After four hot and humid days in Batumi I was happy to be leaving the crowds behind in Georgia and heading towards country number 13, Turkey. I had no idea what to expect when I arrived at the border after nearly being crushed by an erratic Georgian Bus Driver. It was very humid and had started to rain heavily at the border but luckily the Georgian side was easy and straight forward and then into Turkey. By then there were a group of Russian Riders and a couple from the US with me so they directed us all up to the front of the line into the covered area out of the pouring rain. I needed insurance which was at the next booth and around $32 US later I had my Insurance cover and my Passport quickly stamped and it was welcome to Turkey. The entire crossing took around 50 minutes and as I rode out into Turkey the rain stopped and the sun came out, this was promising.
The roads were perfect, from a single lane of pure madness in Georgia to six vacant lanes of well maintained beautiful Bitumen in Turkey hugging the Black Sea Coastline.
I quickly found an ATM and withdrew some local cash and at Trabzon on the coast I turned and headed inland towards the Sumela Monastery. After a great Breakfast at a Hotel on the way I arrived at the National Park that houses the Monastery, I paid my 6 Lira and rode up the tree lined road towards the cliff faces. Unfortunately I was told that the Monastery was closed until September 2018 due to constant Rock Falls but I could still drive up near it for a photo.
Sumela Monastery is a Greek Orthodox Monastery nestled in a steep cliff 1200 metres above sea level and was completed in 386 AD, it has since been renovated numerous times and in 1923 was abandoned entirely by the residing Monks. Since then it has been a popular tourist attraction in Central Eastern Turkey.
Instead of returning the way I came I found this gravel track to explore.
It climbed up the side of a Valley and I found myself back on the top of the world again, I was really loving Turkey.
I thought I had made a wrong turn and ended up back in Mongolia.
The track continued to climb over 3,500 metres and the air cooled dramatically.
Small villages each with their own Mosque were nestled in the Valleys and on some hill tops.
A lot of the houses in Turkey proudly fly the Countries Flag.
I then disappeared into the clouds.
Either this is the Stairway to Heaven or he has run out of cash to finish the second floor.
I had one of the best days of the trip so far riding through these Mountain Ranges that I never knew were here, life was good and the weather was cooler it couldn’t get any better. I found a nice quiet place to set up camp early and had a great night sleep.
The next morning it was more of the same, endless stunning Mountains with good quality tracks cut into the side and more exploring to be done.
I noticed a sign to Karaca Caves so I headed up the road to have a look. It was virtually empty so I parked the bike and went inside. For 8 Lira I could walk through the underground caves which were millions of years old. Unfortunately I could only take photos outside.
But I borrowed this one from the Internet.
Then it was back onto the beautiful roads and fantastic tunnels heading south west towards the Cappadocia Region, next destination the Fairy Chimneys.
One thing I had noticed about Turkey is the people were so friendly and helpful, these young guys were working at a General Store and after organising food for me we all sat down and talked for over an hour.
Later I stopped for lunch at another store and these guys invited me to sit with them in the shade and even made me a nice cup of coffee, none of them could speak English but you could tell that they were proud to be looking after a guest in their country.
Later that day I stopped off for fuel and found this great Restaurant next door. Kadir has lived in many countries all over the world including Australia where he ran a Kabab Shop in Sydney Road Coburg (Melbourne, Australia). After having a great meal and a good chat I headed off again, so far Turkey has exceeded all of my expectations.
In a nearby city I stopped at the Traffic Lights and noticed that the Poles holding the lights up had lights of their own, notice the red lights continue down the poles to the ground….
And when they turn Green so do the Poles, this would look great at night and is a fantastic idea.
I finally arrived at the Fairy Chimneys near Yaprakhisar which was one of the busiest places I had been to in so far in Turkey. The unique Fairy like formations have been formed over millions of years as a result of Volcanic activity and erosion, they have been used for centuries as housing and even a Church was hollowed out of the solid Basalt. Now they are a popular tourist attraction complete with Donkey and Camel rides.
Most of the day gone it was again time to find a nice place to camp, this will do very nicely.
Nearly all of the small villages have ornate Mosques which sound out the call to prayer at various times of the day.
A local Waterfall I stumbled across.
After a long days ride another roadside camp on the way to Ankara.
I arrived in Ankara looking to get a service done on the bike as it was now due and I wasn’t sure where I could get it done further west. After getting lost in central Ankara I eventually found the BMW dealer out near the Airport. Even though I hadn’t booked I was hoping that I could get the service done the following day but to my surprise they said they could do it that afternoon but I would need to wait for a few hours. No problem, they gave me coffee and even let me eat lunch in the staff only cafeteria which was free and the cost of the service was cheaper than home so I could afford a new pair of gloves to replace my holey ones. By 5 p.m. the service was done and the bike washed and ready to go, then the heavens opened and it poured rain.
