March 20

Well, the enormous climb that I was expecting turned out to be bugger all really.  Not that it wasn’t a few hours of climbing, but was expecting so much that it turned out to be quite an anticlimax. 

We were up early, at 6am, and got the tents packed, bikes ready, and started to climb.  It took us a while, but the roads were deserted, with only one van and one car passing us.  There were plenty of nice hairpins to navigate, and deserted little villages to cycle through, and as we steadily rose through the valley we entered the low-lying cloud.  After a half hour of cycling through the cloud, the sun started to appear, and I was able to rise above the clouds.  It’s always a nice feeling looking down on clouds, especially when the sun is shining, and today was no different. 

The sun may have been shining, but it was still cold as hell.  There was snow piled up on either side of the road, and enormous icicles hanging off the cliffs to my side.  Winds would rip up the valley, cooling me as much as pushing me further up the mountainside.  When I finally got to a pass in the mountain I stopped only to ask if I was going the right direction to Trabzon before starting to descend.  The software I use to help me know what kind of roads we’re going to be riding on, cycleroute.com, told me that we would have to climb higher, so I was waiting for more of the same.  When I hit a small restaurant and the main road again, the man there told me that it was all downhill to Trabzon, so our time in mountains was over, for Turkey at least!

However, the DESCENT TO TRABZON was going to be one of the most stressful experiences of the entire trip.  Firstly, the incline was very steep, so we were going at least 40 or 50km/h the entire way. The road was also very busy, with lots of trucks going past, and all going quite quickly.  As well as this, there was a lot of construction going on on the road, with new tunnels being built and diversions on the road.  Finally, just as we set off a snowstorm hit.  Heading down the hill, with visibility of twenty metres, having to blink five times a second to clear the snow from my eyes, fingers on the brakes and a strong, cold wind freezing my entire front I honestly started to feel a little nervous.  Thankfully, we managed to get through the snowstorm well enough, but all the other problems didn’t disappear, so it was a very stressful hour or two of riding.  As I didn’t have to pedal and my body was basically stuck in one position, my leg started to cramp just as I needed to start pushing.  This made an uncomfortable situation a little more than dangerous, as my whole body was starting to get too cold to really work properly.  Thankfully, ten minutes later, the incline lessened off, and I was able to start pedalling properly and warm myself up. 

As we started to enter Trabzon, the quality of driving slipped off a cliff, and it was just like being back in Istanbul.  It didn’t take us too long to find a place to warm up, get some wifi and have a burger and an hour later we had found our accommodation for the weekend.  Our friend Isil, from Istanbul, was coming out to meet us in Trabzon with a friend, and and booked a cheap apartment on the west side of the city for us all.  After a week of hard riding in mountains, it was nice to get showered and cleaned, especially before our friends arrived!

Isil and her friend, Betul, rocked up, and over the course of the night, we had to sort out her luggage that someone had taken by accident, then got some beers and raki and were able to just chill out with our friends, and by that I mean we partied until the sun came up.  Just what we needed.

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