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After an ascending twilight ride, accompanied for some way by two young kids on bikes, we arrived on the outskirts of YesilÜzümlü. It was then that the heavens decided to crack themselves open on our heads; raindrops like eggs plopping down from the sky. Soon, in the squinty wet darkness, we managed to navigate our way to the coordinates we had for the farm while touring Turkey. Alas, once “coordinated”, all we had to behold was a market store and a woman scared of us seeing her snooping from behind her window curtains.
In typical Turkish fashion of course, the man who ran the small market store allowed, nay, invited us to use his phone and soon enough we were in contact with Ayse and Cengiz. They drove down in their four-wheel-drive and picked us up (sans bikes which were kept in yet another kindhearted Turkish woman’s storeroom). The small town streets were rivers as we forged a birth in our car – cleverly disguised as a boat – up the hill into the forest and to the farm. The last few kilometres in the pitch black on roads of mere mud, rocks and puddles proved to be a challenge for the small truck we were in, let alone for our heavily loaded slick tyres!
Dinner was already made for us (we were an hour or more late) by Tess, the resident intrepid-traveller-come-cook, and we tucked into the hearty food with the farm crew: Ayse, Cengiz, Ansel, Mahna, Tess and Brendan joining us.
The next morning Irish oldie Brendan had already left our small group of volunteers (farm stays weren’t what he expected them to be) and we got started on what would be two weeks of farm living. Our video paints a richer picture than what my words will, and if you, like us, thought WWOOFing and volunteer farm stays were the same thing, then keep your eyes and ears open, it’s quite a good little learning-by-watching curve!
On the second evening poor Kat was struck by a queer internal bug, leaving her bedridden, out of action, including two hospital visits, über-nausea, multiple drips and consuming only the equivalent of one day’s food for nine and a half days.
Sickness or not, there was no escaping the charm of the farm crew.
Tess and Sokke (her sweet big puppy) were quite a team – Tess explores the world heart first, being lead by her passions for travel, outdoor living, adventure and living in harmony with the environment. Sokke loves her and despite being soft as a sock (his name’s sake) he provides staunchly protective companionship. She left the farm for more adventures in Turkey about five days after we’d arrived, providing much comfort for Kat on the evening before her departure, along with some excellent book recommendations.
The group who were left worked tirelessly (tirefully!) digging a trench each day: the line up included Ansel the all-singing, all-big heart, all-adventurous American youngster from Eugene, Oregon; Mahna the big-eyed, quietly engaging, travelling, trying-to-live-with-out-money-as-much-as-possible Iranian gentleman, and of course Alee of Alleykat Adventures. These troopers dug a trench with the “help” of Toros the German Shephard (his mum Rita assisted too), Ali the Turkish oil wrestler (and hard labourer, worth his weight in digging muscle) and at times Cengiz, one of the farm owners himself.
This rag-tag farm group were joined by Ella, the musical, whimsical, brain-explodingly-mind-bogglingly talented language specialist from Finland (although she was born in Syria and spent her early childhood in the Czech Republic) and once the second hospital visit was done and a final few gut busting days were spent in bed, Kat of Alleykat fame joined the crew once more.
Work went on at the farm: the trench was dug, the chickens were fed, some chairs and an entire floor was filled with putty, sanded and polished and Ayse and Cengiz spent more time with us all. There was rain and sun and wind and walks, there was a day off spent in Fethiye, there was lots of experimental cooking done and a few baking successes had, there were card games galore, colourful “readings” (mockings) of Twilight, many movies watched and importantly: fruitful friendships carefully tended, feeding all members of our new farm family.
A bit of magic was in the air at all times, but the waving of the serendipitous wand was done by Ansel’s deft hand. The story of TanNayNay the tandem’s conception and birth is not your average nine months of gestation. (Read HERE for the full story behind why we wanted a tandem named TanNayNay to join our little Alleykat family). We were lucky enough to have a brilliant new friend, the delightful Mr Dow who hails from none other than the very small town where our tandem was being built – meaning instead of trying to ship our new baby all over the world, his friend Zeb could be instrumental in helping us transport the tender babe in arms TanNayNay to Istanbul where we and his buddy Ansel would be waiting for him and his God Fatherly sponsoring of TanNayNay. What a world.
