Turkish Swansong – Abana to Cappadocia to Georgia- 9th to 27th April

Sunday 9th April

Abana to Abana
Distance: 0 km
Average Speed: 0 kmh
Fastest Speed: 0 kmh
Total Distance: 11560.82 km

We expected rain today and as a result were in the mindset for a day off.  Sadly the rain never materialised but the day off did.  Hopefully the weather will be kind tomorrow too.  Blog, bike maintenance and admin – as usual takes hours.  Oh but at least there’s Masterchef!  

 

Monday 10th April

Abana to Ayancik
Distance: 70.61 km
Average Speed: 9.66 kmh
Fastest Speed: 51.42 kmh
Total Distance: 11631.43 km

Raining, raining, raining.  But we decide to push on.  We have a couchsurfing host in Ayancik so we just need to get the mileage done!

Could be a tough day.  There’s a long climb out of Abana but we’re happily distracted by a lovely dog, Lukka, who we feed with stale bread, name and pet endlessly – partly because he’s adorable and partly because he walks quicker than we pedal (so there’s plenty of opportunity) !!!

Then it’s a big descent into Catalzeytin where we stop for a quick (and free) coffee at a petrol station (one of the guys spends ages cycling around the forecourts on Daz’s trike).  Then we cycle along the sea front which is rather pretty.

Then at the end of the town it becomes apparent that they are in the middle of building a new road.  There’s no tarmac, only gravel and mud, mud and more mud.  Gloopy masses of the stuff collect on our wheels.  On one of the sharp inclines we have to help each other push the trikes as there’s no traction for the tyres! Finally we  arrive in Turkeli.  We stop at a petrol station and wash off as much of the thick mud as possible, in the process we get our feet wet! We stop in the town for some warming food.

Then it’s onward, turning inland, following a river up a valley. It’s quite a gentle incline to start. Then we stop so Daz can help hammer in a post and again when we meet 2  cyclists from Hong Kong. They didn’t start out together, but met for the first time in Iran and decided to cycle on together.  They are hoping to get to Spain.

We set off again.  Up up, it’s getting too late for our hosts who ask us where we are.  Fortunately we are at the top and the next 15 kilometers to Ayancik are all downhill. We arrive in town for 6pm.  It happens to be our hosts birthday, Hakan is 41. So after a lovely meal cooked by his girlfriend Mehtap we all pop out for a drink to celebrate.  It’s our first beers since Istanbul,  fortunately we only have a couple. We chat away the evening talking about the upcoming Turkish Referendum and the state of the nation!

Tuesday 11th April

Ayancik to Yenicam
Distance: 32.12 km
Average Speed: 7.11 kmh
Fastest Speed: 54.15 kmh
Total Distance: 11663.55 km

We have a huge breakfast with Hakan then take the trikes to his school.

We chat with the Principal who gives us a baby doll because we don’t have children of our own.  Then Hakan takes us to his English class. There are about 22 students all 15 years old.  We talk to them about the journey and have a good time with them.  Daz makes a new BFF after one of the students says he doesn’t look 48! We then take them out to the trikes and a few have a go before a quick photoshoot.

Then it’s time to go. We thank Hakan and wave goodbye.   It’s already 11 o’clock and it’s 60 km if we want to push all the way to Sinop.  A hard ask after yesterday’s efforts.   After 15km we are already tired of the ups and downs.  We stop for a coffee and sit in the warm sunshine for a rest.  Just after we set off we are stopped by a guy on a moped. He had stopped us earlier for a photo and had been and bought some cans of pop and cake for us, most excellent!  We eat the cakes and set off again. But it’s still a hard slog and just after 30 km we spot a petrol station. Time to buy some provisions for later. As we pull in we remember the two Chinese cyclists from yesterday mentioning they often camped at petrol stations. We ask and after a little quibble the guy in charge says OK. Tent up and I am soon snoozing, exhausted after the last two days!

Wednesday 12th April

Yenicam to Kabali
Distance: 53.01 km
Average Speed:  9.22 kmh
Fastest Speed: 58.31 kmh
Total Distance: 11716.56 km

We slept so well last night – almost 13hrs uninterrupted.    We have 25 kilometers to Sinop which is pretty uneventful.   In Sinop our first stop is for food and coffee and then we cycle to the castle and climb up the Tower; views of the harbour.

Medieval Sinop is a walled city perched on a promontory overlooking the dark, chill waters of the Black Sea. Founded by colonists from the Aegean port of Miletus in the 800s BC, Sinop became a major port because of its fine natural harbor. Today it’s still a port, and the capital of the province of the same name.  Besides its medieval city walls, Sinop offers the Alaettin Mosque (1267) and its medrese (seminary); the ruined Balatlar Kilisesi, a Roman temple converted into a Byzantine church; and the Cezayirli Ali Pasha Mosque (1297). A few remains of an ancient Temple of Serapis stand beside the Sinop Museum.

