The Act of Sweating/Seeking

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September 3rd 2010
Published: September 6th 2010
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"Seek my part, devote myself. My small self. Like a book amongst the many on a shelf...." -Eddie Vedder

We have read that the Black Sea is actually quite new in geologıc time. It seems that what is now the sea floor was perhaps once inhabited by homınids of some derevation before risıng sea levels following the last ice age flooded the vast basin. The interplay between legend and science is an interesting matrix as both fields essentially belie the existance of fact and thus maintain a wide catchment for interpretations and understandings. The current human population here on the Turkish north coast share such a wıde range of ideas, not only about the character of their fair sea, but of the future of their world at large...... "The sea turns black in winter", "fish cannot live below 100 meters because of the blackness", "mineral concentrations promote oligotrophy at depth", "Russian pollution promotes oligotrophy at depth", "E.U. accession will bring environmental regulation to protect the fisheries", "The E.U. is an essentially Christian theocracy with no respect for eastern sensibilitıes", "if Turkey can make the needed reforms without the help of a European entity, that would be best"....... We have had some dialogue with the locals but the single most sensible and appropriate statement we have heard came from the mind of a man who was raised here in Sinop before heading off to the U.K. to study: "İn Turkey, when you think you have the answer and the path is clear, you are definately wrong!" Beautiful.
The past week has been a sweaty vacatıon. We left mother Russia in flames but the heat apparently knows no boundaries, even those created by vast bodies of water. The ferry itself was so hot that many dragged their matresses out of their rooms and onto the deck to sleep for the night. The service on board was typically crass with the exception of the few Turks that staffed the antiquated, Cambodian ship. These few hospitable folks set the tone that would bloom like an overature when we arrived in this new and flavorful land. We decided to come here after a few days of immense hospitality in a Turkish neighborhood where we ended our trans-Eurasia tour in Amsterdam last November and the Turks have lived up to their reputation. İn a delightful contrast to our latest Russian experiences, nearly every person we meet seems to be scheming up a way to make our day as cool as possible. Hardened by our experiences in other lands we were at first skeptical but other lands are far from Turkey in so many ways and we have come to trust the overt displays of hospitality as typical in a culture where respect for others, especially foreigners, is immediate and unquestioned. From the immigrations officers, to our kindly hotellier in Trabzon, to gas station attendants who insist on digging out the very coldest bottles of water, everyone, everywhere, has been smiling and courteous. Almost eerie. We'll take it!
Of course along with the people we get the food. Incredible! This is the middle of Ramadan and many eating establishments are closed for the fasting time but some remain open and locals cheerfully guide us to these sometimes hard to find venues. It is safe to say that in all of our travels we have seen some of the most impressive displays of culinary art here in Turkey. It is obvious that people love food and the holy fasting month has a way of bringing this into the open. In the evenings a cannon fires in every town at the setting of the sun and the hordes of hungry Turks head to food like salmon making a spawning run. We follow suit for fear that every scrap will be consumed by those breaking the fast before we can order up. Appropriately, as we set in clandestine campsites between towns, we often hear distant cannons fire just as we are setting our tired selves down to break bread, devour pasta and, in several camps, harvest fresh figs and blackberries. Turkey is a food paradise and we are fully immersed in everything from meatballs to baklava. We knew it would be good but we forgot how hungry we would be! Supposedly the end of Ramadan brings a multi day festival where the "real food" comes out. We hope to have a front row seat at those proceedings.
All that said, the heat is kicking our asses! We would probably not be riding in this type of weather if we were home. In fact "home" never sees this kind of heat. One would have to descend into "Nethercalifornia" to see temperatures in the fourties. The sea provides a minimal cooling effect.....but only when we are submerged in it. The rest of the time we are left to sweat it out in exposed country that has a Sonoma County kind of feel. We cannot stay ahead of the hydration curve despite downing several liters along with electrolytes at every gas station and endlessly draining our bottles. Even on flat, coastal roads the heat makes for exhausting riding. When the roads turn inland and climb the mountainous country we have to be honest with ourselves about the possibility of heat related injury and take many shade breaks. This brings down our daily distances considerably but we have already come up against the wall of heat cramps and we care to take it no further.
The balancing effect to the weather comes from the aesthetic nature of riding here. This country is gloriously beautiful and the climbs are curvacious and challenging. Not since Ethiopia have we seen such passes and it is exciting, as always, to be in mountain country. The geologic features revealed by the road grades are belittling as we ride past thousands of layers of ancient sea floors turned up like books. The thought that many seas have come and gone here puts our struggle with the heat in a broader perspective and there is immense freedom in that. If we ultimately do not matter, if we are but specs of dust, then so are our troubles.

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6th September 2010

Safiri Salama
Hi Guys, Thanks for the nice write-ups. It makes me want to join you except for the description of the heat. That I can do without. I am on my way to Nairobi by bus in an hour to pick up Kathy. She arrives tomorrow after a long hiatus. We will get back to Moshi by the weekend for Christopher's wedding. My best wishes.
7th September 2010

You have brought a bit of brightness to my day. I enjoy the blogs so much, and it is a welcome change (excuse?) from my pushing paper from one side of the desk to another. The heat must be tough, but it seems the view and experiences in the furnace are incredible.
8th September 2010

baklava!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! yes pleeze!!!!!!!!!!!!! you must be in food heaven. I leave for so. africa next week! happy riding.
9th September 2010

Hi Chad and Alison, Greg and I leave Nairobi for Moshi this a.m. I left Chico in hot weather and glad to be where it is a bit cooler. I think Moshi will be different. Sorry I missed you folks. I will be here until Dec. then head back to the States. Keep on riding. Love, Kathy

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