fredag 29 mars 2013

Student hospitality

I spent a couple of days in Erzurum and had a great time with my couchsurfing host Görkem and his roommates. On Sunday night at eleven we got on a bus and headed out of the town to a football pitch for a match. I hadn’t played in a while and was a little rusty, but we had a great team and finally won the game with 12-2.

On Monday morning I set out to do what I had to do while I was in Erzurum, to get my visa for my next country on this trip, Iran. And it was easier than what I had expected and in the evening I had the Visa in my passport. But I was prepared and had gotten a code from the Iranian government through an agency. So when I got to the embassy I only had to fill out some more papers and pay for the visa and a couple of hours later everything was sorted out and I got my 30 days tourist visa.
I liked it in Erzurum and stayed another day before getting on the bike again and cycled to Horasan. It was a different Erzurum I left that how it was when I first arrived. I came there in a snow storm and when leaving a most of the snow was gone and even if it wasn’t warm, it was much nicer than before. When arriving in the little town of Horasan I got invited for tea by some nice men and we tried to talk a little bit even if it was hard understanding each other. I asked them for the cheapest hotel and a little later a young boy came and he got the mission to show me the way. He took me to a school where I met a teacher who knew English, we than drank some tea before he had to go. I wasn’t sure where I was staying for the night, if it was at the teachers home of if he were to help me find a place. But in the café I met some students and got an invitation to stay at their apartment for the night. And I had a great time with the guys who were all studying to become firemen. We shared a great meal student-style, played games and they showed me Turkish dancing and Ismail played the Saz and sang traditional music.

And after a nice breakfast together I had my last mountain in Turkey to get over before getting to Agri. It took me about three hours to get up to the top and to my new personal record 2210 meters above sea level.
But the weather was nice and for a while the sun was even shining. And the ride from the top and all the way to Agri was nice with a big downhill to begin with and then flat landscape with the wind in my back. Here in Agri I’m staying with Necmettin, a very nice host and a teacher at the school. And earlier today I visited the school and the very enthusiastic kids could practice their English by asking me questions. They had just started learning English so the questions were very basic, but they were really interested about what I was doing and did the best they could asking me about many different things. I visited two more classes before leaving. And getting out of the school was difficult because I was surrounded by curious kids. So after a hectic morning I could rest up before putting on football shoes again for a new game.

söndag 24 mars 2013


Yesterday I had about 90 km left to Erzurum. I knew there would be some snow, but I didn’t know it would be so much. Almost immediately after setting off from Tercan the first snowflakes started falling down. The start of the day would be over a mountain, and at first the wind was more of a problem than the snow. As I came closer to the top the snowing intensified and soon both me and the bike was covered in snow. I was careful going down the hill since the snow was blowing right in my eyes and it was hard to see anything. 
Eventually I was down on flat ground but the snow kept on coming and the road was wet and muddy. And all that water splashing up on the wheels, gears and all over was freezing so I had problems with changing gears. And by the time I was in Erzurum I only had one gear.
But I made it and was welcomed by my friendly couchsurfing host and I was really happy to be here and in a warm apartment. But we had to bring the bike inside to thaw since the bags where frozen to the bike. And yesterday evening when we went into the city center it felt like being back home in the north of Sweden with cars covered with snow and walking on ice roads.

