From Samsun, Turkey towards Batumi, Georgia it is virtually flat riding when you travel the main highway that is also the Coast Road. Which has been a a nice change of pace for us literally and figuratively from the normal hills and mountains that we have encountered so far in Turkey. The climate is also a few degrees cooler with the wind blowing off the Black Sea it helps to keep our body temperatures down and the flat road means our legs spin much faster. The wind chill is a life saver in July. As long as we keep our momentum moving forward it enables us to cycle through the entire day. Unfortunately no more nap time.
All together we spent just two days and three nights in Samsun, it was a nice little respite for my Birthday. We didn’t do much! Exploring the city a bit, going to the main Bazar, we strolled along the water front, and even took in a museum. There are things to do in Samsun if you are so inclined, although at this time we were not. Laziness was goal for those several days.
It was a good thing we took some time to do a small recovery stint, because we were about to get back into the swing of 100+ km days for the minimum of the next five cycling days.
The first 300+ kms on the way to Trabzon went rather fast apart from a few scary tunnels that sometimes were as long as 4 kms. We managed to make it through with our nerves a little shattered but all in all in good sprits. These tunnels didn’t deter us from continuing to cycle the coastal path and a good thing too because we were going to have to get used to them. There were a lot more to come!
Trabzon is another touring cyclist funnel, mostly because it is one of the easier spots in Turkey where you can pick up / apply for your Iranian Visa. Not that we, as Americans, can but all the other nationalities are able to travel independently and a lot of cyclists go in that direction. That is were we came apon Jim and Rose at one of the nicest cheap hotels in Trabzon. An English couple riding there bicycles all around the world. The great thing about them and their trip was that there is no fixed end date and that they would be semi working along the way. They were taking a few days to get some medical things in order before moving on eventually towards China. We managed to squeeze in a Football match one night together (Columbia vs. South Korea) before they needed to start pedaling onwards.
We saw all sorts of cyclist in Trabzon, some riding through the city, some just arriving with their bikes still in boxes from the airplane, some only hearsay but were supposedly around the corner, some in the hotel we were staying at.
Andy and Rosy, the two cyclists we rode with out of Istanbul surfaced again, this time they were at our hotel after forgoing the coast road for a bus ride. It was just a weird coincidence that they came upon this same hotel. There was a short lived reunion that night and made some plans to accidently bump into each other again somewhere in China were loosely established but nothing really planed other then we (Brian & Amy) were definitely riding out in the morning.
The road from Trabzon to Batumi, Georgia was easy as can be. Just more of the main flat divided highway. Traffic calmed down quite a bit after we rode a sufficient distance away from the big city but would always pick up as you approached another. Our first day out we covered 134.6 km, just barely beating our previous long distance record made in Italy by 1.6 kms. We ended up just on the outskirts of a small fishing village and wound up camping right by the small wharf in a half constructed building with a wonderful view of the sea. Setting up camp with the sight and sound of waves rushing in all around you is quite calming. Making for a peaceful nights sleep.
In the morning we took our sweet time breaking camp and cooking breakfast. There wasn’t a terrible hurry to get moving it would only be 70 kms to cycle until we would settle down in Batumi at a hostel we found after trying to unsuccessfully couchsurf. A short day for a change! How nice!
Or at least a short ride was what we thought would happen, we didn’t account much for border control. I forget we aren’t in Europe anymore. It’s easy to do in Turkey seems to me just to be an extension of Europe and the prices mostly reflect that opinion. The crossing would have been less complicated if Brian didn’t need to apply for a tax refund for the purchase of his new fancy camera. Though we did end up meeting a Border Control Officer that works in the US during winter time. I’m not sure what he does but he did help make the paperwork go a bit more smoothly. We posed for a few photos and talked on the phone to one of his colleagues at another Turkish crossing. I love the borders where you end up meeting people and making friends.
On the Turkish side we were able to process through Immigration and Customs as vehicles. Which was nice because this was one of the main borders. This means there are an unknown amount of buses that have to unload all their passengers and each one has to go through the governmental red tape individually. Crossing takes much less time in a car during these sorts od situations. On the Georgian side it was the opposite we had to take our bikes and go through the same lines as the throngs of bus goers. Wait in line for a Customs Agent getting pushed and shoved all while trying to make room for you and your bike. Getting out of a country is always easier then getting in.
Once we were in Georgia, the main road slims back down to two lanes of opposite going traffic on a some what crowed highway. Not really terrible there was plenty of room to cycle and allow cars to pass at the same time. Plus it was only a 20 km ride to our hostel in Batumi. Where we would be able to rest for another few days, do some laundry in a real washing machine, and hang out with the other cyclist that flow through this area. All of them either getting off the boat from the northern Black Sea regions and heading towards Turkey or others like us who are here to apply for Azeri Visas in order to continue East into Central Asia.
We happened upon another cyclists crossroads here in Batumi and the hostel we are staying in is even more so. D’ Vine Hostel has several of us staying under one roof. We all are coming from different directions and scattering off differently as well. It’s a nice place to relax used the internet and do a bit of socializing.