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Trabzon

Sunday, July 21, 2013

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After the euphoria of Cappadocia I was brought back down to earth with a bump, both figuratively and literally. If ever I needed a reminder that you have to accept the rough as well as the smooth, then the journey to Trabzon brought it well and truly home to me. I may have said this before, but this was the hardest riding I’ve ever done and it wasn’t just the physical battle against the headwinds, it was me not coping with it mentally. Eastern Turkey was the polar opposite of what had come before and I was now having a very different view of Turkey and not liking it at all.

Maybe it was the lack of sleep, as the winds would blow up during the day and get increasingly louder and it became a struggle to find safe camping (out of the wind). I love hills, but not walking up them which I spent many hours doing and often even that became impossible as I was brought to a standstill by the ferocious winds. So I started cycling earlier at first light, but found my speed so low I was still trying to get a decent daily tally as darkness descended upon me at 9 p.m.

When you are riding towards Mount Erciyes (3,916 m) you know you’ve got a climb!

There was no ‘easy’ option either, all the roads to Trabzon involved heading north and crossing through the mountains. The road from Erzincan was at times just a dust track, winding it’s way upwards. Almost all the roads in eastern Turkey seem to be in a state of building or repair, at least that was the impression I got. Thumb out trying to get a lift, I would just get honked at and words of encouragement shouted at me. I screamed “for God’s sake help me” and was in tears. Then I would get a grip and remind myself that this was the challenge I’d set myself, nobody said cycling around the world was going to be easy.

One of the many climbs over 2,000 m. Lower down the road was in a terrible state.

I must have looked a sight when I pulled into a small cafe just on the outskirts of town. There was a group of men sat reading papers, but not drinking at all. It soon became clear when I asked for tea and was told no that they were fasting. Could things get any worse? OK let’s ask about a cheap hotel, see if anyone speaks English. Result, one of them spoke excellent English and so we discussed my needs. He asked “how cheap?” to which I replied “the cheapest” and then a lengthy discussion arose in Turkish between the group, before I was told to ride into town, left at the lights and after 2 km on the left was the hotel. It transpired that I was riding into the docks area and there was a whole row of hotels, none of which looked like they would be getting even a single star. Out came the iPhone and I walked down the street searching for the best signal. Another result, I could deal with a grotty hotel as long as it had good wifi.

Wifi was important, not just to ramble on in my blog. I not only needed to contact iranianvisa.com about my code and start making plans for alternative arrangements should I not get the visa, but sort out a load of issues (including finding a decent bike shop for repairs) so for me this was my number one priority. A cold shower and kebab came next and I was happy again…

Trabzon center, with the prominent Ataturk statue.

Trabzon center

I spent the next few hours checking emails, searching for a bike shop and generally trying to catch up now that I was back online. There was still no email from iranianvisa.com and this is now a major concern. However it will be Monday before I can attempt to contact them. I didn’t venture more than a few hundred yards from the hotel until the next morning, when I tripped into town to the bike shop and looked for the supermarket. Then it was down to business, repair my panniers, service and clean the bike, then do my own washing. It felt good to be busy off the bike and I didn’t return into town again until later that evening.

Trabzon at night.

It looked totally different with all the coloured lights, dining tables in the street and now quite busy with a mixture of locals and tourists enjoying the warm evening. I people watched for quite a while and even chatted with a few locals (as best I could – sometimes in German which seems to be their second language here in East Turkey), thoroughly enjoying myself.

Dining in the street – Trabzon at night

Trabzon at night – note the funky road lights which change colour!

I’ll need to find a temporary wild campsite while I wait around sorting out the visa situation and this will give me a chance to explore the surrounding area a bit more. Photographs (of the road and journey to get here from Cappadocia) are a little lacking from this section of the ride for two reasons: 1. The winds. 2. I’ve broken my main camera lens so just have my iPhone camera. I’ll have to see if I can pick up a cheap replacement lens for my Nikon.

Recharging my batteries has improved my mindset and I’ll keep you all up to date with where I’m going next as soon as I know!!

More soon…

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