March 14

What a hell of a day.  I had the lowest point of the trip so far, struggling up a hill with the strongest headwind I’ve ever felt blasting at me.  It was so incredibly frustrating that I was impotently screaming with rage at the wind.

The day started so well, with Ryan getting picked up at 530 to go for a trip in a hot air balloon.  I woke at 615, and jumped on my bike as quickly as I could to watch them taking off.  Luckily, there was a good spot to see them all taking off only a 5 minute cycle away, so I was able to set myself up nicely to see them all rise into the air. 

As soon as a few of them were up, I noticed they were all drifting east, towards the campsite and Love Valley, so I jumped back on my bike and high-tailed it over there as fast as I could.  I managed to find myself a great spot and started snapping photos like no tomorrow.  It was an incredible sight, with at least 50 balloons in the air, some just missing the bottom of the valley floor while other soared overhead.  As I sat on the edge of the cliff, some came overhead and people waved to me as I snapped photo after photo.  After an hour or so of watching and taking photos, a dog appeared (as has become strangely common on the trip so far) and came and sat beside me while I played with him and kept taking photos.  The idiot decided he wanted to go down to the valley floor, so climbed down to a point of no return, and promptly slid down on his ass.  He looked at me and whined, before trying to climb back up, which didn’t work at all.  I went to help him, and by the time I got there, he’d decided that he really wanted to go down to the valley floor, so lay down and gently pulled himself down with his paws.  It was hilarious to watch the immediate ‘oh shit I’ve made a mistake’ turn into ‘oh well I better go for it’. 

After I got back to camp, I started packing up and soon Ryan came back.  We talked about the balloon ride and shared photos, then we both finished our packing.  We were being a bit lazy, so it took us until 10am, and then we jumped on our bikes, heading for Avanos.  The road from Goreme to Avanos has a turkish first – an actual bike lane, and once we were on it, we absolutely smashed out the 10k to Avanos in about twenty minutes.  I’d planned to meet Marcus and Kirsty, a couple who are tandem cycling around the world, in a cafe in Avanos, as they’d had a pretty serious 36 hours of misfortune.  From having a rock thrown at their tent, to getting hit by a car, to having their front tire shred while going 65km/h down a hill and so a hospital visit, they’d had a pretty rough time.  They were in great form considering, and we gave them some Haribo party mix to try and keep their spirits up.  We may see them again in Trabzon, as our schedules seem to match up, but we’ll see.

Immediately after leaving Marcus and Kirsty, the shit hit the fan.  A monster headwind, screaming at us from the depths of hell, plagued us for 30km.  It hit us on the hills, on the flats, on the straights.  Everywhere.  There was no escaping this powerful wind that was intent on keeping us away from Kayseri and once we crested a hill I saw the reason.  There was a massive snowcapped mountain near Kayseri, and it was truly malevolent.  I’m sure the winds came directly from it in all directions and it completely shredded my temper, my energy levels and my legs.  One bright spot was a shepherd who came running across the road to stop me, asking if he could have a small drink of water.  I passed him my bottle, and some raisins and he was very grateful.  In my head he was praying for tailwinds for us.

Luckily, as soon as we got on the turn-off to Kayseri itself our fortunes improved massively.  There was a brand new road, smooth as silk, and the wind finally decided to help us, pushing us along 30km in an hour.  Considering it’d taken us almost 3 hours to do the previous 30k, I was pretty happy with the change!  We skirted around Kayseri, as it didn’t look too pretty – lots of industrial buildings and tower blocks – and headed in the direction of Sivas, where we should be in two days or so.  It finally seems like we’re getting into eastern Turkey, which lots of people have warned us about (as it’s apparently completely different) but the people seem just as friendly, even if there seem to be less of them.  We have a hard week of cycling ahead of us for us to get to Trabzon by next Saturday, with us having to climb up to about 2700m in order to cross over the mountains and get to the Black Sea.  Still, great to be back on the bike after almost a week of waiting for visas and cruising around Cappadocia. 

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