The experience from yesterday was that we should start early and move as far as possible and not do any detours before the heat strikes. We hit the road at 7.15 from the gas station we had “checked in” at. While riding the remaining 3 km into the center we passed seven gas stations and a couple of them looked like potential camping sites
Just before the city center we spotted a an old fortress on top of a giant hill. Had it not been for the height of the hill we might have considered to pay it a visit. Without any breakfast in our bellies, we stopped to buy bread and youghurt and continued cycling until we found a park with running water where we could enjoy our morning meal.
After a quick breakfast we headed towards Duragan which is a town some 30 km further south. The road to Duragan was pleasant to ride. Mainly downhill, a slight tailwind and nice asphalt to ride on and very beautiful surroundings.
If you remember my post from yesterday (Day 49) I mentioned that we rode on a huge dusty road without traffic but with brick factories and rice paddies at its both sides. The section we rode on todad had no brick factories and a little more traffic but much more rice paddies. Since the valley was not completely flat terraces had been made to maintain the water in each paddy. It looked a bit like northern Thailand.
We were speeding down a long slope when I heard Wej shout ”stop”. When at standstill she told me she had spotted a tiny turtle in the middle of the road. Turtles need to be rescued so we went back. It was not bigger than a tennisball and she carefully lifted it from the middle of the road and released it in the grass beside.
About 10 minutes later we were once again speeding down a slope when we spotted yet another turtle in the middle of a curve. This once was a lot bigger and it was about 1 meter from the the centerline on our side. We stopped to rescue it and while Wej parked her bike I rolled across the road to film her rescue. Then we heard the sound of an approaching truck from behind the bend and had to wait. It was not only one truck, but two. The first driver saw the turtle and passed over it. As the second truck got closer I could immediately see from where I was standing that this wasn’t going to end well. When the truck’s left front wheel a few seconds later hit the turtle we could hear a loud cracking sound when the poor turtle was sprayed all over the road.
If we had arrived only 30 seconds earlier we would have been able to rescue that turtle too. Turtles has a special meaning to Thai people and Wej was sad for it for a long time.
When we passed the town of Duragan the nature shifted once again. The valley got narrower and the little river flowing in its middle had been dammed. We left the many rice paddies behind and now continued on the road that now had the lake (dam) on the left hand side and the steep mountains on our right hand side. It was truly beautiful and the road was pleasant to ride on since there were not much traffic.
Our aim was to reach Vezirköprü which would be some 60 km from Duragan. We thought that it as usual would be the occassional village and gas station, but there was nothing. This section was almost completely empty and it was like riding in Sweden….
The water in our bottles get hot in the strong afternoon sunshine and everytime we passed a well we stopped to refill with cold and fresh water.
Maybe it is not true to say that there was nothing between Duragan and Vezirköprü. We passed 2-3 small villages, but only one of them had a place where we could stop and get our afternoon tea and coke. From the forest we also heard bells from cows so there was some kind of activity after all.
Turkey is very mountainous and we have only had one or two days without hills. We have only managed to cycle 70-80 kilometers a day due to hills and heat and it has been a little frustrating. Today we made good progress and it seemed that we would be able to ride longer than 100 km in a day for the first time since entering Istanbul.
We exited the narrow valley some 30 km from Vezirköprü and when not riding in a valley anymore it got more hilly. We cycled up and down long hills and we felt a bit exhausted after having been on the road constantly for six days. Knowing that we would have to climb another 1500 meters between Vezirköpru and Samsun on the Black Sea coast we decided to change our schedule and take a day off in Vezirköpru to regain strength to do the final climbs before reaching the sea again. We called off our plans for finding a good spot for our tent and headed straight into town to find a hotel.
Distance: 102.0 km
Traveling time 11.52 hours
Cycling time 6.40 hours
Average speed 15.3 km/h
Top speed 49.7 km/h
Altitude gained 906 m
Altitude lost 894 m
We spent the rest day in our room sleeping, reading and writing and didn’t go out until in the late afternoon. Last time we did an unplanned stop like this was in Elhovo in Bulgaria. The similarity between Elhovo and Vezirköprü is that both are small provincial towns not really famous for anything, but still very representative for ordinary towns in each country. There are no must see’s which makes it a lot easier to just use the rest day for resting.
