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Real Turkey and illegal Ararat

Most of our compatriots represent Turkey as a solid resort, where our compatriots relax on the Mediterranean beaches under the hot southern sun, sipping beer and visiting huge flea markets. Meanwhile, in this country there are many areas suitable for sports cycling. There are high mountains with dirt roads winding between the rocks, passes above 3000 m, on which in August you can meet snow, hospitable valleys and bare cold plateaus. We are talking about the provinces of Eastern Turkey, on the roads of which the Russian-Belarusian team passed in August of this year.

Our expedition was unusual. We planned to make a difficult cycling route through the mountains of Eastern Turkey, then meet at the foot of Ararat with fellow climbers and jointly storm the mountain covered with legends. Thus, for 10 days we are actively picking up the form on the passes of the Lazistansky and Karsky ranges, we go through acclimatization and come to the mountain with a height of 5137 m quite ready for a three-day ascent. However, we did not find enough information about Ararat, and we had to carry with us on bikes all the equipment that could be needed on the “unknown” mountain, starting with the “cats” and ending with the safety systems. As a result, our cycle backpacks weighed 30 kg or more, which markedly reduced speed.

9 people were preparing for the campaign, but in the last week 3 people for various reasons refused to participate in it. To top it off, just two days before departure, they called me from the Turkish embassy and reported that Ararat is now supposedly a military site. Entrance “to the object” for foreigners is categorically closed, permission cannot be obtained, it is forbidden to be near the mountain, everyone who is caught, imprisoned, and difficult to catch, those soldiers are shot from tanks on the slopes of the mountain. (A month before, one of the embassy officials claimed that the mountain was absolutely “open”). Nevertheless, six people decided not to retreat from their plans and understand the situation on the spot. They are cyclists Viktor Schulz, Dmitry Poznyak and I (all from St. Petersburg), Belarusian Alexander Chuguev from Bobruisk and two climbers – Vladimir Dolmatov and Slava Pisarev (from St. Petersburg).

The easiest way to get to Turkey is by the Sochi-Trabzon ferry, which is relatively cheap and goes every other day. It is important that no one asks how much your backpack weighs, and does not try to take money for transporting bicycles. The ferry is about 14 hours, you do not need to take a return ticket right away, a visa is issued directly on the ship and costs $ 10. Cheap and comfortable buses from Trabzon can take you anywhere in Turkey. We straightened our bikes right in the port and set off.

The guidebook says that the Turkish coast of the Black Sea is a series of high cliffs stretching for many kilometers, only occasionally the cliffs part, making room for small villages. We moved east along the coast, hoping to quickly get to the promised uninhabited area. We drove 20 km, 30, 40 … A narrow road, a huge flow of transport, and most importantly – there are no rocks, no clearance in the settlements. After spending the night in gullies on the shore, we continued to move towards Georgia. The highway was getting bigger, bigger trucks getting bigger. Over the road hung thick smog. Worst of all for us were the “good-natured” Turkish chauffeurs. A huge “wagon” will catch up with you, and the driver immediately beeps, comparable in power to the Jericho trumpet. In this situation, you need to be able to control yourself. It is worth, frightened, to vilnut – and you are already on a loose curb, and at speed it is fraught with a fall. Finally, leaving behind 120 km of a continuous city, stunned and poisoned, we turned onto a quiet road leading south to the village. Ayder and to the pass through Lazistansky ridge.

Here everything is not as on the shore. The mountain slopes are overgrown with dense forests, wherever possible, the locals plant tea. The houses are molded high above the road, and they can only be climbed along a very steep path. Humpback bridges and numerous cable ferries are thrown across the rivers. After Gamli-Khemshina, the slope of the road increases, tea plantations disappear, people become scarce. Ayder is the last place where you can eat and buy something before the pass, to which we traveled for two more days. 5 km to the south we drove along an inferior undercoat, which, when it rains, is strongly blurred by landslides. Next is the trail, which begins behind the bridge at the houses. (Do not confuse: the path that goes along the left bank of the stream leads to the next gorge!)

It had been raining day and night, thick fog was hanging. The trail was limp, in some areas swollen streams impudently flowed straight along the track. We put our cycle backpacks on our backs and we began our ascent to the pass with a height of 3351 m. We walked in the rain all day. The trail is well packed, which allowed us to confidently go forward even in the fog. We spent the night at an altitude of 2500 m. The next day, the nature of the trail changed. Slopes have become very big. We were no longer able to simultaneously carry bicycle pants and bicycles.

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