'MOTORBIKES WENT ON FORWARDS'
THE THIRD THRILLING INSTALMENT OF DAVE'S ROAD TRIP
Here is the third instalment of Dave and crew's motorcycle trip to interesting places - this episode finds them crossing the Euphrates! if you missed the last part of the tale follow the link here to catch up...
Opposite our hotel in Develi where we stayed was a petrol station with a jet wash. So the next morning in bright sunshine (hooray) we washed the mud off the bikes and gave them a check over. The first thing I noticed was that my rear wheel nut was missing! Gone! Not there! How could that be? I can only assume that in my intensely careful preparation I had not done it up! Still finding that hard to believe. Incredibly Milky had one that fitted. Just as a precaution I put a small zip tie on the end of the spindle as a visual indicator. Both nut and indicator lasted the rest of the trip. There was one other thing that wasn’t quite correct and again down to immaculate prep. My front tyre had 66psi in it. Obviously from when I fitted and seated the tyre. Incredibly when the other two were tip toeing around slippery roads and again in the mud the previous day I was not at all concerned and experienced no sliding out. Interestingly when I had chatted with Si Pavey (BMW Off –Road Riding Skills, Dakar star etc,etc) he had recently been on a Metzler test day for the Karoo3’s that we were using and said that they work better off road at road pressures. I.e don’t let air out for off road riding. Well I’ve got news for Metzler, pump them up to 66 and they still work fine. Still I let a load of air out just to be on the safe side.
We had a day covering miles southeast after the bikes were sorted. The sun was out all day so we thought we would celebrate by camping.
Time for tea?
One of the aspects of this journey I have yet to mention but was becoming increasingly apparent was the curiosity, warmth and hospitality of the people we met. There were many examples of this “kindness of strangers” littered throughout our trip and I will relay some of these throughout. Usually whenever we stopped children and young lads would come over to talk. They would ask where we came from, where we were going, our names, Chip's age, how much the bikes cost and so on. People were also keen to give assistance and most of all offer tea, cay (chiy). Tea is universal all over the region and as we saw later, grown in northern Turkey.
We headed north of Adiyamann to find a quiet corner to pitch our tents. Whenever we stopped to look at a prospective spot people would appear from nowhere to ask the requisite questions. A man stopped his car to join in. He got his young daughter to help as she was learning English at school. A local farmer indicated we could camp anywhere. Eventually we found a recently harvested field along a trail. Shortly after the tents were up and dinner under way on the primus, a tractor and trailer came along. The farmer seemed bemused but unconcerned, he continued to a neighbouring field where the harvest carried on well in to the night. After a fairly comfortable night we were up with the combine as the locals carried on where they left off the night before.
After we had some food and took tents down the harvesters came along on their tractor and combine, stopped by us and came over to talk and share their own food and the inevitable tea from the flask. A shepherd with a flock of sheep passing by also joined in. A lovely way to start the day.
Crossing the Rubicon...no...the Euphrates
Our target for the day was Nemrut Dagi (Dagi is Turkish for mountain). At the top of the mountain is a temple with some statues that many people will recognise. But before that there was the small matter of crossing the Euphrates. It was not so dramatic in as much as we just rode over a bridge but none the less we were crossing the Euphrates!!
Shortly after that momentous event we found ourselves on the top of a large hill looking at some temple type ruins. There was a café/souvenir shop so we stopped for refreshments. A minibus full of students arrived and started chatting with us. Among them was their tutor Aisha, she is Iraqi, we talked about travelling to northern Iraq. It had been on our agenda since reading the blog of a fellow rider who had recently been in that part of Kurdistan. She confirmed what we had read, that it is lovely place where people are friendly and welcoming. So we made Erbil, a days ride from the border, a definite destination, along with the mountains to the north. It would be two or three days ride from where we were. A couple of days later we were watching on TV the IS militants taking over Mosul. The road to Erbil runs next to Mosul. Won’t be going there then. I was disappointed as I had been looking forward to talking to people and seeing first hand how things are in the fall out of the war that our country was so involved in.
The long and winding road
Back to Nemrut Dagi. It stands over 2000 meters high in a remote range of mountains. The mountain itself is mainly rock and stone. There is a long and winding road that leads up to a car park and from there you have to walk past the tea and souvenir shops up the last several hundred meters to the east and west terraces. Here there are the semi-ruined statues that Antiochus I commissioned. In between the two terraces is a ginormous pile of stones that, it is believed still hold the burial chamber of himself and several members of his family. Now that was a clever idea as to get into the chamber would require that the whole pile be moved. The scale of that task would be immense and beyond the wit of yer average grave robber.