The hotel had a very nice breakfast buffet. Not big, but good and only lacking one thing….. coffee…… But hotels without coffee is not a problem for us who carry our own kitchen and supply of instant coffee. We simply lit our own stove in the bathroom to heat some water to make the coffee needed for making our restday complete.
Although possible, we didn’t relly want to cook our dinner in the bathroom and in the late afternoon we went out to find something to eat. When we passed a barber shop I decided I might as well get shaved. We went in and as usual it was assumed that Wej is from Japan while I tried to tell that I am from Sweden. The guys in the shop were very interested in what brought a Japanese and a Swiss tourist to their little town…..
Within in a minute we were asked if we would like some tea which we gratefully accepted. They then sent a runner to a nearby shop to get the the tea and when he got back my face was already covered in a thick layer of white foam which made the drinking process a bit hard.
The remaining distance to the port city of Samsun was 115 km and with a total climb of 1500 meters. It was too much for one day but not enough for two full days either so we decided to start late and ride slowly and do it in two shorter days instead. The hills were not steep and we were much more worried about the dark clouds in the horizon than the hill itself. It soon started to rain and we had to stop to put on our rain jackets.
Our plan was to camp but since the there were dark grey, almost black clouds on the sky, we decided to go into the next town to see if we could find any cheap place to stay at. If not, we would camp as planned. The town (Havza) we had entered has many termal baths and thus a large number of hotels and guesthouses. We were soon checked in at one of the guesthouses and this was our cheapest paid accomodation so far since leaving Sweden. We paid 30 TL (115 SEK, 13 €) together and just as we had locked the bikes it started to rain heavily. A very good timing
We seem to have entered a period of being lazy and the following morning we didn’t manage to start cycling until 11 AM. With 85 km to go and more than 800 meters to climb it looked like it could be a long day after all. After only a few kilometers we entered a big two lane motorway with a wide shoulder. It was good because we could cycle safely and quickly but that kind of road is a real bore to ride a bicycle on.
After a while it was time for lunch. We found a gas station with a restaurant that had tables outside allowing us to keep an eye on our bikes and while eating we could watch two guys cleaning trucks. They had made their own brushes with connected water hose. I guess it works just as well as a ready made ones.
Soon we were on our way again and after having reached the pass at 860 meters we could look forward to a 45 km long downhill ride It was a bit chilly but when climbing we never felt it was a problem, but we got cold as soon as we started the fast descent. We stopped to put on more clothes at a truck weighing station and were soon invited inside for tea.
All trucks passing on the highway need to be weighed and the system is completely automatic. The trucks drive slowly over the scales while a camera scans their registraion plates. The staff at the station only monitors the system and if there is a violator they will check the driver’s license and send a report to the police who will issue a fine.
As soon as we left the weighing station it started to rain lightly. We kept rolling but didn’t let the speed get too high due to the wet road surface and poorer breaking ability. After a while the rain got more intense and we got soaking wet, but not really cold. At one of the few flat sections a car passed us, then stopped and a guy came out and wanted to help us. He felt pity for us and insisted to load us, our bikes and our luggage into his little car. We weren’t cold and we have been through worse conditions than this so we declined his kind offer and kept rolling towards the coastal city of Samsun.
A navigational error took us on a detour away from the city centre of Samsun and once we managed to find our way to the area where all the hotels are, it had already got dark. The first hotel we found was full, but the receptionist called to another hotel for us.
The room we got at the second hotel was on the topfloor and had a giant balcony which is larger than the room itself. It also has a fire place and a wonderful view of the Black Sea and Samsun’s harbour and city center. Although a bit expensive, we quickly saw the opportunity the balcony provided us with. We could easily lit our stove there and cook our dinner and thereby save some of the cost for the accomodation.
