The rain continued overnight and into the morning. Looking at at the map and the distance we had to cover in the time available to us we realised that after yesterday’s little palaver we couldn’t go through the mountains anymore. We needed to get to Batumi, Georgia in time for Finn to catch his flight back home. But we were still stuck up in the foothills with a flat tyre and no spare tubes and all our patches used up.
What we decided to do was to split up. We had to get back down to the coast road so Finn tried to get a lift from one of the many pickups passing by and once he had found a lift I would cycle on. Less than ten minutes later Finn had found himself a lift, threw his bike and bags in the back and I started back down the way we came yesterday.
It was overcast and the rain would occasionally drizzle down, but on the whole it wasn’t all that wet compared to yesterday. I rode along the good old Black Sea highway, at one point catching up to Finn as he waited for another lift. The highway was the same as the previous day’s ride, although this time there was a lot more tunnels.
I knew I was getting to the border when the back up of trucks started. This wasn’t half as long as the tailback of trucks before the the Turkish border but it did stretch through some tunnels which made for a tight squeeze. Arriving at the border was a bit confusing. There wasn’t any good signage and it was so busy with people and traffic I could make out the way into Georgia! I just wanted to get out of Turkey and couldn’t find the exit!
When I did find the border control the guard on the Turkish side gave me a bit of a hard time leaving until I pulled up my visa, but once at the Georgian border everything was much friendlier.
“Is that Russian bike?” One of the border guards asked.
“No, it’s American”
“You should get Russian bike, very good. Very fast. Enjoy Georgia.”
And that was it, after over a month in Turkey we had made it to the other side and into a new country! And not long after getting to the other side I passed Finn, wheeling his bike along the side of the road. He had passed me out somewhere and had made it across the border too. We figured we were close enough to Batumi now, I would ride ahead and find somewhere to stay and wait for Finn. As it turns out Batumi is quite a confusing place to get navigate, very few road signs and a lot of high rise buildings that you would assume would lead you to the city center but they are mostly unfinished.
It also was a bit further to the city than we anticipated. 15km from the border all together but with the confusing city to navigate it wasn’t until late, about eight, that Finn finally arrived. But we found a place to stay that nice and had a really warm shower, a godsend after the last few days of rain. We really excited to be done riding over Turkey and finally in a new country.
It started raining last night as we slept. When we woke up it was still coming down and despite our hopes that it would clear up with we waited it out it in the morning it continued all day. Finn also woke up to a flat which is never a great feeling but despite it all we were excited today, we were getting off the coast road and up into the mountains. Not only that by we would be crossing the highest pass of our trip, up 3000m from sea level today!
We got going late in the morning, we waited as long as we could but the rain did not let up. As soon as the road turned off into the mountains though it was clear that this was the right decision. Even though most of the higher peaks were obscured by clouds the scenery we could see was fantastic,: really tall, steep slopes with terraces of tea clinging to the sides all the way up the gorge and houses placed on the sides of the hills that looked like they might fall into the last flowing river below at any moment. In fact the rain almost added to the whole experience, as I’m sure this what the weather is like most of the time.
While climbing up this gorge Finn unluckily got another flat. Figuring that there was a piece of cable or something else equally small and invisible caught in the tyre somewhere we swapped it out for my old tyre I was still carrying and put in the last patched tube we had between us. It was so wet and not warm (it wasn’t exactly cold) that the patches wouldn’t vulcanise properly to the tube. Pushing on to the village of Camlihemsin, the last stop before the pass we had to cross, and we realised my old tyre was worse off than we thought as Finn got yet another flat.
Pulling into Camlihemsin as bit disheartened we looked around for a bike shop but this was more mountain outpost than tourist village so that was a no go. Retreating into a cafe to assess our options we realised we probably wouldn’t be able to cross the pass today. We had lost too much time waiting out the rain in the morning and the flat tyres had eaten more time than we thought. It was getting late and we didn’t want to attempt the pass in the dying light of a rainy day.
We retreated back down the gorge a couple of kilometre, Finn pumping his tyre every few minutes, back to some gazebos by the road we had passed on the way that we figured would give us some shelter from the incessant rain.
Even though we had only made it less than 40km today, it was still more interesting than most of our days riding the Black Sea coast, and on that account we figured the day was a success. That and there was a little roadside mosque next to the gazebos that I couldn’t fit in but Finn could lay down comfortably in to get out of the rain.
This post is going to be a bit short. The road between Trabzon and Ardesen didn’t really provide any interesting riding or views. In a way it was good as we were a bit pressed for time and needed to cover ground quickly.
