In June, the whole team went home to Sweden for two weeks to apply for our Chinese visas. We had such a good time at home with midsummer, sauna, baths, homemade food, family, friends, walks in the forest, puppies and yoga. We enjoyed it until it was time to go back to Turkey – this time with a visa to China in the passport.
We arrived in Istanbul late in the evening and got picked up by our friend Josh. We met him through Warmshowers and he lived on the Asian side of Istanbul. We left our bikes at his place while we were in Sweden.
We spent a few days in Istanbul and got our bikes fixed while we were waiting for Marco, a guy from Italy who wanted to cycle with us in Turkey. Josh took care of us, invited us to his sister and family where we enjoyed really good Turkish food. I know that it’s thanks to Josh we’ve had such a great time in Istanbul. Sure, Istanbul itself is really nice and we were all pleasantly surprised by the city, but it’s often the people around you that make you feel good.
We waved our dear friend Josh goodbye with the knowledge that we will meet him again in the future, hopefully when he comes to visit us in Sweden. We were a new team again now (my fourth team during this trip) that left Istanbul on our bikes, without a clue about what would happen during the ride through Turkey. Already on our first cycling day we met a family who invited us for dinner, let us sleep in their flower shop and served breakfast in the morning.
When we were about to start cycle on day two, two other touring cyclists turned up and we started to talk to them. They were going in the same direction and that was exciting for us. Usually we only meet cyclists who are going in the opposite direction. The cyclists turned out to be Vincent and Michel from Toulouse, France, and they were also on their way to Tbilisi in Georgia. We decided to cycle together and suddenly we were five persons in the team.
During the last couple of weeks we have cycled from Istanbul to Tbilisi. We started to cycle along the Black Sea and then into the mountains for a few days. We had heard rumors about that the hills of Turkey were brutal and we can confirm that it’s correct. We passed many small villages. The road took us through beautiful mountains and the greenery was incredible. In every village we passed there was at least one mosque and the locals screamed “çay?!”, which means “tea”. The tea consumption in Turkey is very high and it’s their national beverage.
We cycled in the mountains for a couple of days and came out to the coast again just before Gerze. The road became flat and it was much more traffic. We cycled along the coast all the way to Batumi in Georgia and we could easily cycle 100 km every day. We could feel the smell of tea all the time because there were tea factories everywhere. It took us 17 days to cycle through northern Turkey and that was faster than we had expected.
Everything has not been peaceful and happy all the time. We have had a lot of mechanical problems, which we quickly solved thanks to Michel and Vincent who are professional cyclists and mechanics. We also got food poisoned and it happened during one of the toughest days in the mountains. Lovisa began to feel weak and she threw up straight from the bike several times. We were fighting in the uphill’s and our French guys were waiting for us. We rolled down into the town of Devrek late in the afternoon. Vincent searched for hotels and just after we had checked in I also began to feel bad. Minutes later I had to run to the toilet. We have got food poisoned during this trip before but not at the same time. Therefore we have been able to take care of each other. Now we were both sick and unable to do anything. Vincent and Michel took care of us instead and gave us food, water and Coca Cola. We looked at the bowls with soup and pasta as they gave us and suddenly we both started to cry. We cried because we were so grateful over all the help that Michel and Vincent gave us, especially when we needed it the most.
We felt a bit sad when we left family and friends back in Sweden, as I wrote earlier. When Vincent and Michel turned up, we started to feel a lot of gratitude again. Thanks to this trip and the cycling, we have met two new friends for life. We have had incredible fun, we have helped each other a lot and also cycled over 1600 km together. I’m sure we will cycle together again in the future.