We left the city of Istanbul on Sunday July 24th, rested, refuelled and raring to tackle the next stage of the adventure: taking our newly changed route, crossing the mountainous region of Turkey along the Black Sea coast and in to country number 14, Georgia.
From day 1 of this stage we were hit by some of the steepest and most unrelenting hills as we climbed our way inland from the Bosphorus strait. We then spent the coming days following the coast, hopping from seaside town to seaside town, dipping inland wherever the winding and unforgiving road did so. We quickly came to realise that because of the terrain, our previous target of 100 miles a day was distinctly unrealistic. We were maxing out at 60 miles or so, meaning progress felt slow to say the least. The people we have met along this part of the journey have by far been the most friendly, generous and welcoming of the entire journey, which has been the saving grace of this whole stage.
Our first taste of this generosity came on our first night out of Istanbul. We pushed our way through a tough day of cycling the hills in 35 degree heat to make the seaside town of Şile by nightfall. After asking around a bit we found the person with the authority to allow us to camp on this particular section of the beach, which didn't prove too difficult. After a few minutes the same man came back to us and said, "If you like, you can stay indoors. I have an apartment." He then proceeded to let us stay in his apartment overlooking the beach whilst he went out for the evening and stayed in his caravan. Kindness and generosity of this kind continued, however so did the relentless hills and heat.
Another real boost to our morale came on Friday, when we met a group of four cycle tourers, near the town of Araç. Two were from Bulgaria and two from the UK (one even from Norfolk, might I add!). They had started their journeys separately as two pairs but had joined forces when they had met a couple of weeks prior to bumping into us. It was so refreshing to be able to converse in English rather than in sign language again for the first time in a while, not to mention comforting to know that there are other mad people out there on similarly crazy journeys. Although our onward paths are now in different directions we would love to one day catch up with Tim and Jess, Ivan and Todor, to share a beverage or two and hear about the rest of their adventure.
Two days later and we were back on the coast, joining up with the relatively new E70/D010 at Samsun. To say this road was a cyclist's dream would be the understatement of the year. A perfectly flat, impeccably tarmac-ed road with a huge hard shoulder following the coast for over 300 miles? Yes please. We have now crossed the border into Georgia and are in the city Batumi, where we will take a rest day and explore this fascinating little coastal city.
Now that we have conquered this incredibly tough stage, a whirlwind thousand miles of cycling, India and Southeast Asia awaits. Next, because of the visa issues already discussed we fly from Tbilisi to Mumbai to start the Indian leg of our journey, where we will follow the coast down to the southern tip and then back up the other side to Kolkata.
Thanks for reading!