Month: September 2016

Today we reached the border of Iran! It’s unbelievable how fast eight weeks passed by and how different all sceneries were during the last eight days.

iranian-border

We planned to be at the border the 1st of October and that from Samsun, it will take us five days to Erzurum and another three days to Bazargan (Iran).

on-the-road-to-the-pass

Although the conditions and circumstances were completely different then expected, we’re there!!! Ice-cold weather conditions (strong winds and temperatures below -6°C in the night), very high mountains (several times we have climbed above 2200 meters) and two upset stomachs have made it a real effort to stick to our plan.

highest-mountain

But the reward you get in return is hard to describe in words, a little emotional even…

what-a-view

Never have we thought that Turkey had this kind of beautiful wilderness. Fjords like in Norway, rough mountains like in the Scottish highlands, a coastline that reminds you of the Côte d’Azur and a visibility over the mountain ranges that is unheard of.

turkish-fjord

All of the above mentioned made our last track in Turkey unforgettable. Watch yourself: video-turkey

snowy-mountains

We now have managed 50% of our initially planned distance, have used 58 days for it and biked a little over 6000km.

mount-ararat

(If you look closely, you’ll see Mount Ararat (from Noah’s Ark…) in the background!)

With 2 days in credit (as we calculate with an average of 100km/day), we allow us to have a day off tomorrow?

 

Yesterday we were heading into the mountains again for our last track through Turkey to the Iranian border.

black-sea-in-the-rain

Weather wise the past four days were completely in contrast with the previous 48 days. Storm, rain (not just a couple of drips but literally cats and dogs) and substantial lower temperatures forced us to bike on high speed and without long breaks in order not to catch a cold. On the bright side, this resulted in the highest average speed from our journey so far (25,4 km/h on 2 consecutive days).

tent-in-the-rain

Also, we are happy to have the “Ortlieb”-bags, which are indeed waterproof, providing us with dry clothes in the evenings.

The fact that we had our haircut done in Samsun comes in handy in these weather conditions…?!

at-the-barber-shop

Furthermore, we will become famous in Turkey as we were interviewed by a local journalist and a lot of people are curious about our roots and goal of the trip.

interview-for-local-newspaper

It’s very easy to get into contact with them as most of them approach you whenever you sit down… A phenomenal happening was when an oncoming car just stopped on the other side of the highway, walked up to us and asked whether he could help. As a matter of fact, he was a little disappointed when we told him we were just fine. Also the language barrier seems nonexistent. The people just start talking talking to you in Turkish (or Bulgarian) and after a while we have the impression that we actually understand them, also due to the non-verbals of course.

fish-eating

Talking to locals gives us a lot of valuable information on nice camping spots, restaurants, market places, do’s & don’ts and a lot of unexpected but interesting situations and conversations. You could say rather than using an app, we use locals as “Trip-advisors”!

 

Yesterday we passed the 5.000 km mark and we thought it’d be nice to provide our dear followers with some facts and figures, while we’re enjoying a cup of tea.

maurice-tea-time

On the bike:

Today we have biked 5.124 km from Bergen (NL) to Samsun (TR) in 49 days (including 7 days off). We bike on average 122 km/day. The lowest recorded speed was 4,2 km/h (uphill) and the highest was 78,4 km/h (downhill). Please be aware that there is a slight difference between our tracker and the real biked distances (~2%).

Catering:

In the morning we bike until we find a bakery. There we eat 8 bread ( or the local equivalent like Weißwürste in Bavaria or Turkish puff pastry), drink 4 tea or coffee and 1 liter of juice. We also buy bread for lunch which we complement with cheese, meat, marmalade and honey. Another liter of juice, 4 pieces of fruit (apple, pear, banana, melon, grapes, peach, etc) and 500 gr. of yoghurt makes every lunch a feast.

While biking we eat about 8-12 pieces of baklava? and 4 candy bars and drink about 12 liters of water during the day.

baklawa

For dinner we buy local food as much as possible along the street. This means tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, eggplant, sausages –> cheap and delicious!! We easily manage to eat 1 kg of this stuff combined with pasta or rice. Again a liter of juice and occasionally a liter of beer for “isotonic” energy.

delicious-dinner

Sleeping:

So far, we were invited 8 times at somebodies home, used 32 camping spots (sometimes official sometimes non-official) and booked 9 room nights in a hostel.

hotel-venir

Physical stuff:

We both lost 6 kg weight and apart from some muscle aches and a raw b*tt, no serious injuries are detected. (Knock on wood!!)

