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January 21st, 2007 | categorizilation: all categories,Turkey

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Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 89.2km
Average speed / 平均速度: 13.9km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 6h 25m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 2273.7km (plus 4200km)
Ascent / 上り: +715m
Descent / 下り: -1335m

The day began with a fruitless adventure, trying to cycle along a half finished empty canal. It all began when I began noticing tunnels all along the side of the road.

Canal tunnel near Susheri, Turkey

Now me being me, I just had to go check them out. There were sounds coming out of most of them suggesting that work was being done, so I resisted the very strong urge to explore the insides.

The canals however, were all deserted, so I cycled for about 2km along one particularly good stretch.

Cycling a half finished canal near Susheri, Turkey

The degree of completeness quickly diminished however, until I was cycling on mud so sticky that on two occasions I had to remove the back wheel completely to clear out the mud from between the mud guards and tyre, that had caused the wheel from stopping turning…

Cycling a half finished canal near Susheri, Turkey

“I know, how about we cycle to England on those well formed sealed roads down there!” I finally said to myself, thoroughly convinced that the last two hours of slow progress were not worth it at all. Made some nice photos though…

The rest of the day was spent battling short uphills followed by equally short downhills. The upside however was that I was chased by a gentle but persistent tail breeze.

Orange hills near Susheri, Turkey

At around 4pm, just as I was approaching Rushadiye, I spotted a group of men down by the river having a BBQ. They spotted me too, and began furiously waving me down, inviting me down for a feed. I joined them for chicken and tomatoes and bread.

Rather than stay in a hotel in Rushadiye, I pushed on for another 4kms to a riverside camp spot for the night just out of town.

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January 20th, 2007 | categorizilation: all categories,Turkey,vids

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Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 77.94km
Average speed / 平均速度: 17.1km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 4h 33m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 2184.1km (plus 4200km)
Ascent / 上り: +610m
Descent / 下り: -1130m

There’s nothing quite like a 40km downhill to get the spirits up.

I had already loaded the bike up when I looked outside at the weather. Snow. Horizontal snow. I had checked out of the hotel already. It would be a pain to have to go back into the hotel…with any luck, the wind would be a tailwind…

Before leaving, I stopped in at the baker’s for some bread. Jolly interesting, these bakeries.

Turkish bread making

(click on image for short video clip – will open in a new window)

A baker's dozen thanks (Refahiye, Turkey) / トルコのパン工場(トルコ、レファヒエ町)

I was on the road by 7:20am. I love being on the road early. You cycle for three hours and it’s still morning. That’s a great feeling.

As hoped, the wind was a tailwind. It was blowing hard, but not into my face. The downhill lasted for more than an hour and a half.

Snowy descent down from Refahiye, Turkey / アイスバーンの下り坂(トルコ、レファヒエ町付近)

Cold bike gets passed by a big truck near Refahiye, Turkey / つめたくて、大型トラックに追い越される(トルコ、レファヒエ町)

However, by the time I was at an altitude of around 1200m, the snow had turned to rain. With Susehri only 20km away, the fact that I was going to be drenched didn’t matter.

Arrived in Susehri at about 12 noon. First impressions were not good, with indifferent and unhelpful hotel staff. And the locals seem to be scared of foreigners. They whisper to each other a few meters from me. I pick up ‘tourist’ and ‘bicycle’. If one of them does pluck up the courage to speak to me in English, you can almost see them shake, and they look as though they think I’m going to bite. Perhaps it’s the beard…

Plus the rain soon changed to slushy snow. If only it had been a nicer day, I could have gone much further, and camped for the night…I guess days like this make you appreciate the good days…

The weather forecast for tomorrow looks better, so I’ll be out of here early.

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January 19th, 2007 | categorizilation: all categories,Turkey

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I have had inklings for a while that there were cheaper rooms (less than NZ$10) at most of the hotels that I have stayed at so far in Turkey, so last night I inquired if there was anything cheaper. I was shown a 5 bed dorm room, which is perfectly OK for me, for NZ$7.

It turned out that the four others sleeping in the same dorm room were Kurdish builders, staying in Refahiye for five days to do some work on new apartment buildings being built in the town. One of them was Ilhami, a carpenter who spoke fairly good English. He invited me to the builders’ headquarters for breakfast along with the other builders.