We left Trabzon early, compared to how long it normally takes us to get out of a city. The weather was very humid and the clouds gathering overhead didn’t bode well. This was another pretty uninteresting day of riding, but it was ok. By the end of today if we reached Ardesen we would be ready to turn off the dull coast road and turn up into the Kaçkar mountains for the last few days before we got into Georgia where the riding should be more interesting.
We had lunch in Rize (a big plate of sardines) and waited out the rain that had started to come down heavily. Once it cleared we got back on the road and rode out to Ardesen where we found a gas station to camp at.
Another relatively uneventful ride today. The weather was overcast but the wind behind us. We pounded out the kilometres, this evening we wanted to be in Trabzon where we had found a Couchsurfer to host us. Trabzon was 130km away which would normally be a sizeable ride but on the straight and flat with a tailwind it went by pretty fast.
We had lunch in a cafe at a town called Akçaabat where we were joined by a curious local kid for a while who was full of questions that we didn’t understand but answered to his satisfaction, as far as I could tell.
We got into Trabzon just as it was getting dark. Trabzon is a sizeable city on the coast with a big university that gives the place a youthful energy. Right off the coast the land rises quickly so the whole city is built on a pretty severe slope. We found a spot with wifi so we could contact our host,and after waiting a while he got back to us and we rode off to his place.
We were staying with Ömer, an enthusiastic guy from the city of Adana (same city that Ozgur, our host in Istanbul was from). He was probably one of the most talkative guys I’ve met. He always had story to tell. We arrived late that night. Next day we went to look around Trabzon during the day with Ömer. There was an election coming up in Turkey in a couple of weeks and Trabzon was decked out with posters, flags and all sorts of campaigners. We wandered for a bit, went down to the coast for tea and then in the evening joined Ömer for the English lesson he was giving a local kid so he could hear some native English.
According to Ömer the apartment he was renting was built for some Arabs as a holiday time share kind of thing. It worked out then that he had a whole spare bedroom with two beds, which was great as we were both feeling a bit run down but two nights in a nice bed sorted that all out.
After saying goodbye to Ali in the morning and then a quick swim in the Black Sea we left Ordu in the early afternoon. This is going to be quite a short post. All day we were riding along the highway, and nothing of note really happened.
The traffic was moderate, the weather was fine but overall the ride was nothing that special, that is kind of trade off with cycling on the highway, you tend to make great time as the road is straight and direct with gently incline most of the time but it’s often not all that interesting.
We had made a plan to leave the coast road a bit before the Georgian border and ride around in the Kaçkar mountains for a day or two. By we were on a tight schedule and still had to actually reach the mountains so we were happy, in a way, to be riding on roads that gave us the chance to cover a lot of ground without too much effort.
So we rode along the Black Sea highway, though not getting to see a whole lot of the coast. The early afternoon turned into the evening and we tried to find somewhere to camp. After two failed stops, one at a park that was too close to the road and another a petrol station that didn’t want us camping there we found a trip of beach. It was secluded from the road and some abandoned changing rooms and beach huts provided a concrete platform to sleep on so we didn’t track sand all over our gear. We finished up the day with another dip in the sea.
Today we didn’t have so far to ride, we were going to Ordu which was on the other side of the headland we were riding around. Zafir from Samsun had a friend in Ordu who he had told about our trip. This friend, whose name was Ali, had wanted to support our trip to and offered us a place to sleep in his city. It was on our way and we wouldn’t want to turn down hospitality like that.
The riding today was really nice compared to the somewhat dull riding yesterday. Really enjoyable winding up and down into the various little bays and inlets that the road followed. At the apex of the headland was Cape Jason. This particular cape is apparently mentioned in the tale of Jason and the Argonauts who sailed from modern day Thessaly in Greece up,through the Bosphorous and along the Black Sea to retrieve the Fleece from Colchis, modern day Georgia. At this cape the Greek population had built a temple of Jason which was replaced by a church, restored recently to attract visitors.
From the Cape to Ordu was a little less than 40km. We stopped briefly in the sparkling seaside town of Presembe so we could find some wifi to let Ali know we would be in town soon. It was the a flat and pleasant ride into Ordu.
We met up with Ali, a friendly family man in his forties who also liked motorcycles. Ali had the rather lucrative job of being the only hazelnut broker in all of Ordu, and with Turkey producing 70% of the worlds hazelnuts and Ordu producing 50% of those you can probably imagine just how lucrative this venture was.
We had expected to be sleeping on Alis couch, but he brought us to a hotel with whose owners he was good friends and put us up there. Again, such generosity! We had dinner with Ali and then he had to head back to the office for a bit but he returned for a couple of drinks in the evening and we had a great time talking to him about Ordu, Turkey and his travels and work. He was really enthusiastic about our trip and as we thanked him for the lovely time we had in Ordu he told us he was just happy to help.
We slept soundly in the hotel that night.
