Biking the Bodrum Peninsula

Trip Start Oct 24, 2005
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Flag of Turkey  , Turkish Aegean Coast,
Thursday, April 22, 2010

While wandering around on our first day in town, we spotted a motorbike rental shop, which brought back memories of all the wonderful bike trips we'd taken throughout Southeast Asia.  The seed was planted and I couldn't be deterred -- I really pushed for renting a bike and exploring the Bodrum Peninsula.  Whether it was the batting of my eyelashes, the tossing of my hair, or my generally charming personality, I can't tell you, but eventually I was able to persuade Konrad to throw caution to the wind and hit the open road. 

Bodrum was full of motorbikes – much more so than Istanbul – so it was easy to find a rental for a reasonable price (25TL -- about $18 -- for a day).  That said, the one thing we didn’t have luck locating was a manual with pedal shifting; we had our choice of either a big, clunky automatic or an even bigger bike with a hand clutch.  We’d never taken the leap and driven the hand clutch manuals before, so opted for the automatic.  It was a smidge jerky at first, but our bodies quickly remembered the how-tos of riding a motorbike, and we settled in for a day on our new "hog".

The trickiest part was the initial push out of the city.  To head west, we had to take a main highway, which was packed with cars, trucks, and semis.  We elbowed our way through and stayed on the road, and after about 30 minutes, we found an absolutely deserted coastal road to turn off onto.  For much of the day, we would be more or less alone on the road, left to enjoy the seemingly infinite stretch of the stunning sapphire Aegean by ourselves.

The road rolled through several coastal towns and villages, winding up and down the mountains which cover the Bodrum Peninsula.  The road, which isn’t the main thoroughfare for the area, was under construction and completely torn up in places.  The combination of sketchy brakes and sand or gravel was a bit too dangerous for us to risk riding down steep hills, so I often found myself hopping off and walking part of the way – trying to avoid skidding down the hill in my flip flops. 

To say that the vistas we were treated to along the way were gorgeous is selling the area and the experience short – they were so much more than that.  The water was an amazing shade of turquoise that I had assumed only existed in photoshopped pictures, and the gradations as it got deeper merely highlighted the fact that the Crayola crayon box is missing a few shades.  The landscape itself was new to me.  I had grown accustomed to the lush greens of tropical Southeast Asia, but the Mediterranean climate is much drier, meaning the terrain is rockier, more suitable for olive and orange trees than palms.

We didn't make any great progress initially and worried that we would only get to see a portion of the peninsula.  By lunchtime, we had only made it to Turgutreis, and started to look at alternatives routes.  After noshing on some borek, a traditional Turkish pastry (terribly tasty, yet certain to be devastating to the waistline), we climbed back on the bike and followed the coast as it curved north.  As we drove through the towns and villages between Turgutreis and Gumusluk, I started to dream about returning and renting a place along the coast for a week... or a month... or a year....

We stopped in Gumusluk and walked down by the water, trying to keep ourselves from being thrown off the pier by the strong winds.  In the process, Konrad's motorbike helmet split in two and the styrofoam insert flew into the water.  We spent a good 20 minutes waiting for it to get closer to shore, which it eventually did, at which point we snapped it up and got back to the business of merrymaking.  In Gumusluk, we did a bit of bargaining and made a few purchases at their lovely artisan market (complete with live glassblowing!).  

We had made good time between Turgutreis and Gumusluk, so decided to try our luck and continue north along the coast.  The road was excellent, and the driving was easy, allowing us to get all the way to Golturkbuku by 4:00pm.  Golturkbuku is apparently a primo vacation spot for Turkish celebrities, and considered quite an exclusive and extremely expensive area.  We must have just lucked out then by choosing the right spot to sit on the beach and have a reasonably-priced beer.  We made friends with a cat, debated about a sea cave, and soaked up the sunshine and the views before making our way back towards Bodrum via the northern coast of the peninsula.  

As we drove on, the terrain changed and suddenly we were in the midst of a pine forest -- quite unexpected, but very welcome -- ah, the whistling pines!  While listening to the pines, we started to get nervous about our gas situation -- we had asked if the gauge worked and were assured it did, but it hadn't moved much during our trip.  Admittedly, we hadn't driven terribly far, but we had driven much of the day, and it was an automatic, which we assumed would need more gas than an automatic.  We started searching for a gas station, but to no avail.  We didn't want to leave the main road, at the risk of using up more fuel, so carried on towards Bodrum.   Before we knew it we were rounding the corner and looking down on the city -- just as the engine started stalling.  We were able to get to the top of a long hill as the engine died and just coasted down until we found a gas station -- talk about perfect timing!  

We filled up at the gas station, but that would not be the end of the story.  We tried to start the bike and drive off into the sunset, but it would not, not, not start.  The filling attendants tried for about 20 minutes and couldn't get it to start either.  In the end, the only solution was to call the guy who rented it to us (which we did) and have him drive out and try and fix it (which he did).  About 45 minutes after we'd stopped for gas, we were finally on our way and raced to get down to the beach in time for the sunset to celebrate our 7 year anniversary.  We just caught it while enjoying a few beers on the beach before splurging on a slightly more expensive restaurant.  

Biking around the peninsula was, in my opinion, the very best thing we did while in Bodrum.  Should you ever find yourself in those parts, I would highly recommend it! 
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