Three years ago I had been fortunate enough to travel from the UK to Turkey (Turkey by Moto 2010
) and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Since then I had wished to return. in particular, to achieve two aims; get to Doĝubayazit to view Mount Ararat and travel the Kemaliyeliler Tasyolu. I had been fortunate last year to visit Armenia (not by motorcycle but never say never!) and saw Mount Ararat, sadly the nearest viewing point is some distance away, plus the heat haze and cloud the view I had was somewhat obscured, imagining the scene from the Turkish side inspired me to make it happen.
I was planning to undertake the trip in 2011 but my love of the sun in earlier life necessitated a visit to hospital to have pieces of flesh removed. In 2012 the ‘bike wasn’t up to the job (poor planning on my part) but I was determined to get away this year.
The machine itself is a BMW F650GS (twin) model and pre trip preparation included new brake linings, replace a set of part worn Anakee 2 tyres with Anakee 3s and replace all the wheel bearings. The latter was an insurance as I had read of problems with the bearings and thought it was preferable to invest a little time and money to avoid possible failure en route. The steering head bearing had been replaced earlier in the year after just 40,000 miles of use. I had strapped a cut down plastic bottle, with a wide diameter opening, in the middle of the handlebars to act as a container in readiness for change given at the toll barriers on the Italian motorways.
Usually when I leave home for a trip away on the motorcycle it is with a little regret due to leaving the family, this time however, due to my wife and I “having words” (an English euphemism for a horrendous argument!) prior to my departure, I actually had a sense of relief when I left the house!
As someone once said, every journey starts with a small step, the first leg being only 42 miles to the Portsmouth ferry port.
The crossing to Ouistreham was uneventful (thankfully) getting on the road by 0645hrs. The ‘bike celebrated its arrival on foreign soil by blowing the headlight bulb, not a major disaster but as a motorcycle headlight is required to be on in France when moving, something I had to address sooner rather than later. Once clear of the morning rush hour traffic around Caen a quick stop was taken to affect a repair.
The British summer had been, up to that point, both wet and cold so it was gratifying to feel the temperature rise, reaching 27oC by lunchtime. I had planned a route using a mixture of D and N routes but my skills at utilising a GPS were found wanting as the machine repeatedly directed me towards the Pėage, the French toll motorways, which necessitated in a few unscheduled stops to ascertain how to get back on track. The first part of the journey had me travelling through Sees, Bellême and around Orléans. I continued south west passing through Bourg en Bresse and on to Chamberéy for the first overnight stop.
I was aware the first day was to be a long one in terms of mileage and time, but it proved rather too long in terms of time as it was 1900hrs before I began searching for accommodation and it was difficult to find any available. My search became more urgent as it began to rain that resulted in me paying too much for a mediocre hotel on the edge of town.
Day two began bright and cool but I was on the road by 0800hrs. For future reference, there are many and varied types of accommodation on the south side of Chambéry. The final fuel stop in France is at St Jean de Maurienne and having made better time than first thought I decided against using the Fréjus tunnel using instead the Col du Mont Cenis, a good choice with the (now) warm, sunny weather and the still considerable amount of snow on the mountains made for a scenic ride.
The next section of the journey was the one I was least looking forward to, a quick run down to Ancona on the Italian Autostradas. The northern section has several toll barriers in quick succession with the roads around Bologna being extremely busy aroud Bologna. Having used the Molino Rosso Hotel just off the Autostrada at Imola in the past I decided that would be enough for one day, my departure port of Ancona being only one and a half hours away. Two relatively long days riding in hot weather took their toll and I flaked out for the night quite early.
The hotel is used to hosting motorcyclists
After a decent breakfast and stocking up with goodies to eat later in the day, courtesy of the breakfast buffet, the ‘bike was packed and ready. In doing so I could not find the sun cream I was certain I had put in a pannier, making a mental note to purchase some prior to boarding the ferry later in the day. Once in Ancona sun cream and comestibles were purchased, packed, then I was checked in and able to board the ferry. Motorcycles were sent down a ramp into what seemed to be the bilges and squashed into a corner then subsequently blocked in by cars.
