We were stuck in the mud. In our sandals and flip flops, we were walking around the car in the middle of nowhere, Turkey, looking for sticks. This was the fourth calamity we faced on the not-quite-a-road that we were were taking to get back down to the Coast after a nefarious waypoint brought us to a tiny village at the top of a mountain.
As usual, we followed the sense of wanderlust and freedom that we shared as two sisters driving driving along the Black Sea. We blocked out reason and followed the same GPS that got us lost, stuck, or provided lovely 10 hour detours so many times before.
When we checked out of the hotel in Sinop in the morning, I glanced at a map that showed that there was a road that rounded the peninsula. As someone who hates backtracking, I asked the clerk if we could take it all the way back to the main coast highway. The scenery as we exited Sinop was probably the best of the day: green hills falling into a calm Black Sea with wildflowers and cows dotting the bucolic land.
Beyond evaluating how to best enjoy the scenery as we left Sinop, neither of us thought to look at a map to determine the route to Amasra, our next destination. So as we left the city, we just kept turning in the direction we thought would take us nearest to the coast. After one coast road ended in a beautiful seaside park, we put a waypoint on the GPS near where we thought the coast highway would be. We traveled on a road covered in wet asphalt, which we could smell forming layers on the car’s exterior and undercarriage. Then we ended up in a small town with serpentine one-way streets and picked up a stalker van full of Turkish teenagers throwing empty beer cans out the window. I was actually happy to make lots of odd turns in the city, if only to lose the van full of drunk teens.
Exiting this weird town, we followed narrower and narrower dirt roads up a mountain. Although we could clearly see the sea, we couldn’t make out a road between the one we were on and the shore. Maybe there wasn’t even a Black Sea Highway in these parts.
After cross-checking the GPS and Google Maps, we found a road a little closer to the coast and decided to take a 2 km connector to get there. The connector was a village road, where we had to go very slowly in order to avoid the rocks and ditches, or stop altogether to coax a donkey out of the way.
We finally turned onto our chosen road, which we planned to take for 13 km and then meet up with the highway that we were already desperately craving. At first it seemed fine, but as we advanced the road quality deteriorated. First, we had to open a cattle gate guarded by this weird mannequin:
Then we had to avoid mud puddles and ditches and drive around the far outside of a creek that had collapsed the other edge of the road. The road material went from asphalt to gravel to dirt to a nice grassy surface, with plants growing to about knee-height in the middle. After the grass were the mud spots, which I managed to avoid for a while. We finally reached the point, however, where we could no longer drive around the mud and wedged ourselves right in the middle of it.
At first we tried putting the car in neutral and pushing, which is a pretty foolish plan until you get stuck in the mud in the middle of nowhere. Then we tried using sticks to shovel the mud away from the stuck tire, which is about as stupid as trying to push the car. Emily and I walked around the car the a few times and sized up our surrounding without much communicating. Finally, she started collecting sticks and breaking them up into foot-long pieces. I was out of ideas, so I just started gathering all the sticks I could find. Finally, I asked her why we were breaking sticks.
Her plan was to place the sticks as traction behind all of the tires, and then back out of the mud. As it was the only plan we had, it was genius! After about 5 more minutes of breaking sticks, we started to arrange them behind all of the tires. I got back behind the wheel and put the top back down so I could quickly respond to her directions. The crack of every stick was agony. Would our escape plan only pitch the car further into the mud?
The sticks saved us, and I backed up another half kilometer or so until there was an almost clearing where I could execute a 20 point turn and get us the hell off of this non-road. At this point, driving miles upon miles on wet asphalt would be heaven.
We drove past all of the now-familiar mud puddles, took the far edge of the creek that collapsed the road, and passed the weird dummy by the gate and the donkey roadblock. Back through the villages and onto the wet asphalt road. This time, we happily followed the rest of the traffic, and found the actual highway that would take us all the way to Amasra.
The Lonely Plant said the road from Amasra to Sinop was like driving the Pacific Coast Highway in California. I was so excited for a beautiful coastal road with cliffs and amazing scenery. Instead, we found ourselves on several more dirt or gravel roads and faced hours upon hours of relentless switchbacks. Although every once in a while there was an amazing view, for the most part the road was relentlessly curvy and graded. Driving here required full concentration. As the hours passed, we became less interested in seeing a scenic historic city and instead started to crave any hotel anywhere.
I finally found a hotel that had alcohol and wifi right on the coast in Side, about an hour east of Amasra. The best moment of the day was when we found jumbo Efes bottles in the mini-bar of our room!
I can’t say enough about Hotel Yali on the Black Sea Coast. It’s comfortable and friendly. And if you can’t make it all the way from Sinop to Amasra or vice versa, it’s a completely okay place to stop for the night.
On our way to Istanbul the next day, we tried to get the car washed at a filling station. After about ten minutes with a power hose, the guy gave up.
So, moral of the story: look at map when planning your drive in Turkey. This is a lesson that I just can’t seem to learn. The flipside: arm yourself with endless optimism, and even when stuck in the mud on the Black Sea coast, you’ll feel confident that somehow, someway, it will all work out, as it always does.