Gear:

The only problem so far was one broken chain, which could be repaired on the spot. The rest of our gear works still perfectly.

wild-camping

Weather:

1 day of rain in Germany, one short but heavy thunderstorm in Austria and a few drops of rain in Turkey yesterday. For the rest we are spoiled with a huge amount of sun every day☀️

 

We just woke up in a friendly hostel in Araç, where we checked in yesterday mainly to do our laundry and recover from the broken previous night. The cause of this broken night was our nice but rather noisy wild camping spot as the “empty” building behind us appeared to be a nightclub/dancing with very loud live music until 4 AM…..

The other day we had our goal set for Kocaman, which is a very small village with about 25 houses and obviously no supermarket to buy some food. But this was no single problem because we were spontaneously invited for a delicious and generous diner with rice, meat, beans, tomatoes, figs, grapes, melon, dolma’s, baklava, and multiple rounds of tea. Thank you very much family Akyüz for your kind hospitality!

family-dinner

As the nights are cooler now, we always wake up in a wet condensed tent. In order not to loose too much time we dry it during lunch as a standard daily procedure. We buy some bread, cheese, meat, fruit and juice and try to find a nice “drying-spot”. Sometimes on a square, one time in a pretty harbour.

drying-in-the-harbour

In Kocaman we decided to alter our track a little. We left the coastline and went land-inwards in order to have a more straight line to Samsun (where we plan to have our next day off in a couple of days). This was a very good decision as the roads are empty and the environment is really beautiful with wild mountains and (mostly still dry) rivers. Here we met Jan, a fellow biker from the Netherlands who already biked 18.000 km since March and has a grand total of almost 300.000 km on his bike now; respect!

anaother-dutch-cyclist

It might sounds a little strange but it’s easier to bike in this kind of real mountains than the up and down hills at the coast line. Now we have to climb for a while, but are rewarded with nice tracks downhill with spectacular views of high mountains and deep rivers.

river-in-the-mountains

Yesterday we left our camping spot for a tea and some breakfast. As a matter of fact, we were not long alone and not allowed to pay for our tea and coffee as our new Turkish friend from Osnabrück took care of this?.

ferry-europe-asia

The first 60 km were easy stuff because of a strong tail wind and perfect roads. The rest of the day was hard working with a strong head wind and sometimes a track which doesn’t deserve the name road. We enjoyed every meter anyhow due to the astonishing  rituals along the street. We saw a huge amount of cows, bulls and sheep, being slaughtered in the open air, spectated by a crowd of people in every village on every unexpected spot (on the square, the lawn, in the middle of the forrest, on a cemetery and in the garden of farmers). We learned that this was connected to the “Kurban bayrami“, the Islamic Sacrifice Feast, which started the 12th of September this year. Friends and families are sharing parts of the meat and give certain amounts to the poor people. (the wild street dogs had a good day as well because of the left overs, served on a silver plate). We were impressed and also a little bit confused with this cultural event.

bbq

Towards the end of the day we biked through a national park which had lots of pick-nick areas. Sounds great but we were gutted by the way these places were left behind… The trash was everywhere… Greenpeace would certainly not concur with the way the Turkish clean up!!

We eventually reached our destination in Kumköy, where we found the first real camping in Turkey so far. After a quick shower we treated ourself for a fresh grilled fish from the Black Sea?

merhahba-asia

This morning we got woken up by the local Imam very early, so we left the camping already at 7.15h. We tried to find the exit to the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, the recently opened 3rd bridge over the Bosporus, but unfortunately bikes are not allowed to cross this bridge.

bosporus-brug_bearbeitet-1

Then we decided to take a ferry from Rumelikavagy to Anadolu Kavagy with a brilliant view at the Yavuz Sultan Selim bridge of course! During this short ferry trip, we finally left Europe and entered Asia…

yavuz-sultan-selimbridge

 

Today we have a day off to relax, do the laundry, some bike maintenance, write a post and swim in the Black Sea (well, swimming is a bit difficult as the waves are huge due to the ongoing hard wind from NE… Let’s call it thrown around the Black Sea).

beautiful-black-sea

We found our camping spot yesterday afternoon just along the beach in Yaliköy, after a short but off-the-road track from Kiyiköy.

fresh-water

Again we are confronted with only very nice local people. If we would accept every tea offered to us, whilst entering another small village (there is always a square around a mosque and a group of old men drinking their tea on a terrace), we would only manage to bike 10 km’s a day…

dinner-at-seaside

Already two days ago (time really flies…?), we checked in at the Marina Hostel, where the host appeared to be a real entertainer, with a huge smile on his face and of course tea for free!

sleeping-beauty

The next morning we were served with traditional Turkish breakfast, homemade by the mother of the host. He learned us some Turkish words and we left as a friend of the Marina Hostel. Thank you (teşekkürler) Kaan, we really enjoyed your enthusiasm and hospitality.

And now it’s tea time?