I wanted to visit Istanbul but I wasn’t keen on riding into a City which is around 200 kilometres long and has a population of nearly 15 million people. So I planned on heading to Bandirma, a smaller city on the south coast of the Sea of Marmara. I found a nice cheap hotel right on the waterfront near the Ferry Terminal….perfect.
As soon as I got off the Ferry in Istanbul I was confronted by a familiar face, what could I do, I couldn’t refuse a Chicken Burger combo and a Coke, I haven’t seen one of these since Almaty, Kazakhstan.
The city was not what I had expected but it was very easy to get around and with plenty to see and do.
The traffic on the freeway which runs through and under the city was not as bad as I had thought.
I had a great day exploring Istanbul but after a two hour Ferry trip back to Bandirma I was ready for a early night. The following day I woke to heavy rain so I booked another night at the Hotel, you can’t rush these things, I’m on holidays after all…..
The following day the weather was perfect so I left the nice comfortable Hotel and headed towards the Gallipoli Peninsula. The road to Canakkale was perfect yet again and I was there in no time, I then caught a small ferry across the Straight to the Peninsula only a few hundred metres away.
The Ferry arrived at the small town of Kiltbahir within no time and I was off north towards the Gallipoli Peninsula National Park.
I had to stop when I saw the Boomerang Café in Eceabat but unfortunately he wasn’t serving lunch only Beer, it was a little early for that so I pushed on into town.
In the town I found this memorial on the beach front, it depicts the Bombasirti Case or Bomb Ridge Case. This was a battle I had never heard of during the Gallipoli Campaign where the opposing front Trenches were only 8 metres apart and when they sent soldiers on both sides into these Trenches their life expectancy was around 3 minutes…….
I then rode out to the National Park itself and it is very well set up, clean and easy to get around and importantly it is a memorial which shows great respect to both sides.
Lone Pine Cemetery is on the top of a ridge not far from Anzac Cove and was the location of one of the bloodiest battles with many of the bodies from both sides still not identified.
Some of the Trenches have been restored but many were destroyed either during the battle or in the years after.
The Beach at Ari Burnu just south of Anzac Cove looks peaceful….now.
A Concrete Bunker remains nearly intact on the side of the road.
The beach at Anzac Cove where just over 102 years ago thousands of young soldiers waded ashore not really having any idea what they were in for. After 8 months of fierce fighting it was clear the allied campaign had failed and the Australian and New Zealand forces were evacuated from the beach with no loss of life, this was the most successful part of the whole campaign.
Cemeteries like this one at Anzac Cove are scattered all over the peninsula and according to official records over 36,000 Commonwealth Serviceman are buried or commemorated on Gallipoli.
I spent most of the afternoon at Gallipoli and even though as an Australian I am aware of what occurred here it is still very difficult to comprehend what it would have been like for the soldiers on both sides. There are thousands of men’s graves scattered around the Hills and valleys many younger than my eldest son and as history clearly shows in the end absolutely nothing was achieved.
It was late in the afternoon when I left Gallipoli so I headed around the Coast to look for a quiet place to camp.
Just when I thought I wasn’t going to find anything I stumbled across this right on the waters edge, it was perfect and no one else was there.
The following morning I continued around the Coast through some great tracks with fantastic views.
Then inland towards the Bulgarian Border. I didn’t need a Visa and I had my Bike Insurance so this Border should be simple…….around 10 kilometres away from the Border the cars had come to a stop and many people were out of their cars standing or walking around. I thought maybe there had been an accident so I rode along between the rows of cars to find the traffic went all the way to the Border itself, so I lined up with hundreds of others in the hot sun.
I had noticed that many of the cars had German Number Plates and then I realised that it was coming to the end of the summer holidays in Germany and it looked like half the country was here trying get through this one border. After 3 hours I eventually got to the front on the Bulgarian side only to be told that they wouldn’t accept the copy of the Insurance I had on my phone and I had to go back to Turkey and have the original mailed to me. I patiently explained to them that this was not an option as I had been cleared out of Turkey, they then decided that they would hold my Passport and I would need to go to the last checkpoint and buy more Insurance. So in the end I had to buy another months worth of Insurance for 50 Euros which I already had so I could show them an original piece of paper that they only glanced at because as I was repeatedly told this is the law in Bulgaria…and I thought the Asian countries would be the difficult ones.
So once through I continued on as I wanted to make it to the Moto Camp in Northern Bulgaria where I would stay for a few days and also collect the original of my Green Card Insurance…which now I didn’t need…then I got my first flat tyre of the entire trip.
The 3 inch nail that had found its way into my rear tyre.
By the time I had fixed the puncture it was after 8 p.m. so I set the tent up on a track beside the road and went to sleep, tomorrow was another day (Of Course).
The next morning I packed up and rode the last 100 kilometres to the Moto Camp through some very nice Mountain Ranges.
Moto Camp Bulgaria, a very nice place to stay right up there with the best Overlanders accommodation.