Cycling in the cold in Anatolia

It was lunch time and we were still cycling along the Black Sea coast. The day was gray, at least no rain, but the blue sky seemed to linger far away from the shore over the sea. Taking breaks with this overcast sky and low temperatures isn't very easy, as the cold slowly creeps up under the layers of clothing leaving us frozen by the time we get back on the bicycle. But we were hungry and just happened to cycle past a stretch of sandy beach. As we sat by the water, watching the gulls fly past in big numbers and the plastic trash spill up onto the shore, the line of gray clouds slowly started to retreat. By the time we were making our coffee, it was only a question of minutes before we would be soaked in the warm rays of the sun.

An hour later we cycled into Samsun under a clear blue sky. After so many rainy days, it's in these moments when you remember how fun it is to cycle and you really appreciate how lucky we are to be on this trip.

Samsun was the last city along the coast. From here we turned land inward, direction Ankara. After a short consultation of our GPS, we saw that an 800m climb lay ahead of us. "Shouldn't be too steep though," I said, "after all, we are cycling on a major highway". "But it will still be Duro (hard)," answered Sera.

Well it wasn't steep, but it was long. And the more we gained in altitude the colder it got. In the late afternoon the sun disappeared behind the mountains and temperatures immediately dropped by a few degrees. Just past the mountain pass, we spotted a small restaurant with a playground and grass around it. Even though we had food we could have cooked, we were cold and wanted to sit inside a bit where it was warm. The restaurants specialty was Menemen, a typical Turkish dish made out of tomatoes and eggs. We chatted with the owner, who spoke good English after living in the US for a few years, and eventually asked if we could set up the tent somewhere close to his restaurant. He looked surprised but quickly said yes. Best spot was between the swing and the slide, close to the chicken coop.

The next morning we were invited in to eat breakfast with some of the employees. The table was bursting with food and with full bellies we started cycling. 10 minutes downhill followed by 2 hours uphill.

Soon we were in-midst of snow covered fields, cycling either up- or down-hill. I never imagined Turkey to be so hilly, but until Izmir this rhythm continued. Of course the slope was not very steep, but it was hardly ever just flat.

Shortly before we entered the city of Corum, the nice blue sky disappeared and we cycled into thick fog. Immediately the temperature dropped by a few degrees, but as we thought we would be ascending quite soon, we didn't put on the warm jackets. Turned out it was a long descend and by the time we arrived in Corum, we were frozen stiff. Desperately we searched for a warm place to drink tea and fortunately didn't have to look very far. As we dismounted we noticed that once again one of Sera's spokes had broken. It wasn't the first broken spoke so we decided to look for a professional to look at the whole wheal. The waiters explained us the directions, but looking back, I'm not sure if this guy was really more professional than we are.

By the time we got everything repaired, it was dark. We initially wanted to cycle a bit further and sleep in the tent, but we also try to avoid cycling in the dark. We consulted the GPS and found a hotel called Hotel Sera! The owner was super friendly and gave us a discount. He even tried to ride my bike, without much luck though.

We were now 240km away from Ankara, three more days of cycling. The next night we spent at a truck stop, setting up the tent in a little shack right next to the road. Just as we were about to cycle the next morning, Sera took another closer look at his bicycle and with horror saw that his back axis had massive cracks.

The tension of the spokes plus the weight was just too much. We, well especially I didn't want to risk a crash in the middle of nowhere, so we looked for a truck that would head to Ankara. 45 minutes later a big yellow truck pulled up with enough space to store the bicycles and take us along.

What would have been two days of cycling, we completed in a few hours. It was definitely a different perspective to sit to high up and feel like the king of the road and not the little crazy person on the side of it. The driver Hakan spoke almost no English, but he taught us some Turkish. What really delighted me, was how he would slow down and honk at birds on the road. And in fact in Turkey we have seen a lot less dead birds on the roadside. Love the respect for living beings!

On the 30. December, one day ahead of plan we arrived in Ankara, the capital of Turkey. But as always for us when we arrive in big cities, the list of things to do is longer than the time we intend to stay. Actually its mostly a long to do list of equipment we have to replace to do some bicycle maintenance. Of course Sera's bicycle had to be repaired and luckily we found a good shop with the proper spares. But we also had a list of people we wanted to visit. Not only Nilufer and her family where in Ankara, but also Burak, the son of a man with whom we stayed a night in a small village in Georgia. Thirdly we also needed a place to sleep, which our friend from Izmir was helping us with. He's good friends with the owners of Ankara's only boulder hall and told us to see them. In the end we were rushing around, meeting new people and celebrating New Years, finding time to boulder and replacing broken parts. What intense but fun days!

On our journey we are raising money for the Thin Green Line Foundation, a foundation that supports rangers and their families. Help us support this fantastic foundation by making a small donation, even 5 Euro can be enough to make a difference! Click here

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