ROADS GIRDLE THE GLOBE - A MOTORCYCLE ADVENTURE
TUESDAY? MUST BE TURKEY
Technically this is the second instalment of Dave and friends' trip that was going to be to Iran but now is taking in other equally cool and interesting places instead. This episode finds them in Turkey. Here's how they got on there...
Did I really save all my hard earned cash and use all my annual leave, not to mention the unpaid leave, to be riding through pouring bloody cold rain along slippery bloody roads? It was worse for Milky and Chip behind me. At least my KTM LC4 has a diminutive 625 motor. Their 950’s put out far too much power for the new dual purpose tyres in those conditions and they span up at every opportunity.
Always include waterproofs...
We had left Istanbul that morning with grey skies. As we headed east and turned off the motorway towards the hills it became clear that waterproofs would be required. Whilst packing for the trip I had thought twice before bringing waterproofs. First lesson, always include waterproofs.
To be fair the weather was not unexpected. It hadn’t been too bad in Istanbul. We had been there for several days doing the tourist thing. Originally the plan was to collect our Iranian visas but there were new restrictions on British passport holders that meant expensive guides were required and would have restricted our off-road plans. Instead we intended to visit Georgia and Armenia.
TV reports showed extensive flooding in many areas of Turkey and forecasts were not good for the next week. Images of cars, buildings and livestock becoming victims of flash floods were not good. The only area not looking wet was the southeast so we decided to head in that direction. To get there we would need to pass through the inclement conditions though.
Turkey is really BIG
For those who don’t know, Turkey is big, really BIG. My experience of the country up to this point had been one typical family holiday on the Mediterranean coast when the kids were younger. I distinctly remember the journey from airport to resort through the hills and thinking that Turkey would be a great place to explore on a bike.
Istanbul is really BIG
Istanbul is big, really BIG and as we left on the busy motorway we saw all the manufacturing plants and industrial areas that stretch for miles. We had already seen the massive textile production to the west of the city were we had parked Chip's Transit and trailer in a factory there where Milky had a friendly connection.
The motorway passes Izmit where the Sea of Marmara ends. Many ships lie waiting to load/unload their cargo at the docks. It all gives a clue as to the size of this nation, it’s population and economy. Towards the end of our trip we spent an evening on the Black Sea, north east of Istanbul, drinking Raki with Osman and Charley who both worked for Tata, the Indian steel manufacturer in the town of Eregli.
Back to the rain
Back to the rain, it stopped, the clouds started to break up and there was a patch of blue sky. “Enough to make a sailor a pair of trousers”, as our Mum used to say. We dropped down to a large plain, the sun came out. Milky excitedly gesticulated as he pulled alongside, he had his sunglasses on. I began to think my choice of a lightly tinted Pinlock double glazing for the Shoei visor was a good decision. The landscape had changed dramatically from the pine covered hills to wheat fields that stretched for miles dotted with villages and the occasional limestone outcrop. We were soon to learn that the landscape constantly changes in Turkey, everything from alpine mountains to semi arid desert like plains.
Inevitably the sun didn’t last and as we headed for the next range of hills the sky grew as black as Hades. Lightning flashed all around for a while before the rain started falling with some force. And so it continued as we skirted round Ankara and on to Kirikkale for our first night, hoping stuff would dry by the morning. Of course it didn’t, so we hung around and waited for a break in the weather.
No plans, just priorities
We deliberately had no concrete plans, just some priorities:
1. Find decent weather
2. Seek out remote routes
3. Visit some of the recommended sites
4. Avoid getting hurt or nicked
Other than that we were relaxed and fluid about the itinerary. Having already decided to head southeast we were going to pass by a number of places on our “recommended” list.
Ruined city on a hillside
The first was Hattusas. Here can be found the ruins at the centre of the Hittite Empire. The ruined city sits on a hillside in a green and fertile area. Along with a couple of Japanese tourist coaches we drove round the site, stopping to have a look round and read up on how the Hittites lived. Now I am pretty ignorant of the history of the region but when you look around these sites and read a little bit about the ancient civilizations you can’t help but be impressed, to say the least. The amount of stone that needed to be sourced, transported, shaped and lifted into place to create a city is mind boggling. On our way back through Germany we were slowed by miles of roadworks where the autobahn is being widened. With all the plant and modern technology available it is going to take until 2017 to finish. If all you have is ox and cart, chisels and hammers it must take an eternity to build a city.
Also the complexity of the old civilisations was much the same as today. Bearing in mind this was several hundreds of years B.C. these people had a peace treaty with Ramses, the Pharaoh in Egypt. How sophisticated were the lines of communication without “what’s app”?
