We are bouncing on the back seat of a pick-up truck, on our way to meet Yörük nomads, because Pierre broke a tooth on a cherry pit. The small pebble-like seed was in some delicious jam laid on the table at an elaborate brunch in Tarsus. A week later Pierre was annoyed enough to search for a diş doktor in central Taşucu. The lady dentist successfully fixed the filling and spoke good English. So when we were left with a contact number for a man who could possibly introduce us to nomads, but only spoke Turkish, we thought of the dentist as a translator. She was not at the clinic but the other dentist, her husband, quickly made an offer: “Come back on Saturday. My son will be here from Istanbul for his winter break from university, he speaks better English. Together we’ll drive up in the hills, I know a couple of Yörük families. We’ll go visit!”

On top of being the dentist, our driver has a small marble-cutting business. This is valuable when we need to enter the gated, very private marble quarry. “I buy a million dollars worth of marble here every year”, he says. After the customary tea with the boss, we are allowed to continue to the Taş family camp. A black goat hair tent is up on one side but we are invited to sit on traditional carpets by a wood stove in a blue tarpaulin tent with a solar panel at the door. Then everybody gets up at once. We are a little confused. Yiğit, the dentist’s son, says “You want to interview them? They are ready. We’ll do it outside so there is more light”. Husband and wife sit side by side on plastic chairs in front of the black tent, while the daughter prepares tea and the son keeps an eye on the baby goats. We press record. “Hello! My name is Hidir Taş, this is my wife Ayşe. We are of the Sarikeçili clan”. If we expected them to be fierce or shy, they were the total opposite.

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The Taş family at their summer camp near the marble quarry. Behind Taşucu, Mersin Province, Turkey.
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Leaving Taşucu on the D400 heading west. Mersin Province, Turkey.

Emboldened by the meeting, once we straddle our bikes and leave Taşucu towards the west, we stop by two more nomad camps. Without a translator the experience is somewhat muffled, but we know enough to ask about the yearly transhumance cycle. Yörük means “those who walk” and every spring they steer the goat herd up to the high Taurus Mountains, some helped by dromedaries others by tractors, and return close to the Mediterranean Coast for the winter months, following the lush pastures. Families have 300, 500 or 1,000 goats, which makes the ongoing birthing season an hectic affair. Lambs are everywhere, trying to walk or snoozy and still wet, freshly expelled from the womb. #cuteness #overload

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Sarikeçili nomad camp on the D400. Mersin Province, Turkey.
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Some nomads opt for a semi-permanent winter dweling and keep the culture of herding and weaving. Mersin Province, Turkey.

The coastal road to Alanya is described as one of Turkey’s most scenic road, a definition that—through experience—often translates as twisty and narrow. Right now it is a weave of the old steep, cliff-hugging, narrow roadway and new 4-lane sections with long tunnels. Road crews are hard at work and after Büyükeceli we set up camp on a closed and unpaved newly-built section of highway. The old road is a few dozen meters away but mounds of sand and gravel keep us safe and concealed. It rains hard all night and the sound of a voice talking in a megaphone stirs us around 3 am. Only at day break do we realize that a large Metro bus has lost control and slid into a rock face. A crane is working at dislodging it from the roadway and the jandarma starts rerouting the morning traffic onto the new road and our tent. Drivers have a front row seat to 2 Canadians eating oatmeal, drinking coffee, brushing their teeth and packing their gear! We join the parade behind an ambulance heading towards Anamur, sirens off. We will learn later that a 21-year old woman, on her first day working as a bus attendant, died in the accident. During the few days we cycled to Alanya, we also encountered a car on its side in a curve, a jack-knifed truck and a bus/truck collision that killed 8 people. Will the new road help? We sure can hope so.

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Sleeping on the road. Rude awakening after the bus accident. Büyükeceli, Mersin Province, Turkey.
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Sun setting on the Mediterranean. Let’s find a place to sleep quick! Tekeli, Mersin Province, Turkey.
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Life is good at sea level. Tekeli, Mersin Province, Turkey.

However something pleasant happens on the coastal road: we meet other bicycle travellers.

1-Peter from Belgium. Young, wide-eyed, on a 3-year journey around the world. He is interested in knowing how many kilometres a day we ride and baffled by our taking 7 whole months to come from Norway. He has just sewn is ripped tire and is having the time of his life. He is heading to Taşucu to catch the ferry to Cyprus.

2-Yavuz and Bulut are riding from Mersin to Antalya in 5 days to attend a fundraiser for a friend who is in a coma since being hit while riding his bike. Their purpose is somber but the men are supercharged. Yavuz has lived in Germany since he was 3 years old, but now comes back to Turkey for the winter months. Bulut is a Mersin legend. We get corralled to Bulut’s sister appartment in Anamur. She thought she was hosting 2 dirty, hungry cyclists for the night, instead 4 show up! Bulut’s nephews, Gerdyn and Koray, offer us their beds. The next afternoon, as we stop to fix a third flat tire, we plead with our new friends to continue without us on their 27.5 inch wheels. The gentlemen hesitate, but we are persistent.