Statistics for Cycling day 51
Distance: 29.7 km
Traveling time 4.06 hours
Cycling time 2.41 hours
Average speed 11.1 km/h
Top speed 47.2 km/h
Altitude gained 671 m
Altitude lost 350 m
Statistics for cycling day 52
Distance: 90.3 km
Traveling time 9.45 hours
Cycling time 5.31 hours
Average speed 16.4 km/h
Top speed 46.1 km/h
Altitude gained 1004 m
Altitude lost 1677 m
Samsun is Turkey’s largest city on the Black Sea coast. It is situated on hills sloping into the sea and from city center I felt like being on the stage in an amfiteater surrounded by the built up hills as my audience.
It was hard for us to leave our very nice room at the hotel with this great view.
Apart from the huge balcony overviewing the harbour and some of the surrounding hills, it also had a jacuzzi bathtub. We didn’t use the jacuzzi as intended though – instead we emptied our panniers with dirty clothes and let them soak in the jacuzzi for some time before washing and leaving them to dry on the giant balcony.
Before I travel to a new country I usually like to read a bit of its history and current political situation. Unfortunately this has not been possible since we have visited so many countries during a short time.
In Turkey huge turkish flags are flown everywhere and a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is never far away. When I have had time I have done a bit of reading on the internet to catch up on Turkey’s modern history and then I have understood that Samsun has played a part in the creation of modern Turkey.
As I understand it Atatürk was sent out by the Sultan from Istanbul to Samsun to oversee the disbanding of the remaining military forces after the Ottoman empire’s defeat in the first world war. He, as well as many others, didn’t like seeing their country being chopped up so instead of following the sultan’s order he started to organize the turkish national movement. His landing in Samsun on 19th of May 1919 marks the starting day of the Turkish war of independence that a few years later led to the creation of the Turkey we see today.
In the afternoon we went out to see the city. We started by walking to the seaside park and take a look at the monument of Atatürks landing in Samsun from SS Bandirma. I am not sure but I think the monument is made to to look like a famous photo of Atatürk stepping ashore. Unfortunately the information signs were only in Turkish.
After a walk in the park and a visit to a nearby bazaar it was time for a very late lunch and once again we ended up at a restaurant with a döner being grilled behind the counter. The difference with this restaurant was that they grilled the döner by using firewood instead of gas. The chef looked after the döner roll by turning it every few minutes and fed a piece of wood into it when needed. It looked very authentical but I can’t say if it tasted any better than the döner’s grilled by the usual gas heated grill.
Wej decided to order a ”pide” which is a long oval pizza looking dish with thin bread and toppings of choice. I decided to go for an Iskender which is döner meat cut in wider pieces on placed on top of shredded thin bread and then topped with tomato sauce and melted butter and with some youghurt at the side.
A fresh and very tasty salad is usually served with the lunch. Squeezing a lemon over the salad as well as some salt makes it taste heavenly…. And the spicy chillies served to it make us who like spicy food not wanting to leave…..
The food in Turkey is very tasty and a good reason in itself to travel here. After having been here for more than a month we have only tasted one dish that we didn’t like and that was the toothpaste soup at the hotel in Istanbul.
Usually we like seafood and although being on the Black Sea coast we haven’t managed to try so much of it yet. Fish vendors are everywhere and one thing I have noticed is that fish doesn’t seem to be stored on ice like we do in Sweden.
What is even better is that in Turkey they are masters of making delicious sweets and desserts that also look very temtping. We like to enter the stores selling these delights just to have a look and smell…..
We wanted to try all of the pastries but we managed to agree on a few ones to bring back home and have on the balcony together with coffee made on our own little primus petrol stove. To conclude we can say that if we hadn’t come here using our own muscle power we would certainly have left Turkey a bit heavier than we came….
Motivation, cycling vs traveling and nice company
It has not been possible to update the blog as frequently as before so this post is an update for the following days:
Day 53 Samsun -Ünye (74 km)
Day 54 Ünye – Giresun (143 km)
Day 55 Giresun – Akcaabat (110 km)
During the week we were fighting uphill in the heat I started to feel a bit unmotivated. Turkey is a large country and we have a map with the western part on the front and the eastern on the back. We struggled and struggled up those not very steep but long hills and despite very hard work we rarely came further than 70 km a day. When looking at the map at the end of a hard day in the saddle, it seemed that all our effort had brought us nowhere.
