Friday, April 14, 2006


The morning started cold, the bus a few kilometres before Erzurum for a breakfast break. The temperature had noticeably dropped since leaving Istanbul.
I slept as well as could be expected, the bus was full & the guy sitting beside me had a less generous concept of personal space than I did.

On the way into Erzurum there was a military police checkpoint, everyone's ID on the bus was checked. When I handed the officer my Kiwi passport I was asked for a Turkish ID card & was only satisfied when I said that I was a tourist. Am I beginning to look Turkish.

We were dropped off at a petrol station in Kars. Fortunately the sound of something breaking was nothing, though the metal supports of the front mudguards needed straightening.

The later than expected arrival in Kars combined with the time to fix the bike didn't give me much cycling time. After a hurried lunch, a little sightseeing & some shopping I headed on the road to Ani.

Ani is a ruined city that was the capital of Medieval Armenia. It sits just inside the Turkey-Armenia border. While the Cold War was on all sorts of paperwork & permission was required to visit but not anymore. Even so I was a little concerned that with it being both a border zone & in the East of Turkey therefore potentially under threat of Kurdish separatist terrorism my plan to camp may be thwarted by some security person. The Police in Kars had been adamant that while the road to Ani was safe camping there was not. I was glad that none of them were familiar with the slow speed at which a touring cyclist travels otherwise they'd have realised that I had no option than to camp somewhere along the road. There was another military police checkpoint on the road to Ani. They weren't in the slightest bit worried about the security situation & waved me through. A short while later they drove past then pulled over just ahead of me. I imaged the worst, to issue me with a warning or interdiction but it was just to give me an apple.

Kars is at just under 1800m in altitude. After an easy climbing 200m the road dropped 500m to the village of Ocakli Köyü which is beside the Ani ruins. I arrived just as the ruins were closing, the custodian looked a bit annoyed at my arrival. The land around was either pastural or ploughed with crops. The trouble was to find a campsite that was both private & with water available for cooking. In the end while cycling through the village I was invited to camp on a plot of land in front of a villager's house. Ironically the custodian turned out to be the father of the inviting family.

It was great fun staying where I did. Much amusement but little meaningful communication occurred. They were very hospitable, giving me homemade cheese & bread as well as çay & very curious about my gear.

I cycled 55km in 3 hours & 14 minutes

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