Cycling East Part 13 – Eastern Turkey

The most beautiful part of Turkey’s Black Sea coast ended in Sinop, but despite that, Turkey’s special because of the people and their hospitality to strangers. From here on the road turned to a dual carriageway winding along the sea shore all the way to Georgia, sadly a dual carriageway tends to lessen the experience of natural beaches and rugged cliffs. Sinop to Samsun was infinitely forgettable, it was also a surprisingly big city. We got shouted at by security guards for riding our bikes but one of them felt bad so kissed me on the cheek to wish me good travels, I took a photo of him with a creepy guy who spoke German to help translate!
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The next section after Samsun was much more pleasant, if just for the section where we detoured onto the less direct small coastal road past Fatsa. We had early lunch in Unye which was a feast of three deliciiud meaty Pide pizza things. We also had desert of figs from a kind family we met on the promenade and after some photos of me in my white lycra and their boy perched on my bike, we road on.
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The quiet peninsula was a much needed break, allbeit too short. We camped for one night in the super friendly village of Yalikoy. This seaside place was initially nothing special but at one end, past the piles of drying hazelnuts we found one chap sitting philosophically on his pile of nuts, so I asked about camping and in decent German he replied we could go to the far end and camp on the beach.
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So we thanked him and rode there, I checked with a man on a balcony overlooking the aforementioned beach and he confirmed the beach is the campsite, then the ever present tea room locals also agreed it was no problem.  One of them spoke good English from working at Istanbul’s Four Seasons hotel and welcomed us to his village, others were local crafts men resting after a day building the most beautiful traditional wooden boats.
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One issue with the beach was the high tide mark appeared to be right at the sea wall so there was no space to camp! Apparently it depends on the weather as to where the water reaches, the English speaking chap said tonight would probably be fine! Eventually after much deliberation they directed us to a patch of abandoned grass at one end, which presented a more restful night! We sat on the sea wall preparing dinner when a lady walked over with a tray loaded with amazing traditional Turkish food for us: Brown bread with lamb moussaka, minty tomato soup and spiced bulgar grains. It was super tasty and amazingly kind!
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We popped to the tea room for a sip of çay with the locals before a good nights sleep!
The next day we were quickly back on the dual carriageway and headed firstly for Griesun then hopefully onto Trabzon.
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But first we visited Ordu, a huge place with a beautiful sea front and an interesting church (all crosses had been removed though) and an old mosque. Then up above the town was a view point accessed by a ski style cable car that went straight over the entire town!
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The road to Giresun was hot hot hot, made worse by the 6 puncture stops. Firstly we both rode over the same sharp tyre wire, then an old patch failed and then I got a huge nail from a lazy building site. The workmen must have had a deal with the local tyre shop when they lobbed old nails onto the main road below. We used a nearby petrol station and the attendants were all fascinated by me fixing the tube, supplying a steady stream of tea and cold water. Finally I gave up patching the two huge holes and put in a new one!
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We next passed another new mosque under construction this one was a bit different because it was huge, it was built in the same style as the bigger mosques in Istanbul, despite extensive concrete usage it was amazingly ornate around the entrance and used a nice stone cladding.

We sadly didn’t make the distance to Trabzon given the heat and all the punctures, so with our spare tubes depleted, we caught a local bus to take us the final hop into the city. I’m glad we did as the evening traffic around Trabzon was nothing short of suicidal, a series of snaking busy dual carriageways and some pretty rough feeling districts. We passed this chicken restaurant which made me laugh!
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The ride to the centre from where the bus dropped us at dusk was in itself an experience. Some areas felt like puncture number seven would probably have meant flst tyres were the least of our problems!
The touring guy we met in Sinop told us about a dirt cheap hotel in Trabzon for 40tl a night, he told us it was the only orange building on the square but it wasn’t on the square. After giving up the search we turned left (when looking uphill) off the top of the square and went into the first hotel, who wanted 150 tl, we moved on quickly, further along the street behind the historic looking mosque was a red/orange hotel Benli it was 40tl for both of us so surely the cheapest hotel in Trabzon and the one he meant!
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There was one other touring bike in the hotel’s handy secure store room but we never met the owner of it. The next day we effectively had a rest by catching a bus up to the Sumena monastery perched on a cliff face.
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A stunning setting with misty mountains and an impressive building. Sadly you can’t visit all the buildings at the moment but we saw some superb frescoes painted onto a cave roof forming a chapel.
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We were sitting having lunch when an old lady walked over and sat next to us, she had walked up a small path 30 years ago to explore the same monastery, apparently a lot has changed and not necessarily for the better. The path is now a twisting road filled with mini buses, the buildings rebuilt with uniform slabs covering the old natural rock floor. There was also a lot of concrete capping the walls. She also described the long drop toilets that free-falled way  down into the river below!
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After an afternoon of bike shop hunting we got some new tubes and a patch kit containing 48 patches, I figured that might help! Marion then decided we hadn’t eaten enough baclava in Turkey and time was running out to eat it. So we toured patisseries.
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And another type!
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And some profiteroles!
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There were lots of Saudi’s visiting Trabzon wearing full black burkas, we weren’t sure why they all wanted to visit as it isn’t the greatest place, we enjoyed the variety of food on offer but that was about it.
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The next section to the Georgian border was yet again dual carriageway we tried to make long distances to get into Georgia ASAP. This whole area is the Tabacco and tea growing centreand both covered the fields or hillside.
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Trucks of tea rattled passed with leaves spewing out the sides/ the verges smelt very fragrant aa werode past! There were also about 5 hur Caykur tea factories spewing smoke out from the tea drying furnavez, all smelt fantastic as well.
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We passed through one town for lunch next to a friendly parrot:
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We ate disappointing bread and beans:
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Then a shop keeper bought out some Helva sesame and walnut fudge lile stuff for us:
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Then a guy offered us free tea at his restaurant and after a chat offered that we could stay with him and his family. Sadly it was too early to accept as we needed to head on towards Tbilisi. I feel like this lunch stop sums up Turkey’s approach to strangers nicely though! He was the friendly waiter we met:
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The first day we got as far as Isikli a nice enough small village. We found a nice beach which was rare along this section and ate wild figs. I had a chat swimming in the sea with various people in Broken English or German, all the locals were intrigued by the foreigners with these weird tan lines!
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We then went into the village to buy water and vegetables for dinner, I tested my theory that if we sat around long enough and asked for camping we would be well looked after.
After much discussion the store owner found a guy on a moped who would slowly lead us to a camping spot in front of another guys house! It turned out to be the same beach where we had just swam!
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Riding to the border was pretty quick with lots more blooming sketchy tunnels.
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We passed through the Georgian border very quickly as nothing was needed for British passport holders.
The road into Batumi was a narrow busy road and despite passing some pleasant sandy beaches we didn’t enjoy it. The Georgians had done the impossible and managed to out bad drive the Turkish! They particularly enjoy a head on overtaking manoeuvre it seemed!

So after 23 days we had crossed Turkey hugging the Black sea for the entire distance. It had been tough and took longer than we imagined. The heat was just crazy when combined with the endless hills that stretches of coast presented us with. Luckily we could ride big distances on the flat less interesting eastern section and get vaguely back on schedule. We were certainly looking forward to a change with riding in Georgia and hopefully an end of the 5am hideously loud call to prayers.

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