Leaving Istanbul was always going to be a hard proposition. For so long my only goal had been to reach this buzzing metropolis and enjoy being ‘normal’ for a while that I hadn’t put much thought into setting some new goals further east. I’d quickly distanced myself from the nomadic life and enjoyed the simple pleasure of not having much of a plan, finding myself living like a local in the Çukur, Mecidiyeköy and Çihangir neighbourhoods. But my three weeks of good times and meeting new friends had come to an end all too quickly and by the time my friend Zeynep had thrown a traditional farewell glass of water onto the road to assure my safe return I was crossing the Bosphorus and onward into Asia. In my mind it felt like I was starting the journey all over again. I didn’t want to leave.
Turkey is a huge country and the biggest I’d crossed so far on the journey. Most of it’s rugged mountainous terrain still lay ahead of me and so too Autumn. My first goal was to reach the Black Sea and then follow the coast road 1200km to Georgia over the next two weeks. After a second long day in bad weather I arrived in Karasu and was greeted with more of the same. The town seemed to be a cheap out of season beach resort with a chaotic mess of identical holiday homes connected by muddy dirt streets and a black sand beach covered in rubbish. It wasn’t the Black Sea welcome that I had dreamed of. To be honest, I probably wasn’t seeing it in it’s best light as it was dusk and a strong northerly wind was howling across the beach to chase plastic bags through the streets. It had been a tiring day to reach the coast and I just wanted shelter from the storm and another taste of comfort now that I was so used to it. I checked into the first hotel I could find. It was three times my budget and had a pool full of sand. I didn’t care, I was back on the road.