I started to get a feeling that everyday was the same. Wake up, eat, pack, cycle, cycle, cycle, find somewhere to stay, eat and sleep but without the sense of triumph it can be to see that we have made some progress on our map.
I was not tired of the cycling in itself. I was tired of packing and going to an unknown place that was too close to the the previously unknown place we left in the morning. There was no excitement of arriving to a new place each evening and I was not interested in getting in contact with other people. Instead of the positive expectations when arriving to a new town, I immediately started to think of unpacking and packing again in the next morning.
What I think I wanted was to be at the same place for a week, to be able to unpack everything and not only the essentials for the night. I wanted to set up a home even if it only would be for a few days.
To sometimes get a state of mind like this is normal for people who are on long journeys and I had expected it to happen sooner or later and it happened to me when cycling somewhere between Zonguldak and Samsun. I am sure it will happen again and it then it is good to be two people to help each other to make sure that the mood doesn’t drop too far.
A few years ago the two american cyclists Ross and Dane were on their way from Helsinki to Barcelona and came to stay with us for a few nights in Göteborg. I remember we had a long discussion about the concept of being a ”cyclist” or being a ”traveler”.
The Cyclists are those who do a long cycling tour because of the physical challenge – they want to prove that it is possible to ride from A to B in winter or under less than X months. The Travelers, on the other hand, are those who want to explore a certain area and for various reasons have picked bicycle as their means of transportation.
I remember reading Dane and Ross blog afterwards where they wrote that the discussion seemed redundant at first, but proved to be unexpectedly insightful when they, a few days later, wet, cold and stuck in a fierce headwind decided they were travelers and caught a train instead of fighting on in the miserable conditions.
So what are we, cyclists or travelers?
For me I am happy (mostly) to be on the way, meet new people and see fascinating cities and landscapes. I think that qualifies me as a traveler, but I am also attracted by the notion of an unbroken wheel track between Göteborg and Bangkok. Although I want to be a traveler I am also enough of a cyclist to not want to catch a bus when an expected period of low motivation hits me. During me period of low motivation the thought of wanting to catch a bus never struck me. I wouldn’t have hesitated to do it if it had been unusual circumstances or we had had major technical problems, but a temporary and exptected lack of motivation was not a big enough reason for me. Wej was happy all these days and still look forward to her first low motivation days…
When we arrived in Samsun we got a lovely hotel room with a huge balcony. We immediately felt at home and I guess that made it even more difficult to leave. The rain that started to fall as soon as our bikes were packed did certainly not make it easier and my motivation got even lower. Wej has been happy all the time I have experienced this lack of motivation and she pushed me to go on.
As we exited Samsun we soon got onto a big highway with two lanes and wide shoulder. It was a bit muddy close to the city center due to road works and we got very dirty. The highway was completely flat and we had a light but steady tailwind and moved on at a much higher speed than we have done since we started this tour.
I do a lot of road cycling in Sweden and during the last 6 years I have trained with the team in Älmhult. Cruising in a well organized group at high speed when the kilometers seem to fly past you is a wonderful feeling.
Today on the straight highway with the help of the tailwind I got the same feeling. I got into the drops and pushed forward with Wej following closely behind. We were cycling with our fully loaded touring bikes at around 30 km/h. It was great fun and I felt just like if I was riding my road bike again.
When cruising at high speed along that wellkept road I started to ask myself if my period of low motivation was due to too much ”travel” and too little ”cycling”. Being able to get our average speed up to 25 km/h (very high when touring) soon got me into a better mood. Maybe going uphill in less than 10 km/h for several days had made me miss the cycling part of our journey.
After a few hours we found a little Bed & Breakfast by the Black Sea beach. The intention was to camp but when we saw the place we thought we could as well ask for the price and when we got the price, we did not want to camp anymore
The Bed & Breakfast turned out to be a Bed & Dinner and no breakfast. It didn’t matter and we cycled the 7 km into the town of Ünye where we stopped infront of a Carrefour supermarket.
