13 Jun

Extremes, originally uploaded by Big Al!.

Left our wild camping spot very early, which turned out to be a good move as we discovered that we had camped right next to some sort of military base. Heading towards the Yusufeli valley we were soon drenched in sun and dazzled with spectacular views. The road wasn’t bad either, a bit unfinished in parts but that’s understandable given that it will all be under water when the dam goes up. We were held up for half an hour at a road block because of quarrying or a landslide, hard to tell which. It was over 40 degrees. Once through there, the road turned upwards and the weather turned cool. We stopped by the river to make lunch, only for the wind and rain to kick in, so we sheltered under a tree for a while before deciding to press on over the mountain pass. At the top, the weather was proper end of the world type stuff, all menacing black clouds, crackling lightening and booming, rolling thunder. Heated grips on full till we descended out of it. The last turkish town of any size that we were to pass through was Ardahan, which turned out to be a horrid little hell hole, making me feel sorry for anyone who has to live there and glad to be leaving, which we did, passing more of turkey’s wierdly militaristic goings on, out onto the road to the border and another hunt for a camping spot. The landscape was barren and inhospitable, at least it felt that way to me. Strangely there are small towns out here in the middle of nowhere, where people must scrape the most meagre living harsh surroundings. Another mountain pass and more cold weather, by now thinking we would have to press on across the border and be into another very long day in the saddle, but as we descended the scenery became almost alpine, the air warned up, and a camping spot seemed much more hopeful. We selected a spot off the road partly behind some trees, and fried some kofte on the camp stove, accompanied with a warm beer, while we hoped no one would see us and stop to tell us to move on. So far so good. After listening to the surreal sounds of the call to prayer echoing round the valley, we set up tents. Now i’m lying here, sliding slightly downhill to the right (it was to the left last night), listening to the sound of every passing car and truck hoping they ignore us. It’s odd how much traffic there is on these roads that seem to be in the middle of nowhere, between towns it’s hard to imagine require any traffic, never mind 6 trucks and 8 cars in the last half an hour at 11 o’clock at night. All being well, on to Georgia tomorrow. I’ve loved some aspects of turkey, hated others. We’ve been here longer than any other country we’ve passed through but it doesn’t feel anymore familiar and the only two words i’ve learned are chai and kofte. I love being in my tent. It’s like a protective shield, sanctuary, normality.