On November 30, 1853, the Imperial Russian Navy crossed the Black Sea to Sinop, attacked the Ottoman fleet which was in port there, and utterly destroyed it. The Russian bombardment went on long past when it was clear the Ottomans were defeated, killing many Ottoman sailors who were no longer combatants.  The “massacre of Sinope” was one of the events precipitating the Crimean War (1853-1854) in which Great Britain and France fought with the Ottoman Empire against the Russian Empire.

Then we cycle along the sea front picking up 2 lads who take turns on my trike whilst I ride their bike.

Then we stick to the coast road out of Sinop before it joins the main dual carriageway – D010.  There’s 2 really long, unpleasant tunnels to go through – not only do I hate the enclosed space but they’re so noisy and there’s no hard shoulder to cling to.  We’re always worried about not being seen and a couple of cars decide to pass as close to us as they possibly can!! Bastards.

20km out of Sinop and we try 2 petrol stations and a grain mill to see if we can camp on their area – a resounding ‘No’ from all of them.  We finally find a ‘disused’ warehouse that suits our needs.  Tent up, cup of tea and a cold water bucket wash.

Thursday 13th April

Kabali to Alacam
Distance: 59.84 km
Average Speed:  12.63 kmh
Fastest Speed: 56.16 kmh
Total Distance: 11776.4 km

It’s a sunny morning and after a porridge breakfast we are soon on the road.  A quick downhill followed by a long uphill then we descend for the last time today.  From here on it’s flat flat flat.  So much so that we quickly make 50km.  Which is good, because there hasn’t been a single shop, petrol station or cafe upto this point!

We are starving and it’s gotten cold by the time we pedal into Yakakent.  We stop and scoff down a Pide each.  By the time we are warm enough to continue a slight drizzle has started.  After a further 10 km it starts to rain harder and we pull into a petrol station.  A road crew,  like the highway agency, has also pulled in and they want to chat and take photos of the trikes.  We’ve seen their depots at various times on this trip; they have garages, toilets and all the amenities we would need but we ask if they have anywhere we can pitch our tent and all they can suggest is a hotel.  We’ve been standing under cover on this garage forecourt for at least 30 minutes.  The rain is getting heavier and we’re just about to head off when we realise we haven’t actually asked the petrol pump guys if there’s anywhere we can pitch our tent.   They immediately shows us to an empty room. We don’t hesitate and soon have the tent set up inside for some privacy.

The room is glass fronted onto the forecourt, so everyone pulling in can see us!! But at least it’s dry, there’s toilets and we’re out of the rain, which only gets heavier.

 

Friday 14th April

Alacam to Atakum
Distance: 57.39 km
Average Speed:  12.58 kmh
Fastest Speed: 53.72 kmh
Total Distance: 11833.79 km

We’ve had a great night and it’s nice that the tent is dry.  We have breakfast and the light drizzle finally stops by the time we’ve eaten.

We head off and find we’re not that impressed with the route or the scenery.   Today we see the most awful thing ever.  A pick up travelling the opposite direction on the other side of the dual carriageway is pulling a dead dog.  Shocking!  We can’t imagine why and wonder if he forgot the dog was tied to the back of his pickup or if the dog had been in the pickup and fell out.

We stop a couple of times for coffee and food.  We’ve realised petrol stations are an excellent place to stop because they’re so pleased to see us and they often have tea or we can get boiling water from them and make our own.  

We realise we can make Samsun if we push on but luckily we get a message from our Samsun couchsurfing host, Bulent, he’s not actually in Samsun, he’s in Atakum.  And we’re already there.  Bulent or Kaptan, our host, is a fabulous guy.  He spent time in the Turkish navy, then in the merchant navy before finally spending 10 years in Long Island, USA .  Now he owns a cafe in Samsun on the University campus.  After we’ve cleaned up and put on a desperately needed wash he takes us into Samsun.  First we visit his cafe, then he takes us up to a viewpoint over the city – sadly it’s a bit foggy.  Then we go out for dinner before returning to his house.  

Samsun – The largest city on the Black Sea is all about bustling industry. The surrounding coastal plain around Samsun produces tobacco, cereals, and cotton, which is then exported from the city’s busy port. Despite its long history (the site of ancient Amisos, founded by the Greeks in the 7th century BC lies three kilometers northwest), the modern city doesn’t have huge amounts to offer visitors. The Archaeological Museum exhibits finds from ancient Amisos, the Ghazi Museum (set in the hotel where Atatürk stayed) remembers Samsun’s role as the starting point for the Turkish War of Independence in 1919, and some interesting mosques are around town. The Market Mosque (Pazar Camii) and Great Mosque (Ulu Camii) are both worth a look.

