TURKEY part 3

Day 50 (Boyabat – Vezirköprü)

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.

Fortress in Boyabat. Too high up on the hill for us to visit

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. 

Breakfast in a park

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. 

Rice paddies on terraces
Rice paddies between Boyabat and Duragan

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. 

Fresh, cold and good tasting water at the road side

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.

Traffic jam….

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.

Mountains and water – just beautiful

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.

We loved this beautiful and isolated area

We quickly found one that was the cheapest so far in Turkey. 50 TL (190 SEK, 20 €) including breakfast and wifi on the room. Deal!!! We checked in for two nights.

This was the right place for our rest day

Statistics for Cycling day 50 

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


Day 51 & 52 (Vezirköprü – Samsun)

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.

Compact living…..

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.

Maybe the tea will be better with some whipped cream…. 😉

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.

Fast and safe but very boring road to cycle 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.

Home made brush for washing of trucks

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.

Weighing station

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.

Inside the weighing station

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.

Stopping at gas stations usually an invitation for tea with the attendants

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.

Cooking on the balcony

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


Restday in Samsun

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.

Drying our clothes after washing them in the jacuzzi.

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.

The monument of Atatürk’s landing in Samsun

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.

The döner chef. Please not the grill heated by firewood.

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.

The “pide” Wej ordered. As you can see I have stolen one end of it… 🙂

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…..

Fresh salad

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.

Fish on display in the fish store

The man in the store wanted to sell us this fish, but we were already full after having iskander and pide in the restaurant next door. Maybe next time….

Fish anyone…?

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…..

Wej in paradise 🙂

Everything looks so good and it is hard to choose. Should we by this one….?

Or maybe this….?

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….

Coffee and sweets on the balcony

The view of the city was even better at night time when the lights were turned on in the houses on the surrounding hills.

Samsun by night

Day 53-55 (Samsun – Akcaabat)

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.

Dirty rear pannier

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.

Friends on the road

When we had our breakfast in front of Carrefour in Ünye we spotted anothoer cyclist coming from the other direction. 

Great 🙂

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.

Shopping for dinner

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.

Fixing my 4th flat tyre between two tunnels

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.

Buying some fish

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.

Cooking together

We were very happy to finally find a gas station that accepted to have a group of 3 british, a swedish and a thai cyclist camping on its terrace overlooking the Black Sea.

Nearby Giresun at night

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.

Our tent pitched pitched on the petrol stations terrace

We have two things that may not get wet – our down sleeping bags and our computer. The computer was safe in a watertight pannier, but there was a serious threat of our sleeping bags getting wet so we quickly packed them. 

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.

Making coffee in the ladies restroom

About 15 minutes before we were ready to go it stopped raining and the cycling conditions seemed to be promising. Sunshine and tailwind.

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.

Pide for lunch again – this one was vey long…

When arrived in Akcaabat some 10-15 km west of Trabzon we decided to try to find a cheap hotel. While we went around looking Wej got her first puncture. My lead was now reduced to 4-1 but it was quickly fixed on a busy pavement just next to an ATM machine.

Fixing Wej’s first flat tyre

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


Technical problems in Trabzon

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 guy from Turkey’s football association helping me fix my 5th flat.

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 

Using my limited German and showing what needs to be done. The guy on the right acted as translator

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.

My new shifter set up. The broken shifter hangs dead at the barend and the new is upside down close to the stem.

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:
Kuzey Bisiklet
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.

The mechanic trued my wheel after replacing the spoke.

Day 56, Trabzon city and Sümela Manastir

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.

Women selling food and sweets at the fair

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.

Wej and the two Thai students at Trabzon university

Trabzon is a busy city located on steep hillsides. Where ever we went it was either up or down. We had no real plans for what to see so we just went around to have a look of the city life. The main shopping street looked like anywhere else in the world.

Main shopping street in Trabzon

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.

A tea distributor balancing his tray with tea glasses through the crowd

Just like in Thailand large crowds of people attracts food vendors. This guy sold steamed corn from a cart in the middle of the busy walking lane in the market. I am not so fond of steamed corn but Wej had some difficulties to decide if she wanted one or not.

Vendor selling steamed corn

Commerce is going on everywhere, even in the underground passes under the highway.

Busy pedestrian tunnel under the highway

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.

Relaxing with a beer while enjoying the view of the Black Sea and the city centre

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…..

What’s in that black plastic bag???

It was a cheap hotel that certainly had seen its best days, but it was cheap and certainly good enough for us. The bathroom was in need of an urgent renovation though and it seems like they already had started by replacing the lids to the ventilation with these colorful things. I wonder if the rest of the bathroom will have the same color tone once it is renovated.

Lids to the ventilation pipes

When we woke up the next morning we checked out early and hurried into town to buy bus tickets to Sümela Manastir. We were allowed to park the bikes in a room behind the ticket counter and off we went. 

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.

Sümela Manastir seen from the approaching road

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.

Crowded, an the only way in an out is the staircase on the right of the photo

All visitors had to pass a narrow staircase down to the courtyard. We were in the middle of it when it started to rain. The monastery sits at about 1200 meters altitude and we later learned that it rains 300 days per year. If we had only known this we would have brought our rain jackets…. 

