Doğu Karadeniz Dağları. The Eastern Black Sea Mountains. Spectacular. Unbelievable. In order to get my mind around the magnitude and magnificence of these mountains I try to compare them to other places I’ve been. Maybe Kaua’i. The climb up Waimea Canyon is lush, green, full of good views if you’re lucky enough to get it without the clouds. The same description describes the climbs here from the seaside, but at 1200m Waimea Canyon is small. Also Kaua’i has perhaps 3 or 4 four roads that climb similarly. Here there are dozens if not hundreds.
Then I tried to compare it to places I haven’t been. Reunion. Steep, green, big, but are there roads up the cliffs in Reunion? Do they end up at high rolling summer pastures (yayla)? I’m sure not. I guess, in a word, it’s incomparable. I guess I ought to like these mountains. I’ve been bouncing around them for a couple months now.
Unfathomable scale. Sage and I crossed from Yusufeli to Arhavi, dropping 2800m to the Black Sea and then crossed back to Ardahan, a 2600m climb that I didn’t bother mentioning in a previous post. On my way from Erzurum to Trabzon I got lost in the clouds. At about 2400m at a yayla in Gümüşhane (Yapraklı Yayla perhaps?), I made a wrong turn and descended to 900m only to climb right back up to 2300m. Had I not missed the turn I would have only dropped to 1700m. Another small descent and climb (here a 350m climb is small) brought me to 2500m from where it was a continuous drop to sea level!
In Rize I chose a side road to get away from the busy flat Black Sea highway for a bit. Straight up to 2600m and right back down again.
I still can’t believe just how long, endless these descents are. From alpine switchbacks to steep, wet, cloudy, muddy, narrow, cliff-like canyons, to 30km of fast paved descent. Any one of those sections is a long descent. Just for scale imagine descending Mt. Evans to Golden on dirt roads. That’s what I did yesterday. All day.
Ok, ok. Sorry for all the numbers. You need to be a cyclist to appreciate any of that nonsense, but you don’t need to be a cyclist to appreciate the views and a bit of the history of the area. Liking old stone bridges will help.
How about the old churches that appeared like magic out of the clouds in Santa Harabeleri?
A few shots from the dry side of the mountains: