with Rod Oram


B to B 2024

B to B 2023

Tour of NZ 2023


Tour Aotearoa

…more tonic!

Sep 15, 2023

Day 47. Thursday, September 14. Hizirilyas bush camp to Erzurum. 101km, with 965m of climbing.

More tonic! Today’s ride, just like yesterday’s, buoyed our spirits. Just a few kilometres up the road from our overnight camp, we crested a hill to this expansive view. Please pardon our impromptu roadblock…thankfully it was a very quiet road, particularly so early in the morning.

The range of mountains stretched 180 degrees, from horizon to horizon, in front of us, creating the long, broad valley we followed for most of the day. We dropped rapidly down to it, and joined a major four-lane, divided highway with a shoulder broad enough for three of us to ride abreast – yet with only light traffic.

Aided by a gentle tail-wind, the flat ride was a doddle for hours on end. In one of the small towns we passed through we stopped to admire a particularly grand display of monster cabbages.

Mostly through sign language, we learnt from this gentleman that the specimen he’s holding weighs some 40kg. But they can grow twice as large, he indicated with the span of his arms. He might just have been having a bit of fun with us…but there was no doubting the girth of these.

On a far more sombre note, along the way we visited a roadside memorial to the Battle of Sarikamish, a very deadly series of encounters between the armies of Russia plus Armenia against Ottoman empire troops from December 1914 to January 1915. The Turks lost decisively – not that the memorial mentioned so. The defeat was a factor in the Turks subsequent genocide of Armenians. The brutal winter weather accounted for a large proportion of those killed or injured, a reminder how high this vast Anatolian plateau is – particularly in this its eastern end at around 1,750m-2,200m.

These days the altitude and winter weather here are a source of sport not war. Tonight and tomorrow (given it’s a rest day) we’re staying at a ski resort hotel at Erzurum, the capital of the eponymous province. From the valley we followed most of the day, we had a climb of some 500m to get here, which is at 2,100m. The mountains behind us rise to some 3,000m.

For all the modern attractions of the city, its origins are ancient, so we’ll have lots to explore on our rest day tomorrow.

On a more mundane note, there is one other local feature I should mention. Before the final climb up into the city we stopped for drinks at a big petrol station / restaurant / supermarket down on the main highway which skirts the city.

Most impressive of all its offerings, I must mention its toilets. The gents are among the most extensive I’ve seen anywhere…and the ladies are equally impressive, our female riders reported.

Quite why they’re so grand is a mystery. Perhaps it’s because the Turks are huge football fans…so the facilities were built to cater for convoys of fan coaches heading to / from away games. In the second photo below, that is only one of three “avenues” of cubicles in the gents.

One other thing to note about them. The western style of sit-on toilet I used had an additional feature – a constant jet of water (with no controls to turn it off) aimed right at…how shall I put this politely…that part of one’s anatomy usually serviced by toilet paper.

OK, so it was kind of like a combined toilet-cum-bidet. Not of the sophisticated kind the Japanese have used for years. This was pure DIY. As I sat down, I was startled by the icy water. I reflexively clenched my cheeks. Realising that was counterproductive, I had to bite my other cheeks while I persevered with the task to which I was committed.

I consoled myself that the entry of 30 cents (NZ) had served a dual purpose. I had also cooled my arse for the hot climb ahead.


  1. Pip Stevenson

    Rod, as someone who travelled Turkey by bus I propose that the large loos were for the many buses that arrive en masse at stops. I certainly stopped at bus terminals that were like airports they were so busy and big.
    Enjoying the adventure with you. It’s epic! Hats off to you.
    And happy anniversary to you and Lynn for the 47th.

  2. Geoff

    As a chef I was intrigued with those cabbages! Wow – that would make a lot of sauerkraut for Rueben sandwiches! Loving the historic references esp horrific the 25 days of war in freezing cold temperatures. Very very sad and tragic! Ride well on your homeward final stretch!