Eastern turkey – Sanlıurfa
Cologne after meals. What is up with that? It is seriously the strangest thing after a good kebab, but the turks seem to love it. In eastern Turkey they get so excited by the prospect of giving you some cologne that one thinks they might just squirt the whole bottle over you… Yeesh.
A late wake up ensued the following morning. After a breakfast of chilli eggs, Jay and I got to work on trying to find a bed in Diyarbakir. Two friendly girls came to my rescue and offered me a spare bed relatively quickly. Thanking Jay for his great hospitality, off to Diyarbakir it was.
The roads on route to Diyarbakir seemed somewhat empty, except for the occasional truck and minivan. It was all was straight road and farming land, and being a short 200km ride, Trumpet and I were in Diyarbakir within two hours.
Eastern turkey – Diyarbakir
Stopped at the entry to the underground carpark, two security guards asked me if I was carrying guns, bombs and where I was from in very limited english. Entertaining them with my Australian accent, they let me into the and I parked. Locating Starbucks, I awaited Özge and Beri.
Sitting around a small table, amongst large wafts of cigarette smoke (bugger me, does everyone smoke in this country, it makes a bloke want to quit) Özgun, Özge, Beri, Ergut and I got to know each other a little better. We were all using the same network of couchrail, but didn’t know each other so well. Turns out they all knew where the best liver and fat shish kebabs were though!
Once acquainted with one another, we piled into the car and headed in the old town. Patrolled by intimidating heavily armoured police trucks, the old town of Diyarbakir was charming, even if mostly devoid of human life. The reason behind this – a spate of firefights and bombings against the police and army forces in the previous years.
Drinking a turkish coffee in a 400 yr old courtyard, with the occasional war jet soaring overhead, heading to wherever it was they were bombing. What made me stop and think for a minute was normal for the others – no one had seemed to noticed, or perhaps, as Özgun had told me, the locals were so used to hearing the war jets that it was part of a normal life.
Özge, Beri and I returned to the mall to pick up Trumpet, whom sat in front of the night shift security guards. From here, I followed Özge back to her home where I was sleeping for the night. Her parents were so warm and receptive, I might’ve been an old friend from years back. over numerous cups of chai, Özge’s father and I kidded over current affairs.
Life is unfair
Life isn’t fair, and for those of us where it is the opposite, is for the most part, unappreciated. I’m a free guy. I do what I want, when i want, how I want. If I want to work, I work. If I want to quit my job to piss off and chase my dreams, I do that too.
Others of us are not so lucky… being trapped by your own government, and having to exit by requesting refugee status in more economically and oppurtunistic countries. Something I find really tough to come to terms with. Sometimes, this ride feels alot more then just a ride back home to Sydney.
Far eastern Turkey – Checkpoints to Van
The roads after Diyarbakir were chock full of military and police checkpoints.
“Where are you from?”
“Where are you going”
“Why are you going to Iran?”
At one point I was surrounded by no less ten policemen, holding rather large machine guns. They scrolled through my passport slowly, talking amongst themselves. Pausing on my Pakistan visa, and then on both Iran visas, they looked at each other questionly.
“Why are you going to Iran”
“Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz”
“On my way home to Australia mate”
Murmuring amongst themselves, they gave me my passport back with traffic really starting to mount up behind me. When it all seems a little hairy, act dumb, name typical tourist destinations and insist speaking english only. Well, it worked a treat for me at every checkpoint in eastern turkey between Diyarbakir and Van.
Eastern Turkey – Tatvan
Many barbed fences, layers of razor wire and armoured vehicles greeted me heading towards Tatvan. Every building seemed like it was occupied by the military. Tanks, armoured cars and machine gun toting soldiers stared at me on the way through. No stopping here I suppose. I wonder if it had been any different if my GoPro had been attached to my helmet.
Roads swung wide left and right, sweeping through iced mountains at the 1800 metres of level ground. I remember trying to find the perfect spot for a picture. As the road has taught me, no time is better then the present, so I punched out a few, out of military sight.
