19th MAY 2011
DAY 48: DIDIMOTHIO – KESAN
START: 9:15 – FINISH: 17:00 – DISTANCE: 95 KM – RIDE TIMR: 5H 15
Pitter-patter was the first thing I heard this morning and this encouraged me to stay in the tent a little longer. After about 3 hours of rain we made a run for it about 9:15 am, which wasn’t too bad. We were only 65 km from the Turkish border and road leading up to it was good.
With a bit of EU money it was freshly sealed. After 30 km we stopped in Soufli for some warm treats from the bakers and a few more Euros for later in the trip. For the second time in two days we crossed the border into Turkey with relative ease. The border is very well armed on both sides and the Turkish soldiers meet you in the middle of the bridge.
Thankfully the rain stopped shortly after entering Turkey so we pushed on another 30 km to Kesen where we got a dodgy hotel room for 10 euros each, right in the centre. We arrived in town on the Anniversary of Kemal Atatürk’s birthday and there was a big ceremony and party going on with fire works, lighted candles, live band and a marching band made up of a few of the old timers.
DAY 49: KESAN – GAILIPOLI
START: 8:45 – FINISH: 17:30 – DISTANCE: 90 KM – RIDE TIME: 5H 10
Today for the first time in 7 weeks I saw the ocean. We had to climb out of Kesan and after 20km you could look down into a bay made up of the mainland and the west side of the Gallipoli peninsula. We then descended and after crossing to the east side of the peninsula, we arrived in the town of Gallipoli. Visited the museum which contained many relics from the battlefield
Cycling on 10 km, we wild camped again on the shore of the Gallipoli peninsula just 1 metre from the sea. There is an old jetty close by. Before dinner I went for a half dip in the water which was fine. From my tent I can watch the ships passing and see the lights on the other side of the straight. There are houses close by and we have had two people bring us water and plums. We cooked tonight spicy rice with chunks of salami and finished off with some fresh bread.
DAY 50: GAILIPOLI – Eceabat
START: 8:30 – FINISH: 10:00 – DISTANCE: 26km – RIDE TIME: 1H 27
Got up this morning and had breakfast on the jetty whilst watching some fish and a steady stream of boats travelling the Dardanelles. We had a very easy ride along the coast to Eceabat and were there by 10 am.
Checked into the hotel: Croward House……..sounds flash…..7 euro for a 6 bedded dorm room with no windows. Went for some lunch and got burnt on the price. Turkey has not been that cheap. Went for a wander round town. Quite small. Not much to see and do. Just good to chill. After getting burnt at lunch we went up to the roof to cook dinner. Quick and easy pasta.
DAY 51: ECEABAT
Today we did a cycling tour of the Gallipoli battlefields. It was nice not having any luggage on the bike. It didn’t take long to cycle from Eceabat back over to the west side of the peninsula. Along the coast were lots of small bunkers. We cycled the coast for a km or two before taking a dirt track up to Lone Pine Memorial and cemetery. On the memorial are the names of over 700 New Zealand soldiers. On the way up we stopped at Shell green Cemetery. Legend has it the Anzacs used to play cricket here. Stopped off at a few of the Turkish memorials as well. Finally got up to the top of Chununk Bair and the New Zealand memorial and cemetery. To get back down to the coast we tried to take a dirt track that only went down and then back up to where we started.
Along the way we did find some old tunnels. I did a little investigating but my tourch wasn’t really up to it. The ride back down to the coast was good and it was nice to get away from the mass of buses and crowds of people at the top. It was a hot and sunny day. Turkey is really starting to heat up. The sea was really nice and clear and had a little sparkle. We cycled round to ANZAC cove. The site of the 25th of April landings. Walked along the beach visiting the two cemeteries at either end. Was back on the roof for dinner. Have enjoyed getting my gas stove out the past few nights.
DAY 52: ECABAT
Should have really left this morning.