Kurdish builders in Refahiye, Turkey / クルド人の建設チーム(トルコ、ラファヒエ町)

The HQ was a three minute drive from the hotel, so we all piled into his Renault diesel car. The car obviously disliked being woken up so early on a cold morning, needing some persistent turn overs to get the engine to fire into life.

The HQ was a well built canvas tent next to the building site. The rest of the crew had already finished breakfast, so we got stuck into the remaining food. Fresh bread heated on the coal fueled pot belly stove, black olives, soft cheese, hazelnut spread, honey, and plenty of tea. Thank you very much guys!
Ilhami later showed me his work on the buildings.

Ilhami, a Kurdish carpenter in Refahiye, Turkey / クルド人のイルハミさん(トルコ、ラファヒエ町)

The kindness and generosity of these Kurds went in complete contrast to what every Turk that I have met has told me about these people. The Turks apparently greatly dislike the Kurds, and even the very nice owner of a restaurant in Posof in eastern Turkey said that the Kurds are unwanted and certainly not needed in Turkey. It appears that the Kurds are one of the biggest ethnic groups of people on the globe that do not have a nation state of their own. According to that Wikipedia article link above, the Kurds have fought Turkey, among other nations, for recognition. Must be where all the anti-Kurd sentiment is coming from in Turkey I guess…

The rest of the day here was spent updating the website, and checking up on the progress of other blogging cyclists on my links page.

Tomorrow I head north west towards Amashye.

I leave you with an image that I far too frequently see here in Turkey. I have seen more of these in Turkey than in any other country. It makes my stomach churn to see a man’s best friend like this.

A too frequent sight in Turkey / トルコでよく見る光景

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January 18th, 2007 | categorizilation: all categories,Turkey

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Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 46.79km
Average speed / 平均速度: 11.9km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 3h 55m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 2106.8km (plus 4200km)
Ascent / 上り: +775m
Descent / 下り: -760m

English Summay: At last, the head wind stopped. It left a beautiful day in its wake, and I didn’t even mind the slow grind up the pass. It was silent apart from the occasional heavy truck, with only the sound of falling sand and the occasional rock. From the top (2400m), it was all downhill (see video below) to Refahiye, a small town of 6,400 people. Dinner was at Osman’s very unique restaurant – spicy chicken on Turkish pilaf.

やっとです。風がやんだ。空気がすんでいて、最高の1日でした。

夕べ、ちょっとだけ怖かったです。夜中1時過ぎに、テントの外に音がしました。

動物が何かのの委を嗅いでいるような音。そして足の音。うわさのオオカミなのか。心臓が止まりそうでした。ウサギだよと、僕が自分に言いました。しばらくすると音がなくなりました。オオカミが多いってみんながいうから、そうだったかも。。。

朝 が来るとほっとして、出発の準備をしました。朝ご飯の用意(ポリッジ – 燕麦(えんばく)300mlのコップいっぱい、カバノキ、乾燥アンズ、乾燥ブドウ、オリブ油、塩、水750ml – これを全部混ぜて、15分火を通す)、荷物の整理と荷作り、テントをばらす、荷物を自転車に乗せる。だいたい2時間の時間が必要。

Overhead 'river tunnels' on the way up Seletotun Pass, Turkey / セレトトン峠のトンネル(トルコ)

今日の天気は素晴らしかったです。風が全くなくて、音は道路の横の砂と時に石が落ちている音だけ。最高。

A tree on the Seletotun Pass, Turkey

峠のうえまで上る道は長くて急でしたが、ゆっくりと上って、午後1時ごろに頂上につきました。そのあとは下りだけ。

Flying down the Sakaitutan Pass, Turkey

(Click on image for short video – will open in new window)

I always wanted aero disks (Sakaitutan Pass, Turkey) / 雪が深い(トルコ、セレトトン峠)

レファヒエ町についたら、子どもたちが走ってきて、Hello mister, you want hotel?と叫びました。6人の男の子が親切に僕をホテルまで連れてくれて、荷物と自転車を元気よくホテルの3階まで運んでくれました。いつの間にか、 明日、同じ男の子たちはレファヒエ町のツアーをしてくれることになりました。にぎやかになりそう。
夜の食事はオスマンさんのレストランで食べました。レストランの壁にトルコの骨董品がぶら下げていて、いい雰囲気でした。

