We’d already spent longer than planned in Turkey, so we decided to catch a sleeper train to the north east of the country to speed up our progress. As always, the sleeper train was an adventure in itself and we enjoyed a lazy morning admiring the landscape from the comfort of our bunk beds.
Our train ride North took us back into the mountains and back into winter. So deeply back into winter infact that we needed a snow-induced tent day.
The snow cleared, and we conquered our highest high to date and passed the 10,000km mark. It was a good day.
At the mountain pass, a bus driver was so puzzled and concerned about our being there in the snow that he stopped his bus and made us a coffee to warm us up before our descent.
The next days would have us going through the amazing Yusufeli valley along the Çoruh river towards Hopa on the Black sea coast.
Little did we know that this stretch of river was part of a massive ongoing hydroelectric development. This raised many questions for us… perhaps in particular because before pedalling off into the sunset, we both worked in renewable energy research.
The scenery varied between steep sided rocky gorges, sometimes feeling more like cycling through a quarry than a valley, to wide open lush green valleys surrounded by mountains on either side with small villages nestled inbetween.
When the hydroelectric project is complete, the valley will be filled with a network of 13 dams connected to a 540MW power station, the fertile lush green valley will be gone and the residents relocated.
In Europe we have cycled through many regions filled with dams and reservoirs and have been in awe at the combination of mountains and great expanses of water, but we’ve never cycled through a landscape while they were in the process being built. It gives you a very different perspective for sure!
After cycling through, it was clear that the project is a massive feat of engineering and has provided many jobs to people in the region… But it was strange to think that in a few years time so much of what we cycled through would be under water…
Can hydroelectric energy really be considered renewable or at least sustainable? The impact it has on nature and an ecosystem seems massive and disruptive. Surely it’s better than burning coal or burying nuclear waste, but how do you measure the environmental and social cost?
We discussed these things several times as headed to the Black sea coast. However, before we could reach it, there was still some tunnel adventures to go. Over an 80km day we pedalled through 34 tunnels covering atleast 22km. That’s more than 1/4 if our day in darkness… And that was even with a 20km hitchhike in a truck, through a further 14 of them…
The glimpses that we got of the scenery in-between the tunnels was awesome though! And obviously, after such a somewhat surreal day, we finished it with a zipline ride across river…
We were looking for a place to camp on our last night in Turkey when we passed the coruh zipline. The guys saw us peering over the fence and waved for us to come down. Before you could say “zipline” we were strapped into harnesses and sent across the river. A hilarious evening ensued, camping in the car park and chatting through Google translate over a roaring fire. What a way to spend the last night in Turkey!
After being offered so many chais during our two month stay in Turkey, some of which we simply had to refuse just for the sake of being able to keep moving; on our last day in Turkey, we decided between ourselves that today we would accept all chai offers we might get, no matter how long it would take us to cycle to the Georgian border. As it happens, that day we were only offered one chai, which was perhaps a good thing given the long wait at the border, but it was a sweet refreshment to reminisce over our happy pedals through this beautiful country.