The securing of the ‘bikes by the crew was, shall we say, imaginative
The crossing, once out of sight of land, was somewhat tedious, time passed with reading and sleeping.
On arrival at Igoumenitsa there was a crush of people to get down to the vehicle deck then what seemed like an interminable wait before things began to move, made more uncomfortable as the it was akin to being in a sauna. Eventually out and onto the Greek mainland, soaked in sweat (too much information) and following the Egnatia Odos that would take me to the Turkish border.
Since my last visit to Greece the four lane motorway that runs all the way from Igoumenitsa to the Turkish border had a few more toll booths operating (still only asking for around €2). The first stop was at Veroia for fuel; both the ‘bike and me plus the opportunity to cool down. One of the good things about travelling by motorcycle is that people are more likely to engage you in conversation, and at this one stop I learnt about the son of the service station’s matriarchal owner (a formidable boss to work for from what I witnessed) who had been to university in the north east of England and about the journey of four Turks who were travelling back from Germany for a holiday to visit family.
I left the motorway early afternoon and drove along the coast deciding to stop quite early in the day at Nea Iraklitsa on Route 2, west of Kavala, at Paradise Camping. Paradise it wasn’t but it was cheap and was right on the beach; so no complaints from me. The young lady in reception had toured around parts of Turkey by ‘bike with her boyfriend so a common interest allowed an enjoyable few minutes talking about their experiences.
I surprised myself by having a swim in the sea which proved to be very refreshing. The mistake I made was to forgo proper footwear in favour of flip flops to walk into town for a meal, the result was feet feasted upon by mozzies and itching like hell in the morning.
The emergency toilet roll seemed to have disappeared from my pannier as well (no such luxuries provided on site) and I had to wander around the town to find a shop which stocked this valuable resource. Strangely, when packing up the gear the following morning both the “missing” sun cream and toilet rolls emerged from the depths of the luggage. Its an age thing.
Next day was again following the coast road, through Kavala, a large city with an impressive ancient aqueduct in the middle of it, dealing with busy traffic, cobblestoned streets and high temperatures. The only problem I had was difficulty in getting the poorly designed side stand down when filling up with petrol. Another section of motorway before peeling off at Alexanroupolis in a loop back to the motorway which enabled me to fuel up again just before the border. It was not as scenic as I hoped and with hindsight I should have stayed on the Egnatia Odos.
Getting out of Greece and into Turkey was relatively swift, just a short wait for the man issuing Turkish visas to return to his office who not only issued a visa to me but also some form of Turkish sweet. Through the final checkpoint and a short stop to allow the fact to sink in that I had got myself to Turkey.
A welcome from a local awaited me
My memory played tricks on me. I had thought the ride to Geillibolu was a very short hop, it is in fact 70 miles. Straight down to the ferry terminal and aboard for the crossing to Çardak for a 9TL cruise across the Dardanelles. The skill of the truck drivers getting their vehicles onboard such a crowded ferry was impressive. Disembarkation was the first situation to increase my heart rate, the difference in levels between the vessel and the dock was significant, required skill and excellent machine control – for me that translates to eyes shut and high revs: it worked!
I followed the coast on Route 200, a road I would be using for some considerable distance. The road surface was such you had to be careful about position and speed with several long sections of road works taking place. The route took me through Bandirama and slightly inland in ever increasing temperatures. What I could not understand was why my legs were feeling so disproportionately hot and uncomfortable, maybe I was just unused to riding in such conditions having become acclimatized to UK temperatures that had barely achieved double figures.
Reaching Karacabey I decided to seek accommodation for the night, having driven round the main town square twice I turned down a side street only to find it was blocked by a delivery vehicle. As luck would have it I came to a halt outside a police station and therefore asked one of the officers if he knew of a hotel.
Karacabey Tourist Information
Obviously my Turkish was not up to scratch and a more senior officer was called to assist in deciphering my request. Within a couple of minutes he had directed one of this officers to take me to two hotels that were close by to see if they had a room available. I chose one on the basis of the easy access from the road to the footpath to park the ‘bike outside the hotel door (Otel Turizm).
