Doğubeyazıt to Kayseri, Turkey
Number of km (from Shanghai to Kayseri): 10,731
Number of countries crossed: 7
It had been precisely 24 days, 3 hours, 45 seconds and 1859km since our last beer. We had arrived in Turkey and the excitement of feeling the light froth of a cold brew once again restore our dry palates at the end of a long day’s ride is indescribable. We made it to the first town and must have looked like men possessed, though strangely no one seemed to react. Perhaps the sight of deranged thirsty white men was a common one here being so close to the Iran border but still it was surprisingly hard to find somewhere that would serve one up. We ended up getting our hotel, incidentally also our first bed since Samarkand in Uzbekistan over a month before, to get a few cans for us to nuzzle and guzzle.
The lack of bars and general unavailability of alcohol was a surprise. For some reason we had expected Turkey to instantly be like the rest of Europe and although in many ways it is, the Muslim code is still very central to daily life everywhere East of Istanbul, which accounts for about 90% of the country. There are many more mosques in Turkey than we saw in Iran. For a country built on the foundations of a secularised state by Atatürk, the Father of the Turks, it was astounding that even in a small town there would be at least four mosques that would all come alive five times a day with their own prayers filling the air with song.
The roads were excellent and helped us complete good mileage everyday. Apparently their recent renovation is in preparation for the election next year, though who are we to judge. They got our vote. Before long though a very cold front came in and we battled temperatures down to around 3 degrees during the day when at the same time we saw London and Paris basking in Indian summer temperatures in the low twenties. It was a shock to the system after so many months getting frizzled by desert sun.
One late afternoon we had to make the decision of either stopping early and camping or pushing on through a kind of canyon that the road passed and make it to a town on the other side. We cracked on but after an hour found ourselves riding in the dark, with torrential rain and mist that reduced visibility to less that ten metres, with huge lightening bolts crashing into the mountain slopes all around us. It is everything you are not meant to do when touring, especially when our lowly head torches were so low on battery. It was a dangerous ride down steep mountain roads when Oli rode directly over a large cavity in the road, instantly popping his rear inner tube and landing hard on his coccyx. Changing a tyre in the cold rain is a miserable experience and only made worse when it also feels like you’ve had a run in with an excited rhinoceros.
Turkey had impressed us in the first week. Beautiful rolling hills, great wild camping, people that were friendly when approached rather than overbearing when not, and wonderful kebabs (we can confirm though that Doner kebabs still give a lasting aftertaste of a toilet bowl whether eaten in Eastern Turkey or the East End).
Our route West passed through the mountain “ski resort” town of Erzurum, a lovely town called Sivas which is where the köfte kebab was invented (it’s really just a small burger), and the city of Kayseri which sprang out of nowhere with its one million inhabitants. We had arranged to stay one night with a Warm Showers host, an architecture Masters student called Bayram, who shared his flat with three others. They cooked us a great feast and provided a full hour of singing Turkish folk songs and better known western classics that no one knew the lyrics for.