September 19: Trabzon, Turkey
7:50. We weren’t able to drive Xara through the narrow streets of the old city last night so we parked her by the beach and took a 10 passenger taxi van to the hotel. We’re now waiting for the taxi to return as promised.
8:00. The taxi shows up right on time. Goodbye Trabzon! Once again I’m left with the feeling that I could have rented an apartment and happily stayed for a month.
8:19. If this seems like a late start it’s because we’re only driving 45km to the Sumela Monastery and it doesn’t open until 10:00.
9:10. Butchers, bakers and produce stands line the main street of Sumela so we have no problem finding fresh ingredients for our final camp dinner.
Thinking back to May 28 when I joined a Dragoman Overland truck in Ulaanbaatar, it’s hard to believe this is the last camp night of the 120 day Silk Road adventure. We’ve camped in the shadow of the Great Wall, at the base of a 500 metre red sandstone cliff in Kyrgyzstan, on the shores of Heavenly Lake with camels grazing outside our tents, in the freakishly hot Taklamakan Desert, near ‘The Gates of Hell’ – the Darvaza Gas Crater in Azerbaijan, and in three inches of freshly fallen snow in Mongolia. Despite the extreme weather – and maybe even because of the extreme weather – it’s been an absolutely amazing experience. I’ll definitely be doing a lot more camping when I return to Canada.
12:18. I’m back on the truck after a few hours of quiet contemplation at the Sumela Monastery (established 386 A.D.). The walk back down the winding mountain path provided better views of the monastery than anything I saw from the top – and it was pretty amazing at the top.
18:00. We find a quiet spot to camp in a farmer’s field just outside the village of Ekecik. Within the hour we have the tents up, vegetables chopped, chicken cacciatore in the pot, a campfire burning and glasses of Georgian cabernet in hand. It’s a bittersweet final camp dinner. The last four nights of this trip will be in a 2 star hotel in Goreme and a cheap hostel in Istanbul. No hotel – 2 Star or 5 star – can replicate the feeling you get when camping under a blanket of one billion stars on a warm summer’s night on the Silk Road.