Contrary to popular belief, I am not actually dead. Here’s some proof with the details of my last two months since the previous blog update.
After writing the last blog post, I spent a week in Bishkek with Henry trying to decide what our route should be as we continue to head west. We had found out that the boat across the Caspian Sea from Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan wasn’t taking people across at the time, so we decided we would go to Almaty, KZ from Bishkek and fly to Tbilisi, Georgia where we could pick up Henry’s bike and get back on the saddle again.
While in Bishkek we spent time exploring the city, but since I had already been there we were doing less touristy activities and more just taking care of bits of bussiness and relaxing.
On August 4th I celebrated the fact that I had now spent an entire year on the road. I finally bought myself a camera, which is something I’ve been wanting for a while now to improve photo quality in my travel documentation. We also went out to some tasty restaurants. We full American and got hot dogs from a Nathan’s for lunch (we were very surprised to find a Nathan’s store in Kyrgyzstan) and burgers for dinner from a fancy burger place Henry had been to a few days before.
On the 7th we crossed the border and went to Almaty. We spent the next ten days there before our flight to Tbilisi on the 17th. We spent the majority of our time going to the local climbing gym, where we learned how to lead climb. So now if any of your friends say to you “Hey, I bet you don’t know anyone who is certified in lead climbing in Kazakhstan!”, you can say “Actually I know this guy ‘Adam’ who is.”
I also celebrated by 19th birthday on the 14th in Almaty. I decided I wanted to hike up into the mountains and spend a few nights along Big Almaty Lake, which is a huge light blue colored glacier fed lake that supplies drinking water to Almaty city. So Henry and I packed our hiking stuff into our duffel bags and slung them onto our backs and walked up to the lake.
On the night of the 13th we were camped just above the lake next to one of the glacier streams, being very conscious not to taint the cities drinking water I should add. We went to sleep that night after watching the sun dip behind the mountains around us, and we woke up the next morning at sunrise to pack our gear up quickly. Why pack quickly? Well the area we were sleeping at was a Kazakh military base and we had looked it up the night before and found out that they are not keen to people camping on their base, but we didn’t see any signs and would’ve had to walk miles through the dark to get off the base, so we figured we’d play dumb if caught.
After we packed up camp, we decided we’d stay for a while. We thought that it would look less suspicious to be walking away from the base mid day than in the morning since people would likely think we slept there if it was morning, but just passing through if mid day.
At around 10:30AM a military patrol officer comes across our camp and sees us eating come cheese and crackers. He got really angry and started yelling in Kazakh asking if we had slept there, we were motioning to say we didn’t sleep, only having lunch. He kept yelling and we thought we were done. Then Henry handed him a cigarette and all of the sudden he was fine, he just watched us pack up our food and then we walked away. And that’s the story of how I almost went to Kazakh military prison on my 19th birthday.
We spent the next few days camped OFF the military base eating good food, reading and exploring the forest.
On the 17th we flew to Tbilisi across KZ and the Caspian Sea, with a 24hr layover in Aktau which is a tiny desert airport, very boring for a 24hr layover.
We spent a few days in Tbilisi hanging out with some Finnish cycle tourists, doing repairs on my bike and getting Henry’s new bike.
After a few days walking around Tbilisi, we finally got back on our bikes together again. We started using the app Komoot to do our routes out of Tbilisi and across Georgia. It was such a great decision to follow the Komoot route from Tbilisi to Batumi, it was one of my favorite routes I have done so far.
Our route was just over a week long to cross Georgia, it took us through lots of beautiful rural mountainous regions and lots of small farm towns. It felt like a really good way to experience Georgia. It was strange for me to be in Georgia after such a long time in east Asia, because even though Georgia is in Asia, they want to be apart of the EU so they make a lot of their structure feel European. I definitely noticed this with the towns feeling similar to the farm towns we cycled through in central France and a lot of chain supermarkets stemming from Europe. Henry didn’t notice this as much since he has only really travelled the west, besides his month in Central Asia, but to me it felt like the start of my introduction back into the west.
I have found that my favorite aspect that a country can have is it’s remote-ness. I love having rural countrysides, because you stumble upon so much beautiful land and you can experience more untouched culture from within the local populations. Georgia was a fairly remote country to explore, which proved many amazing campsites across the country. We slept in some beautiful places, my favorites in Georgia being some abandoned ruins of old old farms, rocky beaches beside deep clear river pools and hammocking on a cliff above a deep canyon.
Georgia was VERY mountainous, it seemed everyday was an ascent and decent of about 1000 meters a day. Thankfully, Georgia has lots of ancient ruins that we could stop and explore mid-climb to take our minds off it, and we would have dogs tail us up the mountain to get a little of in maybe, or to tell us “I can walk just as fast as you can bike”.
