Four cyclists soon became 2 after we decided to turn inland away from the Black sea Coast. We were moving in to avoid some serious coastal climbs and instead tackle the more gentle mountains passes. It was a tactical decision to save time, our legs, and a bit of what ever we have left of sanity. The other two, (Yann and Em) were also taking the same route but had wanted a few more days to rest. We left them behind still at the Black Sea in Alapli.
Back to cycling on our own. It was nice to have some traveling companions for a little while, it helps break up the routine of all day riding. When you do it so long with the same people it can become monotonous. But on the other side it was also nice to get back to what Brian refers to as the “Bice Pace.” We aren’t fast, we aren’t slow either, but definitely steady. I am consistently impressed with the progress we are making and how strong we both have become.
There have been a few break downs this last week but they have little to do with the difficult cycling or the increasing temperature but more about strength of the human will. Brian was beginning to become depressed and was thinking about cutting the trip short and going back home. Bicycling touring when you are married is a team effort and when a member of your team is down and out, so are you. Even though I wanted to continue forward we starting talking about shutting the whole thing down and returning home. Not an easily accomplished feat from the Middle of No Where Turkey and also not something to take lightly. But after a few days letting thoughts settle down and some talking through Brian has come back around to enjoying cycle touring once more. So far there isn’t any plans to buy plane tickets home and I hope it continues on that way.
A lot of things contributed to this short mental breakdown but mostly it was a strange bout of depression and a bad case of homesickness that was gnawing on Brian’s psyche. There are also the other incidental factors as well, cycling Turkey isn’t easy to ride your bike through if you look at a topographical map of the country you soon see why. Another factor is that it’s now officially summer with that comes much warmer temperatures. Being out in direct sun for hours on end can wear not only on your skin (Amy) but your sprit (Brian) as well. We quickly had to change the way we went about riding to be able to make miles (kms) and not fry ourselves during the process. Which has meant waking up at 4:30 am riding till 1 pm, making lunch, then a nap under a shade tree, and around 4:30 pm waking up to cycle a few remaining hours before it gets dark. Once we fully embraced this new schedule, things became a lot easier for the both of us. We even have come to enjoy our nap time and even look forward to it. Not the morning alarm clock though!
Taking full advantage of this new riding style has been a learning process. There has been a tough breaking in period from the Alapli on the coast our next major stop or at least the one we were shooting for was Safranbolu. A UNESCO World Heritage City known for it’s well preserved Ottoman Architecture. It was also the place where we would (I assume) see Yann and Em for the last time inside Turkey. (We might meet up again in Central Asia?) Safranbolu was a cute little town with some local Turkish tourist infrastructure. Unbeknownst to us we were staying in the New city, since becoming part of UNESCO the Old City isn’t allowed to build new structures. But people still need to live, so the New city is situated up on top of a hill just south of the Old city. It was ideal for us away from the glitz of the tourist industry, close to grocery stores, and around the corner from the fruit sellers. They quickly became Brian’s best friends, we must have visited their shops three times a day. Cherries are in season! Besides just eating fruit we also took a few walks down to the New city to see what all the fuss was about. The first time down the hill we only saw residential areas and had no idea there was much more to Safranbolu. The people we came a crossed again were some of the nicest. A man was picking fruit from a tree beckoned us over and filled my hands full of unripened plums. (actually quite tasty) On the second time down the hill we found out where all the tourists go. With Yann and Em as our guides we found a place for dinner, discussed our mutual trip plans, and did some wandering around the city central looking at all the colorful things for sale. That night we parted ways with YE-Travels, for real this time. We were heading back to road in the morning and they were just arriving.
Once back to riding Brian came up with this ambitious plan to cycle to Samsun from Safranbolu in four days, the distance between the two cities being approximately 450 kms. The main reason for the rush was that we wanted to be in a bigger city to celebrate my(Amy’s) birthday. I didn’t think we could ride that hard but apparently I don’t give us enough credit. This goal we accomplished just barely, I say that because we arrived in Samsun at almost dark on the fourth day. Cycling more then 100 kms each day for four days straight. It was a lot of saddle time (my butt can prove it) and it was tricky to find places to nap away the mid-day heat that had access to water and also shade. Frequently we could find one but not the other Turkey is full of little rest stops along side the road with freshly filtered spring water but often are treeless. I have been so happy not to have to worry about ever going thirsty or having to buy water in Turkey. Both of those two things scare me. Nevertheless we are now in Samsun a full day earlier then rationally expected and this place is a great city to spend my Birthday in!
(I wanted to write a short praise of the Turkish People but it doesn’t seem to really fit in anywhere above. A common theme for our trip crossing Turkey is “Forever Saved by the Helpful Turks.” When I think about how wonderful these people are it brings tears to my eyes. So many times we have been saved by passers by or curious on lookers only really looking out for our well being. There have been instances where random Turks have saved our route planning by pulling their car over on the side of the road to tell us that it was not a good way to go, saving us loads of time. Men have bought us dinner and asked nothing in return. People put us up for the night in their homes without so much as a second thought. Treated us to and unknown amount of tea. And the list of other helpful things goes on. The kindnesses we have received from the Turkish people as a whole really puts the world into a bright and newer perspective and for this I am eternally grateful. It’s people are the nicest I have ever encountered this memory will be my souvenir from Turkey.)