Friday, June 24, 2016

Turkish Mini Tour - End of our European Cycling Journey :-(

Summary

  • Caught a ferry from Chios (Greece)  to Cesme (Turkey) , followed by a bus into Izmir
  • Three days in Izmir with a day trip to Ephesus
  • Caught bus to Akhisar to connect with Ege - a great new friend
  • Cycled from Akhisar through Bergama, Kozac, Bagyugu, Burhaniye, Aksay, Assos, Ayvacik to Canakkale (See "We Love Maps" for route diagram & places we stayed...)
  • ANZAC Gallipoli tour
  • Bus to Istanbul and a few days exploring this great city!
  • NEXT - Phase 2 - Operation Cycle Tour SE Asia.  We'll shortly be plucked out of Istanbul & dropped into South East Asia for 3 months, starting in Myanmar, then through Northern Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia

Leaving Chios

Pondering life
It was a strange feeling indeed to be boarding a ferry in Chios harbour, looking across to the camps and thinking of the thousands of people stuck there, unable to move on or return!  The crossing was dead calm, perfect 'refugee (crossing) weather' and the small dinghies they use were forefront in my mind as we crossed the 10km stretch of water.

Our experiences in Chios have remained pretty vivid in our minds and, as time slowly passes, we think about our friends we left there. We've also come across more people with different perspectives on the situation, which has caused us to challenge some of our newly formed opinions!! Things are much the same on Chios though - there's been a wedding in the camp (fun!), a new swing set erected at Souda and more people arriving.

Two of the young boys we remember from Deputhe (Photo credit: Tim S)


Turkey

We've arrived! In the original plan, we were going to be spending quite some time here, however plans change frequently when cycle touring, so we ended up having only two weeks - waaaay too short a time! What resulted has been a mini-tour, with maximum generosity from the Turkish people - something that other travelers have also experienced. We are thankful to have had the opportunity to end our European leg here before travelling onto Asia.

The city of Izmir

After settling into Karen's house (friend of a friend), we ventured out to discover the goodness of Turkey and to get our heads around a new language, currency and culture! Imagine a busy city street - men in cafe's drinking tea, women with prams, bread stalls, corn sellers, fruit shops, tooting taxi's and motorbikes - a vibrant mix of people, food and business happening all around us. Izmir is a city of 4 million, set around a big bay with a cool waterfront area - it felt like a pretty cool city, very much with a somewhat western feel.

We wandered into a cell phone shop to investigate whether a Turkish SIM card might come in handy (decided not) and after attempting conversation with gestures, diagrams, pointing and english - a young man was bought in from next door. We didn't get his name, so we'll call him Arzu. His english was super useful and he then invited us next door to his family restaurant where we sat and drank tea and then had ćorba (chourba) and pide (soup and boat-shaped pizza bread). Arzu was great to talk with, to learn some more Turkish and just hang out. At the end of the meal, he charged us only half of what we should have paid, refused any extra and sent us on our way, feeling very welcomed, stoked and keen to return tomorrow!

The following day we met up with Ayhan and Neshe & their daughter Kaya - an amazing family who Andy has had a small connection with for about 10 years since he was in Turkey last. It was such a privilege to stay with them for a few days, enjoy home-cooked Turkish food and to feel like we had been welcomed into a home away from home. It was fascinating to hear their stories about life in Turkey, as well as their perspectives on global politics - often different to our own but really fascinating to be able to chat through some big issues (refugees, Christian faith, Islam, Trump etc) and learn from their experiences and lives.  They were an inspirational couple for us.

So great to finally meet this awesome couple and a lovely place to learn about life in Turkey!

Ephesus

Almost every Turkish person we met told us "ohhh you must go to Ephesus", so that was up next - it was actually really cool to wander through the ruins and imagine life back in the day. The library of Celcus and the amphitheater are probably the most well-known bits and they certainly were very impressive. Andy got sidetracked checking out some surveyors who were involved in an archaeological project and I sat in the smaller amphitheater and read a few chapters from the Bible which took place among-st the ruins some 2000 years ago - very cool!.

The main amphitheater of Ephesus

The Library of Celcus



Generosity Overload!!

The Turkish hospitality and generosity was continued and taken to a whole new level when we met Anna and Ols' friend Ege. We'd been anticipating meeting him for weeks, having been put in contact by them after Ege hosted them during their own cycle adventure a few years ago. He certainly lived up to his reputation as a FAST cyclist, great friend and generous host!!

