Saturday, October 18 Derinkuyu to Selime
Well, I am bored, lonely and hungry tonight, but that doesn’t take anything away from an unexpectedly good day on the bike. Because of the weather forecasts I have broken the last leg from Goreme to Konya into four planned sections. Usually, I just ride until I start to get tired and then start keeping my eyes open for a place to lay my head for the night. For this stretch I am setting a definite destinations and then watching the weather forecasts for a potential window for riding.
Last night when I went to bed my iPhone weather forecaster said that rain would likely start about 10:00 a.m. I decided that I would get up early enough that I would be packed before the 8:00 a.m. hotel breakfast. That way I could leave by 8:30 and have at least an hour and a half in drier conditions before the rain started. If I could reach my destination by noon that would give me the rest of the day to get dried out, was my thinking.
I got up and checked the weather on my iPhone again. Now the rain wasn’t supposed to start until 1:00 p.m. “Perfect,” I thought. That would give me a little more leisurely start and might give me enough of window to reach my destination before the showers started. I ate breakfast (a really sorry affair of cut pieces of French bread, bologna slices, feta cheese and olives. That was it!), loaded up my gear and headed downstairs to embark on the day’s adventure. As soon as I reached the bottom of the stairs I let out a big sigh. It was pouring outside. I looked at the hotel clerk, smiled and threw up my hands in a gesture that said, “That’s just how it goes sometimes!”
It took me a full half hour to adjust, changing clothing, and putting my valuables in plastic bags in case water seeped into my handlebar bag (a lesson I learned three years ago when I got drenched in near flash flood conditions in Yellowstone and drowned my phone as well as other items). As I started it was cold and I had to stop again to add winter gloves. And then…within five kilometers the rain stopped. The streets eventually evolved from a series of puddles to just wet , soppy pavement and then finally to dry pavement. Even though it was windy and chilly the rest of the ride, no rain dropped from the overhead clouds that remained threatening.
I felt like, at moments, I sort of got my chi back as I rode. My whole route for the day was on secondary roads with very little traffic and half of that was tractors and warehouse trucks busy with the potato harvest. I rode by numerous fields where a dozen or so workers (mostly women) were picking up the potatoes that had been unearthed by the tractor’s claw and placing them in white bags to be picked up by the young men. At one field I stopped hoping for a picture of the harvest in action. There was giggling and pointing and soon I was right down there with them, getting my shoes muddy, as I took pictures of them and promised to post them to Facebook. Later I passed by a group of women picking strawberries in a field. As I passed by they all stood up and waved and yelled “hellos” at this stranger passing through their world.
It was there that I was taking a little shortcut off the road I had been on to an even more isolated road. I ended up in the tiny little village of Alanyurt just before noon time prayers at the mosque. Four men out front did their best to direct me at a roundabout and crowded around my GPS trying to figure out where I was going. One of the common miscommunications that I have had is the difference between “from” and “to”. I have learned to use my left hand to indicate “from” and my right hand to indicate “to.” It seems to be working as after two or three attempts they seem to understand.
I just missed an opportunity to pray at the mosque by two mere seconds. After giving me directions I started to take off and they began filing into the mosque. Just before the last man entered the gate, it occurred to me that this would be the perfect occasion to pray with them. I put my bike back up and tried to get the man’s attention by saying, “Sir! Sir!” I might as well have been saying, “Blue! Blue!” It didn’t register and he went in before I could ask whether it would be alright if I joined them. I decided to go anyway. As I entered the area we would call the narthex in a church the last man was just removing his shoes and entering. I followed suit, but by the time I was ready they had closed the door and the iman was already praying. That’s when I stopped. At home I would have opened the door and snuck into the back of the church. But, here in this small village in my biking clothes as a non-Muslim, I was concerned about crossing a boundary I didn’t know about. As I left, I vowed I wouldn’t let an opportunity like that pass by me again.
I then found the road I wanted and it turned out to be a dirt road through a combination of a little farming land and mostly prairie land with a backdrop of cliffs and mesas sitting to the southeast. It was a wonderful feeling crossing the plateau with miles and miles of land with no houses, sheds or electrical towers marring the horizon. There I was completely alone crossing from one part of Turkey to another in what felt like a great expedition. That lasted about an hour before I re-connected with one of the main roads again and discovered I was nearly on top of the hotel that I had reserved for the night.
I am staying in Selime known for the largest cave cathedral in Cappadocia. I enjoyed a wonderful grilled chicken lunch right on a small stream at the one restaurant that seemed to be open in the area. The rain was still holding off by mid-afternoon so I bought a ticket to the cave church and monastery and took the hike to see them. They really are a marvel. This one was built in the 8th and 9th century and was used both as a monastery and training for priests as well as a military outpost during more volatile times. One of the things that surprised me is how long these sites have withstood natural erosion. I had put my hand on the underbelly of a wall to get my balance and a small amount of crusty sand immediately fell off. I inspected it more and discovered why these caves could be built. A good stone chisel in the hands of an ambitious person could carve out a space the size of a bathroom in a day’s time. It just crumbles away.
I was on my way back to the hotel when the thunder started to crack and boom overhead. For a while the rain came down pretty hard, but has mostly settled into a drizzle for the evening.
I did say that I am bored, lonely and hungry. It’s one of the risks of arriving in new territory nearly every day. The village I am in has a couple of little snack stands that I have seen all through Italy, Greece, and Turkey. There is no store that I know of. The restaurant is two miles away from my hotel even though they have the same name and are run by the same family. I booked the hotel after seeing it listed as “Hotel and Restaurant”. I didn’t even think to check to see if they were located in the same building or property. Silly me! And then with it being dark, on my bike and with rain coming down, riding back to the restaurant just doesn’t sound wise or fun. So I am sitting writing with almonds, dried apricots and some left over chocolate for dinner.
Of all the weather days, tomorrow is the one I am most concerned with. So far I have fared very well. Tomorrow, however, is predicted to be nearly freezing (34 degrees) in the morning and raining. If the forecasters are right and I get both of those I will have to make a decision whether to gut it out or stall for a few hours. Either way is fine. I have one full day I can still play with and I only have 110 miles still to go before reaching Konya.
Of course, if tomorrow is anything like today I will be presented with a whole new plate of unexpected surprises. It’s all good. It’s all just fine.