Trolling through the main strip of Tatvan at a less then leisurely pace, I wondered why every bugger had to park his bloody ute on the main lane of traffic. Well I was in the east I guess. Swearing at everything in my path, I could have sworn people wanted to be run over. It sure looked like drivers wouldn’t have minded obliging them… Or me for that matter.
Out of Tatvan, it was smooth sailing. Nothing but the occasional truck, and gorgeous green fields running all the way up the sides of the surrounding mountains. Good tarmac, plenty of photo oppurtunities and the quiet peace of the mountains. Oh yeah… We were back at home on the winding icy roads all the way to Van.
No nightlife in Eastern Turkey
Here’s a thing. Conservative eastern Turkey has no nightlife – apparently. They don’t party – apparently. Here I am to see what the country doesn’t have to offer – apparently. Van, Turkey gave me everything I had missed in the Balkans and the Caucasus.
Should I be writing about adventure motorcycling when I’m here in Van? That’s a question. My adventures led me off the road well travelled to the nightlife and friendship I wouldn’t have thought existed in a town so close to the border.
A temporary resident?
Snooping around with my new friends in Van, I quickly fell for the place. People live. It’s not some boarded up border city in the middle of never never land. Nightlife here was seemingly more social then in Sydney, a city of 5 million plus pilgrims.
Walking in a bar, where you have been a temporary resident for 24 hrs, and then being greeted by half the bar whom you already know… they say there is no place like home. That counts when your home is an 800cc motorcycle and you’re swapping apartments every second night to sleep on beds, couches and floors.
It feels like I know more people in Eastern turkey then I do back home. Every second person that walks through the door is shaking my hand, smiling and dancing. So that’s van. A ‘nothing’ city. Essentially the place to be. Maybe it’s crazier on the borders. You don’t hear me complaining.
Eastern turkey – Shit weather in Van
I always wonder why I check the weather everyday except the day that I plan to leave. It’s a complete misfit of planning.
The day before departing Van, I had planned on heading 40km south west of van – but after a few attempts Trumpet kicked to life, unsteadily for a few mins while I eyed off the white smoke coming out of the exhaust. Gently puffing the throttle, she buzzily blew thicker stacks of white smoke. Hmmmm gasket or water… this has happened before after heavy rain and poor fuel in Georgia.
I knew I’d parked her up for two days in below freezing weather with a three quarter empty tank. Perhaps condensation inside the tank had wormed it’s way in the fuel line. I still had some ethanol left if I needed to burn out any water. After letting Trumpet cough up her guts for five minutes, I took her out for a ride west, really squirting on the throttle to burn out whatever water was left.
Trumpets symptoms soon burned away, and we rode along the ever cooling coast of Van lake. Right into a snow squall. Ok then, time to turn around and go back the other way. The sky was brooding and looked peeved – an immense grey squall was closing in on both sides of Van – it looked like heavy snow tonight!
Onto Iran – Van/Khoy border post
After a hugely satisfying Van breakfast (no less then 12 different breakfast plates were snugly sitting on the table) with Şeyla and Batık, I was on my way. Should I have checked the weather? Ah, she’ll be right.
Having heavy snow on and off over two to three days in Van, I walked up to Trumpet to see her blanketed in white. Well, it might be cold but everything was still attached… including the icicles hanging of the frame. Without a splutter she answered the call of the starter button.
The first sixty kilometres was great, smooth tarmac and mountains blanketed in white. As the road got higher, I rode into another brief snow squall while the wind gained momentum. Snow blanketed mountains splitting Iran and Turkey became much closer – and much colder.
Soon all I had left was thick blankets of snow covering the road, and the odd sheet of ice carelessly flung across the road. Having to battle the wind as well as the ice, it grew to be even more entertaining when mushy gravel joined the fray. I was wondering what colour my underwear had become by the time I arrived at the Kapıköy/Khoy crossing.
Crossing the border
The last kilometre to the border house, was ice. Just a nice, long, shiny, flat piece of slippery ice. Slowing to a mild 20km/h, I had a great old time trying to not to go rogue. Finally, at the border gate I was, parked on the icy strip, trying not to slip over as I wondered over to the gatehouse.