Peeling off the riding gear the mystery of my hot legs (in terms of temperature rather than looks) was solved; I had failed to remove the thermal lining prior to leaving home. After a shower and change a walk around town and then a good meal for 5TL .
The following morning hot hands were the first puzzle. This was soon resolved on seeing the heated grips switch had been moved to the “on” position. This was to be the default setting every morning in Turkey, people had the irresistible urge to play with the switch gear. The day was to educate me as to how big a country Turkey is, with long straight stretches of road where the scenery barely changed for hour after hour. It was interesting to travel through virtually unpopulated countryside to then come across a city the size of Ankara which I skirted around on a ring round almost devoid of traffic (big cities are not a favourite of mine particularly when travelling alone). Continuing along the 200 it was time to refuel the ‘bike and drink some chai. I was immediately joined by a gentleman who was interested as to where I was from and where I was going and very kindly kept the chai flowing. Whether it was Turkish humour or failing eyesight but he claimed I looked as though I was twenty years old; only thirty five years wide of the mark.
I arrived at a small town of Yozgat late afternoon and there was a very smart, new hotel at the road side. My curiosity got the better of me and thought I would enquire as to the cost of a room. The first surprise was I received a warm welcome, not treated with disdain due to my chosen mode of transport, then shown a room with me thinking how much further I would need to travel to find suitable accommodation within my price bracket. The second surprise was after discussing the price for bed and breakfast it was offered at £30. On the face of it, rather more than I would usually pay, but this was a four star establishment which afforded me a huge room, free internet access and a swimming pool (and the only customer that put it to use). Not something I would do every night but I thoroughly enjoyed treating myself for one night (Hotel Grand Ser). What I failed to realise was there is the World Heritage archaeological site, Hattusa, in relatively close proximity; an excuse to return to Turkey again in the future (not that I need one).
Riding the following morning was much like the previous day with the added distraction of sheep and cattle wandering across the road. The two carriageways were separated by about a two meter gap and a one meter drop. My attention was drawn to four cow legs pointing skywards from the centre of the road, a probable RTA. When I got closer I could then see two men butchering the dead beast; waste not, want not.
Joining the Route 100 the road began to rise up to 6,900 feet and the temperature drops to “just” 18.5oC with the benefit of having scenery to admire, bends to ride around and long sections of well surfaced carriageway.
On nearing Erzurum rain could be seen in the distance but I arrived in the city before reaching the bank of clouds. This is a busy city and once I found to rest my weary head the major problem was getting the ‘bike up on to the footway and parked outside the hotel’s door, the kerb being far too high to bump up therefore some ad hoc construction work was undertaken by me with bricks and bits of concrete to act as a ramp. Erzurum from my room
The evening was spent wandering around the city and generally just people watching, the cooler temperature making it more pleasurable than in the fierce heat of the previous days. I became so engrossed I became blissfully unaware of my surroundings and was nearly scooped up on to a car’s bonnet being unaware I was wandering across a road.
Next day the landscape became ever more impressive and the altitude keeps the temperature at a comfortable level. A stop at Eleşkirt for fuel leads to a tea and a talk with a Turkish lorry driver who suggested changing vehicles; an offer I was able to resist.. The trips he has to undertake as work make my journey appear like a short run out. Further down the road a passenger in a car shouted across “hello my brother – where are you from” which led to a fairly animated discussion between the pair of us before the traffic lights changed to green and we parted company.
Boys will be boys and proof of that is provided as I head out of town, a group of three are crossing the road ahead of me and as I near them one of the boys throws a dead snake (albeit a short one) at the ‘bike which disintegrates when it hits the hand guard. My preference is to avoid snakes at all costs, dead or alive, to have the remnants of one liberally coating parts of the machine was far from pleasant. It could have been worse, the snake could have been alive or he could have thrown a stone.
Travelling further eastwards the altitude climbed to 7,000 feet and I was again struck by the sheer scale of this country, vast areas with little or no human habitation, a huge contrast to the south of England where I currently live.
