I’ve been hitchhiking around Europe for three months. In that time I’ve gone for four runs and done one ridiculously over the top youtube workout (link). Antalya is surrounded by mountains. Bryan said the main road out of the city was a gradual climb, pretty easy but on a busy highway. I took another road neither of us knew anything about. It was the opposite of gradual – all flat and then one very short and fucking steep hill. Being a normal 26 year old guy with an inflated idea of my own ability, I laughed, set a high gear and started pumping high in the saddle*. In ten minutes I was swaying from side to side, plodding barely above a speed I can walk and thinking about when I should take my next break.
This is what the summit looked like:
I was riding to a campsite on the edge of a national park. I never found it. After riding around some goat farms and pine forests for a good two hours I saw a sign with a bed on it. It was a road-side restaurant with a disco and some baths. It was all wooden and laquered with pictures of corporate meetings and fine dining. Not exactly what I was looking for but I’d ridden up a steep hill and I wanted to sleep. I approached a young guy in a candy-shop like outfit.
“Excuse me.” Two minutes later I was surrounded by teenage turks, all of them awkwardly fitted in stripy collars and straight black pants. They talked a lot and touched everything – poking my tyres, tugging at my bags, fiddling with my breaks, my shirt, arms and shorts, I felt like a roll of bubble rap. When I opened my front pania (look up) they all crowded in to have a look. One guy started going through all my shit and the others thought it was about time they tried to communicate with me. I pointed at some of the cabins and did the universal symbol for sleep. They said ahhhh, then one dude got out a pen and wrote 70 on his hand – about $35 Aus. Fuck that – I laughed and started to leave was but they energetically held out their hands and one guy held my arm softly.
“We talk chef.”
Another three guys appeared. How many employees does this roadside restaurant/disco/hotel have? One bald man with facial features like a scrunched up bag had 50 written on his hand. I got up to leave again, I didn’t know where to – I guess it was just brinksmanship. They tried to stop me again. The young guy who I first met, the most touchy of them all, got out his phone and started translating.
“How much can you pay.” His phone said. I wrote down 35 on my phone and showed it to him.
“ok ok we talk to chef.”
Scrunched up bald guy came back a minute later with 40 written on his other had. $20 Aus, I have no idea whether I’m being ripped off or they are. I sighed and gave thumbs up. Who knows.
The room was big and air conditioned with a tv and a couch. I would have been pretty thrilled had it not smelt jizzy and towely. I guess it doesn’t matter if I sleep in this unwashed horn-bag beg, I’m fucking dirty anyway.
Put off by my stinky-jizz room and a load of ambiguous bargaining I refused to eat dinner at their restaurant, afraid of what it would cost and what it would taste like. Instead, weary and heavy legged, I rode 14km to the last town for this.
I wasn’t particularly spectacular but then again I got to see this on the way way back.
I ate breakfast at the hotel the next morning.
I probably should have stayed.
The next morning was almost exclusively hill. One of those roads windy enough never to reveal it’s peak. I’m obviously way, way unfitter than I thought. I fucking struggled. Granted, I rode up a steep hill the day before and then an extra and completely unnecessary 14km on my already striking legs but this was particularly hard. The only time I can remember taking so many breaks is during the 42km climb on my second day in Malaysia. Usually I like to do hills fast and hard – I set my gears high, stand up and try to get it over with. Sure that’s how I started but after the second corner I was down to first – actual walking pace. The only time I’ve ever dropped into a gear that low was on my first ever bike tour in Tasmania and that hill was steep enough to make my back wheel flip out. I was wrecked by the end.
There was a rest station up top – a few chairs, a place to pray and a tap. The only seat in the shade was with a Turkish couple drinking tea. There was no way I was going to sweat it out in the 33C heat so I joined them. They gave me some tea and invited me to some kind of wrestling event South of where I was going. It was unclear whether It was a professional match, a community event he was taking part in or he was simply inviting me over to his house where we would wrestle together, man to man. I’m not really sure what I would of preferred.
The rest of day was bliss. I was given some peaches and a pomegranate from some road side farmers, there was a cool breeze behind me and I was cruising.
*what a ridiculously unsexy sentence