Sunday, October 3, 2010

Black Sea Climbing

It’s a good thing the Black Sea coast has a lot going for it, otherwise the arduous gradients would be near unbearable by bicycle.

The mountain belt running along the northernmost aspect of Turkey makes for an attractive patch of coast. Small coves and pockets of beach occasionally dot the landscape where fishing villages and petite harbours now reside. Infrequently a river will pierce the ranges and dive into the sea. Here road-makers have taken advantage of the topography to craft a road back into the centre of Turkey. Yet as waves crash on one side and rugged hills line the other, the Black Sea Coast is essentially separated from Central Anatolia (the big middle bit of Turkey). After the lapping sea and before the peaks get too rocky a narrow mountainous road laces its way across the coastline.

Central Karadeniz (Black Sea) is the more rugged and remote of the Turkish northern coastline. It is also home to some very hilly terrain. Our first 150km was virtually one 150-200m climb after another. A slow ascent would be followed by a hard-braking downhill before we would cruise through another cute seaside village. Our longest straight section of road was 8km.

Once our lower limbs were reacquainted with the contours we were able to appreciate that we had landed in some fine cycle touring country. So let me now attempt to explain the ingredients that make this piece of road so delicious for a biker.

Narrow, winding and smooth were the hallmarks. Traffic was surprisingly light allowing us to not be banished to the (mostly non-existent) verge.

Hilly enough to give great ocean views, fast descents, interesting technical cycling and that rewarding muscle soreness at the end of the day.

The big drawcard. Turquoise ocean waters, thick coastal forests and dramatic cliff faces. After the landlocked countries of Central Asia, it has been very soothing for us to cycle near large bodies of water. Aside from the natural, we’ve reveled in the chance to pass through some very authentic (read free from western tourists) fishing communities. The ideally located villages situated in a nook in the hillside or tucked into a quite bay have a European air about them. If it weren’t for the minarets piecing the town centre one could forget they are in Asia.

Stealth Campability:
With some superb views and a remoteness ideal for camping, the only issue has been finding flat land. However, after a bit of searching and often a degree of compromise (or 15) it hasn’t been hard to settle into a scenic abode.

Water and food:
From small two person wooden boats to large trawlers the coastline is superficially well populated and implies a healthy sealife below (for now at least). Villages were alive with fisherman along the harbor and the day’s fresh catch in the waterside shops. To our delight, the fish are gutted before your eyes, therefore saving our pocketknives some hard labour.
It is the season for apples, pears, plums and figs. After restraining myself from essentially stealing from the trees weighed down with produce hanging over fence lines we jump at the chance to pick from wild fruit trees. Several generous locals have rewarded our hill climbs with an invitation to feast upon their apple trees and then of course there is always the village market.

Unlike the dry stretches of Mongolia, we’ve found ourselves never too far from a fresh water supply. Roadside taps and tiled basins along this remote coastline, many built as memorials to a lost loved one, seem out of proportion to the traffic. Private households often include one as part of their fenceline and mosques can be relied upon for an outdoor setup.

Cycling Summary 383km

Bartin but station to Amasra 28km
Amasra to Cakraz 17km
Cakraz to Kurucasile 32km
Kurucasile to stealth camp out of Cide 45km
Stealth Camp to Doganyurt 52km
Doganyurt to Inebolu 33km
Inebolu to stealth camp out of Catalzeytin 51km
Stealth Camp to Stealth camp out of Ayancik 52km
Stealth Camp to Sinop 53km
In and around and out of Sinop 20km

Black Sea Coast


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