Some of the Georgian dogs were terrifying though, HUGE wolf like dogs would run up to us barking and showing teeth, it typically they would be fairly friendly. Georgian dogs were nothing compared to Turkish dogs however. Turkish dogs are the biggest I’ve ever seen and can apparently kill bears. Luckily they never chased me down.
In Tbilisi the Finns we met warned us of the dogs and told us to buy pepper spray, so we did. We haven’t used it yet, but Henry had to throw his away after it leaked all over his toiletries, he only discovered this after expressing concern that his toothbrush had been spicy for several days.
After two weeks in Georgia we reached our final big climb before reaching Batumi, where we decided we would stay for Henry’s birthday on the 30th. The climb took us a day and a half to reach the top. Immediately after the hill began it turned to gravel, with every switchback being so churned up it was like riding in sand. Because of Henry’s skinny tires I was about an hour ahead of him for the entire gravel stretch. On those two days I would take hour long lunch brakes midway through the day and have Henry show up right as I was packing up my food, we’d ride together for a bit before his 38’s got the best of him.
We were welcomed to the top with a bittersweet finale to the hill, bitter because there were suddenly a constant stream of Semi’s (lorry’s (for the brits)) that would kick dust into our eyes. Sweet because there was a beautiful little village with all these colorful mountain top houses and fields of cows.
We had a long descent off the mountain towards Batumi with breathtaking views of the river valley below us. I had a great time bobbing down the hills of my gravel fit tires and I made it to a nice riverside campsite about an hour before dark. Henry and his skinny tires arrived a few hours later with a nice dinner waiting for them at camp.
We made it to Batumi in the early afternoon on Henry’s birthday, checked into the hostel and then started Henry’s birthday party around 4PM. We spent a few hours at a bar and made friends with the bartenders and then we spent the rest of the night bar hopping karaoke bars along the coast of the Black Sea. I’m typically not that in to going out all night like that, a good proof of this is me having my birthday at a remote Kazakh lake, but that was a very fun night hitting the town and singing karaoke with Henry for his 20th.
We entered Turkey on the third of September. I can say confidently now after crossing the entirety of Turkey by bike that Turkey is one of the most underrated countries to travel in, in my opinion. Turkey hands down had the kindest, most generous people of the entire trip, I could recognize this on day one when everyone was offering conversation, lodging, food, etc. There is also tons of different biomes to explore, we found ourselves on the shore of two seas, cresting mountains, hiding from dessert sun in lava chutes, exploring the back roads of tea plantations and taking shelter in 4000 year old ruins.
Our first day in Turkey was bliss. We had our first flat day in forever, it was sunny, we were riding the coast all day and we saw dolphins. We were in such high spirits that we were able to ride 130km. The days following were not as nice, we were in a cold drizzle constantly and having to ride through steep tea hills. The only thing getting us through was the kindness of Turkish locals, and the fact that Henry had convinced me to let us book a hotel in a few days, so a bed and hot shower was a strong motivator in this bone chilling rain.
After painfully riding the tea hills for a few more days we finally reached the hotel where we each payed $20 a night to sleep, this may sound like a lot for Turkey, but this was the nicest hotel either of us had every stayed in. We ended up there for 3 days because we could see on our terrain map that we were about to climb several thousand meters in the next 30km, so we decided to shell out $20 a day to avoid riding up this monstrosity in the rain.
When we finally left our fancy comfortable lodging, we were telling ourselves that the hill probably wouldn’t be taht bad and that there was no way the statistics on the map were correct. They were, and it was that bad. One of the hardest climbs I’ve done. 1500m in 15km. Just up. AND on gravel.
We spent managed the first 10km on the first day and had to spend one night on the mountain sleeping in a cloud. We made camp pizzas that night which was a very tasty meal to distract us from our legs. I had a bit of altitude sickness there with a headache and a bit of dizziness, so I spent the majority of the night lying down and drinking water.
When I woke up at 4:40 the sky was completely clear of clouds and completely full of stars. The sun was just showing hints of pink and orange from behind the surrounding mountains and I had a view of the sea 70km from us. It’s a morning I’ll never forget, staying up and watching the sun rise slowly over the peaks around me.
We made it up the mountain in the morning and started making our way into the desert towards our next destination: Cappadocia.
We had about a week of desert riding before we made it to Cappadocia. I spent the time geeking out on making new tasty camp meals everyday. Henry called me a nerd for wanting to make fancy camp meals, but I think he was secretly happy to have my good meals after long days across the desert.
