Discovering Ancient Lycia and cycling the Turquoise Coast 

Our five days on Susanne and Orhan’s horse farm were a welcome break from the cycling. Each morning would start at 7:30am with the morning feed followed by the mucking out of the 15 stables.

Our afternoons were often spent separately, Paddy fixing the sink unit in the kitchen and me gardening in the veg patch.

We also spent a lot of time with Emre and his son Met collecting firewood and cutting down trees to fix a couple of rotten beams in the outhouse.

There was plenty of time to relax and we both got addicted to eating all the pomegranates, oranges and grapefruits from the garden.

So after a week stopped on the Workaway farm we left Susanne and Orhan and started our next leg of the Turkish coast. We were heading to Fethiye 370km away. 

Day 1 – 57.8km

We didn’t do loads of miles on our first day as we stopped in Antalya for a couple of hours to get a new screen fitted for my iPhone – having dropped and smashed it two days before… While we waited we sat in the sunshine of the main pedestrian square eating sandwiches and looking out across the old city to the sea. Antalya sits on the east side of a large bay. We dropped down to the main road which curves its way round the coast and passed a few nice beaches and coves. After just 58km we decided that a bottle of wine and an early stop was too irresistible. We stopped on the edge of what was obviously an old beach resort area still with beachside changing rooms and delapidated looking pavilions. The whole place was fenced off by barbed wire which initially confused us as there were lots of people picnicking, fishing and generally milling about on the beach. After a short search we spotted a large gap cut into the fence. If the locals were happy to break in so were we. It was lovely sitting on the sand sharing this gorgeous Sunday afternoon with the local families. Lots of people had lit barbecues. 

We had got ourselves a half bottle of some very nice Anatolian wine which we sipped on the shoreline looking out across the calm bay, the tantalising smell of kebabs wafting over from the other picnickers. Tanker ships moored in the bay peppered our view. At dusk a large puff of dark smoke rises from each of them in turn as their generators are switched on. Soon clusters of orange lights are floating on the surface and a few lonely stars appear overhead. We copy the locals and get a fire going after dinner and sit reading before climbing into the tent. 

Day 2 – 63km

The second day saw us start to cycle through the impressive mountains which run parallel to the coast. They are covered in rich green pine forests. We turn off down to the small village of Cirali planning to find a spot to camp before walking to the Eternal Burning Stones of Chimaera which are best explored at night. 

We knew that heavy rain was forecast that evening so finding somewhere undercover was desirable. Camping on the beach in prime tourist spots can be a problem around here. It’s not as bad as it would be in the height of summer though and after chatting with a lovely barman he offers us a space under his awning for that night. By 7:30 the rain is holding off so after dinner we set off on the 90minute walk up to the Chimaera stones which are pretty cool. They have been burning for over 2000 years! A big group of locals had claimed the biggest and most impressive fire toasting marshmallows on long sticks but we found a comfortable spot a few metres away and with our backs warming against the flames we sat talking about the prospect of coming home

When the rain started at 10:30pm it didn’t stop all night and unfortunately we woke in the morning to find that a puddle had formed under the awning right where our tent was… Things were in a worse state than they would have been had we just camped out in the storm – the bottom of our tent was pretty soggy and the rain was forecast to last all day and well into the next evening… so we decided to stay put, book into one of the rooms behind the bar and sit the storm out. 

