Day 192 – Storms on the Black Sea

Oh yeah, gimme some of that.

Black Sea coast looking towards Cide from Inebolu, Turkey

Gale force winds continue today. My little walk along the shores of the Black Sea this morning was a tough one. At times difficult to maintain balance, I decided that if it’s this tough just walking, that cycling would be impossible (at 2pm, the internet weather report was reporting winds of 67 km/h).

Horizontal snow followed soon after I shot the clips.

(click on image for short video clip – video will open in a new window)

Oh well, looks like another day inside, eating.

By the way, a few people have asked me if I know why the Black Sea is called the Black Sea. I consulted Wikipedia, and it appears that there are a few possible reasons.

‘The motive for the name may be an ancient assignment of colors to the direction of the compass, black referring to the north, and red referring to the south.’

‘Another possible explanation comes from the color of the Black Sea’s deep waters. Being further north than the Mediterranean Sea and much less saline, the microalgae concentration is much more rich, hence the dark color. Visibility in the Black Sea is on average approximately five meters (5.5 yd), as compared to up to thirty-five meters (38 yd) in the Mediterranean.’

REF: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Sea#Name

Day 191 – A cold wet dash to Inebolu

Yesterday’s weather forecast was a day late, it seems. The predicted snow, rain and wind came in force today, soaking me through on the 11km ride from my campspot to Inebolu. As I sit here in the internet cafe, it is still snowing the same slushy, haily gunk that the sky spat on me early this morning. My waterproof gear is great in its intended use, but when I am lying back on my recumbent, water gets through the front zips. Not pretty.

Before the skies dumped their contents on me however, the views from my campspot were thrilling.

Wet campsite near Inebolu, Black Sea coast of Turkey

The wet weather even made my dead neibour let up her stinking for a while.

Black Sea, Turkey

Perhaps this is why the sea is called the Black Sea…

Day 190 – Ayancik to 10km from Inebolu

The weather forecast for today was rain, snow, and wind. I saw none of it, and had a great day of riding.

Snow and ice still remained after yesterday’s full day of cold rain and following snow during the night.

Still icy (near Ayancik on the Black Sea coast of Turkey)

It was at times hard going up the very steep hills between Ayancik and Turkelli. The road had been cleared by a grader in the early morning, but the thin layer of snow that ramained meant that I had to concentrate on keeping the bike rolling over clear road. If not, the back wheel would spin.

I had read Peter Wulff’s account of his cycling along the Black Sea coast of Turkey yesterday, and according to him, there were some big hills. He is not wrong. The hills in this part of Turkey are the steepest I have cycled anywhere on this journey. I have only once ever climbed faster than 14m/min on this journey, and that was in Dushanbe in Tajikistan while cycling around the city on an unloaded bike.

I was doubting the accuracy of my map when it said it was 30km from Ayancik to Turkeli. The towns looked so close together. At least, as far as the crow flies they are. The road however snakes up rivers and up to about 400m above sea level before once again dropping down to Turkeli. The hills continued in this way for the whole day, but I was feeling strong and enjoying the challenge.

Catalzeytin on the Black Sea coast of Turkey

The steep downhills took their toll on my brakes however, and soon my front brake pads, which had not been changed since Uzbekistan, began making the tell tale sounds.

New and worn disk brake pads (replaced near Abana, Black Sea coast of Turkey)

A simple two minute replacement job done, I was on my way again.

By the way, the next time I embark on a journey, it will be done like these guys. I met these Three Norwiegans (Nikolai, Per, and Øyvind), on the approach to Inebolu Town. They began their round the world tour on scooters in New York. Legendary. Meeting them made my day. Full respect to the classiest transport on the planet. They have a website!

Three Norwiegans riding around the world on scooters (met near Inebolu, Black Sea coast of Turkey)

I found a nice campspot right on the beach about 11kms from Inebolu. I made sure to pitch the tent upwind of the rotting dead cow though.

Day 188 – TURKEY: A lake named Akgol (Part 2)

It was windy during the night. I recalled seeing on the internet that the weather forecast for today was for snow. I have to get off this mountain.

I got up before day break, and battled with the cooker in the wind to boil some rice for breakfast. I checked my barometer often to look for any tell tale drops in pressure, indicating the oncoming of precipitation. It had only dropped 4 bar in the last 7 hours over night however, so I was safe for the time being.