It was all pretty straightforward after that. Get my visa papers and passport stamped, check in my vehicle registration and off to the Iranian border house it was. From there, a young fella no older then 10 bossed me around while I laughed at his antics. Well, if he was going to make my crossing easier, sure, he could boss me around all he wanted.
Within twenty minutes, I was out the gate and inside Iran. I tipped the young bloke whatever change I had left in Turkish liras before getting on our merry muddy way. There was plenty of mud and snow… but no ice this side of the border. Thumbs up Iran!
Iran – Exiting the mountains
The sixty kilometre ride to Khoy was breathtaking, just as the Armenian entry at Nordooz was, two warmer months ago. Trumpet’s tires felt like superglue to the asphalt after all the iceskating in Turkey. We pottered along the winding road steadily, overshadowed by snowcapped mountains.
“Ah man, this is great” I thought to myself.
Every turn brought a new natural perspective to my eyes… especially when I took a few wrong turns and ran out of road.
“Well, at least the view is nice” I commented to Trumpet.
Finally the expected happened – at the first set of traffic lights I stopped at, a bloke with a fierce moustache wandered across the intersection to shake my hand.
“Gday mate, teşekkürler”
“See ya later mate”
And off it was to into the darkness and to Tabriz.
Iran – Nameless of Tabriz
That night brought me to the nameless man’s home in central Tabriz, the gate to Europe from the eastern world. Nameless owned three motorcycles, one for trail riding, one for the city and his venerable 200cc Iranian made cruiser. Looks like I’d met the right bloke and come to the right place.
A blue eyed young bloke of 22, he was still plodding through his mandatory military service. Here he lived with his parents and younger brother who were some killer chefs! Within minutes of arriving, a steaming dinner of beef and zucchini with rice was served… and eaten in a matter of minutes.
Iran – Kandovan
After a breakfast of bread soaked in beef and sheep broth, on Trumpet it was and off to Kandovan – the Iranian version of Kapadokya. I’d forgotten what a bastard it was, riding in Iranian traffic. Worse then the turks but better then the georgians, but still a mess nonetheless. More then once I felt like kicking off a few mirrors, but once I adjusted to the traffic flow it was all green for go!
Using the bus only lanes and with my co-pilot setting the navigating, we split from Tabriz quickly. Climbing slowly through a few small villages, my old icy friend was back, as were snowdrifts flooding the road. Reaching the flatlands, the snowy peaks of Kandovan oversaw the high plateau.
Spending the morning exploring Kandovan, we navigated the icy stairs up and down the old volcanic village. Apparently the water there has some quite good healing properties, so I sucked down a cup of the mountain water in record time hoping it would give me superhuman riding powers. Sadly, it didn’t. Still, it did taste O for awesome!
Giving Trumpet a good squirt, I eyed off a police car giving chase. I could have easily just buggered off, but I figured that wasn’t the best of ideas. Siren screaming at me I pulled over and awaited the two officers.
Maybe it was for speeding I thought as they wandered over. Cop 1 points at the “800xc” on the side of my seat and speaks to me in Farsi.
“Do you speak english”
“Well this should be over quickly then” I thought to myself.
“Oh you want my passport – here you go”
Cop 1 gets on his phone and dials out to somewhere.
“Moto passport” demands Cop 2.
“Yeah mate, here you go” trickled out of my mouth as I passed over the registration papers.
Cop 1 wanders off five metres and is chatting on the phone. Cop 2 keeps gesturing at my bike shrugging his shoulders. He kept pointing at the “800xc” on the side of Trumpet.
“Buggered if I know what you want mate”
I contemplated just giving him a small bribe to leave me alone, but since I really hadn’t done anything wrong, I wasn’t inclined to part with my money. As far as I could tell they seemed to have a problem with the size of the bike. (Iranians are limited to 200cc) So, I just sat there in silence a little amused at the proceedings.
Five minutes later, the cops handed me back my paperwork with an embarrased smirk and a “excuse me, excuse me, no english” and raced off quick smart…
Next week – running errands in Tehran, and wondering about tackling the Alborz in winter or choosing the warm south instead.