fredag 22 mars 2013

Anatolian mountains

On Tuesday I left Imranli and started climbing to what would be my highest peak so far on the trip. It was a cold morning and the snow was still covering the landscape. But the road was mostly snow free and there were no ice to look out for. But even though it was cold, I had no problem keeping warm when it was uphill for a long time. Eventually I got to the top and the sign reading 2190 meters. I felt like a big accomplishment, but I didn’t stay long to enjoy it because the wind was freezing cold up there. 
And it was impossible staying warm when going down, having the cold wind right at me all the way. But at least it didn’t take as long as going up. And one of the advantages of going downhill is that the mean bike hating dogs can’t keep up. I spent that night in Refahiye and had a good night sleep which was well needed since the next day I had a new mountain to climb. But this day it was only up to 2160 meters. But this pass was a little harder since the road was up in the cold mountain for longer before coming down on the other side. But it was beautiful with snowy mountains all around. So even if it was hard work, I really enjoyed the scenery.
The end of the day the road followed a long valley with a nice downward angle towards the city if Erzincan. I found a nice pension where I was warmly welcomed. The owner, employees and some people staying there was really interested in what I was doing and with the help of Google Translate we managed to have a conversation. The owner even bought me a very tasty dinner at a nice restaurant in the evening. In the morning we gathered for breakfast and it really felt staying at someone’s home and I felt more like a guest than a customer. After breakfast one of the employees, and his brother who spoke English showed me around town and we had a nice day together.
In the evening I went out for something to eat and when I got back to the pension Haci, the owner insisted that I followed him to a restaurant to try Lahmacun(a this pizza with minced meat). I was full but eventually gave in and went out for the second round. I had a great time there and they even upgraded me to their best room. So for the second night I had a big double bed where I slept great and felt rested for a new day on the bike.
I said goodbye to all the nice people at Ali Eren Pansiyon and headed out of Erzurum. And when I was making my way out of the city I knew this day would be a tough one. The wind was ruthless and right in the face. So for the first 30 km I was doing about 10 km/h on flat ground. Once I made it out of the Erzincan valley and was surrounded by mountains it was a little easier but it was still windy so I had to keep on pedaling if I were to make it the 100 km to Tercan that I had planned since it was between Erzincan and Erzurum where I’m going next. I was told by some people that I met on the road that there where another guy on a bicycle cycling the same way as me but further ahead. I was hoping to catch up with him today but I haven’t seen him, maybe tomorrow. Tomorrow I’m continuing to Erzurum where I have some visa business. I have already gotten the ok for my visa to Iran so hopefully it won’t take too long time until I have it in my passport.

