız once before with Ferda when we did a little seakayaking so I knew what a beautiful spot it is.

The original plan for this day had been to walk from Kapaklı to Kaleüçağız, but it was raining hard in Kapaklı so we decided to drive on and see if the weather was any better in Kaleüçağız.  It wasn’t.  We waited for about an hour for the rain to let up and ended up having pretty good weather the rest of the day.  However, because of the late start, we cut the hike a bit short by coming out at İnişdibi instead of Kapaklı.  That sort of flexibility is quite easy to arrange when you have a driver and ubiquitous cell phone coverage.

Mediterranean views, Likya tombs, easy walking — a good outing.

DSCN7980_1 by bryandkeith on flickr
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Delikli Dağı, arches near Antalya?

I’ve sort of been on a roll about these easy peak-bagging hikes near Antalya.  This one’s Delikli Dağı, a hike I did over three years ago.  The group leader was Metin, the same Metin who led us up Güllük Dağı recently.  Delikli Dağı means Holey Mountain or Mountain with Holes, named after the large holes in the mountain that are supposedly visible from Antalya.  Our destination, in fact, wasn’t the summit at all, but a couple of these holes.  Perhaps we’d call then arches in Utah or Colorado.

I’ve never been able to spot those holes from Antalya.

DSCN7623 by bryandkeith on flickr

The access to Delikli Dağı is from Sarı Çınar, the peak above Hisarçandır with the large antenna at the top.  We drove almost all the way to the summit, parked, and actually started our walk to Delikli Dağı with a 400m descent!  I think it wasn’t more than three hours to the arches.

I remember at the time that I had been getting tired of the large, regimented group excursions that are common in Turkey.  It’s quite different from what we’d expect in the US.  I’ve commented on this before, particularly about how I’ve caused problems, I’d guess you’d say, for some leaders.  Metin’s more casual than most, and my notes from this day say this “was one of the best group excursions from Antalya” that I’ve done.

Here we’re descending away from the antenna:
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To the summit of Güllük Dağı, Termessos

Termessos is one of my favorite ruined cities in Turkey.  It has a beautiful setting in the mountains above Antalya.  I’ve been at least five times — only once by bicycle — and have blogged about it before.  This was the first time, however, I climbed Güllük Dağı.  That’s the steep mountain that you can’t help looking at when you’re sitting in the theater.  Here it is behind me in a photo taken almost five years ago:

DSCN5003 by bryandkeith on flickr

This is the view we got of the mountain as we were walking up to the summit a couple weeks ago:
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