Prelude – Touring Turkey
Here I am, smoking my cancer inducing cigarette, in Antalya while touring Turkey. It’s a quick stopover for the night before I head to the first proper gem in Turkey, Pamukkale. For now, let’s recoup to the previous 10 days in Thessaloniki.
600km from Istanbul, Trumpet and I chugged along the familiar streets of Agios Pavlos in Thessaloniki. It was early afternoon, and 7 degrees warmer then Istanbul had been. The hilltop suburb was quiet, almost lazily so. A bloke and his bike had arrived.
Parking in front of a stairwell I knew all too well, I wandered up and entered Crossroads. My friend Jozef greeted me and grinned in his rastafarian fashion before getting me settled into my old bunk. Old habits recurred, and before long we were on the phone to the local greek kitchen, ordering dinner. It was good to be home.
With the shop closed for the weekend due to a race weekend, I lounged about lazily for the next two days. It was a good time to catch up with both George and Tasos, as well as Jozef. With the sun shining, and the weather at a warm twenty degrees, I enjoyed the cheapish beer on the balcony… and a cheeky night out with Jozef.
Shop repairs – Motoaction workshop
Monday came, and off to the shop it was. With a large smile I shook Nick’s hand, before regaling him with the last 4 weeks of happenings. We also ran over what Trumpet needed – a look at the clutch, a very loud rattling cam chain, and a customised plate to fit on the new box my sponsors at Wheels of Morocco had sent me.
By the end of a frustrating week, with in and outs at Motoaction, we were ready to go. A busted cam chain tensioner, stretched out cam chain, clutch springs and other bits lay in a spares pile. Nick had managed to machine the topbox plate to fit my mounting base. Trumpet looked shipshape with more ‘go fast’ stickers then ever. Broom, broom!
The morning of the 15th November (marking 365 days on the road) came soon after. George was good enough to see me off, gifting me a bottle to Tsipouro to ‘keep me warm’ in Turkey. I tried to kiss him but he just laughed and moved away. George must be a bit shy. Leaving at a late 11AM, and with a new ‘I’m not rushing ever again’ attitude, I trumpeted off to Turkey.
Bloody hell it was freezing. 5 layers on, and I was still cold. Having a summer suit on probably didn’t help matters. As we droned on toward the border, I began to feel tired. The turn off presented itself at the oppurtune moment, and so we took it.
Stopping at two hotels inside Alexandropouli, I asked the ever so polite staff how much a room was for a night. Nothing cheaper then thirty euros around here. Camping it was.
Five minutes later, I found an empty campsite on the beach and pitched up for the night. With the smell of petrol and fresh porcini mushrooms in the air, I stooped over my little petrol stove, behind an old shed, to stay out of the wind.
Crossing the border
Passing out of greece took all of a minute. Halfway through crossing the turkish border, the battery inside Trumpet refused to kick the engine over. Shit, really? Already? At least give me a bloody week before things start going wrong.
After wheeling the old girl into Turkey with bemused looks of Customs officers, I chuffed down a cigarette. Unplugging the GPS and phone charger I gave the starter another hit…. and Trumpet roared to life. While my brain wasn’t working, I started her in first gear, while off the bike, which caused Trumpet to stall, kick off the sidestand and fall over.
‘I’m such a fucking retard‘ I spoke out aloud to no one in particular.
I picked Trumpet up while catching the pumpkin toting bulgarians staring at me curiously. Not sure why they had so many oversized pumpkins in their cars… I felt like walking over and telling them ‘Hi, the names Dutchie, don’t mind me, I’m a dickhead’.
Onwards and upwards, we rode on south to Gallipoli, to have a peekaboo at ANZAC cove and the historic war beaches. Such a shame to have been four days late for the dawn service. Still, the road was all mine, aside from the occasional park ranger doing an odd bit of maintenance.
Gallipoli is a much smaller place then one had imagined. We managed to whizz through within the hour before stopping at Kilitbahir, a tiny seaside town. The most notable landmark was an old fort and a few war bunkers. Across the clear green water stood Cannakale, the final destination of the day.
Jendarmes kicked me out of my parking spot at the wharf, but quickly came to say hello and shake hands. The ferry wallowed in, and within minutes Trumpet rolled me onboard. A short, chilly water crossing ensued before disembarking and riding two hundred metres to my cheap hostel for the night.
A burly German walked into the dorm room a half hour later. Why is it that when I’m at home, I’m the big guy, and when travelling, I’m the little guy?
Marius was riding his bicycle from southern Germany to the Pacific ocean, and I found it curious that he didn’t own a pair of pants. How in the world was he travelling through this freezing weather in shorts? He did wear above knee leg warmers however. Not sure about that fashion trend mate.
With common goals, we got along like a house on fire. Tsipouro of course, encouraged us along the way. Fourteen lira bought us a lentil soup, bread, ayran and a lahmacun each for dinner. After the relative expensive side of greece, the cheap food was welcome.