We have from time to time asked ourselves when we will meet the first other cycle tourist crossing the Euroasian continent. We met a local guy on a short tour once, but still we hadn’t met anyone on an extended tour.
Finally we would be able to talk to someone who is on a similar mission as us and maybe we could get useful information.
The guy had a big beard and long red hair and introduced himself as ”Tom”. Even before we started to talk, two more guys with heavy loaded bikes came to the parking lot where we were, but not from the same direction as Tom. He soon explained that he had passed by and turned around to go shopping at Carrefour. The two other guys are Nick and Arthur.
We all got exited to see each other and Tom (blog) explained he was on the way to Rayong in Thailand while Nick was going to India (blog). Nick and Tom had met by coincidence in Zonguldak the previous week and cycled together since then. Arthur had flown in to cycle with Nick between Samsun and Tbilisi during his 11 day vacation and they had picked him up at the airport the previous day.
Nick explained that he had visited the 5-star gas station outside Zonguldak and then been told by the staff about us so they all knew we were ahead of them.
As mentioned, we have discussed when we will meet the first cyclists. These guys overtook us so we have yet to meet the first ones coming in the opposite direction
When running into someone who is on a similar trip an endless discussion immediately starts about roads, visa applications and technical issues. I think we all felt it was fun to meet and exchange ideas and experiences.
Since we were all going in the same direction we mostly rode together but split up sometimes. Nick and Arthur wanted to go across a mountain pass on the old coastal road while Tom, Wej and I thought we had had enough of climbing and opted for the shortcut through some tunnels. It was a gentle climb of 200 vertical meters up to the section of the roads where the tunnels were. Right in the middle of the 300 meter long open section between the first short tunnel and the following 2.8 km tunnel I got my 4th puncture. It doesn’t help to get irritated – it’s much better to get to work quickly. 5 minutes into the job of repairing it started to rain and that was irritating, especially since it started to rain last time I was fixing my flat tyre too.
A flat tyre and rain was bad, but it would have been much worse to get the puncture inside the 2 km tunnel that had its entrance 200 meters ahead of us. I rather fix a flat tyre outside in the rain than on a narrow walkway in a noisy and stinking tunnel.
During the late afternoon we all decided that we wanted to reach the city of Giresun and try to find somewhere to camp there, preferably at a gas station. When arrived in the city center Tom said he wanted to cook fish for dinner and we all went into town to try to find an open fish store.
With fresh fish, eggs, vegetables and 5 loaves of bread(!) and a few beers strapped to our bikes we started our search for somewhere to camp. Camping under a motorway flyover was rejected because it was too noisy and probably would attract the kind of people we don’t want to get in touch with.
We tried a few gas stations but being in the city they were all small and without any lawn. The local fire station had a lawn and we went there to ask. I guess we would have been allowed to stay if it hadn’t been for some big boss being present that evening. We then decided to leave town and try any of the bigger gas stations that usually are found at outskirts of each city.
After cooking and eating together we went to bed. When going to bed I was a bit worried about camping on a tiled floor – what about it starts to rain and there is a poor drainage.
I woke up at 6 AM by the sound of heavy rain. When I looked out from the tent I could see a lot of water. It didn’t seem to flow away and the water level raised.
Nick and Arthur had not been as lucky – they had pitched their tent at the lowest part of the terrace about 15 cm from the drainage. They were completely wet, but seemed happy anyway.
The rain kept falling and we heated water on our multifuel stove in the ladeis restroom and had our morning coffee standing there.
It is difficult to ride in a group of five people who previously have never cycled together. We cycled together and sometimes split up but stopped to wait and have lunch together. The tailwind and lack of hills made us all move at unusual spped and in the afternoon we decided that we all wanted to stay indoor the coming night in order to be able to dry our wet clothes.
