Sorry, one more blog about Şavşat, but it really is one of the most beautiful ilçe (district) in Turkey. I’ll also include a little about the numerous places to stay in this area. The riding here is hard with lots of up and down, but there are enough small hotels that I think you could put together a mountain bike itinerary where you’d stay inside every night. In other words you wouldn’t have to carry camping or cooking gear.
Ferda and I rode on the Meydancık road (a paved highway) downhill for about 5-6km before turning off for the climb up to Bazgiret (aka Madenköy). When I descended from Çermik nine years ago, I turned right uphill to Meydancık so now I was back on roads that I had never ridden before. We had just started up the climb and were looking for a shady place to eat lunch when Ferda’s derailleur hanger broke. Oops. We didn’t have a spare. Bigger oops.
What to do? In a more remote area I could have made Ferda’s bicycle into a single speed, but as it was, we mostly coasted (Ferda could coast but not pedal) about 10km downhill to the main Artvin-Şavşat road where there was cell service. After many hours and many phone calls, we had a derailleur hanger sent to the small shop there (the delivery point for any packages heading to any of the many villages up the Meydancık Road). That would take a few days to arrive. In the meantime we hung out in beautiful Bazgiret.
First, of course, we had to get to Bazgiret. We were only 24km and 1200m (vertical) below Bazgiret so Ferda could have pushed her bicycle the whole way. However, for folks used to pedaling, well, that would have been pretty painful. Incredibly less an hour after we had everything sorted out, a dolmuş with a roof rack showed up, and Ferda was up at Bazgiret’s Göl Pansiyon that evening. I arrived by bicycle the next morning after one night camping.
That camp was squeezed between cliffs on either side of the creek (it was the only flat place I had seen in an hour of riding). Any bears cruising along the creek at night would clearly need to pass right next to my tent. At this low elevation (1000m) in the first week of September, the bears ought to still be up higher, I reasoned. Still, I kept my food well away from the tent.
No problem, of course. Indeed the next fresh bear scat we saw was up near (and later in!) Bazgiret at about 1900m.
It was a good call to pedal rather than take the dolmuş with Ferda as the riding was easy (thanks to the pavement) and the canyon was beautiful.
We ended up spending a wonderful four days with Sayınur and Hüseyin (a couple) and Yusuf (Hüseyin’s brother) in Bazgiret. Ferda and I had been in largely Georgian speaking areas for a couple weeks at this point, but Bazgiret was the first place where we had seen Georgian food offered.
Sayınur made tasty Georgian-style fresh bread in the wood stove every day. She also prepared hinkali one evening.
How do I not have a photo of the mohrakuli that Sayınur made for breakfast every morning?
My friend from Şavşat, Semra, describes how when she was growing up there, all the villages had only wooden houses. Now, of course, we see ugly concrete construction in many places. Bazgiret is an exception. They’ve banned concrete construction in the village (or at least the buildings must have wooden siding).
One of the walks that Ferda and I did was up to the waterfall above the village. It’s well hidden around a corner and difficult to take photos of because of the sun/shade.
We detoured through the upper village on the way back.
On another day Sayınur took us on a walk to the collection of summer houses (as opposed to a real, working village like Bazgiret) called Vaket, just over the ridge to the NE from Bazgiret. Locals (from Vaket, not Bazgiret) brag that Vaket is like Switzerland, more beautiful than Bazgiret.
It reminded me of Colorado.
Here are Ferda and Sayınur resting on the Vaket-Bazgiret ridge, looking down at Bazgiret.
On our last evening a local who now lives in Tblisi brought a bottle of rakı. It was a fun evening full of good conversation with this gentleman/character from the upper village:
as well as Yusuf and Hasan (?), the Tbilisi rakı procurer. Yusuf is well read, and the others appreciate it. A stimulating conversation about the future of energy systems comes to mind. Later Sayınur, Hüseyin, and Ferda showed up as well, and we heard a couple Georgian (language) folk tunes with Hüseyin on accordion. Even though they’re all more comfortable speaking Georgian than Turkish, we spent the evening speaking Turkish for Ferda and my benefit.
Bye bye, Bazgiret.
Of course, our first day with Ferda’s new derailleur hanger (it had arrived the previous day in the same vehicle that carried the rakı up to the village) was a big climbing day.
First we rode/pushed through the upper village.
The pushing/riding continued to the top of the first pass.
I know what you’re thinking: “why do you need a derailleur hanger if you’re always pushing your bicycles??!!”
A good question really ’cause on these downhills we used our brakes more than our pedals.
The reward for this climb was Cancir Yaylası.
However, it wasn’t long before we were climbing again. The first km to Lekoban Yaylası was intensely steep (two people pushing each bicycle, like Jack and I had to do in Oman).
We were happy to get our tent set up next to an empty house in the deserted yayla just as the rain was starting.
It was only later when I looked at the map that I realized we had crossed from Şavşat into Borçka.
“Finally,” I’m sure you’re saying.
Since this post is too long, I’m saving the promised accommodation reviews for next week.