Instead having a chill out day to try and organize my route across Turkey to Iran. This morning I got the ferry for a euro over to Canakkale, which is on the other side of the Dardanelles. Visited the cool military museum and fort. Wandered the old town and picked up a road map to help me on my travels. The book shop I went into gave me a free map. Now I have the map the rest of the afternoon will be spent planning.
DAY 53: ECABAT – SINEKCI
START: 8:00 – FINISH: 18:30 – DISTANCE: 124 KM – RIDE TIM: 8H 09
There are two kinds of roads in Turkey. Ones that go up and ones that go down. Today was one of the toughest days of cycling. The first 6 km were easy getting the ferry across to Canakkle. I didn’t have to do anything. Then I just didn’t go anywhere fast. I struggled all day into a strong headwind. The road surface was poor and was just up and down all day. It was pretty hot too. At 2 o’clock after climbing for the umpteenth time and after reaching the top, I pulled into a bus stop and had a snooze. I was so knacked. I woke an hour later and found a queue forming for the bus. I said hello and cycled on. I wasn’t feeling too flash. I had drank a lot of water and my stomach was feeling a bit rough. I think I was suffering from a touch of sunstroke as well. The plan for today was to cycle as far as I could to give me a chance of getting to Bursa in two to two and half days. After 100 km I was 40 km short of what I wanted. It was getting late so I had to get ready to stop. I found a highway store and stopped for bread and water. Getting bread took a bit of doing. The guy couldn’t understand me………..so he called a friend who translated. As an extra he gave me some Turkish delight and explained he made it himself and also showed me his bakery out the back. As soon as I could see the sea,
I turned off the highway on to a dirt road and found a great camping spot right on the beach and just 4 metres from the sea. From my tent I watched a shepherd pass with his flock and the fishermen going out in their small boats to check their nets. The nicest thing was the sunset. I cooked again and also had a small fire to help keep the bugs away. I had two dogs turn up as I was cooking dinner. I thought there was going to be trouble. They watched me from a distance and to my relief they eventually lost interest and left. Earlier in the day 4000 km mark was reached.
DAY 54: SINEKCI – ESKIKANGAC
START 8:00 – FINISH: 17:30 – DISTANCE: 123 KM – RIDE TIME: 7H 09
Turkey is really starting to heat up. I have to carry a lot more water. At present 6 ½ litres. The wind was still there today but only half the hills. Come 3 o’clock I stopped in a servo for a cold drink and a rest. The attendants brought me tea and then I found a bench and had a lay down. The 3 o’clock snooze is becoming a bit of a habit. After 100 km I came onto a huge lake. I carried on to my goal of 120 km and after cycling 4 km from the main road,
I found another great camping spot right on the lake edge near wet lands of reeds and croaking frogs. Soon after setting up the tent a local shepherd came over and offered me water and pointed to his house and told me to come over if I needed anything. He left but was back half an hour later with another man who just happened to be in the village picking up his boat and spoke very good English. He invited me to his batch for a cold beer. He said the old guy had an island for sale that was about 1 km off shore. The island next to it was bigger and covered in Greek ruins. After my beer I returned to my tent to cook my dinner while watching the sun go down and the birds in the wet lands. No dogs tonight but a flock of sheep came over. Later that evening the peace of the lake was broken as two jet fighters chased each over the lake for an hour or so. That wasn’t the only disturbance that night. I was woken at 12:30am by what seemed to be a huge racket. I opened the door of my tent to find something quite large rummaging around in my rubbish bag. It froze when I shone my torch on it. It turned out to be a hedgehog so I just shut my tent and left him to it.
Day 55: ESKIKAAGAC – BURSA
START: 8am – FINISH: 10:45 – DISTANCE: 44 KM – RIDE TIME: 2H 45
It was lovely waking up by the lake. It is my birthday today.
