-We've now spent two weeks in Eastern Turkey and are now in the city of Erzurum.
-Half the time we've been riding and with the rest of our time we've been chilling out in a small town named Yusufeli and wandering in the Kackar Mountains.
-Tomorrow we catch a train west to Kayseri and hope to meet our friends Michal and Lulu to enjoy Cappadocia and celebrate Michal's 32nd birthday!
The last two weeks have been a really interesting time for us. After the high adventure of our Iranian departure I think we were perhaps left a little jaded and in need of refreshment. It took us a few days in Turkey before this realisation set in. In this few days we cycled our way northward around the flanks of the impressive Mt Ararat (made famous by Noah's Ark!) and out to Yusufeli at the foot of the Kackar Mountains. You might chuckle if you were to look at our route on a map as you'd see we've looped right back up to within 100km of Batumi (Georgia) where we were over a month ago! For a journey heading west we are doing pretty well at generally heading either north or south. I giggled to myself as I rode into the glare of the setting sun yesterday and realised very rarely have I encountered this true-west direction!
After rounding the volcanics of Ararat we passed through vast open lands, deep gorges of rock strata all twisted, bent and broken, sub alpine pine forests, precipitous canyon lands, rolling golden hill country and castle after broken castle all sitting precariously on their high perches. It all sounds dramatic, and much of it was, but amongst all this we began to feel a tiredness that we've not felt before.
Upon reaching Yusufeli it was time for refreshing, for something different, and for some down time from the journey. We savoured some special time wandering high in the mountains, breathing the icy cold air. We took the bikes up on a bus from 600m to 2500m altitude and enjoyed the freedom of whizzing back down through gorges and villages. We spent a few days doing very little other than being in the same place, returning to the same friendly bakery and shop owners, and enjoying the simple things like watching kids wander to and from school and drinking chai alongside retired old men. Eventually we journeyed onward, increasingly aware that what we’re wanting is not just impressive landscapes but connection with people.
Thus far we’re struck by the beautiful way in which the Kurdish and Turkish have offered their kindness. This may be a spot to camp, a meal, chai, a friendly conversation, a small gift, a roof over our heads. In some ways the gift has not mattered greatly, what we’ve been touched by is the way in which it’s given. We’ve encountered a gentleness, an ease, a simplicity which has been quite stunning to be the recipients of. It’s hard to exactly describe in words but we feel so so thankful and quite in awe of the way in which these people give.
Just last night this kindness reached new heights. Arriving in a little village named Guzel Yayla, one which obviously tourists do not frequent, we caused quite a stir looking for a tent sight. Men appeared from all directions, all yelling, waving arms, laughing, disagreeing with each other and scratching their heads. Amongst the chaos emerged two real stars, Dogan and Mehmet, who cut straight through the verbal clutter and dragged us off to their little hut in the fields on the edge of town. Camping was off the agenda, they made that quite clear. Instead we were given the house to sleep in, we shared dinner and breakfast together, we drank chai after chai after chai, and we worked our way through all kinds of conversation topics with the help of an English-Turkish dictionary and the determination of people committed to connecting with one another.
These times are incredibly rewarding and although we move on with our very different lives we are deeply impacted by such wonderful meetings. We’re left hoping that just a little of the goodness we have received, our hosts might also have received by our passing their way. When we look over our map for the present time we’re now looking for roads with lots of towns rather than wild remoteness. There is a time for both but for now that’s what we’ll enjoy as we journey on!