Day 3 – 37km

We managed to dry everything out by the next morning and with the forecast just promising rain again that evening we set off early wanting to reach Finike. The plan was to cycle along the 1km track which connects Cirali to the famous hippy trail, ancient Lycian site of Olympus which sits on the beach just around the headland. Unfortunately, the 24 hours of rain the day before had turned the track into a raging river. We had two options – push the bike across the beach instead and reach Olympus that way or go round by cycling back up to the road 400m up. We decided to push the bike along the sandy, pebbly beach. A tough 20 minutes but it would be much easier than cycling up a steep climb for 90minutes, especially with our cassette in its current condition… 

A quick rest while watching the waves crash towards us

The problem was, was that when we reached the headland we discover that the usual path through the archaeological site was now covered by a lake… To make things worse, while we had been pushing the bike along the sand, a giant rogue wave had come crashing towards us. Paddy had managed to escape but I had been holding the bike at the time and so ended up with very wet feet – not even goretex NorthFace shoes save you if a 2ft wave washes over you…

Our only option now was to find a way with the bags and the bike through the higgledy-piggledy, rocky, overgrown paths which wind their way up through the old ruins. It meant taking the bags through first and then going back to carry, drag and push the tandem through. It took us two hours to cover 1.5km of ground! Here I am with the bike after we finally meet back up with the main path which leads to the ticket office. We had just battled our way through the old amphitheatre arch behind me. 

Back on track, we wash down the bike (and my shoes) thoroughly with a hose to make sure no sea water is left and then we get going. Its a really nice ride out of Olympus and we soon link back up to the main road and make good headway.

It stays dry all day and we do manage to reach the long stretch of beach which leads up to Finike. We camp underneath this handy picnic area which are dotted all the way along the shoreline. 

Day 4 – 75km

Having stayed dry after another overnight storm hit we wake up early and find snow has been dropped on the mountains above Finike. It’s still raining but thanks to our large roof we eat breakfast and pack down easily. We have an hour of rain on the bike but the weather soon turns pretty good with some nice patches of sunshine. It’s pretty flat for sometime and we speed along stopping to eat lunch on this pebbly beach. 

We then turn off the main road down towards Ucagiz which is where we were headed. 

When we get there it’s as beautiful as the guidebook promised – normally teeming with tourists in the summer I think we were lucky to be here on the 1st December! The whole place was idyllically sleepy and quiet. 

After walking around the harbour for a while we spot a small patch of grass just off the main path next to some old ruins. We pitch out tent and cooked dinner right on the water front over looking the gorgeous harbour. The clouds slowly part and we enjoyed an incredible sunset and then a spectacular nights sky. A couple of locals walk by with a quick glimpse and ‘merhaba’ as we sit drinking our beers and eating dinner. At sunset the Mosque lights up green and rings out with the usual call to prayer; cats flit here and there along the path. The lights from the many boats make silver ribbons across the flat calm water and we watch the last few vessels arrive back to harbour and drop anchor. It’s very sheltered and we have a very peaceful nights sleep. 

Day 5 – 52km

To join back up to the main road we had a very hard 20km climb out of Uclgiz the next morning. There was a bit of a headwind but clear blue skies. It was really nice to have an extended cycle away from the main road and we had some lovely views of snowy mountains. 

At lunch we also catch our first official site of Europe – the Greek island of Megiste

The wind picks up quite a bit in the afternoon but we manage to find a sheltered ‘shelf’ of land in between a few houses on the outskirts of Kalkan. Nobody seemed too bothered about us setting up camp.

Choppy sea

Day 6 – 90km

After stopping in Kalkan for a cash machine we got going and ate up the miles towards Fethiye where we would be staying with Kathy, a warm showers host from the UK! After the climb away from Kalkan it wasn’t too hilly and we arrived into Fethiye by 4pm. We met Kathy at her apartment and got fed delicious food and good company that night. Here we will rest up for a day as rain is due tomorrow before completing the last section towards Bodrum! 

It’s been a really nice cycle along the Lycian coast. Keen walkers should definitely check out the Lycian Way path which stretches across this stretch of coast.

Mersin to Topalli near Antalya / 427.7km

Day 1 – half day 45.5km 

We really liked staying with Kadir and his housemates. It was really interesting talking to them about the current situation here in Turkey with Erdegon’s illiberal agenda. Kadir is Kurdish so it was good to get his perspective on the PKK and Kurdish history. 

Communal meals with these lovely guys

He joined us for our first 10km out of Mersin the next afternoon. The city is actually a really big place with hundreds of new apartment blocks constructed in neat lines along the coast line. They go on for miles… and we were caught on the busy dual carriageway meaning we didn’t catch our first sight of the sea for some time. The road was completely flat so we easily completed 40km in a couple of hours before starting to scout out a potential camping spot. It was still very built up here and after reaching our first bit of beach our hopes of a sea side sleep were soon dashed when we spotted a group of guys with motorbikes drinking and wrestling each other on the sand. 

So instead we turned off the road and headed north through a big orchard and polytunnel complex. After cycling through a sleepy village we reached a road stretching through an impressive gorge. As in other parts of Europe at this time of year it gets dark here really early but just as the sun was setting we spotted a riverside grove of lemon trees reached via a rickety bridge, a perfect hidden sanctuary, and we pitched the tent and cooked up dinner in the semi-darkness. 

The moon was incredibly bright that night and at about 10:45 I stirred initially thinking it was the light that had woken me. Suddenly I heard a kind of loud snorting near the tent. A VERY large something was making its way towards us, padding its way forwards. Trying not to panic I shook Paddy awake and by the light of the super moon we lay facing each other, wide eyed and listening, as the beast drew ever closer. It circled the tent and then headed down towards the river where it went out of earshot. 

‘What do you recon it is?’ I whispered to Paddy. It sounds like a pig, or maybe a really big dog…’ After a long pause where we both strain to listen again, Paddy answers. ‘It could be a pig… or maybe it’s a bear…’ At once, an image of us fighting off a large, fierce grizzly with our inflatable mattresses and Swiss Army penknife flash through my mind… ‘I’d better put in my contact lenses’ I say defiantly.

It’s difficult to be completely rational when there is only a thin piece of canvas between you and a potential attack from an unidentified animal but we did our best, and we spent the next few minutes formulating ‘operation intimidation’ for if it came back and approached the tent. We knew it had been close and it hadn’t been too bothered about us but our biggest fear was that it would detect the food bag… We heard it again roaming through the trees but it didn’t get close and we finally concluded that it wasn’t too bothered about us. We both managed to get back to sleep.
Nonetheless, we woke up early and packed down quickly the next morning and decided it would be best to have breakfast on a beach somewhere instead. We had lived to cycle another day! 

After speaking to some locals on the beach we get told it was probably a wild boar. Feeling initially relieved I google ‘Anatolia, Turkish Wild Boar’ and get this image. 

Not a hog you might exactly call piglet in any case…

Day 2: 88.9km

Our second day saw us see much more of the coast as the string of apartment blocks gave way to more beaches and coastline. The Eastern Mediterranean with Cyprus’ mountains just visible through the ocean haze. Lovely!

Farming is big here and fruit is in abundance in this part of Turkey so we spend our breaks picking fresh oranges, lemons and pomegranates from trees. There are also loads of muzler (local banana) trees which means they are really cheap to buy. After the morning clouds were swept away it became pretty warm, although a nice off shore wind kept things a decent temperature. We cycled through a few more towns and passed our first Roman ruins and reached the island Byzantian fortress of Kizkalesi castle.

We stopped for a couple of hours at the caves of heaven and hell – two impressive sink holes which both have great mythological relevance. The 200m mammoth ‘heaven’ cave is incredible and visitors are able to walk right down into it. At its mouth is a lovely old 5th century Byzantine chapel ruin. Locals believe the underground river connects to the hellish river Styx.

After lunch the wind really picked up and was blowing in our faces the whole time. We were heading to Ovacik where the house of another warm showers host, Bayram is. By the time we reached the town it was blowing a proper gale and we were being blown all over the place. The storm was so bad that the whole of Bayram’s neighbourhood had no power when, very wind swept, we finally arrived.