First stop - icecream with Ege!
 We had a lovely evening comparing notes over bicycles, routes, life in NZ and Turkey, a skype call to Anna and Ols and getting ready to bike on. The following morning I was feeling quite apprehensive about getting back on the bike after a month off - particularly about the heat but Ege accompanied us on our way out of town, which was a great start! We were pretty torn between staying and hanging out more and being back on the journey.

Bike Gang!

Ugh! The bakehouse!!

After a relaxing morning biking on a small coastal road we suddenly found ourselves slogging our way up a huge hill in the midday heat. Think 38 degrees, on a hot tar-seal road, with no shade in sight, your water quickly disappearing and the road winding on over the hills! Flip! Talk about sweat-central!

This seemed to be the Turkish norm for us and we ended up biking form 6am to 12-3pm and then hiding out in a cafe or supermarket for a few hours before venturing out again to find a campsite! We've loved the quiet country back roads, learnt to avoid the "drainage holes of death" (set a good 20cm below the tarseal surface, with the slots going the same way as your wheel!!??) and secretly enjoyed the early mornings on empty motorways, which stretched a long way downhill in front of us (leaving Ayvacik).

Sussing out the route, Kozac
Sunset over Akhisar, Turkey


Watermelon season! - Bergama


Arriving into Bagyuzu, Rural Turkey

Check out his air horn!! This kid accompanied us out of his village with copious amounts of air horn tooting, which was pretty awesome. 
Lunch stop at one of the many roadside water fountains en route through the hills!

Spotting the sea for the first time again, Yabanćular

The Bakehouse Road! En route to Ayvacik

Boats in the harbour - Kepez, Canakkale

Things random people gave us over 2 days cycling...Legends!

  • 2 bottles of chilled water (separate occasions)
  • Bag of sultanas (from a guy out of his car door, as we were biking past)
  • Dinner and a bed for the night - thanks Hasan!
  • A demonstration on how to pick good berries from the tree in the park
  • Cucumbers and apples
  • Directions to the best bakery in town and strict observance to ensure we got there!


I'm actually so happy in this photo, the smile just hadn't made it to my face yet!! Appreciating ice cold water from a passing motorist!

This guy had no idea how much I LOVE sultanas!! Thankyou friendly man in Ayvacik!


Gallipoli - The Legacy of Terrible Leadership (And a Special Place to Visit & Imagine)

(NB: Some wordy reflections follow - Continue at your own risk or just look at the photos)

Looking towards ANZAC cove, The Sphinx and the hills above
Andy:  I left the Gallipoli Peninsula feeling angry. Gallipoli. It is a popular pilgrimage location for Australians, New Zealanders and for many Turks. It is sometimes conjectured as being a key part of the birthing of NZ as a nation separate from the British motherland. Here, many people have died. Many needlessly. From the stories we heard, there has been both incredible leadership shown and terrible leadership shown.

It's hearing the stories of terrible leadership that has left me angry. Especially because it hasn't just affected financial success or organisations, it's directly affected the lives of thousands of soldiers and those of their families. Often needlessly. Futility made all the more futile. Seeing the individual graves there and imagining their stories has helped to bring this home for me. Ataturk (the founder of modern Turkey) seemingly lead from the front and rose up the ranks for his quick-thinking leadership abilities, whereas, the allied Generals seem to have found themselves decried to infamy because of some terrible leadership.

Some such examples are from the August 1915 offensive, designed to break a stalemate that had gone on for months. It was in this offensive that the NZ's were meant to capture the key objective "Chunuk Bair", which they did for a brief time while other diversionary attacks and a British landing took place.

Some of the ANZAC old trench remains near Lone Pine
The plateau, and hills above ANZAC cove, with Suvla Bay in the background from near the Neck

It was 3pm on our tour and we emerged from our air conditioned bus in the blazing June heat into a piece of land in the hills called "The Nek". A story was told of utter madness, one that many of the readers will have heard before. We're standing looking at the grassy grave-site and surrounding pines, trying to imagine this piece of land bare of vegetation in the midst of war. The front line being where the road was now. Trenches between the Turks and ANZACS being only 8m apart in places.

The Australian Light Horse Brigade was to attack at a certain time after a Naval Bombardment had finished. They were put in the difficult situation, when the bombardment finished inexplicably early and they waited another 10 minutes till the correct time. By then the Turkish machine gunners were back up and waiting. The first of four waves was sent out with 150 men. Completely mown down. The second wave readied to go, because, they were the second wave, they had to. Again, completely mown down. The officer in charge of the 3rd wave, questioned the decision, as being "bloody murder". He was unsuccessful in having it stopped. The further 4th wave largely followed the same fate. The 370 men that died that day lay there till the campaign ended. We were now looking at some of their memorial plaques.

