Well. There’s not just been one shit show. It’s been a run of shit shows.
Let me walk you through them for your entertainment, and to remind the majority of you why you’re not a cycle tourist.
Leaving Samsun – shit show #1
The day started nice enough. We had a great breakfast at the cheap and cheerful hotel in Samsun, and started the cycle out of town.
What I hadn’t counted on was the absolute shocker of a hill we had to summit to get out of town. This hill alone took about an hour and was only a taste – a mere hors d’oeuvres – of what was to come.
The cycle that day was made up of upwards climbs over a mountain range that lasted until the early afternoon. It was an absolute killer. If I thought my thighs had turned into rocks already, they were previously limestone, and now they are granite or something!
I won’t bore you with the details of every hill. But after each summit, Sean would riff on a theme of ‘surely that’s the last one.’ However it was never the last one. Never!
After a while, we decided we’d had enough fun and it was time to wild camp, and found a road winding off the motorway. After walking along for a little bit we decided to wild camp about 10 metres behind a public water fountain. This turned out to be a massive rookie error.
Not sure what’s wrong with the water in all the lads’ homes, or if they were just wanting to save on their water bills, but about 40 people came and filled up what could only have been oil drum-sized water containers.
When ‘wild camping’, ie stealth camping, the key is to remain unknown. So every time one of the lads came we had to stop moving and start whispering until they’d gone. Lunacy!
Eventually the sun set and the relentless water hustling stopped. I only fretted about being killed for one or two hours this time, so I’m definitely getting better at camping. A small silver lining.
Attempting to cycle to Merzifon – shit show #2
The next day was a day from hell.
There was a couple of solid hills, but then the terrain got good and we started to feel pretty confident.
Then we ran into a tunnel. Tunnels aren’t great at the best of times – as they are noisy as hell, there’s loads of backdraft (meaning I never try and cycle through – I always wheel my bike on the path on the side), and Turkish drivers have the friendly habit of honking when they see you. It’s loud enough to make a person twitch when you’re outside a tunnel, and when you’re inside one, it’s almost like they are honking inside your head with the volume turned up to 11. Which is lovely!
Then there was rodents.. the one’s beginning with ‘r’. I don’t want to write the word as my Grandma reads this blog and they are her biggest fear. I saw three, and one of them actually ran towards me, instead of away, in a Kamikaze fashion. As I was in front, I scared them all out of the way so Sean saw none. Lucky git!
But the real fun began when we got outside the tunnel. Sean got a flat tire, which was the first of our trip. In a stroke of misfortune, a few drops of rain started to come down.
“Surely not,” said Sean. Sure as hell yes! A MASSIVE thunderstorm started, the biggest amount of rain we’ve seen. Thunder and rain everywhere within about 10 seconds. In the panic, I said we should get underneath the motorway as it formed a bridge.
I couldn’t get the panniers off my bike properly in order to lift it over the railing at the side of the motorway, so Sean lifted the whole thing – bike and panniers – over the railing. Obviously in full beast mode!
I then tried to push my bike down the verge towards the underside of the motorway bridge. I couldn’t – as naturally that was the point at which my mudguard broke and obstructed my back wheel.
Sean screamed internally a little (I can tell when this happens), then reverted back into ‘The Beast’ and again just lifted it up and hauled ass down to the bottom. In his cycling shoes in a thunderstorm through the sliding mud. I ask you.
Was that the end of it? Hell no!
After getting everything down, which took about 15 minutes, and starting to go through the bags to get the tools out, we found our jar of faux-Nutella had exploded all over one of Sean’s panniers. I mean when it rains…
Sean has since coined the term ‘Nutella-gate’ for this portion of the trip.
I’m gonna do a bit of product placement here. Essentially in another spin on the wheel of misfortune Sean’s waterproof was… not waterproof. But my Altura jacket my mum had bought me didn’t let a drop in. It’s brilliant! And when I’m cycling down a hill in high winds, I can’t feel a thing through the material. Can definitely recommend them. (Sorry Sean.)
Anyway Sean set about replacing the inner tube on his bike and fixing my pannier. I did offer to try and correct my bike myself, but sometimes there’s no point pretending you’re useful.
Instead I did what I do best. Cleaning things with wet wipes. A super useful skill that we simply couldn’t do without on this tour.
After I’d run us out of wet wipes moping up Nutella-gate (making at best a marginal improvement), I decided I’d go and try to find someone and ask about getting a hotel for the night.