The road to Dogubayazit
As I got closer to Doğubayazit I began to notice Iranian registered trucks (another countrythat is on my list of places I hope to travel to by motorcycle) and the drivers were invariably friendly giving a blast of their horn and a wave as I passed. Eventually, in the distance, I began to see the striking outline of Mount Ararat, the closer I got the more impressive the panorama became.
It was interesting to note, passing through this rural area, to see the small hamlets with a cluster of buildings and several, what appeared to be, conical buildings. Only on closer inspection did it become apparent these were not buildings, the lack of doors or windows was quite a giveaway, but a fuel store, the fuel being dried animal dung. Riding past all this having a good time it dawned on me that the people living in these villages lived a hard life and would experience harsh winters due to the elevation and located in the middle of a large land mass.
The intention was to stay at the Otel Tarhan in Doğubayazit as I had been informed that it was not expensive and the owner was very knowledgeable and helpful on information about the local area. After several circuits around town, down different streets and alleyways I had to admit defeat. Enquiring with local people failed to elicit the information required, they were not to blame, it was my fault for not being able to make myself understood. When driving into Doğubayazit I had noticed the Golden Hill Hotel at the side of the road and it was to this I went back to; all I will say is I hope anyone else visiting Doğubayazit has better luck with finding decent accommodation, the only redeeming factor for this hotel was a good view of Mount Ararat.
After unpacking and a change I went off to see the Ishak Paşa Sarayı which overlooks the town from a considerable height. To get there the fillings in my teeth took a hammering as the majority of the road up to the palace is on a crumbling pave road. It is worth the effort to see the building itself and look down from its imposing location.
Returning down and through Doğubayazit I went to find the tracks that run across the base of Mount Ararat from the D100. These were, in the main, devoid of any other traffic that is until I set the camera up on the self timer to document my visit. Three vehicles passed and all stopped to say hello and to proudly announce they were Kurds, then went on to enquire where I was from.
An excellent machine to cope with the road conditions and a BMW
The track took me through an isolated village then looped around to join the D975.
I travelled a sort distance north along that road, noting that there was a significant military presence; armoured vehicles and soldiers parked at frequent intervals along the roadside.
I then returned to the hotel and met two German motorcyclists who had arrived and were undertaking a significant trip around Turkey.
I dragged myself out of bed at dawn to get a few more photographs of Mount Ararat, then promptly went back to bed for another couple of hours! I did get underway reasonably early opting for the D975 towards Van. The road climbed up to 8,000 feet and the views back to Mount Ararat were striking; my photographic skills do not do justice to the vista.
The road ran parallel to and within a few miles of the Iranian border with several military outposts on the summit of hills closest to Iran. I was riding next to Lake Van for a reasonable distance and the points I chose to stop and take in the view it was sad to note how much rubbish had accumulated along the shoreline. Entering the city of Van was a jolt for me, having become accustomed to roads with little traffic to now be confronted once again by a bustling city and heavy traffic. Picking up the D300 this was to take me along to Tatvan and the intention was to stay at a place recommended by the German motorcyclists (Mostar Hotel).
Along a quiet stretch of the D300 I was taken aback to be stopped by a member of the Jandarama with an assault rifle strapped across his chest. It was nothing personal he was stopping all traffic! I asked what the problem was and he said, or rather I thought I heard him say “bomb”, which caused me a little concern. The road was on a slight slope, and it swept round to the right out of sight and on one side bounded by a relatively high rock face. The number of stopped vehicles built up, but their occupants did not seem particularly perturbed. The member of the Jandarama was joined by colleagues with a man talking intently into a radio. Some minutes passed when the rock face, approximately 250 meters away exploded. Not bomb, but “boomb”. A cloud of grit rapidly made its way up the road engulfing everyone rubbing their eyes with tears streaming down our faces. The dust settled, the road was covered in stones but the road was re-opened with all the traffic attempting to miss the larger lumps of debris.
A little further down the road there were extensive roadworks taking place with the surface being made up of mile after mile of what appeared to be limestone, not too much of a problem to ride over but the heavy goods vehicles churned up so much dust it became extremely difficult to see anything. More worryingly, it crossed my mind that other traffic would be unable to see me and had me calculating what clean underwear I had available!
