As much as I try to avoid big cities, when I have a break into one of them, it always lasts longer than I originally planned. And for more than a single reason; yes, there is the need to rest, but also the pleasure to have an English conversation after many frustrating days spent struggling to communicate even the simplest concept to others and the joy of sharing things with people that have something in common with you, that bit of complicity that is usually missing from most of road side random encounters.
And then I’d like to go and have a look at some bike shops, you never know what you will find : some bike shops are just normal shops, others are more like a place where bike enthusiasts gather and speak about everything related to bicycles. It is easy to distinguish them, in the second type the owner proudly shows you his bikes, the special parts he has and advertises the countless events that he organizes. And usually there is at least one person that is just wandering around the shop, maybe sitting in a corner drinking the beer (or the çay if you are in Turkey) that has just been offered also to you; he is just a friend of the owner always having great stories concerning bikes to tell. Such was the place where my bike has been assembled – Gutenbiken in Munich – where, besides from the great barbeque they regularly organize, it is always possible to find someone who has something interesting to tell, like the story of his 20 months ride from Munich to Cape Town.
And such was Muko Motor in Malatya, organizing weekly bike tours (Mustafa, the owner, promptly showed pictures and videos from these tours) and more than willing to help me during my two days there. And since my following destination was Diyarbakir, they called the bike club from there to tell them about my imminent arrival.
Me wıth Mustafa and a friend of him at Muko Motor in Malatya
It took me four days to get to Diyarbakir, four days spent riding along a lake, along tiny roads that went through some mountains or along the Tigris river, which I knew I would have met again in Hasankeyf. And a border has been crossed, a virtual one, the one from Turkey to Kurdistan; some military checkpoints started to appear, people were dressing in a different way, a new language was being spoken (even though speaking Kurdish was forbidden until few years ago).
Diyarbakir, or better Amed, is considered the ‘capital’ of Kurdistan, being the biggest Kurdish city in the area and Hakkan was waiting me there and, together with Rezul, both guys being from the local bike club, ‘escorted’ me into town. First day was spent resting, doing some sightseeing and meeting other people from the bike club.
And during my second day in town, a Sunday, a bike tour has been organized: not too many people came as it was a rainy day, but, thanks to my presence, we went around the city and its walls, before heading out of town to a small village, where a huge breakfast was waiting us. The tour ended at the cafè of a cultur center where we just sat for some time sipping çay (I once oredered coffee instead of tea. From there on almost everytime I was brought coffee instead of tea; given the amount of çay that people here drink I really was on a caffeine high) having short conversations with people working or studying there.
And then, after a last rainy day spent visitng the university campus with Rezul (and what a visit! I’ve been introduced to a couple of professors of him before playing basketaball on the gym of the campus), sun appeared again, I was escorted out of town and I was ready for the two days ride to Mardin.