Statistics Cycling day 53 (Samsun – Ünye)
I accidently deleted all old data in our GPS. This means there is no map and no GPS track of our Day 53. We started in Samsun and cycled to a little B&B 7 km west of Ünye. The data below is from the traditional cycle computer on Wej’s bike
Distance: 74.2 km
Traveling time N/A
Cycling time 3.04 hours
Average speed 24.3 km/h
Top speed 37.1 km/h
Altitude gained N/A
Altitude lost N/A
Statistics Cycling day 54 (Ünye – Giresun)
I accidently deleted all old data in our GPS. This means there is no map and no GPS track of our Day 54. We started in 7 km west of Ünye and and cycled to a gas station in the east end of the city of Giresun. The data below is from the traditional cycle computer on Wej’s bike
Distance: 143.5 km
Traveling time N/A
Cycling time 6.21 hours
Average speed 22.6 km/h
Top speed 43.8 km/h
Altitude gained N/A
Altitude lost N/A
Statistics for Cycling day 55 (Giresun – Akcabat)
Distance: 109.7 km
Traveling time 7.48 hours
Cycling time 4.14 hours
Average speed 25.9 km/h
Top speed N/A due to tunnels
Altitude gained 405 m
Altitude lost 445 m
It is inevitable to get mechanical problems on a long tour. This post is about how we solved a few problems in Trabzon.
When we returned from our half day trip to the Sümela Monastery my rear wheel was flat again. We had left the bikes behind the bus ticket counter when we went to the monastery and there was no room to fix the tyre there so I simply took my bike and wheeled it 100 meters to the city square and started to work on it.
Turkey’s football association had an event on a stage at the square and we set up our little work shop beside it. Naturally we draw some attention and one of the organizers came to help me. He then gave us tea, drinks, souvenirs and had his photographer take a picture of him and us on stage with a trophy some turkish team had won in a tournament.
The tyre had gone flat while we were away and I suspected that my last patch had not glued properly which turned out to be the case. We use glueless pathces and it is crap. Of the 6 flats I have got so far 3 have been due to those glueless patches not sticking properly. They may be quick to work with and probably good on short tours around home, but they are useless on an extended tour like this. We will buy some proper old style patches as soon as possible.
A few days ago my bike fell on its left side when it was parked at a gas station. Unfortunately my barend shifter (Swe: växelhandtag) broke and I could no longer change my front gears. The ride for the coming days was flat and I managed to put the chain permanently on the big front chainring.
I also discovered that one of my spokes (Swe: eker) had been bent. I suspect it happened when the bellboy at the hotel in Samsun dragged our locked bikes the 200 meters from the garage to the reception.
Riding only on the highest gears is possible as long as it is flat, but after Batumi in Georgia we will have to climb some big mountains and then I need to be able to shift between highest and lowest gear so this issue needed to be addressed.
After we had returned from Sümela Monastery we spent the afternoon looking for a bike shop. It was not easy but finally we found one. The owner/mechanic didn’t speak any English but one of his visitors who appeared to know nothing about bikes spoke a bit of German. I am happy, and a bit proud, to announce that we managed to communicate about what needed to be done to my bike
The shop was not well stocked, but certainly good enough. The shifter that had broken is a rather unusual type and I replaced it with a one that is intended for simple MTB or city bikes. I am sure it will last long enough for me to find a proper replacement if not all the remaining way to Bangkok.
There was not enough space to place it correctly on my handlebar so we put it upside down. It is certainly not the ideal position but a simple choice when the alternative would be to ride up the mountains using the highest gear.
I also asked the mechanic if he could help me to replace my broken spoke. He misunderstood the question and said he probably didn’t have any spoke with the correct lenght. I then pulled out our spare spokes from the seat tube and then he got the message and immediately started to work.
With a new spoke and ability to use all my gears I feel ready for the mountains of Georgia.
To other touring cyclists with mechanical problems in Trabzon.
The shop’s contact details are:
GSM: 0532 377 96 41
Phone: 0462 321 5167
If you are on the K. Maras Cd street with the back to the main square you will have to turn left to the small street immediately before hotel Zorlu. You will find the shop inside the galleria that is opposite to a hamam. It isn’t a well stocked shop but basic things can be fixed.