 

Saturday 15th April

Samsun

Today Bulent takes us into Samsun for breakfast and then we visit his boat, his brother’s restaurant and then his sister’s apartment where we chat to his niece (trying to get her to practice her English).

Samsun is very busy with traffic,  but Bulent has shown us where a cycle path runs through the majority of the city and it’s traffic free most of the way.  It should make our exit much easier.  Then it’s back to his house to pack, out to dinner with copious amounts of Raki before catching the overnight bus to Nevsehir.

Sunday 16th April

Cappadocia

We arrive at Nevsehir at 7am.  Poor Daz hasn’t slept at all (but he did get to see the sunrise!) whilst I’ve been sparked out for most of the trip (Raki did the job!).  

The heating on the bus has been ramped up to his highest temperature possible and it’s incredibly uncomfortable.   In Nevsehir we drop off our bags at the bus station and then catch a local bus to Zelve – open air museum.  We walk around all the cave houses.

As if plucked from a whimsical fairytale and set down upon the stark Anatolian plains, Cappadocia is a geological oddity of honeycombed hills and towering boulders of otherworldly beauty. The fantastical topography is matched by the human history here. People have long utilised the region’s soft stone, seeking shelter underground and leaving the countryside scattered with fascinating cavern architecture. The fresco-adorned rock-cut churches of Göreme Open-Air Museum and the subterranean refuges of Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı are the most famous sights, while simply bedding down in one of Cappadocia’s cave hotels is an experience in 21st-century cave living.


Whether you’re wooed here by the hiking potential, the history or the bragging rights of becoming a modern troglodyte for a night, it’s the lunarscape panoramas that you’ll remember. This region’s accordion-ridged valleys, shaded in a palette of dusky orange and cream, are an epiphany of a landscape – the stuff of psychedelic daydreams..

We hitch back to Goreme.  The guy who gives us a lift owns a tour company so we go in to discuss a balloon ride and green tour.  We had planned to do the balloon ride on Tuesday morning but the weather doesn’t look good so instead we’ll do it Monday morning – 0430hrs start required, OMG!  

We were going to stay with a warmshower host in Nevsehir but it doesn’t seem fair to turn up this evening then get up at 4.30 in the morning so instead we look for accommodation in Goreme.  A cheap hostel sorted and we hitch back to Nevsehir to pick up our bags before getting a bus back to Goreme.  After a very quick nap we head up to a viewpoint over Goreme for sundowners.  Fabulous.  

Then we stroll back into town and look round before getting an early night. Today has been a historic day for Turkey.  Their constitutional Referendum on changing from a Prime Minister led Parliament to a Presidency resulted in a narrow victory for the ‘Yes’ vote. The majority of people we have met on our Turkish travels have all been in the ‘No’ camp.  We can only hope that Turkey can now move forward rather than backwards to an Ottomanesque authoritarianism.

 

Monday 17th April

Cappadocia

0430hrs and the alarm goes off.  And we’re off for our balloon ride.  It’s 5am and we’re still waiting for our transport.  Bugger it’s been cancelled due to adverse weather conditions. So back to bed!  We enjoy breakfast on the rooftop terrace in the sun. Fed, we then head out to meet our tour.  We are off on the ‘Green’ tour, which will take in an ancient underground city then Ilhara Valley and it’s environs.   The minibus is full, 15 of us as we head up to our first stop.  But as the guide describes our day ahead a family of 5 realise they have booked the wrong tour. So once we leave the viewpoint above pigeon valley there are only 10 of us… more space for everyone!  

The next stop is an underground city. These troglodyte cave-cities were excavated as early as Hittite times (1200BC), and expanded over the centuries as various marauding armies traversed Central Anatolia in search of captives and plunder. There are 36 underground cities in Cappadocia and the deepest one is Derinkuyu underground city, whilst the largest, which we visit is Kaymakli. It is accepted as the widest underground city of Cappadocia, among the explored ones. The number of the storage rooms in such a small area supports the idea that a great number of people resided here. Archeologists think that this could have been up to 3500 people. The open parts of the complex go down 7 subterranean levels, but there are a further 8 unopen ones beneath.  We descend into the cool earth, down narrow and low staircases.  At times we wait for other tour groups to move from one section so we can proceed.

We can only imagine what it was like living down here before electric lights and having all your animals and food stocks enclosed in with you!  Fortunately they were only used in times of emergency to hide from invading forces.  Back up topside it’s back on the bus and over to Ilhara Canyon.

