I stayed another night in Agri to give myself a day off. I wandered around the market on Saturday and was struck by how poor it was - a few beggars around, rubbish and rubble everywhere, buildings falling apart and a general air of scruffiness. If it had been the UK I would have scarpered sharpish, but I never felt threatened, though I was certainly subject to plenty of attention as a westerner. It was mostly good-natured.
The day off gave me chance to fix a puncture I'd picked up on the way into Agri, and fettle a few other things on the bike. I tightened the headset, which has been bothering me since, ooh, at least Hungary, adjusted the brakes and re-lubed the chain. It felt better when I hit the road.
Back on the D100 again: it's a wide and fairly smooth road and the navigation is simple. I had the choice of two routes to Van from Agri: the main road, which goes over two high passes (the one between Dogubayzit and Van is 2600 metres high), or the southern route which appeared to be less hilly on the map. The D100 promised views of Mt Ararat, so that decided it for me.
Shame it was such a hazy day. No views to speak of, so I was just plodding, as the road rose very gradually uphill over another 2000-metre high pass. Thanks to the roadworks I had an entire carriageway to myself for about five miles. Ice was forming in my beard again and the water in my bottles was freezing. I called into a truckers' cafe to warm up and thaw out.
These are always good places to visit. They're cheap and friendly and the food and tea are plentiful. There are usually two choices of meal: take it or leave it. Today, it was Mystery Meat, which took me right back to 1980s school dinners. Mmmm, tubes.
A few of the truckers offered me a lift to Iran once I'd told them my destination. I politely refused the offers, but I appreciated the generosity.
It was a good day; the only problem was a few encounters with dogs on the road. Most of the dogs can be chased by stopping and shouting, though it's a bit annoying when their owners let them chase after cyclists. But the sheepdogs are easily handled and it's the wild dogs you have to look out for. I was - there's no other word for it - hounded along the road by three dogs which emerged from the brush and crossed the carriageways to chase me. They were catching me, but they were scared away by an even more vicious pair of beasties flanking me from the other side. I stopped to make them back down, and an unusual stand-off developed. They'd back off when I shouted and always stayed outside range of my kicks, but as soon as I started cycling they gave chase, a-snarling and teeth a-snapping. Luckily, I had a Dog Dazer which I'd bought in Istanbul, and which emits a high-pitched noise which startles dogs when you aim it at them. I haven't used it much, but it kept the mutts distant enough while I pedalled away. I'm glad I had it, otherwise I might still be there.
On the run into Dogubayazit the clouds started to lift and the great bulk of Ararat was revealed. I was very pleased that I'd chosen this route. Now, I have to decide whether to continue south to Van or to head straight for the border. I reckon I'll go to Van, unless the weather is especially foul tomorrow morning.