We reached Cappadocia after a week and a half riding through the Turkish desert. Cappadocia is a Unesco world heritage site formed millions of years ago by layers of ash and sediment from volcanic eruptions out of Mount Erciyes creating fairy chimneys across a valley. The chimneys were carved into caves and settled in by humans about 4000 years ago
4000 years later, Henry and I arrived to cappadocia with our bikes and climbed up hardened ash and sediment hills to a cave that we would make our home for a few days.
Every morning at sunrise in Cappadocia hundreds of hot air balloons rise into the sky for 1.5 hours. Our cave was positioned right next to the launch site for several of the ball one companies, so our morning was extra special waking up in ancient caves and watching the balloons come right next to us.
Turkey was another fairly remote destination, like Georgia. Riding through lots of farm towns spaced out 50km apart or so. Because of this, the stars were incredible. It reminded me of being back under the night sky of Kyrgyzstan.
We spent a night camped out on a dried up salt lake after Cappadocia where we met another young cycle tourist who is riding across the world on a tall bike, you can check him out on instagram at tallbiketour
The salt lake was like being on a different planet. It was about 10 meters of sulfuric mud to reach the salt lake. It took us about 15 minutes to cross this mud that smelled horrible. At one point Henry’s bike sank halfway into the mud and he had to sink into it himself to push his bike back out towards the salt.
It was such a cool experience to ride across the salt. To my surprise, the salt was hard enough to cruise on on the bikes, so we’re rode out onto the salt until we couldn’t see the road anymore and set up camp to sleep with our tall bike friend, Alex and his puppy, Nova.
Night on the salt flat was just as amazing. We had a clear view of the Milky Way. I was lying in my sleeping bag on the salt before bed when I saw a meteor suddenly light up the sky around it with white from its tail and then turn green falling into the atmosphere.
Henry and I had one last night camping together after leaving the salt flats. We set up our hammocks under a park gazebo, which was always a reliable camping spot all across Turkey. Since everyone is so nice, even park security says feel free to set up camp in the park. On this night it was maybe our third or fourth time sleeping in a park, so we were pretty comfortable. At about 10PM park security came and told us to move to a different part of the park by their office, so they could watch us sleep and protect us if any crazies or dogs were to come to us. Gotta love the Turks. When we were moving spots in the park though, Henry lost his passport somewhere in the park and did find out until nearly a week later. Of course, this is just a guess as to where he may have lost it. We aren’t 100% sure, so he is on the way to a US Consulate now.
Not 10km after leaving the park we realized our bikes were falling apart. Henry’s spoke had snapped, my brakes broke even more and a dog had chewed through my shifter cable the night before. We decided it’d be best to just hitchhike to the next bike town on our route, Antalya. Antalya was only a two days ride away, so we weren’t all too upset about having to hitch our way there.
We arrived in Antalya at 1am after two days of hitching and one overnight in a vacant roadside tea stand in the middle of nowhere. We checked into our hostel in the middle of the night and Henry discovered that he did not in fast have a passport to turn over to the hostel.
We spent a few days in Antalya enjoying life on the Mediterranean and we decided it best that I continue on to Greece as planned and Henry go to Turkey’s capital to get a new passport and we will meet up again in a month or so.
Now I am in Fethiye, Turkey. Fethiye will be my last city in Asia before I take the ferry to Greece in a few days.
The ride from Antalya to Fethiye was wonderful! Everyday was pretty similar, I’d ride away from the sea in the morning and up into the mountains and forest for the day, climbing all day and sweating and then bombing back down the mountains to the sea for the last hour or so of the day and then finding a beachside camp.
I had some of the best campsites I’ve ever had sleeping on empty rock beaches along the clear sea. On the second night I was staying on a beach I found with no people that had a diving board. I decided to stop there to sleep, and at night when I went down to the sea I stumbled upon tons of bioluminescent plankton that lit up when I would wave my hand through them. It felt like I was controlling the reflection of the stars in the deep dark night water of the sea. It was surely one of the most memorable nights camping on this trip.
In the morning, some old Turkish women came down and went swimming off my beach, so I joined them and we found a Lion Fish, making the campsite even more memorable.
I arrived to Fethiye after a month of cycling across Turkey and ten months of cycling across Asia. With some money from my dad I got some grooming in and got new pants and a haircut. The barber lit a cotton swab on fire and stuck it in my ear for the little ear hairs even, very thorough. Now I’m hanging out in Fethiye on the beaches getting mentally prepared to leave Asia and enter the west once again and thinking about the next steps of the trip after leaving Europe again.