Ihlara Valley (often misspelled as Ilhara Valley….oops!), near Mount Hasan and Mount Melendiz (two of the three volcanoes of Cappadocia) is a canyon with a depth of approximately 100m and was formed by the Melendiz River thousands of years ago. It begins at Ihlara village and ends with Selime Monastery at Selime village after making 26 bends along 14 kilometers.  It is believed that the valley housed more than four thousand dwellings and a hundred cave churches decorated with frescoes. Around eighty thousand people once lived in Ihlara Valley.


There are 4 entrances to Ihlara valley. The first one is at the start of the valley in Ihlara Village. The second one opens to the 4th kilometer of the valley and it is the most popular entrance, and has more than 300 steps down to the valley. The third entrance is Belisirma village which allows you to enter the valley by driving. It is located in the middle (7th km) of the valley. Belisirma has also some restaurants by Melendiz River to have lunch. Most of the guided tours end their walking here after lunch, as did ours. The last entrance is the end of the valley at the Selime Monastery. Some of the trekking tours which walk the whole valley start from this end. The best part of the valley is the first 7km part from Ihlara Village until Belisirma Village where you can see most of the churches and natural beauty.  It’s a very pleasant walk through the Ihlara valley by the vineyards, poplars and pistachio trees with the soothing sound of the rushing water (Melendiz River), and surrounded by a rich wildlife of lizards, frogs, butterflies, birds and sometimes eagles and other mammals like lambs and sheep.  There are many cave churches in Ihlara Valley. Most of them display scenes dissimilar to the scenes depicted in other Cappadocian churches. In fact, they are reminiscent of the early churches of Syria and the Coptic churches of Egypt.

At one point Daz and I cross the river, leaving our tour group to go hunt for a geocache.  This involves scrambling up the rocky lower slopes to the valleys vertical walls.  Unfortunately we don’t find it in the rush, but we manage to catch the group up as they have stopped for a drink about midway.  Our tour leader tells us if we want to go visit St George’s church we can go on ahead as it is 100 steps up the side of the valley… he was wrong, there were 151!  We then decide to contour along the rock covered slope for 400 metres in search of a second geocache.   We’d have been better going back down and along the bottom before ascending again, but that’s hindsight for you!  And again we fail to find the cache in all the rocks, but we have certainly earned our lunch!  By the time we have descended and arrived at the restaurant everyone is mid meal.  Fortunately we are starving and soon catch up!!  

After the tasty lunch we head to Selime monastery.
One of the most unexpected surprises in Cappadocia is the wonderful rock-cut monastery in Selime, at the end of Ihlara valley. Selime was home to Hittite, Assyrian, Persian, Roman, Byzantine, Danişment, Seljuk and Ottoman civilizations. One of the most important aspects of Selime fortress-monastery was that many leading clergymen were educated there. The military headquarters of the region was also located there. While the monastery is dated to 8th and 9th centuries, the frescoes in the structure date back to late 10th and early 11th centuries. The depictions include Ascension, Annunciation and Mother Mary.



Selime monastery is the biggest religious building in Cappadocia with a cathedral-size church. Inside the cathedral there are two rows of rock columns. These columns divide the cathedral into three sections. The size of the church is astonishing. The columns and arches of the church, cut directly from the tuff within the Selime monastery, still bear the tell-tale markings of various generations that once occupied it. Rudimentary icons from the early days can be seen more clearly, but detailed frescoes, painted later, are barely visible under the years of soot that covers the surfaces from when the Turks used the room for cooking.

The monastery also contains monks’ quarters, a large kitchen and even a stable for mules. The walls of the chambers were at one time adorned with frescoes but little of these remain. From the road there is a short but challenging climb up a steep and slippery hill to the monastery. On the way up to the monastery, first you go through a tunnel-like corridor, which was part of the caravan path on which camels walked.The camel caravans came to Selime for a stopover as there was a large bazaar there, and for protection, camels were led to the central part of the monastery.

The top section of the monastery has a fortress-like structure, the walls and trenches of which are still visible today. It also includes some secret passageways, a series of twisting, ever-steeper rock stairways/ladders. If you are adventurous enough, you can follow them, but the climb down can be a bit nerve-wracking but definitely worth the views. The monastery also has a courtyard. This was the section where important religious and military meetings were held.

 

We have a fab time climbing up and down this area, it truly is amazing how it has been carved into the rock formations.

We finish off the tour with the obligatory visit to a jewellery complex and another viewpoint of pigeon valley but this time from the other end.  It’s called pigeon valley because of all the pigeons that fly around there… funnily enough!

