After completing our stint in the area of alpine beauty surrounding Yedi Goller ('Seven Lakes'), Rob now needed to experience the reality of road cycling. We spent three long days on the same road right from Eskipazaar to our rest day in Amasya. Initially we were treated to long flowing descents through river valleys covered in an dirty gold more than lush green, the we dropped into the farmlands east of Amasya where a presumed smog (we were told it was water vapour only) concealed the land and sun alike. In this time we morphed into a pair of two wheel truckers, We stayed in the same filthy motels, enjoyed the 'kerb'ab-houses, and even built the same one-sided tan as our 16 wheeled brethren. The pride in progress and KMs chalked off alleviated any boredom or strain from the long stints.
After his first 'lucky' puncture on day one, Rob managed three others in as many hundred meters on the way to Amasya - a persistent pin head was deeply buried in the 'puncture-proof' rubber, and then efforts at inner tube repair failed. After learning of the final puncture, I broke into rank frustration and teeth gritted tension, I've not got so hot in a full three months of touring. In this gross state I dropped the bike and broke my mirror, afterwards it felt like an inevitable consequence of getting in such a tizz - clearly much more work required.
Before reaching the city, we were unsure as to whether to have a full rest day in Amasya. However when wheeling along it's river promenade on the eve of our arrival, I knew we were due another night there. Amasya has been continuously occupied for more than three thousand years, undisturbed by war and the like, as such it is a balanced and serene place filled with affluent white collar workers, many graduating from the city's handful of universities. Semet, our host, typified this group, he had a true hometown mastery and had carved out a comfortable existence in the ancient valley. Over dinner, he admitted this as a problem, and wanted to till the soil of his life, possibly through further education in China or a long journey of his own. Comfort can be one of life's greatest traps, and not one we are likely to fall too deeply in this year.
There was some sight-seeing in Amasya between it's famous and immaculate mosque, the distinctive houses in the old-town with dark wooden beams suspending the pearl white walls above the river, and the kings' tombs hewn out of the cliff-face peering a like council of elders at the town beneath. But rest days are really admin days in disguise, and a turkmenistan visa application was chief among the list of tasks.
The kindness and eagerness to help of the Turkish people has left a deep imprint on both of us, remarkably different from the norm we come to expect in North-West Europe. This attribute shone through the book shop owner who offered up his computer and desk for 3 hours of the afternoon for our visa cause, gave us Gasozu, and then through a deeply held belief in the beatifying power of literature offered us free a leatherbound collection of the works of Rumi for our jorney. We were deeply touched but had to decline on grounds of weight and certain abuse of generosity. There was also the computer repair shop owner who utterly defied expectations of Turkish merchants by anti-haggling with me over a bluetooth keyboard: 'I'll give you 150 for it', 'that is not possible sir, this is a best-quality keyboard, I'll take 50 for it'.
Our only real nod to the nominal 'rest' function of the day was in the evening, where we visited the local Hammam (Turkish Bath). It was Rob's maiden scrub-down, but having visited several historic Istanbul establishments myself, I found the treatment rather rustic or agricultural, lacking a bit of the metropolitan subtlety I had become accustomed too. More plainly: the men were that much more burly, whilst the rough scrubbing pads were that much more virulent and abrasive. We took what was left of ourselves and back to Semet's and slept awaiting the Black Sea or 'Karadeniz' before us.