Day 3 – 62.1km 

The storm blew itself out overnight and we enjoyed a cloudless, 28 degree blue sky the next day. The flat coast road turned away inland for a while and we had a couple of hard 300m climbs. They are in the process of widening the road to form a dual carriage way which I guess will eventually span the whole coast line although the road works didn’t really affect us too much and the road wasn’t too busy. Paddy is very happy to be spending so much time on the coast and I’ve caught him on more than one occasion staring at the sea, a contented smile spreading across his face.

That night we camped right on the beach under a grove of olive trees and fell asleep to the waves gently crashing onto the shore. The wind picked up again but we were very sheltered under the trees.

Day 4 – 64.14km

We woke at 6:30am with the call to prayer blasting from a nearby minaret. Another clear sunny day and we stop at the ancient city of Anamurium for lunch. It’s an amazing complex first dating back to the Phoenician period in 400BC although most of the ruins are from the Roman and Byzantine period. It’s a sprawling site which reaches all the way down to a pebbly beach. Interestingly it’s the southern most point of Asia Minor. We would be heading Northwards from now on… 

Much of the amphitheatre, bath houses, basilica, city walls, and long aqueduct are still standing so we spent a good couple of hours walking about the site.

We had a long very steep climb at the end of the day which we managed to complete before dropping back down to sea level and into a beautiful little bay. A group of fishermen were sorting their gear out on the beach and one of them offered up his tent and little campsite set up which meant we didn’t need to bother erecting our tent and bed. This would mean a speedy pack-down the next morning, a good thing as we knew we had two big 500m climbs the next day. 

Day 5 – 93.5km 

So began our big day of climbing but we managed to set off at 8am and despite stopping to chat to Martin, another cycle tourer from Canada who was heading the other way, we managed to complete the first climb by 10:30am. There were a few stiff parts of the climb and our chain continues to jump so there were a few sections in which we had to get off and push for a bit. Although we were climbing, the sea remained on our lefthand side all day and we had great views across the Mediterranean. Another super hot day. 

A steady down hill section helped us rack up the miles in the afternoon and we took the smaller coastal detour for a while before meeting back up with the highway. We completed the last 15km to Turkey’s longest beach and here we treated ourselves to our first Turkish restaurant meal and enjoyed an overdue (albeit pricey) beer as we watched the sun set over the sea. We managed to find a hidden spot for the tent just a few metres from this beachside restaurant meaning we could sneakily access their shower and wifi the next morning. After a stint of reading the international news in bed I ran down to the shore and plunged into the sea. It helped to wash away most of the Trump madness… 

Day 6 – 51.1k

With only 153km over two days left to complete and no substantial climbs we had a couple of easy days ahead before reaching Aksu where we would be staying on a horse farm for a week. However nice it is to be clinging to the coast we both feel sad that we haven’t had a chance to cycle through some other parts of Turkey. Clinging to the south coast means we’re spending a lot of time cycling through resort towns, marvelling at some of the big hotel complexes with their Taj Mahal style towers and luxury beachside bars. The convenience of having access to beach showers and supermarkets means camping day after day is easy and we’re eating a much more varied diet; things like muesli with fresh milk which is a real luxury for us!! 

Yummy Turkish bulgar for lunch – the purple carrot gave it the pink colour. They like purple carrot here… They make a horrible fermented drink from it too…

After a while though the restaurants, bars, tattoo parlours and shops all start to look the same and although its low season and there are lots of secluded spots between the towns and plenty of ancient sites along the way we both feel a little sad that we won’t be cycling through some of the more remoter areas of the country. 

Day 7 – 103km

The last day saw us stop at Side which is a nice resort strip popular with German tourists and also home to a large Helenistic and Roman ruin complex. We spent a nice couple of hours cycling along the beach front and visiting the old amphitheatre, temples and city walls. 

Temple of Apollo – tandem received quite as much attention from our fellow tourists though!

It was slightly further to our Workaway host than we had originally thought so we ended up doing 103km on the bike that day. Here we will stay for five days helping out on the farm and in the house in exchange for free board in their cottage in the grounds.

