Imranli to Erzincan

Going downhill from Kasaplar, while it was raining with snow, turned out to be one of the most epic rides. At Kasaplar summit, situated at over 2100 m, I was invited by a Jandarma (Turkish Constabulary) officer over tea when the guards at the checkpost notified him about a stranger taking pictures in the freezing cold outside. The temperature was close to 0°C. Outside the checkpoint, I saw a number of dogs, so huge I never saw a dog of that size before. Each of them was almost the size of a donkey. The officer took me to his office and made me sit next to the heater. I was served tea, chocolate and dry fruit. We chatted with the help of offline English-Turkish app which I have installed on my phone. A couple of other junior officers joined in and more tea was poured into my cup. Almost two hours passed by until I realised I have still 40 kilometres to do. I thanked the officer for this kind hospitality. It was really a blessing in this weather. When I went out, three soldiers carried my bicycle downstairs and in the end about 8 soldiers came to see me off.

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The next day I cycled from Refahiye to Erzincan. An uphill ride of 35 kilometres in rain, sleet and snow took me to an elevation of 2160 meters where this picture was taken. The next 35 kilometres was a downhill free ride to Erzincan.

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A bird, who has been caged for too long and whose feathers have been cut short, may struggle to fly in the beginning but will eventually soar in the sky.
I am that bird!
It is a new beginning for me and I am slowly growing my feathers back as the time goes by. In the last couple of days I was a bit disoriented. Too much occupied with negative thoughts. Today I felt positive and enjoyed the ride in the harsh weather. It is all about cancelling the brain-noise. When you cycle every day alone, you start to learn how to find the inner peace. Cycling then becomes a meditation, and road is the temple.

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As I pedal on the way up to a summit, a mini van slows down to my pace. The window glass goes down and a voice asks me, “Where are you going?”.
“Pakistan”
“Pakistan????”. The side door slides open and I see a bunch of teens stuffed inside murmuring in Turkish. The questions start pouring in, some I understand and reply.
Just before leaving, the boy on the left makes a sign of heart and says, “I love you”. The others repeat the same.
The door closes shut, the window goes up, and the van cruises past me. As it vanishes on the curvy road, I whisper, “I love you too”.

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In Tercan, I made a stop to withdraw money from the bank when I saw two boys coming towards me. Each of them was carrying a pair of sandals in their hands and a kit-box hanging off the shoulder. On the wooden box was written in bold “1 TL”. Even from the distance I could see a big smile on their faces.
Seeing how dirty my shoes were after riding in rain and dirt, one of them asked if I wanted to have my shoes polished. “No”, I replied, “these shoes are not polishable”.
Soon after saying no, I felt sorry and realised that I should’ve let them polish my shoes anyway. It was freezing cold and these two young souls were working outside to earn the bread. Considering Tercan is a very small place with a population of only six thousand inhabitants inside the town, it must be a very hard life over there.
After a little chat, I offered them a chocolate bar and some hot-cholocate drink sachets I had with me. They looked very happy and keen to prepare the drink at home.
Just before leaving the boy on the left presented me an old coin of Turkish 50 cents and insisted that I keep it. It seemed he wanted me to take it as a memory. I looked into my wallet and luckily found two 50 cents of Euro currency and gave one to each of them. They had never seen a Euro coin before and were giggling.
When I left, the boys continued to wave beside the road till I could last see them.

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Just before entering Tercan.

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