Yesterday morning we woke up next to a chapel in Pendalofos, Greece. With the help of a grumpy old man, who refused to give us a room or camping spot, we decided to head back to the city. With great food and good company we spend our evening in the city centre.

church

That same morning we also met Victoria, a nice lady from the Czech Republic, who is hiking between 15 and 45 km’s a day! She is destined to reach Istanbul in the coming week. Respect! 😉

wide-landscape

Before noon we managed to cross the border to Turkey. Here we were confronted with a strong head wind that accompanied us all the way down to Kirklareli. On top of that, the roads went up and down providing us with an extreme interval training. Probably the toughest cycling day we had so far.

stones-on-hill

However, we managed to reach 122 km, seen a lot of cities and beautiful landscapes and not to forget we met the non-official mayor of a Demirhanli (Turkey), who invited us for a refreshing drink. Our day ended in a vibrant city with positive energy.

mayor-of-demirhanli

In the Netherlands we would use the word “Stoempen” to describe our style of biking today. You either have it or you don’t… It’s got to run through your veins!

 

Today we arrived in Nova Zagora, most probably our last stop in Bulgaria before entering Greece by the end of tomorrow, as we left the mountainous area behind us.

Lake in the mountains

This morning we woke up high in the Bulgarian mountains on an unique camping spot: the lawn in front of two nice villas from American owners, who were not at home this week (thank you guys anyhow!).

Mountaincamping

Ten percent of the population of Turkincha (they have in total 100 inhabitants…) directed us the previous evening to this nice spot. After we entered Turkincha, we asked in the local café for sleeping options. On the question “do you speak a bit of English”, we got the clear answer “of course I do, I’m from Manchester UK”. That was Paul who left the UK 5 years ago and established himself,  surrounded by several retired English couples, as an independent Do-It-Yourself for every imaginable task around renovations of houses and gardens.

Ferrari 360

The most impressing thing was his private car, apart from a truck and a van; a nice red Ferrari 360…. That was the last car you’d expect on such a rural place…! 😉

 

At the border of Romania to Bulgaria, we had to queue for the very first time on our trek. Lined up between the cars (most of them with a trailer carrying three or more cars), we could witness how one car dropped of the trailer right in front of us; we do not want to imagine what could have happened if this was on the road with 100 km/h…

In Bulgaria we were confronted with a completely different landscape and culture, unbelievable with just the width of a river in between…  Beautiful views over huge fields, predominantly corn and sunflowers, on both sides of the road as far the eye can reach.

Sunflowers

But….no single suitable camping spot. At the end of the day with 130 km on our odometer, it was time to ask in a “café” whether we could make use of their lawn. Instead we were offered a free beer and they called a local named Kiro, who lived in the Netherlands for 10 years.He came immediately and invited us for a BBQ, a drink (or two) and offered us the guest room and shower!!

Ronald Bulgaria

Together with his wife Tinka, Puffy (the dog with a Dutch passport) and neighbor we had a great evening listening to the music of Patricia Paay and the Dutch Toppers (even our Dutch prime minister visit their concerts).

Maurice - Toppers

Something we cannot forget to mention were the home grown tomatoes… The juiciness, texture and flavor were unheard of.

friendly people Bulgaria

At the end of the night we were invited to a local party with live music and dance. What a nice hospitality and warm welcome to Bulgaria!! Thank you guys, “ja man, is geen probleem”

After two eventful days it’s time to share again.

We left Veliko Gradiste, where we had our rest day, and followed the river Donau towards Kladovo. We initially tried to get to the other side, so that we had the chance to bike in Romania, but without any luck. However, as we were biking along the Donau in Serbia, we had the pleasure of witnessing a rally of Supercars by Dutch and German nationals. We have seen Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porches, Bentleys and so on… A pleasure to watch (and to hear…)!

Romania fast cars

Once we arrived in Donji Miholvac we then decided to take a short cut through the mountains so we could reach our planned camping spot in Brza Palanka. What we didn’t know was that we first had to climb a steep hill for 8km (8-13%) on perfect tarmac, and then got confronted with an excruciating road downhill that didn’t allow us to go faster then 20 km/h. Once we reached the camping spot we were told that we can only use the showers in combination with a room that included breakfast for less than 16€… An offer we couldn’t resist of course.

This morning, on a full stomach, we headed towards the Romanian border as we were determined to get familiar with the Romanian people. After Maurice broke his chain between the border control of Serbia and Romania (trying to outrun a group of wild dogs) we were kindly welcomed by the Romanian customs. They offered us a spot in the shadow to repair the bike.

chain change

We then headed towards Calafat and enjoyed all the small villages in between, with always a warm welcome of the locals. The contrast with the modern Supercars the other day couldn’t be bigger, as the main mean of transportation in this part of Romania is still the horse…

ROMANIA Northern Dobtuja Harsova Traditional horse drawn cart carring people along the road
ROMANIA Northern Dobtuja Harsova Traditional horse drawn cart carring people along the road