I planned it so I would only have a short ride of 40 km. Come 10:30am I was in Bursa. Turkey’s 3rd largest city. The last few km were difficult with all the traffic. Treated myself by booking into a hotel……….sounds good but for 20 euros pretty basic. The main part of the city is on the side of a hill. It was very tourist friendly with lots of info plaques to read in English as you wander around. I went up the hill wandering through the massive bazaar till I reached the park containing the tombs of the founders of the Ottoman Empire and an old clock tower. Coming back down the hill I wandered the streets of the old town visiting some small mosques and other ruins. I treated myself to some pampering of a haircut and a cut throat shave and finished it off with a massive kebab for dinner.
DAY 56: BURSA
I was tired this morning when I got up and it had been raining hard in the night,
so I decided to have another day off. Spent a very chilled out day in my room. Just what I needed, a proper rest day. I eventually left the hotel around 3 pm and went up to the market to get my shorts repaired after I nipped them tramping round the battlefields of Gallipoli. For a euro it was cheaper then buying a new pair.
DAY 57: BURSA – ESKISEHIR
START: 9:00 – FINISH: 19:00 – DISTANCE: 157 KM – RIDE TIME: 8H 44
It is just as well I can’t read maps properly, as I might have conceded to having another day in Bursa. After a rest day I was back to speed. Yay no wind and flat. After 1 hour and 20km on the clock, I started to climb and climb. At least it was nice following a small stream and for a change the highway went through the middle of old villages. After another hour, I had a small truck stop and offer me a ride. I declined, but it got me thinking. Surely I’m not that far from the top………….ha ha finally after 92 km and at 3 o’clock in the afternoon we started to go down.
Shame the down hill wasn’t equal to the climb as it quickly levelled out at 900 metres – starting the day with 395 km to Ankara and the need to get there as soon as possible to get the Uzbek visa rolling I pushed on for another 50 km. Though I got caught just short of Eskisehir with a massive thunder and lightning storm. I got completely drenched and finding a hotel wasn’t easy being a Saturday night and I was getting directed all over the city. I finally met a guy called Murat who spoke great English and he kindly took me back to his office and found a hotel on the internet and then took me to the hotel and bargained a good price. The hot thermal shower was great that night. After the hassle of carrying my bike and all my stuff up to the first floor of Murat’s office I asked if I could leave it there for the night and collect it in the morning. This made things so much easier and I only had to take the basics with me. I met back up later with Murat and one of his friends for some dinner…….we finished up about 2 am.
DAY 58: ESKISEHIR – SIVRHISAR
START: 13:00 – FINISH: 18:30 – DISTANCE: 98 KM – RIDE TIME: 4H 49
After a late night which was made even later because I couldn’t resist calling home since I had missed out on my birthday because skype had been down. In the morning I went round to collect my bike from Murat’s and after a few cups of tea I finally got the wheels on the bike moving at 1pm. It is hard setting off so late in the day………….you can hardly be bothered. Afternoon thunderstorms look to be a regular occurrence. I was lucky I managed to dodge the big black clouds today even though I could see and hear the lightning. Just after 18:30 I reached Sivhisar, a smallish town tucked under a mountain. I decided I had had enough for the day so as I rode out of town I was looking for somewhere good to camp.
I spied a small park with a fighter jet as its main attraction so I thought this will do. I found a spot in the far corner. The park wasn’t flash. The grass was long and rough and there was rubbish and smashed bottles about. I got the tent up and cooked some dinner. I am really enjoying cooking on the stove now. I’ve got it down to a real T. Just as I was packing up dinner I had a van pull up and park under the plane….Wasn’t real happy. But he only stayed an hour and then left. I am getting pretty lazy now because I never take the panniers off the bike if I don’t have too. It saves so much time. Around 11 pm I was woken by gun shots……..I presumed they were hunting. Then around midnight I was woken up by voices……..close to the tent. I certainly wasn’t going to make myself known to them and thankfully they left me alone and I went back to sleep.
DAY 59: SIVRHISAR – ANKARA
START: 6:30 – FINISH: 17:30 – DISTANCE: 140 KM – RIDE TIME: 7H 35
This morning at 20 past 4 we got the call to pray which sent the wild dogs howling and they didn’t sound that far away. The sun is up by 5 am and I wasn’t far behind it this morning. I quickly had everything packed up and 6:30 am I was on the go.
