I had been wild camping next to a lake in Cappadocia, with a lovely French chap called Jean-Yves. He bid me farewell a couple of days ago, to head slowly around the border area with Syria, Iraq, Iran and Armenia.
I get the strangest of feelings every time I go through this transition of traveling in a safety net, to being alone again. I really can’t describe it, just an odd period of acclimatisation.
There’s also something odd about staying, when someone else is leaving. I waffle and digress, apologies.
So I spent the day trekking around these canyons, and exploring like a child. There are literally thousands of cave houses hollowed out from the soft rock, some are way up in the cliffs, and seem all but impossible to get access to. It becomes a challenge to see if you can figure out how to get into them, using the few foot-holes carved into the cliff.
Many of these caves are multi-room affairs, and often the access from one room to another is a crafty hole somewhere in the ceiling, requiring further scrambling. I made a video, will try and youtube it sometime.
The whole day I barely see a soul, I have the complete area to myself pretty much, a huge ancient site, no barriers, safety rails, restrictions whatsoever.
I meet 4 tortoises wandering about, see a wood pecker, and many lizards.
I come across the charred remains of a tourist shack place. I’m instructed to take whatever I want, it’s all free! I am a Bolton, and don’t hesitate for a moment!
Evening approaches, back to camp, and cooking a meal for one feels a tinge melancholy. A pair of Turkish couples show up, and I’m invited to share their BBQ, Raki, few words of English.
The following day was also fun. Up early ish, and pack the ever-increasing collection of belongings onto poor Honda. I had made the decision to try and get the last few miles from my bike consumables (chain, sprockets, rear tyre).
Setting off North I stop at a landfill to dump a bag of rubbish, get scowled at by wild dogs, and drop the over-loaded bike for the first time in 5000 miles. (trying to justify my mistake, bike not so heavy, just silly mistake!)
I ride about 300 miles North towards the Black sea. Stopping at a little town for Ekmek (bread), I happen upon the only English speaker in the town, bakery owner and ex-limo driver in the states. The day is absolutely baking hot, 30+ degrees. The office above the ovens in this bakery is hotter still. We chai, and discuss maps and stuff. A little more than a quid gets me two loaves, 2l water, cheese and cucumbers.
Off again, and riding this far I can really appreciate the change in landscape, almost desert (people still working the land, by hand, what can they hope to harvest from this harsh environment?), then splashes of green with the presence of some water source.
Huge landscape, enormous view from horizon to horizon.
I’d decided to take a small country road North from Havza to Bafra. This turns out to be an inspired choice, as it is one of the best riding experiences of my life. I cannot possibly do it justice with my limited vocabulary and eloquence. But..
The narrow road was little more than a one track. Old and neglected, but generally well ridable. The landscape and road could not have been much more three dimensional, relentless curves, corners, hairpins, steep inclines and almost helix descents.
I had managed to avoid precipitation all day, but this area has clearly had rain, or possibly a storm. The road is steaming, and the vividness of the green countryside seems blindingly un-natural.
The road climbs, and runs along the ridge between two valleys, giving perfect panoramas across wooded expanses of hills and valleys.
Houses and farms that I pass are just too perfectly ancient and traditional. They are oozing authenticity, and would look too perfect for any film set. The few people I meet are usually herding cows along the road, wooden cow bells chiming out a dull chorus as I cautiously edge past. The children don’t see this king of vehicle or tourist often enough to wave or shout, they just stare, wide eyed or scuttle off out of sight.
A few of the older farmers give wide grins, and slowly lift an arm in greeting.
I am simply blown away by the landscape. I see 3 wood-peckers in as many minutes.
Stopping to try and capture this paradise I find every AA battery I have is flat, but the idea of just keeping this picture in my head makes my smile all the more.
I stop to watch tiny lambs (goats possibly) playing on impossibly steep valley slopes. They appear more like dogs in their hyperactive games, chasing each other around a deadly topography of sheer drops. I guess the less agile are soon weeded out.
Stopping for minutes to watch, I realise my jaw is drooping in awe.
The sheppard and I watch each other for a long time, acknowledging one another with a wave. I am tempted to try and find a way over to them, and see if I might stay the night, but I consult a die to make the decision, and the odd 3 means push on.
Honda manages a record 235 miles before the first reserve, which is just marvellous. Looks like this carb cleaning process is going to be a regular feature. Is there a bottom of it to get to?
This landscape has been periodically cloaked in cloud/fog, and while this gives a feeling of romance to the countryside, it makes the industrial Black Sea coast seem melancholy. I regret not taking any of the hundreds of perfect wild camp spots I passed. Don’t go back Bolton.
I’m told a few times; No pansion (hostel/guesthouse) until Samsun. I fear Samsun is even more urban and industrial than these towns I’m passing.
I persist, and am eventually shown to a strange tower block, could be a hospital, or odd hotel, not really sure. I’m guided about by extremely kind and keen folks, mostly young adults. The place turns out to be a student halls of residence, of course I can stay, 20 Lira with breakfast. This becomes 15, and I’m in. Park bike in the entrance hall, chai, free internet. The kids are so keen to help me out they practically lather me up in the shower.
So here I am, spending a day catching up on internet. I can thank some kind of lucky stars that Honda’s held out for so long. People urged me to change the neglected looking chain before I left, and it’s now done a further 5000 miles. On the last tension notch, loose, but just about in one piece still.
Don’t push your luck Bolton.