Winter is coming!

After spending a wonderful week in Ankara, my brother is joining me for 2 weeks. Finally cycling with some company! I am excited. We have a day in Ankara to prepare ourselves for winter and then start the adventure. In a lot of fog, we cycle on the highway out of Ankara. In the afternoon, the fog clears away. It feels good to be on the road again! And strange at the same time. In just a couple of days, I have to get used to the bike and weight again. We take our time.

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In the early afternoon we set up camp and eat the fondue, Luca brought from Switzerland. Mmmh I’ve missed that :) It should be the only warmer day on our trip. The sun changes the landscape to a warm red environment as it slowly goes down.

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The highways are not fun to cycle on. We try to find some smaller road. And we find it. A car stops next to us. We can’t continue this road, they tell us. We don’t see any reason and continue after some discussion. We have enough water and food for at least two days. There is no traffic. We pass a couple of villages that seem extinct. The only person we see is a lonely farmer. We share some swiss chocolate with him and continue our way on the lonely road. The dogs were surprisingly friendly. Until to this moment. A pack of dogs approaches out of nowhere. With nothing to defend ourselves, we stay on the bike and slowly continue. One dog bites into Lucas rear panniers and pulls. I can’t remember the exact details as everything passed so quickly, but after he drove into a ditch they let us go.

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The way is very steep and with the fog it is hard to find a camping place. At the top of a mountain, we find a little spot with almost no fog! So we set camp there and a few moments later the fog clears away. We are on top of a mountain with a sea of clouds beneath us. Incredible!

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In the morning, the fog is there again. Our tents and bikes are frozen. If we had brought our skates, we could have been ice skating on the road. Slowly we manage to drive beside the road, choosing our way carefully.

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Lesson learned. Do not leave your helmet outside…

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The next day is quite uneventful. The fog blocks our view on a big salt lake and generally makes it less pleasant to cycle. We continue and try to make as much distance as we can. At a gas station, we ask if we can build up our tent behind it. We are allowed. Sadly, they fail marvelously to tell us about the dogs at the gas station. At 1 am we hear barking. Closer and closer. Until 5-6 dogs circle our tent. Barking and growling. We are clearly in their territory and there is no way we can leave it. What can we do? Our clothes are in the panniers in the apsides. The gas station is too far away to run. We both, dressed with nothing more than our boxers and a sleeping bag. Both of us trying not to move or make any sound. My brother and I both grew up with german shepherds. These Kangals however, are something else entirely. After about 10 minutes they leave, just to appear a second time an hour later. Sleeping is not an option after that…

In the morning, we go to the gas station and have breakfast. Not really in the mood to cycle on the main street for another 40km we ask a truck driver if he can take us with him. I draw a sketch of us, our bikes, the truck and the name of the city we want to go. My art teacher in mid school was right by saying I drew like a child in kindergarten. A group of truck drivers tries to decrypt my message. Gladly, their cryptology skills are good enough and the message is delivered :) So we get a ride to the next city where we continue on less busy roads. The snowy landscape drives us again away from civilization. We find a perfect camping spot on the hill with old Hittite caves built into it. After exploring the caves we find a gravity which sais: ” Danger, wild dogs”.  Given the trauma of last night, we climb up the rock and set up our tent, then secured every possible entry. We take enough stones up so we have something to defend ourselves if necessary. This now again might seem a bit over the top. It probably is. But you know. Two brothers in the wild with a tent suddenly brings up old childhood fantasies :) We really enjoy our little fort and make a hot soup. Curious how we would manage a night at -14 degrees.

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The extreme conditions are not as bad as we thought. Only the hands and feet are too cold. After spending some nights outside, the equipment begins to get moist. Everything moist freezes. In the morning, we have to de-ice the tent poles and the shifts from the bike. Everything is completely frozen. Imagine waking up, moving your feet and hearing the ice break of the sleeping bag. Then you want to get up and feel your most outer layer on the head is stuck to the inner tent. The 10L Ortlieb water bag, that we took inside the tent is not completely frozen, so we have water to make our well deserved morning coffee. It takes a while till the bikes run as expected. And again, this might give the wrong impression. It was fantastic! Being out in the wild, dependent on nothing than yourself. Those extreme conditions are directly bound to extreme feelings. Either good or bad. In our case it was good!  This is how a tent looks like at -11 degrees.

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As we get closer to Cappadocia, the number of villages and gas stations grows. We go to a restaurant to warm our cold feet and hands. We decide not to camp outside anymore, as it was going to be even colder and our equipment is wet. So we take a car to Göreme. The first Hostel we find recommends us to another Hostel. Their water pipelines are frozen and we really need a shower. A warm shower. This, we find in the second Hostel.

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Göreme is somewhat a difference between a place, made for tourists and the old caves of the Hittites. Almost like in a children’s book or a Disney movie. Instead of following the touristic trail, we spend two days exploring and climbing the caves on our own. We are impressed, how high some of the caves are. Climbing multiple levels inside a stone is not an exception. It is clear, that we will not make it to Sivas by bike on time. So we stay another day exploring the caves and take a bus to Sivas.

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My bike computer only shows temperatures to -11 degrees. But on Google we saw, that in Göreme it would be -14 and in Sivas -24 degrees. We arrived in Sivas at 1 am and had to cycle 4Km to our host. We made it but I decided for myself that it would be too cold in future without any polar equipment. The eyelids begin to freeze and stick together when blinking. It’s probably also not the healthiest thing for the lungs. I’m curious how my trip to Georgia and Armenia will continue. But I won’t risk temperatures below -20. Especially as I have no experience whatsoever.

I can look back on very adventures two weeks. So many great moments. Many thanks to you Luca for being as crazy as myself! :)