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Clean and fed we head out with speedsters Yavuz and Bulut. Koray is the family’s upcoming showboat! Anamur, Mersin Province, Turkey.

On the way to Gazipaşa we steeply climb to 500 metres above sea level, twice. In Uçari, with the sun setting and a rain cloud looming, we can’t believe our luck when Suleman offers the covered terrace of his closed-for-the-season restaurant for us us to camp on. “And turn your stove off, you can cook your spaghetti tomorrow. Come over to the house”, he adds later on. Over some white beans, rice, coleslaw and lavash bread with yogurt and grape molasses, Suleman explains that he is Yörük, he has sheep and takes them grazing everyday, but he also has a green house and banana trees. “We are not nomads anymore, further west nobody is. The last genuine nomads are the Sarikeçili, they are around Taşucu and Silifke at this time of the year.”

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Anamur bananas, the country’s best! Yakacik, Antalya Province, Turkey.

After riding to Mahmutlar and visiting Cartier Tours to retrieve our computer, shipped from Istanbul and fitted with a new motherboard, we have to take a decision.Which way will we approach Jordan?

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Approaching Alanya hotels and restaurants cater to the proverbial snowbirds. Russian, Ukrainian, Danish, Dutch, English, German, beach and sun seasonal migrators. Mahmutlar, Antalya Province, Turkey.

This would be a good opportunity to announce that we have known for a while that we will not travel to Iran. Why? Because, although it has always been tricky to get a visa for Iran, in 2014 for Canadian citizens it has become impossible without the purchase of an organised guided tour. No Iran means no Oman either and a flight directly to Jordan. Are we going via Athens, Istanbul or Cyprus? While Pierre is rebooting our IT department in a Mahmutlar condo owned by a Moscovite, we turn the question inside out. And decide to backtrack to Mersin. But not the way we came.

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Shalvar pants and headscarves on sale at the pop-up shop! Mahmutlar, Antalya Province, Turkey.

We spot a nice inland road in the atlas, leave the balmy coast behind and start to climb…steeply! Young lycra-clad Russian women are training in the foothills on their ultralight road bikes as we slug our way on ciment mounts. By the time we arrive in 1,500 meters high Sariveliler we have climbed 2,700 meters over 85 kilometres! My various vastus and gluteus are screaming “make it stop!”.

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The cliff-hanging road up to the Gevne River valley is vertigo inducing. The Andes and Taiwan’s hinterland come to mind. Söğüt Yaylasi, Antalya Province, Turkey.
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Between the Gerve River and Sariveliler we meet these 2 guys on a motorbike. On the left is a “comedian” working at a hotel in Alanya. On the right is a nomad, owner of 1,000 goats. They are doing the same thing we are: riding around the yaylas, enjoying the peace and beauty. Güzel! Antalya Province, Turkey.
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When you think you are at the top it climbs some more. Then you enter another season. Border between Antalya and Karaman Provinces, Turkey.
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“Is the summit around here?” Border between Antalya and Karaman Provinces, Turkey.

In the next 2 days we meander in an eroded landscape of gorges and ravines. The old equation of effort equals reward is true again on the steep rollercoaster ride to Ermenek and Gülnar through apple, cherry, walnut and pomegranate plantations. For those interested in the specifics and statistics of the itinerary you can always click on the Suunto Movescount or the InReach button-links at the bottom of each page.

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From another summit, we are plunging to the bottom of this canyon and climbing up the other side. Tepebaşi, Karaman Province, Turkey.
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Life is different in this valley, there are no herds and lots of fruit trees. The craggy sunken panorama teems with two-wheel tractors. Güneyyurt, Karaman Province, Turkey.
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Tractor mechanics. Güneyyurt, Karaman Province, Turkey.
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A rock crown at the top of the hill is home to a family, their goats and beehives. In the sunny side of things, charging the InReach SE device with our GoalZero Nomad 7 solar panels. Ermenek, Karaman Province, Turkey.
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City built at 1,300 metres of altitude on a rock facing the sun. Ermenek, Karaman Province, Turkey.
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Pausing in the gorgeous desert environment by the reservoir before climbing another 800 metres to 1,560-meter high Moca Pass. Görmeli, Karaman Province, Turkey.
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Putting the tent up in a muddy field at the end of a long day we are thinking as long as it doesn’t rain we’ll be fine. Then it starts to rain hard, all night, and snow all morning. It takes until noon to get cleaned up and dryish. Olukpinar, Karaman Province, Turkey.
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What happened to this place that it is so rugged? On the way to Köseçobanli, Mersin Province, Turkey.
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Full circle and soft landing on the Mediterranean coast. The Göksu River delta and Taşucu stretch ahead. Silifke, Mersin Province, Turkey.

Back in Silifke, with less than 10 days on our Turkish visas, should we ride towards more Yörük, or are we done and ready to leave this beautiful county?

Cyprus: left and north sides of things! (Nicosia, Cyprus - KM 9,575)
Cold wave in Anatolia! (Taşucu, Turkey - KM 8,390)

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