Our Turkish adventure was coming to an end. After climbing craggy mountains, cycling over high mountain passes and sleeping on the beach every night for 3 weeks, we were exhausted. So were thankful that Antalya and the airport were in sight. However there were still a few more kilometres to go before our arrival in the big city, surely nothing could go wrong now?
On closer examination of the map we had began to really acknowledge the full expanse of the Turkish wildness, fearing it ever since our exploits over the enormous mountain passes near Fethiye. There were huge areas of very high mountains. It was doubtful that there would be any life up there, let alone food or shelter. We had come to appreciate the light sprinkling of tourist facilities that we could take advantage of, if cycling close to the coast line.
Despite this and our proximity to our final destination we decided to take one last risk and venture into the interior. There was nowhere else to go to slow us down, apart from lying on the beach or exploring a dusty city. That was certainly out of the question, we wanted mountains.
Michel had identified some dirt road that would take us over the tops to the ski resort of Salikent and then we would travel down to Antalya. After gatecrashing a French tour group lunch and interrogating their tour guide on the road ahead, we left feeling uncertain. Noone seemed to know anything. A few people denied that there was even a road up there, some had never gone to find out. It was staggering how many local people simply did not venture out of the boundaries of their local communities. Their knowledge of the surrounding area was absolutely minimal.
Being our usual foolish selves, we decided to give it a go. On finding the mysterious dirt road, we headed on up. However a slight problem was becoming apparent. After the tremendous rain fall of that morning and the previous night, the dirt road had transformed into a muddy mess which was impossible to pass. Mud was clogging up my bike chain at an unmeasurable rate, soon it was even impossible to push the bike up the hill.
I couldn’t even pick the bike up and carry it, my shoes had half a ton of mud cemented to the sole. After 20 sticky metres we collapsed on the side of the road and questioned what the hell we were doing. With storms building up over our heads, 3pm and still 800 metres to climb, it all seemed rather ridiculous. So we turned around and headed for the big city of Antalaya. Sure enough once back on tarmac, the rain came and came. Free wheeling down the mountain, we passed damp, mossy shacks and skinny, stray cows. It was all part of the Turkish scenery that we had become accustomed to over the last few weeks. We then entered a series of extremely sharp hair pin bends as we descended a gorge like valley. Then, in an instant, I lost control. I couldn’t turn in time over the steep, slippery, wet road. I was going too fast and I panicked. My front wheel gave way and threw me off. My body some how flew through the air and my bum crashed down on the hard tarmac. A shot of unbearable pain stung my body. I screamed out and I kept on screaming, the shock had thrown me. Michel crouched over me, checking for broken bones.
There I was, lying down on my stomach in the middle of a Turkish road, in mucky, scruffy clothes, under the rain and now with a broken bum! Slowly Michel got me too my feet. Even though it was the last thing I wanted to do I had to go on, as there was no shelter close by, only cliffs, cows and rocks. I very carefully navigated my way, slowly, through the rest of the hellish bends, terrified of falling again. We were soon onto the valley bottom, splashing through deep puddles. I stood up on my pedals as we cycled, my new injury prevented me from sitting down.
Our eyes scanned the horizon for any sign of a hostel. This, however, was becoming very difficult as three weeks of rain seemed to be falling in three minutes, clouding our vision. The valley bottom went on and on, cutting through the steep rock faces, in a constant descent. I turned back and admired the cliff face we had just descended, with the sharp hair pin bends cutting away carefully at it.
We had no idea where we would stay that night, there would certainly be no camping out. It was 6pm and we were frozen. We arrived at a cross roads which was surrounded by large tents, maybe it was a holiday village? A lady poked her head out of a nearby doorway and insisted that we came inside. Then, to our delight, we entered a Gozleme kitchen. Young girls stood in front of large hot metal disks, preparing our very favourite Turkish dish of savoury pancakes with crumbly cheese and spring onions. The friendly Gozleme lady appeared again with a metal bucket and filled it with a few hot coals from the fire. She put it in front of us and we gratefully warmed our hands. Her friends all giggled, they obviously thought we were those crazy foreigner types. I was just sat there with a pathetic look on my face, feeling like a bedraggled mermaid who had just been swimming along the Turkish highways.
We asked this happy Gozleme lady if she knew of a pension in town. She took a minute to think. And then she took out her mobile phone and made a call. She pushed the phone into Michel’s hand. Apparently 10km back up the mountain a young man had a holiday home park with little cabins for rent. I pictured a soft comfy bed and a nice warm bathroom where I could take a hot shower.