Cyrano and Pinto – 2 of 15 horses we will be helping to look after for the next few days


TURKEY – Country No. 13

So believe it or not we were in the final month of this 11 month trip and although the plan was to carry on back home from Greece after a break at Christmas it certainly felt like we were coming to the end of something substantial. 

Not wanting to spend half of our final month in snow, rain and cold temperatures we decided to take a long bus journey from Tbilisi all the way to Mersin on the south coast of Turkey. It was a hard decision to make because cycle tourers never like getting public transport if they can help it but the draw of 20+ degrees, coastline cycling and lots of camping opportunities was too inviting. 

We had also recently signed up to Workaway and after two long stints in capital cities (Yerevan and Tbilisi) the idea of spending a week working on a farm in the Turkish countryside was really appealing. So via the site we organised a week with Susan and Orhan who have an olive farm, boat building and horse riding business just west of Antalya. Right up our street! Spending a week on the farm would mean we would have three remaining weeks to cycle along the coast to reach Bodrum where we would get a ferry over to Athens before flying home for a month to spend time with family and friends.

We crossed the border without too many problems, it’s always slightly stressful pushing/carrying and lifting the tandem through the various custom buildings, especially when we didn’t know how long we had for our bus connection to Ankara but all was fine in the end. Luckily this second bus was only half full which meant we could both stretch out over two seats and get a half decent nights sleep. By 8am we had arrived in Ankara with just the 7 hour journey to Mersin left. 

The Turkish people are incredibly forthcoming in their friendliness and hospitality and we easily found our connection bus to Mersin, storing the bike and the majority of our bags easily in the luggage compartment before heading off to find some breakfast. We didn’t rush as we had 90 minutes before the bus left. Or so we thought… Returning to the terminal in ‘plenty of time’ we discover the bus had already left and looking up at the large station clock we realised, to our horror, that my phone had set my clock to the wrong time zone. I officially hate apple products… 

A really nice guy who spoke good English helped us explain what had happened and we were given a new ticket free of charge and assured that the conductor had been called and would ensure everything got safely stored in Mersin station’s luggage storage. Considering the whole thing was completely our fault we were very well looked after. All was well, and we were reunited with tandem and all of our bags on arrival with lots of lovely people helping us along the way; including a Syrian refugee who had perfect English and who told us all about his successful family run hostel which he had owned in Palmyra before he had fled with his young family to Turkey. I kept thinking what a pity it was that we didn’t have such an energetic, intelligent and generous person coming to relocate to the UK… 

It was downhill all the way to our warmshowers host so the 10km to his house in the dark wasn’t a bad ride. We enjoyed the warm sea air and spent a really nice evening with Kadir and his two housemates who were preparing for their English linguistic exam the next morning.

Georgia in Stats 

Total Number of Days: 13

Total Distance Cycled: 251km over five days

Average distance per day: 50.2km

Shortest Day: 32.8km unpaved section between Telavi and Tianeti

Longest Day: 

Public transport: 1 bus – Tbilisi to Turkish border

Hitch Hiking: 0

Number of punctures: 1

Days of rain: 0 (very lucky!)

Days of snow: 0

Number of nights wild camping: 3 / 23%

Nights at Warm Showers: 1

Families who invited us home: 0

Days stopped due to illness or injury: 0


It was time to meet up with my brothers, Bren and Johnny who had both flown out to meet us from Dubai and Dublin respectively for a few days. It was great to see them both – a mini holiday within our holiday – and Tbilisi had enough to entertain us all for a good few days.

On the first day we decided to head up to Mshketa which is the Religious capital of Georgia. After negotiating with the friendly neighbours about a driver we decided to join a tour company in order to get an English guide. So I took on booking duties and, in standard Paddy fashion, I managed to click the wrong tour on the company website…. This meant we ended up with a ‘bonus’ open top bus tour of Tbilisi as well as our Mshketa trip. 

