You can buy a visa for $7 on the border of Turkey without any trouble. You simply go online, answer a few questions and then print out your visa free of charge. It takes no more than a minute. I wasn’t quite sure where exactly I was and through which border post I had entered into Turkey, so I stopped beside a large hospital to check my Turkish map and asked a doctor passing by. Then the question was which route to take, to ride along the Black Sea or Mediterranean to Istanbul. It would be much quieter along the Black Sea, according to the doctor, because most tourists headed to the Mediterranean side. By this time I had started making new plans, since I was ahead of schedule and didn’t need to be in Istanbul for a while. Clearly I had not had enough of riding yet and was already thinking about going to Georgia, not part of my original tour. I could only thank our heavenly Father that I had made it. So I headed inland towards the Black Sea, buzzing with excitement over this country I had so looked forward to and had ridden so far, with so many challenges along the way, to see. I made my way, along Turkey’s smooth roads, to the beautiful and really affordable hotel in Malatya where I would spend my first night in Turkey. I quickly shed my riding gear and went into town for a cell phone card to text the folks at home, who would all wonder whether I had managed to cross Syria into Turkey. I slept like a baby that night, my only worry being how to ship my bike back home before I boarded my flight and the shipping company I had contacted hadn’t replied as yet. I lunched in Elazig and reached Buyuk Erzincan late afternoon, only to spend another night alone in this huge hotel (hotels here in Turkey are incredibly luxurious, yet very cheap). Looking forward to seeing the Black Sea and especially my unplanned detour to Georgia, I set my GPS in that direction. When the road began to narrow, I started wondering whether I was heading the right way and when I hit dirt road, I knew I was heading the wrong way, but these little “detours” often lead you on the most beautiful of routes and it turned out to be true this time too. I have ridden many a mountain pass in my life, but never one as spectacular as this. As I passed small villages, nestled deeply into the mountains, and cascading waterfalls I promised myself that I would be back here one day. In the tiny town of Aygun, beside a lake, I found a place for the night that was so breathtakingly beautiful that I stayed another night. The owner and I immediately became fast friends and he begged me to make the 40km trip inland again on my way back from Georgia.
The next day I rode the 40km to the main road and headed along the Black Sea to Istanbul and then Georgia. This road doesn’t go over the mountain, but through it – one tunnel after another. The route is studded with town upon town that I just didn’t have the time to explore. I spent my final night in Turkey beside the Black Sea. Since winter was around the corner, few tourists made their way here and I could wheel and deal myself lower prices. I took a relaxing stroll along the Black Sea that afternoon and though it was too cold to swim, I could at least dip my toes into the water. The next morning I headed to the border not particularly bothered about whether they would issue me a visa. If not, I would simply ride the 400km back and spend more time along the Black Sea.