We were a group of five cyclists who had cycled together for two days but now it was time to split. Nick and Arthur had a tight schedule and needed to move on. Tom needed a rest and had decided to take a day off while we didn’t need any rest day, but since we wanted to pay a visit to the nearby Sümela Manastir we decided to stay a day too.
We woke up late and since we had good company we left later than planned and missed the bus to the monastery that clings to the rocks. Instead of visiting a site of major cultural importance we spent the day walking around in Trabzon city.
It is maybe a shame to say, but we went into a MacDonald’s restaurant. Not that we missed hamburgers and fries, but sometimes we want to re-live old memories.
When Wej and I lived in Bangkok in the mid 1990:s good coffee was scarce and the only coffee with acceptable taste and price was the coffee at MacDonald’s. Wej worked in a town two hours outside Bangkok and every Sunday when she would leave we went to MacDonald’s to have coffee, a strawberry sundae and a medium size french fries. This odd combination has stuck and we sometimes we go to a MacDonald’s to have our own special menu – this time it happened in Trabzon.
Outside the MacDonald’s there was a big event going on at the city square. We went to take a look and it seemed to be some sort of combination of cultural exhibition and travel fair and all neigbouring countries were represented. There were dance shows on stage and food stalls with food from those countries.
As we walked around the fair we spotted a thai flag and when we got closer we saw that Thailand was represented too. Wej told me she had got eye contact with the girl behind the counter and we waited until she was free to talk to us. She told us she and her fellow student friend had got a scholarship to come to study international relations at the university of Trabzon. Since she was busy we only had a short chat. After exchanging e-mail addresses and we continued to explore the city.
In the market zone the lanes were narrow and just as anywhere else in Turkey there were people walking around and distributing tea to the shops – just like when I got my tea at the barber shop a week or so ago.
It was a hot afternoon and after having walked around town we needed to sit down and relax for a while. What could then be better than the cafe and bar at the roof top terrace on one of the hotels? We took the lift up to the 7th floor. I ordered a beer and Wej had some coffee while we enjoyed relaxing in some nice chairs enjoying the view of the sea and the busy city center below us.
After a long day in the city of Trabzon we took a minibus back to the suburb where our hotel was. I wanted to buy a beer for me and Tom who relaxed at the hotel so we dropped by a store selling alcohol. Everytime I have bought a beer I have got it wrapped in old newspaper and put in a black plastic bag. Other things we buy are usually put in white or transparant bags but not beer. I have no idea, but if the purpose is to make it difficult for others to see what you have in your bag, then it doesn’t work. You only need to look for who is carrying a black bag…..
Sümela Manastir is a very old monastery that has been built on the cliffs and partly carved into it. It is a famous tourist attraction only some 45 minutes with a minibus from Trabzon.
When we arrived we discovered that the place was crammed with people. Today was a Saturday and Monday was a national holiday so it felt like half of Turkey’s population had chosen to visit Sümela this day. We blamed ourselves for not having understood that it would be like this and pushed ourselves to go yesterday as planned.
The driver of the minibus had left us at convenient walking station and told us that the bus would leave 1.30 from the restaurant. We didn’t understand much and when it was time to go we saw some of the Turkish people who had come with the same bus and asked them where to go. They told us to follow them and we started to talk on the steep zig-zag walking track down to the restaurant. The woman introduced herself as Deniz. She works as a teacher in Samsun and had come to visit her brother Mehmet who is a medical student in Trabzon.
Statistics for Cycling day 56
Half day due to visit to Sümela Manastir and search for bicycle shop.
Distance: 20.0 km
Traveling time 11.01 hours
Cycling time 1.36 hours
Average speed 12.4 km/h
Top speed 41.8 km/h
Altitude gained 210 m
Altitude lost 185 m
Access to internet is becoming increasingly scarce so you shouldn’t count on daily updates anymore. We will update as soon as we have a chance. Tomorrow (Sunday)) we will leave Batumi and cycle towards Batumi over the mountains which will take about five days.
Exit Turkey and entering Georgia – country number 8 on this trip
We were slightly behind schedule due to that we spent the previous afternoon after visiting Sümela to look for a bike shop and fix my spoke and shifter. With a steady tailwind and flat road we decided we wanted to go for Hopa almost 170 km away. Our friends in Zonguldak have relatives there who had promised to host us.
