Nine years ago I wrote “Artvin’s worth the effort!” Yep, it’s still worth it, and it’s still an effort. In retrospect (the trip’s over now, but I still have a fair bit of photo editing and blogging to do), the effort:award ratio is quite favorable in Şavşat. If you want to choose only one ilçe (district) to bicycle tour in Artvin, let it be Şavşat.
On this stretch we crossed from high in one valley, where we find the village of Yukarı Koyunlu, to high in another valley, where we find the village of Pınarlı, to high in a third valley, where the village of Demirkapı sits. As is true in Artvin in general, there are things to visit, but it’s more about the journey and the scenery along the way.
From Kanat (the camp for Tamara Kilisesi) it was downhill to Aşağı Koyunlu.
Then the (small) effort kicked in, a short climb to Yukarı Koyunlu and a descent to Meşeli (Meşeli is confusingly three villages with one name; this is the eastern Meşeli).
The next climb started off very steeply to Karagöl (a lake), perhaps Şavşat’s most popular and most disappointing tourist attraction.
After waiting for the rain to stop for a couple hours, we gave up and pitched our tent nearby. By late the next morning it was raining light enough that we decided to ride. The weather forecast, after all, indicated a fairly dry day.
It was uphill, steep at times, in thick forest.
Progress had been slow, and we were still a ways from Pınarlı when it really started to rain. I suggested pitching the tent when I saw a flat spot. Ferda wanted to slog on hoping we’d find somewhere dry with perhaps a wood stove. Haha, I laughed.
Unbelievable. Less than 2km later we came upon a fish restaurant, Pona Alabalık. Not only did they have a wood stove, but they sold beer as well.
After getting settled (pitching our tent, washing up, changing into dry clothes), we went back to the restaurant and were greeted by Loana, a young smiling Tica (from Nicoya which I found surprising given her African ancestry)! She was excited that we spoke English and even more excited to be able to use her native Spanish. She speaks Dutch as well but hasn’t learned Turkish yet.
Ferda and I were happy to have sunshine the next day for our climb up to Balık and Şırata lakes.
Check out the new snow (hard to see) on the south side of the Karçal Mountains from the previous day’s storm.
The lakes weren’t so exciting, but like I said it’s more about the journey.
We had planned on camping that night, but when we came to a pansiyon (Disharo) in the middle of the afternoon, with this view from the terrace:
well, we splurged.
It was up and down and up the next morning to get to another set of lakes, Arsiyan, near the border with Ardahan (a Turkish province) and Georgia (a country).
We descended 1000m that afternoon to Çermik, one of Şavşat’s gems.
The village of Çermik is like a living outdoor museum with wooden houses hidden in the greenery. It reminded Ferda of Japan.
I am sad to report that the beautiful canyon below Çermik that I admired so much nine years ago (from Demirkapı down to the Meydancık road is the only part of this route that I had ridden before) is an industrial mess for the last ~5km, destroyed for a (low carbon?) hydro electric energy project.
I couldn’t bear to take photos of the lower section. A local at the bottom explained how the whole village had protested, but, well, protests don’t mean much to autocrats.