As the sky grew light, I could see that the feared snow clouds had not yet appeared. A blue sky to aid my escape off the mountain to Ayancik.

I gave Akgol Lake one more longing glance before pushing my bike back to yesterday’s fork in the road. I studied the signs once again, while I filled my water bottle.

Now that’s odd, why didn’t I notice that yesterday?

On one of the signs that pointed to Akgol, was ‘Ayancik Belediyesi’ in small lettering. My Turkish phrase book told me that ‘belediyesi’ means city council.

The road to Akgol leads to Ayancik after all! I thought with jubilation. I re-resolved to go to Akgol, and then follow the road to Ayancik.

A moment of reflection (near Akgol Lake, Turkey)

(click on this photo for a very large version – look at the red Akgol sign,
you’ll see ‘Ayancik Belediyesi’ in black lettering)

Pushing my bike back past my camp spot towards Akgol was easier than the day before. With yesterday’s tyre tracks, I was able to push the bike without having to cut tracks in the snow.

The road going from where I camped to Akgol was for the first half what I had hoped. Snow shallow enough to be able to sit on the bike and roll down hill. This only lasted for about 100m however before once again the road went behind the trees, and the snow was in its full unmelted glory.

I repeated yesterday’s process of removing the front panniers and walking them about 1km ahead. I walked them all the way down to the lake.

There it was. Lake Akgol. In summer I imagine it must be quite the picnic spot. Today there was no one. The lake was frozen over. Massive chunks of snow had fallen from the roof of the adjacent council administration building, bocking the doorways.

Akgol Lake, Turkey

The road did indeed carry on down the valley next to the river. But it was such a tiny road. And covered in deep snow. Is this really the way to Ayancik? Perhaps the reference to ‘Ayancik City Council’ on the sign back up at the fork in the road was referring to the administration buildings.

I tried breaking into the administration building to try to find a detailed map of the area, but the windows were closed fast.

I was torn with indecision. Small road leading down a narrow valley, assumably to Ayancik. Deep snow to push a heavy bike through. If I turn back however I still have to push my bike back up through snow. A least I would know what to expect…

I decided that assumption being the mother of all stuff ups, I would turn back. I kicked the snow in frustration and yelled at nothing in particular. Or maybe I was yelling at common sense. Mr Common Sense, who always knows better, when I am so sure that the small snowy road goes down to Ayancik.

I firmly told me, myself and I that the decision was made. So I picked up my panniers and trudged off up the hill again to my bike.

As I walked I noticed the biggest footprints I have ever seen in my life. I would later learn that there are bears around Lake Akgol. Ignorance is bliss.

Bear prints near Lake Akgol, Turkey No one told me there were bears in Turkey!! (Akgol Lake, Turkey)

Once at the bike, I began pushing it back over the tyre tracks once again. The going was easy enough, but pushing uphill required a rest every 5 metres or so. It was going to be tough pushing the bike up yesterday’s hill, but all going well, I would be back on a clear sealed road by late afternoon.

Just as I rounded the corner to the fork in the road, I saw it. The most beautiful sight I had seen in two days. A huge grader was carving through the snow, leaving a beautiful clear road in its wake. A man was walking towards me with a small bore shotgun hanging over his shoulder.

The man didn’t seem at all surprised to see a foreigner pushing a bicycle-like contraption through the snow. I asked him which was the way to Ayancik. To the right, he motioned, and that was that. A true answer to my prayers.

A sight for sore eyes near Akgol Lake, Turkey

The road went over a small crest before easing into the most spectacular downhill ride of my life.. The road was mostly clear of snow, and went through villages that clung to the mountainside for dear life. Locals waved in confusion as I sped by. A little toddler saw me coming and ran for cover, sneakily watching me roll by from behind a fence post.

Inalti village, Turkey

The road descended down to join a road that followed the river downhill. A sign pointed upstream to a tourist spot called ‘Akgol’. That was the small snowy road that I had decided not to take, on the advice of Mr. Common Sense. I didn’t care any more.

Descent from Inalti village to Ayancik Town, Turkey

The riverside road was glorious. Walls of rock, waterfalls, steep hard packed road. The recumbent was in its element, only slowing for blind corners where the likelihood was high that a local would be speeding up the hill just as fast as I was speeding down it.

