We skipped the hotel breakfast as the room had a kettle and hob so had eggs and noodles to get an early start for the big climb up to Bolu and then two more after!
Ideally, we’ve have split this over yesterday and today but with the spoke issues we had little choice.
We settled in for a slow haul up and the misty views (you can just about see them in the photos) gave us a real sense of how far up we’d come. It was hot going and we needed plenty of breaks to stay cool and rest our sore bums!
The next two drags went on and on and there were more undulations which weren’t evident on the scale the elevation profile was at before an epic and fast descent to Gebreze topping 50 mph on smooth open roads. Laura couldn’t decide whether to keep her eyes open or shut and unsurprisingly there’s not go pro footage!
Feeling like we needed to catch up on miles from yesterday we pushed on grabbing a rather unsatisfactory lunch from a petrol station including a dürem wrap that started Laura’s guts rolling and with the heat made fuelling tricky for the rest of the day.
The scenery was mountainous, even alpine like, as we hit the last few hilly blips in the afternoon heat. Finally some more descent and a love evening with favourable winds convinced us to push the mileage wee bit further despite such a hilly day. We’ve spotted a spa hotel at about the right distance for a very reasonable price and the reviews mentioning a buffet dinner cinched the deal. Laura got to work booking a room from the backseat and we pushed on to roll in at 8:30pm having done 119miles and over 7700ft of climbing. The buffet was closed and we raced through the shower to there convince the grumbly waiter to feed us and had a rather nice meal of grilled chicken, salad and dips. The main issue was although the hotel had a bar, it had no alcohol so Stevie was heartbroken not to have a well earned refreshing beer after such as long day. We made do with çay instead and rolled into bed as soon as dinner was done.
I woke up before the alarm to the patter of rain and rumble of thunder, but rolled over and thought nothing of it and it had stopped when we got up.
Skipping the thermal spa at the hotel we did manage to get let into breakfast early and filled our bellies and pockets. But then the rain started again with a vengeance and as the clouds rolled so did Laura’s stomach again… things had not settled overnight. The hotel staff looked horrified as we mounted the bike in the rain but we cheerily waved goodbye as we are eased to this sort of weather…
Turned out we were slightly over confident as what should have been a glorious morning descent, hard earnt after yesterday, soon became a sodden, cold misery with Stevie having to navigate a particularly vicious rumble strip and both of us getting cold. Laura was feeling even worse at this point and after 25 miles we needed an emergency stop.
We pulled into a cafe just as the sun broke through and ordered çay tea to warm up. The was snow on the peaks surrounding us but the sun was hot. A lovely lady took pity on our bedraggled state and gave us borek (cheese pastry) and vine leaves. 3 cups of çay later we were recuperated enough to push on, stopping at various garages and cafes to top up our çay levels and Laura to try and resolve her GI issues. It was a comparatively flat day but with Laura on electrolytes we weren’t able to push the pace and focused hydration and turning the pedals.
We continued to descend but with the wind picking up there were strong crosswinds ruining our advantage and the storms continued to rumble overhead. The terrain changed from dry and sparse brush to forested slopes with rough mountain peaks but a valley full of paddy fields with storks wading through. Who knew they grew rice in Turkey!
We had to opt to leave the climb put of the valley until tomorrow and stayed in Ordu with a lovely riverside. A cheap but very friendly hotel was just what we needed and with Laura feeling a bit better we managed a dinner near the river front before getting rested up. The waitresses thought Stevie’s beard was quite exceptional and took selfies! We were joined by a local street cat for dinner and after Stevie bought some sweet coated chickpeas from a local shop…to risky for Laura’s stomach but a nice local treat.
After a good nights sleep Laura was feeling better and even managed some chips for breakfast.
We were ready to climb and steady gradients and cloud cover made the first peak of the day well. A bit of descent to boost the morale and then we were climbing again but this time in the heat.
Finally within sight of the top we seemed to lose momentum and then I realised I was bouncing on a soft back tyre. So into the verge we went and a new tube went in. We were still a bit cautious after the weird day of punctures earlier in the trip but Stevie still check the tyre carefully.
As Stevie finished putting the wheel back in Laura had been watching the clouds gather and a fork of lightning hit the hillside behind us with a rumble of thunder not long after. As we got on the bicycle it started to spot with rain and rather than stop to put waterproofs on we tried to make the summit and out run the storm on the descent.
This didn’t work.
A mile or so later we pulled over and got clothed against the new heavy rain. Lightning struck the hillside next to us almost simultaneously as thunder clapped again so we made a hasty retreat down the hill. The rain hindered our progress and we were relieved when it eased off for the final climbs. Finally we had a massively long descent into Samsun and went from mountains to city in what seemed like no time. A small routing misdemeanor and we were climbing the last tiny hill out if the city before what was meant to be an easy flat roll in.
Then we went flat again. Tyre off and checked, tube checked but neither of us could find the culprit and another tube went in and we pushed to the top before a last descent at sunset. It felt good to see the Black Sea finally but we were racing the light to get to the next hotel after the delays.
And then we punctured again.
At the end of our tethers a 3rd tube went in in the dark on acentral reservation and with 6 miles to go we agreed to walk it if we had anymore problems. Arriving at about 9:30pm we almost didn’t get the bike in (it took some persuading) and then the hotel only took cash but we eventually paid in dollars. Quick kofte sandwich, inner tube fixing and bed.
Another day…another challenge…
We weren’t overly surprised to find another flat tyre when we got up. But we’d also been checking up on the land borders to Azerbaijan to get the Caspian sea ferry and despite them having appeared to open after covid but were now closed again, we suspect due to the conflict with Armenia more than anything else.
