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From Şile to Sinop by bicycle
2002 / FEBRUARY

For my cycling tour this year I had chosen a route along the Black Sea coast from Şile to Sinop. This was the first time that I would be cycling such a long distance alone, so as I loaded my bicycle onto the Şile bus in Üsküdar in the first morning light, a trace of apprehension mingled with my eager anticipation. On this holiday the journey itself would be the whole pleasure, rather than merely a means of reaching a destination. At nine o'clock in the morning I started pedalling along the hilly road from Şile to Ağva. Delighting in the tranquil beauty of the woodland and deserted shores of the Black Sea, the 40 kilometres were soon behind me, and I arrived at Ağva around noon. A German couple to whom I asked the way invited me home for a lemonade, and then I set out under the hot sun for Kefken, the asphalt melting in the heat and smearing the tyres with tar. Beyond the village of Pınarlı the road became a dirt track all the way to Kefken. That night I camped in the village of Karaağaç just past the town. I had ridden a total of 99 kilometres that first day.

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From Şile to Sinop by bicycle
2002 / FEBRUARY

The following morning I took the sandy, dusty road to Karasu, the Black Sea appearing sporadically to my left. At Karasu the road improved, and I spun through colourful scenery to Kocaali. I noticed that the bed of the Maden River was dry, its water channelled off to supply the town. After lunch at Karaburun further along the coast, a succession of steep hills leading through hazelnut plantations brought me to the seaside town of Akçakoca, where I stopped for a refreshing swim. I continued on to Ereğli, doing my best not to let the many lorries make me tense. Here I spent the night, and then continued by bus to Zonguldak, since the road was too dangerous for cyclists. From there I pedalled fast along the busy Bartın road, and then struck north to Amasra on the coast, halting at Kuşkayası, or Bird Rock, so named after a monument built by the Roman governor Aguilla to mark a halting place for travellers. The monument consists of a broken eagle on a pillar and a human figure carved in relief on the rock.

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From Şile to Sinop by bicycle
2002 / FEBRUARY
Now the most pleasurable but most difficult section of the road was beginning. It wound in sharp bends through green forest, past vistas of azure sea, fishing villages and small towns. As I speeded out of Amasra two dogs attacked me and I flew off the bicycle, cutting my knee badly and spraining my ankle.
At Cambu Bay I treated myself to a lunch of fish. A fisherman complained that the once abundant fish of the Black Sea had dwindled so that many of the boats lay idle. The local grocer gave me a lift to the nearby Göldere Falls in his car, and after enjoying the beautiful falls, I took the narrow dirt track from the village of Kanatlı into the forest clad mountains. My next stop was Tekkeönü, famous for its boat building, and then on past Kurucaşile to Kapısu, where I spent the night at the home of a friend, Mehmet Darçın. The following day I entered the province of Kastamonu and swam in the cove of Gideros (the ancient Kyotros), before crossing the Devrekani River where it pours into the Black Sea and cycling on to Cide.
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From Şile to Sinop by bicycle
2002 / FEBRUARY

The road from Cide to Doğanyurt was one of the most demanding but also loveliest stages of my journey, with constantly changing views of the sea and a profusion of wild flowers, including mauve and purple irises, clumps of violets, calendulas, and broom.
At Aydos I stopped for a meal and then set up camp near the lighthouse on Kavaklı headland. A northwesterly wind was blowing when I awoke. That morning I passed numerous villages whose local names were confusingly different from those on the map - Akbayır was Girvli, Doğanyurt Meset, İlyasbey Fakaz, Çayyaka Gübür, Aydos Sakallı and so on. Now I arrived at the loveliest village of any I had yet seen. This was Kayran, just beyond Doğanyurt, lying within sight of the sea in a deep valley through which a river ran, and surrounded by fields of maize, hazelnuts and cabbages. At lunchtime I swam on the outskirts of İnebolu, a town with many traditional houses similar to those of Safranbolu. One steep hill after another took me to Gemiciler and a chat over coffee in the café, and then to Abana, one of Turkey's first seaside resorts.

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From Şile to Sinop by bicycle
2002 / FEBRUARY
Two last uphill hauls brought me to Çatalzeytin's long narrow beach, where I had another swim and spent the night at the Teachers Guest House.
In the morning I swooped across the bridge into the province of Sinop, and the road flattened out again. After passing Türkeli, I took the secondary coast road to Ayancık. Even though it was not yet noon the asphalt was melting in patches by the time I reached the pretty seaside town. I had a lunch of mussels at İstefan Bay, swam at Çamurca Beach, and bought some of the local linen as presents to take home. In the morning I recalled with regret that this was my last day, but forgot this as I rode along the beautiful stretch of road to Sinop, enchanted by the vista of greens and blues. Each cove seemed prettier than the previous one, and I stopped for a final swim at Harzana the prettiest of all. A few hours later my 743 kilometre return journey to Istanbul would begin, and the dream would be over.

* Ersin Demirel is a freelance writer.
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