Tatvan was another busy, crowded centre and I became quire adept at stopping in traffic queues where trees or other vehicles afforded some shade. Once again my ability to locate a specific building failed me and I could not find the hotel recommended by the German motorcyclists I had met at Dogŭbayazit. As it was still reasonably early in the day I opted to continue riding along the D300.
A short detour was taken to ride through, rather than around Bitlis, which boasts an ancient city centre and it crossed my mind to spend the rest of the day here, unfortunately the accommodation I found had no where that I thought was safe enough to keep the motorcycle; it would be out of sight which I am uncomfortable with, here or in any other country.
The D360 was followed into Diyarbakir, a large city with road works taking place on the route into the centre. The game of getting the most vehicles possible into one lane began which meant progress was painfully slow, resulting in discomfort due to the ever increasing temperature as I could not go beyond walking pace. After what felt like a week I saw a sign for a hotel and pulled in to see if they had a room. To be honest, I was so uncomfortable I probably paid too much but it did put an end to my purgatory. After peeling myself out of my riding gear, a shower and change I went out to find food, not a difficult task in a Turkish city. The only drawback for a shrinking violet like me was I became an object of curiosity, but it was all good natured (I really should get a thicker skin!). After the meal I walk around to experience the sights and sounds of this predominately Kurdish city.
A check next morning of the ‘bike showed the chain required some adjustment. To my horror I find that the axle bolt is only finger tight; a reminder to me to check the machine more rigorously prior to setting off for the day.
Once out of the city the traffic thins out and a relatively good road allows me to make good progress. After passing through Ergani the road took me around Hazar Gölü, a lake with parking at various point along the shore line that enabled me to take a rest from the sun and have a drink. On through Elâziğ following the D260 to Arapgir. This was almost a surreal ride as the road was devoid of any other traffic and I could take the time to look at the country I was travelling through from the ‘bike without putting my life at risk.
I took the precaution of filling up at Arapgir and started on very minor, tortuous roads along the gorge taking me to Kemaliye. Between Arapgir and Kemalyie there were no other village or towns, the nature of the roads meant that I covered the ground at a very leisurely pace arriving in the town early afternoon. Accommodation was less of a problem as from what I could gather there was only the Bozkurt Otel. The only difficulty was finding someone to deal with as lunch was in full swing in the busy restaurant. I was eventually taken to a part of the hotel on the opposite side of the road. Parking the ‘bike just outside the door, I returned a little time later there was a policeman stood next to it sporting an automatic rifle – nice, steal that if you dare! Sadly it was not for my benefit, the police station was next door.
The buildings were akin to what would be found in an Alpine village but on walking around I could see, where the Alpine developments would be constructed out of wood and maintained to the highest standard, some of Kemaliye’s buildings had been repaired with a range of different materials, including corrugated iron sheets. My apologies for being picky, overall it was a picturesque village in a wonderful setting.
Next to the hotel was a public garden terrace, overlooking the gorge and river, with seats and tables where I sat myself to update my route log, take in the view and consume chai. Later I had a meal in the (still) busy restaurant and found there was an internet café in the village which I made use of for a few minutes to read and reply to e-mails from home (channels of communication had be re-opened between my wife and I).
Getting away relatively early I followed the river gorge along to the next major highpoint of the journey – the start of the Kemaliyeller Taşyolu.
The beginning was a tunnel with a dirt road, one of many that was excavated by hand early in the twentieth century. Two things you should be aware of about me are, my riding skills on anything that may be classified as off road are, at best, basic and I am not keen on heights, particularly sheer drops. Imagine my joy as I exited the first tunnel on a road surface strewn with rocks and running alongside a precipitous drop of several hundred feet into the river gorge. What was I doing here? Why did I want to travel along this road? My heart rate only fell when I went through the other tunnels; I could see neither the road surface nor the drop, which I had convinced myself I would end my days by tumbling over the edge; out of sight out of mind.