Back in Goreme we reschedule our cancelled Balloon Flight, but it will have to be on Wednesday as tomorrow’s flights have also been cancelled due to weather conditions. This means another night in this wonderful location, oh the hardships we endure!

 

Tuesday 18th April

Cappadocia
Today we walk up to Goreme open air museum and have a look round.

 

By early afternoon we’re back in the hostel; Daz really isn’t feeling too hot.  He woke up this morning with a runny nose, sneezing etc and he thought it was hayfever symptoms again (which have been hitting him hard over the last few weeks) but by the afternoon the hayfever symptoms are usually gone especially with antihistamines.   I go and fetch him painkillers and decongestants and by late afternoon he’s better.  We head off for a Turkish bath; time for a bit of pampering and then it’s dinner, cards and bed.  Tomorrow’s our last chance for the hot air balloon – so it’ll be a 0430hrs wake up call.

 

Wednesday 19th April

Cappadocia to Samsun

The alarm is set for 0430, but we are already awake way before then!! We are picked up by a minibus and taken to the air balloon company offices.  We can see there are minibuses shooting all over Goreme picking up people.  There are lots of balloon companies in town.   We wait in the offices, there’s coffee and cake so no hardship and then finally we are taken out on a short drive to the take off area.  On the way we pass balloon after balloon, all on their sides waiting for the Green light for take off.

We reach our balloon and within about 10 minutes we are loading up, 18 to a basket plus 2 pilots. And then with a roar of burning gas we lift off. It’s an amazing sight.  There are 100 balloons lifting off, some going high immediately (ours) and some staying low and gliding amongst the valleys and chimneys.

We are amazed by the spectacle.  The sun is low on the horizon and balloons fly all around us.  Later in the flight our balloon goes low, we pass a village at rooftop level and fly through gaps in the trees.  The pilots are very skillful.  Then we can see our landing zone and landing crew with jeep and trailer.  I mentioned the pilots were good… they landed the balloon on the trailer!  I was very impressed.

A glass of alcohol free champagne for everyone in celebration of a safe flight and it’s all over.  Daz has posted some pictures on Facebook during the flight, one of his friends comments about crossing off items on our bucket list…  we didn’t even know this was on our bucket list (in fact we never had a bucket list) but it’s been an unbelievable experience.   Turkey, we saw as a route to Asia,  but it has been the marvel of our travels so far.

Back at the hostel we have a quick breakfast and hit the road.  The plan is to hitchhike (Otostop in Turkish!) towards Kayseri then north back to Samsun. If it fails we can always catch the coach that is leaving Kayeri at 10.  No sooner are we on the main road than someone stops for us, and so begins the pattern of the day.  

We end up getting 6 lifts; 4 cars, an articulated lorry and a minivan.  Never standing for more than 5 minutes.  During one break we jump into a fast food joint in a small town.  We go to pay and the proprietor waves us away, this is after he has also given us Baklava and Turkish ice cream on top of our order. Turkey, you rock.  

Our last lift of the day, from two lads in their early 20’s, is the bonus of the day.  They are going to Samsun too. The next 280 kilometers go in a flash as they drive at twice the posted limit most of the time.  They even drop us off at Bulent’s cafe!  We are back in Samsun at 4pm, 3 hours before the bus would have got in and having had a much better experience!!   Back at Bulent’s place we relax with a beer and look forward to getting back on the trikes tomorrow.

 

Thursday 20th April

Samsun to Sogutlu
Distance: 75.96 km
Average Speed: 13.93 kmh
Fastest Speed: 38.35 kmh
Total Distance: 11909.75 km

Today we leave Bulent in bed, pack up and leave his house.  We cycle along the seafront for 20km to his cafe enjoying the sun, the Sea and Samsun pier.

A lovely way start to the day.  At the cafe Bulent has just arrived and we have breakfast, delicious Menemen (an egg, tomato and green pepper dish).  After Bulent has taken photos of us, the cafe and the trikes, it’s time to head off.

We actually manage to do the length of Samsun by the sea and away from all the traffic.

We finally rejoin the main road and it’s pretty unremarkable although it is flat so we make good progress.  Then we notice a cycle tourer behind us.  It’s Björn from Norway.

We cycle together for about an hour and then stop at a garage/restaurant; we hope to put our tents up here for tonight.  We’re expecting rain so we want overhead cover.  The restaurant owner agrees to let us set up at the back of his restaurant.   Excellent (we think), set up and have dinner together.

Björn is on a sabbatical from work, he works in a blood bank in a hospital, until November 2017.  He’s following a similar path to us – Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan,  Kazakhstan etc and also intends to do the Pamir Highways but will probably finish In Mongolia.  The difference is he’s like a ‘belt fed wombat’, he’s averaging over 100km a day, but he’s only in the saddle for 6 hours; that’s some pace!!

