Time to leave our spacious apartment and comfy sofas to get back on the bikes. We both felt well recuperated but slightly in trepidation as we knew we had a big climb up the the highest point of the holiday. We were off in good time on a rather cool and cloudy morning. We had a slow steady climb out of Erzincan which ticked off 150m climbing without too much difficulty before turning on to the main road up the mountain (main being relative – it was a good wide road but again with not much traffic.) The road climbed steadily up a fairly featureless valley. Some steep bits but none too steep so we made good progress. For the first time this holiday I was feeling strong but towards the top David’s stomach was not feeling too great but he pressed on and we topped out at 2120m – the sun even came out.
We immediately crossed over into a greener landscape with more trees. There was a short period of steepish descent and then amazingly 40km of very gentle downhill following a river valley which gave our legs a good rest. At one point we passed groups of children waiting for a school bus (it was lunchtime), causing much excitement and waving. After we passed, the school bus picked them up, passed us (more waving from the bus) and then dropped them all at school on the same road, just as we passed again. More frantic waving as we felt “adopted” by these enthusiastic children.
We then rolled into the affluent town of Kelkit (as far as we could see) and into another valley. We were feeling partial to a cup of tea but being Ramadan several cafes were closed. However, as always, someone wanted to help and guided is into a side street and through some metal gates into a lovely courtyard of a small restaurant. It was filled with men who as usual gave us a good stare. Most were not drinking anything and presumably just come out to the cafes during Ramadan to pass the time of day as usual but several were drinking tea so we were able to have some reviving tea and a brief chat with someone who had worked for 2 years in a fish and chip shop in Morden!
Back on the bikes we turned east again and decided to do 20km+ up the valley. We were tiring and the weather was looking more threatening and so at about 4 we started to look for a camping site and found a good spot by a stream on and sheltered flat piece of ground by a quiet side road. People tooted and waved as they drove past as we were quite visible from the road and then a car with men drew up and stopped. They were clearly very worried that we would be cold, wet and starving but they seemed reassured when we showed them the tent, sleeping bags, stove etc so we moved on to the usual topic of children and showing them photos on the phone.
We took their photos, which always seems to make people happy and eventually the went on their way. All this done with our cursory few words of Turkish. A little later a car with 3 men drew up. They were worried they we would be washed away by the stream if there was heavy rain and pointed to the opposite bank which was a bit higher. We nodded and smiled and off they went but we decided to stay put as there was no signs of flood in the recent past and although rain is forecast (thunderstorms are always being forecast) we don’t think there will be apocalyptic rain.
David cooked a delicious meal, partially on a fire he made, and we are settled in the tent with a gentle drizzle outside. The rule of not camping in the rain was broken long ago as we don’t have the luxury of other choices much of the time but it’s not so bad and we are dry and warm.