Having been suitably educated and impressed we continued east avoiding, where possible, the showers. We were travelling over large ranges of high hills and found our way on smaller more remote roads that for periods turned into tracks as they passed small villages that seemed to be inhabited almost entirely by cows, chickens and donkeys.
At the end of the rainbow
Our next visual surprise took the form of the largest rainbow I have ever seen as we found ourselves riding across a vast plain of wheat fields with the sun shining but stormy skies in front. We were chasing the rain and the resulting rainbow must have been about 50km from one end of the arch to the other. Aiming for the right side, instead of a pot of gold we came upon the town of Bogazliyan and as the day was getting on we stopped at the edge of the town, had a look at the GPS for a hotel. The one listed was supposed to be exactly where we stopped but the was no sign. Chip went up the road to have a look and a police car pulled up next to us. This was our first encounter with Turkish police and having read of arbitrary fines given to foreigners on made up speeding charges we were cautious. How wrong could we be? On realising we were looking for a hotel the young driver spoke to his colleague and indicated for us to follow them. The car sped off up the road at speed with Milky and I in pursuit, past a bewildered Chip.
Several miles and numerous fast overtakes later we pulled into a housing estate with no hotel. Oh dear. No problem he was dropping his mate off and just as Chip joined us we sped off again, just as fast. A few miles back towards the town we pulled into a drive where at the end was a very large building. It was the Turkish equivalent to Hotel California. A Thermal Spa that had seen better days. There were 80 rooms and we were the only guests. The guy in charge took us to our self -contained apartment and immediately showed us the bathroom. The bath was about 8ft square and 4ft deep. He turned the huge tap and said it would take about half an hour to fill. He was right but it was worth the wait. The rest of the plumbing in the place required significant attention. There was a constant leak above the toilet so one could shit and shower at the same time! It all added to the charm.
Fairy chimneys and an underground city
Next morning was a little damp for a change, so again we stalled our start. This was to be another cultural day with two “Must See” places to visit not far from our Hotel California. We were up the road from Cappadocia an area made famous by the stunning Fairy Chimney rocks formed from the volcanic rocks of the region. Also the myriad caves that people had lived in since up to 600 B.C. Some of the caves are currently owned and used by farmers whilst in the tourist town of Goreme the Fairy Chimneys have become hotels.
For a while we were able to ride around the amazing landscape until we were politely informed we shouldn’t. So we went into a tourist town for some lunch and met a couple of young Dutch guys heading for China on KTM 690’s. There next country was Iran. No Visa problems for them!
Next on the agenda was a short ride to Derinkuyu, an ordinary rural market town with an extra ordinary attraction. An underground city that used to be inhabited by up to 20,000 people and their animals. It was ventilated but I don’t know how well with that lot down there. It was a well organised, complex society with presses for wine and olives, storage areas, study rooms and everything to make life work. Having paid the entrance fee it was only as you were about to descend down to the first of seven levels that there was a warning that people with heart or breathing problems should not enter. Half way back up from the bottom level and you understood why!
Not so dry lake bed
Heading south we spotted a gorge from the road. A trail led down from a village that went through an oasis-like wooded glade, complete with a stream to ride through. It then carried on down a dirt trail for a good number of miles before rejoining the road, a lovely little detour for half an hour. Looking at the map we noticed a trail leading across a dry lake bed so headed towards that. All the recent rain had left the trail a tad slippery and Chip, wisely as it turned out, decided to stay on the tarmac.
As soon as Chip had turned around the track became dry and Milky and I felt pretty cocky. We stopped to let a huge flock of sheep past. They were being shepherded by several teenage boys who were fascinated by our bikes and the rear was being brought up by an ancient Renault being driven by a lad of about 10 with a huge grin on his face. The trail soon turned into mushy mud, predictable I guess but we are always suckers for a trail. If it was difficult for me to keep the LC4 going where I wanted it to it was doubly hard for Milky on the 950. This proved to be true on three occasions when he gracefully laid it down to rest on its side.
Eventually we wrestled the bikes on to the other side of the lake bed to the road and met up with Chip who was able to gloat at our foolish decision with the sweat dripping from under our hats and riding gear. On the positive side, it hadn’t rained on us all day, a first!
And here endeth the first instalment of our three intrepid motorcyclists adventures - it looks like an amazing trip so far what with, fairy chimneys, underground cities and all. If you have been or are going to any of these places let us know about your trip firstname.lastname@example.org.
More of the tale will be forthcoming from Dave, watch this space...
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