It was nice for Bren and Johnny to get out of the city to see some Georgian countryside and appreciate all The Lada Rivas on the road. It brought us back to our childhood when someone on our street had one and was mercilessly teased for it. 

Mshketa home of St Nino

Back in the city we enjoyed food and a few beers, becoming regulars in the trendy Generator bar where we drowned our sorrows after the US election. Much time was spent discussing this disaster – 2016 the year we left the world alone and it decided to implode in our absence! 

The second day highlight was our trip to see Swan Lake in the National Opera and Ballet theatre. The building itself was spectacular, quite new but done in a classical fashion. Of us three Cronins only Bren had been to a ballet and it was a modern ballet where he was ‘shushed’ for laughing at a ‘serious’ snake impression 🙂 Could we step up to the cultural plate and appreciate Swan Lake? We certainly think we did! It is the Classic ballet with white tutus and lots of familiar songs. The dancing, in particular the prima ballerina, was amazing. Annie and I rarely wear anything but our lycra and baggy, oil stained travelling trousers now so it was nice to spruce up for the occasion. I even wore a tie. 

What was also interesting was the relaxed atmosphere and the various ages of the crowd. There was quite a bit of clapping, many a ‘Bravo!’ and even some talking especially during the overture and musical interludes. Because the tickets were so cheap, £12 for prime seats, there were lots of kids present and at the interval Annie said the girls toilet was full of young girls pretending to be swans, pirouetting in the mirror.

Wonky Tonky clock tower in the Old Town
The giant piano we found in the riverside park

We continued our tourist route of Tbilisi on day 3 with a trip up the cable car to the statue of the Mother of Kartlis who symbolises the Georgian national character; one hand holding out a bowl of wine for friends and the other a sword for enemies. It has spectacular views over the city and vast botanical gardens. That evening was more Georgian cuisine and a sampling of local jazz which seems to be very popular in lots of pubs and bars around town.

Cable car view

Bren headed off home to Dubai on Thursday (but not before he’d had a go on the tandem) and the three of us who were left took the funicular (one of the steepest in the word) up to the hill overlooking the city and checked out the Museum of Georgia which had a particularly interesting exhibition on Russian soviet rule which suppressed the Georgian people up to independence in 1990.

Johnny headed off Friday night in the early hours leaving us back on our own but having had a great time with the guys catching the sights and rounding off most days with well deserved beers…

With the guys gone we spent Saturday visiting the bus station, bike shop and getting our new schwalbe marathon-plus tyres on the bike ready to get back on the road. We’re looking forward to seeing the Mediterranean coast… It will be our first sight of the sea since Cambodia 9 months ago. Not normal behaviour for a sailor like me… 

A brief stop on the Black Sea before heading over the Turkish border

GEORGIA! Country No.12 

We arrived into Tbilisi and the first thing we noticed was how warm it was in comparison to most of Armenia. This was good because we had five days to kill before Paddy’s brothers arrived for a few days. 

With the promise of a string of sunny days ahead we agreed it would be good to get out on the bike and explore some of rural Georgia. Depending on the weather, it may be the one chance we get to do some cycling in the whole of the country… In the end we chose a 250km loop which would take us initially north east to Telavi and then west to Tianeti. Here is the profile of the cycle:

It would be a leisurely cycle with us only needing to cover 50km a day. We were lucky to be staying with Murat a Turkish Warm Showers host who is seeing out the winter here before continuing his journey south. It was cool staying with Murat, he was a really nice guy who likes to make social statements through live protest art; such as sitting in front of large advertising screens eating popcorn for hours and organising group candlelit dinners on pedestrian crossings. It was really interesting talking to him about the current situation in Turkey especially as it is our next stop after Georgia. 

