Cycling with Danny
Locations in this report:
- Samsun - Show on the map
- Espiye - Show on the map
- Trabzon - Show on the map
- Samsun - Show on the map Show complete route
Written: 20.03.2012 17:11:38
After Ren? got back we set off. Ren?s arse was sore, and I am positive this was a) because he hadn?t done anything like this in a while, b) because he was carrying most of his stuff on his back (What also caused some pain in the back itself), and c) because his saddle was pointy in the middle like a cottage roof.
The first 30km or so was grey and a little dull, and the drizzle was getting everything wet and dirty. We began to head inland on a road that weaved between the hills and Ren? was beginning to find the going a little tough. This was the first time there had been any sort of testing incline since we teamed up, and the morale looked to be draining from him a little. To his credit, he hung on.
We also went through several tunnels. One of them was nearly 4km long (Oh shit tunnels... Seriously? First they scared the shit out of me. Every single car, doesn't matter what size, sounds like a >25m dragon trying to catch you. You better don't turn around (try to look back and drive straight) and pray that the driver sees you and doesn't want to kill you. Also the driver LOVE to use the horn as "hello", while you think it means "get the fuck out of the way or I'll run you over), and I had heard that the longest tunnel in Turkey was on this road. In it I lost Ren?, and for a little while, shit myself. Lorries absolutely blitz through those tunnels, and I am always concerned as to how much of a cyclist they can actually see. Luckily, a few minutes later he showed up with a bike complaint. Which is much better than a decapitation complaint.
Ordu was the stop I had initially planned for us since I figured Ren? would be suffering a little from the first day. He told me instead, he wanted to continue as he felt that a 90km average over two days to Trabzon was too big an ask. I was delighted with his attitude, and on we went.
About 20km further, we found a perfect camping spot right by the sea. Within minutes we were naked and jumping around in the waves (let?s be honest; you knew it was going there), and soon after we were boiling pasta whilst tucking into probably the most politically incorrect snack of all time: the ?Negro? biscuit. The memory that stuck with me from that incident was mental image of a board member having an epiphany in his office late at night and exclaiming, ?why wouldn?t you call a cookie that?!!?. Idiot.
Cold, we climbed into the tent.
We were both a little reluctant to get out of our warm sleeping bags, and out into the grey and bluster but packed away our things and got moving by 8.30am.
After 18km, we stopped for some breakfast at a petrol station since we hadn?t eaten yet. We bought more-or-less all the bread-based goods in the shop, and got to work. A few guys approached us curiously, and offered us a place to sit and some free chai. A truck driver came over to see what all the fuss was about and, on realizing we were cyclists, handed us a free loaf of bread. Free simits were even given to us by a kindly car-owner. At this rate, we were going to crap dough for a week.
But as Ren? checked his phone, a look of concern spread across his face. He had received a text informing him that he had to go to court in Hungary (I should say, probably for no more than a slap on the wrists - Well it's more than three month later while writing this and I still don't have any clue what the court decided.). It was a long story, but the dude ran over a car drunk. Rightly or wrongly, I thought the whole thing was kind of cool. Still, it was a bit of a bummer in terms of his travel plans as he had places he needed to be around the same time as the court date, and naturally he was a little sore about it. We cycled, carrying that elephant for the next little while.
Aside from that, the landscape was starting to look like something more at home in China than in Turkey. Dark greens and mountains were everywhere you looked, and they were shrouded in thick fog. Velvet slopes serenely swept down towards the misty ocean, and local people dressed in muddy scarves and cloaks tended the land.
But it wasn?t that easy to enjoy because Ren?s bike was making noises like a bull having it?s testicles tugged (Still the problem from the tunnel). Soon we had to stop to find internet and a bike repair shop. The internet caf? was first, and in there we asked around for a bike service. We were very quickly surrounded by a congregation consisting of half a primary school, an enthusiastic older man and a stern but efficient German speaker. They led us to a strange oven store where some other men confidently went about trying to help the damsel in distress (Ren?). They got busy, inexplicably, by painting Ren?s chain (It was actually fat in an old paint can. I knew it wouldn't help, but the shopowner was incising). Understandably, that is what you get when you take you bike to a place that sells ovens.
We were then directed to the end of the street, where we did actually find a proper bike repair shop. This pissed me off a little because they are absolutely nowhere to be seen when I have a problem. We were told to wait for 30 minutes or so, and were taken to a nearby caf? by the German speaker to drink about as much free chai as we could handle. There we met a friendly English speaker who, on being informed that the bike would take an extra 20 minutes, took us for food. Again it was free. I promised I would mention that he had a quality bread shop in Espiye, so here it is. I should mention too the kind man who fixed Ren?s bike (put in a new back wheel axis) and supplied him with a new seat post for just 14TL (~6?). The whole thing was cheap as chips.
On we went and a guy on the road offered us a lift in his pick-up truck. Gratefully, we declined. We continued problem free for a little while, and cruised past [Gorele], which marked the point we were 80km from Trabzon. We had decided that this would be a reasonable distance for the final day.
We decided to stop to pick up some food for the evening, and since we were well past our stopping point, we asked about the possibilities of camping. The shop owner told us to camp across the road, and explained that we would have everything we needed. We considered for a while before deciding to check it out. We found a couple of places that might work and went back to the shop to wait for the cover of night. Bring on yet more free chai. I hoped it wasn?t a carcinogen, because if it was, we would be dead by morning.