Just as I was making my way back to the highway I had 5 dogs jump out of the long grass. They weren’t that far away. I froze for a minute as they were barking quite a bit and I then slowly made my get away. Early morning is actually a really nice time to ride. The roads are quiet and it’s not too hot. Come 9 am I had already done 50 km and stopped off at a service station for breakfast. Along the highway there are so many gas stations. You never have to go far. At 4 pm I was 20 km outside Ankara and the ride in was good because it was all downhill. Then at 5 km the traffic really built up and it was the same old story………..3 km out I got off and pushed because I had had enough. It’s too difficult to keep trying to merge back into the traffic to avoid being pushed down the exit lane all the time. Got a reasonably nice hotel in Ulus the 3rd class part of the city. I am on the 3rd floor with a view over a busy intersection which is more interesting than the TV.
DAYS 60,61,62,63: ANKARA
It was a real mission to find the Uzbek Embassy this morning. I set out at 7:30 am and finally got there 2 and a half hours later. Just as well they opened at 10 am and not 8 am as I thought. I put my visa in on Tuesday and have been told to call back Friday to see if it is ready. In the afternoon I walked up through old Ankara to the Citidal for some impressive panoramic views of the city.
On the way back I visited the independence museum and the Roman Baths. Finished the day off by walking through the very nice city park which has lots of fountains and is really well kept. Wednesday I went and found where the bike shop was so I could get my bike serviced as it is in need of some attention after 4500 km. Then I came back into the city and went to the Railway museum and open air steam museum………I try and do at least one tourist thing a day. Ankara is a city built on hills and on Thursday morning I had to cycle up one of them to get my bike to the shop for a service. It was steep………..but not too bad without the luggage. In fact it felt quite strange and the bike was wobbling all over the place. I got to the bike shop at 8:55 am and they were shut. I thought oh no and then realized they opened at 9 am.
The boys arrived and I gave them a hand to get about 50 bikes out of the shop, so I could get mine in. It’s a good bike shop that stocks all high end products. They had a quick look at the bike and then I joined them for breakfast. The great thing was they did the service while I waited and they encouraged me to watch……….I ended up getting brake pads, chain and cassette replaced and all the other major parts checked over. It was really good to get it done and I feel confident now that the bike will hold up for the next stage. One of the guys had a girlfriend who spoke really good English and after speaking to her on the phone she kindly came and picked me up from the bike shop and we went out for coffee and a bite which was nice. I just got my bike back to the hotel in the nick of time as there was a massive storm. I watched it from my hotel room and it was bucketing down and the streets were all flooded and there were loads of thunder and lightning. I am well clean now after going to a traditional Hammam. It was one of the better ones I have been too. Spent some time in the Sauna and then had a good scrub down followed off by a massage….tho Turkish massages can be brutal. Friday I went back to the Uzbek embassy to see about my visa and its another 5 days because things are very busy because of the 20 year anniversary of independence. I explained I couldn’t wait that long and they will send it to Tehran for me to pick up. So it won’t be too bad. As another option I went round to the Tajikistan embassy and got a 45-day visa complete with military checkpoint permit. There and then. At least I won’t be leaving Ankara completely empty-handed.
DAY 66: ANKARA – KASKIN
START: 8:45 – FINISH: 19:15 – DISTANCE: 112 KM – RIDE TIME: 5H 55
After 7 days off the bike. I had to really force myself to leave Ankara. I wasn’t feeling well yesterday and was not much better today with a bit of a crook gut, which I think might be something to do with the 5 litre water bottle I got from the supermarket for 75p. I now have a suspicion it wasn’t meant for drinking. I soldiered on with the intention of getting some km on the clock no matter how little they maybe. Reuben caught us back up in Ankara and we are now cycling together.
It was really hot this afternoon. About 2.30 pm we called into a servo to get some water and I had to have a lie down for an hour. Just as well because when we left we had a big hill to climb before arriving in Kaskin.
