Our first kilo of hazelnuts are offered by a hazelnut farmer who finds us camping in his grove just outside the metropolitan city of Samsun. Inexplicably covered from head to toe in mud, the farmer shows us the spiky clusters the nuts grow in, the new grafts he is protecting from birds by staking with cuttings from older trees. We suspect he wonders at our resolve to camp on a night where there is a bitterly cold wind blowing.
In the morning he comes out in his fireman’s uniform to say goodbye before heading out to his day job. We are invited to return in the summer when he promised it would be much warmer, warm enough for swimming even. After shivering all night in our sleeping bags summer seems implausibly far away.
Hazelnut trees are the dominant crop on this stretch of coast, with green spring buds forming sleepily on extensive groves and small tractors and shelling machines parked up at every village.
With our Swiss companion Fred, we are back in the unpredictable weather again after a few hotel days in Sinop and clean clothes, bikes and hamam scrubbed bodies quickly resume their usual slick of grime from the road works leading out of town.
A few kilometres outside Sinop, a dog, who we affectionately called ‘Dick’ because of his habit of chasing truck tyres, also joins us. He pelts downhill alongside us in the freezing afternoon rain, only peeling off when we come to a halt beside a vacant cay shop an hour later.
It smells like snow in the air. After a quick team consultation the idea of camping inside the cay shop seems a decent plan and we rouse the absent owner’s young son, who lights a fire for us and leaves us to it, without any of the peppering of questions that we usually expect in exchange.
Thanks to the efficient work of Turkey’s highway builders, the majority of the D010 road from Sinop through to Trabzon stretches across a surprisingly flat coastland with multi-lane efficiency. For the most part, we don’t find the coastal highway as boring as we had been lead to believe. Outside a few towns, bicycles, tractors and other slow wheels are given a lane wide shoulder and the traffic on the rest of the road is normally light.
Despite our usual preference for climbing mountains, we are happy to watch the coastal mountain range from a distance in the chilly air and while the scenery isn’t spectacular, the road surface is fantastic and with the aid of a tail wind our progress is fast. There were ample excuses to break from the wall of sound of the motorway with small town cay shops and petrol stations at regular intervals.
Waking to blue skies one morning we detoured from the main road to take in a quiet peninsula, the only other East going road on this stretch to Trabzon. We don’t get far before finding a closed beachside campsite to put our tents up in, befriending a local dog and starting to work shelling our huge bag of hazelnuts.
Before parting ways with Fred, who is heading inland on his way to Iran, we pause for a few nights in Giresun to sort out our onward plans. A local English teacher who befriends us leaves a gift at our hotel – another huge bag of unshelled hazelnuts.
A day later we enter Trabzon with head colds and are overwhelmed by the big bustling city with traffic almost as chaotic as Istanbul. We exit the D010 for one last time, parking our bikes with Warm Showers hosts for a well deserved break. Welcomed into a student flat where our bikes and cycling kit will be stored while we take a non-cycling detour to Georgia, we’re a tad over excited to discover they have a nutcracker.