Leaving Amasya we were heading for the coastal city of Samsun, where Ali, a relative of Asli and a serious adventurer in his on right, was waiting to host us. A drizzle darkened into a downpour and we were presented with a choice: stick on this major road and be hosed by HGVs in a broadside of water and grit, or twist ourselves up and over mountain paths. True to nature we ‘bought a ticket’ and headed for a ride over the hills.

The stepped 800m climb wound through sodden pasture fields, electricity pylons ran over head, the crackling and fizzing was amplified as the rain sparked the wires in aggressive static. All of a 40-strong herd turned in unison to observe our struggling progress, whilst their herders appeared like rustic Sith Lords, dark cowls shrouding all but their sticks held before them.

in brief moments of light from the gloom we were rewarded with some excellent drone footage. The terrain presented more and more of a challenge as the surface crumbled away to a clay assault course. The geology of the area meant that landslides were frequent, and where the main road was covered in cliff remains new alternate routes had developed from tire-tracks to thoroughfares. Pragmatism must always reign in such places.

The way worsened to little more than a farmer’s path between fields of the kind of clumpy fertile soil best used for root vegetables. The perennial yet ever-misguided thought of ‘it can’t get worse than this’ was our main driving force.  But more and more of this force was needed as the mud built up to fist sized clumps either side of the wheels, acting like additional organic brake pads permanently pulled to the wheel. The bikes quickly became unridable, and then unpushable, finally we had to skid them through the mud with the wheels refusing to roll. This and the protracted cleaning session afterwards set us back a good hour or so from our original tight schedule to the coastal city of Samsun. Just as we started to make some progress again, my rear pannier rack disintegrated at the hinges after bumping down onto a main road. Fixing this was another half hour, and set Rob down a course of shivers in the rain.

All of this tortuous progress was brought to a head as we stopped for a ‘pure-bread lunch’ at 5pm, a knowing grimace was shared with rain lashing down and an oppressive gloom gathering. We joined the highway to Samsun at 6pm with 80km to go, bracing ourselves for the grueling and demoralising conclusion to our toughest day yet. 

Four hours later we were sat with our host Ali, discussing his own epic adventure of walking from China to Turkey in political protest against American Intervention. We were happy to relax and revel in our struggle and success of the day, whilst being regaled over a patchwork of battle stories and ideological offerings. The day was perhaps the one most filled with ‘why the hell am I doing this?’, but a fresh problem popped up each time to distract us from these futile mental wonderings.