It took a long time to cover the relatively short distance over this road, not just due to me hyperventilating, but I took every opportunity to stop and take photographs.
Eventually, the road climbed up and turned inland away from the river. The views over the surrounding countryside were spectacular, being at a relatively high altitude I could see for miles.
My map was of little value at this point, having insufficient detail and my GPS did not show the tracks on which I was travelling, therefore I continued on what I thought may be the correct road. This skirted past one or two villages and I passed a shepherd tending his sheep on grassland raised above the level of the road. He waved a greeting, sadly his sheepdog did not view my presence in the same benevolent light, the beast jumped down, barking and giving chase. This was no small dog used for the rounding up of animals, their main purpose is to keep away predators such as wolves away from the flock. Here I was being pursued by something about the size of a Shetland pony, as strong as an ox with a mouth full of very large, purposeful teeth and an ability to cover the ground quite rapidly. Amazingly my off road riding skills increased significantly as did the amount of laundry I would need to deal with as I put more space between the dog and me. Thankfully the dog got bored with chasing the motorcyclist and returned to his day job.
It was becoming apparent if I continued to follow this track I would be completing a huge circle. Stopping close to a village the only soul I saw was a man walking along the road, I tried to ask the correct way to Divriği. He pointed down a very small track bounded by dry stone walls either side, which I began to follow but this got narrow and narrower until it petered out completely. This meant I would have to turn around, the problem being there was precious little space to do so. This resulted in me having to strip off the luggage and heave the ‘bike around to face the direction from which I had come. I retraced my route with growing concern that I would meet my nemesis once again, the dog who wanted his meal on wheels. It was a relief to find he had moved on and buoyed up by this my speed began to creep up as I was now an off road riding god. That is until the ‘bike fishtailed violently from side to side and my legs flailing around uncontrollably. Somehow, the machine came to a halt, the right way up, with me still sat in place. Too much excitement for one day.
Eventually I found a signpost for a town, Erzican, which was not my original plan, but this eventually led me to a sign for Divriği. Getting into the town it was a relief to pull over, have a drink, rest and fill up with petrol. The road out of town, the D260, was undergoing repair, or rather replacement leaving a surface every bit as bad, if not worse, than I found at the Kemaliyeller Taşyolu. This went on for mile after mile and I was finding progress ever more difficult (where are the man eating dogs when you need one to perk up your riding ability?). The road climbed up a steep hill, littered with stones, I was in the wrong gear and travelling too slowly; the inevitable happened and down I went.
The machine and I are unscathed but the headphones I was wearing are destroyed and the tank bag base has had one of the fixings torn off. I have found it necessary to pick up a loaded ‘bike in the past so it was somewhat of a surprise to find I was so exhausted I could not move the thing. Even after removing the luggage I failed and decided I shall just have to wait for assistance, therefore until the next vehicle comes along I should spend the time by taking photographs.
After some minutes a car came down the hill and I waved the driver to stop, which he did and surprised me by being very concerned, not about the ‘bike, but as to my wellbeing. He gave me water, asked if I wanted to sit in the car with his family, which I thanked him for, but declined and then in a blink of an eye, he had the machine upright before I had the opportunity to prepare to lend a hand. After thanking the gentleman profusely, convincing him I was uninjured he departed and I began to reload the ‘bike and making a temporary securing strap for the tank bag base. I set off wobbling around like a child on their first ride of a bicycle without stabilisers; where is the off road riding god now??
I wobble my weary way along the D260 to Kangal, passing the statue of the famous dog breed that comes from the area, the type that is partial to motorcyclists for a light lunch. From there I continued through Kayseri, my only memory of the city being that it took a long time to get through, travelling on to spend the night at Űrgüp. Having found suitable accommodation (Hotel Elvan - Home | Hotel ElvanHotel Elvan | Your family home in urgup!
) the town suffers a major electrical failure; was it something I said? As I walk into the town centre there is the combined rattle of little petrol driven generators firing up to provide power to shops and restaurants. What strikes me is this is the first time during this trip in Turkey that I have seen so many non Turkish people; tourists from Japan, North America and Europe.
