Turkey has been a bright, hot, friendly and spectacular introduction to our cycle tour. From Istanbul to Ankara by bus and Ankara to Erzurum by train, everything went smoothly. We paid extra to put the still bagged bicycles in the baggage carriage on the train. The journey took 24 hours, and Brad unpacked the bikes in the baggage car and put them back together, with the side doors wide open and scenery rushing by, without losing anything out the doors, so we were ready to cycle by the time we arrived in Erzurum.
Since then it has been 7 days of cycling, wild camping, eating what we can find – even buying live fish in the middle of nowhere when we ran out of food – and meeting very few English speakers.
Jack (aged 18) and Tilly (aged 3) have been troopers. Jack is always ready to cycle further and buries his head in a book while he waits for us, or entertains Tilly when needed. Tilly sleeps on the tandem during the hottest part of the day, pedals in the cool of the late afternoons and loves the fast descents down hill when she shouts “wheeeeee”. She eats massive bowls of pasta at night and demands regular ice-creams (in unison with Jack). We have had no problems finding places to camp, usually near the river where Tilly loves to throw stones and we can heat up river water for an improvised shower.
We have cycled through countryside that looked very much like our home county (Derbyshire, England) but on dirt roads with horse and cart or tractors, and then up into the mountains where the rocks soar above our heads and there are patches of cultivated ground, and masses of fruit trees – apricots, cherries, figs, apples, peaches and walnuts. We took a side trip to see Yusefeli, a town catering to (mainly Turkish) tourists who come for the white water rafting and kayaking. We have been following the river Çoruh and have seen where it has been dammed (for hydroelectricity) and we will continue to follow it to the sea.
We have climbed more on the bikes than I would have imagined possible after doing no training and carrying such heavy loads. We have been up to an altitude of 2125m and climbed over 700m in one day (the same day that we ate only biscuits and crisps as we lost a bag containing our food supplies). There are plenty of offers of Turkish tea and sugar cubes to keep us refreshed. Tilly has been gifted all sorts of things, from chocolate to apricots to cucumbers. She has suffered kisses and pats and cheek pinches and people wanting her photo, and has developed a technique of covering her face with her bike helmet when she has had enough.
Today we are resting in Artvin, a city perched most unhelpfully (when you are on a bicycle) on top of a mountain. Tomorrow we head out of town towards the Black Sea coast.
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