An Unforgettable Thirty-First Birthday Cycling in Cappadocia
Updated: Apr 21
For much of the bike trip I’d managed to keep my mum’s worries abated, but she had become increasingly concerned as a progressed further East. What was interesting was that now, I even had local Turkish people warning me to avoid Konya – full of religious extremists, they said.
It’s true, Konya is known as one of the more religiously conservative cities in Turkey. That’s primarily due to it being the final resting place of the famous Islamic scholar and poet, Rumi. Many people also know Konya for the popular whirling dervish ceremony which was practiced by Rumi’s followers. I was only going to manage to have one night in Konya though unfortunately because I needed to keep moving – I had a deadline.
My first views of Konya.
Soon after entering the busy streets of Konya I noticed a driver seemed to be following me. While this behaviour would normally worry me I was less concerned in town. Eventually, the driver pulled up close enough to me to have a chat. As it turned out Ali was a local cycling enthusiast curious about my trip. He suggested we have chai and baklava in a café nearby so he could ask me all about my bike trip. I can never say no to baklava and chai.
As I was only planning to stay one night I booked a hotel right in the centre of town. This way I could do some sightseeing on foot after dark, and hopefully catch a performance of the whirling dervishes. Unbeknown to me, they only perform their routine once a week on a Saturday – It was Tuesday. I was out of luck, I didn’t have the time to spare to stay until then.
The next morning, I packed up and cycled across town to the bus station. Back in Fethiye I had met an American couple who advised me to skip the section from Konya to Aksaray. They said it will take a couple of days and it’s mostly just flat, busy highway. I decided that was pretty worthwhile, bought a ticket, and packed my bike onto the bus.
The plan was to cycle to Cappadocia in time for my birthday.
Thirty-One Years Old in Cappadocia
My birthday was approaching, and as a solo traveler, I was conscious that I really didn’t want to spend it alone in my tent somewhere. In particular, I wanted it to be somewhere a bit special and preferably with some English-speaking company. This meant heading someplace touristic, and I had established that I could make it to Cappadocia in time.
I arrived in Göreme, the very heart of Cappadocia tourism, and even splashed out on a hostel for a few nights. Each morning I woke up to watch the hot air balloons going up. I considered a hot air balloon ride as a birthday treat to myself, but because my arrival coincided with a Chinese holiday, prices were through the roof. I couldn’t justify the price, and still really enjoyed watching the balloons from various locations around Göreme.
Good Luck Vibes for a Birthday Balloon Ride
One afternoon, I asked the man running my hostel about ticket prices for the balloon ride. I couldn’t believe my luck, prices had dropped and he was able to reserve me a ticket for a more reasonable price (a bit over $100). In the end, I was able to enjoy the balloons from the ground and in the air. The best part was, I went up on my birthday. Possibly the best birthday I could have asked for.
The absolute best views of sunrise from the basket of a balloon.
When I returned to the hostel some of the other guests and the hostel owner surprised me with a birthday cake. Thirty-one, cycle touring across Turkey, and having an absolute blast. I stayed in Cappadocia way too long, hiking and chilling at the hostel. But before I could leave, I had one more experience to tick off — camping in Cappadocia.
Camping in Cappadocia
A great spot to set up.
It’s a very cliché thing to get your Instagram-worthy photos camping amongst the hot air balloons rising. But I just had to do it. There really is nothing better than waking to the sound of hot air balloons firing up. Just unzip the tent and watch the balloons and the sunrise from a cozy sleeping bag.
I planned to camp for my last night in Cappadocia. Since I was now familiar with the area I had a pretty good idea of suitable camping locations. Because of my heavy loaded touring bike, it’s difficult to go too far out of the way. But I found a little peninsula of land off a road that I could cycle all the way down to the very end. Camping right at the end would then have me up high overlooking multiple valleys that the balloon companies start from. Other bike travelers find some pretty amazing camping places in Cappadocia.
I got the views of the balloons all to myself for a short while before the local tour companies in 4x4s flocked to the location. I did feel a bit like a queen relaxing in my tent, although a bedraggled nomad queen.
As the tour groups started arriving.
Now one year older, and wiser, I continued towards Kayseri. Kayseri was the next regional city on my way and I was once again, in need of some supplies.