D915 and Dark Canyon

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Once at the Black Sea I followed the coastline to Trabzon, where I took a hotel for the day of rest and to visit the Sumela Monastery, a monastery built against the mountainside at 1200 meters altitude. The first settlement goes back to 400 A.D. Early on the road to avoid the tourist crowd, because Sumela is the main attraction in the area. Own transport is nice, with the engine about 45km. It was quite successful and it was not busy yet, but low hanging clouds so there was little to see. Also, the complex was in renovation so closed to go inside. This was also the case with the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. A pattern is starting to develop, maybe I shouldn’t want to be too cultural 🙂

Sumela klooster als het niet mistig is….

Back to the hotel and prepare for tomorrow. Since I plan to drive through Turkey the Bayburt Of Yolu-D915 is on my list. This road is known as one of the most challenging roads in the world (link). There is now a by-bass road, so the route is no longer frequently driven. The danger lies mainly in the absence of barriers, the abyss right next to the road and the unpaved muddy ground. Little room to make mistakes, so to speak, but nice……………………………………………

I read up on the route and put the coordinates in my GPS, quite exciting and I plan to take my time for the whole day and especially not to hurry. The next morning I’m on the road and just before the route starts I buy some water and some food in a village. I am invited for an çay by a German Turk. With his help I go over the situation of the D915 with the locals. Conclusion, there is a better way so why would you do it? On top of that, it has rained a lot in the last few days and it is now very foggy, so there is not much to see. In short, don’t. I kindly thank the men for their advice and go on the road 🙂

After about ten km I arrive at the route, actually it’s not that bad. I get slightly overconfident and wonder if it’s not all a hype… The thought hasn’t cooled down yet or the road surface makes room for a muddy top layer, nicely interspersed with deep holes with water and some slippery boulders to the left and right. Game on, shall I say. I notice that my off road riding skills in combination with the heavy engine is not really a match for this road. I had resolved if it wouldn’t be possible to do it, I would turn around. I didn’t have to think long about this, turning around was just impossible. So after half an hour it went a lot smoother and better, I started to feel the bike well. I had lowered the pressure in the tires and that helped a lot, ABS also turned off and some adjustments.

The real challenge came up with a piece with 13 hairpin bends on rock-smooth mud and style. I had to take many of the corners in two, I was afraid the bike would fall over or slip away if I took the corner in one go. The advantage of the fog was that you couldn’t see the abyss, so that didn’t bother me. It was quite intense, both physically and mentally, but once I was upstairs (2400 meters) it gave me a very good feeling. Luckily I drove up, down on that slippery surface with all that weight would be another challenge. Once over the top the road turned into gravel, so it was fine to drive down. Mission completed!

Bayburt is still 20km away, great for getting the tyres inflated and getting the adrenaline out of the system. Lunch tastes good and now that I’ve left the D915 fairly early, I decide to drive quite a bit towards the Dark Canyon, one of my other projects… After about 200 kilometers I put up my tent in a field behind some trees. I cook some macaroni and make another cup of tea. When the sun goes down it gets cooler and around 21:00 I dive into my tent. I just stand with my pants on my ankles and two guys show up. They had seen me and came to have a chat, how nice. At night I woke up from the cold (I turned out to be at 1700 meters) and immediately took the opportunity to look at the stars outside. Not normal what the starry sky looks like without scattered light and clouds. I’m going to see this more often and I’ll take a nice picture of it for once. Also imagine me not to look at the stars while I’m urinating…

The next morning after breakfast (thank you Frank) I am on my way and after 20km I am stopped because the road is closed. It was a mountain pass and a detour meant about 100km more or less. It’s part of the adventure and I haven’t gotten excited at all or anything, totally zen. Thank you very much to the men and turned around. The next two hours of detour took me along the most amazingly beautiful roads. Beautiful asphalt, the bends expertly laid down, a jaw-dropping landscape, nice height differences and a happy boxer bike. So you see….

Eventually I arrive in Kemaliye, a small village with a very nice road to Gümüşçeşme that I have decided to drive. I arrive around lunchtime and decide to book a hotel (20 Eurie) to avoid the afternoon heat. Around four o’clock I ride the Dark Canyon route. A mostly hand carved tunnel road along the river Euphrates. They started the construction in 1870 and finally the road was finished in 2002, talking about working through… Again unpaved, technically not so difficult but the trick is to watch the road, your attention is drawn to the indescribable scene of river and mountains.

Every time I think it can’t get any better, and then…

Dark Canyon