I got a nasty shock when I discovered I had lost my debit card and an even nastier one when my back-up card wouldn’t work either. Lucky I had some Euros which I could convert into Turkish Lira. The next stop was the internet café to skype the bank. We drew quite a crowd and it was a little uncomfortable. We got out of town as soon as possible. We were treated to a nice 9 km down run and shortly after we found a nice little spot to camp in a field just off the road.
DAY 67: KASKIN – HACBEKTAS
START: 7:00 – FINISH: 18:30 – DISTANCE: 120 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 45
It gets light about 5 am, so when we camp in the wild we are starting to get into the routine of getting up at 6 am to be on the road by 7 am. It’s actually a really nice time of the day to ride. We did 10 km and then stopped for a bite to eat and to apply sunscreen. The hills slowed us down a bit and after a few stops come lunch time we had only done 50 km……….which felt like nothing………….we were in a reasonable size town so I had to find an HSBC so I could cancel my lost debit card for a bit of peace of mind and get the new one sent out………….though after speaking to HSBC, it is going to be a mission and a real headache to solve before I disappear into Iran.
In the afternoon the smell of fresh bread was a good excuse to stop. We got a fresh loaf as it came straight out the oven…………..very nice…………. Come the end of the day we were pretty exhausted and as we started to pull out of a town and the sight of more uphill to come we spied a field next to a service station that was going to do us real nice. Today, it was a very good feeling crossing the 5000 km mark.
DAY 68: HACBECTAS – GOREME
START: 6:40 – FINISH: 11:30 – DISTANCE: 60 KM – RIDE TIME: 3H 30
Had a really bad night’s sleep listening to barking dogs all night and at one point in my half sleep I thought I was being dragged out of the tent by a pack of dogs. We set off early this morning and it was nice knowing we only had 60 km to Goreme. We started with a little climb and were then treated to a nice little downhill run of about 12 km, which was just what the legs needed as they are feeling it after two days of hills. Still getting use to the heat, which takes it out of you.
7:30 am this morning it was hot. Having a shorter distance to cover doesn’t make the kms any easier. The first 30 went quick and the next 30 felt like they were taking forever. We stopped to rescue a turtle crossing the 4 lane highway. His chances of making that would have been slim. We still got to Goreme in good time…………………. Spent the afternoon doing washing, updating the blog. Will do some work on the bike and then it’s in the pool……………..
DAY 69&70: GOREME REST DAY
It may have been a rest day. I was still up and out at 6 am.From the hostel window we could see a couple of hot air balloons.
That was just the tip of the iceberg because leaving the hostel and heading into the village we could see at least 50 balloons. We walked up the hill to get a better view and take a few photos. Was back in the hostel by 7:30am for a bit of breakfast to fuel up for the day. Walked 1 km up to the open air museum of cave churches with some very nice frescos on the walls and ceilings. I then just went wandering around the cave houses before finding a trail and descending down into a valley and following the trail through a narrow gorge with cave houses on either side and parts of the trail went through little tunnels carved out by the water.
It was lovely walking through the gorge because it was nicely shaded and cool. After 4 hours of hiking I made it back to the hostel around lunch time. We then did a supermarket run on the bus to Neshi to stock up on supplies as the cost of everything in the hostel was double. With that little chore out of the way, spent the rest of the afternoon in the hostel pool and relaxing. With fresh supplies we cooked dinner on the hostel lawn. In the evening I sat on the balcony and watched a violent thunderstorm in the distance for a good hour. Had a small fox come past.
7am this morning I could hear that a hot air balloon was very close and after going out on to the balcony discovered it was only meters above the hostel………I spoke to the people in the basket as it came over before it landed shortly after in the village. I did another 4 hours hiking this morning wandering the red valley and the valley of the Rose and exploring the many cave houses around. Was back by 1 pm to have another relaxing afternoon by the pool in readiness for a few good days of cycling.
