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28th Dec – Yahyali to Dikme and beyond – Ascending to the Gods

January 27, 2011

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Camp always looks different in the morning, particularly if you camped in the dark the night before. This was certainly the case this morning, and the lariness of our chosen site was a shock as we rose to see the busy petrol station less than 300m away from us. Still we were undisturbed, and were fresh and ready for the mountains.

We started with a nice tailwind on a road straight as an arrow all the way to Yahyali, until we stopped for a petrol station break and the wind violently turned on us. It was never going to be easy! The wind was howling directly against our direction of travel and made the small climb into Yahyali totally sapping.

We were rewarded however when we stopped for bread on the edge of town by a warm reception – by an entire school of energetic children! The shop we decided to pick up lunch was placed just outside said school and we could hear a few crys of ‘Hello! How are you? What is your name?’ coming from the high windows across the playground. While we were bargaining the price of bread, the bell for lunch rang, and all hell broke loose.

To say we were mobbed is an understatement. We were inundated, and it didn’t just happen here. The entire town seemed to be made up of schools, and all were out for lunch. It took us almost an hour to emerge the other side. Kids were at first curious, with some more bulshy than others running up and shaking hands and trying to play the bongo that now sits very playable strapped to the back of my bike. Once a few start showing an interest, the rest follow, and before we knew it we were wading through a sea of kids trying to escape. It was all very warm and they were lovely kids, but we felt if we stuck around too long they might start trying to jump on the bike or pulling at things, and when its 30 kids against 3, you cant take your chances. We sought refuge in a petrol station a bit further down from the first school, only to be passed by a scooter with not 2, not even 3, but 4 kids riding it, racing us through the town. We quickly realised stopping is not an option in Yahyali, so pushing up the hill and with the headwind we crawled through the town (unfortunately too slowly to get away from the more energetic kids) and eventually lost them on the outskirts where we took refuge behind another petrol station, out of sight, to have a bit of lunch. Phew!

After that all died down we were ready to face our next challenge – the sheer climb into the mountains. The road looked like a wall, and we were slowly approaching it. The headwind had fortunately subsided, and we knuckled down to grind slowly up with wide roads and into the abyss of the Turkish mountains. Julian suffered a puncture on the first hill which allowed for a welcome respite, but the temperature was rapidly dropping due to the altitude. Snow was starting to become evident on the roadsides, and the air was turning icy. We eventually made it to the top of the first climb, at the rather aptly named town of Dikme, before a Turkish Lorry warned us of the road ahead, with big waves and shouting something that looked like ‘dont go that way!’ we, rather cockily, carried on, thinking whatever is up ahead we can handle, and piled into the next sheer climb, surely the toughest ascent of the trip thus far. Regular breaks were a must, and it seemed to never end as lorries slowly slowly trudged past, also feeling the brunt of the ascent.

The view however was the just reward, and with sunset coming in it was truly spectacular we stopped and marvelled for quite a while, enjoying the total peace and magnificence of the mountains.

The wind had picked up considerably now, and there was next to no cover anywhere in the landscape. We decided to take a small muddy track off the road and camp on the edge of a muddy field, and dug in for the night, whipping out all the guy ropes and weighing down the tent edges with anything available, to prevent us from rolling down the mountainside in the windy night.

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