THE RUSSIAN BORDER…ALMOST. We woke up at 7 a.m. and broke camp then hit the road to try our luck at hitchhiking to the coast. It was very hot in the gorge and we were all sweating like hell after only a couple of kilometres. We stopped for a wash in the river at 8:30 and as soon as we hit the road again we got a lift with two men from the Electricity Department. They took us about 30 km down the gorge and even shouted us a glass of çay at a roadside café. Eventually, they dropped us off and after a bit of a spell in the shade of a tree we caught another ride with a truck driver all the way to Hopa, on the coast. The lower part of the gorge was a violent cataract of churning water hemmed in by sheer cliffs. Then, about 2 km downstream from Artvin, we left the river and began the climb over a pass leading to the coast.
As soon as we left the gorge the landscape changed from sheer, scrub-covered rock to steep mountains covered with lush subtropical forest coloured deep green. Down the rocky valley ran a crystal clear stream tumbling over boulders and cascading over small waterfalls. As we topped the last hill, the Black Sea, Kara Deniz, came into view below and 20 minutes later we were dropped off in the town of Hopa.
The driver wanted money so we gave him 10,000TL then went and sat in an outside cafe and had a beer. We decided to go up and have a look at the Russian border, 18 km away at Sarp, so we caught a dolmüs along the coast and got off about 5 km short of the border2 when a camping ground came into view. It turned out to be no good and another dolmüs wanted 30,000TL to take us back to Hopa so we told him to fuck off and caught a bus back for 500 each. From Hopa we caught another dolmüs heading west towards Rize. We got off that one too but in the middle of nowhere and found a place to camp out of sight in a quarry and settled down on a rock ledge overlooking the sea to wait for it to get dark so we could sneak our tent up.1
We sat and watched the golden sun sink into the calm waters of the Black Sea, then gathered up our gear and walked into the quarry to our campsite where we pitched our tent, ate the last of our food, and once again fell into an exhausted sleep.
1 Freedom camping is illegal in Turkey so whenever we wanted to camp we had to be sneaky about it!
2This was as close to the sensitive border area that tourists were allowed to get.