We now had to fix a puncture, figure out how to get to the ‘Stans, figure out what was going on with the tyre and get more inner tubes. We started with the flat first, meticulously checking the tyre both inside and out in the daylight. Feeling the inside neither Stevie or Laura could find anything sharp but Stevie did flick a bit of metal out of the outside so we desperately hoped this was it. Tyre pumped up and we were on our way to find inner tubes.
A trad bikeshop in the morning was fascinating but didn’t quite cut it but it was a lovely roll out until the punctures started again. We first pulled into a bus shelter to get some shade and got the sharpie and pan of water out determined to find what was in the tyre.
Still not 100% satisfied we had no choice but to ride on but this time only made it another 10 miles! We pulled over in a garden centre and a lovely German lady helped us and let us use their air compressor to save more pumping. Using the marks on the inner tube and the tyre we had located the exact area where the problem was. Scrutinising the tyre in direct sunlight there was only the tiniest of nicks but when squeezed really hard something just glinted in the sun… we had to cut down with a penknife to get to the tiniest bit of metal wire But this was definitely the culprit and we were delighted!
We were relieved our woes were over and set off determined to make food progress along the sunny coastline. This was meant to be a short day with an early finish and time to recover after a tough few days prior now we knew we weren’t racing to the sea ferry. But we nearly lost the plot when plot when tyre went down again. Questioning our sanity we pulled over and got the pot out again (to be filled with water from the Black Sea this time!)and got the tyre off again.Thanks to the meticulous marking of the tube we found this was a differential puncture on the rim side directly in line with where the electrical tape Stevie had placed had slipped from the rim tape. Now we were even more adamant to get normal butane inner tubes asap as even though the aerothans are great to ride on and super light we were concerned we were doing something wrong to have had 3 potential punctures on the rim side.
All advantage lost and the hotel booked already it was all we could do to roll in for late evening (as apposed to late afternoon as we’d hoped). We go a much needed break from the traffic with a diversion through Persembe to avoid tunnels and it was one of the most beautiful roads we have been on so far. Apart from a couple of bitey Turkish dogs we loved it!
Finally rolling into Ordu later than planned we were delighted to find a bike shop still open to help us with some spare tubes and made it to what was meant to be the swankiest hotel in days… but apparently with the worst WiFi!
We got clean and changed a plumped for what turned out to be a seafood restaurant before heading to the first pub we e seen for days to try and figure out flights from Tbilisi to Kazahkstan.
The culture here is so much different from the past few days. Instead of Laura feeling like the odd one out for not wearing a headscarf, this is very much a multicultural holiday destination, even if were speaking more German than we expected!
A suitably dull day to suit our ride…but we were quite happy not to have any more excitement after the past few days!!
A drizzly start but it dried up through the day and after a late start haivng been trying to book flights in the morning, only to get an email to say our booking was cancelled. We rolled off regardless and enlisted the help of Trail Finders Laura got arranging flights from the back seat.
The road most lightly rolling and we made good progress along the coast. There were a few tunnels to contend with but we had anticipated these and diverted when necessary. Lunch on the hoof with the aim of an early roll in and after a “no bikes inside” at the first hotel we managed to get the tandem safe, us and bed and a bit of dinner all before 8:30pm!
We had a call back from Trail Finders and flight times were not looking promising for the connecting flight in Kyrgyzstan so a late evening of frantic back up plan making before collapsing to much needed rest again.
And time to change our first chain! So a bit of a later start (and we had a lie in until 7am) but help from @safarimotorbike we were promptly back on the road.
Our last day in Turkey today and it’s been amazing! The driving took a bit of getting used to, but no-one is angry, just eager. 99% of dogs are fine, the others a bit scary and we’re definitely not digging the noisy tunnels.
But everyone is so friendly! Beeps are always for a wave, not in rage!
Everyone waves and we’ve had so much generosity from bananas to buffs to baklava, pears and puddings even 7 day croissants; we’ve been given so much despite our complete incompetence to speak the language.
People seem to sense we are on a mission and have a purpose.
It’s all rounded off with a beautiful rooftop room above a wonderful restaurant @falezarhavi serving great Turkish food.
And of course çay! Always the çay…
Then into Georgia…
An intentionally slow start and our last Turkish breakfast before (walking) down the steep hill to the road. We rolled past the queues of trucks and before we knew it we were at the border.
A wonderfully quick passage through where the biggest delay was getting the tandem through the passenger passport control!
And just like that we were in Georgia!
We hit Batumi pretty quick and it was busy, chaotic with awful roads. We pulled into a cafe for a break and some lunch and had a tremendous meal of soup, salad and a boat shaped bread filled with cheese and an egg!
Feeling full we were soon uphill and the scenery was lusciously green with thick leaved vines covering everything and unexpectedly bamboo growing. We then descended to lovely seaside towns before heading East onto more rural roads where a couple of dogs chased and people we busy herding their cattle home for the evening. The cows, dogs and horses all roam free here.
Heading for the next major town with hotel potential pushed on. We flew past one hotel sign above a restaurant but Laura was so confident we’d find better we didn’t stop. However on reaching the town, Google maps failed us and the hotel has turned into a supermarket.
The choices were to push on into the unknown or backtrack to the last hotel. We decided to roll back and what hadn’t looked like a lot from the outside was a lovely friendly family run place that served us soup and salad for dinner with a beautiful Georgian wine.
We have a flight booked (finally) from 2nd July from Tbilisi but not quite where we hoped but it gives us plenty of time to replan…
Mileage: 2481 miles (on bike Garmin)
Punctures: 7 in 24 hours
Cups of çay: lost count