Murat, Paddy and tandem

The next morning we set off and it took us a long time to find our way out of Tbilisi. Our first impression is that it is a city made for cars not pedestrians and certainly not for bikes! Even the smaller street roads still have 4 or 5 lanes and there are very few crossings and no taxi or bus lanes. Consequently the city has very high pollution levels. Other than the traffic the city seems really really nice with lots of new architectural projects which have been tastefully mixed in with the neoclassical style boulevards and charming old city which is full of wooden balconies and cobbled streets. It kind of reminds me a bit of London in this way. 

We had an unpleasant hour on a busy dual carriageway for an hour but once we had turned off up to Telavi the cycle was much nicer although a killer headwind developed later in the day. We managed to shelter in a secluded wood that night and lit a good fire to stay warm. 

The next day was spent getting over the first climb. It was a really lovely cycle through a number of villages where lots of makeshift stalls were set up selling wild mushrooms and nuts and fruit from the surrounding orchards.

Almost all the trees are covered in huge bunches of mistletoe which made us feel very Christmassy!

Pears and mistletoe
Orchard lunch stop
Reached the top late afternoon. Sprinkling of snow up here
Amazing castle ruins on a faraway cliff top

After a fast chilly 15km descent we pulled into a roadside restaurant which had a big outdoor picnic area. We asked if we could camp there and set up the tent while we waited for our big feast of traditional Gerogian food to arrive.

The next day we spent leisurely cycling down into the Alazani basin visiting a couple of 10th century churches on our way. The snow capped Caucusus came into view and the weather was a roasting 19 degrees! It was a really lovely day of cycling through golden forests and small villages. We found a Stella camping spot that evening.

Autumn colours!
Ikalto church and old monastery.
Caucuses in view the whole day
Lake side camping spot
Sunset mountain glow
Fire worshipper at work…

The next day we left the paved road behind us as we climbed up over the second major climb of the loop. It was a lovely climb (not too steep) but the road was a little bumpy and muddy in places so it was quite slow going. We weren’t in any rush though and on the way up we stopped to walk up to a remote 10th century castle ruin and church. Again we had great weather all day. 


Irish damsel in distress…
The small but very beautiful 10th century Kvetera church

We rolled into Tianeti and decided to get a room in the only hotel in the town. The owner Giorgi and his lovely wife Eteri invited us to sit in front of the wood burner in their village store where they plied us with bread, cheese, tea and cha cha – Georgian vodka like liquor. Hilariously, Giorgi called up his mate who lived down the road as he had spent 14 years living in Cork city so we also had a nice chat with him.

Our last day was overcast and a little misty but we had an easy 15km climb before a very long descent back to Tbilisi and the asphalt soon returned. Apart from a back wheel puncture on the way down it was a very easy day. On the way into the city a mountain biker cycled up behind us and enjoyed cycling in our slipstream for 20 minutes before pulling in to chat. He and his friends who were a few km behind had been out for a Sunday ride and so we ended up going for dinner with them which was really nice.

Armenia in Stats 

Total Number of Days: 21

Total Distance Cycled: 471.6km over 8.5 days

Average distance per day: 55.5km

Shortest Day: 16km half day climb up to Goris

Longest Day: 95km Noravank to Yerevan

Public transport: 1 shared taxi: Yerevan to Tbilisi 

Hitch Hiking: 0

Number of punctures: 0 (no fresh ones at any rate)

Days of rain: 7

Days of snow: 3

Number of nights wild camping: 8 /38%

Nights at Warm Showers: 1

Families who invited us home: 0

Total spent on hotels: £142.75 (12 nights)

Days stopped due to illness or injury: 0


If Yerevan was the only place you visited in Armenia you would find it hard to believe that 30% of the Armenian population still live in poverty. 

Although the city was peaceful when we were there it has acted as the stage for a lot of recent civil unrest. Mass protests and marches broke out in the city in 2014 and 2015, demanding an end to corruption. Anger at the divide between the top 1% against the rest of the country also plays a big part in the protests as does the government’s current dependance on Russia despite the hypocrisy that Russia also sells arms to Azerbaijan. The most recent protests in July were disbanded by the government using tear gas and evidence of excessive force, journalist arrests and detention beatings have caused widespread criticism and distrust towards the police.

