From Narman we rode the main highway to Oltu where I thought there was a little bit to see. We found the castle,
an old medrese,
and, what I was most looking forward, the Russian church:
I had a nice mountain route planned from Oltu to Olur, avoiding the highway. I was quite looking forward to this bit, expecting it to be the most forested section of our ride until, perhaps, Borçka. We even pedaled up 600m that afternoon via Gökçedere to a picnic area where we spent the night.
However, traveling with five people is much different from traveling solo. I still don’t really understand why everyone except me wanted to head back down the road we had come up and take the busy highway to Olur.
In the end I have to admit that the highway had pretty scenery, but it’s stressful to ride with so much traffic.
We pitched our tents near the welcoming village of Toklu and arrived in Olur the following afternoon.
Was there less traffic the next day or was I so quickly getting used to it?
We unexpectedly spent two nights at this camp above Olur as it ended up taking almost a full day to fix Ferda’s hydraulic disc brakes.
Luckily Görkem knows something about these brakes. I have never serviced anything except rim brakes. He replaced the fluid so quickly and easily and successfully for the front brakes that we decided to do the rear brakes as well. For a while that seemed like a mistake, but then Nur and Yalçın showed up, and Yalçın spent a couple hours with us getting the rear brakes working well. Thank you.
It turns out that Nur is Osman and Fatma’s niece! What a coincidence.
The 1600m (from 1000m to 2600m) ascent to cross from Olur (Erzurum) to Ardanuç (Artvin) was the biggest climb of the trip (so far). With five people, late starts, and slow climbers, we ended up spreading it out over three days of riding.
We were all looking forward to Artvin, but the pass was uninspiring. So was the beginning of the descent:
However, we started to get into some of the lush scenery that Artvin is famous for.
Our first village in Artvin was Zekeriya where too many of us asked too many different people for directions to Aydınköy. We were told of at least four different routes, two of which were on osm.
We were kindly invited to a substantial lunch by a curious woman. Then two young guys offered to show us the route to Aydınköy via the yayla above the village.
We had barely started up that rather steep road when Emek, Görkem, and Hacer phoned our host in Aydınköy and asked to be picked up by car. Our young guides descended with the three bicyclists.
Ferda and I continued up to the yayla
and pushed our bikes through the thick mud and cow shit to get to a better though still very steep road passed the buildings.
Higher up at a çoban (shepherd) camp the road ended, and it looked like we’d be retreating in the morning. The osm “road” was a steep rocky path. We put the tent up, put on all our warm clothes, and cooked a hot dinner.
The shepherd we spoke with when we first arrived was new and didn’t know the routes, but Murat showed up later and encouraged us to continue over the top to Gomozor Yaylası and Aydınköy. Each time he explained the route to us, it seemed to get a little more confusing. In the end we convinced (with a fee) Murat to guide us to Gomozor. I’m quite sure we wouldn’t have had the courage to continue on without him.
The hardest part would have been figuring out where to go down on the other side. We ended up doing it in a cloud so I don’t have any photos. There was one rather steep rocky section.
The top part above the clouds was very fun.
Thank you, Murat, for a mini adventure!
It really felt like we were in Artvin now. This was my first visit to Ardanuç (one of the districts (ilçe) in the province (il) of Artvin), and I was certainly not disappointed.
Stuck in the mud with her wheels not turning, Ferda accepted a ride with Kadem Bey, our host in Aydınköy, for the last 1.5km to his comfortable pansiyon.