Departure from Trabzon at the end of the day, our visas for Iran still hot in our pockets. Direction Ayder, further east in the heights. The many signs and complexes along the road confirm that the area is very popular for rafting along the river (in summer of course). It is after Ҫamlihemşin that we choose a bivouac along a quiet road near one of the many Ottoman bridges in the region.
We discover the stone bridge and the river 15 m below in the light of day, but under the clouds. Less contrast for the photos, but we still take the drone out and we shot, just like the TV crew that came to shoot sequences with 2 famous TV hosts! The environment also inspires us: Edrian will launch into the declamation of a freshly learned poem on the bridge a few minutes later.
The afternoon will end with a visit to Ayder National Park. Fat luck for the hot springs we’ve heard about, they seem to be confined (at least in this season) to one or two hot pools in hotels. The site is a yayla, summer resort that must be very pretty with its hiking and its waterfalls (and stormed) in summer, but for now, and with the actual weather, looks rather gray. We will not linger there, having glimpsed Sarah, Matthew and their Westfalia.
On the way back and on the road to Rize, it is the round bushes of the famous terraced tea plantations that dominate on the hillside, without forgetting the headquarters and factories of the national company Ҫaykur.
After extra fuel and food, we stop for the night in Acakli, where we have a really nice encounter: Alaa, from Gaza and who works at the restaurant near where we parked. Full of kindness and spontaneity, he offers us some tea and a small meal around the stove that sits in the establishment (logically) empty at the beginning of the week. Fantastic!
Done with the coast and its calm sea, we leave the pretty cove with an Arty, still having a hard time (it is high time we look for a garage for a small inspection), that still takes us 150 kms further, in the heights after Artvin. The vision of the lights of this city spreading on the flanks that seem very steep and its huge dam is magical, and must be even more impressive by day.
The road to Kars via Ardahan the next day is beautiful, between lake and river in the upper reaches of the dam, new sections under construction or repair, whole sections of collapsed rocks: the marks of human activity modifying this rather hostile environment are not lacking. Fascinating!
And it’s not over: river in the bottom of the canyon, small villages on the mountainside, hives strewn over the fields and a few flocks of sheep on the road. And always, power lines to power the most remote places.
Little by little, the landscape changes and the snow, A LOT of snow, makes its return. Arty lags, we’re dragging, and no more gas stations for a while… We add an extra 20 L even if we have some leeway, just to give it a little boost. Will we get to the end? Phew, somehow, grazing, we manage to pass the pass at 2500 m in a freezing wind, and with 2m of snow on both sides of the road (fortunately perfectly clear) …
It hangs in there really well until Ardahan where we arrive under a few snowflakes, and we are looking for a mechanic who will arrive, a little late to be able to start anything.
We follow him painfully to his garage in an industrial area, where we spend the night in the company of stray dogs, tough guys. Beggars can’t be choosers, the goal is to leave with a truck-house running properly!
Mechanical morning: tilting of the cabin, cleaning of the pump and the feeding circuit by Onus and his friends. We just have to cross our fingers that it will work…
Will we arrive in Kars and especially in Iran? The answer in the next episode and last episode in Turkey!