|Most of the drive toward Sumela our next stop was along the Black Sea Coast - not really much to write home about really. Although we did stop briefly at one little town (Ordu) for a quick photo stop and were quickly met by the owners of a nearby shop with a tray of tea! Shaun also decided to dip his feet in the Black Sea and said it was extremely cold and according to Osman (Turkish bloke on the truck), it stays that way most of the year!
At Trabzon (the largest city along the Black Sea Coast) we headed inland into the mountains. We stopped at a camp site only to find that they wanted to charge 25 Liras per person for camping - the same cost as a hotel room back in the town (10 pounds!). So we headed back down the road to a cheaper looking campsite and it certainly was (3 Lira pp). Then we found out why - the bar was also the local night club for the village. We decided to have a few beers in the bar, with 3 girls who we think were Russian prostitutes, the barman who also was a boxer and wanted to fight Ray! and the local ´entertainment´ - a man and his electric organ. Ray promptly pretended he was with Jenny so the ladies of the night would not come onto him! Anyway by about 9pm the man and his ´organ´ started to play and there still wasn´t any clientele! We got bored about 30 mins later so went to our tents and put our earplugs in (what a blessed relief these devices are!). Shaun had to go to the toilet a few hours later and said that the man was still going even though there still wasn´t anyone in there!! All quite a strange experience.
The next morning it was a quick pack-up and getaway for our drive further up the valley toward the monastery of Sumela.
Sumela Monastery is Greek Orthodox Christian founded in Byzantium tımes and abandoned in 1923. It was built in an amazing setting - it literally clings to the rock face (1000m above sea level). To get there its a steep walk up through a beautiful hazel and fir forest occasionally getting glimpses of the monastery above. Within the monastery there are quaint little buildings set behind the huge facade (very James Bondish building) - within the buildings are lovely frescos. This all made a pleasant change from the deserts we have been travelling through.
It was then off back out to the Black Sea Coast before heading inland once again at Iyidere into the Turkish mountains - wow, what a difference in scenery! İt was an absolutely beautiful drive into the hill country with little wooden chalet/shacks on the hills, lots of sheep and goats and then up into the snow! We were not expecting Turkey to have such green and snow-clad mountains. It was freezing in the truck and the roads got quite narrow at points so a bottle of brandy was passed around to settle the nerves and warm people up!
Once up over the mountain pass (2500m) we headed back down the other side towards the town of Yusufeli. Once we got back down in the valleys the road once again became quite narrow and the trees brushed against the side of the truck. İt soon became dark and we were beginning to wonder if we were ever going to get there when there was an almighty screech and a rock wall came through the side of the truck into the cabin! George had been attempting to drive around a sharp corner with a massive steep bank down to a large river when the rock bank on the other side got a bit too close! We reversed the truck back and decided that the truck would not be able to make it around the bend and any further. So a mini bus came and collected us and took us into town to a hotel and dinner - our first bed for awhile!
The next day we had free in Yusufeli while George and Sue drove the truck back around the same way we had been - they still have not arrived in town as I type this! Hopefully they turn up tonight sometime as we are off to Georgia tomorrow (I guess it is an exploratory trip so they found out they will not be able to use that partıcular road for future trips!!).
Yusufeli is a mountain town set on the confluence of two large rivers which are good for rafting. Unfortunately we were too early for rafting season so only managed to fit in a walk along the river before it started spitting and we headed back. İt is quite a nice little town though and everyone here seems to be very friendly - one local even gave us some fresh cherries off his tree as we walked along the river.
Next update will be from Georgia assuming George, Sue and the truck turn up tonight and the border crossing goes okay!!