Osman's restaurant in Refahiye, eastern Turkey / オスマンさんのレストラン(トルコ、ラファヒエ町)

Osman's restaurant in Refahiye, eastern Turkey / オスマンさんのレストラン(トルコ、ラファヒエ町)

Osman's restaurant in Refahiye, eastern Turkey / オスマンさんのレストラン(トルコ、ラファヒエ町)

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January 17th, 2007 | categorizilation: all categories,Turkey,vids

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Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 55.58km
Average speed / 平均速度: 10.2km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 5h 25m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 2060.4km (plus 4200km)
Ascent / 上り: +590m
Descent / 下り: -175m

Woke up feeling great. No head wind, it was relatively warm (only -5 degrees). Today is going to be a great day!

By the time I had packed up the tent however, the familiar stiff headwind from yesterday had picked up again. I decided to push hard. Head wind shmed wind. I can beat this, I thought.

Good afterble consternoon (approaching Erzincan City, Turkey) / 看板(トルコ、エルジンジャン市)

Problem was that the headwind was cold. I cycle hard, I heat up. I sweat. I remove layers of clothing. The chilly wind cools my body too much… In the end I resigned to plod on at a slow pace to avoid sweating too much. Ugh.

Windy windy day leaving Erzincan

(Click on image for short video clip – will open in a new window)

Erzincan was only 20km away, so I am there by 9am. A rather convenient time to indulge in a second breakfast. The first was my usual porrage (rolled oats (300ml mug full), hazel nuts, dried apricots, raisins, three tablespoons of olive oil, salt, 750ml water, boiled for 15 minutes, sugar on top), the second was Turkish Chicken Doner.

I attempted to update the website at a nearby internet cafe, but only succeeded in uploading a few photos. The computer I was on was slow and sluggish.

The headwind lasted all day as I inched up the ever so gradual almost unnoticeable uphill out of Erzingan. It was one of those roads that stretched into the distance, ever so straight. You can see where you need to get to, and you are moving at a snails pace to get there.

Uphill into the wind near Erzincan, Turkey / 向かい風が続く(トルコ、エルジンジャン市)

I stopped at a truckers’ cafe for lunch. They had the best sized portions of any restaurant I have been to here in Turkey. 300 plus grams of fried chicken and a massive salad. I paid for it though. NZ$7. The most I’ve paid for a meal in Turkey.

It was around 3pm when the most unexpected thing happened.

“Aye? Those two don’t look like Turks!” I thought to myself.

Sure enough, the couple driving the Volkswagen Campervan were not Turks, but Michael and his girlfriend (if you’re reading this, Michael, do remind me of your girlfriend’s name), driving from Germany to India. What an adventure. On a bicycle, you cross borders with very little hassle. With a vehicle, you’ve got all sorts of document stuff you need to think about.

Michael is living the dream of driving from Germany to India (15km from Erzincan, Turkey) / マイケルさんの夢 - ドイツからインドまで

They treated me to some great German coffee, and we parted ways. Thanks guys, you lightened up an otherwise tough day.

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January 16th, 2007 | categorizilation: all categories,Turkey,vids

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Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 82.77km
Average speed / 平均速度: 13.3km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 6h 13m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 2004.8km (plus 4200km)
Ascent / 上り: +210m
Descent / 下り: -460m

English Summary: Frustrating icy headwind today blowing up the narrow valley I was travelling along. Plus I got the first puncture of the trip so far (see video below). Only one puncture for more than 6,000km travelled – not bad. An energy sapping ride ends 20km from Erzincan city.

