Good maps are essential to great ventures on secondary roads and we invested 60 liras in the Adim Adim Türkiye, a heavy road atlas with a 1:400,000 scale, before we left Istanbul. Riding into the giant city had been eventful enough that it was understood that, after extending our stay to a total of eight days, we would leave it by ferry. Our “inn on wheels” was closed up with JM flying to the Mediteranean Coast for some R&R. Having two guests back to back visiting us on the road had been a great distraction but, well, a distraction and we were looking forward to refocusing on our “mission” and the nomads. In Turkey, there is a group of pastoralists called Yörük who move from the high Taurus Mountains down towards the Mediteranean Ocean for the winter months. The indications we had of their whereabouts were vague and we would have to get closer in order to find out more. In the meantime we would head accross the Marmara region and parts of Anatolia towards one of the strangest and most enchanting corner of Turkey: Cappadocia. Here is what happened…in photos!

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Thousands of cats lounging on Istanbul’s streets. Far from being left to their own devices, they are a sacred animal to muslim Turks and are fed and cajoled many times a day. Istanbul Province, Turkey.
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We meet Erol Akol upon disembarking from the ferry in Mudanya (Bursa) and we ride together along the Sea of Marmara through verdant olive plantations. The former physical education teacher rides his carbon fiber mountain bike slowly up some serious incline, some of them at 13%, patiently and gallantly waiting for us to waddle up behind him. Upon leaving us near Gemlik he gives us perfect direction—including where the nasty dogs are lurking—to Lake Iznik, the kind only a cyclist can give you. Tesekkür! Engürücük, Bursa Province, Turkey.
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On the South shore of Lake Iznik, the weather takes a tropical turn and shorts come out of the panniers for the first time since the begining of October! Sölöz, Bursa Province, Turkey.
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Stopping to buy some local olives on Lake Iznik becomes a tea break and fruit tasting session. Fruit and vegetable stands in Turkey are unlike anything we have ever seen, so fresh, so plump, so much variety. A few kilometres further we’ll stop by the lake, where young men in rolled pants and sleeves are washing their car, and enjoy our lunch: yogurt, walnuts, persimmons, oranges, bananas and cookies. Narlica, Bursa Province, Turkey.
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We are leaving Iznik, the ancient Nicaea, through Lefke Gate, the eastern entry/exit point of this ancient fortified Roman town. Nicaea achieved notoriety as seat of two great Church councils of early Christianity in 325 and 786. The Church Fathers decided here that icons would be allowed, something many saw as prohibited by the Bible. Iznik, Bursa Province, Turkey.
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Looking for a place to camp in Söğüt at the end of a long day riding through marble quarries and fixing flat tires, Yusuf, the Sari Petrol attendant offers his van as shelter. Tesekkür! Söğüt, Bilecik Province, Turkey.
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Breakfast in bed! Thinking that the gas station was opened 24-hours and that Yusuf (center) worked all night, we are anxious to give him his ride back so he can go home and sleep. We find out that the station closed at midnight and that he spent it on a couch inside so we could have a roof for the night! Tesekkür! Söğüt, Bilecik Province, Turkey.
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We relax our fingers after a steep descent into the Sakarya Valley, the original Ottoman homeland. The secure spot in the 13th century was a perfect place for an ambitious band of warriors to await opportunities with patience. Now the valley hosts hundreds of green houses, helping Turkey reach total food autonomy. Inhisar, Bilecik Province, Turkey.
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Heading up river towards the East, we have exited the Marmara geographical region and are strangely and temporarily in the Black Sea sphere of influence. Sakarya Valley, Bilecik Province, Turkey.
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Rustu left his village in 1976 to follow his father to France. He lived in Besançon for over thirty years, raised three children, built houses and decided to come back to Turkey in 2008. His retirement plan includes 75,000 chicken, apple and pomegranate trees, and lettuce. That day, 22,000 chicks showed up! Çamalan, Ankara Province, Turkey.
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Rustu’s cousin invites us for breakfast so we can taste his hand-made cheese. Olives, yogurt, tomatoes and cucumbers, boiled eggs, flat bread and lots of tea complete the feast. His wife and two daughters invite us back anytime we are around. Tesekkür ederim! Ozan, Ankara Province, Turkey.
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Ömer Faruk provides us with perfectly cooked chestnuts! Nallihan, Ankara Province, Turkey.
