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31th Dec – Descending from the Gods and a Kozan NY ‘party’

January 28, 2011
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There can’t be much more climbing to do before we descend off these mountains, surely…

That was our first thoughts of the morning, as we ate what was left of what Mustafa had provided for us from the day before – bread and honey, breakfast of champs. The conventional road to Kozan was blocked due to some unforeseen event (signs saying turn back) so we took another road, which of course led us up and up and over a pass, before it dropped down the other side, through small villages filled with people ambling to mosque for prayers. The roads were as bumpy as ever, but they were clinging to the Cliffside affording beautiful views across the now much greener valleys.

I was still worried about my bike, so was being rather cautious on the descents. It no go good however, as on a particularly steep on I went over a bump and my front pannier containing all the food came loose. There was a crash and a sound of pinging spokes (the stuff of nightmares) and suddenly my front wheel jammed up. This was not feeling good. Luckily i had managed to slow down enough before it jammed so I was able to keep the bike upright, but to the demise of my front rack, which had completely snapped.

Tubus claim to make the strongest and most durable racks in the world; and I’m sure they do, but they should have given them to me to test before claiming this, as i managed to snap it clean off. God knows how it happened, but the wheel remained unscathed, as well as the pannier. Luckily the rack would still function enough to hold the bag on with some minor adjustments and before long i was away again, if only with some of Francesca’s front appendage.

We got to the bottom of the valley and realised the cause of the diversion – another dam. This one just as big, with piles of aggregate the size of mountains on the valley floor.

Being a valley, there was inevitably another climb across the other side to get out of it, meandering through the construction works and admiring the JCBs teetering on the edge of a certain plummet as they shovelled soil about. We emerged out of the valley, feeling a tropical taste to the air. we were greeted at the top by the local mullah and his group of counterparts, very eager to know where we had come from and offer us some cay. They also promised it was not far to the end of the mountains, and it was all downhill from there.

He didn’t tell us of the last climb though that topped it off. It was so steep my wheels were skidding for grip. I was so exhausted and frankly sick of mountains. Give me some flat! And some damn asphalt!!

Finally the asphalt appeared, and we were overjoyed. I will never underestimate a smooth road again. It carried us for about 5km on a plateau to Akdam, and finally, after 4 days, we descended off the mountains.

What a descent it was! Its hard to describe moments like these, but it made all the climbs of the last four days totally worth it – not that they weren’t worth it already. As is always the case with the most challenging of cycling terrain, it almost proves to be the most rewarding, and the last few days have been some of the best of the trip thus far.

The change in landscape was immediate. The heat, the scenery, it was like going through a wormhole and landing in Greece. The view was like the lid of an Olivio butterbox. We were fast approaching the Med, and you could feel it hanging heavily in the warm air. orange groves lined the road, and we couldn’t help but fill our panniers with freshly picked oranges. What a reward for coming off the mountains!

We stopped for lunch at the roadside in a dusty shop and spent the very last of our lira on some biscuits. We were not far to Kozan now, where we were planning to stop for New Years Eve Turkish style.

We got to the edge of town and stopped in a petrol station for a potwash. We were quickly offered some tea and use of the staff office / kitchen to wash up. There was pandemonium yet again as is always the case and hords of curiousity was abound. We made new friends, exchanged phone numbers email addresses and facebook details. We even found a cheap place to stay in town, courtesy of the restaurant owner across the way who had a friend who ran a small hotel in the centre. Eventually after about 6 cups of cay we got on the road and found the hotel via several kids kindly leading us the correct way.

The hotel was tiny and cheap, perfect for us for the night. We dumped our stuff and went across the road to get some good kebab, and headed to the next place to get loaded up on baklava to keep us going through to midnight.

We found a bar in the town that we thought would serve us well for the celebration – we were quite wrong. The bar felt like a naughty little hideout for secret drinkers – apparently Kozan is a religious town so drinking is not a big pastime of the people, and this place certainly backed up that people. The barman was a grumpy old guy who looked like he helped himself quite plentifully to the raki stock. We sat in there for a few hours and watched the celebrations building up in Istanbul and Ankara – the atmosphere there was certainly better than it was here. we asked what time he closed and he said midnight. That was a bit odd we thought, then we noticed he was running his clocks 20 minutes early!

At 2340 – his midnight, he shut the bar down and kicked everyone out. We had some discrepancy with the bill, so while harry went to get cash we sat in the bar with the barman and his mate and saw in the new year in a very muted manner. They might as well not have even been aware of it. We went out on the street and it was totally deserted. What the hell was going on??

We went back to the hotel and played a few games with the guy who was on night shift, watched some Brasseye and went to bed. Happy new year!

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