Dated: 19 May 18
So I’m on the road with Tom, the cynic. It is an odd thing falling into step with a complete stranger – teaming up with know idea if you will get along with one another. You dive in with both feet spending 24 hours a day together, camping and breaking bread together from the off. We skirt along the eastern portion of the Turkish Black Sea coast line. But we are on two very different trips and we too are different. He doesn’t even wear a watch where as I watch the clock constantly. I am on a pretty tight schedule pushing for big days and Tom has fallen in with me.
To cope with the big days calories are your most important friend and Tom is finding out the hard way as his stomach ties its self in knots. Out of the blue he will call out “kebab!” and an emergency kebab stop is the only thing that will get him going again, he gets h-u-angry (that’s angary with hunger for those not in the know). But there is a catch, Ramadan has started and food and drink become scarce. The once social cafes are void of the old boys drinking tea and playing dominos, windows are darkened and chairs tucked away. We are forced to squirrel away our mid morning snacks and afternoon treats in quiet shady corners or side streets, almost in shame. Fortunately we only have a day or so left in Turkey before reaching the Orthodox country of Georgia. But in actual fact the people are very understanding and just ask us to be discreet in our sunlit eating’s just as some of them are.
I’m definitely the boss or the dad; I even have to wake Tom up in the mornings but then he puts the kettle on so I cant complain. At one point I was referred to as the sergeant so maybe I should chill out a touch. The back drop to our pairing is a stunning stretch of scenery, to the south rise the Kackar Mountains. There is a road up there and both of us feel them calling us to their lofty heights with there snow capped peaks. On the first evening as we meander along a river we meet a group of three cyclists on the hunt for a good spot to pitch a tent so we have a small group of friends for the night.
Can you imagine rolling onto Baths Royal Crescent and being welcomed warmly to pitch five tents for the night? Well here in Turkey we are told to camp in the middle of the village on the green next to the mountain river. The local baker calls me in, gives me a coffee then promptly pushes me out of the bakery with a large bag of warm bagels for me and my four tent mates. In Warminster where I’m from if you camped in the town’s park you would most likely have the locals or squaddies stagger out of the Kebab Hut at the bottom of town only to throw doner meat at you and a chip or two for good measure. But not here in Turkey, they make sure you are well fed and watered, and the only doner in sight would be the one which they made for you, admittedly it helps that they don’t drink.
The spread of people cycle touring is interesting, tonight we have a Kiwi, a German, a Turk, a fellow Brit and myself. All cycling from one place or another over a day or two, a month or so or even for years. All are different but similar. I often feel a tad judged for “rushing” around the place, think what I might be missing. I’ve met fair few people have taken a sabbatical to cycle a continent for a year at a leisurely pace and take it all in. But the way I see it is that we all have 365 and a quarter experiences and mine just happens to be spread over a greater distance, through more countries & cultures and I could perhaps therefore claim a more varied selection of these experiences. But each to their own adventure.
The German, she is chatty, friendly and surprisingly funny for a German. The Brit, she is quite, she sits back not really partaking in the festivities of camp life, an observer. The Turk, he is one the phone to his girl friend almost the entire evening….looser. The Kiwi and myself just natter away and eye up all the fancy gear the others have with them.
The following morning at first light as we hit the road, Tom gives the three remaining warm looking tents one last longing glance as we leave the others in bed; their are no lie ins on my watch. When camping back on the shore that evening I swim out into the water, it is warm on the surface but frigid on the toes as I trend water and take in the view, its post card. The Black Sea is an under rated coastline, with its rugged coast quick rising into snow capped mountains it has the same look Lausanne or Geneva. I will be sad to leave it behind tomorrow when we cross into Georgia.