The stats make this seem a fairly easy day. After all we were following a river downstream for less than 50 miles! But there are times when stats are misleading – this was mega tough but also cycling amongst some of the most brilliant scenery I have ever experienced. So overall a good day – one to remember when I am sat at my desk back in London.
We woke in our lovely campsite and strolled around packing up. We thought it would not be too tough and so ambled in our packing up.Then off about 8.15am and the first 20km were delightful – gently downhill with the occasional rise. Steep cliffs on either side of the valley.
Then we reached a part where the road on the map and the Garmin indicated a route under water. The valley had been flooded and a new road was partially completed on the side of the road. At one point the new road rose up the side of the valley, reaching a point 100m higher than we had camped (30km upstream). The ups were steep and the brakes were needed on 10% descents on a dubious surface. But the rock faces on each side were stunning.
We eventually reached the dam and saw a huge wall of white water falling from the top in an artificial waterfall.The electricity generation potential is huge.
But the real challenge was yet to come. We were back on the old road now and followed it as it clung to the side of the valley. “Road” is probably an overstatement. Part was paved but a good part was not and of hugely variable quality. Some were hard tracks and other were soft mud. The steep climbs were often on a UK mountain bike type track.
However, unlike a UK mountain bike track, there was often a precipitous drop off one side and always the possibility of a lorry coming the other way, slightly out of control. The mental aspect of cycling such a road is as demanding as the physical aspects. It is slow, tough on the bikes and trailers and exhausting. But the scenery was stunning and made us wonder how many cyclists had ventured this way.
The answer is probably (a) very few, (b) mostly on mountain bikes and (c) perhaps never with trailers. The majority have it on the sanity stakes but, having “conquered” the road, we felt we earned a beer or two (although that may have to wait until we get to Georgia as this part of Turkey is de facto “dry” despite the rain).
Eventually we got to Yusafelli, which is a hiking centre for the Karkar mountains, although we are not yet in hiking season. We booked ourselves into the Greenpiece Pansion – the “i” avoiding intellectual property issues I suspect – and collapsed.
The photos will tell the story of the scenery and our legs feel the effort of getting here.