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Hauling ourselves slowly and steeply out of the Sakarya Valley, to the 1,550 meter high Kartal Pass and the town of Mihaliççik, there are more cows than cars on the road. Eskişehir Province, Turkey.
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Water is flowing regularly on the side of the road. We take a moment in the fog before the pass to use our MSR Miniworks EX and filter a few litres. Eskişehir Province, Turkey.
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Since Kartal Pass the trees have gone and this starts to look like the Anatolia we have dreamed of. Now convinced that our road atlas is solid, we decide to venture on even smaller roads. We’ll try this track along the railway line from Yunusemre to Polatli. Eskişehir Province, Turkey.
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No! After just 7,500kms, Pierre’s front rim gives up! Ilören, Eskisehir Province, Turkey.
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Alpi and Elise don’t hesitate, they take us to the front room of their house where we share dinner —including the raisin molasse pekmez with home-made cream kaymak, a revelation—, sleep and have breakfast. The next morning Alpi is taking us to Polatli, where we have hopes of finding a new rim…which we did! Tesekkür ederim! Ilören, Eskişehir Province, Turkey.
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Halfway between Ilören and Polatli is Gordion, the capital of ancient Phrygia. Since Pierre has been reading 1177 BC, an essay about the end of the Bronze Age, he has been very keen to visit the site and his enthusiasm is such that Alpi puts it on our itinerary to Polatli. After a quick look at the 8th-century BC acropolis we head to Midas Tümülüsü. The royal tomb is a big mound into which we enter through a concrete tunnel. The Phrygian king, most likely Midas, was buried here between 750 and 725 BC in this cedar box, arguably the oldest wooden structure in the world. We learn that archaelogical teams from the University of Pennsylvania have been working in the region since the 1950s and that there are some 100 mounds at the site and 18 different levels of civilisations, from the Bronze Age to Roman times! Yasshöyük, Ankara Province, Turkey.
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Dog collars on sale at Polatli Pasar. Why such long spikes? Wolf and bear throat attacks! Ankara Province, Turkey.
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Anatolia is the granary of Turkey. We ride on pavement through wheat and lentil fields for days but leaving the hard surface can be risky. Here our Trolls are turned into « fat bikes ». Haymana, Ankara Province, Turkey.
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While fixing a flat tire at this modern times caravanserail on Tuz Gölü, great salted lake of Anatolia, we meet Guanto from Taiwan. He has come from China and entered Turkey in the East, he has just left Cappadocia and is heading to Istanbul : we are absolutely going in opposite directions. This is unfortunate since he is the first bike traveler we meet since Finland and the conversation gets intense and intriguing fast. The heart warming encounter has made us forget the mechanical whoes of the past days as we sail on a tail wind towards Sereflikoçhisar. Ankara Province, Turkey.
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On the winter solstice we leave Agaçören after a hot lunch of lentil soup and beef stew and return to the cold plateau. The frozen water in our bottles will not thaw, as the mercury will stay below zero all day. Aksaray Province, Turkey.
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Winter takes a break on December 24th and 25th, the sun shines on the 1,200 metre high plateau, roads are good and quiet—they have been since leaving Istanbul—, flat tires have been few, and we ride carrying a warm sensation of satisfaction. Merry Christmas! Terlemez, Nevşehir Province, Turkey.
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We have reached Cappadocia and its crazy volcanic moonscape! Santa’s chariot? Uçhisar, Nevşehir Province, Turkey.
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From the balcony of our « cave », Studio LePont at Les Maisons de Cappadocce, there is a surreal view on one of humanity’s first appartment complex! Generation after generation hollowed out the easily worked tuff of Cappadocia, a thick layer of hardened and compressed volcanic ash. Houses, churches and sanctuaries are hidden in the cliffs and canyons of the region. Let’s stay a while! Uçhisar, Nevşehir Province, Turkey.


Cold wave in Anatolia! (Taşucu, Turkey - KM 8,390)
Out of Bulgaria! (Istanbul, Turkey - KM 7,120)


  1. Eric H. Cline

    Glad to hear that Pierre has been reading 1177 BC — I hope he has been enjoying it! Is Hattusa (Boghazkoi) on your itinerary? Cheers and good luck, Eric H. Cline

    • Bonjour! Thanks for your interest, comment and…wonderful contribution! 1177 BC is a trusty and enlightning road companion in this part of the world. And we’ll travel together for a while as we’re eventually heading to Egypt and the Nile from here, most likely through Greece and Jordan. As Yöruk nomads are sending us to the souhtern slopes of the Taurus and that tempus fugit, we’ll have to postpone our visit of the former Hittite capital to another journey in Anatolia…what an amazing land! Thanks again!

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