Tarsus to Karaman, the Roman ruin tour

Three days after her crash, I said goodbye to Ferda at the Tarsus bus station, and we waved with sad smiles as she started the 12 hour trip to Antalya.  It would end up taking me two weeks by bicycle.  Unencumbered by the group ride plans, I put together a great itinerary largely avoiding highways that were as big as the ones we took to get from Kayseri to Tarsus.  I started, however, with one flat highway day along the coast to get to the road that I wanted into the mountains.

Part of the flat section involved riding through the rather large and spread out provincial capital of Mersin, something I imagined would be a mess of traffic for 30km.  Well, that turned out to be completely wrong.  The road was closed to traffic NE of the port because of construction, but I was able to get through on a bike.  Then, after the port (heading SW), I cycled through the entire city along the coast on a boardwalk-type path for cyclists and pedestrians.  It was great, and at one point I even stumbled upon the colonnaded road of Soloi-Pompeiopolis!

DSC09413 by bryandkeith on flickr
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A group bicycle tour from Kayseri to Tarsus

In May Ferda and I decided to join an organized Turkish bicycle tour from Kayseri to Cyprus.  Of course I’ve bicycle toured a lot in Turkey, and I’ve been on group hiking and backpacking and climbing trips, but I had never been on a group bicycle ride in Turkey.  The route was entirely on paved roads.  We started by riding for a day and a half on the main highway from Kayseri to Araplı Geçidi (Araplı Pass).  That section didn’t really have anything to recommend it except that it’s fast.  A more interesting alternative (and longer and more hilly) would to be go through Develi and hook up with our route where it got good on the west side of Aladağlar.  Through there there is really one road, but the views are great, and there’s not much traffic.

DSC09327 by bryandkeith on flickr
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Yet another short loop SW of Antalya

The mountains to the west of Antalya are stunning, and they’re great for bicycle touring.  For years I cycled in the mountains west of Boulder so I can’t help comparing the two areas.  The mountains near Boulder seemed more conducive to day trips while here from Antalya overnight trips are better.  I guess there are a number of reasons:

  • Antalya is farther from the mountains than Boulder is.  The closest climb is the Altınyaka Road, ~20km from the city center while in Boulder the climbs start right out of the city center (Sunshine Canyon, e.g.).
  • The camping around Antalya is better.  There are fewer people in the mountains here than near Boulder, and there are far fewer private property maniacs, fences, “keep out” signs, and people with guns.
  • The climbs near Antalya are generally longer than those near Boulder.  Combined with the greater distance, one day loops are quite long.  For example, I ended this last four-day trip by crossing a 2080m pass.  From there it was essentially all downhill to the sea.  That’s a big descent!
  • The season for camping is longer in Antalya since winters aren’t as harsh as in Boulder.  Kurt and I managed to get up high and camp here even in a cold week in February.  The other cycle camping trips I’ve done in the mountains near Antalya have been in March, May (this trip), SeptemberOctober, and November, and the weather’s been super for both cycling and camping.

This latest trip was organized by Ömer, a friend who I met on one of our Geyiksivrisi scrambles.  Slowly I was able to ascertain that he knows more about the roads and bicycle routes near Antalya than anyone.  Also, he’s happy to share that information.  For years now he’s posted photos, route descriptions, and gps tracks on his own website where lots of people can download possible routes.  This is really important here in Turkey since it’s so hard to get maps.  Ömer pointed out that there’s not a culture here of sharing route information like there is in the US (usually via maps, of course).  Some folks even arrogantly or selfishly guard this information, saying you can’t go without a guide.  Anyway, Ömer is obviously not like that.

Ömer invited a dozen or so cyclists for this weekend trip.  It ended up being three of us, a good number.  Since I didn’t have to work Friday, I left in the early afternoon and rode the paved 1200m climb via Hisarçandır to Üçoluk where I met Ömer and Ahmet the following morning.  What I learned then is that Ömer thinks this route is one of the best weekend tours near Antalya.  I didn’t know that when I decided to go, but now I certainly agree with him.  It’s a stunning route, and doing it in May we had fun weather, beautiful flowers, and lots of green.

“Fun weather” meant clear mornings followed by cloudy afternoons as the heat and humidity built up down low.  For at least a few minutes of every day, we rode in incredibly thick, cool clouds which was very fun.  It rained the first day and last day but not much.  It was usually warm enough to ride in shorts and t-shirts and at night certainly wasn’t too cold for sleeping.

Ömer’s two-day itinerary was to circle the mountain in the center of this photo, Ovacık:

Our two-day tour circled Ovacık Mountain, the one in the center of this photo by bryandkeith on flickr

Within five minutes of leaving their car at Gül Mountain Hotel we were treated to views like this:
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The end of Spain: Andorra to Barcelona

Before coming to Spain the place I was most looking forward to visiting was Barcelona.  Everyone seems to rave about the city, sometimes referring to it as “a giant outdoor museum”.  Sadly, of the places we visited in Spain, I liked Barcelona least.  It was probably partly a case of having high expectations.  It didn’t help that the staff at the hotel where we stayed were not accommodating or welcoming.  To me the city felt a bit like a circus.  We came into Barcelona from the hill at Tibidabo with a large modern church and views of Barcelona obscured by amusement park rides.

DSC08636 by bryandkeith on flickr
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Cycling the Pyrenees in March

A little weather research indicates that March may be early for cycling in the Pyrenees.  It’s still ski season, and of course the famous Col du Tourmalet is almost guaranteed to be closed.  Kurt and I were hoping to at least get into the foothills of the Pyrenees on the warmer Spanish side and see what happens from there.  We had rainy and cold weather when we started the trip in Madrid.  However, the weather forecast after that continually showed sunny and surprisingly warm weather for March.

DSC08357 by bryandkeith on flickr
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