DAY 71: GOREME – SUKNHAM
START: 10:30 – FINISH: 17:50 – DISTANCE: 113 KM – RIDE TIME: 5H 45
There was a delay to play this morning due to rain. Was just having breakfast at 5:45am when the heavens opened up. After two hours it was looking like play might have to be abandoned for the day. So after being psyched up to go and I was now rather toying with the idea of staying another night and as the hours ticked by was becoming less and less keen on the idea of moving. 9am was time for a second breakfast with a freshly hot steaming loaf of bread. An Aussie couple and their daughter offered me some Vegemite for my bread and then kindly gave me the newly opened tube to take with me. After a clearing weatherwise, 9:55 am, the decision was made to go. 10:25am with bike loaded it started to rain again. Past the point of no return. 10:30am we were off.
After 90 minutes and 26 km on the board, play was again interrupted due to a heavy shower. I overtook a tractor on the sprint to a bus shelter. Was shortly after joined by the tractor driver and one other local. After a 40 min delay we were off again. The sun finally came out at 4 pm. It had been the coldest day for a long time. I had to wear a long sleeve jacket for most of the day. At 10 to 6, I called it a day and pretty much set up camp at the first spot I came to. I don’t worry too much if I can be seen or not. I think most of the time my trusty tent blends in well with the landscape. I luv my tent even tho it is so small you can get just one person in it. My fellow cyclists have all gone for luxury with decent size tents. I am reluctant to replace my tent even if it is on its last legs. Most of the tent poles are held together with tape……………my mission is to get that tent back to New Zealand.
DAY 72: SUKNHAM – KOVALI
START: 8:00 – FINISH: 18:00 – DISTANCE: 139 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 20
I managed to dodge the big rain clouds by ducking into a few service stations along the way. Around 2:30pm I got caught out in the open in a heavy shower. I tried to outrun it and to ride through it but to make things worse got stuck going up a hill. I saw it out and 90 mins later I had gone from being completely drenched to semi dry.
Stopped for dinner at a servo restaurant around 5pm. Didn’t feel like cooking. Cycled out of town and after about 10 km found a nice picnic spot on the side of a hill. There were a few families having BBQs. This didn’t stop me finding a nice spot to put the tent up. But before I had the chance I had already been invited to join a group. So as soon as I got the the tent up. That is exactly what I did.
DAY 73: KOVALI – SIVAS
START: 7:00 – FINISH: 7:45 – DISTANCE: 16 KM – RIDE TIME: 45 MIN
It was an easy ride this morning. Left just after 7am and 45 min later I had cycled the 16 km to Sevis. By 9 am I had checked into a cheap hotel. Cleaned the bike because it was filthy after coming through some muddy roadworks yesterday.
I took the rest of the morning to visit the Sivas sights, all very central and I was done by midday. I then went to HSBC to use their phone to call London to find out where my replacement card is. They didn’t have a call phone in the lobby so they took me up to the Manager’s office to use his phone. I spoke to the UK for a good hour trying to sort things out. I am rather stressed at present. Trying to sort visas, bank cards and money. I wanted to have my card sent to an HSBC branch in Dogubayazit…………..but since there is not one the Turkish bank manager suggested Kars is next door…..very close. I now have a 200km/400km round trip detour. HSBC have just introduced card readers for internet banking…………..so without a card reader I am about to be cut off. The other thing on my mind is how the Iran Border are going to take the fact my Turkish exit stamp is in my New Zealand passport when I present my British passport which has the Iran visa…………….Things could go very pear-shape and I could be refused entry.
DAY 74: SIVAS – 30KM OF NOTHING.
START: 10:30 – FINISH: 12:30 – DISTANCE: 30 KM – RIDE TIME: 1H 37
Just as I set off this morning I meet Reuben cycling into town. So we went and had a Pede and Chai tea. 10:30am
I was off again and 15 km out of town and heading up rather a steep hill………..my chain snapped. Was a little surprised as I only just changed it in Ankara after the last one had done 5000 km. This one had barely done 500 km. The weather was looking a little dodgy so I started to push my bike up hill in the hope of finding shelter if it was to rain. In the end I decided to go for the roadside repair. In less than a minute it went rather pear-shape when the end of the chain break tool snapped off. I remained calm turning my bike around and cycling back down the hill. At the bottom I crossed over to a police control station where they were weighing trucks and told them I needed a lift back to town. They found me a truck which took me the 15 km back to Sivas which certainly beat the thought of walking. The truck even dropped me off at a garage where they had the special tool and they were able to repair the chain free of charge. Then this afternoon I was able to go out and find a new chain break…………so it will be a fresh start tomorrow with hopefully a better result.