一日中向かい風が強く吹いていました。それに旅の最初のパンク。

5時半に起きました。起きてすぐにバナナ2本、マンダリン3個、パン300グラムを食べました。昨日の夜にミルクを買うべきでした。朝はミルクが必要、僕は。

ホテルを出たのは7時15分でした。街はまだ静かに眠っている。

A mosque in eastern Turkey / トルコのモスク

最初の30分の走行はいつものように、体がまだ起きていない状態で。周りがあまり意識していない。しかし冷たい風が服の隙間を通り抜けて、目を覚ませます。

それでも、今日の自転車はいつもよりも重く感じていました。昨日のきつい上り坂のせいなのか。9時ごろにおやつを食べに、しばらく止まりました。後でこぎ出す時に気付きました。パンクだ!こいつは珍しいな。旅が始まって最初のパンクでした。

First puncture of the journey

(click on image for short video clip – will open in a new window)

First flat of the journey near Tercan, eastern Turkey / 旅の第一パンク(トルコ、テルジャン付近)

First flat of the journey near Tercan, eastern Turkey / 旅の第一パンク(トルコ、テルジャン付近)

パンクをすぐになおりましたが、10時過ぎに冷たい向かい風が吹き始めました。1日だけでも追い風が欲しいなと思いながらこいでいました今日の道は下り坂が多かったですが、狭い谷に吹く向かい風が強くて、思い通り進まなかった。

Narrow road on the way to Erzincan, Turkey / 道が狭い(トルコ、エルジンジャン市へ向かう途中)

A foot bridge on the way to Erzincan, Turkey / エルジンジャン市の近くの橋(トルコ)

線路の近くにキャンプをしています。気温は比較的に温かいマイナス1度です。

Trackside campspot near Erzincan City, Turkey / 線路の近くのキャンプ(トルコ、エルジンジャン市)

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January 15th, 2007 | categorizilation: all categories,BTC Pipeline,Turkey

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Today’s distance: 113.03km
Average speed:
15.1km/h
Time pedalling:
6h 47m
Ascent:
790m
Descent:
1230m
Distance to Date:
1922.0km (plus 4200km on old speedo)

I only took one photo today.

BTC Pipeline near Tercan, eastern Turkey

And that’s it. I think I may be getting some hints. I have crossed this pipeline so many times in the last two months, and saw the beginning of it in Baku, Azerbaijan, that maybe I should make the detour to Ceyhan to see the end of it…might be a chunky 500km or more detour though…

The day began with a 5km dead end mistake that saw me ride to the entrance of the Erzurum air force base. I thought I was going towards Ashker.

“The road to Ahsker is back that way!” the helpful soldier said in good English.

Man I hate it when that happens.

Once on the correct road – a four lane highway with light traffic with the sweetest verge I have ever ridden on – it was a beautiful mostly slight downhill ride to Ashker. The road was smooth and snow-free, and my knee only uttered a few grunts in the morning while it warmed up.

From Ashker after lunch it was a long 300m uphill that was gradual enough to mean that it took about an hour to climb. The resulting downhill however was awesome. Half an hour of downhill wonder on the same smooth four lane highway with little traffic. I love it when that happens.

So, the knee is feeling strong, and it was a good long day of cycling. Hit an angry dog on the snout too.

OK, just now in the internet cafe I took a couple of candid pics. They are of the kid next to me playing a role play game involving lots of shooting people with automatic weapons. He is hardly big enough to reach the keyboard and mouse, but knows all the cheat keys, and is totally absorbed in the game. I could have stuck the camera up his nose and he wouldn’t have noticed.

Kid in Turkish internet cafe absorbed in computer game (Tercan, Turkey)   Kid in Turkish internet cafe absorbed in computer game (Tercan, Turkey)

And speaking of kids, you need to check out this article and blog. Gareth is a 5 year old who has cerebral palsy, and has just got a new bike. It’s a semi-recumbent tandem. Gareth’s blog reports that he and his father went for their first ride on the 14th of January. Great stuff.

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January 14th, 2007 | categorizilation: all categories,Turkey

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My Mum asked recently what the food is like in Turkey. Here I would like to introduce one of my favourites so far.

Lahmajun - a Turkish delecacy (Erzurum, Turkey)

This is Lahmajun. Beef mince on a very thin crunchy base. You squeeze some lemon juice onto the top, chuck some salad on, roll it up, and eat with your hands. Jolly good. This stack of three lahmajun (each is cut in half) cost 3 Lari (US$2.10 / NZ$3).

Mandarins by the way are 1 Lari (NZ$1) a kilo. Nice sweet juicy mandarins. I can easily down 1kg in one sitting.