When we went down to the hotel’s garage to pick up our bikes we found that my tyre was flat again. I now know why – useless glueless patches – and I quickly changed to a new innertube and will repair the old one as soon as I have got hold on some proper old style patches.
By cycling along the turkish Black Sea coast we have learnt by using our own eyes what products come from what part of the country. We have passed the garlic capital in Tasköpru, the brick factories at Boyabat, the rice growing areas around Duragan, the hazelnut zone around Trabzon and as we went further east we entered an area where which supply most of Turkey with tea. The steep hills were covered by tea plants and trucks that overtook us were loaded with tea and on the road we could see tea leaves that had fallen off those trucks.
The ride east from Trabzon was very smooth and we proceeded at high speed and when we found a bakery that sold small size Trabzon breads we immediately stopped to buy some. We couldn’t leave Trabzon without having tried the famous Trabzon Ekmek…
Whenever we stay at a hotel we stock up on those little jam, butter and hazelnut packages that are usually provided at the breakfast buffets. They are perfect for our needs since they are (1) free, (2) portion size, (3) hard to break and (4) if one breaks only a little jam is spread around in our luggage.
Just like elsewhere in the world there are often exercise equipments placed in Turkish parks and public places. When riding east on the big Black Sea highway we bumped into this place. Not a park and only a two different training equipment, but with a nice view of the Black Sea.
Most gas stations in Turkey have a room for prayer and so did this one, but here it was a rather unusual place. The station had brought in an more than 100 year old barn from the mountains that used to a corn storage.
The following morning we had the what was left of our Trabzon ekmek for breakfast and headed east. Since we couldn’t get in touch with our friends’ friend in Hopa we decided to continue towards Batumi in Georgia.
Turkish desserts are wonderful and when we saw a cafe we stopped to have a last taste of it before leaving Turkey. Next to the cafe was a bakery that was run by the same owner who invited us to come and take a look.
Batumi was only 16 km from the border and it was a quick ride on a road that was a lot smaller and not as well maintained as the one we had been riding on in Turkey. Only a few kilometers after the border we passed Gonyo which is a millenium old Roman fortification. It looked very well preserved and resembled any any of the roman forts in the Asterix cartons. Unfortunately it was closed so we continued towards Batumi city.
Sawang is an experienced cyclist and has cycled the Karakhoram Highway, Iran, China, Pakistan, Centralasia, Turkey, Armenia and many more countries we dream about and now he was spending two months to dig deep into Georgia.
The guy at the consulate was very laid back. He sat smoking and playing computer games in his little office when we arrived. When asked what documentation we needed he told us, 1 photo, 1 passport copy, the application form and 150 GEL (approx. 65 €). He told us to come back on Friday and we asked if we could get it on Thursday instead and then he replied ”sure”.
When picking up the visa he didn’t even look at our application forms. He asked what day we wanted to go, filled in the sticker and put it in our passports. Simple and no need of expensive and hard to get letters of invitation.
We have then spent two days relaxing and discovering Batumi which is filled of hotels and resorts. Now it is a bit empty, but when the summer season starts it will be very crowded. I don’t like swimming in cold water and when we stepped into the Black Sea in Sile a few weeks ago the water was definately too cold to swim in. Now it had got better and I went into the water of the Black Sea for the first time ever.
The beach in Batumi consists of small round stones. Many people prefer sand but I prefer these stones because you won’t get any sand between your toes or into your ears They were however very hot to lay on during the mid day heat.
Statistics for Cycling day 57
Distance: 122.9 km
Traveling time 7.33 hours
Cycling time 5.15 hours
Average speed 23.4 km/h
Top speed N/A due to tunnels
Altitude gained 341 m
Altitude lost 366 m
Statistics for Cycling day 58a – Turkish side
Distance: 65.1 km
Traveling time 6.14 hours
Cycling time 6.47 hours
Average speed 23.4 km/h
Top speed N/A due to tunnels
Altitude gained 115 m
Altitude lost 115 m