We knew it was going to be a hard day. The day before we had ridden along a valley rising very slowly but steadily. The road went up and down, up and down steeply, always coming back to the river, similarly to the Aras valley. Today we got up early as usual but were more efficient in our packing up. Off we went at 7am. Sustained climbing this time - we were following a branch of the same river upstream, high into the mountains. The sun shone, the sweat trickled, then poured. Always the rush of the nearby river. Sometimes we were lucky and the steepness of the gorge blocked the sun.
It was slow going: We averaged 6kph. After 20kms we rode into an icy wind, which was great for about 5 minutes because it dried the sweat. After that, the fact that it was a headwind became its primary characteristic. We crawled on, past construction work and hills still patched with snow in midsummer. There were plenty of people in makeshift houses and a Muezzin calling everyone to prayer. Nothing was growing on the hillsides now and the wind was fiercely cold. We stopped for lunch, taking shelter on the leeward side of a small cottage.
So, that is the story of how we finally arrived at the Black Sea coast, the verdant soggy Black Sea coast so anomalous with the rest of Turkey. The mountains do a great job of cloud herding in these parts!