DAY 75: SIVAS – ZARA
START: 10:30 – FINISH: 16:00 – DISTANCE: 84 KM – RIDE TIME: 4H 11
I was very nervous setting off this morning, not wanting a repeat of yesterday’s mishap with the broken chain. I was very wary and riding a lot more concentratively. When I got to the same spot, the thought of déjà vu crossed my mind. Was a little down yesterday after losing a day and worried about the bike. We left mid-morning taking advantage of the hotel late check-out. I say hotel but it is very basic. Though in this case the room was actually much nicer than the rest of the hotel.
Cycling wise – today was very scenic going over some nice passes into wide open valleys and passing some small lakes along the way. About 4pm we stopped at a servo when the skies became very black. Just as well because the heavens opened up. The guys at the servo said we could camp round the back…………..so that is exactly what we did. Had a bit of dinner in the restaurant and watched a movie on my net book, which has been gold on this trip and the envy of many fellow travellers.
DAY 76: ZARA – REFAHIYE
START: 7:30 – FINISH: 17:30 – DISTANCE: 108 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 18
Didn’t do enough km yesterday. So was looking to make up for it today. Soon as we started this morning we started to climb. Overnight we were at 1360 m and our first pass of the day took us up to 1665. It was nice cycling through the pass with a lake on one side and mountains flanking both sides with scatterings of snow. We dropped down in to the town of Imranli and I discovered I had my first puncture of the trip. Not bad really after 5500 km. I repaired it………….not wanting to use my spare inner tubes just yet. When we left Imranil it was 11:00am and we had only done 25 km. Did another 25 km and then stopped for lunch.
After lunch we hit the second pass climbing up to 2190 m. It was steep and hard going. The reward was a 15 km down run. Finishing the day we started to climb again and first thing tomorrow we have another 2100 m pass. This evening we wild camped just off the road and down by a river.
DAY 77: REFAHIYE – UCDAM
START: 7:00 – FINISH: 16:10 – DISTANCE: 113 KM – RIDE TIME: 5H 45
I am finding that when I wild camp the majority of the time you have a pretty rough night’s sleep. Often there is little choice to where to put the tent up and often it is on uneven ground which is not very comfortable.
Camping close to the main road is pretty noisy and the sun is always shining well before 5am to wake you, if the call to pray hasn’t got you first. We are still on the scenic route and following the D100 east towards Iran. We went over another pass this morning.
There was a lot more snow on the surrounding mountains. It has been really hot today and there has been no shade. Service stations and shops have been few and far between. When we found a tea house-cum-shop at 4pm that was good enough for us…………..we are now camping in the small garden.
DAY 78: UCDAM – ILICA
START: 7:10 – FINISH: 17:15 – DISTANCE: 117 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 25
The first thing I saw this morning when I opened my tent was a solider with a AK-47 running past. When I took a closer look there was a armored personal carrier parked up and they were changing a flat tyre. They didn’t hang around and neither did we. Just after 7am we were on the road we stopped 20km short of Erzurum and camped next to an abandoned petrol station.
DAY 78: ILICA – ERZURUM
START: 6:15 – FINISH: 7:15 – DISTANCE: 20 KM – RIDE TIME: 1H
It is common now to camp just outside a town and cycle the last 20km in the morning. It saves you 1 nights accommodation and then gives you a full day to explore the city. This morning we were up at 5:30am and on our way by 6:15am and 1 hour later we had knocked off the 20 and was checking into a hotel at 7:30am. After showering (great after 4 days roughing it), hand washing and putting the batteries on charge we were out for breakfast. Today is a good rest day after 3 effective days of climbing over passes of 2000 meters from as low as 1300 meters. With the hot sun as well it has just been sapping the energy.
