Sunday, 13 November 2011


me and Ercan, Sıvas, Eastern Turkey

I'd arranged on the website Warmshowers (a site for cycle tourists to share accommodation) to meet Ercan in Sivas, which proved to be a blessing, as the ride from Cappadocia was tough. It snowed the night I camped near Kayseri, and the next two days was all about slogging east into an easterly wind. I did find a still-sealed bottle of vodka at the roadside, which I mixed with milk into White Russians, but the nights were cold and I was slow. I try to avoid riding at night (I'm nervous of the driving, and when I'm camping I like to use some of the daylight to make camp), but I was so slow into that wind that I had an hour's dark riding into Sivas, along a dirt road through a narrow canyon. My lights are better than some of the cars on the road, so I had plenty of room and I found myself enjoying it. Still, the driving is too erratic for me to want to do that frequently. With the nights drawing in, I was covering about 60 miles a day at most and often less, rather than 70-80 miles a day in Europe.

Ercan was waiting most patiently for me, and once I'd had some food and dumped my bike and established the reason for all the windows being open in his flat despite the sub-zero temperatures (he'd been struck down with paranoia about the cleanliness of the place, so he'd doused it in bleach, and when he became light-headed he realised that he'd overdone it a tad), I felt relaxed, and welcomed, and decided to stay for a couple of days.

Ercan showed me around Sivas - as much as he could. Although it's comparatively affluent and a fair size, Sivas doesn't have many famous sites. It is, however, comfortable and I enjoyed the relaxed vibe. Being with someone who spoke the language and knew lots of folk around town was such a change: we sat in Ercan's boss's chamber where he gently quizzed me on UK foreign policy, and I spent an afternoon in the company of Mr Turcan, the Honorary German Consulate for the Sivas region. We also visited a Nargile Cafe, and I dragged teetotal Ercan to the only pub in Sivas.

Nargile Cafe, Sivas, Eastern Turkey

All of that was great. However, touring cyclists are all about the food. I'd been on a quest to find porridge since I got to Turkey; It's called yulaf esmesi here, but could I find it? Everyone knew what it was, but nowhere stocked it. Ercan and Sivas changed all that, and I bought a kilo just to be sure. I'd been having semolina for breakfast, which was OK, but it ain't porridge. Ercan also introduced me to halva, and he cooks a mean fish.

It was a leisurely few days off the bike, which I would have loved to have extended, except that I could feel winter dogging my heels, and I wanted to get south of the mountains before the cold weather really set in. Ercan and Mr Turcan tried to talk me out of going east into the winter, and when I looked out on the morning's sleet, it was hard to push myself out that door. Leaving warmth and companionship for solitary pursuits along bleak dual carriageways? But the snow had stopped, and I had to heed the call of the road.

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