It was time to go, a last coffee to be drunk with Ayse and Cengiz, the world debut of CyclingAbout’s latest movie to be watched, a magical hair wrap to be attached to Kat and an angry goodbye to Toros (who was busy killing one of the chickens). Alee had toothache in need of medical attention and we had another appointment with our generous couchsurfing host Gökhan in Fethiye so, set astride our bikes with our new friends in our hearts pumping happiness through our veins, we left after what seemed like a lot longer than two weeks of farm staying.
Fethiye brought many things – an emergency 8am double root canal for Alee, an apartment full of French travellers, the most amazing chicken durums either of us had ever tasted, more kindness from Gökhan, an accidental meeting with Emma a fellow bike tourer, and a twelve hour bus trip to Istanbul.
Touring Turkey: Istanbul
The bus trip was a bit of an ordeal and departing the Istanbul Otogar, sleep deprived or not, proved to be a challenge indeed. Mere kilometres from our unbelievably cheap hotel destination in Sultanhamet, it took us two hours of difficult navigation, the most bike un-friendly roads and the long way around but we made it. Anzac Wooden House is run by wonderful people (Rasid, Melissa and Fati) who looked after us from head to bike and provided us with a surprisingly brilliant home-cooked breakfast each morning (a variation on the theme of Turkish breakfast but broader than the standard bread, cheese, olives and eggs if you’re lucky – it included fruit, fresh salads and numerous Westernised alternatives…amazing).
Once in Istanbul, our first priority was to rid ourselves of our unnecessary bikes, parts and luggage; not a job for the time poor. Our progress was frustratingly slow and proved to be a source of amusement for a handful of lackadaisical Turks who frequented the maze of city streets we were gradually wearing down with all our to-ing and fro-ing. A need for boxes took us on a clueless scavenger hunt but eventually after a full day dedicated entirely to boxes we were the proud new owners of two bike-sized ones. In the next few days some postage magic happened: Kat’s wheel was sent for a tune to Rohloff in Germany, helped immensely along its merry way by the kindly men at TNT, Mehmet and Arsin, who did a bit of a ‘Dodgy Brothers’ packing job in order to cost the team about half the price we would have otherwise incurred.
There was of course time to have one last ride on ‘Farmy’ (Alee’s touring bike is named Farm Gate because of its alarming similarities with said object) and make a movie to send him off properly.
Alleykat proceeded to exercise their considerable Tetris skills in the alleyway outside the Anzac Wooden House, again while watched by the keen bird-of-prey-eyes belonging to Ramazan, the kindly local market owner and an assortment of other humans and animals alike. What looked to be half of our entire lives was wrangled deftly (and painstakingly!) into another Dodgy Brothers cardboard box – inside was actually half our lives: two bike frames, two wheels, two mud guards, two panniers and gradually Alleykat’s ark was filled to represent all bike touring elements on earth…
Alleykat continued to ignore most of the grand busy soul-nourishing city of Istanbul and instead worked our lives between the Anzac, the bike shop, two post offices and a sprinkling of little food outlets. We managed to get rid of 5.5kg of pannier weight as well, details HERE. And then… the box was sent, THE BOX WAS SENT! We cheered, we high-fived each other and our new alleyway friends, we wrung our hands at the notion of having packed too much or too little, but mostly were ferociously happy to be rid of the weight of postal responsibilities and two now-redundant touring bikes. To celebrate we continued to hold off getting our ‘tourist’ on and spent time instead eating amazing street food, buying shoes for Alee (which turned out to be a massive and expensive failure) and generally just wandering around Sultanhamet and Kariköy.
