I left Kabalar with a note from Yasar saying ‘good lake kucukizim gule gule’ which he told me meant ‘good luck little daughter’ with a phone number to call should I run into any language or other difficulties in my travels across Turkey.
I met Yasar and Elif Magat only the day before- when I rode up to the small farming village of Kabalar very thirsty. The day was hot, around 40 degrees Celsius, and in 8 hours of riding I had climbed 2,100 meters in just under 100km. I had planned a big long day hoping to ride around 160km, however I was already tired and also disheartened by the ever present easterly wind.
I had not taken out any more Liaras (local currency) since leaving Nic in Cesme, which was silly, as after Izmir I found no more banks – and of course I thought I would have ridden further. However, I was extremely thirsty – riding up the last climb, I recalled the dehydration experienced in one of my early MTB races which resulted in some hallucination and physical sickness. Luckily the small town had a small shop with cold drinks, but of course no facility to take a card- they did have a faucet though and I drank from it greedily. During my exchanges with hand signals, at least 5 onlookers had gone to the house of someone who speaks english.
Elif arrived in front of me as I was wheeling my bicycle away. She was at least a foot shorter then me and nearly as wide as she was tall wearing a brown floral button up dress and yellow floral headscarf tied under her chin. “Where you going?” she asked me, I said I was trying to reach Dinar, but eventually riding to Egirdir. “You go there tomorrow,” she said placing a firm hand on my handle bars, “tonight you come to my house and eat and rest.” I’ve really got to get going I protested half heartedly … did I? “Tomorrow” she affirmed, still holding my bike she began to walk towards her house.
What could I do? She led me into her courtyard with
a garden of grapes, peppers, tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, mint, basil and other delights to a table with many chairs around it. Instructed me to wash up, provided slippers and brought out vegetation treats, biscuits, watermelon, nuts, cherries, and of course tea. During the evening, many of the women came to sit in her chairs and meet me and wonder about how I could bicycle all by myself. We did a lot of smiling at each other as we drank tea and Elif translated a little.
Elif and her husband spent 30 years in Australia. They immigrated there in 1970 as poor rural villagers with a dream. They spoke no english and I could imagine the first experiences would be a little intimidating- they were both put into assembly line jobs and not understanding what people were saying learned english on their own and went on to work in factories and as cleaners while they raised three children. They now have many grandchildren, the youngest knowing only a little turkish having grown up in Australia.
They returned to Turkey, sadly to burry one of their children and have remained for the rest of their retirement, now being in their 70s. Having experienced the difficulties of living in a new country they had complete empathy for my situation and enjoyed the opportunity to look after me. Hot shower, pajamas, homemade breakfast in the morning and an offer to return and live there! Their kindness and generosity lifted my spirits!
I am humbled by the continued kindness of strangers in Turkey the past four days of riding from Cesme to Isparta. Smiles are genuine, fists are pumping the air again from passing vehicles, truck drivers offer lifts, gas station attendants offer fresh cherries, children cheer, policemen wave- everyone is a part of the adventure with me. Here a woman proudly shows off her cherries-
Every where we go we are embraced. Nic has been having a similar experience in Egirdir, where daily the neighbors knock on the door of the house he is in, bearing gifts of fruits, breads and delectable homemade vegetarian dishes.
Just think for a moment. If you saw someone from a different country rock up on their bicycle at your local shop, would you invite them home? If someone was visiting your community, would you cook for them? I don’t think I would have. However, I have learned that there is value in giving, and I think it is a special experience for those that help us too. They become or are the heart of our expedition.
Unfortunately, we may have to discontinue the expedition unless we get some pretty serious investment. This expedition is not just two people riding bikes and breaking a world record. We have an education team, a documentary team and online classroom environment all of which have significant cost. Up until this point, we have managed it along with much support from friends and family. However, it is time a larger investor have the same opportunity of value in joining our expedition just like all the people who help us along the way. If you are part of or know of a company that could do well to support any of our faculties – be it the expedition, documentary series, or education platform – Ride To Learn – please contact us or Steve immediately. We hope that we can continue to inspire, enrich and engage as we we continue the expedition around the world.