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|Photo credit: Intrepid Berkeley Explorer|
43 miles - Sunday, November 6
Leaving Sigacik we continue pedaling southward along the coast under intense gusts, like the previous day, but we are lucky the weather is mostly a tailwind. Not for the first time I am thankful to wear prescription sunglasses because, had I tried contacts again, quite literally the dust would've stopped me in my tracks.
As we pass Doganbey and Gumuldur the villages are a sea of white-washed walls and red tiled roofs. Skeletal structures of unfinished homes overwhelm the hillsides above us. When they're complete it's not hard to imagine Izmir's occupants, easily owning a second home on the Aegean coast.
|Photo credit: Turkey Travel Planner|
Like yesterday, smiling faces greet us from the roadside. It's a mix of women and men riding donkeys, the women especially bedecked in colorful wide legged pants plus headscarves, covering all but their black eyes. Again, we smile and say Merhaba and they respond in kind. Children are especially friendly; they run towards us and wave, often addressing us first.
We are learning that kindness is ingrained in the Turkish people. A youngster or young man will escort us to the post office, a restaurant, food store – whatever we request. And not expect anything in return. Their attentiveness tugs at my heart. I express my gratitude with a smile and nod. After our months of travel across Europe, Turkey is a country like no other.
The coastal road weaves in and out of villages high above the sea. There are herds of sheep and goats wandering rocky hills, their bells clanging like music on the breeze. Shepherds, all wrapped up against a cold wind, often appear near the road, tending animals among small groves of Satsuma oranges, lemons, and limes. One man tethers two Holsteins in a tiny pasture to let the cows happily munch on a pile of oranges.
Andy and I treat ourselves to lunch at a restaurant. It's nice to get inside out of a chilling wind. For the equivalent of 3.00 USD we eat pizza, salad and drinks for two. Afterward, we are given two satsuma oranges, which are very sweet and yummy without seeds. Later we spy locals selling oranges, sitting on the graveled shoulder, each with a single basket of fruit.
Late afternoon we cycle a winding road and below us are coves of sheltered beaches. Houses are clustered, often with a rust colored tennis or basketball court right at beach level. Another cove reveals voices drifting upward. A person pulls a looped net towards shore – a gill net, Andy says.
Beyond Claros the road flattens. It is a floodplain where the Menderes River empties to the sea. By now, I'm cold, My knees are tired and tingly. It's late. Turning inland, the fading light glimmers on Selcuk, our destination, it's glow like a flame against tan hills.
As we pedal the remaining five kilometers, we can see the Ephesus ruins, an amphitheater curving a short flight back from the main highway as if molded into the earth. The site is a must see, as suggested by tourist information and the women from Izmir we'd met aboard the ferry. Apparently they're the best preserved ancient buildings next to the Acropolis in Athens
|Pedestrian path outside Selcuk. Photo credit: Travelvice Snapshots by Craig Heimburger|
As the traffic increases, Andy suggests an alternate parallel road, one that turns out to be lined with the protective arms of olive groves, were it the heat of summer, but for us this old road, cracked, and dirt in places is utilized by walkers and farm equipment. We share the road with a couple tractors, each pulling a wagon load of women wearing the classic garb: floral wide-legged trousers beneath long shirts, their heads wrapped in cloth. They reminded me of the bobble-headed figurines of my childhood. Beyond the rumbling wagons, it was our first glimpse of cotton fields, bursting with moth-like downy fiber.
|Welcoming courtyard of ANZ Hostel. Photo credit: ANZ Hostel|
We keyed on recommended accommodation, a pansiyon called Australia-New Zealand. The name itself drew us in, and coupled with low cost, promising English speaking proprietors and travelers, it was enough to keep us spinning wheels long past when we'd normally take a break. Without the task to locate shelter, a cloud lifted for today at least, it had allowed us to fully appreciate the landscape.
So it was with smiles that we come upon the pansiyon's sign on the near side of Selcuk, and after getting lost only once, bumping our wheels on a dusty cobbled street, that we pushed our bicycles up a brick-lined entryway and were welcomed into the hostel's plant filled courtyard. It was an oasis, surrounded by a 3 story yellow building, shaped like a horseshoe.