 

Friday 21st April

Sogutlu to Ordu
Distance: 102.38 km
Average Speed: 16.63 kmh
Fastest Speed: 44.24 kmh
Total Distance: 12012.13 km

Sadly our fantastic camping spot was less than fantastic.  Noisy and lit up like Blackpool illuminations.  So none of us slept well!  But we enjoy our breakfast and say Hi to the dogs before heading off before Björn (we know he’ll catch us in no time).

It’s 10km before he catches us and he says he’s going to head off and push on for Ordu.  We say our farewells and he speeds off.  I wonder what’ll be like to draught him.  So a hard push and I’m sitting behind him cruising at 20kmh.  It is flat but there’s a nasty headwind but this takes the pain out of it.  Before we know it we’ve done over 30km although we’ve taking it in turns at the front.

It’s a bit quicker pace than our usual ‘miss daisy’ pace.  By lunchtime we’ve made it to Fatsa and we’ve done 60km.  Sadly my post lunch slump coincides with a long, gentle ascent.  It’s raining now and it’s pretty miserable.   I’m so tired, getting slower and slower on the climb.  We tell Björn he should push on and meet us later.  So he heads off and we slowly crawl up the hill and then there’s tunnels.  Björn has never done tunnels before but we took him through one this morning, nerve wracking but not too bad.

This afternoon the first few are really short but then there’s one 4km long.   It’s seriously terrifying.  There’s nothing worse than hearing the echoing and thundering of trucks behind us in the tunnel and waiting for them to actually pass;  it seems to take forever.  After the tunnel it’s a long downhill into Ordu.  In Ordu we stop for coffee and cards.   We’re all going to a warmshower host, Ayse and Serdar, in Ordu but they won’t be home until 6pm.

At 6pm we head to our hosts along Ordu seafront.

They are so lovely.  Ayse is a photographer and teacher and Serdar a landscape gardener.  They’ve done a short bike tour but hope to expand their horizons and do Europe, and even the world.

We settle in and 2 other cyclists arrive.  They’re German, Dominik and Marilena and on a Hase Pino.  Ayse cooks us a fantastic dinner and then it’s biking stories before bed.

 

Saturday 22nd April

Ordu to Giresun
Distance: 50.52 km
Average Speed: 11.80 kmh
Fastest Speed: 29.15 kmh
Total Distance: 12062.65 km

After a good night’s sleep we’re treated to another incredible meal by Ayse.  After our huge breakfast we all start getting ready to head off.  Ayse and Serdar try out Dominik’s Hase tandem.  Then Daz and I give it a go.  Then everyone has a try out on a trike.

Soon it’s time to bid farewell.  Daz and I want to go back into Ordu whilst the others are heading towards Trabzon. In town we were hoping to get the cable car to Boz tepe hill, overlooking Ordu but sadly the hill is sitting in a mass of cloud, so a bit pointless we think.

Without any other excuses to delay we hit the road.  We’re in sight of the sea for most of the day.  There’s a strong head wind which makes cycling tough and the sea rough.  We make slow progress (especially after yesterday’s epic performance)  and we’re pretty tired so decide Giresun will be far enough.

We’re about 8km short when Björn appears.  He’s been having a tough day and had to wait ages for his lunch (that’s the only reason we’ve passed him).  We draught each other into Giresun, say farewell again (probably the 8th time).   We’re pooped so it’s Domino pizza, hostel and bed and it’s not even 6pm.

Sunday 23rd April

Giresun to Gorele
Distance: 61.71 km
Average Speed: 15.77 kmh
Fastest Speed: 46.25 kmh
Total Distance: 12124.36 km

A nice lie in until just after 9, then a disappointing breakfast and we are off.  We cycle around Giresun then hit the road.

It’s mostly a tailwind today and I decide to pick up the pace in an effort not to waste the day dawdling… maybe a new outlook on our cycling rhythm after cycling with Björn?  Just after 30 km we stop for lunch, Pide.

We also use the break to move the toolkit and fuel from Daz’s trike. We’ve noticed that he struggles to keep up on hills and when he took the lead when we were cycling with Björn,  the pace dropped.  His trike is definitely the heavier so we’ll see what difference this makes.  Hasan, our warmshower host for tonight, contacts us and says he is 15 minutes away on his motorbike.  Unfortunately it’s started raining now and as we cycle to him we hear thunder and see flashes of lightning!!  We see Hasan and pull over, he asks us if we want a coffee, but we are wet and want to push on.  He lets us go and we continue in the rain. With about 14 km to go he passes us again and waves us down.  This time we relent and stop for coffee.

