Today was quite a day which resulted in us breaking our climbing record. Our departure was delayed by a rather strange event. As we were leaving town we stopped to get petrol for our fuel bottle (for the camping stove). The petrol attendant looked wary and about 4 men managed to explain to us that we needed some sort of written permit from the police. We had not had problems before but the Jandarma were only a few hundred meters back so off we went.
The gate was opened by a gun wielding soldier who looked younger than any of our children. With the help of google translate and someone who could speak a little english we showed them the fuel bottle and explained it was for cooking. This they understood but for reasons we could not fathom we had to go top a petrol station 4km back the other side of town (except perhaps this was a state run petrol station). The police promised to ring the petrol station to authorise the fuel. We left the trailers under the watchful eye of the soldier with the gun and set off for the petrol station (remembering at the last minute to take the fuel bottle with us!). Needless to say it was the other side of a hill but eventually the fuel was brought without a problem and we were back hitching up the trailers. We were an hour on and had done 12km and 150m of climbing before we had even started!
The guide books had said that there was not a road between Divrigli and Erzincan but there was a road marked on the map and on google maps and a blog we found confirmed there was a paved road through so a few km out of town we turned off the main road and started golng up and up and up. After a few km the road degenerated into a gravel road as road widening was clearly going on. Going up slidy gravel climbing in bottom gear was a challenge to say the least but luckily it only lasted 6km until we were back on paved road.
After a climb of about 400m we dipped down again into a beautiful green valley. We stopped for a break beside a small river and were joined by a friendly dog who flopped down beside us and look longingly as we ate some biscuits. the dog was out of luck as we needed all the energy we could get.
We climbed gradually along the the river valley and then steeply at the end. Time somehow suspends doing a long bottom gear climb. Km crawl by and we creep up goal by goal – just get to that bend then have a rest, just get to that sign and we’ll have a drink. Eventually we made it to just over 1700m and sat at the top eating lunch looking out over rust coloured hills. A bit more up and down and then down down down on the descent into the next valley (4 hours up, 45 minutes down!).
We hadn’t done a vast number of km but we were tiring but still a few more ups and downs getting rather slower. Thunder echoed aroind at one point with black clouds around but we managed to avoid the thunder showers. At last the final (we thought) descent down to the main river valley – a early stages of the great river, the Euphrates. We were directed to a new bridge and new road and quickly it was clear that this was due to the construction of a large hydroelectric dam. More up to get around the dam and along to the town of Ilic.
The last few km seemed to take an age. We reached the turn up to the town and cogitated turning up to the town to see if there was a hotel as we were so knackered or whether to go straight on to see if we could find a camping spot. I flagged down a car to ask if there was a hotel, not wanting to do any more climbing unless necessary but got a negative and completely blank looks when asked if there was anywhere to camp. It looked as if we would have to press on…and it was up hill again. I tried to stop my moral sinking but just as we set off I glanced to a track and could see it ran down to a stream with some (rare) flat land. We wheeled our bikes down and at the end of the track there was a group of men, women and children. We asked if we could camp there and of course the response was “no problem, have some tea”. A fire was already brewing the teapot. It looked like three families, one of whom must have owned the little shack that was there.
One of the men could speak a little english- he was a supervisor in a gold mine. The women were shy and smiling, laughing every time we groaned with delight drinking the lovely tea (and groaning every time we moved).
We took photos, showed them photos of the children and couldn’t believe our luck when all turns out so well when we were on the point of exhaustion! Tore ourselves away after 3 glasses of tea with our profuse thanks to set up camp, cook and collapse.