Descending from Akgol Lake, Turkey

(click on image for short video – video will open in new window)

Descent from Inalti village to Ayancik Town, Turkey

I finally reached a sealed road. The road that I would have been on had I just gone downhill yesterday rather than be lured down the road less traveled to Akgol.

I couldn’t help but think that it is indeed more worthwhile taking the road less traveled. You are sure to suffer, hurt, curse and get frustrated. But in the end you’ll always come out the other end with more than a tale. You’ll have spot in your memory that will always take your breath away every time you revisit it.

I bombed down the asphalt to Ayancik. I caught glimpses of the Black Sea as I descended. The Black Sea. I was euphoric. What on earth is a guy from the one of the southern mot cities in the world doing looking at the Black Sea with his own eyes.

I checked into a hotel (rain was beginning to fall) and washed my clothes for the first time in three and a half weeks.

Day 187 – TURKEY: A lake called Akgol (Part 1)

Turkey has among the steepest roads that I have encountered on this journey. This morning I cycled one of them. Had I not already cycled almost 7,000km, I would have been pushing.The pass was called Sakiz Pass, and it joins a small town (don’t remember the name) and Ayancik on the Black Sea coast. I inched up the slope at an average speed of 4.6km/h for over 2 hours. I can tell you, it felt good to be at the top.

Didn't quite see that curve... (on pass near Ayancelik, Turkey)

Now, from the top of the pass, the smart thing to do would have been to bomb down the other side, savouring every vertical meter of the 1,250m from the top of the pass to sea level, on a nice sealed road. However, I got just a little sidetracked, which turned a 1 hour descent into a two day struggle..

The brown ‘tourist information’ sign said ‘Akgol’. A muddy snowy road turning off to the left of the main road. I glanced at my map and saw that it indicated a tourist attraction at ‘Akgol’. I didn’t know exacty what ‘Akgol’ was, but the road was going downhill, and I was keen to take some pictures of nice scenery…

The road was snowy, but 4WD vehicles had been on it recenty, meaning that I could cycle OK in first gear.

That was for about 100m. Once again the road forked. Cycleable 4WD tracks going right, and a sign saying ‘Akgol’ pointing left.

The road to Akgol was covered in snow about 30cm deep. If you were walking, you would sink about 15cm with each step. If you were pushing a loaded recumbent bicycle with a small 20 inch wheel at the front, the bike would sink down to the axles in the snow.

On the way to Akgol Lake, Turkey

After 50m of fruitless pushing, I realised that the bike was too heavy. It would sink into the snow, and pushing would become impossible. I did however notice that if I removed the front panniers, the bike moved with relative ease throught the snow.

I spent six long, long hours carrying the front panniers 1km, dropping them, walking back to the bike, then pushing the bike km to the panniers, then carrying the panniers 1km…

It was painfully slow progress, repeating the ferrying of panniers and bike through the snow. My legs ached, and at times I could only push the bike for two or three meters at a time before needing to rest. I was tired and hungry.

The reason I chose to forge on however was because I was going downhill. Surely the snow would thin out as descended, I nievely thought. Problem was that I was in the middle of a pine forest. The road saw very little sun during the day, so the snow had very little chance of melting.

snowyroadOn the way to Akgol Lake, Turkey

Also, according to my map, if I could make it to Akgol, there was a sealed road leading from Akgol straight to Ayancik. From there it would be pain sailing, I thought.

By 4:30pm, I had come to another fork in the road, with signs pointing to ‘Akgol’. The mystery tourist spot. ‘Akgol’ to the left, some small villages indicated by a sign pointing to the right. No mention of Ayancik Town.

A moment of reflection (near Akgol Lake, Turkey)

It was here that I began to doubt the accuracy of my map. Perhaps the road forking to the right does actually go to Ayancik, and the road to Akgol is just a dead end, I thought.

About 100m down, I could see a lake, surrounded only by large hils. If I go down to the lake, would I have to push my bike up through the snow over a pass to get to Ayancik? Would the snow really thin out?

