Pedaling from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
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Day 88 (Turkey): Kozluk - somewhere past Tatvan (uphill baby, uphill)

daily distance: 118km
total distance: 5836km
riding time: 8-9h

A battle of a day … got up a bit later than yesterday and set out to reach Tatvan or Bitlis, depending on how I would feel. I wanted to get away from the heat of the plains I was on and to Lake Van where things were supposed to be a bit cooler. The first few km were devastating. Very steep uphill sections and a very strong headwind made for some tough going. I would not really gain any altitude until the turnoff to Tatvan though as all the uphills were followed by downhills. Not much in making for a good start.

Then the climb began in more serious terms. The road follows a river valley and continues to wind up for the next 50 or so km. Mostly uphill, some drops bringing you back down to the river level. I was sweating a lot, trying hard to keep hydrated. The total fluid intake for the day was more than 8 liters, including juices and Coke. The valley currently sees a lot of construction, the road is getting two more lanes, which made for some slow progress at times. Halfway up – during one of many stops – I was approached by a kid. I didn’t have the calm to be stared at for 5 or 10 or 15 minutes and tried to tell him that I wanted to be alone. This is rarely, if ever, successful. People will just walk for 5 meters and then stop and stare again. So, after trying to shoo him away, he trodded off only to come back later and show me a handwritten note: “I’m police” and asking for money. Understand that this kid was 14 years old at the most – I couldn’t help but laugh at the moment. It does show something that is prevalent here in this area though. Kids are asking a lot more for money than in any other place that I have been to and the area generally seems to be much poorer than previous ones.

When I finally reached Bitlis, I was ready to quit for the day. But then I looked at the map and convinced myself that the lake would be much better than what was around me.

So, after rescuing this little creature from the oncoming trucks (it was hissing pretty badly when I picked it up), I got to the top where a very strong tailwind made the last 10km to Tatvan a no-brainer. I was happy because after a few long days of constant ups and downs there was a flat stretch with a tailwind, making progress simply a joy. I was cruising along at 30km/h when all of a sudden the lakeview opened up in front of me. It came out of nowhere. I was just concentrating on the few meters in front of me, looked up and saw it. Magnificent.

I hadn’t made up my mind whether to take the southern route around the lake or the northern one. The decision was rather simple. I watched the flow of traffic for a bit. The northern side it would be - much less traffic from the looks of it. I was hoping to be able to pitch close to the lake, but the military had taken the beachfront property for the next 7km or so. I finally found an area only to be told that it wouldn’t be possible to pitch my tent there. After 5 minutes of discussions (things are rarely what they seem to be at first, which can be frustrating as everything is made much more complicated than necessary it seems), I was graciously given permission (I don’t think they really had any say about this) and found a good lakeside spot. By chance I happened upon 2 teachers, a lawyer and a religious scholar whom I shared dinner with before they set out to get back to Erzurum. The lake is quiet and peaceful as I am typing this, the stars clear and the moon still beyond the horizon. Great end to a long day.


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