Lots of visitors at the Sümela Manastir

Sümela has huge mural paintings both inside and outside the main chapel. These murals were covered by names and dates carved into them with some sharp pointed tools. It looked like graffiti and I later learned that the culprits were bored soldiers from various armies and periods as well as some early tourists who seem to have no respect for a culturual treasure like this one.

Tragic graffiti on old murals

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.

Wej and our new friend Deniz on the steep trail down from the monastery

Just like at similar places everywhere there are expensive restaurants nearby. We had a nice köfte (meatballs) lunch with Deniz and Mehmet before going back to town. When I got my bike back I discovered I had got my 6th flat tyre. Instead of riding out of town we decided to stay one more night in Trabzon and fix all our technical problems which you can read about in the post ”Technical issues in Trabzon” below.

The köfte lunch (grilled meatballs)

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


Day 57-58 Trabzon – Batumi

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.

Bread is called ”ekmek” in Turkish and we have started to call it that when we speak to each other. ”Please pass me some ekmek” or ”do we need to buy any ekmek?” are phrases we use among ourselves. Ever since we left Istanbul we have passed bakeries with signs telling that they sell ”Trabzon Ekmek”. It must be something special and when we were in Trabzon we finally found out what it was. Trabzon bread is a huge round loaf of bread that is as big as at least 5 normal loaves. Since we couldn’t eat that much ourselves and thus never bought any. We were however told it has a slightly sour taste and stays fresh longer than normal bread. Maybe it’s made of sourdough…

Tea plantations

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.

A small size Trabzon bread and jam from the hotel

After having ridden for a few hours we decided it was time for lunch and stopped at a gas station. We sat down outside and started to eat our Trabzon bread with butter and jam from the hotel when the gas station attendant saw us and hurried to serve us some tea. This kind of generosity and hospitality is something we will always associate Turkey with.

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.

Mini gym with seaview

In central Europe most gas stations had a open wifi network without password for visitors to use. In Turkey they also have wifi internet, but the staff at the gas stations rarely know the password. We wanted to get in touch with our friends in Zonguldak to arrange for our arrival to Hopa, but we had problems finding any internet connection. The sms text messages we sent didn’t seem to get through either so we decided to try to find a camping spot instead.

Gas station staff

We went in to a gas station some 35 km short of Hopa in hope of finding a spot to pitch our tent. We were soon surrounded by staff and some hangarounds and a few minutes later we had a glass of tea each in our hands. One of the guys spoke very good english and he asked us where we were going and where we would stay tonight. We said we wanted to pitch our tent and asked if it was possible somewhere around the station. A few minutes later the manager came out and showed us where we could put it.

Gas station at night

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.

Old corn barn turned into room for prayer. Note our tent under it.

The century old barn on pillars with beautiful details carved into the old wood had now been turned into a room for prayer and we were told to camp under it.

Camping under the to prayer room turned corn barn

We were then asked if we had eaten any dinner yet and when we replied no, Hakan (the guy who spoke English) invited us to his home for dinner. We all jumped into his car and went to his house to have a wonderful dinner that his wife had prepared. Turkish hospitality again…… 

Detail from the corn barn

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.

The owner of the bakery took us on a tour around his bakery

It was now time to leave Turkey which is a country we have started to like very much and that we certainly will return to both to visit friends and travel. We have liked the people, the hospitality we have received, the food and the interesting sights we have seen.

The variation that makes Turkey rich. A minaret and a beer shop side by side.

The border area to Georgia looked like an airport terminal and we stopped to buy some chocolate to finish our remaining turkish currency.

Interesting architecture at the Georgian border control

Normally when we pass a border we choose the lane the cars go rather than the lane for trucks. This time we were told to through the corridor where the bus passengers walk. There was hardly anybody there so we cycled through it. See the short video clip below.

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.

Where are Asterix and Obelix???

We aimed straight for the Globus Hostel in the city center where we knew Sawang Thongdee who is another thai cyclist was staying. After checking in to a 20 bed dormitory we went out to have dinner with Sawang and it was very nice to meet someone from Thailand again. 

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.

Sawang Thongdee is an experienced touring cyclists

Sawang had already been in town for a couple of days after a side tour up to the great Caukasus mountains and he brought us to a nearby restaurant where we could have some interesting local Georgian food. For Wej it was great to sit down to talk to someone from her own home country and although I am not Thai, when meeting Sawang I got the feeling as when running into a countryman at a far away place overseas.

Georgian sallads. Tasted wonderful and we hope will have more soon.

Pork is not eaten in Turkey, but in Georgia there is plenty of it and the georgians know how to cook it….

“Shaslyk” (barbecued) pork

We have now entered the visa hassle zone. The number one discussion topic among fellow travelers is how and where to obtain visas. We haven’t needed any visas so far, but we we would need one for Azerbadjan which has tightened its visa policy during the last few years. However, the rumours said that getting a visa at the consulate in Batumi would be easy and the following morning we went to the consulate to try our luck.

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. 

On the beach in Batumi

Wej cooling down in the water of the Black Sea

Between the city center and the beach is a long park called “Boulevard”. There are restaurants and a chess club

A skyskraper not far from the beach.

We are not the only ones who have come here by bicycle. Statue in the Boulevard park.

Colorful buildings in the center

Designer garbage bin…

A Batumi street at dusk

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