Furthermore, the landing of 10,000 British at Suvla Bay further up the coast, intending to support this offensive ended up in a dis-organised mess, with Generals being too far removed from the situation and good leadership no-where to be seen. While, these stories are an overly simple take on this situation (war, I've got no doubt, is way more messy and complicated than is described here). I find it hard to believe the disconnect of the leaders from their troops on the Allies side, and the needless casualties this lead to.

Being on this peninsula has actually seemed more special than I thought it would. While neither of us have any direct relatives that have fought here, we are glad we've had this opportunity to be on the ground. To imagine some of the stories we've heard of in school and around Anzac Day, to reflect on the futility of war, to see the memorial plaques, to hear some stories from the Turkish side too, to feel proud being a New Zealander.

The Dardonelles in the background from Chunuk Bair. They key strip of water the Allies wanted to assist them in sailing up to Istanbul & into the Black Sea
Anzac Cove back in the day and today - Our guide Bulle on the ANZAC tour

One of the many cemeteries around the Gallipoli peninsula

Ataturk - this guy's photo, statue and face are everywhere! The founder of Modern Turkey, plus
the army (eventually) general who led the Turks to victory over the Allied Soldiers in Gallipoli.
His famous speech where he said that ANZAC men who had fallen in Turkey were now sons of Turkey
was an attitude that we found reflected in ordinary Turks, which was pretty cool.

A display on the waterfront in Eceabat of what the front lines looked like and how far apart they were in a lot of places.

I liked this kid's thoughtful correction to his memorial cross. Lone Pine Memorial

Istanbul - Excerpt from Miri's Journal

"The call to prayer echoes and wails out around me, seemingly from every direction, various mosques competing with each other. On one side of me, men are washing their hands and feet in preparation to enter the mosque. Behind me is the spiders-web complex of the grand bazaar with sweet turkish delight, dried fruits, tea, gold and silver. Just beyond that, colourful piles of spices line the walkway. In another direction families are relaxing under the shade of trees, men asleep, corn sellers and bread stalls. Music is playing from somewhere.

The call to prayer ends and within seconds, it feels more like a city i might know, with taxi's tooting and trams and boats coming into the dock. It must be a tough place to do business these days - places you expect to be packed with tourists are empty - metro stations, bazaars. Optimistic salesmen call out "Sir, Sir, spend money for your honey.." "Yes, madam, hello. Tea? Spices?"

There's a mixture of people - some western tourists, fully covered women, police with dogs and guns, tour guides ("2 hour tours!!") and carpet sellers ("Sir, have I got a chance??")" It has been so nice to wander around the streets, take in the atmosphere and get some jobs done in preparation for the next leg. "

Spices!

Ridiculously expensive dried Fruit!

Spice Market, Istanbul

Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), Istanbul

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

Goodbye To The Tent (Home)...

It's a bit sad but we've sent the tent and cooker home as from now on we'll be hitting up the guesthouses of South East Asia and the fine street-side restaurants! Despite the average start with the sand-storm in Morocco, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX has been a great wee home for the last three months. There's a real sense of familiarity when we crawl inside and get cosy together in our sleeping bags.

Here is a quick video that attempts to show some of daily routine and places we've called home for the night (sorry, some footage is a bit ave due to our average computer processing & upload speeds, but you'll get the general idea)...





The road from here....
On Saturday evening (25th June) we'll be winging our way to Dubai, Bangkok and into Yangon, Myanmar. We'll spend about 2 weeks there before cycling across the north of Thailand and catching a slow boat down the Mekong to Luang Prabang in Laos. We are anticipating a bit of culture shock, being plucked from Europe and deposited in the midst of SE Asia, but we'll take it in slowly and hopefully the biking, and the good food and great people will tie all our experiences together nicely!

Arohanui,
Miri and Andy



4 comments:

  1. Love it! Awesome stuff guys :) Look forward to hearing about the Sth East Asia section! Cool runnings...

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's amazing how much you have experienced in such a short time! I'm sure your brains are in constant overdrive. I hope you're both well. Stay safe xx

    ReplyDelete
  3. Awesome blog you guys. love it.

    mum and dad x0x0

    ReplyDelete
  4. Awesome video and adventures so far guys - mega inspirational! Have an amazing time in the far east!!

    ReplyDelete