Three Cyclists: Izmir to Selcuk - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

February 20, 2014

Three Cyclists: Izmir to Selcuk

The hotel night watchman looks surprised to see me up and leaving so early, as the couple of days I've stayed, it has been late, around nine o'clock when I've passed through reception. However today I'm back on the bike and meeting up with two other cyclists, Dino and Suzy at eight thirty and want to be there in good time as not to keep them waiting.

Pushing the bike along the sidewalk towards the waterfront and rendezvous point outside the tourist office, I stop at a stall selling simits, a sweet bread ring like a bagel and coated in sesame seeds. I buy two, which is enough for breakfast and eat while walking. Further on there is a Starbucks where I stop and buy a large Americano, then continue.

I'm there with plenty of time to spare and sit on a bollard upon the quay a little way off but with the tourist office in view. While sipping my coffee, disc-cutters sear my ears with grinding noise as workmen are laying-down new paving slabs on the walkway along the quay and there's water and mortar-mud in a wide band of unpaved walkway. A pretty young woman in conversation with her phone pressed to her ear saunters by, causing a couple of the men to look up and their gaze to follow. She continues along the water's edge, then stops and turns squarely on the spot and decides to walk inwards, but seeing the muddy un-laid pathway, saunters back to a point where there is a metal grid and unsteadily in high heels steps her way across.

I'm beginning to hope this is the tourist office they mean. Then in-front of the tourist office I spot a cyclist in a bright yellow top. He calls out to me by name. Have I seen him before I muse while pushing the bike to meet his approach, wheeling a carbon-fibre racing bike and with iphone wired to his ear. "Hey! You are Sean?" he says when we stand face-to-face. I say yes and he adds "Dino and Suzy are on their way." Just at that moment they could be seen on their two fully-loaded touring bikes trundling along the quay towards us.

Mustafa, through conversation I learn his name, works for a local organisation promoting cycling in Izmir. He commutes to work each morning and home in the afternoon with a camera on his cycle-helmet recording each journey. Its useful both as a witness in case of an accident and drivers show him more respect when they see the camera, he claims. He uploads ever journey to his website.

Inside the tourist office we are served tea and the helpful woman there brings out a load of brochures on sights to see in the Izmir region. She give me a useful map of Turkey and the three of us presents of glass-beaded bracelets.

A souvenir from Izmir.
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We are quite a while sat in the tourist office leafing through a book on this region of Turkey; marvelling at the glossy photos; and looking at the biblical trail of Saint John who brought Christianity to the area in the first century AD, long before the rise of Islam. One sure thing, we are getting off to a late start as it has already gone ten.

Then Mustafa, being from here, leads us to a bike shop; opening a safe path in traffic by firm hand signals for cars to stop to let us through, which they do obligingly, and often riding against the traffic until we turn into a street with only bike shops. Dino and Suzy don't need anything bike-wise, but do need a simple phone which they can use the month or so they're in Turkey, so Mustafa takes them to a phone shop around the corner while I stay in the bike shop buying a spare tire. The proprietor has Swhwalbes, but also a Chinese brand which with its thirty-five mil section and thick bead looks the business. It'll do as a front tyre at any rate, as I'm already carrying a Continental Contact bough back in Sweden which I'll use on the rear-wheel when my present Swhwalbe tires, presently showing green under-casing, eventually give up.

Turkey's own Mount Rushmore outside Izmir.
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It is gone noon when Mustafa who's office is in a shopping complex along the highway on the southern outskirts of town, shepherds us out of town along that highway. I don't know about Dino and Suzy, but there is a feeling of confidence being four cyclists together along the busy stretches with cars entering the main highway from the side. Or its perhaps Mustafa's helmet mounted camera. Drivers see it and they stop and let us pass. But most likely, its safety in numbers, being a group of four cyclists together.

We lock the bikes securely outside and pass through sport shop Decathon, through to the main shopping mall and up on the escalators and as we are conveyed upwards, Suzy remarks, we could be any place in the world, as shopping centres are all alike no matter where. We walk through the marvelled top floor to a tabled area with a row of food outlets. We order and take a seat. It is Mustafa's treat to us: a delicious lunch of pida, flat bread with vegetable and cheese topping. The Turkish pizza. And Aryan to drink, a kind of drinking yogurt. There is also sweet, a chocolate filled pancake with ice-cream.

Me, Suzy, Mustafa and Dino: here is were you can follow their trip
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Later, back outside we pose for photos before Mustafa says goodbye and returns inside. Then we're at last ready for setting off. But Dino, while tightening up his front-wheel quick release, overdoes it and it snaps. Luckily we are right outside Decathon where he enters to buy a replacement.

With Dino having a new quick-release securely installed, we are at last ready to leave. Suzy remarks "now its back to that hideous road". It is hideously busy with lots of built-up areas to the south and the resulting rough surface from traffic-light to traffic-light and vehicles driving out at us from the side. But before long we are out upon a wide smooth shouldered highway with olive and orange groves running off to ranges of hills enclosing the valley on either side. The sky being cloudless means it will be a while longer before nightfall, giving us lots of time to cover the sixty or so kilometres to our day's gold, Selcuk. Riding after five o'clock, the sun waning low producing deep colours and shadows on the landscape as we push on to get there before dark; at which point, the chat is light-heartedly about food and will we have enough to do until we reach Selcuk. I've drank the last of my pepsi and Suzy says she has two oranges as we grow hungry. But then we come to an orange stall, selling freshly squeezing orange juice by the glass where we stop. Suzy and Dino eat their oranges while I have a glass of juice sat at a table with a soft breeze making a mellow changeling sound in a wood percussion chandelier hung overhead from a tree-bow combined with the radiant ambiances of fading deep blue light as the sun sinks low.

It is getting dark when we reach the campground, a nice enough place, but the Italian woman running it wants thirty Liras each. She come down to twenty-five and I think Dino and Suzy are paying thirty-five for both of them.

I thought to remain the next morning and follow along with Dino and Suzy to the Etifus-whatever city ruins, dating from Ancient Greece and inhabited up until the first half of the last millennium; thinking to spend the morning there and then set off cycling on my own for a short day in the afternoon. But the old city involves much more walking than we'd envisaged and our legs more used to pedalling aren't so used to the other leg-muscles being used and before long we're pretty much feeling exhausted and the reams of text on interpretation boards become too much, a lot of which have old black and while photos from the later nineteen century when the ruins were being uncovered and cleared. The men labouring have faces which show a sigh of relieve for a few minutes rest leaning on their shovels from what was backbreaking work, as the photographer does his work. And we though we are tired just walking around.

We are still there well into the afternoon and its too late and I don't have the inclination to go on anywhere today, so return to the campsite where the Italian woman with her workman have been busy branching trees, is glad to see me back, so see can extract another twenty-five Liras from me.

The tall façade was the front of a library.
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Looking down what was one of the city's thoroughfares.
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Today's ride: 79 km (49 miles)
Total: 10,998 km (6,830 miles)

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