Hang on! Lake. Gol. In other countries such as Tajikistan, lake names always ended in ‘kol’. Qarakol, Sasikol…

I looked up ‘gol’ in my Turkish-Japanese phrase book, and sure enough, gol means lake.

That lake down there, surrounded in snow, is my mystery tourist spot.

By now however I had had enough. I was sick of snow. Once I get off this mountain, I thought, I don’t ever want to see snow again.

There were powerlines coming from three directions, and converging closeby. One set of powerlines went off to a small settlement on a distant hill, another down to Akgol, and another set coming from the north – the direction of Ayancik.

It was too late in the day to turn back, so I decided to camp for the night near the fork in the road. Tomorrow I would go up the right hand road for a while to see where it would lead me. If not to Ayancik, then I would have to resort to the most unappealing option of pushing my bike back up the way I had come.

A night on the mountain after tough day (near Akgol Lake, Turkey)

Day 186 – From Duragan to half way up Sakiz Pass

Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 76.12km
Average speed / 平均速度: 11.4km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 6h 10m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 2661.5km (plus 4200km)
Ascent / 上り: +760m
Descent / 下り: -430m

I was camped just outside of Duragan, so I cycled back into town or breakfast. On the menu was a herby white soup with rice in it, along with the complementary bottomless bread. I love the all you can eat bread thing at Turkish restaurants. You can eat as much bread as you can. Today’s soup and bread cost NZ$1.

As I was cyclig out of Duragan, I noticed that I had dropped my sunhat somewhere. Not only would I be in trouble sunburn-wise, but the hat is quite special to me. It has written on it messages from friends in Japan.

Sentimental sun hat   Sentimental sun hat

So I cycled back into Duragan once again. I arrived where I thought I must have dropped the hat, and one of the local taxi drivers rushed over with it in his hands. He motioned that he was about to drive out to find me. He then proceeded to drag me into the nearest tea house for some tea. Jolly nice lot, these Turks.

With the hat safely iside a zip up pocket, I left in the direction of Boyabat, 26km away.

I arrived at 11am, just in time for a break, so I checked up on emails and comments on the website. Left the internet cafe at 12:30pm, and had Lahmacun for lunch.

Making pizza in Boyabat, Turkey

I decided to give the big coastal town of Sinop a miss and head for some smaller roads going to the Black Sea. Passed through a town with a very long name…

You'll have to repeat that for me... (A really long town name in Turkey)

Half way up Sakiz Pass, I bought some eggs, a tomato, and a potato at a small store in a village. The locals were concerned that I wanted to sleep out in the wild. They said I would get eaten by wolves.

Day 185 – From graveyard near Vezirkopru to near Duragan

I feel as though I am really getting into the swing of things now. I am enjoying cycling more than I ever have before, and am feeling strong. Perhaps it is the awesome scenery here in Turkey. Turkey is definitely turning out to be a real highlight of the trip.

Lakes near Duragan, Turkey

Amazing rocky mountains with pine tree forests. Today I was lost in the scent of damp pine forests as I rode. It reminded me of New Zealand.

It was a short 50km ride from the graveyard to Duragan. In Duragan I had lunch, and have been spending the afternoon updating the website. I will take off in a couple of minutes and set up camp outside of town.

Once again the bike caused a stir…

Bike makes a stir in Duragan, Turkey   Bike makes a stir in Duragan, Turkey

Day 184 – From 10km from Amasya to a graveyard near Vezirkopru

Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 106.03km
Average speed / 平均速度: 13.5km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 7h 49m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 2527.8km (plus 4200km)
Ascent / 上り: +1015m
Descent / 下り: -965m

Ahhhhh. A strong tail wind once again. This is the kind of cycle touring I like.

I was surprisingly keen to keep cycling this morning after yesterday’s epic mileage, but who can argue with a strong tailwind?

It pushed me through Amasya, which is apparently actually a very picturesque tourist town. I hardly caught a glimpse as I motored through.

It almost pushed me through Suluova Town also, if it was not for the wonderful chaps at a brand new petrol station on the outskirts of town. I stopped there to buy some snacks, and ended up having a shower there. My first in two weeks. I didn’t realise how much I stunk until I had a shower. Then I realised how much my clothes stink. My clothes haven’t been washed since New Years in Georgia. That is coming up on a month. I can’t wait to get to a hostel in Istanbul with a washing machine.

