So my last blog ended at the Black Sea town of Unye, the easy part of our trip was now at an end, it was time to head into the hills !!
It had been pretty flat along the coast road from Trabzon, through Tirebolu, Ordu and into Unye, the miles almost effortless but now it was time to work. I'd checked on my routing app for the elevation profile for our first day up to Akkus, 60km, the majority of it uphill from 0ft to over 4000ft. Now bearing in mind our bikes weigh in at a staggering 55 to 60kg depending on food and water so it wasn't going to be easy !!
We left early after a substantial breakfast and cycled out of town, it was at least 3 or 4km before we'd left it behind and got into open country. The road to start with was gentle as we passed the old fort that overlooks Unye. Sadly as we climbed higher not only did the road gain in severity but the sun just got hotter and hotter. There was one particular stretch of road where it was all concrete walls, it felt like riding through an oven, every time you tried to draw breath it was so hot !!
We were on our bikes for nearly 7 hours that day, just grinding away slowly at the hill, we were lucky that the views were incredible and of course we had to stop to take photos, not because we were tired 😉
Not only were the views amazing but also the people, be they in cars, trucks, buses or standing in their own gardens, we were cheered on, waved at, had “merhaba” Turkish for hello shouted at us, and on several occasions we were treated to Turkish hospitality at it's best, let me explain..
Our first rest stop was at a garage, mainly to use the toilet and buy water, we also had two cups of tea each, we tried to pay for the tea and our money was refused ! Our second instance was when a family who were enjoying there alfresco lunch invited us to join them, embarassed by the hospitality we stopped but only for tea, politely refusing food but asking if there was a restaurant close by. There was, 5km further up the hill, we pulled in, tired and hungry and approached a table to sit and devour whatever was put in front of us. Before we had time to sit we were beckoned by three guys to join them at there table. Not wanting to seem impolite we joined them and for the next hour or more they fed us, watered us, gave us Ayran, cooked our food and generally took care of us. The restaurant is no place for vegetarians as it's BBQ at your table, the host just brings, out slabs of beautiful lamb, tomatoes, onions, chillis and a hot BBQ, the rest is up to you.
Well, we stuffed ourselves, drank litres of water and Ayran and when it came to pay the three guys wouldn't let us pay a single cent !! Now I've encountered hospitality in numerous countries and the closest to this was in Australia with the Grebert family but this was just amazing and something I will never forget but will try to emulate !!
Another 14km lay ahead and with a belly full of lamb and Ayran we were ready for it, “it” didn't get any easier but we did eventually cycle into Akkus, we asked around and were pointed in the direction of a building that we later found out is a “Teacher House”, it is what it says, teachers stay in these places as they normally live miles away and can't travel to the school and back everyday. This was the first one we'd stayed in and have since stayed in one other. This one was clean and cheap, not to mention friendly and our bikes were left in the reception area and were perfectly safe.
Having scrubbed up and changed we ventured into town, there was a lovely sunset so we wandered out of the back of town to get photos. On the way back Naomi and a group of women got into a conversation based solely on gestures and mime, they thought us cycling home to the UK was hilarious !!
On our way back into town we were stopped by a couple of guys outside a shop, chai was offered in exchange for conversation so we rattled on about our trip and they filled the cups. After a couple of cups we said we were leaving to go in search of food, with that one of the guys led us to a kebab house, promptly ordered our food, paid for it and waited until we'd finished so he, his daughter and friends could walk us back to the Teacher House. Well, we were both gob smacked, we'd had one hell of a day on the bikes what with the climb and heat but the Turkish hospitality certainly made up for it, we were both humbled by the generosity we received that day and to be honest every day since in some degree or other !!
Our second day had us riding to Niksar, only 41km and 400m of climbing and with a 10km descent into town at the end it was a much less demanding day. The scenery was still breathtaking, the road wide, smooth and sometimes nearly empty. The hellos, waves and toots from passing cars were still encouraging us on and as we reached the view point overlooking Niksar it was good to know that our day was almost over and it was all downhill to the hotel. The bad bit was that our next day would start with a climb back up the other side of the valley. Firstly though more generosity from a passing motorist, we were looking lost, he stopped and when we said we were looking for a hotel he said to follow him. We followed him slowly for 3km and arrived at a quite posh hotel whereby we were greated like old friends and before we knew it a fruit plate and coffees had arrived at a table outside where we were relaxing, none of these items appeared on our bill !!!
The following morning, suitably refreshed after a sumptuous breakfast we tackled the hill towards Tokat, after about 5km of grinding away at it we arrived at a coffee stop and with fantastic views it seemed wrong not to stop and take photos, the very large dog “Pamuk” also got his photo taken, he was gorgeous !!
After coffee we continued up the hill, crested it and made good progress for a while. We stopped for fruit from a lovely old guy before continuing on our way. Roadworks slowed us down a bit as they were resurfacing the worn out road, this involved spraying liquid tar and dumping huge amounts of very large chunks of gravel on it. Really hard to ride on and especially on the next 3km climb into Tokat.
We found a really nice hotel in the centre of town but not until we'd been plied with yet more chai from another friendly Turk. The hotel was the sister hotel of the large 4 star place across the road and when we'd finished with our bikes two guys disappeared with them and locked them in the hotel basement across the road….brilliant !!
We had two nights in Tokat, this gave us a whole day to be tourists and boy did we make the most of it. We walked for miles, up through the old town to the base of the old fort, back down through more interesting little streets before climbing again all the way to the top of the fort….the views were amazing !
After that we found our way to the Tashan, it's basically a very old indoor market with a central courtyard, for coffee and ice cream and in Naomi's case a little jewellery purchase !!
Museums, mosques, clock towers and beautiful old houses filled the rest of the day, Tokat was certainly a real jewel and definitely worth a visit if your heading that way, it has so much history and a really good vibe !!