The Kackar Mountains (pronounced “Catch – Car”) are the epitome of the mind set of the people living on and at their foot: It is hard to find a better example to hard work and to keep going despite difficulties leading to incredible beauty. The lush valleys clad with flowers, snow covered peaks, the little lakes which shine like jewels under the sun and with its passionate, friendly people the Kackar region is very special indeed. The music from the goat skin, bag pipes and folk dancing is an integral part of the camp fires. Biking in the Kackar Mountains is a mood changing experience…. The Kackar Mountains are part of the Pontic Alps: the glaciated, granite mountain range which hugs the south coast of the Black Sea, extending from the Caucasus towards Istanbul. Lushly wooded on the north, with pines succeeded at lower levels by chestnut, hornbeam and beech trees, with tea plantations and hazel nut groves spilling down towards the waves. The contrasting southern slopes are patched by summer pastures where black bulls graze. Lakes, springs and streams are plentiful and clear. The crown of the range is the Altiparmak (six fingered) and Kackar mountains, and Mount Kackar, at 3932m, is the fifth highest peak in Turkey. Best points to arrive are on the south side of the range, which is exempt from damp rolling mists which clothe the northern slopes most afternoons. The locals say that if the north face has 5 clear days in a month, it’s a surprise; if the south has 5 rainy days, it’s amazing. Once densely inhabited and highly productive, the valleys still ring to the sound of summer returnees from Istanbul or Germany. The women’s clothing, a brilliant contrast to the dour chador of Erzurum, is multi-layered and brilliantly colourful. Devout Muslim observance, including temperance, has, within living memory, replaced equally devout Christian worship; rumours of residual Armenian communities abound. The Pontic Alps have been occupied by Armenians, Georgians, Selcuk Turks, Mongols, Ottoman Turks and Russians. Individual communities of Laz and Hemsin flourished on the Black Sea side of the range. Isabella Bird wrote in 1890 : “The road was enlivened by local as well as through traffic, and brightened by the various costumes of Turks, Greeks, Armenians and Lazes. The latter carry rifles and sabres, and two daggers in their girdles, one of which always has a cloven hilt.” The first world war and war of independence saw vast population movements as the Russian advance reached Erzurum, and withdrawal drew many Armenians with them. Greeks left with the exchange of populations in 1923, and the area became almost totally Muslim. The valleys were for many years self sufficient, and cereals, cattle and honey was traded across the passes in the range.