The new petrol station had everything. A sports room with a treadmill and stepper, a mosque, and of course showers. All for tired long distance truckers. And smelly long distance cyclists. Thank you for the shower!

Friendly service station chaps, Suluova, Turkey

Towards the end of the day, just before dark, I began the usual search for a suitable campspot. To my dismay however, the area around Vezirkopru is very heavily cultivated. I don’t know what they grow here, but at this time of year, all the fields are freshly ploughed, and very muddy.

Typical Turkish rural town (Havza, Turkey)

As it grew darker and darker, I knew that I was in trouble. There was nowhere to camp! I continued cycling for half an hour after dark, dismayed.

I entered another small town, whose name I can’t remember. Too small to be on the map. I spied their school. It was the only hope. The courtyard was brightly lit, so I quickly wheeled my bike across it into the shadows near the sports hall. If I lay low until about 7pm, then I can spread out my mat and sleep here, I thought.

At 6:30pm however, people started to mill around the school. It appears that the local lads use it as a gathering place in the evenings. It was a matter of minutes before I was noticed by one. He stared at me for about a minute, before scurrying off. In another few minutes, a whole gang of youths about 16 or 17 years old were surrounding me, bombarding me with all the usual questions. “Where are you from?” “Why are you here?”

I decided it was time to get out of there, so packed up my things, and left. It was pitch black, with only my small LED torch to light my way on the dark country road. I was convinced that I would be cycling all night, when finally I saw an area of uncultivated land. Trees to hide me from the road…

Sleeping spot near Vezirkopru, Turkey

It did cross my mind that it was strange that there should be a spot of unploughed land in such a very cultivated area. It was only in the morning that I saw that where I lay for the night was surrounded in gravestones. I had slept outside under a tree in the middle of a graveyard. No wonder I slept so soundly!

Sleeping spot near Vezirkopru turned out to be a graveyard

Day 183 – The longest day (Rushadiye to 10km from Amasya)

Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 150.05km
Average speed / 平均速度: 17.3km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 8h 39m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 2423.2km (plus 4200km)
Ascent / 上り: +1095m
Descent / 下り: -1180m

Today was officially the longest day (both time and distance wise) of the journey so far. 150km, in 8 hours and 39 minutes. It certainly wasn’t the flattest day of the journey, with over 1,000m climbed on the many ups and downs of the day, so it was a very satisfying day.

Campspot just oustide of Rushadiye, Turkey

The day began with a hard frost that retreated quickly as the sun stretched its arms across the hills.

From my campspot down by the river, I didn’t notice that the wind was already blowing strong. For once the wind was blowing in the direction that I was going. I’ve never felt so strong. Powering up the hills, and flying down the other side. Only stopping to eat or to drink, or take the (very) occasional photograph.

Scenery near Tashova, Turkey

When I think back over the day, which covered almost two times my usual distance for one day, it is hard to recall every thing I saw. I passed through countless towns, one of which had the most brick firing kilns I have ever seen in my life. Tashova town must be famous for bricks, or something, because the main road going into town was lined with bricks drying in the sun. The main type of bricks here in Turkey are quite different to those in NZ. They are as you see in the photo below. ‘Hollow’.

Drying bricks in Tashova, Turkey

At a roadside cafe where I stopped for tea and a quick warm up, was this contraption.

Heat blower in Erbaa, Turkey Heat blower in Erbaa, Turkey

Heat blower in Erbaa, Turkey Heat blower in Erbaa, Turkey

It is a thermostat controlled heat blower that gets its heat from a small furnace under the big jet like top piece. The heat from the firebox heats the pipes in the center of the jet, and a fan at the other end of the jet blows air through the hot tubes. The fan is connected to a thermostat, so that the unit shuts off when it gets too cold. I thought my Dad might be interested in this for his new workshop in NZ…

I’m not sure what I ate, or what kept me going, but I cycled well into the night. It was not until 5:30pm (about 45 mins after dark) when I ordered myself to stop, and find a spot to sleep. That is 10 hours on the road. 7:30am till 5:30pm. Epic day for me.

All around me were orchards. I found a convenient pagoda on someone’s land, and crashed there exhausted.

Sleeping in orchard shed, 10km from Amasya, Turkey

(the morning after)