A good job too as the heavens open just after we get inside the cafe. We chat with Hasan, a motorcycle tourer who has been all over East Africa and as far as Mongolia.   He works as First Officer on huge cargo ships but only works about 3 months of the year! The rest of the year he’s free to tour or host on Warmshowers (he’s had over 700 guests in 4 years).  After coffee we push on; the day is gloomy now under the rainclouds and the rain is still falling.   We finally arrive at his apartment.   A lovely warm shower and a chance to wash our clothes!!  And then dinner, chat and Raki.  A lovely evening.

 

Monday 24rd April

Gorele to Trabzon
Distance: 69.34 km
Average Speed: 14.31 kmh
Fastest Speed: 46.25 kmh
Total Distance: 12193.7 km

We enjoyed a nice evening with Hasan, learning about his travels and his incredible job whilst enjoying a Raki or 2 and some nibbles.

 

In the morning he looks very tired, obviously more anight owl than early bird!  The sun is shining after 3 pretty unpleasant days.  We say goodbye and cycle into Gorele town centre for breakfast.

Once fortified we head out towards Trabzon, our destination for today.  Trabzon is the number one destination on our Black Sea list so we are excited that we’ll be there today.  We try and set a good pace, but early on we realise our legs are still tired from the last few days; the extra distance with Björn and trying to cycle that little bit faster.  There’s definitely a difference now we’ve redistributed the weight.  I can’t lose Daz on the hills anymore, my thighs ache constantly now and Daz is happy taking the front so I can draught – at last!!!  But we persevere.  We stop for tea in a garage and then a little further on Darren foolishly says we should stop at 1.30pm for lunch. No sooner has he set the mark than we are both feeling hungry. But we push on!  Just before 1.30pm we pass some nice bakeries but the time is wrong. Low and behold 1.30pm comes along and there’s not a shop in sight!!  Starving and tired (that’ll teach Darren!) we finally pull into a quiet petrol station and buy some bread; tea and chocolate spread sarnies for me, PBJ for Daz.  We then take advantage of the nice weather to wash our bikes down.  They have been caked in mud and grime for the past 2 weeks with the muddy roads and days of bad weather.  They need some TLC.   We use the garage soap sprayer to cover our naked bikes in foam then get scrubbing with a couple of clothes and a bucket of water.

Job done the bikes look lovely again (but they still need some maintenance) and we repack and set off.  As we near Trabzon the traffic gets very, very busy and then we hit a long, 3 lane tunnel.  Even with the tunnel brightly lit we still get cars reacting at the last minute and swerving around us at 100kmph! Scary!

Once we are out we decide to stop and find a cheap hotel, because our warmshower host has failed to respond.  The one we pick is OK, but then we find out there’s no WiFi…  no Masterchef!!!! Tomorrow we will explore Trabzon, tonight it’s going to be another early night!!

 

Tuesday 25th April

Trabzon to Karsiyaka
Distance: 36.17 km
Average Speed: 11.24 kmh
Fastest Speed: 47.83 kmh
Total Distance: 12229.87 km

Ahhh Trabzon, number 1 spot on our Black Sea list… so underwhelmed.   Castle, tick. Hagia Sopia, tick. Wonderful fresh produce market, tick. Busy pedestrian shopping area, tick.

 

Buy selfie stick, tick… wait what!? Daz has finally broken and purchased a selfie stick so we can take better pictures of ourselves whilst cycling.  And with that we cycle out of Trabzon. (We had intended to visit Sumela Monastery but Dominik and Marilena discovered it’s closed for renovation so we’re not going to bother).  Out of Trabzon and the roads are busy.  It takes a while to escape the pull of Trabzon, but finally we are cycling beside the sea again, or would be except for the dual carriageway between us!  We are heading to Rize next, tea production capital of the Black Sea, but that’s for tomorrow. By 4.15pm we have found a nice quiet petrol station and ask if we can camp, yes, no problem.  By 4.40pm I am in my pit snoozing ( well trying to, instead I just relax and read) it’s a hard life! But I manage to crawl out of my pit for the sunset.

Later we get some bad news.  Dominik and Marilena (the German couple we met in Ordu) have been in an accident and are in a hospital in Trabzon.

Initially we think their accident was in Trabzon (made sense to us since we had several scary moments ourselves) but actually they were nearly in Rize.  They don’t remember what happened.  We also hear from Björn who’s also in Trabzon because he’s been feeling lousy the last few days.  So we tell Björn about Dominik and Marilena and we also tell Hasan.  Thankfully Björn goes straight to the hospital to check on D&M and rings their insurance company.  God bless him.  It seems they’re going to need to spend a couple of days in hospital.   The police have their tandem and gear; hopefully it’s OK.

