Monday, 30 December 2013

a welcome çay

When we pass through the immigration hall in Avyalık we are greeted by a tall young man with a bike. This is Eray, whom we contacted through Warm Showers.  He has patiently waited for us whilst we were delayed at immigration to wait for the official who carries the postage stamps for our 'visa' for entry.  It's 20 pounds or 30 euros for the two of us.  We hand over an unfeasibly large 20 pound note that has been folded up in a corner since we left home for just this moment.  The money doesn't look real to us.  The immigration official, who looks like he was interrupted mid-backgammon and is in a hurry to get back before his opponent surreptitiously shuffles some of the pieces about, stuffs the note in his pocket without a glance at it, tears off a couple of stamps and gives them to the uniformed man with the rubber date stamp sitting in the glass booth.  He dutifully pastes and dates them into our passports and waves us through.

Eray has his bike with him.  He asks us what we need and what we want to do.  After getting some Turkish lira we take a seat at a waterside cafe for a glass of tea. Ahh, çay - best drink of the day.  The sun shines weakly.  We hope to start cycling up the coast today.  Eray offers to ride with us out of town and takes us on a quiet coastal road before we join up with the main highway.  In the summer he went to eastern Turkey to visit his father's village for the first time.  Then he cycled home.  We intend to go in the opposite direction.  Eray grew up in Istanbul but is happy now to be living in Avyalık, where he can still work as a translator, subtitling American TV shows.  He wants to show us some of the old town before we leave because he knows that it is untypical in Turkey.  

We travelled here for 4 months back in 2007 but this time round we won't be doing any sight-seeing.  Sometime back in the autumn we decided we wanted to spend as long as possible in Greece and this meant sacrificing time in Turkey and the Caucasus.  The problem for all overland travellers is what to do in the winter and when you are cycling the question becomes more significant.  So we intend to take the coastal highway north, visit Istanbul and then continue eastwards along the Black Sea coast, probably taking a bus some of the way.  It's not the most scenic part of Turkey but it might be the warmest.  Eray encourages us to consider visiting some of the villages inland from the coast along the way.  

Avyalık is a small town, by Turkish standards, of about 40,000.  Eray tells us this swells to over 200,000 in the summer.  We pass through deserted estates of summer appartments and holiday homes guarded by the occasional dog.  I ask him about the dogs here, this being my biggest concern when cycling (apart from running out of water).  Eray is a little blase in his response, I think, especially as only minutes later a wild beast of a dog comes hurtling after us, snarling, barking, foaming at the mouth.  Okay, not foaming at the mouth, but looking almost rabid in my eyes.  Eray coolly ignores it, and once we pass its territory the dog eases off.  On this quiet road this scene is repeated about three more times.  Most of the dogs are not tied up.  This is one reason why the Black Sea route appeals to me - sheep farming is done on the Anatolian plains and not by the sea.  

We arrive at the main highway - a smooth stretch of black tarmac sweeps across the farmland, a dual carriageway with a big hard shoulder.  We say our farewells and Eray heads back to town as we go northwards. 

1 comment:

  1. The warmest part of Turkey is the south coast! But anyway...