Last you heard, our brave team was splitting up along gender lines to retrieve the car (boys) and the new plates (girls).  While the ladies were lounging in Istanbul, they got word that the boys had actually made it through the Greek border, and so they did not need to find their way to no-mans land for a meetup.  So they lounged a bit more and waited for the boys to arrive at the hostel.  Unfortunately, though the boys made it, the plates did not due to an typo in the address which, upon final receipt of the package, appears to be spelling the address – Peykhane Cd. – without the “h.”  I find it hard to imagine that there was a Cordial House Hostel at Peykane Cd. in Istanbul, so this delay was a bit frustrating and silly.  Ah well, we finally got the plates and then headed off toward Samsun.

We did not make it all the way to Samsun on the first night, but stopped at a “family pension” in the middle of nowhere along the highway.  The next morning when we awoke, our anti-freeze leakage problem came to a head when we noticed that as soon as we poured in coolant, it would pour right out the bottom.  We were directed to a garage 15 km away in Tosya where we met a wonderful mechanic who installed for us a new water pump in a mere 2 hours – apparently the old one was cracked when the Maestro fixed the head gasket.

With yet another new part in the car, we headed on towards Trabzon and the black sea.  Our first glimpses of the Black Sea were gloriously beautiful and, admiring all the camp grounds we passed on the way, decided not to push to Trabzon but find a beach-side camp site to pass the evening.  We found one just as darkness was setting after winding through a neighborhood outside of Ordu.

We rolled up to the grounds which had a bunch of semi-permanent tent structures and a man greeted us in English.  “Camping?” we asked, and he said “yes, camping.  Come, pick any spot.”  The man introduced himself as Oz or Oz and offered that we could stay for free.  Later as we played doppelkopf in our lovely tent, Oz announced that he was drunk.  “Where’s the door?” he asked, setting down the little child and beer bottle he held.  Slightly worried that he was thinking of joining us, we pointed at the door and unzipped it.  In came Oz’s hand holding some kofte and lavash.  We had all already brushed our teeth, but we reluctantly accepted and smiled and ate our meaty dessert.

The next morning as we were deconstructing the tent and preparing to take off, some loud Turks arrived honking their horns and shouting for Oz and setting up a large tea-making set-up and other breakfast materials.  They invited us to join them for breakfast and informed us that all 150 members of their family were coming to this spot today for a family reunion that they held every year.  After a lovely breakfast with hilarious “Uncle Khamid,” we took our leave, agreeing to come back next year for the full party.

Breakfast with Amca Khamid

Breakfast with Amca Khamid

We headed first thing in the morning to Sumela Monastery, a serious of buildings barely clinging to the cliffs outside Trabzon.  Pictures do it justice better than our descriptions (pictures to come).

Finally, we headed for the Georgian border, determined to make it to Tbilisi that night.  We were just about through the border when the guards demanded we could not enter until we attached the new plates.  We backed the car up, and suddenly discovered the car had fallen half-way into a stairwell!  Whoops.  This cause much hysterical laughter and elaborate reenactments by the border guards, but the car was easily extracted.  Thank goodness for front-wheel drive and the border guards, who helped us push it out.

Despite our best efforts and the friendly advances of a chatty Georgian border guard named Tango, we could not hammer the rivets into place for the plates, but luckily a kind Turkish trucker happened to have a riveting device and helped us attach them, despite being dragged angrily away at one point by another border guard.

By the Black Sea in Georgia

By the Black Sea in Georgia

Finally through the Georgian border, we stopped at the beach, admired the sunset, Anand had a dip in the ocean, and we headed off to what on the map appeared to be a “major connecting highway.”  After about 20 km the road momentarily turned into some pretty even gravel and for a moment we considered turning around, but then the road turned back into pavement.  “Enh, we’re already 20 km in.  If that’s the worst it gets, we’ll be fine.” We assured ourselves.  “It’s only 160 km.”  Never again will we utter such words.

Jessie navigates us onto our first off-roading experience

Jessie navigates us onto our first off-roading experience

At about 60 km, definitely the point of no return, we met the real road – a rough, rockslide-covered single lane track that ran between forested hills on one side and steep drop-offs on the other.  We couldn’t really see the bottom of the chasm beside us, as it was pitch black and, at some times, foggy, but we were pretty sure we didn’t want to fall down into it and it sounded as if there was a raging river awaiting us below.

We won’t reenact the entire drive, but the highlight was probably around 1 or 1:30 AM at about km 83 when suddenly before us we saw a full-on river that we were meant to cross, with waters pouring in from a rock-slide on the right and off a steep cliff on the left.  After some hesitation and consideration of turning back around, we forded on and on, through about 3 other streams, a strange mountain-top border patrol, drunken Georgians jumping at us from their cars, and other oddities.  We finally rolled into a hotel in Borjomi around 3:30 or 4 and talked our way into a couple of rooms, which we gladly and blearily fell into.

More soon after we arrive in Turkmenbashi.  About to get on the ferry – wish us luck!


  1. Katie Cooper says:

    holy moley! what a ride! you guys be careful! And Sarah, that is a gorgeous picture of you with the Black Sea!

  2. Liz Brown says:

    Hi everyone — sounds like you’re having a fantastic adventure, thanks for keeping us posted though all channels, I been enjoying the ride 🙂 and can’t wait to hear what happens next. Have fun. Liz