 

Wednesday 26th April

Karsiyaka to Gundogdu
Distance: 60.15 km
Average Speed: 13.25 kmh
Fastest Speed: 39.5 kmh
Total Distance: 12290.02 km

The great thing about Turkish petrol stations on the Black Sea; there’s always free tea and boiling water.  So 2 cups of tea to start the day and no need to set up our cooker.  We head off and after just a km we’re able to leave the dual carriageway.   We stop in Araklic, the first village we come to, because I spot a bike shop.  We need grease, loctite, WD40 and a new horn for Daz (bike horn that is!).  Then we stop again for some breakfast (well it’s coffee and a pastry).  The next village is Sürmene; we’re going to cycle through but a man waves and shouts ‘çay’ so we stop again.  We have tea with him and then he takes Daz to a knife shop.

Daz gets our camping knife sharpened and then Kader gives me a present.  My own knife.  Apparently Sürmene is famous for making knives.  Off again ( not much mileage done yet today).  The sun is shining and the hillside on our right are covered in tea bushes.  Rize is famous for its tea.

In Of (yes a town called ‘Of’) we stop again for lunch.   It’s only midday but we’ve done half today’s distance (we’ve got a couchsurfing host, Seref, in Rize tonight so it’s only 50km and he doesn’t finish work until 6pm).   After lunch, we’re about to head off when Daz’s left brake malfunctions.   He takes out the brake discs (there’s a hole in 1 -caused by a bit of grit perhaps?) and manages to put them back in and the brake works – hurrah! Whilst he’s been working he’s attracted a huge audience.  Everyone finds Daz at work fascinating!  (His Army bosses would’ve felt the same had it ever happened!!).

We’re on the outskirts of Rize when we stop again.  Bike maintenance time.  We use an empty oil container and some petrol and clean our chains.  Spokes are checked.  Nuts and screws checked and superglued.  We had planned (well Daz) to clean and regrease the headsets but discover they’re a sealed unit.

We definitely need some more in depth maintenance information from Honza (Azub) especially as we’re doing far greater mileage than typical.  Trikes sorted and we head into Rize and wait to hear from our host.

We get some distressing news from Björn.  Marilena has a broken leg, Dominik – broken ribs and a compressed spine.  He will need to stay in hospital for weeks.  Their tandem is totalled!  Trip over- it’s terrible news and very sobering for us.

 

Suddenly we feel incredibly vulnerable!  We arrive in Rize, but our host sends us a message saying he is busy so we decide to push on. Ten km out of Rize we find an abandoned petrol station with an empty warehouse behind.  So that’s where we set up –  out of sight, out of mind!

Thursday 27th April

Gundogdu to Hopa

Distance: 85.21 km
Average Speed: 16.41 kmh
Fastest Speed: 32.89 kmh
Total Distance: 12375.23 km

Last night was a bit noisy.  There was a dog barking and Daz reckons its puppies were mewling most of the night.  And he’s right – in the corner of the yard is a chained dog with 4 very young puppies.  They must be starving to cry all night.  The mother cowers when we try to pet her; I’m sure she’s been beaten.

We head off and we’ve got another beautiful day of sunshine.  We decide to keep off the dual carriageway and head into Cayeli but it’s fraught.  Cars turning in front of us; pulling out on us; buses cutting us up.  It would probably be less nerve wracking on the dual carriageway. We spot a German Unimog cross country camper van.   It belongs to a retired German couple who travel to remote hills or deserts to film wildlife and birds. In the past they were surrounded by Turkish military with machine guns after someone reported their military vehicle and their hide in the undergrowth!!

We’re making great progress ; Daz has the lead and sets a blistering pace.  Moving the 5kg tool kit and 2kg of fuel has definitely fired him up whilst i’m left panting and sweating in his wake.  

In Findikli we stop for a show of folk dance and music. They’ve told us it’ll start in 10 minutes – ie 2pm but we’re still waiting at 2.30pm.  Then it does start but it’s 15 minutes of Turkish speeches so we give up.  About 5km up the road we stop for bread and chocolate spread (PBJ for Daz) and then we push on into Hopa.  We’ve had enough for the day and we’re a bit stinky so we find a hotel.  Tomorrow Georgia.

 

3 thoughts on “Turkish Swansong – Abana to Cappadocia to Georgia- 9th to 27th April

  1. Beautiful Heul what an incredible journey you both have had so far amazing stories beautiful photos with these lovely hosts! Look after yourselves and keep posting take care love Jol xxx

    • Thanks Jol. Turkey was an incredible experience. Now we’re in Georgia and hoping for great things here too!

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