Following a passage over the Balkan Mountain Range we made for Turkey where we would be spending near enough 3 weeks- the second longest stint in any one country after China. It’s fair to say we were absolutely blown away. Within 6 hours of entering the country and subsequently the city of Erdine, we had been bought dinner by a random guy called Hakan we had bumped into on the street, and were then put up by some students (Enes and Enez), with whom we had linked up with on the Warm Showers app. We sat with them in their smoke filled living room chatting until the early hours while they ordered us kebabs despite insisting we weren’t hungry. They treated us to a tour of the old Ottoman capital city the next day and we knew we were in for a treat across the rest of the country. We came to term Turkish hospitality as ‘brutal hospitality’ as often whoever was helping us would be adamant they knew exactly what we wanted and wouldn’t let our own needs & desires be adhered to! Turkey is a beautiful country and we were lucky enough to sample some of the Black Sea Coast along which we found a couple of stunning beaches that we enjoyed in private as it seems Turkish people don’t go on holiday until the temperature reaches 30 degrees- cue skinny dipping. Turkey will be remembered as the first country that really prodded the taste buds of travel, so to speak. Call to prayer, crazy Istanbul drivers, menemen (eat it now), hospitality like you wouldn’t believe, mountains, beaches, rain, sun, and snow all added up to an unforgettable Turkish experience.
Without doubt the country we entered into next, and are currently situated in, has provided the highlight of the trip so far. Georgia is sprawling with snow capped mountains and towering hills of green forest among its multiple national parks. Alongside its natural beauty, it has hospitality to match its Turkish neighbour, as we found out on the first night when we were taken in by local English teacher Gulnara while passing through a small village in the mountains east of the coastal city of Batumi. All that needs to be retold here for you to get an idea of the experience is that 6 hours after entering the house we had both passed out in various random locations in the house due to over consumption of the home-made cognac and wine. Georgia, we’re convinced, is a country that should be attracting tourists in far greater numbers- it truly is a stunning country.
As we look forward, the comforts of home and the European cycle paths get ever more distant, particularly as we prepare to enter the slightly more arid environments of Azerbaijan and the Stans where we will spend the majority of our time either in the desert or in the vast Pamir mountains of Tajikistan. We absolutely cannot wait to see what awaits us in the coming months and as ever thank you so much to everyone who has supported us and/or donated to our fundraising target! We are dragging ourselves up every morning to cycle big distances to help stop men dying too young, and supporting the incredible work done by the Movember Foundation. If you can help in any way we would be so grateful. Furthermore we are supporting the Ian Williams Foundation in memory of my good pal who passed away suddenly last year- 10 % of all funds raised will go to that charity.
Finally, a massive shout out to all those who have given up their time to ride with team Hairy Handlebars since we departed: the Robert Walters lads on Day 1, Martin, Paul, Jack, Hugh and Khino the dog.