“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.”
– Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
I’m not the kind of girl who says no to trying a new adventure. If there is a way for me to engage with the world around me and see something I have never seen before, I am there. The opportunity to go on an off-road bike has never come up before now…
And now, now, I am wondering why it has taken me so dam long…
We have had a really intense summer season and for some reason my body feels like it has taken an absolute beating. We have had very little time off and very little rest in between trips, however, I have been blown away by the change in my mindset as I have dived deeper and deeper into the most beautiful meditation practice. I have felt the shift, the nirvana of becoming a witness to my thoughts, of my busy mind. However… I feel like that will be a whole blog on its own – because without sounding too cliche, it has had a major impact on my life.
Another impact on my life, has been a beautiful friendship that blossomed on the yacht, with this intelligent and kind young Spaniard, Sven. A man who can speak with knowledge and hold his own in any space – a man rooted deeply in the understanding of who he is and the space he takes up in the world. We spent many hours on the boat sneaking in lengthy discussions about our lives, our theories on things, swopping travel experiences and laughing. Laughing, endlessly. He gets my jokes – therefore a treasured friend for life. As a fellow health enthusiast, we share a love for strengthening our physical bodies and monitoring what we consume from a health perspective too! And this has highlighted a separate but mutual love for the outdoors, for adventuring and for making the most of our days (mostly booze (for Sven, sugar) free).
And so, when the moment came, in Bodrum, Turkey, for us to have a half day off, after a very long and challenging guest trip, my immediate thought was to get off the boat – to go and explore. We rallied quickly and found ourselves a cheap and cheerful off-road bike from Kale Rental in Bodrum. The guys were so friendly and for half a day we paid 200TL plus helmet hire and fuel, no deposit required. I felt super confident on the back of the bike – Sven has been an instructor before and he did all the safety checks that I would have had zero clue to know what to do. I had also been given strict instructions to go back and change my shorts to jeans and cover my ankles – super glad I did, cause there were some falls, a lot of dust and plenty of scratchy bushes!
We set out straight away as we only had half a day and had promised to bring the bike back around 8pm, so the mountains were calling our name. There was a rough plan but also not really…! I was just so happy to be touching land and to be moving further and further away from the boat 🙂 And it was incredible -the speed and the flow of being on the back of a bike is something I have always loved. While I am not fussy about what transport I use when I travel, there is something so much more connected about being on a scooter or being on a motorbike – as you feel fully engaged with the environment around you. You hear, feel, smell and sometimes touch everything. You can feel the grit of the road, you can take the little path, you can stop quickly where you want and you can u-turn as many times as you need to get the full experience of the journey. And I was so happy, when the first opportunity we got, Sven did a wild U-Turn off the highway to get us to a lovely little spot to dip our feet in the water. As a first time off-roader – the excitement of heading down a dusty path was so exhilarating.
As he passionately discussed motorbikes and his full-life coloured with adventures on them, I felt the rays of the sun hitting my skin, the touch of the Turkish water cooling my feet and the dust slowly starting to settle on my skin as the challenges of the trip were blowing off me with every little gust of wind. I was so happy and my smile felt like it was stretching to all corners of my face. The Turkish coastline is beautiful and the water surprisingly blue. The terrain we covered was lush – a mix of olive trees and wild foliage – so much sand and so much heat, exactly what I expected. The villages we passed through were tiny, with low lying walls and old cars crawling along the roads. Many dogs lying on the streets – lazily melting into the heat of the tarmac.
We had found a “lake” that we set as our first destination and so the climb up to that area took us through some rural landscape – and eventually along a little dirt bridge to get to a rather empty lake. The area around it was vast, but I can’t say I would mark it on google maps as a must-see destination. It was honestly just more about the way we got there than what we got to see 🙂 I had this idea in my mind of finding some kind of epic local cuisine (Mezze, hummus, Falafel) – but the hunger pans had set in and so we stopped in the first Turkish corner bar that we passed and stopped for a snack – a cheese omelette, a platter of sorts and a sandwich. I had that hot dusty feel that felt perfectly complimented by an ice cold beer. I sat grinning, quenching my thirst and sharing one of my million long winded stories (Poor Sven!). Content.
As we wrapped up lunch, we mapped out part B of our adventure – finding an epic off-road trail where we could climb higher into the mountains and find some dusty adventuring. Something, I now was, apparently, happy to seek! And, wow, did we deliver. We found a beautiful trail, winding ourselves into the most exquisite rural terrain, wrapping around some beautiful old farms, complete with chickens and derelict farm houses. When we had been sitting at lunch we saw a couple of fire fighting helicopters picking up water from the (dry) lake and it was only when we got closer and closer to our final destination did we see the crispy blackness of what must have been a very recent fire.
Sven challenged my trust in his driving here as he took us up a very rocky and steep climb to see the most beautiful panoramic views of the area. But our wonderful bike tackled the hill (just!) and as we got to the top, we saw the destruction of the fire and the evidence of those who had been fighting it. There were water bottles, gloves and ash all over the place. Having just experienced this in Cape Town, I know how devastating these fires can be in communities.
I have to make a little side note here – I always thought my bum and my neck would get super sore on a long bike ride. A big part of why I have never really seeked out doing one. But, on this day, I was so comfortable. My helmet, although not the ideal full face, fit my head well and the seat of this particular bike was so nicely cushioned. And we were doing some challenging bumps and roads and I honestly felt so comfortable and so safe. Sven, even at one point tried to launch us in and out of a really deep ditch, and while we didn’t make it, the experience of falling off made me quite comfortable with doing so. Having a responsible driver probably helps, but doing low speed helps too 🙂
After navigating the downhill of this steep and rocky terrain, we started to head back down towards Bodrum. With golden hour settling in, the light, at this point was exquisite and the glow of sunset kept hitting the long and wispy grass in the most beautiful way. My photographic eye was getting excited and the photostops more frequent, Sven a very understanding and accommodating driver.
We went a little off course- which I have no doubt probably had something to do with me navigating. But I was a little glad we did, cause we were forced to take a little U-turn and came passed a gorgeous side street hut selling honey and local products. The family spoke no english, so I gesticulated my way through a conversation about buzzing bees and olives. Eventually parting ways with a jar of honey and some dried herbs and a very beautiful interaction with the family. The openness of people can be so beautiful.
The drive back to Bodrum was a little nerve-wracking, the Chinese lighting on our bike did not bode well for unlit back streets through the village and there were many times when poor Sven had to adjust our very poor light on the front just so he didn’t miss the bend in the road. I was, once again, super impressed with his driving skills. Arriving back, safely, in Bodrum, covered in dust, filled with enthusiasm and dying for a good meal, we sat at a restaurant and tucked into a local feast. With such a beautiful day behind us -the levels of gratitude were so high!