Fortunately I manage to purchase replacement headphones (I use them with the GPS unit) and then go on to get a meal, treating myself to a couple of pieces of baklava.
Power is restored to the town and after another stroll around town with the benefit of street lighting I return to the hotel and retire for the night. Sadly at some point in the early hours something I ate decides it needs to leave, I will spare you the grim details but I fail to get much more sleep that night.
This malaise continues all through the following day. My route is taking me along the D300 for most of the day but I require frequent stops for fuel to disguise my need to avail myself of other facilities. In the end I dispense with this pretence as it is taking too much time. Feeling somewhat miserable and sorry for myself all day I continue to Afyonkarahisar, before picking up the D650 to Kűtahya then D230 to Tavşanli. From there I find a much quieter cross country route which brings me to Balikesir. Finding a bed for the night I rest for a while before venturing out to walk around the town. The short nap appears to have done me some good as I feel better, so much so that I dare to have a little something to eat before returning to my bed.
I was in remission, not recovery. There was a time I seriously thought I needed the room for another night as I thought I would never get out the door that morning. Making a swift sortie to a find a pharmacist, explaining my symptoms in a manner that would have gained praise from Marcel Marceau, I was given some medication and beat a hasty retreat to the hotel. Not sure what the medicine comprised of, possibly cement, as it improved my situation that in turn enabled me to get on the road.
Following the D565 north at one point traffic had come to a standstill and filtering to the front I saw it was the result of a horrendous accident on the other carriageway involving several lorries and cars; wheels and suspension units littered both sides of the road. Sadly, it drew a huge crowd who just stood and stared at the carnage.
Beyond Susurluk I chose quieter, country roads to loop around Kuş Golu. I never did actually see the lake but did drive past mile after mile of rice paddy fields. This brought me back to the D200 and along to Çardak for the return ferry to Gelibolu. Every inch of available space on the ferry is used to accommodate anything from large trucks to little scooters. A Turkish truck driver struck up a conversation with and my little run around paled into insignificance against the mileages and countries visited by this man; a hard life.
Once off the ferry the journey to the border is taken at a very sedate pace to conserve fuel. At the border I undergo four separate checks before being able to leave the country then a long wait in the sun to get into Greece. Getting as far as Kavala I had a little difficulty finding somewhere to stay, places are either full, too expensive or both but eventually find little place off the main road but within sight of the sea. Walking around the town later in the evening showed it to be a lively place, with plenty people out enjoying themselves.
The plan was to follow the coast towards Thessaloniki and all went well initially, but no entry signs and road closures had me hopelessly lost and I found myself heading towards the ramp on to the Egnatia Odos. Somewhat reluctantly I followed this road as far as Greneva before heading off over the hills on the Route 15 towards Kalabaka. I was also somewhat bored with riding on a four lane motorway, albeit a relatively quiet one. This took me over some lush green hills, the road twisting and turning, up hill and down dale, very enjoyable.
A short break was taken at a road side fruit stall selling fruit that was both fresh and full of flavour, sadly missing from most fruit that is available back home.
I followed roads that looped back round to join the Egnatia Odos and on into Igoumenitsa. For such a small town I had difficulty locating a shop where I could buy provisions for the ferry crossing to Italy, finding one tucked away on a side street I was glad to dismount as the heat was bordering on the unbearable. The ferry terminal, being an air conditioned public building with automatic entry doors, the internal space was put to good use by the local dogs, with many sprawled out, fast asleep in the cool conditions. I then went on to find a café to sit, have a meal and while away the time before I had to board the ferry.
The ferry’s arrival was delayed and once berthed, the charade that is getting all the vehicles on board began. Some were obeying directions of ferry staff, others were just ignoring them whilst some individuals just did their own thing with different staff in uniform shouting, whistling and waving their arms animatedly. The motorcycles were loaded last on the stern, with just enough room to accommodate them and all facing the wrong way to exit in Italy. The excitement was just too much; I had to go and lie down and get some sleep.