I approached a house nearby that gave off a friendly Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe, swerved it and after a while found some lads at mosque. An old man got his son on his phone to translate and after a while we got to the conclusion that I should go back, get Sean and the bikes, and he’d find us a place to stay. Result!
I went back, got Sean, and we wheeled the bikes over. The old man had bloody left!!
In his stead were some men who were collecting chairs from outside the mosque. They offered to take us to a cheap hotel nearby.
We jumped at the chance and they took us 5km back to the town we’d just been through, and to our first ogretmenevi – aka a teacher house.
We’d heard about these – apparently there’s at least one in all sizeable Turkish towns, and they are super cheap but they never show the rates online. You just have to go in and get a bed.
As we’re not married we had to get two rooms, and the total came to 66 lira which is absolutely incredible. About 11 pounds.
Staying in one of these was a bit of a silver lining, more of a solitary silver stitch, but ultimately I can’t say the knowledge was worth the massive, massive kerfuffle. Anyway, onto the next shit show.
Cycling to Corum – the final shit show?
Though the day started well enough, as we decided to avoid the tunnel and go via side roads – and actually passed the site of ‘Nutella-gate’.
We then stopped for a coffee after a while and got gifted a boiled egg. It tasted of fish, but a free boiled egg is a free boiled egg! As absolutely no one says.
My bike then fell over and my back wheel misaligned, but Sean sorted it out quick sharp. What a man.
Sean then hit the 1,000km mark and celebrated with a squeeze of water, which he requested I take a photo of. I complied.
We meandered on towards Corum via the side roads, and saw our first Kangal dogs – which I’d read about in my trusty Lonely Planet Turkey.
Apparently they were bred to protect livestock, and their mongrel descendants still roam central Anatolia. They are MASSIVE – with a beige coat on the body and black faces. They look like a cross between an Alsatian and a hyena – but scarier. I haven’t been able to get a proper shot as every time I see them I get the bike in the highest gear and pedal the hell outta there!
Kangal dogs aside, the views were amazing. Kind of like what you’d expect in the South of France but with more exotic trees. And for the majority of our time off the motorway, we were the only people in the road.
It wasn’t all good though – low traffic roads = unmaintained roads. And my bottom, already feeling the strains of over a week on the road with no break, was not happy.
We then skirted a pretty amazing lake called Yedikur Baraji which also seemed to be some kind of nature reserve.
There were herons and … other birds I can’t name (my twitching days have let me down), and butterflies etc. Was very peaceful!
We then traversed some lovely little towns until midday struck, bringing with it crippling heat. This coincided with reaching the main road and with it… more hills!!
After a while we actually had to stop and take a breather – my iPhone shut down it was so hot! And we had a snooze in the shade. Luckily, a cloud came and gave cover. It wasn’t my friend for long however.
By this point, I was close to breaking point – mentally, figuratively, metaphorically and literally. My ass was in tatters and my brain wasn’t doing much better.
Then we rounded a corner and what do you know – there was the biggest hill/mountain to date! You couldn’t make it up. And to prove I’m not making it up, here’s a photo of me at the top of the bloody thing.
There was some light though. On the way down, we stopped at a petrol station and made a new friend.
We kept hustling, and eventually made it to Çorum in time to meet our Couchsurfer host Ramazan. We actually stayed with his friends, as true to form even though Ramazan’s own house wasn’t on our way, he didn’t want to leave us short, so rang around his friends who lived in Çorum city centre to find us a place to stay.
We ended up going out for a nice meal at a local doner kebab restaurant. Thank you Ramazan!!
Travelling to Sungurlu – and how to avoid further shit shows
We were up early the next morning. And after a quick breakfast I brokered the idea of at least one of us avoiding further shit shows – and said that I should get a bus to the next town.
Sean agreed it was probably the right thing to do, as I’m guessing if he hears me complain about my knees one more time he might break down crying, and I got on the bus.
Again, it was a dream wrapped in a rainbow. I started writing the blog on the bus, which took a mere 40 minutes, and now I’m polishing it off in our second ogretmenevi, whilst also making friends with all the girls that work in the kitchen.
Now, more than ever, I’m convinced buses are the only way to travel. Good job I’ve got three months left of cycling touring left!!
Sean cycled on the side roads for the first portion of the trip, but had to get onto the motorway as it was just hills for days.
For the first time, I’m not completing this in the dead of night. So instead of good night, I’ll say good day! Xx