The young man arrived 20 minutes later in a white pick up truck. He had a friend following him in a red car. He seemed a bit shifty and quiet. Michel said that he had spoken more on the phone. He took one look at our bikes and then nodded to the truck. Not quiet sure what we were getting ourselves into we hesitantly loaded up and got inside.
The key was in the ignition but the truck would not start. As the rain came tumbling down even more I had a sneaky suspicion that this could be the opening sequence of a horror film: A young foreign couple, lost and stuck in a thunder storm, the friendly locals take them in with wrong intentions.
We really didn’t have any choice. There was nowhere else to go. Michel had the interesting idea of attaching the white truck to the red car and then pushing it down the street, turning the ignition at the same time to see whether it would then start. So, soon the Gozleme lady and I were watching with bemused faces, as Michel and the friend ran down the street pushing the truck. My amusement quickly faded as I saw the red car and the white truck disappear off around the corner, along with all of our possessions and our bikes stuffed in the back. “Erm” I stuttered to Michel as he came trudging back up the road, “I hope they come back”.
A few worried minutes later the white truck and the red car came back, but with no success, the white truck was still broken with a soaked engine from the storms. Eventually they loaded all of our stuff into the back of the red car. It all fitted fine except for Michel’s bike, so as we drove up the wet mountain roads towards this supposed cabin ground Michel was sat on his bike, being dragged by a piece of string that was attached to the red car.
I was in the back of the red car with the creepy young man who was asking me a few questions, “where did you meet?”, “How long have you known each other?” I was starting to feel a little uneasy.
It was getting dark now as we trundled slowly along a bumpy lane over large cobble stones and deep potholes. I was holding my breath, not wanting to know what place was just around the corner. In the darkness a series of garden sheds appeared dotted around a grassy field. This had to be a joke. I shuddered. All the ideas of a comfy night disappeared instantly. “Oh my god” I slowly whispered to myself, awkwardly avoiding the gaze of the young man next to me, probably the Gozleme lady’s nephew.
Soon we found out that there was no heating, instead creepy guy had a pile of firewood collected from his Gozleme aunty. There was one hole in the ground for a toilet, and there was one shower. Shower and toilet were both in a flimsy wooden shack outside, in the middle of a field, under the pouring rain. Not exactly the warm, comfy and relaxing bedroom with en suite that I had been hoping for.
The creepy man showed us into the main building which was rather more substantial then the wooden toilet shack. There was a small wood burning stove, with a chimney, in the centre of the room. The creepy man opened the hatch and started to light the fire.
I sat there on a smelly dirty old mattress, contemplating the situation on the verge of tears. My bum was still extremely painful and sitting was a difficult task. We were both still compeltely soaking. The man showed Michel the kitchen, inviting us to use anything we wished. Then he turned on the TV, trying to find an English TV channel for us. All I wanted to do was sleep, but worried that he was going to hang around all night.
The creepy young man picked something up from the shelf next to the TV. I saw the blade of a knife gleaming in the light of the lamp and I gulped. He smiled to the other man, as he grasped it in his hand, but then he went straight to the kitchen. It was just a flickering second of uncertainty and I didn’t say anything to myself or Michel but a certain type of thought lingered with me throughout the night.
Eventually the man left to get some food and when he returned, I pretended to be asleep, hopefully, this would get rid of him. And it did. Michel politely told him about my injury and explained that we needed peace and quiet. The creepy guy got the message and left.
During the night I kept dreaming about “The Shining”. Maybe this man had a big axe and was planning on chopping us to pieces as soon as the moonlight came out to guide him on his murderous path. Maybe he lured unsuspecting tourists up here with the help of his aunty, the friendly round faced gozleme lady, well positioned at a cross road in the travellers way. Outside in the night I heard distant thuds and bangs, there were dogs running around, probably chasing rats in this horrible mess.
Michel woke me at 6am and suggested that we make a move. In the safety and clarity of daybreak, I saw the situation for what it actually was, a messy and disorganised young man, trying to start a business for tourists to the area and failing miserably. The kitchen was a pigsty. Dirty dishes and rubbish was piled high on every surface. I couldn’t help thinking that he needed a woman around to keep him in check. We wandered outside and suddenly appreciated the spectacular location, surrounded by cliffs and green forests. Wandering down to the river, there was a terrace, an ideal spot for a holiday breakfast, it was just a shame about all the flies, dog shit and rubbish. Whatever we thought, this place had potential.
I had thought he was some suspicious murderer but maybe I had not given him enough credit. We were honest customers, and maybe a bit too nice, as we left 40 Lira on the TV for him and slipped away before he appeared. I was rather thankful to be on the road to the big city at last, having survived the wild Turkish interior and the draw of the Gozleme lady.