The crossing was uneventful bordering on tedious, there was no expectation of an exciting journey ahead, just a slog to get home and back to work. Once back in Ancona it was late afternoon which meant the roads were quite busy and it took some time to get out of the city. An hour and a half later I was back in Imola for another night. The hotel staff pointed me towards a local trattoria, a brisk fifteen minute walk away and it was a good choice as the meal was of good quality and not expensive.
I manage to leave relatively early with the purgatory that is the Italian Autostradas and this lasts until lunchtime when I manage to escape on to the SS24. This is a refreshing change, a sinuous, alpine road that takes me through Oulx in glorious suhshine and on to the French border. From there following the N94 down into Briançon, a busy little town, where I need to find fuel, which proves rather more problematic than it should. Continuing on the N94 which initially is taking me south before heading west and arriving in Gap (which is not the home of a particular clothes store). Accommodation is at best average and quite pricey, but the pill is sweetened by the fact there is a music festival being held in the town that evening. It is packed with people and the music on offer being performed on the streets covers a wide variety of genres but all is of good quality.
The new day gets off to an inauspicious start by me taking the wrong route out of town. When it dawns on me I am heading in the wrong direction I turn around and head back to Gap and start again. During the day the route north has the temperature fluctuating between 11o and 21oC making riding a little uncomfortable at times. For the majority of the day I never see a straight stretch of road but as I near Bourges another navigational failure on my part has me inadvertently join a toll road. I soon leave the Péage any time saved was more than lost by hunting through my pockets for the change to pay the charge. Once through and to the north of Bourges I decide to call it a day, I am now in easy striking distance of Le Havre to get the ferry home tomorrow.
A leaden sky greets me the following morning with a cool wind blowing; it matches my mood as it is the final day of the trip. Heading northwards the weather deteriorates further with several heavy burst of rain, thankfully they are not long lived and I pass out of the area of the worst rainfall. After Aubigny sur Nère my route takes me north west on the D15 through Beaugency and on to Brou. The temperature drops with an increasing wind speed making it feel uncomfortably chilly when riding, I was not expecting such autumnal type weather when I left home, a mental note is made to pack warmer gear next time; just in case. On through Liseeux and heading towards Honfleur when I make yet another silly navigational error that takes me on to another section of Péage. Rather than saving any time this adds a considerable mileage to me before getting on to the Pont de Normandie.
This bridge is, to me, aesthetically pleasing as it soars 165feet above the water achieving this by quite a short steep gradient. I have been over the bridge many times but this crossing proved memorable. The wind speed was such that is was very disconcerting riding up and over the highest point, the machine weaving in the carriageway, convincing me I was to be catapulted over the edge or falling off and left floundering in the road to be run over by oncoming traffic. The only damage was sore knuckles from gripping the bars too tightly, painful eyeballs as they had popped out of my head against the inside of visor in sheer terror and additional laundry, yet again!
Once at the ferry terminal I was beginning to think, on reflection, that I may have over reacted to the bridge crossing. When two other motorcyclists arrived and began cursing the journey over the Pont de Normandie and questioning why it had not been closed - this helped me justify my reactions.
The channel crossing was with L&D Lines, a company I have used many times over the years and been pleased with the service, facilities and cost. This year there was a different vessel on the route, tailored more to freight traffic, therefore passenger facilities were insufficient for the numbers onboard making the crossing more to be endured than enjoyed.
Once disembarked in Portsmouth it was a fifty minute journey to get home, back to a house in darkness. I crept in as quiet as I could, my dog was pleased to see me and his jumping around woke up my wife and proved the old adage, absence makes the heart grow fonder, as she was pleased to see me!
Post trip thoughts. Was it worthwhile to carry the camping equipment? It may possibly have been used more frequently had I not been alone. I really should learn to stop more frequently and explore the towns I am travelling through. Would I return? Certainly, I would like to visit the Black Sea coast of Turkey and see the deserted city of Ani.
If you have just wasted a few minutes of your life reading this and a trip to Turkey in late May/June 2014 appeals and you would like company, feel free to get in touch no matter what age, sex or creed. Sadly, I have to work for a living so my time will be limited to about three and a half weeks. Over to you.