Sumptuous sahlep was available everywhere and helped stave off the continuing winter chills. More effective still in keeping us warm was a reunion with Will and Selina (see Kat’s blog post about our first meeting HERE). More relaxing, enjoying nourishing English conversations and general non-touristing was our main activity before both parties got into some separate organised tourist activity. Will and Selina met up with Selina’s sister and a friend while Alleykat prepared to ‘do’ Cappadocia.
The next 60 hours (Friday night through to Monday morning) was larger than it was long, but only just! A total of 24 sleepless hours spent on a bus, 16 hours spent on guided tours with a group of speed-touristing German lads, learning our way around the fairy chimneys and the impressive Star Wars surroundings of Göreme, 1 hour spent on a magical hot air balloon flight so good we had to film it, 3 hours spent eating (notably an amazing thing called böregi (the highest of high quality börek with yoghurt and tomato relish) at cafe called Nazar Börek with Rafik the Aussie-loving owner) and a little over 4 hours spent on sleep in total…we were certainly money-and-time-and-sleep-poor by the end, but experientially richer and thankful for having had the chance to to such a thing.
Back in Istanbul
The Hush Hostel in Kadiköy ‘the Asian side of Istanbul’ was our destination, to stay with Will, Selina, Anna and Cookie. Selina’s birthday was cause for celebration however another double root canal (at triple the price) for Alee and a desperate need for chiropractic attention due to back pain for Kat were not!
We six were then typical Istanbul tourists – we went to a Hamam before everyone’s departure from one another – Will and Selina to Antalya to walk the Lycian Way and Alleykat to Munich for a holiday from our holiday.
There are many times we’ve been astounded by the unwavering helpfulness of Turkish people and yet again we were happily reminded when a young fellow who couldn’t have been older than thirteen directed us easily through our confusing way aboard public transport to the airport. From there, due to our two-bags-only travelling status and much to airport-angsty-Alee’s satisfaction, we waltzed straight on and off the plane.
A weekend trip to Munich, Germany
After a brisk walk though the snow we were warming up in the ever-lovely Helen and Christoph’s über unctuous Munich apartment, eating and drinking our way back into our German love affair.
We opened all the mail we’d had sent to their apartment over the last few months (a long story!) and slept like babies that night. The next four days were too short – both Alee and Kat were snowed on for the first time ever, we located shoes for Alee at the gargantuan Globetrotter store (after the first unsuccessful Istanbul shoe story) and slowly ticked off the list of food and drink we’d made to imbibe in Germany, yes we love German food that much!
There was much to do in our sadly short revisit – dinner at our favourite traditional Bavarian beer hall, snow walks at night, riding public transport, watching static surfers in awe, more list ticking off with Asian food and pretzels and fresh milk! We shared a weekend snow trip with cross country skiing and hiking which was rounded off perfectly with home made Swiss cheese fondu for dinner. Our friends Angela and Stef had us over for a quick catch up (read about our first magical meeting with them HERE) it was truly awesome to see them again – our foursome friendship kept us warm in the snow, along with a mad dash for the train back ‘home’ to Helen and Christoph’s.
In Alleykat fashion, our last Munich day was possibly our busiest – after saying goodbye to our hosts, we met Alex (a spritely sanguine German lass that we knew from a bike shop in Melbourne) for coffee, did some last minute shopping for bike bags, and in the dying hours of our day, you too can watch as Kat got a tattoo.
Back in Istanbul… again!
We arrived at Istanbul airport late in the evening to time-claiming confusion at the baggage-claim (I’m sure we were just as impatient as the other time-savvy Germanic travellers!) and made it to the metro just in time to miss the last train to the city. We were of course immediately bundled into a taxi with some kindly Turks (by this stage through Turkey, are you really surprised?!) who, after exchanging emails and invitations for a çay sometime, put us on a bus and into another taxi and we were back at Anzac Wooden House as though we’d not gone anywhere at all. But we must’ve, for in our absence Zeb and TanNayNay had arrived!! So with the wee hours of the morning out of mind, we put TanNayNay the Tandem loosely together, mounted her and did what you’d expect – put photos of our new baby on the Internet!