Now Antiochus appears to have done quite well for himself. He came to power when there was a bit of a vacuum in the region. The two powers at that time (62 BC) and that place were the Romans on one side and the Parthians the other. He was able to be allies of them both and sealed a deal with the Parthians by marrying his daughter off to one of their top chaps. His Kingdom of Commagene was a busy trade route. Inevitably the Parthians fell out with the Romans and our man had to choose which way to jump. Surprisingly he went with the Parthians. This pissed off Mark Anthony who got his generals to send in the legions. They laid siege to the stronghold of our hero but his archers were very effective and the Romans were forced to retreat. This was a huge feather in the cap of Antiochus and his status in the region soared. Thus he saw fit to become a bit of a deity and commission the building of Nemrut. His people came twice a year to give thanks etc. It must have been a pilgrimage and a half as it was a long enough climb on a KTM. I’m sure we were given far more detail but that’s what I remember.
We took a different route back down the mountain as there were more sights to see. To add to the enjoyment there was ten miles of trail to the next set of ruins plus a good café too. Not so good for Chip as his bike was getting a little hot under the collar. To give it a chance to cool down we did the tourist thing and had some Kurdish dinner, very similar to Turkish but we didn’t say anything.
Who pays the ferryman?
Once we had our fill of culture and Chip's radiator was topped up, the bikes were once again turned east towards another Euphrates crossing. This time it was a ferry, a new bridge is well under construction and in the meantime people wait patiently for an aging ferry to take them across. The cars, vans and lorries had to reverse on to the boat in a very limited space, quite a feat. Fortunately for us motorbikes went on forwards, as do the horses.
The road on the other side was fast dual carriageway. That does not stop the cattle from wandering from the hard shoulder to the central reservation in search of a tasty morsel, or a flock of sheep being herded across the entire road to pastures on the other side. We travelled along at about 60 mph but there were enough cars going about 80+ mph. We were riding across a high plateau, vegetation was sparse with no trees, well into Eastern Turkey by now. The other thing that had become sparse was petrol. The miles had gone by and the last two garages had “no benzene”. Chips 950’s eventually ran out and they both took on a few litres with the spare that Chip was carrying. Milky still had a can as double reserve. I had only just switched to my own reserve so still had a good few miles before I needed to worry. The third garage on the edge of a town proved lucky. The reason for the shortage is lack of demand. All vans are diesel and most cars are either diesel or more likely LPG which is at least half the price of petrol. In towns you can usually find petrol as there is a demand from small motorbikes. Fully filled and relieved we pushed on to Diyarbakir.
As one of the largest cities in eastern Turkey, Diyarbakir is a busy bustling place. We arrived early evening and the streets were very busy, hot and sticky. The first police vehicle we saw was an armoured Land Rover looking as if it could have been repainted after serving time in N.Ireland. They became fairly common sights in towns around the east of Turkey and although we never saw any unrest ourselves there were frequent reports on TV news of demonstrations that became violent.
As we navigated our way to the cheap hotel our guidebook advised in the middle of town, Chips 950 boiled up and over. It would be a job for the morning but quite worrying as we anticipated more hot journeys. The Aslan Palas Hotel not only offered cheap and cheerful rooms but use of an underground car park that would prove handy for taking bits off the fevered KTM.
Eating out is what people do
There are always places to eat in every town in Turkey. Eating out is what people do, not just fancy places but where ordinary folk will go for basic nosh. In reality we found that the food was a variation on a theme and as such somewhat predictable. Bread, meat and salad, then more bread. Salad is mainly tomato, cucumber and onion. This is the staple diet and the quality may vary but that is what is on the menu. And of course tea with everything, coffee was rare. There were more upmarket places to eat with a greater variety on the menu but they were few and far between. I wasn’t there for haut cuisine so providing I got my hunger satisfied I was happy enough.
So that's the story so far - any of the places they have been familiar to anyone? If you have been to any of them let us know what you thought and what experiences you had - email us at email@example.com
Watch this space for the next instalment of the three friends go on a motorcycle road trip and by the way none of them look at all like Smurfs!
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