The Feslikan Plateau
After scratching the surface of the incredible Western Taurus Mountains of Southern Turkey, I fell hard for Antalya and its lifestyle. As mentioned in my previous articles, I spent months off the bike for various reasons but finally got back in the saddle when I landed in Antalya.
The first days of riding in Antalya were beyond brutal. August heat was unlike anything I thought a green coastal city would be. The sun was intense, and the air felt like an open oven door. Coupled with lost fitness, I was in for a challenge to get back into good enough shape to go and explore the mountains that drew me to Antalya.
One bonk after another, I spent my days meditating, riding, writing, and working on my tight joints. It might seem like I was there for leisure, but I was there to get my life back on track after many life-altering events.
However, what's a life without struggle?
I started recognizing the man in the mirror a few weeks into my trip. He has been gone for a while. I'm no longer looking at that shell of a human without any glow in his eyes, an effigy of what once was.
Thanks to the mountains, I found my lost spirit hidden among the evergreens in the highlands of the Western Taurus Mountains. The same spirit that gave me life in Portland is of the earth and the mountains, and it comes to you at the right time.
After getting destroyed one time after another with each attempt to summit the highlands of the mighty Western Taurus, the mountains finally gave way to my determination to crown the summits I saw from the heart of the valley.
One of these mountains carries a town lost in the clouds on top of its rugged high peaks, the town of Feslikan, a collection of dispersed houses clinging to the side of the mountain with sheep herds scattered all over. The most postcard view I've ever seen during my trip.
Getting to this town is a challenge in itself. Starting from the Hurma neighborhood, near the beach, the climb, classified as HC, gains 6'242 ft in under 23 miles. A Hors catégorie categorized climb is the most challenging possible climb in cycling terms.
I started early in the morning to beat the heat, but something told me to bring a layer this time. It was towards the end of August, so temperatures can fluctuate quickly at 6k ft and above elevations.
I left Hurma early in the morning and headed to Ali's roadside bakery for breakfast and to load up on some snacks for the climb up. As usual, one of the furry little guests always joined me at the table.
I mean, when in Turkey, CATS happen!
My stomach was full, and my legs were ready for the climb. To get to the base of the mountain, I passed through the tiny village of Akdamlar. Then, just past the bridge, the road turns right and straight up, with the gradients jumping from single to double digits in seconds.
God, what a place to ride.
The first set of switchbacks became familiar to me. I got accustomed to seeing the villagers sitting outside or on the balcony, enjoying their tea. But how could I forget that sweet little pup napping on the side of the road at its usual sunny spot, barely noticing me huffing and puffing my way up the hill?
How can something that brings so much pain brings endless joy?
Only a cyclist would know…
Past the right turn at the end of the switchbacks, the view opens up; a deep breath to take in a view that's just too good to be true. My eyes followed the road up to the cumulus clouds converging over the peak straight ahead.
The Feslikan plateau was shrouded in clouds, hiding away from the rest of the other peaks.
Upwards I marched toward the mountain village of Geyikbayiri, a cluster of farmhouses and small homes of farmers and seasonal visitors. The village is the defacto upper gate to the Feslikan highlands, testing your limits with the relentless gradients north of 15%. You must make it past the village to make it up the pass.
Thankfully, I felt strong enough to march on as I was training for that ride for a few weeks by then. Geyikbayiri welcomed me with an abundance of fruit trees, such as figs, pomegranates, and peaches, on either side of the road. On the way through the village, the old timers were out and about at the corner of the street, chatting over tea & gozelme as I passed them.
With Geyikbayiri behind me, I turned towards the upper switchbacks, passing by the roadside farmers market. Locals come to sell their freshly harvested & dried white beans of the upper highlands, honey and produce. They kindly waved and shouted what I could only assume would be words of encouragement.
The switchbacks pass through a canopy of upper Turkish pine, leaving civilization behind and entering the highlands' realm. A land that saw many nations, languages, and cultures, each left its mark, and they're evident everywhere you look.
Reaching the pass, the door connecting lower valleys and upper basin. A view I still struggle to find words to describe because neither words nor photos will do it justice. It's one thing to climb a mountain and another thing to find a whole other mountain range towering over you at a summit.
Feslikan plateau insight, but the town was behind a razor edge rocky mountain separating me from it.
So close, yet so far.
Even though I was near the town, 3.2 miles away, I was still 1300ft below it. The relentless climb around what I could only describe as the walls surrounding Feslikan is undoubtedly on the list of my top 10 best climbs I've ever done.
A sharp left turn and the town in sight,
If Feslikan hasn't inspired fairy tales, I don't know what will.
Sheep herds grazing away behind the historic stone buildings, locals enjoying their morning tea on the side of the road, and the occasional wave and attempt to host you for a cup of tea, generosity is well known around these parts.
The town is the gate to the upper plateaus of Çitdibi, the neighboring highlands of TÜBİTAK. (if you haven't read my ride report about TÜBİTAK, I highly recommend you do! Link here).
Feslikan is widespread, forming a triangle of roads circumnavigating the peak where the town is actually built around. The way I routed this ride, I decided to go counterclockwise; that way, I had a "flat" section of about 1.2 miles to freshen up the legs after that brutal climb. Thankfully, that played exceptionally well with the weather, as the clouds started to roll in over me, adding yet another leys of mystic vibes to an already magical ride.
Climbing up and around the triangle, the southern side is steep and goes up a tight ridge. The road alternates between paved, gravel, and poured concrete slaps, a testament to the harsh environments these mountains endure throughout their winters.
Although the whole ride is worth flying across the globe to get to, the last 2.4-mile section just before the summit is icing on the cake. Nearing 6kft, I was riding through the higher boundaries of the timberline, riding amongst the ancient Lebanese cider, juniper brush, and pine.
The air suddenly shifts, and a cold breeze rushes down the mountain; I'm officially above the treeline. I stopped on the side of the road and pinched myself. Am I really here? Does this really exist?
I know I'm young, and there's a lot more of the world to see, but holy moly, this ride is already on my list of top 10 rides you must do before you die.
As I was daydreaming reality, a motorbike zips by me. It brought me back from the realm of imagination. One last tiny hill, and we'll reach the summit! One minute I'm completely engulfed in the clouds, and another, the skies open up to cast warm sunlight on my tired body.
That's the closest thing I've experienced to the earth's breathing.
The wave of clouds came in and out, just like the Mediterranean 6000ft below.
I made it to the summit, but deep down, I wish I hadn't. There was something about that climb I hoped would keep going for longer. Climbing up the plateaus that captivated millions of people for thousands of years sure did captivate me.
That memory is so beautiful and precious that I get goosebumps just recalling it. I wish you could experience that with me. Thankfully, now you can! Visit my cycling touring business for more details on that.
Right at the summit, I found a family sitting underneath a gazebo having a meal, with a view of the valley below and the mystical peaks above them.
Life ebbs and flows, and with that, I appreciated the moments I had at the summit and descended down the mountains, hitting the sharp corners, tucked in, and flying through the same climbs that knocked the wind out of me.
Pure elation that only a cyclist would understand, especially after paying the climbing toll.
Turkey greatly impacted me, and I think of it often. It pains me to see how the earthquakes ravaged the population in Turkey & Syria, and I wish to help in any way I can.
I beseech you to donate to help those in need.
Here are some helpful links you can follow to see how you can help the victims of the earthquakes that devastated many cities in Turkey & Syria.