I am now in a small town called Tercan on the northern edge of Southeastern Anatolia, Turkey.
I've covered roughly 1400km in 15 cycling days. I am a day ahead of schedule. Feeling good after a rest day yesterday in Erzurum and the ride today, which was the easiest loaded 100km ride I have ever had.
I have some time to kill in my 'hotel' room which has cost about 8 pounds (perhaps I should be thinking in dollars or euros these days though- I'd feel like it was even more of a bargain).
The only foreign tourists thay I have seen in a week have been other cyclist, heading in the opposite direction. I've had nice chats with them whilst covertly checking out their set-ups. They had great stories to tell and were keen to get advice on Central Asia's particulars from me.
As I have the same distance again to Antalya, this seems like a good opportunity to summarize the ride thus far. However, I am thinking about pushing west as far as Pumukkale before the flight I have booked from Antalya to Aktau in Kazakhstan to re-enter Uzbekistan from the westernmost point, just east of where the caspian sea becomes desert.
Some points of clarification first:
-An average cycling day has involved slowly packing both belongings and carbs in the morning. I am on holiday after all and I don't want to do myself a mischief.
-The screenshots below correspond to days 1 through 15 although I chose slightly longer, calmer route from Oltu south and then West on Day 14.
-I normally leave at 8-9am, stopping after 50km for whatever I have or can find for lunch and some shade.
-Rock up to a town at about 4-5pm and ask around for accommodation. Paying about 15 pound.
-As one Belgian cyclist I met in Georgia said, "I am not a camper". But we both have gear accounting for about half our load of luggage 'just in case'.
-I'm carrying about 20kilos in front and rear panniers with an easily detachable handlbar bag, plus extras on the rear rack top, all on a heavy steel bike. It feels great though; I highly recommend the VSF TX-400, which I call Farhod.
DAY 1- Baku (Azerbaijan) to Qobustan. Sea level through yellow ocher plains and steady winding climbs.
DAY 2- Qobustan to Lahic. The high Caucausus reveal themselves. Valley ups and downs, through fertile farm land.
DAY 3- Lahic to Oguz.
Forests and fairly flat. Small villages, all the way tracking mountains to the north.
DAY 4- Oguz to Kis.
Farmers display their produce at roadside. Gradual climbs then suddenly up into Sheki.
DAY 5- Kis to Zaqatala.
Rivers plunge from the mountains. The route is flat and pleasant on good roads.
DAY 6- Zaqatala to Signhaghi (Georgia).
Rolling farmland, tractors at the quiet border. Nasty dogs. 50km across a plain before the tough climb.
DAY 7- Signhaghi to Tbilisi.
Beautiful old town and then down, on a busy and dangerous road right in to the capitals centre.
DAY 8- Tbilisi to Ayrum (Armenia).
Steady but busy climb up and out. Change of scenery to rock formations at a gorges northern head.
DAY 9- Ayrum to Vanazdor.
Following the Debed canyon and river the wrong way. Tough climbs and thin road.
DAY 10- Vanazdor to Gyumri.
A wonderful ride through stunning valleys, over pristine passes with views of Mount Ararat.
DAY 11- Vardzia to Posof (Turkey).
From a cliff face ancient city down to the garrisoned town of Akhaltsikhe. Into Turkey the hilly way.
DAY 12- Posof to Ardahan.
Major climbs. Roadworks. Rewarding riding from one high town to the next.
DAY 13- Ardahan to Oltu.
Steady climbing to Gole and then down, for 25km, back in to more stark surroundings.
DAY 14- Oltu to Erzurum.
A 2400m pass midway vua the quiter D road south and then west across a plain before a fair bump to the city.
DAY 15- Erzurum to Tercan.
Easy riding with a nice tailwind. One big climb but tge descent was longer and satisfying.