After almost a week chilling and exploring Cappadocia I decided to continue cycling, from Cappadocia to the Black Sea. I really wanted to visit Kurdistan, and having met (and lived with) many people from there I was most excited about this part of Turkey and the culture it beholds. But unfortunately I have a (sort of) time limit if I want to get to China this year (crossing the Pamir mountains is impossible in winter) and so I had to take the tough decision to leave Kurdistan for another time. 🙁
So from Cappadocia to the Black Sea it is! 🙂
One of the great things about travelling, especially in a country as grand and diverse as Turkey, is there isn’t really a wrong way. And even though the journey wasn’t exactly exhilarating in terms of scenery, I still met plenty of great people (and ate plenty of great food!). This change of plan gave me a new perspective on Turkey, and I never noticed that actually, even the most dreary of field-side camp sites can be full of wonder…
As the kilometres rolled on, the towns began to get further and further away from each other, peaking at Zara, where I had to make a 2000m pass over to Suseri, and make a good 50km without a food refill. There was plenty of water though, and most of it came from the sky on the way down the hill, which left me thoroughly drenched and seeking a hotel in Suseri as night fell. But I got my first taste of forests in Turkey, something which the country seems to be sorely lacking away from the coast. And I have a strong suspicion that the forests are largely there because the steep hills and altitude make it fairly difficult to chop them all down. Trees grow everywhere in Turkey. We just put farms everywhere instead. I think there’s a good chance that mountains will be the last thing we destroy on Earth, maybe second only to ourselves. (Just to cheer you up a bit, you know.)
From Susehri it was another few high passes to the next town, Sebinkarahisar, and beyond to the Black Sea, where the mountains opened up.
Then came the monster pass of 2220m over the mountains at the coast to finally reach the Black Sea. It was at about 1,700m when the clouds finally broke into hail, then ferocious rain. The sky getting darker and angrier, within five minutes there were rumbles of thunder directly overhead. This day I really learnt that the weather can change fast in the mountains. Besides the torrential rain, there were strange and worrying alternating waves of extreme heat and extreme cold every thirty seconds, hot rain, cold rain, and then lightning began flashing all around. Lightning at this altitude seems to take on a different aura: the deafening booms echo forever down the valleys and join with the next, making the air and ground permanently shake with bass. It’s pretty terrifying having lightning strike so closely overhead, especially when the landscape is like this and there’s nothing to do but stand around and get wet…
I would probably have been drier if I had jumped in the sea. Even my boxer shorts were soaked through. When I reached the top, there was nothing there but a boarded-up house and a young couple sitting all dry in their car, wondering why the hell anyone would cycle up a mountain in a storm. At least from here it was nearly all downhill to sea level. That’s good right? Except it was bloody cold because I was drenched, and I could see more clouds and rain waiting for me further down.
After only ten minutes of decent, I was too cold to continue and jumped into a little cafe for some tea and soup. I ended up falling asleep next to the wood burning stove as I slowly dried (my underwear didn’t). It was great because I hadn’t slept much the last nights. When I woke up the old, friendly owner was sitting with his back to me watching some election bullshit on his tiny flickering box TV. I had no idea how long I’d been out. But there was no sunshine waiting for me. I wrapped up and covered my head with my scarf so tightly I could have been mistaken for the Taliban. Luckily as I descended it cleared up a bit and the temperature rose steadily.
There’s a slightly tropical feel in the air. And it feels more like riding through the Amazon jungle than some mountains next to the Black Sea. By the bottom I was in shorts and t-shirt.
Unfortunately, the Black Sea didn’t match my idealistic and slightly romantic dreams of beauty and calm, and maybe a nice beach or two. There’s a 4-lane motorway running the entire length of it, separating the sea from the towns and everything else. You can only access the sea at specific points (usually in cities) by crossing over or under the motorway. And then you will always be listening to the roar of traffic fly past metres away from you.
I also had a run in with a psychopath and a crowbar, who tried to use his truck to run me off the road, which also put another downer on things.
So with all that, and the good stuff of Turkey behind me, I decided to just hammer down on the flat road and get to Georgia. I heard they have more trees there.