The Unfinished Scenic Route

posted by: Justin

After warming our bodies and stomachs with a Lokanta lunch in Cide we learn two new Turkish words “sakat” and “kapali” both used to describe the road ahead. After referring to the full size Turkish/English dictionary Emma has been carrying since Istanbul we discover they mean “unfinished” and “closed”. The recommendation from the locals is to take the inland road to Kastamonu which involves a climb from sea level to around 900m and then joins a main road direct to Sinop. Our explanation that we want to cycle the coast route for the scenery doesn’t add much weight to our argument – low cloud has obscured any sea vistas. After taking further advice from a bus company office we head out of town towards the unfinished road thinking how bad can it be on a bicycle?

Mud from roadworks, Cide Mist above Kurucasile

Around 5km from the start of the road we encounter a road works sign barely visible through the thick mist and I notice that the cars travelling the opposite direction seem to be particularly muddy. As we turn a corner the tarmac disappears and is replaced by thick gloopy mud that quickly clogs our tyres and brakes and forces us to push our bikes. The end of the road works is signalled by a disbelieving grader driver raising his eyebrows as we emerge from the mist with mud coated bikes. It turns out the road is indeed “unfinished” but most definitely not closed.

Looking at the route profile from Amasra to Sinop we were expecting a lot of hills and had decided that aiming to climb roughly six hills each day would be achievable. In preparation for the climbing we again refer to the dictionary learning the Turkish word “tepe” meaning hill. The coastal road winds its way between the many river and mountain valleys where they meet the Black Sea with most climbs starting at sea level and some taking us up to 350m – a total of over 5000m climbing over the 300km route. One particularly eye-watering climb saw us diverted onto a 25% gradient for 2km due to a landslide on the main road, needless to say our bikes were pushed to the top.

The weather is chilly and between the climbing we spend time in small village cay shops always filled with cay drinking men and a roaring pot belly stove to warm our hands and toes against. The cay was mostly offered for free, with our answers about where we came from, where we are going to and if we like Turkey providing the payment and no doubt a topic of conversation for the moustached men for the rest of the day.

Justin + Fred the chef Traditional wooden houses

As we packed up camp from a particularly windy free camp spot we heard a shouted “Hello” from the road below. Emma ran down the hill to meet Fred a Swiss cyclist who had spotted our tent through the trees. Fred was heading the same way and he joined us for the rest of the journey to Sinop. We appreciate the presence of his olive tree stick during numerous dog chases.

Having a third cyclist to share the road with seems to make the hills speed by even though our cay and food stops now stretch on as we listen to Fred’s tales of cycling in Tibet and China over the last 20 years. We find space for two tents each evening, the most memorable being a grassy patch in front of an empty holiday village complete with summerhouse perfect for our cooking needs. We thought our assortment of herbs and spices was complete but Fred’s puts us to shame as he cooks camp style Aloo Gobi and Vegetable Korma.

As we approach Sinop the mild weather we have enjoyed for a few days ends with a wet and very muddy final few kilometres into the town centre. The local approach to roadwork’s seems to be to remove the tarmac and put piles of dirt beside the road then wait for rain to turn everything into a river of mud.

Its impossible to wave to all the tooting cars as we swerve to avoid pot holes and deep puddles and an hour of searching for a reasonable hotel in the rain does little to warm our chilled bodies. Finally finding a small cheap hotel in a back street we eagerly wait one hour for the promised hot water and begin spreading out our kit to dry.

Sinop panorama

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route map for this post

The map below shows the waypoints for this blog post. To view the details of our trip to date take a look at our complete route map.