Istanbul to Amasra – 425km

Camping by a lakeMy first impressions of Turkey have been that the food is fantastic, the drivers are considerate, nearly always giving a friendly honk and wave as they pass – in both directions, and the people always seem to be there when we need them. For example, on our second day on the bikes, we had planned to get to Bolu, a ski resort town which would be our first proper climb. We’d spent the day on the D100, a busy highway, doing rolling hills in 39c heat. As we approached the bottom of the climb at around 5pm I needed something to eat to keep me going. We stopped and turned around to go back to a bakery but no sooner had we turned the bikes than a guy called us over from a shop veranda for cay (tea).

Secret men's businessHe was sitting with a group of men conducting secret men’s business, which there is a lot of in Turkey, and they poured us cay and pushed the chocolate biscuits our way and even grabbed a handful of nuts from the stand out the front. We were grateful and did our best to converse in Turkish, English and sign language for a while. As it happened, none of the men who had called us over actually lived or worked at the shop and they gradually headed off in different directions as did we once we felt good enough to go on.

Not surprisingly, it wasn’t long into the climb before my head started to spin and I was not feeling confident of reaching Bolu still 20km up the mountain. Chris pulled over briefly to look at the view, where it appeared we had actually climbed a really long way already. A family was having a picnic by the road there and waved a bottle of coke at us which Chris declined before I could say anything. Back on our bikes and spinning hard on the granny rings, I lasted probably another twenty minutes, now in 34c heat at around 6:30pm, before it was all over for me and I hit the wall. Luckily it was the wall of a beautifully located et mangal (meat bbq restaurant) built into the side of the mountain. In desperation we asked the lady – camp? With a friendly smile she replied – camp and waved vaguely to an area of garden at the back of the restaurant. We had our bikes round the back and the tent up in about 5 seconds flat. Keeping a little space behind the tent which was hidden from the restaurant, I filled the Ortlieb 5L folding bowl I had insisted on bringing with water from the girls bathroom and in the last minutes of sunshine and overlooking the valley we had climbed out of, had the best wash of my life breaking out the bum flannel and face flannel for the first time on the trip. I even stuck my head in and washed my hair 🙂 Too much information? Sorry, I apologise, but honestly it’s the basic necessities and the unpredictable ways they evolve that I’ve been appreciating the most in this first week as we settle into our journey.

 Rolling hillsWe do seem to be finding a bit of routine. We set off early in the morning full of beans, rolling over the constant hills admiring scenery and thinking how good life is. Then it gets hot and we limp into our lunch stop around 12:30pm where we eat whatever is on offer before finding some shade to snooze in for an hour or so and then do our best to get through another couple of hours in the afternoon. I find there is always an uneasy period late afternoon where I’m tired, hot and bothered and don’t know where we’re going to end up for the night. It seems to be working out for us though, mostly thanks to running into the right person at the right time – and no I don’t always mean literally…

Cooking at our lake campsiteWe have camped by a lake with a stunning sunset where the locals came down and partied til dawn, in the mountain restaurant garden, in a field behind a petrol station where the owner gave us ice-cream and let us use his shower, by a path in a random park and then this morning, we descended – at exhilarating speeds – into the beautiful Black Sea town of Amasra where we have treated ourselves to a rest day and found a beautiful room for 100 Lira above a market place. We’ve had a swim in gorgeous clear water, some good food, we’ve read our books sipping cay on a shady strip by the sea and now I’m writing this on our little balcony and it’s very atmospheric…

Amasra on the Black Sea