Sometimes you find meaning in barrenness- and deprivation within abundance. Manas and Anu spent a few days at the little fishing village of Cirali and biked 1000 kilometers to Cappadocia
A few days ago, we had crossed Antalya on our way to Cirali, the tiny fishing village at the foot of the volcano of Olympos. A few days ago, we had promised ourselves “We shall ride into Antalya and explore the city”. But then Cirali welcomed us into its bosom- and we sunk into its languid pace, its beach side shacks and its lazy-happy mood.
Lazy at Cirali
Our own forest home was tucked away from everything else too- we nestled in hammocks, curled up with a book and listened to sounds of the forest. The mood was of indolence and we spent the last few days in blissful solitude. Occasionally a tortoise from the forest would snoop around inquisitively- and even when we approached them, they would stare us down.
Then there was Diana, our host who would cook fresh catch from the ocean, and every night we would stare long into the flickering flames of our bonfire tracing imaginary shapes of angels and demons- while the local kids hung around Anu, vying to outdo each other for her attention. Cocooned in this pleasant setting, we gave-in to the luxury of doing nothing. The sounds of the night would keep us company in our log cabin, while the rustle of the trees offered its own lullaby.
On those rare occasions when we did manage to shake-off our inertia, we would visit the village of Cirali, walk along its hippie beach, swim the ocean and explore the ruins of the ancient city, Olympos. There was a sense of utter calm and an unhurried pace about Cirali that seeped deep into our beings.
Finally, we knew we could not stretch our stay any more than we already had. We reluctantly packed our gear into the saddlebags, loaded our motorbike and said our goodbyes to the kind folks: Diana, Aydin and the two little kids.
We had a long ride ahead of us- nearly 1000 kilometres, past the mystic lands of Konya and dipping down again till Mersin which was barely 250 kilometres from the Syria-Aleppo war zone and thereafter the home run till Cappadocia.
Crossing Antalya province
The early journey was through the coastal route and the landscape was stunning- azure blue seas, green forests of pine, lighter forests of trees and carpets of grass lining up the slopes around Antalya. The city itself was not very exciting for us- touristy and congested- and we were glad that we had stayed away from the maelstrom. We moved along the sea until just before the tiny town of Alanya and it was really beautiful ride. Then came the narrow roads, the winding mountain trails and the increasing temperatures- I tucked my chin deeper into my throat, sunk my head a notch lower into the motorbike and continued.
After six hours of constant riding we crossed the ancient city of Konya. Konya the seat of the Sufism, Konya the birthplace of the saint-poet Rumi. The landscape was truly surreal. Around us perhaps a radius of 5-8 kilometres was absolute flat lands. The dry brown patches of grass waved in the breeze, they caught the light of the evening sun and turned into flaming gold. In the distance all around us were hills- stark and barren, their wrinkles sharply outlined in the rays of the evening sun. The road was like a black gash in the otherwise golden brown countryside, uninhabited as far as the eyes could see.
For the past hour, we had been riding this country of distant, barren hills and flat lands – but except for my odometer, everything else seemed to be stuck in time. The bike had the same hum, the breeze had the same constant note, the road continued straight as an arrow, while the landscape remained frozen with its flatness and tufts of grass glowing gold and brown in the light. It came to a point that I wondered if I was riding at all- or was it my imagination.
It was the kind of moment that stirred something deep within us- and despite our eagerness to cover the distance, something within forced me to pull-over. Anu said “Did I just pass on the image to you? I very much wanted to stop here.” There was something about this place. It called out to us, forced us to make a stop, it left us speechless because within this barrenness we could experience grandeur. I remembered the Sufis again and their parables… this land does it to you, I murmured to myself.
We sat down by the roadside, our motorbike engine made little clicking noises as the metal cooled down from the long ride. We were surrounded by nothingness. There was something special; there was magic in the air.
Riding the war-torn border zone
As the sun sunk into the western sky, the heat wore off. And after that came broad fields of corn and grain, miles of green surrounded us and further ahead in the horizon there loomed tall conical peaks- craters of volcanoes from the ancient times. They caught the rays of the sun, their peaks turned to red while in the surrounding countryside the velvet of darkness spread fast. The temperature had by now dropped to 30- and soon after dark, it dropped by another 10 degrees. By now we had crossed the turn-off after Mersin and were headed away from the war-zone and towards our destination.
The roads were broad, beautiful and straight as far as your eyes could see. Riding this road was a delight- villages were few and far between, the countryside was flat as glass, and there were few vehicles on the road. We cruised at a steady pace until we were close to Nigde- where we were joined by other cars, little motorbikes and farm machinery, all jostling for the same tarmac. Given the peculiar road manners here, we were riding with caution: after some more time we crossed Acigol and now had only the last 50 odd kilometres to go.
Warm cuppa Tea
We rewarded ourselves a last break before the home run. We pulled over at a fuel station. This time around there were no Shell stations to be found- to the local Dpet station was the alternative. Free tea was the custom at Turkey fuel stations- and we wrapped our cold fingers around a simmering hot cup of Turkish tea. The hot liquid rolled down my throat- but its effect spread through every fiber of my being. Never did tea taste so good! Anu brought out her pack of goodies- dry fruits, cookies and some munchies. Our bike was fueled, so were our bellies- and we were now ready for the home run.
Home at Cappadocia
It was nearly 10pm when we cleared the last hill and caught our first glimpse of Goreme, Cappadocia. It looked amazing- little lights, streets and windows clinging to tall spirals of the so called Fairy Chimneys. From our vantage point up in the hills, it looked like a painting from the imagination of a child. There were tall spindly fingers of earth, cluttered into a tiny piece of canvas, reaching out into the heavens… there was even a silver disc of the moon looming over the night sky. A few minutes later, we were a part of that canvas too… our accommodation was within one of the ancient spindles aptly named “Fairy Chimney Inn”.
We shook hands with our hosts Abdullah and Yuxcel, the handshake was warm, the eyes were kind. I knew we had arrived- home is where you have friends and a warm bed to sleep in.