Posted by Krista
Izzettinkoyu, Mediterranean Coast, Turkey
Mustafa shook his head when we asked of a dirt track that may take us through the mountains from Oludeniz to Golbent, missing a busy piece of highway. Sinan also shook his head, tutted and said, “Wa’allah hey, I don’t know.” We showed our map to a few locals in town, but each time people said that the route we wanted to take was impassable – and probably the Likia Way, an ancient walking track, which links up all the historical sites from the Lycian times.
It was lucky then, that when leaving Oludeniz, Dan said he wanted to stop to touch the sea one last time. As he ran back from the turquoise waters, a man on an old moped pulled up and said, “Hi, my name’s Hector. Do you want to go paragliding today?” We were probably some of the only tourists he’d seen all winter. We shook our heads and told him that we were planning to leave Oludeniz that minute.
Then, in one last ditch attempt for the track we’d yearned for but almost given up on, Dan pointed at our map, and asked Hector if he knew anything about it. “I have a friend who lives in village up there,” he said, “he told me a new track was made in the summer. Hang on a moment.” The mobile phone came out of his pocket, and Hector made a call. To our delight, the tracks existence confirmed, as was the passability of it as far as Golbent. “But don’t take my word for it… I’m not sure how it will be for bicycle. Here’s my number incase you get into trouble.
The road stretched ahead and we pedalled with joy and anticipation. Granny gear employed at all times, heart pumping in the roof of my mouth. The first 10 kilometres were paved…
Hector had drawn us a rough map to show the route. When the road turned off to the left towards a village called Kirme, which nestles in the bosom of Baba Dag, the highest mountain of the region, I shuddered. The road had disappeared, and in it’s place was a steep, broken track, full of rocks and totally unrideable. Dark storm clouds had also gathered above Baba Dag’s snowy peaks and the air felt ominous.
We paused at the side of the road, looking at each other, doubting that this was the way Hector had really meant us to go. Just at the moment, we heard a car slowly and cautiously make its way down the track towards us and we confirmed with them that this indeed was the route up and over the mountain.
With hesitance, we got off our bikes and began to push, huffing and puffing under the weight of our heavily loaded bikes. When I slipped and fell on the loose rocks beneath my feet, I began to cry. I felt so different from when I had cycled across the world before, I was so soft now, had so much less need for adrenaline, or pushing myself to the edge. I thought I couldn’t go on, and in that moment just wanted a ‘simple’, ‘easy’ life, a ‘safe’ life, a ‘normal’ life.
Dan steadied me, and together we sat on the side of the track and talked about the alternatives. How we could always go back, and how it would be to take the challenge and overcome the difficulties.
And there it was – a flash of energy and inspiration – that something in me that wouldn’t give in. I didn’t want to turn back and take the highway. I wanted to discover that hidden track, and so did Dan.
We trudged for 2 hours, barely able to ride. By 4 o’clock, we’d reached Kirme, a small village of only about 20 houses, that was self-sufficient through lack of road access until recent times.
The sky was becoming increasingly moody and rumbles of thunder could be heard. We thought we should probably camp before attempting to cross the pass. But Ayse, a local woman, saw us and, with a puzzled face, asked us what we were doing and where we were going. It wasn’t a good time to go on, we could stay with her, no problem.
What a relief to be sitting by a wood-stove, with the bread in the oven and the soup in the pot. That night, all the inquisitive neighbours came by, with their knitting and their husbands, to see who the foreigners were. The room was filled with 12 people and more kept knocking at the door! Even the imam and his wife dropped in.
The next morning we left early, to try and pass the zig-zagging road ahead. The storm had passed and the day was clear once again.
Lots of pushing again, but this time, my mind was in a different place. It was in a place where my heart met it and breathing went in time. It was a place where, when my breath was short, the view filled up my lungs and kept me moving.
We climbed and pushed and pulled at the bikes for 4 hours.
Winding ever slowly up and up and up, Kirme disappearing below.
We had no provisions, except for Coco pops and milk, which we enjoyed in the sun as we neared the summit.
Each time we looked down, we were amazed at the road we’d traversed… the hidden track…
And at the summit, the track turned from the warmth and blue of the sea and we were amongst the snowy peaks.
Ride on and follow those hidden tracks!
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