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A bit fat from the kebab diet and still 100% unsuccessful at hitchhiking

Hitchhiking was something I didn’t think about or plan to do much before we left for this trip. In Cappadocia we dabbled in a little hitchhiking but only for short trips from the main centre to our couch surfing hosts home, which we had to do as there were so few buses or taxis. We learnt quickly that Alexei’s success rate in flagging down cars was consistently zero, whereas I could normally get a ride pretty quickly. After meeting Anastasia, she introduced me to hitchwiki.com, a site which provides you with etiquette, guidance and rules for hitchhiking in every country. Having already hitchhiked a few times without a clue of the rules, I quickly read up on Turkey to to see if there were any tips to help us improve our chances. Hmm…. Point one: Turkish men view western women as easy, it is not recommended that women flag down cars. Point two: even when with a male companion the driver will often joke and engage in slightly seedy ‘banter’ about the woman to see if the male companion goes along with this and is willing to hand over his woman. Point three: NEVER allow a woman to sit next to any other male in the car, she must only sit with her husband on one side and the door on the other. I thought back in horror to Cappadocia, I think we may have broken a few rules…

As part of our Black Sea region exploration, we wanted to visit Cal Magrabesi but not with a tour group, as we’ve never enjoyed making polite small talk with a big group of randoms. It turns out the easiest and cheapest way to do this was get a bus out of town and then hitch hike the remainder of the journey. With all the rules from hitchwiki memorized we set off. It turned out that luck was on our side today as we were almost immediately picked up by a very nice man called Faruq who was a forest engineer and happened to be going halfway. He was supposed to be going to work but since he hadn’t been to the cave himself for five years and liked chatting to us, he then decided he would drive us all the way. So what if the forest overgrew a bit for one day!

Cal Magrabesi, near Düzkoy, is a huge natural underground cave which you navigate through via small walkways. Full of stalagmites/tites/whichever ones are the cool drippy ones and complete with two underground waterfalls, we easily spent a few hours here and would very much recommend visiting if you happen to be in the Black Sea area…. (Hang around a forest and Faruq will find you)

Coat, shorts and ankle socks. Classic traveller look, Summer/ Autumn collection 2016

We only headed back out as the temperature had dipped and we could no longer feel our ears. We made our way back out of the cave prepared to walk all the way back to the nearest village in the misty haze which covered the mountain but to our surprise a man was waving at us… it was Faruq! The world’s nicest man had decided to wait for us and drive us back down to a nearby town (a good few hours away) just because, well he was just nice, and he clearly loved showing tourists around his motherland! This seemed to continue a trend we’d found in Turkey, whereby everyone is staunchly proud of where they come from and having been around the country, I say rightly so!

Faruq – local lifesaver and number one work dodger

It had begun to rain as we walked to his car and we froze (the clothes we’ve packed are less than ideal for anything slightly colder than lukewarm) so he invited us to have tea at the secret café built into a cave hanging off a mountain face, whose owner he had been friends with for twenty years. We were welcomed in by the smell of warm, freshly baked bread, a smell we became addicted to in Turkey. In the back of a small cave room sat three little old ladies baking up gözleme, a Turkish flat bread filled with delicious runny melted cheese. We scoffed two of these each and washed it down with a few cups of sweet chai, embarrassed when the owner refused to take a penny for any of it! Turkish hospitality again! Or perhaps it was that I had mentioned earlier that my dad was from Pakistan, which they went crazy about (in a happy smiley way) as apparently the Pakistani government had once provided Turkey with support after some incident and these guys would always love them for it. Think I may have to mention this again whilst in Turkey…

The cave cafe near the entrance of Çal Magrabesi. Look at that kid clearly stuffing a gözleme down his coat

The hardworking women of Düzkoy working the ‘gözleme’ dough

The finished product… heavenly!

The mountain surrounding the Black Sea coast & Shama’s bendy leg

A proper Turkish day begins with tea and ends with tea

After being dropped all the way back down to town taxi-style, we waved goodbye to Faruq and headed off to try some Akçaabat Koftesi (a regional speciality kebab) which was delicious but belly busting. Clearly on a high from our hitchhiking success and feeling energetic from the Koftesi, we did something we had heard about but not really done on the trip yet… exercise! We had been dropped off in Akcaabat, a small town not too far from Trabzon, so instead of getting the martshuka back to Trabzon (only costs 50p and takes about 20 minutes, Turkish driving style), we agreed that we should walk back and burn off a few calories! This should be easy – 45 minutes tops right? We thought we could even see Trabzon along the coast from where we were standing in Akcaabat. So we set off.

There is trekking and then there is ‘being a fool trekking’. We subscribe to the latter style. An hour and half in and Trabzon was still in the far distance, the sun had disappeared and it was pitch black except for the light from cars zooming past us. The pavement we had been walking on had now disappeared and our options were to either climb down deep muddy ditches or risk walking on the road (without pavement or hard shoulder) where there should only be two lanes of traffic but the drivers decided they needed more and there were cars speeding everywhere. So we opted for walking in the ditch as going back seemed worse! Two and half hours later we arrived in Trabzon, sweaty, dusty and pissed off, wondering which clever dicks had come up with such a stupid idea to do some ‘light exercise’. I believe we burnt 6,500 calories that night.