The eastern detour

Oct. 23, 2011 (day 158) Turkey

Descending from Mount Nemrut I could choose the simple way, and just go south, through Urfa, to the Syrian border. That had been my original plan. However, being so close to the Kurdish part of Turkey, I could not resist the temptation to visit it. Instead of turning right in Siverek, I continued eastwards, in the direction of Diyarbakır.

Just after crossing the Atatürk Lake with a ferry, I faced completely different surroundings. The mountains are there no more, and it seems like the Turkish mainland and Kurdish areas were spaced away by no-mans land. Stony wasteland is occasionally dotted by small patches of poor arable fields, or little pastures. Living there must be quite a hardship, and the villages indeed look at least modest, when compared to those in the west. Roads are also of lower quality, and most of them seem to be bumpy just by design. In cities, however, new shiny block houses dominate, just like they do in every Turkish town.

It's hard to call Diyarbakır picturesque

It's hard to call Diyarbakır picturesque

The old city of Diyarbakır is enclosed within huge and almost complete walls, made of dark stone. The maze of small streets and passages, making their way through chaotic composition of houses, mosques and shopping areas, has lot of charm. The downside is, that an European visitor cannot relax even for a moment. Swarms of children keep shouting "tourist!" or continuously ask the same handful of questions in English.

When it comes to children, eastern Turkey is the first training before Africa. Few times I was a target of a pebble thrown by some schoolboy, and once I barely avoided being spat on. Those who come closer, sometimes try to grab the handlebar or pull straps of the panniers. Slapping their heads works, as well as charging on the bike in the direction of a distant stone thrower. They run away in panic, which sometimes looks funny, but does not change the fact, that kids are quite annoying there. The best way to avoid these problems, is not to enter towns in afternoon. While at school, and dressed in uniforms, these creatures behave in much more civilized way.

From Diyarbakır I followed Tigris, another mighty river having it's source in Turkish mountains. Swiftly crossing the city of Batman, which seems not to be named after the famous superhero, I entered a beautiful canyon, where the river makes it's way along high rock walls. Such a perfect spot for a camping could not be missed. I even pulled out the fishing rod, which I had not been using since Ukraine, but had no results. The number of fishing nets I spotted there, makes me think that everything longer than a finger is getting eaten instantly.

It cleared up, the camp again looks appealing

It cleared up, the camp again looks appealing

I woke up in the morning, to be surprised by unexpected weather change. Hearing a light rain falling on the tent fabric, I instantly used this as excuse to sleep a bit longer. However, it was not going to stop, and even increased. The plan to look for breakfast in the morning was ruined, and I was getting more and more hungry, trying to figure out what to do, while being confined in this tiny space and wasting precious daytime. Then, a savage hit of wind came, almost flattening the tent to the ground. The direction changed, and the beautiful riverside rocks made downfall winds hit my camping place with incredible force. The boredom finished, and during the next hour I was supporting the tent structure with my arms, to avoid collapse and flooding by heavy shower. Then everything finished as suddenly as it had begun, and blue sky appeared, giving way to mild, pleasant sun. This was not the first time in Turkey, that the weather broke down suddenly, just to get back to the sunny standard a few hours later, without any visible reason. I could again cycle and look for food.

Hello tourist!

Hello tourist!

The place I wanted to see was Hasankeyf. Several floors of cave houses dug in a huge rock towering over the river. Add an old, ruined bridge, and a mosque with tall minaret topped by a stork's nest, and that is the picture of the village. Hasankeyf indeed looks great, and will continue for only few years more. The project of Ilsu dam includes submerging that beautiful place. Disputes are still ongoing, but new investors from China seem to care less about history and nature, than the Europeans, who had withdrawn their funds. Not sure about the result, I preferred not to risk, and visit that place now.

Hasankeyf before being submerged

Hasankeyf before being submerged

During last two days (and nights too) I witnessed increased activity in the skies. Several jet planes, then some military helicopters made me think that the east is getting hot again. It was confirmed by a shopkeeper in Hasankeyf and newspapers I would see in the following days: Turkey and PKK started another round of fights. Good that I was not going to Iraq. The situation in Syria still seems to be unclear, but it should not get worse.