In the afternoon I wandered up to the citadel through the old part of the city which was pretty run down. There was wool hanging up everywhere. After that there was some 800 year mosques to visit. Some ATMs in Turkey dispense, Euros and US Dollars so I topped up my US$ as Iran has no ATMs.
DAY 80: ERZURUM – TAHIR
START: 8:15 – FINISH: 16:00 – DISTANCE: 125 KM – RIDE TIME: 6H 10
278km–20km /2=129km Which means a fairly big day was needed to get me well on the way to Dogubayazit. Motoring along at 35 km/h I had a bee splatter on my forehead. I think it might have just hit the top of my glasses first and then disintegrated. In Eastern Turkey it is a lot poorer and the only English the kids know is Money, Money. I met 3 kids at the start of the pass. I was knackered after just doing 100km in quick time and wanted to stop………..as I passed them I got the money money and one of them picked up stones and I thought here we go. I just kept pedalling slowly. 400 meters up the road I heard the money money and turned round to see I was been pursued by the 3 kids on bikes. I dropped it a gear and smoked them and they soon gave up the chase.
I stopped at the first service station after I crossed the pass and that is where I have stopped for the night. I am camped on the porch of the service station mosque. They said I could sleep inside the mosque if I wanted. Have been for umpteen cups of tea.
DAY 81: TAHIR – DOGUBAYAZIT
START: 7:10 – FINISH: 16:00 – DISTANCE: 156 KM – RIDE TIME: 7H 15
I was Ii the zone today. Come midday I had already done 100 km. Dodged kids throwing stones, kids running out and trying to stop me and a guy running beside me up hill begging for money. It is Eastern Turkey or better known as Kurdistan as 99% of the people here are Kurds. 50km out the impressive sight of a snow-capped Mt Ararat appeared.
The roads out East have deteriorated and the last 30km was quite bad………..the tarmac had melted and the bike was sticking to the road making it harder to pedal and the rest of the time was spent dodging pot holes. Reaching Dogubayazit I went 5km out the other side to a camping place. One of the owners is Dutch. I was the only one camping and it was still packed. It is really a place for locals, mainly families come and have a picnic bbq. They order their food and then cook it themselves. Next to my tent was a group and they gave me some very nice BBQ chicken and invited me for Chai tea. There is live music every night to add to the atmosphere.
DAY 82,83&84: – DOGUBAYAZIT
Woke up early despite the fact I didn’t need to get up in a hurry.
When I did I found a turkey and 13 baby chicks around the tent. What rest day ………..I set out about 8am for the 2km walk up to the old Kurdish palace.
Overlooking the palace were the ruins of an old castle and I climbed up there in the old flip-flops. Wasn’t the best as it was quite steep. There were towering views from the top. After chai tea I walked the 7km back to town for a feed, internet and a last stop shop before Iran. Importantly, I got more rechargeable batteries, lip balm and sun screen which was 20 euros.
Second rest day was a 400km round trip to Kars to pick up a replacement debit card sent out from the UK. It was a bit touch and go……wasn’t sure if 9 days was going to be enough. I was much relived when I found it was there. Had 4 hours to wait for the return bus so walked up to the old citadel overlooking the city.
From the top looking at the hills behind I could see Turkish tanks racing along the top of the hills. Kars is very close to the Arminian border. On the way back down I visited a mosque that used to be at first a Russian church. Kars has a very Russian feel after twice being occupied by them in the past.
The third rest day has been just that for a change. Tomorrow will be an early start for the 35km ride out to the Iran border and I will try my luck. Recently I have heard a few stories of quite a few people being refused visas and even one guy who had a visa and was refused entry on the border. So I am a little nervous. Fingers crossed hopefully the next update will be from inside Iran. I am also very excited. Whatever happens tomorrow, it will be a real turning point for the trip.