ON THE BUSES  We paid up our bill last night, a whopping 100,000TL, to enable us to get an early start today. By 6:10 a.m. we were walking down the road towards Maçka, having packed up our gear in the cold early light of day after a night of heavy rain. It took us about 40 minutes to reach Maçka and we timed it just right to catch a local bus down to Trabzon. It must have been a stormy night in the hills as the river was up and dirty. We went to the otogar and booked a ticket to Samsun and only had 20 minutes to wait before it departed.

The trip along the coast took 7 hours, most of it through strong wind and driving rain. The flooded rivers flowing down from the mist-shrouded hills created a band of brown along the edge of the sea and the colours of the waters were a strange pattern of blues: in places calm,  in other places whipped up and sent crashing onto the black cliffs sending up clouds of spume.

When we arrived in Samsun the weather had cleared and it was sunny and warm although a stiff wind still blew in off the Black Sea.  We went to 6 different bus companies to find the best ticket price to Bolu and eventually bought tickets for 20,000TL each. This time, we had 2 1/2 hours to fill in so we went and had a beer in a bar and some food at the bus station cafeteria.

We left Samsun at 5:30 and turned inland through a low range of hills separating the coast from the rest of the country. As we drove into the hills, the sunlight worked its magic on the land, bringing out the rich earth tones of brown, green and gold from the tapestry of life around us. The land was fertile and well farmed and healthy crops of wheat and barley were interspersed with vegetable crops and lucerne. Once again, concrete irrigation channels were everywhere: stepping down across the floors of the valleys where crowds of people worked at planting and weeding. Most of  the land appeared to be farmed cooperatively as there was a lot of machinery around and we passed several combine harvesters sitting in yards awaiting harvest.

Towards evening the sun began to set beyond the hills, throwing it’s fiery red glow over the valleys and soon the shadows merged and night came to the land. At 1 a.m. we were stopped by a road accident. A truck had hit something else and one of the injured was loaded onto our bus to be rushed to the next town. He wasn’t so badly injured that he couldn’t smoke a cigarette though!

The bus company had told us that we would arrive in Bolu at 5 a.m. but as we careered along the road a sign said Bolu 10 km! So we resigned ourselves to having to spend a night in a hotel after all (we had planned to spend all night on the bus, thus saving a night’s accommodation) and after we had dropped the injured fellow off at the hotel at the hospital we made ready to get off at the bus station. But the fucking mongrel bastards drove straight out of town and after a lot of shouting and swearing, dropped us off on the outskirts of town at a deserted open-air restaurant. It was freezing cold but we had no choice other than to sit down in a shelter to await the morning. A kindly old man found us there an hour or so later and brought out some blankets and pillows so at least we managed to stay warm for the 2 1/2 hours until sun-up.

Our impromptu camp in the shelter of a roadside restaurant.

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