From there, I turned back west. Around Midyat the weather cleared up completely, to result in a perfect, cloudless sky. With the wind still blowing I knew what it meant. In the evening I dressed up completely, including gloves and winter cap, which had been occupying the bottom of a pannier since Finland. With that equipment I crawled into the sleeping bag. It was not as cold ad I had feared, but I got the message: go south!

The sun is rising, the coffee will be ready soon

The sun is rising, the coffee will be ready soon

The last place I wanted to visit on the eastern loop, was Mardin. The old town occupies very unusual place — a slope just below the top of a hill. The last hill before the Mesopotamian plain. After months spent in mountainous areas, the sight of endless, perfectly flat land is stunning. The city itself is also impressive, still keeping the style with new buildings being constructed of the same stone as the historical ones, or at least being painted in the same colour. Too bad it was too crowded to leave the bike unattended and explore on foot. Instead, I just had some lahmacun with Antoni, a Czech hitchhiking to India, whom I had met accidentally. Then, I descended onto the plain, on a new wide road, seriously breaking the speed limit and overtaking several cars. Finally some prize for the countless uphills I had done!

Beautifully restored Mardin's church

Beautifully restored Mardin's church

Mesopotamia is fertile, and it means that every piece of land is used for agriculture. In the autumn it is possible, yet not easy, to find some harvested field and camp there. There is no way, however, to hide from the sight of passing people. No single tree, no hills, nothing. Instead, I decided to have a try at a gas station. The same day, in the morning, I visited one of them just for water and toilet, to find myself sitting in comfortable armchair, with coffee, plate of almonds and free Internet access. With such a good impression, I wanted to try the luck again, and asked for a place to put my tent behind the building. Instead, I was offered a place in a prayer room, with soft carpet and electricity. As Turkish hospitality never stops impressing me, the Kurdish just sets new levels.

Just before the sunrise I was woken up by four truck drivers rushing in to perform the morning namaz. Thanks to them, I had started before the wind did, and cycled 113km that day. Few stops were again marked by gestures of goodwill from people. Free session at Internet café, free cola, free cookies... Insisting to pay for it, I only heard "No! I'm Kurdish from Kurdistan", like it had been the ultimate explanation of the source of hospitality.

Perfect place for dinner

Perfect place for dinner

I reached Urfa on the next day. The city is very pleasant, not too noisy, and hosts a huge bazaar, which I will definitely visit tomorrow, on Monday morning. While visiting the park and fish lake, I met Adrien, a Swiss cyclist, whom I had already met before, in Cappadocia. He is on the way to India. During a short conversation he told me a very sad news about tragedy that happened today in Van. Good that I had turned back west in Midyat.

My plan is to cycle to Akçakale tomorrow afternoon, camp before the border and cross it the next morning, with a Tuesday stamp. I'm allowed to stay up to 15 days in Syria, and before I secure a visa extension, it is wise to save the precious time.

Comments:

mama
mama
10 years ago
Piękne widoki, ładnie piszesz - jak zwykle. Ulżyło nam, ze jesteś poza zasięgiem trzęsienia ziemi.Trzymamy kciuki!
Hania / mumum
Hania / mumum
10 years ago
tak właśnie się zastanawiałam, czy nie jesteś w rejonach dotkniętych trzęsieniem ziemi, ale na szczęście w porę odbiłeś na Zachód :)
cały czas trzymam kciuki :)
siostra:)
siostra:)
10 years ago
a nie można tych dzieci po prostu rozjechać? :)
uściski z coraz bliższego 0 stopni domu ;)
ciotka
ciotka
10 years ago
Dziadkowie sie denerwowali....ale już nam ulzyło.Pozdrowienia z Gliwic.
Abbas ALI
Abbas ALI
9 years, 11 months ago
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