Pamukkale-Konya: Steep Mountains and Salt Lakes

The end of a tumultuous week in Turkey and around the world finds me in Goreme with a day off from cycling. I am about halfway through Turkey, having travelled about 1200km so far since I arrived in Cesme.

The mountains and lakes of Isparta province have given way to the long dusty trails of the central plain, which made for very monotonous riding on highways lined with what seems like sticky tar, finally rewarded by the descent to the peaks and stone caves of Cappadoccia.

I cycled through Nice several months ago, and have great memories of arriving on the promenade as the sun set after a glorious day descending from the end of the Alps. Completely devastated to see such horrific scenes and loss of life in such a symbol of the city, the site for so many memories like that. The next day the coup in Turkey was launched, and I found myself watching footage of jet attacks on parliament and civilians storming tanks with my Turkish hosts in Konya. I was far away from the hotspots of Istanbul and Ankara, but yikes what a week.

The few days before all of this, since I left Pamukkale, were spent cycling some of the best and most peaceful roads so far. I went up to about 1900 metres in Isparta province and went round countless lakes and salt flats accompanied by goats and cows and without a car in sight. The few days since the coup attempt have been pretty crazy, with wild street celebrations in each of the towns and cities I have stayed in.

That deserves it’s own brief post / video so just a short homage to amazing mountains and epic scenery this time round!

Check out the route map for an overview of where I have been if you would like.

Since Pamukkale I wild camped each night until I stayed in a hostel in Konya. First stop was a wonderful petrol station near Bozkurt with bathroom, wifi, cooking/dining area, free tea and coffee, and mega friendly staff. It’s so hot that the tent is not at all needed so an opportunity to use the bivvy that I have been lugging around since the UK.

After that I left the main highway and followed a very barren road leading to a small mountain pass at about 1400 metres.

Over the pass and I was in a small valley surrounding the Akgöl salt flats. Must have passed three goat herds in quick succession, weaving through and watching out for the shepherds dogs. After a while I picked up a tail on a mountain bike. Literally a pair of 10 year olds hanging out on a motorbike. They guided me to the only garage in the valley to get a coke. I then saw what must have been a 12 year old driving a saloon car with his parents in the back.

I went back up again to get over the next pass with Lake Burdur waiting for me on the other side.

Eventually I reached the lake and followed it round to get to the small city of Burdur. I stopped just before at the lakeside picnic area, which was packed with families and friends having barbecues way into the night. Beautiful place off the tourist trail, with legions of public barbecues and covered wooden huts. Met a wonderful family who plied me with tea over a 2 hour google translate conversation, and then invited me for lunch the next day.

After Burdur came Egirdir, through the epic town of Isparta, dominated by a huge solitary mountain. Egirdir is the home of the Turkish commando units; I went past them during training exercises underneath this huge flag emblazoned on the side of the mountain.

After Egirdir, I took the road over rather than around the mountain to Konya and went up to 1900m, where I camped for the night, before starting the descent to Lake Beysehir. Alas I didn’t take any photos that do this route justice. It was a long continuous ridge on one side linking with the lower levels of a huge peak on the other to form a narrow pass, with a commanding view back through the valley to Burdur and over the top to Beysehir and beyond on the other side. At the top was another public barbecue area. Only downside was a cow invasion at about 8am into the gated area I was in, with thirsty beasts trawling my rubbish bag as I tried to finish cleaning my teeth and take photos and escape.

Lake Beysehir below, despite looking like the Med, is at about 1100m.

Rather than go straight to Konya I stopped off at Beysehir, another glorious small city replete with legions of public barbecues, small lakeside huts, and friendly families, and visited the famous wooden mosque, the Eşrefoğlu Camii, before sleeping next to the lake.

And then I went to Konya. Upon arrival I was invited for dinner of the local delicacy Etli Ekmek. I took a stroll about 10pm and saw nothing untoward in this central, conservative city of 1.25m, even while tanks were rolling down the bridges over the Bosphorus.

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