On the way to the Black Sea, or Hitchbiking Part II

From Cappadocia, in Central Anatolia, it’s still a long way to Georgia, our next step on our long way to Taiwan. Our 3 months visa was going to finnish in two weeks and we had to hurry up. Since the way along the Black Sea seems to be mostly flat, we decided once again to do a little fast forward and hitchhike over the mountain ranges, that seperate the center of Turkey and the black sea coast, and continue to cycle from there. Once again, we got surprised several times by the pragmatism of turkish drivers and their will to help, as well as how much you can stuff into a car, when you are determined enough.

So we hit the road again. First stop was Sivas, around 250km from Cappadocia, where we had a host waiting for us.
We already made it to Kayseri, around halfway, when this truck stopped for us. Our first reaction was more annoyed, since it was more than clear that this truck is already loaded to the max. Or is it? I went to the driver to explain him that we have two bicycles and there is clearly no space for them. He shrugged his shoulders and explained me his plan with hand and feet:
The bicycles are going on the back, just attached with some ropes. First one…
…then the second one…
And after seeing my still skeptical face (one of the ropes was already quite used up), he ran to some box at the side of his truck and came out with an additional tension belt.
How can you not trust this eyes?
And our luggage? No problem, there was still some space under the roof of his truck.
Upon entering the truck, he made it very clear we should relax and ordered us to put up our legs 😀 And so we drove off, all the way to Sivas.

We stayed in Sivas for two nights with Yussuf. Yussuf hitchhiked all over Europe when he still had a green passport, a passport wich makes it much easier to travel visa-free, and that civil servants like teachers, police-officers and the like get. Their children are privileged to the same passport until the age of twentyfive. So he took this opportunity to explore the world, supporting himself with street music and selfmade jewellery. Actually he is staying with his girlfriend Gülen now, who is a theatre actor here in Sivas. She kindly agreed to host us and took very good care of us. Thank you so much for your hospitality!

How many people does it need to open a sleeping couch? Six apparently, and one to take a picture 😀

After a short break in Sivas, we hit the road again, to cross over to Ordu, 250km away and crossing two mountain ranges. Yussuf reccomended to go the longer route over Samsun, but that would have been easily 300km more. So we decided to go with the curvy, badly maintained mountain passes instead. A mistake? We’ll see…

We spend quite some time waiting for a car to take us away from Sivas. During our wait we also met two belgian cyclists, coming from China and cycling back to Belgium. After a few hours waiting and cycling a few kilometers once in a while to keep warm, a little truck finally stopped and he was going 50km in our direction…

When the truck made up his way the winding road, we saw something, we didn’t see since Greece (if you don’t count the white peaks we spotted occasionally far, far away): Snow.

Suddenly the truck stopped and we realized there was a little misunderstanding. He had to go in another direction, and to the city we thought he was going, it was still 30km. He dropped us in the middle of nowhere in front of a little shop, whose owners looked a bit puzzled. There were very few cars passing here, and we were already thinking that we should have followed the advice of Yussuf and take the highway, when after 20 minutes a car stopped. An older man with his wife. Like the truck driver on the way to Sivas before, he was much more convinced than us, that we will manage to stuff everything in his car and us on top. But since he was so determined and we so desperate, we tried. His wife was sitting in the only remaining seat in the back, and we cuddled together next to the driver.

This might have been a bit much, even for turkish standards, so upon entering the city, a police control waved us aside and wanted to see his papers. I already felt bad, bringing this nice and helpful person in trouble. But instead of giving the officer his driver license, he showed him his own batch. Apparently he was a cop himself, in the neighbour city, so they both laughed and we could continue our way.

Picture by Hsiang-Hsin, thats why she is not on it 😛

It was already afternoon by now and we only made around one third of our distance. We had to hurry up, if we wanted to reach Ordu tonight, where our hosts were waiting for us.

If we thought we saw everything, this driver proved us wrong once again, showing us how to fit our gear and ourselves into a small car like his. If there is a will, there is way!
This is the view from the first mountain range, before descending down to the hometown of this driver, at the foot of the second mountain range,that we had to pass on the way to the black sea.

During the trip, the driver tried to tell us something with his translator app. He was talking about camping, snow and rain, and we figured he was on the way to a camping trip. But why his emphasis on the bad weather? Only when we almost arrived and he showed us his hometown at the horizon, it dawned on us that he suggested to camp in this Valley and continue our journey the next day. He was worried about the weather and indeed, it was already 5PM when he let us out. But stubborn how we are, we decided to continue.

He let us out at a police checkpoint, and there were very few cars passing here. The officer checked several times on us, seemingly uncomfortable with our presence, but he also didn’t really know what to do. After one hour of waiting a little truck stopped and the first unconvinced driver, who might have just stopped because the police was standing next to us, was explained to, that he have to take us up the hill. So we stuffed our bikes between a collection of empty bottles and what seemed to be material for contruction. And off we went…

As the old Diesel laboured up it’s way up the steep mountain road, herds of goats greeted us, and we went higher and higher, seeing more and more snow again. The driver’s goal was Akkuş , only 16km up the mountains, but enough to be the highest point of the area. We figured, that if we don’t find another car, we can just let our bikes roll down the hills, at least till we come to warmer areas.

But when the driver let us out at the gas station, it was freezing cold. It was raining non-stop and it didn’t seem like the road was going downhill soon. So we stayed around the gas station. The employees were offering to watch TV with them inside and drink warm tea. In the beginning we still jumped up and out when a new car was arriving, but since the employees always signaled us that they know the car and that it won’t go further than home, we resignated more and more. But we were also not so crazy about searching a place to camp in this rain anymore, so when the boss of the gas station suggested us to leave and go to the police, where they could help us “100% Guaranteed”, we agreed skeptical, and went the hundred meters down the police station. When we put our bicycles in the yard of the station, one officer already came out and asked us in. He first offered us tea and after explaining our situation, he was a bit puzzled on how we thought he could help us. We already made moves to leave, when he used the translator on his computer to tell us “Maybe you can stay in our custody”, with a smile on his face. But he first had to ask his supervisor, and he didnt pick up his phone. In between there was an emergency call, his colleagues went out in a rush and came back with a seemingly drunk man and a child, while Hsiang-Hsin was not waiting for their approval and decided to just fall asleep on their couch right there. The supervisor was still not answering the phone and we decided to give our hosts in Ordu another call, to let them know, we will definitely not make it to Ordu tonight. We wanted to wait till we are safe to have a sleeping place, but we also didn’t want to let them wait too long. So we called, and the cop was explaining the situation, and apparently our friends in Ordu felt responsible now. After another few calls, the officer told us that our friends in Ordu organized a place to stay for us, a kind of guesthouse here in town. We were a bit afraid, since our budget is tight and we normally stay away from paid shelters. But our condition was too weak to ask more questions, so after 5 minutes a guy in a pickup showed up and we followed him on our bikes up the hill. The sudden ride up the hill, out in the freezing cold, trying to keep up with the driver, made Hsiang-Hsin almost collapse and when we arrived we just fell straight in our beds without taking off our clothes and fell asleep…


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