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If you have not been on a bike for two years, Turkey may not be the best place to get back on the saddle. Netherlands, perhaps? Estonia? Uruguay? Somewhere flat, at any rate, or at least flatter...

Of course, tough terrain makes in general for beautiful scenery, and this Turkey has offered us in abundance. Hills and mountains and deep secretive valleys; lush green pine forests, reverberating with birdsong; the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara, the Dardanelles and the Aegean, with the Mediterranean and Black seas still to come.

Across this landscape, heroes and villains, their names made familiar to us through history books, legends and myths, once lived and loved, built and destroyed, fought and died...

Turkey humbled us on Day 1 when we were unable to complete our planned 25km ride and had to hitch a lift in a baker’s van. Since then we have resorted on two occasions to public transport: once when Charl was hospitalised after a nasty fall; and once when the first four hours of our day put only 17km on our odometer and we literally could go no further.

From Karacabey (see first weekly update), we cycled in wet weather to Bandirma on the coast and in hot weather to Biga inland. It was on the day we left Biga that Charl had his fall, knocking himself out.

We think he got a puncture on a downhill which resulted in him losing control of the bike. I was quite far ahead of him and did not see the accident, but three young men stopped to assist him and one of them called an ambulance, which took Charl to the hospital in Biga for scans, x-rays, stitches, bandaging and five hours of observation.

We took a bus the following day to Çanakkale, where we managed to find an English-speaking doctor for a second opinion on Charl’s injuries, and where Charl slept long recuperative hours while I took a tour of Gallipoli across the Dardanelles. I spent the day listening to tales of bravery and death, and stupidity and death, and compassion and death, one story in particular filling me with horror. It is depicted in the movie Gallipoli and takes place on the Nek, a ridge so narrow only 150 Australian soldiers could run side by side. To prevent them shooting each other, they were ordered to use bayonets only in the face of the machine guns wielded by the opposing Ottomans (Turks). Four waves of boys and men leapt from the safety of their trenches, over 200 dying within minutes, their deaths so certain and futile that the Ottoman soldiers begged them: “Dur, dur” (“Stop, stop”).

South then to Levfikiye, the village on Troy’s doorstep. Here, amongst the tumbled columns and the foundations of nine cities, we revisited the history of Helen and Paris and Achilles and an infamous wooden horse ... our recollections undoubtedly those inspired more by the 2004 Brad Pitt movie than any reality!

To Ayvacik next to visit nearby Behramkale where I spent several days during my 1984 visit. From my 1984 diary: “I was remembering my three hour wait in Ayvacik – for the mini-bus to Behramkale. I spent about an hour sitting in a dingy, dirty, tiny ‘supermarket’ – where I had a coke. A man came in to do some shopping. First he pulled up a chair and he and the owner sat and talked for awhile. Then he asked for five bottles of Raki. Each bottle was individually wrapped in a piece of newspaper torn to the exact size required. This was followed by more talk. Then sugar, chickpeas and ten packets of sweets followed the Raki into a large white sack. Tea was ordered. Other odds and ends added to the list. Ending with a bottle of cologne – a present for his wife? The purchases finally completed the white sack was tied at the top with a piece of string. The tea was drunk. And after yet more talk, the bill was drawn up and paid. All lovely to watch.

Via Edremit to Ayvalik, victim of the post-independence population exchange between the newly-formed Turkey and long-time enemy Greece, and east to Bergama and the Greco-Roman ruins at Pergamum.

Nights spent in Soma – scene of Turkey’s worst mining disaster just days before our arrival – and Akhisar brought us to Salihli, neighbour to ancient Sardis, home of the Lydians. The Lydians collected alluvial gold on fleece sieves and minted the first pure gold and silver coins, which facilitated commerce. Under their most famous king, Croesus (595-546BC), they grew rich.

It was between Salihli and Ödemiş that we bit off more than we could chew and had to flag down a local bus. One night in Ödemiş and one in Tire brought us through fruit country to Selçuk and Turkey’s most famous ruins at Ephesus.

The original city of Ephesus was destroyed by Croesus around 600BC, but was rebuilt nearby and was beautified by successive conquerors including numerous Roman emperors. At its peak, Ephesus, with its 250,000 inhabitants, was the capital of the Roman province of Asia. The city owes its final demise to a retreating ocean, which left malarial swamps in its wake, and an influx of Christians, who contributed fewer funds to the city’s maintenance. It is said that St John settled here with the Virgin Mary after the death of Christ and wrote his gospel here, and that St Paul lived in the city for three years. Charl and I took a taxi to the upper gate and walked the length of the excavated city to the lower gate. We loved the library, the theatre which seated 25,000, and the men’s loos, which seated 48 gents side by side around a quadrant. Water from the bath-house ran beneath the drop loos and into the city’s sewage system; and water ran in a narrow open pipe in front of the loos, which was used for bum-washing – either by the bum’s owner or the bum’s slave!

Between Karacabey and Bandirma
Between Karacabey and Bandirma
Bandirma - Charl's first shave since 1998
Bandirma - Charl's first shave since 1998
Between Biga and Lapseki
Between Biga and Lapseki
Çanakkale and the Dardanelles
Çanakkale and the Dardanelles
Charl's head injury and black eye
Charl's head injury and black eye
Bertie our travelling companion at Troy
Bertie our travelling companion at Troy
Between Levfikiye and Ayvacik
Between Levfikiye and Ayvacik
Behramkale
Behramkale
Behramkale
Behramkale
Between Edremit and Ayvalik
Between Edremit and Ayvalik
Pergamum theatre entrance
Pergamum theatre entrance
Pergamum
Pergamum
Sardis
Sardis
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