In retaliation a small band of armed protesters who call themselves the Daredevils of Sassoun (after the Armenian heroic epic poem of the same name) stormed a police station and took a number of hostages on 17th July. Three policemen were killed in the crossfire and the standoff lasted two weeks.

Despite the deaths, support for the Sassoun Daredevils remains strong, particularly among young activists who are disenfranchised by the governments failure to listen to their earlier peaceful protests in the summers of 2014 and 2015. 

The prime minister recently stepped down paving the way for his cabinet to also disband so the deed certainly created a shock in the political system. Only time will tell to see if the current president Sarkisyan can appoint a new cabinet which can muster popular support.

On the face of it Yerevan appears to be a thriving modern metropolis which spans across a collection of green hills, the Hrazdan river running through the centre via a deep gorge. 

The city has a very lively arts and culture scene and everywhere you look there are trendy shops, cafes, restaurants and basement bars. The first thing we did on arrival was to compile a list of music venues and make a visit to the opera house which sits in the centre of the city. A production of Tosca was scheduled for Saturday evening and thanks to the low price of the tickets we were able to get top stall seats for only £16 each. 

Here we are clutching our opera glasses before the start of the performance

We were both looking forward to spending some time in a city. Our couch surfing host fell through but we managed to find a hostel where we could cook cheap dinners and meet other travellers. We spent two really nice evenings with Jelena who was from Serbia but now lives in Moscow. 

We also visited the Cascade, a very cool 1980s building which acts both as a public outdoor garden and an interior art exhibition space. Its built into the bank of one of the city’s hills creating a giant stairway on the exterior and collection of art galleries within. It’s possible to climb up the full length of the front of the building via its many white, stone steps and pleasant sculpture courtyards provide nice places to catch your breath and enjoy the views across the city. Alternatively you can take the 8 floor escalator inside.
We also visited the museum of the Armenian surrealist film maker Sergei Parajanov who’s unusual cinematography and controversial lifestyle meant he was arrested and imprisoned by the Soviet authorities. He spent nearly five years in a work camp in the late 1970s. Later he moved and later died in Yerevan. 

The highlight and most poignant visit was our afternoon in the Armenian genocide museum. Ancient Armenia was once much bigger than the current Armenian region and by the 1600s a large section of western Armenia had come under Ottoman rule. The large Armenian population living in these provinces have a very sad and long history of suffering which climaxed in 1.5 million Christian Armenians being systematically killed between 1910-23.

The genocide officially started in the early 20th century, (1915) with the round up of many prominent Armenian intellectuals. Later it moved onto the slaughter and forced army conscripts of all able bodied men and ended with the mass deportation and murder of hundreds of thousands of women and children. Many other children were taken away from their families and converted to Islam. To date only 29 countries have officially recognised the mass killings as genocide and Turkey continues to deny the word genocide as an accurate term. The museum is excellent but harrowing.

We also visited the state museum which had a brilliant exhibition documenting Armenian history from as early as 4500BC through the Middle Bronze period, Uratrian kingdom, Persian and Roman conquests all the way up to 400 AD when the region adopted Christianity. 

After these culturally gluttonous days it was time to head over into Georgia. We would really have liked to cycled the full length of Armenia but the weather promised more rain and cold temperatures and in the end we decided to take a shared taxi across the border. It’s gloomy taking public transport when you have time to cycle instead but we definitely made the right decision. As soon as we left the city the rain we had had in the centre soon turned to thick snow and as we drove over the mountains towards the border via Lake Sevan the road got very very treacherous and there was a lot of waiting for trucks stuck in the drifts.

Very suddenly we were leaving Armenia and crossing into Georgia, heading to the capital Tbilisi. And so concluded our trip through country number 11!