Amasra & the north Turkish coastline
Arriving at Istanbul airport, putting the bikes back together & setting off into the city on a bike was a great start to our big trip. Riding down on the coastal path on Sunday & discovering that every patch of grass was taken up with families, a reminder of Clapham Common on a sunny day but they were cooking Çay & meat on hot charcoal fires, balloons tied up in rows on string & a man standing with a rifle trying to shoot them. We caught our breaths briefly to sip cay & eat ice cream overlooking our newfound land, this was starting to feel like an adventure already & we hadn’t even made it to the hostel.
Wind forward about a week & after 2 days of riding on main highways we finally find ourselves some space & country lanes. We breath a sign of relief as we settle into our new ways, drinking cay in the shade, eating ice cream, purifying water with our Steripen & riding between villages, some pretty & some not so much & trying not to get too much bitumen on the tyres from the melting roads. We’d rely on petrol stations for food, water, Çay & on one occasion so far, a place to sleep but things were about to change as we entered the back country. One thing never changes though, there always seems to be men in the shade conducting what Anna likes to call ‘secret men’s business’, while the women are working hard in the fields picking potatoes, taking cows for a walk, shifting heavy loads & all fully clothed head to toe & in the heat of the day.
After much deliberation & a wealth of options from the hand built beautiful bikes of Chaz Roberts & his 5 month waiting list to British designed but Taiwan built Thorn bikes in Somerset, we settled on American Surly Trolls. These bikes appeal to our youthful side that thinks ‘proper touring bikes’ are for older people, whereas mountain bikes are more fun & have the added benefit of going anywhere! For Anna, the Surly’s personality really comes through when you’re trying to park it & the added 20kg luggage takes hold.
Not knowing what’s coming up next adds an air of excitement to the day but I’m not sure if Anna & I would have set off from Amasra at 8am in 30degC heat had we known what we were about to confront. The first 16% climb straight out of the town was brutal but then as we descended almost back to sea level & back up again, a gentle ride along the coast felt like a hard hill rep training session. At one stage a man who later introduced himself as Ben, called us into his cafe & we sat under the shade of vines while he plied us with a typical Turkish mixture of bread, grapes, onion & tomato, oh & a pot of cay. We were even made to feel like stars as local women were called over to meet us & strangely Anna was told that she had a perfect nose & asked whether it was her own or the product of plastic surgery.
As we continue our journey across the Turkish coastline the scenery is changing. Figs become riper on trees, perfect for snacking on & there are nuts everywhere. This changes over time to nuts & pine trees, olive trees & then pastures. The heat remains & we wake at 5:15am to the call to ‘morning prayer’ (there’s always a mosque or speaker close by though pitching your tent on a football pitch next to a mosque is a little loud), make a simple breakfast & head off by 6am. By 8am its pushing 30degC & we stop before its hits 38degC for a long lunch. Then another 2 hours on the bike at around 4pm & see where the day has taken us.
The coastline is beautiful & people friendly. Its just such a shame that a lot of people here don’t use bins & waste is strewn everywhere, on beaches & at the sides of roads, blowing around in the wind – plastics, nappies, broken bottles. Where it is gathered in steel bins, at the sides of roads or at disposal sites it is burnt. I wonder if there was surf here, if things would be different.