On to Izmir
The ensuing day was about as exciting as dry batshit on a brown rock. Covering the three hundred and something kilometres to Izmir in four hours, we managed to skip the peak hour traffic.
Locating the hippie hostel (there was ‘peace and love’ messages strewn all over joint), I removed my boots and wandered in. My room smelled of feet and sweat, but hey, I had a bed. I saw some deep fried chicken on the way in, time for some bush tucker.
A Syrian Perspective
The evening brought with it a Syrian refugee who was currently staying at the hostel. A good chat ensued, and he definitely put me alot more in touch with the situation over there in Syria. Not the first refugee I’d met, and not the last either.
With his children in Germany, and him stranded inside Turkey, he was helping to manage the current camp issues. Ex free Syrian army, he had to run after the free army split into two and began warring with itself.
He is now wanted in Syria by the current regime, separated from his children, passportless and waiting on a system that is currently not doing him any favours… and here I am having a sook about my travels not going my way. Bloody hell… Puts things into perspective.
First stop of the day was Ephesus. Rolling into the carpark less one layer, Trumpet and I were confronted by trigger happy tourists armed with cameras. They swarmed around the bike, shaking my hand and asking to take photos with me and the two police officers holding machine guns. The cops looked at me, I looked at them and we had a sneaky giggle.
An unnecessary passport check and baggage exploration later, I wandered into the old city. It was relatively empty, excluding the sun spreading golden fingers over the ancient stone. A old city of greek origin before becoming roman, the ancient theatre was still standing high, and the library looked fancy enough, despite its aged facade.
The miniscule throng of tourists were hanging about googling at the old library while I took advantage of the rest of the empty park… which was mostly varying sizes of decrepit rocks. Would’ve been cooler if the romans had left a stone motorcycle somewhere to be honest. Still a nice enough stop, even if the fresh pomegranate juice cost me ten liras.
The road to Pamukkale was straight, boring, but well paved nonetheless. Actually, all the roads in Turkey have been well tended so far. We found a friend of Mustafa’s riding a scooter on the way, who took us direct to Mustafa’s place of work. A grinning, bearded Mustafa awaited us, pushing a cigarette into my hand while shaking the other vigorously.
Inviting me into his home that afternoon, Mustafa made me feel at home. Giving me a quick tour of the apartment, he dashed back to work, while I lounged about pondering the great white calcified pools of Pammukale.
That evening, Mustafa, his housemates and I dined on pasta and watched movies while the boiler heated the shit out of the lounge room. We talked about the road travelled so far, mixing turkish translation to english and back again so everyone could understand. Being well versed to this, it didn’t take much to get the conversation flowing.
An overhyped Pamukkale.
With morning came the risen sun. Damn it, I’d missed the bloody sunrise on Pamukkale! It was a cool ride uphill to the southern roman entrance, where I was the only one wandering into the park, along with some Taiwanese tourists wanting photos with Trumpet and I. Obliging them all, they were all very nice and friendly, and reminded me of cute little ducklings (I stood a foot taller then the tallest one among them all).
I can comfortably write that for me, Pamukkale was definetly over hyped. Sure, it is unique in its own way, but I didn’t find it particularly enthralling as some of those google images pictures you can find on the internet. Most of the pools were empty, with a minimal amount of water running into a few pools at the top of the hill. How Pamukkale is Turkey’s most visited attraction is beyond me.
Heated water ran over the calcified pools, steam running off the water giving a ‘mysterious’ effect. Wish they’d decided to turn it on before I wandered out barefoot onto the freezing calcified pool section. The calcified rock was smooth underfoot, but ballshrinklingy cold. A kind of cold that didn’t seem to bother my Taiwanese friends though.
With feeling in my toes gone, I steamed around to look at more ruins, much similar to what I had seen at Ephesus. Lots of big square rocks lay strewn about like cereal spilt over breakfast. One supposes they should be more appreciative of what one is seeing, but it was all a pile of rocks no matter which way I looked at the hieropolis.
Calcified steamy pools were the highlight of my day… until I got back to Mustafa’s place in time for a Sucuk and pepper omelette. Sides of various olives, cheeses and warm bread from the bakery accompanied the meal. The kindness of people around the world knows no bounds. Thanks for everything Musti!
Warm sun tinkered on my back as I began my sweat session. The temperature was at a warm twenty-two degrees and my winter thermals made me squirm. I couldn’t believe I was actually sweating! Traffic was moving however, and before long I was in the heart of town. With a stall at low speed, it took me five minutes to get the old girl going again. I’m going to have to look into this starting issue at some point…
Finding a rather cool looking hostel in Antalya, I hopped off and quickly began dispersing layers. Graffiti and street art adorned the interior, with reggae beats playing smoothly over the air. Oh, and is that a bar? Boom! Nothing like celebrating another day on the road with a whiskey and end of ride cigarette – in a bloody t-shirt to boot! Ripper!