Samsun is a nice surprise. To be honest I have imagined it as an industrial and grey city but fortunately it is all different. The streets are full of people, there is a well-structured center, bars, markets, restaurants, places with cheap fast food and hotels. On the sea side there are different parks, cafés, playgrounds and statues. After one night in a hotel we moved towards the house of Yasin, who we got to know in couchsurfing. We hardly know anything about him and make a great match from the first moment on, because we have the same kind of humor and Roberto and Yasin have a lot of interests in common.
When we go out with some of Yasin’s friends and they tell us that all of them work honorary for an institution that supports gifted children and offers them extra curriculum activities. To evaluate their work the city decided to let the team take part for free in different events – such as the dragon boat race on Sunday. There are 16 paddlers in a boat plus one drummer. Even though there are hundreds of volunteers there is still space in the boat for another two: us. We spend the following days exercising with the team and I am glad to use my arms and shoulders to move instead of my legs. The team is very nice and we feel well prepared on Sunday.
There are about 50 teams starting in races of each six boats. When we are in the race we forget everything that we have learned about paddling in the same rhythm and we lose horribly: fifth score out of six. In the afternoon we start again against the other losers and lose again. But we have a lot of fun and do not care too much. “Next year” they tell us, “next year you will join us again and we will do better!” I wonder where we will be in one year.
We leave Samsun on a cloudy but hot day. It is not warm enough to swim in the Black Sea yet but it is warm enough to sweat. We stop at a bike shop to buy some inner tubes for Roberto’s bike that has had several problems during the last days. At the shop we find out that there are no 28” tubes sold. We have had that problem several times before in Turkey and happily accept Zahia’s offer to help us looking for another store. Though the tubes are only 5 TL each (2.20 €) we decide to buy three of them but while we look for pen and paper to write down Zahia’s E-Mail address she has already paid for us. She does not accept the money we give her, so we want to invite her for lunch.
Zahia is not hungry, but she wants to invite us over to her place. So we follow her to hers and her mother’s place. They offer us Pide and breakfast and the house door keeps ringing. First to arrive is the cousin Umut with his English teacher Donald. Then there comes the cousin’s father and later another friend of Zahia. We all come along very good and even though we have left Yasins house early it takes a long while until we manage to leave the city.
When we are on the road we cannot believe our luck: it is flat – really flat! And it stays flat for 110 kilometers, exactly as Yasin has told us. The longest flat part we have cycled in all the year. Anyway we stop for a quick brake after 55 kilometers, where Bayram talks to me and invites me for a tea while Roberto is using the internet. He is one of the many examples for the Turkish hospitality. Bayam is a bus driver for the company Metro and enjoys the first of his four days off. He presents me to the “Big Boss” Ümit and we have another tea together. When Roberto is done Bayam wants to invite us all for Pide. I explain several times that we have just had a big lunch but he does not care. “Just a little then”, he says.
“Do you want Ayran?”
“No, thank you very much, I just had a big one.”
“Okay, then just a small one.”, he said and ordered an equally huge one as the one I just had finished.
He invites us to stay at his place and have a shower and we accept his offer. Ümit and the other Big Boss Mustaffer (we would even get to know a third Big Boss and I start wondering how big they really are) show us a small room to leave the bikes for the night we join Bayram in his car. Roberto falls asleep on the back seat. Bayram decides to ignore that and wants to invite us to have a drink in a hotel. We both refuse because we are very tired but he ignores. In the end his wife and his two daughters (10 and 28) sit with us in the hotel and Bayram sits next door drinking Rakı with his friends. We sleep in the young daughter’s room and by the following day poor Bayram looks pretty hangovered.
We say goodbye to him and his beautiful family and go on direction east. The air is very humid and the landscape green. In Fatsa we can decide if we want to go through the short tunnel or via the longer coastal road. Though Gürkan from Ankara has told us that the coastal road was worth the extra kilometers we take it and feel like in the jungle. Wet air, green mountains and soft hills surround us and most of the time we can see the rocky coast. It is just beautiful. For the night we find a hazelnut field to camp on.
It seems private but though the sun is about to set there is not too much time to be picky. When we hear people talking and then a gunshot close we both are afraid and decide to just lay still and wait what will happen. We fall asleep surprisingly soon. We spend the following days enjoying the view on the green hills to the right and the sea to the left.
In central Turkey we sometimes had to cycle quite some kilometers to arrive to a gas station or even a village with a shop in it. Here we cycle through one town behind the other always looking for camping places because the humid air makes the need for a real shower even more urgent. In the morning we usually see quite a few but once we have cycled 60, 70 kilometers there are none or they are not open or they do not allow camping ( I do not think I will ever understand why.).
Just 30 kilometers outside Trabzon we find a small camping place where we are the only customers. We put our tent, order Hamsi for dinner (we have been hungry for fish for days already) and get a discount on the camping. Unfortunately there are no showers but we can wash ourselves with cold water as usual. We camp just next to the sea and in the morning we even see a couple of dolphins swimming close to us. Though we arrive in the early afternoon we finally have time to clean the chains, read our books, reorder bags and write the paper-travel-diary.
This is when Roberto finds out that one of his spokes has been broken again. Fortunately we have some spare spokes. Unfortunately we cannot change them because it broke on the right side on the back where and we would have to take off the cassette to change the spoke. For this operation a special tool is necessary. We do not have it because it is heavy, expensive and hardly ever needed. Unfortunately the bike shops in the village do not have it either. So we go on cycling to Trabzon with the broken spoke.
Trabzon welcomes us with a bike lane. We are very happy and cross the six-lane highway to reach it. After only two kilometers of joy and laughter on our very own street the lane ends and we are forced to go on cycling a horrible pedestrian’s road full of potholes – the best conditions to break some more spokes.
We make it to the center of the city where we meet Cihad, Gürkans friend. Though it is already too late to go to the Iranian consul we go to Cihads place where we get to know each other and put our things.
Soon we find out that Cihad has also hosted our Dutch cycling friends Kim and Danny who we got to know in Batina. He likes extreme sports like mountaineering, climbing, winter hiking and mountain biking and he gives us a lot of good survival tips and other hints. As usual we have a long to-do-list.