The posts over the next couple of days will probably be a bit short, there wasn’t a whole lot of variation along the Route D100 by the Black Sea. This was the road we would take all the way to the border with Georgia.
The road was flat and straight and we had a tailwind so we made some great time during the day. We rode from the gas station we had camped at outside Ordu along the coast and by lunchtime we had already coved 60km.
We stopped for lunch in the nice seaside town of Ünye. Finn got a haircut. More of the same in in the afternoon, riding on the coastal highway. I think part of what the made the riding a bit dull was that we were on the wrong side of the road, as in we weren’t right next to the sea. We only really got glimpses of it, otherwise it was the traffic on one side and the buildings on the other that we were looking at most of the day.
In the early evening though we got off the highway as it cut across a headland and followed the old coast road around this headland instead. It was stating to get dark, but we rode on this road for about 10km, loving the lack of traffic or development, just a narrow old road going up and down the arboraceous bays.
We pulled into a small fishing town called Yaniköy down in one of the inlets and wandered around by the coast trying to find some flat, secluded place to camp at. A local guy came up after watching us for a bit and led us to a sheltered courtyard which I think would be used for the fish market in town but today was empty. He said we could camp there and then left us our own devices.
What can I say about our day in Samsun. It started off great and only got better. In the morning the weather was foggy and a bit dreary. We groggily put away our camping gear in full view of the floor to ceiling window at the back of the restaurant. After a couple of minutes a young kid came out with a phone in his hand and read a translated message from it, “would you like to come in and have breakfast with my parents?” Well of course we said yes. The kids parents were really nice, the wife from Istanbul and the husband from Samsun. We enjoyed a real slap-up breakfast with them which we very much appreciated having subsided of bread and coffee breakfasts so far.
We left the camp spot feeling refreshed and well fed and rode the last 30km into Samsun, downhill pretty much all the way. We arrived and we were back at the coast, this time the Black Sea. Samsun was quite busy but nice, a seaside city that hadn’t drifted too much towards industrial port or beachfront high-rises.
We had found a host in Samsun, a doctor by the name of Zafir. Naturally we expected to be crashing at his place. As it turned out he had read our request and wanted to help us out but been unable to host us in his home that night so he had booked (and paid for) a hotel room. It was unbelievably generous of him, we didn’t expect anything like this. and he was, as you might expected, incredibly friendly and really hospitable. We couldn’t thank him enough. Zafir road motorcycles when he wasn’t working as an infectious disease doctor. He had been on a number of trips on his bike and had great advice for us about the road ahead.
We then spent the afternoon and evening with his family, his wife and son, going on a day trip along the new and scenic coast road. He drove us out to the city of Sinop, another pretty seaside town and then brought us to his favourite fish restaurant on the outskirts of Samsun. The meal was delicious, fresh caught Black Sea fish, eaten by the sea. As I said the day into got better, Zafir was a fantastic host and he and his lovely family really made our short stay in Samsun special.
The half day of riding and hammam yesterday did us well and we woke up feeling refreshed. Today we were going to follow our usual practice of riding to about 30km outside of the city we intended to stay in, Samsun this time, so that in the morning we could easily roll in and have a full day there.
We were back in main roads full time now. We appreciate them much more after the ride over the steppe, and made great time riding on lovely sealed Tarmac with even inclines and a real treat: tunnels! Just before we pulled into the town of Kavak for lunch the road punched through the mountain terrain with nit one but three short tunnels to keep the route flat.
Kavak is a busy town with a bustling Center square around the mosque where we parked out bikes. We went and had some lunch in one of the eateries that fronted the square and then went looking for an establishment with wifi to check Couchsurfing for hosts in Samsun. While wandering around we were invited to join some guys for çay, but didn’t stay with them too king as, although they were friendly, they weren’t too interested in carrying on a conversation with hand gestures. The place we found in the end we wound up talking with one of the cooks for a bit, a really amicable guy with a smattering of English and google translate on his phone. As we left he ran out of the shop to add us in Facebook and take a photo.
Outside of Kavak the road settled into a long and steady climb and was leading, a but worryingly, right into a big front of clouds. There wasn’t any rain, but it sure looked set to start bucketing at any moment. The landscape now was hilly and green, a little bit like Ireland actually, except for the mountains on the horizon and minarets dotted around.
We wound up riding into the evening and the dark, it wasn’t an issue with the road being really well lit but it did catch us off guard a bit, with winter coming on night has been setting in earlier and earlier. At the top of another climb we at last came across somewhere to camp, a BP petrol station, attached to the station was a restaurant with a grassy area behind it. The manager of the restaurant gave is the ok to camp around back. We decided to sleep under the small gazebo that punctuated the lot what with the misty rain that had started coming down.