I was lucky enough to be 550 meters up, at the top of Bozburun Tepesi. It was just before sunset and the resin from the pine forests mixed with the Land Rover’s diesely, oily, metallic tang. The old thing had had a tough climb up the gravel track, dotted with rocks big enough to take out a diff if you got it wrong. A low ratio second gear, tooth-rattling crawl for much of it.
The view from Bozburun takes in the whole of the Köyceğiz-Dalyan delta, and it looks small enough to be a train set. Look across the Mediterranean and you can – just about – see Rhodes. It is the most beautiful place I’ve stood. Ever.
Apart from the whisper of a passing jet, 32,000 feet up, there was just the breeze, the olive trees and an optimistic soloist cicada. Then, looking out over lake Sülüngür and watching a toy tractor inch its way along, I heard an engine in the distance, straining. A small capacity two-stroke getting a tough time of it. Probably someone coppicing with a chain saw in the filigree pine forests that stagger in ranks down the mountain.
When I looked again, the tractor had turned off the road and was starting to bounce its way through the ruts of a pomegranate grove.
The two-stroke got louder. It was a tiny motorcycle, its flywheel spinning as it clawed its way up the slope, piloted by the sort of chap who, in the UK, would get described by the papers as a “plucky pensioner”. I doubt he’d be impressed even though he had the rear wheel sideways and spinning through rock-strewn scree that would have had Simon Pavey sweating.
He was helmetless, sitting down in the saddle and instead of a pair of hardcore motocross boots, his bare feet were slipped into old, worn leather sandals. Occasionlly, he’d lift his foot when a rock got too close. He’d got a square of old carpet tied across the saddle, presumably for a bit of extra padding. It certainly wasn’t for decoration. This was not a man who believed in either blinging or even cleaning his machine. It hadn’t seen a cleaning product this century. Probably not last either.
He disappeared behind a clump of pines and the engine cut. I went back to an earnest discussion of whether the Landie’s brakes were up to the descent if what was left of the gearbox decided its balding teeth wouldn’t hold.
The two-stroke buzz began again, then faded and died. More buzzing, more dying. Finally, the spluttering stopped and the single, tiny cylinder’s spark caught and the dink-dink-dink-dink held steady. I could almost almost see the smile on his face as he idly blipped the throttle.
He reappeared a minute later from behind the trees, the back and bars of the bike hung with Migros carrier bags. I wondered if he’d been collecting pine honey from the beehives that look like wooden bankers’ boxes.
Still astride his faded carpet square saddle, he easily threaded the tiny bike between the larger boulders and pointed the bars downhill. Unfussed by 550 meters of rock-littered, gravel-covered, squeaky-tight, buttock-clenching bends he simply rode down the same track the Landie has struggled up earlier.
The last I saw of him was a hand raised in casual greeting to a friend passing in a pick up truck that looked as though it had seen service at El Alamein.
This morning I cycled into town and was passed by the first large capacity bikes I’ve seen in a couple of weeks. A convoy of R1200GSes, each rider togged up in the full BMW adventure suit rig, motocross lids and Camelbaks. One was standing on his pegs as he negotiated the mean streets and stray dogs of Dalyan.
As I leaned my bicycle against the coffee shop wall, I couldn’t help a bit of a smile.