Cycling in Caucasus. There, where it all began – but only in the second trial.
Mosque in Erzurum.
25. June 2016. But all could have ended just at the start, at Ljubljana airport. Indeed, the patronizing stuff at Turkish Airlines reminded me that I was very lucky that they even accepted my luggage – miraculously there was still some room on the plane for my bike, which incidentally weighed only 13.5 kg including the box (and I had an additional charge of 30 euro), whereas the rucksack of the passenger who had checked in before me, showed 19 kg on the scale, and he got away with it. I suspect he carried gold bars. I therefore recommend that airlines begin weighing passengers as well. Not only that it will be financially advantageous for the companies, it would have amazing healing effect on a society as a whole. Passengers will accede to healthy diets, they will feel better, the number of cardiovascular diseases will drop, state health care will save a huge percentage of the gross national income and new jobs for professionals and motivators for dietary movement "you're you when you're hungry" will open.
At the Erzurum airport the bike did not arrive with
other luggage. As an experienced cat I stayed calm: I knew that the loss of
such a large box is not probable. Indeed, it turned out that the bike was
delivered on international rather than domestic terminal. That cost me half an
hour of waiting longer and despite the speedy assembling of the bike I arrived
to Erzurum already in the night.
In the evening I went out to get a taste of the
nightlife. It's quite lively here. There's a big promenade of young men and
women, all of them holding hands. But only if they are of the same sex. It is
more like a pride parade – quite unusual for a Muslim country. The atmosphere
is quite peaceful, although lively. All the youth is in the streets, but there
is no madness, no yelling, perhaps not surprising due to the absence of
alcohol. In the morning the scene is completely different: the city is bleak as
it was contagious, as if Muslims had a hangover in the morning, they did not
appear on the streets before 9:00.
My bike and stuff at the first pass of the journey.
Erzurum is located at an altitude of 2000 m, and in
the next 300 km the road descends to the Black Sea, thus a more leisurely start
could not have been planned. In the morning it was cool but during the day it
became awfully hot, up to 39 degrees. I spent the day partly on land and partly
in the water, using every chance to dip in a stream, river, pond or a lake. I
met a cycling pair from Hungary on their way to India. They were laying in the
shade and despairing over the heat. Except the heat, I had to deal with the
tunnels as well. I counted around 50 of them, about 30 km in total length. They
are quite well lit, but I put on only the rear light, I was too lazy to dig the
front light somewhere deep inside the (otherwise minimalistic) luggage. My
foolishness was not overlooked, though. First I found it strange that in the
middle of the tunnel they turned on ventilation for me, and then they started
to announce something incomprehensible over the speakers. It seemed that they
saw me on cameras and were warning the drivers about the fool who rides through
tunnels without lights.
Road D950 in Turkey.
Artificial lake along D950.
That day I spent less than 1 euro, only for a liter of
Pepsi. I found accommodation between two tunnels, behind the power supply house
and that night I profited from the lack of light pollution, to count the stars.
Such an opportunity is rarely offered to urban man, however I was a bit
disappointed because due to short-sightedness I finished counting at 67. I was
slightly more amazed by my neighbor, a small creature that walked twice past me.
At first I thought it was a scorpion, but after subsequent research, I found
that it was a camel spider, which holds a terrifying legend that it chews its
sleeping victims still alive, after it nubs them with its poison.
One of the many tunnels on D950
In the morning I started before five o'clock. Driving
early in the morning is refreshing, and there's not much traffic in the
tunnels. There were 25 of them today, they lasted until the Georgian border,
but they did not irritate me today because I finally fitted the front light. It
also closed the mouth of the tunnel speakers. Descent to the Black Sea was
short, only about 12 km, and before that another 400 meter climb at the top of
which I was totally soaked with sweat. I swam twice in the sea, once on the
Turkish, and once on the Georgian side. There was not big difference, even on
the Turkish side there were some girls in bikinis. Border crossing could not be
quicker and less problematic, especially if you have a bike everything is