We cycled out of Sinop, the sun shining hot and bright and headed towards the hills again. We knew we only had a few more days of the hills to go, so we were keen to push on and get them out of the way.
We entered a town just before it was getting dark and decided we would quickly stock up on food. An hour later we left the town in darkness...the first shop - A101, had only taken us 20 minutes to get the neccessaties, but then we passed our favourite shop for fruit and veg - SOK, another 15 minutes was spent in there and then just as we were nearly out of the town we saw a BIM - the best shop for cakes and biscuits.
Panniers loaded up we finally left. The first thing that greeted us out of that town was a brand new perfectly flat main road that had been built right along the coastline. The hills were bypassed and we were very happy, the first flat road in 3 weeks and it arrived earlier than expected. I was so excited I was ready to cycle on through the night, but Dan had just spotted a possible camping spot in the form of a tunnel under the road. It was a perfect fit for the tent and became the first of many tunnels that we'd sleep in through the rest of Turkey.
Next up was a town called Samsun. We rode the last 20km into the town with a local cyclist who had leg muscles twice the size of mine - and three times the size of Dan's. It was the fastest 20km we'd done and he made me wonder why my legs have never been like his - even after cycling the length of Africa.
We did 105km one of the days - Dan's longest of the trip. Which was all good, apart from it meant Dan could hardly cycle the next couple of days. I'm not much of a cyclist myself - I did a duathalon a few months before this trip...The running part I did quite well at, but the cycling part not so good - I was the 3rd slowest out of 350 people. Dan however, makes me look like a pro.
The next few days were exactly what we needed. We hadn't had a proper rest since leaving Istanbul over a month ago. We had had a days rest here and there but never more than the one. Mustafa and the rest of the guys cooked a huge breakfast for us every morning and an equally big dinner on the nights. Then we just chilled out on the laptops, watched live Premier League football, played video games and even caught up on 'The Walking Dead' as Mustafa was also a fan.
The following night we were struggling to find a tunnel or anywhere to camp. Darkness had crept up on us, and we were also low on food. We found a small shop, cafe and tea room all next to each other and both bought a loaf of bread each. Dan went to buy something else to eat for dinner, so I waited with the bicycles. A load of guys came out and started asking where we were going and where we would sleep. When I explained we were camping they all immediately gestured it was too cold and that we must sleep inside. They showed us where to put our bikes - in a room next to the shops and then a guy lead us up some stairs and into the Mosque which was on top of the shop and cafe. He was very excited to show us that there was underfloor heating in the room where we would sleep. We said goodnight and got our camping mats set up on the floor and then started watching a movie on the laptop.
After an hour we were dripping with sweat and our camping mats felt like they were almost on fire. 10 minutes later my mat started making strange noises - like expanding noises, but I ignored it. Then it went crazy - really loud noises started coming from it and then it suddenly started expanding really really fast. It must have been a couple seconds away from exploding before I dove to the bottom of it and realeased the air from the valve. We both decided it was best to sleep on the floor after that. Unfortunatly the huge bulge in my camping mat is permanant...
The next day we arrived in Erzurum, where we are now. It's Turkeys coldest city and the last city before we enter Iran. We've been shown around the city last night by one of Mustafa's friends - Mert, who's a student here. He bought us a huge Kebab each, dessert, and roasted chestnuts and wouldn't accept a penny.
Today I've spent nearly all day trying to write this blog. First I tried doing it on Dan's smartphone. I nearly threw it at a wall after an hour though so gave up on that and headed to an internet cafe. The first computer froze after an hour, it lost half of what I'd written so moved to another one. The connection went after another hour on that one, but I only lost a bit of the blog that time, so now on my 3rd computer in here. Dan has had a much more fun day as he headed to the ski slopes and has spent the whole day snowboarding...
Turkey has almost come to an end now - it's about 5 days ride to the border of Iran, which we set off for tomorrow. We were here much longer than expected - and I'm very happy about that...It's an incredible country with some of the most amazing people I've ever met. Sad times leaving a country i've grown to love, but also very exciting heading to another I don't know enough about...