As any long distance cyclist knows, camping can be both the best and worst parts of the touring experience. Often, camp is nothing more than a convenient bit of flat (or not so flat) ground, chosen simply because darkness is falling and options are scarce. You put up your tent, cook a perfunctory meal and crash into your sleeping bag after a hard day’s ride.
A good example of a bad campsite.
But when it's good, it's really good. Magical even - an experience that you just can't get unless you dare to venture out into nature under your own steam, far from the comforts of home. One such place eventually became the inspiration for our 'Black Forest' Jersey.
It was in Turkey, somewhere along the Black sea coast. We were a couple of days ride out of Istanbul. We were travelling sans carte so the exact location will remain a mystery, but I think it was somewhere between the towns of Karasu and Eregli. It was mid afternoon and we were making good time on a near perfect road - mile after mile of sweeping bends on a slight downward grade (if you haven't descended a mountain road on a loaded touring bike - you should!). We entered a forest of swaying greenery and I couldn’t have been more in love with the place.
I called out to my friends to stop, and we debated the merits of making camp early – after all we were travellers first and it just seemed too perfect a spot to pass over. It was decided. We left the road and pushed our bikes deep into the trackless forest, finding a spot amongst the trees. We made camp and spent the afternoon enjoying our surroundings and serenading the wildlife (at that point we had a guitar, a drum and a flute - at other times our musical arsenal included a mandolin and even a battery-powered electric guitar).
What it's all about - enjoying nature in the company of friends.
As day turned to dusk the wind dropped and the only sounds came from the restless leaves dancing in the breeze, and we three interlopers as we exchanged banter over a bottle of Efes. Later in the night I sat outside alone, listening to the swaying canopy and marvelling at how fortunate we were to experience this magical place, so far removed from the human world.
Several years later, looking for inspiration in these images, I was transported back to that night, and to the strange feeling of belonging in that wild, hidden place -that enchanted forest somewhere in northern Turkey.