The shop owner explained that we could use his truck, and sleep in the back of it. Of course, we agreed and hung around drinking free chai and being introduced to the entire town (since everyone there seemed to be the brother, sister or cousin of the shop owner). We heard tales of one woman who had allegedly had 17 children, and another about a man who had 15 wives. If either of those is true, it is unsurprising everyone in a 15km radius was related.
We then met some teenagers who were very keen on football in a barber shop. One tried to show us some card tricks (that failed 66% of the time), and another challenged me to a game of Backgammon (I won 2-0 and he was GUTTED that he lost to and ?ing-il-eez-maan?). That was before we had an incredible meal (Kofte and rice with home-made yoghurt, followed by a kind of hazelnut biscuit thing). It was, of course, free.
I get that I am harping on about the stuff we got for free, but it is an unbelievable commentary on the culture. I struggle to remember the last time a complete stranger was generous enough to help me out in the UK and expect nothing. I felt privileged to be the subject of such unabashed kindness.
Ren? and I sat in shop again and watched the football on their TV drinking coffee in front of a heater that behaved more like a rogue flame-thrower. Calling it a night, we set up our tent in the back of the truck and went to wash ourselves. Naked. In the toilets of a mosque. With icy flush water. Like a child, I took a picture over the top of Ren?s cubicle. A man walked in. ?Crap?, I thought. ?Where are you from?, he asked. ?Liverpool??, I retorted, hoping that was what he wanted to hear. ?OK!?, he said cheerfully as he strolled away.
We climbed into the back of our truck and reflected on our day. Including Ren?s bike service, it had cost us less than 14?.
The night brought more fun, with rain pounding the village for hours. And no, the canvas roof was not waterproof. We awoke in soaking sleeping bags. We had woken up several times because of heavy rain loudly hitting the material truck roof and prayers being belted out (quite inconsiderately) from the nearby mosque. It?s almost like they didn?t care that we were sleeping.
We gradually began to shift, and started the day sat in the shop, sipping on chai as our things dried next to the heater in a nearby caf?. One of the cafe customers invited us to breakfast, and took us in his old school taxi to buy us bread, cheese and honey from what looked like a friendly truckers stop. It was there that I started to realize that this hospitality was a little bit of an unwritten contract at times. It wasn?t a bad thing at all, but we got some food and company, and he got to parade us around a bit in front of his friends. It would be like bringing your new pet monkey to dinner. I know how impressed I would be if one of my friends pulled that. To mention this: They posted some stuff about our visit on the villages' website.
Getting back to the caf?, we climbed into our wet, cold gear and packed up. We left at pushing 9.30am after saying goodbye and many, many ?thank you?s to everyone who had helped us.
The days cycle was straightforward, but included gentle hills more often than the previous days. I felt good, apart from being wet, and Ren? was doing well, but suffering somewhat from the increase in climbing. But it was the last day for him, and adrenalin will carry you a touch. It didn?t help however, that it rained solidly all day. And me still having no jacket. So I took some garbage bags I wisely bough back in Samsun and made some cover for my backpack and a poncho (which did not really keep me dry after all).
We had planned initially to make it to Trabzon in one go, but unfortunately had to stop towards the end to check in at an internet caf? to see if any couch surfers had accepted our request. At this point I had no blood sugar left and felt like a zombie. Even the quickly token simits just improved it only slightly. None had so we looked up a hostel, clambered back onto the bikes and pushed on. I was beginning to get really wet, and wasn?t working hard enough to stay warm. Cold started to set in. As we approached our destination, Ren? got another flat.
Though not his fault, I struggled a little trying to supress my annoyance. Trying to be supportive, I glanced at his wheel, and on seeing a piece of metal protruding, I exclaimed, ?bloody nails, eh?!?. Rene moved quickly to correct me. ?Actually, it?s a screw?, he said. (You all know me. I was also very fascinated by the fact that it was a screw.) I gritted my teeth. Sorry again.
We walked for ages, trying to find this hostel. I was absolutely freezing and it was still raining. We jumped into a petrol station to ask for help, after it was obvious we were going the wrong way, but were finding it impossible to express ourselves with no common language. My frustration grew. In the petrol station, Ren? did manage to charge his phone enough to get an operational map. We had gone too far, and started heading back the way we had come.
On the way back, we stopped to ask at a car dealership, who also didn?t understand our explanations until we communicated enough that we could show them on the internet. Moaning in their sudden understanding of what we needed, they gave us directions and off we went. The place wasn?t far, but to our horror, it had been shut down. Luckily, this was no biggie, as we were on a busy main road. We wandered up the street a little and found a double room for 20TL each. Not bad.
We showered and went out to get Rene?s bus ticket for the next day, before picking up some food from the supermarket. We ate so much that by the end, eating felt like I was stuffing a rucksack. We watched ?the dark knight? on my laptop (for me the first time!) and enjoyed the hot, smelly room. It was a trade off, but worth it. Heat = dry clothes, ventilation = cold, so no ventilation + gross sweaty cycling stuff = hot, smelly room.
In the morning, Ren? and I had a little wander around Trabzon for a couple of hours before he had to catch his bus back to Samsun. I had heard a lot of people rave about the city, and had been quite excited to see it. But as we looked around, I found myself a little disappointed. I was really disappointed too. the city didn't seem to be interesting at all, except for temples in one hour drive distance. Maybe it was the weather, or maybe it was just the frame of mind I was in at the time, but I didn?t really see what all the fuss was about. It didn?t appear to be that interesting.
After washing our bicycles at a petrol station we had to say goodbye and I finally took the bus back to Samsun. Eventhough it only have been four days, it felt way longer (positively!) and I will keep this time in very good memory.
Thank you Danny!