There is a fairly well known website amongst adventure travelers call “dangerousroads.org”. It’s a list and description of some of the most dangerous roads around the world. I think some are embellished a bit, but most are legit from what I understand. There are two that I plan to navigate on my trip; the most well known is the Pamir Highway on the Tajikistan/Afghanistan border and the other is Trabzon to Bayburt (or something like that).
Today I was on the Bayburt road. The beginning is a paved section of nice winding road along the river that feels really good compared to the 4 lane I was on yesterday. I turn right onto the single lane pavement and continue for a few miles while still enjoying laying the bike over on the curves. The next section starts the gravel portion with the road still in quite good shape, fairly enjoyable while sliding around on the loose gravel marbles. As the road starts to deteriorate, the grade also steps up. Before long, I’m on a full fledged 2 track heading up into the mountains. There are several small villages along the road and the further I get, the more serious the stares become. At some point, I think the whole village was standing on the roadside staring as I continued up the 2 track.
The switchbacks start as the air starts to get a bit colder. On a fully loaded big bike, some the rocky switchbacks can be a bit challenging to maneuver, it’s certainly not as easy or fluid as on my smaller machines. I continue to zig-zag up the switchbacks and though the small villages. This road is fully legit and blast to ride. After about an hour I feel I’m starting to get to the top and an armed man steps out and stops me. He is a security guard for (?), and informs me I cannot go any further due to snow and rock fall. I ask a couple of different times on a couple of different translation aps to make sure I’m at a hault. I am.
I dismount and have couple glasses of tea with him the other 4 security guards stationed up there (still not sure why they are there), making the usual small talk; where are you from, what do you do, etc. The farther I get into Turkey, the more unbelievable it is I’m from the US. I turn back and head east to the next drainage and give it a try.
This road isn’t as challenging, but spectacular nevertheless. A high mountain pass from Guneyce to Oulece is still covered in snow and certainly a blast to ride.
I stop for fuel in Asagi Ozbag and am standing at the pump holding the bike straight upright for the attendant. I notice an old man walking by using a fairly long walking staff and staring at me in certain amazement. I don’t pay much attention until I feel a poke in the back; I turn my head and see him poking me with his fully extended staff and mumbling. He again pokes me in the leg this time. I turn back to the attendant with an amused grin and then feel a good thump on my shoulder. The old man has now grabbed his staff with both hands and starts smacking me in the side like a Turkish piñata. I’m in a bit of a pickle because I can’t let go of the bike, so I turtle up as best possible and take a couple more good wacks from the long staff. Two men rush over and grab the man and pull him away. Wow – I’ve just been caned!
I would guess the man wasn’t quite right upstairs; but you never know, maybe he thought the same of me. I cant imaging what was going through his head, I must have looked like some kind of alien in the helmet and full riding gear. All in all, not a lot to do but laugh off the flogging and finish up with the attendant. This drew quite a crowd and a good opportunity to check in with the onlookers about the next section of road to Yusufeli.
I pull over at 6:30 and set up camp outside of Karabagla and cook up some rice and veggies. Somewhat of a cross between Spanish rice and stir fry. With so many roadside markets, I’m eating a ton of fresh fruit and vegetables on the road.
I received a text alert tonight from the US state department about a protest in Tbilisi, Georgia Sunday and to avoid downtown. Depending on the border crossing tomorrow, this was going to be my next stop. Maybe I’ll stop and join the rally.
Other than one roadside beat down by on old man, the Turkish hospitality continues.