“Destined to be an old women with no regrets.”
When we got to the “baggage check” station between the boarder of Georgia and Turkey we were prepared to laboriously take off every bag, put them on the X-Ray, and then repack our bags on the bike on the other side because that is what everyone else was doing. When the man in change of the station saw us though, he waved us through while ignoring our passports (which he was suppose to check as well), asked us half-heartedly if we were carrying alcohol or cigarets (no), and then, without missing a beat, asked us if we wanted some tea. So as everyone else was waiting for their passports and bags to be checked, we stood off to the side with our first cup of Turkish tea. Welcome to Turkey as a cyclist.
Within fifty meters of the boarder the Georgian churches we had become accustomed to seeing had been replaced by mosques which also seem to be around every corner.
After our successful boarder crossing we cycled along the coast for another twenty kilometers before turning up and straight into the hills surrounding us. During our seventy kilometer ride two young boys with huge grins came running alongside us to practice their English (“Hello! What is your name? Nice to meet you!!”), over a dozen cars beeped playfully or waved out the window, and, every time we stopped, an older gentleman seemed to appear out of nowhere each and every time to shake our hand and welcome us warmly into their country.
Nicely paved roads! We even had a shoulder for a good section of it.
From the top of our first pass you could see the sea down below.
On top of the pass.
By four we were ready to camp though we had yet to see a flat piece of land worthy of our tent since the road we were on was smushed between two large mountainsides. About thirty seconds after passing a huge guarded field in front of a gigantic damn (for electricity) we turned around and asked – by charades which was extremely easy with this guy – if we could put up our tent in the field next to the trucks for the night. After calling the boss, we got a yes and an invitation for tea which we readily accepted.
Here is our tent surrounded by a few trucks in the field. Though it may not have been our prettiest site yet, we had our very own security guard protecting us! And since we bought a second tarp in Batumi (the first one is under our tent as a ground sheet), we were finally able to make a rain shelter connected to our tent to allow us to stay dry while cooking.
Here is a typical Turkish tea cup, and in only one day, we have figured out just how important tea is here. They make Turkish tea by making a very strong pot of chai alongside another pot full of boiling water. Then they pour about a fourth of a glass full of tea into your funny shaped “shot” glass before filling the rest up with hot water. Then, it’s up to you to add as many sugar cubes as you please.
Throughout our four glasses of tea we played our most successful game of charades yet where we were able to discuss basketball and football, current events (Ebola, IS and the PKK, who their president was, and some American politician in their newspaper who was caught with cocaine), what we do for work back home, and where we have already been on our trip.
If today is a glimpse into how our experience through Turkey is going to be, we are absolutely going to love our time here. I have always heard that culturally Muslim countries (especially Oman and Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, and Iran) are extremely friendly and hospitable, and I’m happy to say that I’ve found that to be incredibly true. Though predominantly Muslim countries (mostly the Middle East) has an unfortunately skewed reputation to us in the USA, by telling our tales from Turkey, I hope to prove that a small group of extremists should never represent a whole country or religious group.
Right before the boarder we spent our last night in Georgia in the biggest storm we have yet to see from our tent. Luckily we were mostly tucked away in a hut that barely fit our tent which protected us from the torrential rain and crazy wind.
And shortly before that we found this amazing sign and had quite the photo shoot.