TanNayNay was a high maintenance girl from the word go – Alee dedicated every waking minute to building her in the Anzac alleyway and in Atek bike store for almost her first 48 hours of existence. Days of persistent work whittled Alee’s final hours in Istanbul away, while Kat was often the human bike stand we gave real life to TanNayNay the Tandem. Her birth was marred by a few small hiccups: we encountered birthing problems with the rack, the dynamo hub, our assortment of wires, the front and back mudguards, her bottom bracket spacing required a brand new tool but all of these worries disappeared in the wake of TanNayNay’s first ride… we three were one, breaking land speed records and winning at life in general. You can read more about how our tandem came together HERE.
Alleykat also played as hard as we worked; spending time with new friend the happy-go-lucky and bike-bag-packing superstar, Zebadee, and firm farm friends Ansel and Ella. There were cards played, new friends met (Celine, Ella’s fabulous French friend), upstairs musical Taksim bars attended, piercings pierced, food supped upon and history learned.
We five walked in awe around the Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque, we went on numerous Ferry rides across the Golden Horn and Bosphorus and we explored the Old City Walls with Charlie a new American buddy (from the hostel we’d moved into on account of Anzac closing for refurbishment). Our penultimate and ultimate nights in Istanbul were made worthy by a very realistic Iggy Pop impersonator – whom Kat met clambering up stairs from the ladies bathroom wearing only gold spandex, eyeliner and the scent of sex…!
But these nights were made truly memorable due to multiple reunions – with Semih (our handsome bike riding Veterinarian friend from Izmir) and with the German lads, Christian, Fabian and Markus from our touristic Göreme adventures.
Before taking our leave of this magnificent city, we had a few medical bits and bobs to put in order – more teeth tapping (try rooting) for Alee and Kat got her crack fix at the Chiropractor. Of course, this ‘final’ tying of medical strings meant that Murphy stepped in and inevitably Kat swapped ailments with Alee and was suffering at the cruel hands of wisdom tooth waywardness.
Alee and Kat awoke in separate beds, what’s more in separate rooms for the first time ever (ok, ever on this trip) as the morning of our leave dragged itself into light after not nearly enough sleep due to a last late night out at a restaurant and frankly, being too darn into each other – the team: Alleykat, Ansel, Zeb and Ella – we couldn’t quite believe that this was our last goodbye. The Bard said parting is such sweet sorrow and he couldn’t be more right: with not a savoury thought in minds already missing our mates, we parted ways and boarded the early morning ferry to Yalova.
Bicycle Touring Around The World
01. Bicycle Touring The Netherlands
02. Bicycle Touring Belgium
03. Bicycle Touring Germany
04. Bicycle Touring Austria
05. Bicycle Touring Italy & Slovenia
06. Bicycle Touring Croatia & Bosnia
07. Bicycle Touring Montenegro
08. Bicycle Touring Albania
09. Bicycle Touring Greece
10. Bicycle Touring Turkey Part 1
11. Bicycle Touring Turkey Part 2
12. Bicycle Touring Turkey Part 3
13. Bicycle Touring Georgia
14. Bicycle Touring Azerbaijan
15. Bicycle Touring Iran Part 1
16. Bicycle Touring Iran Part 2
17. Bicycle Touring Iran Part 3
18. Bicycle Touring Turkmenistan
19. Bicycle Touring Uzbekistan
20. Bicycle Touring Kyrgyzstan
21. Bicycle Touring South Korea
22. Bicycle Touring Japan
23. Bicycle Touring The Philippines
24. Bicycle Touring Cambodia
25. Bicycle Touring Vietnam
26. Bicycle Touring Laos
27. Bicycle Touring Thailand
28. Bicycle Touring Malaysia & Singapore
29. Bicycle Touring Australia