måndag 18 mars 2013


It was time to leave Cappadocia, and I have to say it is an amazing place. I didn’t know much about it before coming here, and I can really recommend everyone to visit the place. And I think spring is a good time to be here. There are tourists here, but not at all as much as it is in high season. And the weather at this time of the year is great for hiking around the area. I think it would be really hard in the middle of the hot summer. 
When I left Göreme I headed for Kayseri and when I came closer I could see the majestic Mount Erciyes rising up in front of me. I was early in town and had some time before meeting my host. The first thing I did was to find a bike shop and by a new chain for the bike. In the afternoon I met up with Mehmet, and as I have learned 50% of Turkish med is named Mehmet. He showed me around town before we took the bus back to his flat. The first bus driver didn’t want to take my bike on the bus, but the next one reluctantly agreed to it. It was a little difficult getting it on the bus and when the bus started to fill up with people I felt a little bit in the way with my big bike. Eventually we came to our stop and got the bike off the bus. Mehmet cooked a great dinner and some friends of his came by before the big game started. Fenerbahce against Plzeň In the Europa League. Mehmet was a big Fenerbahce fan and was happy when they won the game and eliminated Plzeň.
After taking a look at the weather forecast I decided to leave the next day. There would be a strong wind, but most of the day it would be in my advantage. And even if I didn’t leave Kayseri until 11 I still cycled 95 km during the day. And at lunch time I reached a big goal of mine. 10.000 km!!
After riding the wind and reaching a new top speed at 79.4 km/h down a hill I started looking for a place to sleep. I came by an abandoned house on top of a little hill. I decided it would be a good place to sleep and set up my tent inside to keep warm in a house with a couple of broken windows and to keep the cockroaches away. On my way up to the house a dog started following me, he was scared of the bike at first but when I leaned it against the house and had a look around he followed me everywhere. This was my birthday, and beforehand I didn’t imagined spending it in an abandoned house with a stray dog as my only company. But I had cake the day before with Mehmet and didn’t feel a need to spend money on a hotel just because it was my birthday. I’ll rather do that when the weather is bad and I can’t find another place to stay.  I gave the dog some bread and apple peels before calling it a night.
In the morning a tried to put on the new chain only to discover that the man at the store had sold me a chain that was too short. Even though I showed him the bike and tried to explain what I wanted. But I was lucky that morning to find a bike shop in the first little town I came to. And they had one that was the right length and put it on for me. The wind was with me today as well and I was flying. The plan of the day was to reach Sivas and maybe get a hotel room. But I was in Sivas at lunch time and had done 100 km by then, the most I have ever cycled before lunch. And since the wind had done most of the work I wasn’t even tired. So I decided to continue on, taking advantage of the tailwind for a little longer. At four a clock I found a little barn that looked like it wasn’t being used. I cleaned the floor and set up my tent on the stone floor. It was great to have a roof over my head again, and a great shield from the wind.
When I woke up the next morning I was surprised to see snow on the ground. It had been a cold night, but it was still surprising to see. I put on more clothes then I had ever had when cycling and headed out on the road. The snow stopped and the sun peeked out for a little while. But at midday it started snowing again, and this time it was snowing a lot. I fought against it for a while until I heard someone shouting çay, çay from a restaurant by the road. It was exactly what I needed and the tea warmed nicely. The friendly owner even gave me lunch and then told me that I shouldn’t continue on cycling in this weather, and told me that I could sleep in the restaurant for the night. It was a 24 h restaurant so there where people coming and going and the TV were on all the time. But I still had a good night sleep and woke up to another cold day. It wasn’t snowing but it was white everywhere from yesterday’s snow. And I had to knock off some ice from the bike and thaw my water bottles that were frozen solid. 
At first it was easy to keep warm since I had to cycle uphill to a top at 1690 meters. But it got really cold going down and afterwards I had an icing headwind. So when I after just 25 km came by the town of Imranli I looked up a hotel. It was cheap but still nice, so I decided to stop for today. Because from here I’m going further up in the mountains to about 2200 meters and I didn’t want to do that on a very cold day since it’s still going to be cold there anyway. 

onsdag 13 mars 2013


When I left Bor I thought it might take me two days to get to Göreme since it was 110 km and I wanted to stop by Kaymakli to see the underground city. But I was off early in the morning and was really happy to feel a strong wind in my back. So I cycled on at high speed with the most amazing wind most of the time going the same way as I. Sometimes I had it in the side and had to lean in to it to stay straight on the road. This was my fastest day so far on this trip and I had done 80 km at about twelve a clock and stopped in Kaymakli and had all the time I needed there to explore the amazing underground city. It was really cool to a long way down into the ground and walking around all the corridors and rooms. At some points the roof was so low that I almost had to crawl.

I spent more than an hour underground and when I came up again it had started raining. But I only had about 20km left to Göreme where I had booked a nice but really cheap hostel. On my way there I passed by the castle in Uchisar and could see Göreme in the valley below. And the landscape was just amazing.
The next day I started early to see as much as possible. I hitchhiked up to Uchisar and was the first person at the castle. And for an hour I had the place to myself. The view of the valley below from the top of the castle was great and I spent some time there walking around in and around the castle.

After that I walked the Pigeon Valley back to Göreme. Like in the castle there was no one around and it was really peaceful and a great break from the touristic places. And at one point it was really difficult when I had to walk on a very narrow path next to the rock and the gravel was slipping under my shoes. And since I was the only one there I took it slow and got safe to the other side. I don’t think I have a career as a rock climber.
After Pigeon Valley I continued on walking the amazing landscape near Göreme. I walked in the hills and through a narrow gorge and got back to the hostel with tired legs after a day of a lot of walking. I’m used to cycling long distances, not walking this much.
Tomorrow I’m cycling on to the city of Kayseri where I have a couchsurfer to stay with.
More pictures from Cappadocia at