Internet cafe mandarin (Erzurum, Turkey) / インターネットカフェマンダリン(トルコ、エズルム市)

So yeah, tomorrow I head towards Erzincan, another big city about 190km west of Erzurum. Hopefully shouldn’t take more than three days to get there. And just check out the weather forecast for Erzincan. Should be a tropical holiday compared with what I’ve had here for the last week!

Internet cafe in Erzurum, Turkey / インターネットカフェ(トルコ、エズルム市)

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January 13th, 2007 | categorizilation: all categories,Turkey,vids

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Takin’ it real easy today. Went for a walk in the morning to find an ATM, and found this.

Cifte Minareli Medrese (Double Minaret) in Erzurum, Turkey / チフテ ミナール(トルコ、エスルム市)

Cifte Minareli Medrese (Double Minaret) in Erzurum, Turkey / チフテ ミナール(トルコ、エスルム市)

It is the Cifte Minareli Medrese (Double Minaret). It’s the main sight in Erzurum, what a sight it is. When I was there, there was not another soul there. Old and silent and cold. An ancient building existing in the mist.

At the back of the Cifte Minareli Medrese (Double Minaret) in Erzurum, Turkey / チフテ ミナールの裏側(トルコ、エスルム市)

Prayer room at the Cifte Minareli Medrese (Double Minaret) in Erzurum, Turkey / チフテ ミナールでの祈りの場(トルコ、エスルム市)

Entrance to prayer room at the Cifte Minareli Medrese (Double Minaret) in Erzurum, Turkey / チフテ ミナールでの祈りの場への入り口(トルコ、エスルム市)

As I wandered around the back of the building, a short man with glasses that threatened to fall off the tip of his nose trotted over and introduced himself.

“My German is much better than my English. Hello, my name is Necati.”

If his German was better than his English, then he must speak fairly astonishingly good German.

Necati is the owner of a small carpet shop next to the Double Minaret. He has carpets from all over the region including Iran, Azerbaijan, Iraq, and of course Turkey. Some up to 100 years old.

Necati Alaylar's carpet shop in Erzurum, Turkey / ネジャテさんのカーペット屋(トルコ、エズルム市)

I made it fairly clear that I was not in a position to buy a carpet, but I think the salesman in him got the better of him and he ended up showing me more carpets than I have ever beholden in my life.

Nacati's Carpet Shop on Google Video

(click on image for short video)

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January 13th, 2007 | categorizilation: all categories,Turkey,vids

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I have done something to my knee. I hope it doesn’t last too long. I can’t put any power into my right knee otherwise it hurts like jolly billio’s. I do have a knee support thingee deep within my panniers somewhere so I hope that helps. I think the cause of this could have been either yesterday’s happy jumping spree or the killer passes today and yesterday, or a combination of both…

Icy grass approaching Erzurum, eastern Turkey

I need to write to the map company that makes the map I used up till Erzurum. They failed to mention the 2,200m pass between Tortum and Erzurum. I began having those nasty negative thoughts, similar to that time in Tajikistan, as I was being battered and abused by the slope and accompanying strong freezing head wind. There was only one thing I could do in order to get over that pass today.

“I have the physical ability to do this.”

“I am capable of this challenge.”

“I enjoy cycling.”

“I love being here right now.”

I knew I was lying to myself, but as I said those words out loud, they made me feel better.

For some reason I was really cold today. Serves me right for not eating enough at breakfast. It is amazing how important a solid breakfast is. It heats my body for most of the morning. Today as I dropped into the Erzurum basin, the wind cut into me like a knife.

The approach to Erzurum, eastern Turkey

Cold fingers.

Excruciating “must stop and moan” pain as fingers heat up again.

For the first time I wore my down jacket for more than 10 minutes of cycling. I wore it all the way from the top of the pass today to Erzurum (40km). All because of an insufficient breakfast.

(click on this for short video – will open in new window)

Erzurum is a big city of 402,000 people. I cycled around as long as my right knee would allow it before stopping at a cafe for lunch. Right next to the cafe was a hotel. To my surprise they had a standard $7 room. Promptly checked in and wandered to the nearest internet cafe. Internet cafes are rarely more than a 15 minute walk from anywhere in towns and cities in Turkey.

The plan is to take tomorrow off, and since it’s just not the done thing to cycle on a Sunday, will leave Erzurum on Monday. This should give my knee some time to get its act together.

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