October 21, 2009 GMT
Entering Eastern Anatolia

(warning: long and not particlarly exciting blog entry)

Spending an obscene amount of money to buy chain lubricant of questionable quality is not something I usually do. But buying two canisters? AND a chain cleaner? AND having an almost orgasmic experience doing so?

Such are the follies of fear of the unknown and the tricks of the mind. After leaving Ankara without buying chain lube or engine oil, angry with myself because I allowed my squashed pannier lid to be "fixed" to death by the Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde of exhaust pipes in Ankara...

Ankara exhaust workshop trying to fix pannier lid

... I kept thinking that my next opportunity for proper bike supplies would be Tehran. I had been checking all petrol stations I stopped for chain lube and none of them stocked it. So when I asked at a petrol station in Gaziantep for motorcycle chain lube and got the dude to draw a treasure hunt diagram on the back of my notebook and followed the instructions and actually got to the world-renown M1 Merkezi, I thought "a-ha!". On a corner of the vast supermarket that was on a corner of the vast mall, I found the dodgiest possible "chain wax" - I would normally not touch the thing with a pole, but my chain lube ran out last night and all day long I had visions of my spanking new chain disintegrating somewhere unpleasant, following the demise of my panniers, and surely to be followed by the utter destruction of the rest of my equipment. You shouldn't be in a candy shop when you're hungry, and respectively, you shouldn't be buying crap "chain wax" when fearing you're run out. But I was, and I did.

M1 Merkezi

So after leaving Goreme yesterday I got a bit lost after Mustafapasa...


... in the mountains of Cappadocia - you know, initially thinking "I am alone now, I am an explorer, I am the Grand Navigator, I shall not get lost", but quickly turning to "mighty GPS, don't fail me now!". I mean it's all well and good finding yourself fighting to keep the 300kg beast upright in slopy sandy tracks FOR ABOUT 10'' before one starts wondering "you fool, what are you getting yourself into now?"

So anyway after getting away with it with just shaky hands and no spills, I took the mountain roads SE and followed the itinerary as shown here: http://tinyurl.com/ylfx3fy

Somewhere along the road the bloody road improvements got to me (again), this time with a huge truck that was shooting down the mountain at at least 80km/h making it impossible for me to overtake in time and building up such a cloud of dust that I had to stop, turn on the high beam and the alarm blinkers and hope nothing ran me over from any direction. After a few seconds the cloud cleared up a little bit and I was able to move again. Opening my helmet visor returned a scratching noise that indicated that soil had penetrated, well, everywhere. Later I confirmed this by finding dust IN the "good" pannier. If dust can get in with so little exposure, imagine what water can do in heavy rain... Another thing not to think about for now.

Shortly after my spirits improved dramatically when I stopped in a village somewhere on the mountain and bought some foodstuff (olives, cheese, nutella, eggs etc) and immediately got offered chai and was asked where I was from and where I was going etc etc with a lot of smiles and pats on the back and kids pushing all the colourful buttons/levers of the bike in the meantime, not realising my smile concealed the touch-this-again-and-die look (I admit being slightly protective of my bike).

Then I rode on to find a lovely shade on a lovely dirtpath that broke off the main road with lovely sturdy level ground where I put the bike on the center stand and had a lovely meal. All very lovely, really, only the butterflies were missing. With apologies to all the chefs of this world, the particular meal of plastic cheese, tomato in hand, olives from a plastic bag, stale bread and CamelBak water beats any old spiffy meal I have ever had hands down.


It was so good it magically fixed my wounded self-esteem and overall psyche. I stopped indulging in self-pity and realised how lucky I was to be where I was and told myself "snap out of it you idiot!". And I did.

I was rewarded with miles and miles of twisty mountain roads, of questionable quality, sure, allowing me to only do 60-70km/h, sure, but dammit it was fun. Good for the digestion as well.


The only problem is that a nagging metallic sound had started, er, some hours ago, and I thought it was the stupid cooking set clanging, but on closer inspection (and after having stuffed the cooking set so full of socks and sponges and plastic bags it wouldn't have clanged even if dropped from the moon) it turned out it was something else... guess what? The pannier base started to disintegrate as well!

Kappa pannier base snafu

So I just positioned it back into place by hand and decided to worry about it later, thinking the off-roading earlier had snapped it out of place. I'm sure it wasn't welded or screwed in originally. Sure it wasn't.

(just got served chai at the Internet cafe. Talk about service!)

After Goksun the road is shooting straight down the mountain towards Kahramanmaras (try saying that in one breath), but before I got there I stopped to refill my fresh water stock at a mountain spring, bought the most strongly smelling apples I've ever laid my hands on, and in the process got served chai and had a quick chat with plenty of nodding and gesturing (the beauty of the language gap) with the owner of the spring-shack-cum-cafereria who was a good chap and warned me that the road becomes narrower somewhere in Turkey. I promised to be careful, thanked him for the chai and moved on.

Less than 10km later I got to Tekir, where apparently there is a camping, which really is an apple orchard owned by a semi-famous guy with funny hair. But let me explain.

The orchard:


The semi-famous guy with funny hair:


You can see the hair runs in the family. He told me something about himself and television, I nodded appreciatively, but unfortunately could not fully grasp what he was talking about.

I got there early, before my usual settling down time, but it was good as I needed to do something about the pannier base. On advice by none other than the not-as-famous-as-he-should-be Vassilis Orfanos I have packed an epoxy glue in my toolkit, which I used to "glue" together the two metal parts.


It seems to have worked so far, so kudos to Vassilis and hurray for my first "fix" on the road. Now I feel like a proper mechanic. Not.

So today all I did was ride. Passed Gaziantep, found the "chain wax" and then took the road East to Sanliurfa, where I now am. The hotel minder was nice enough to offer exclusive parking facilities for my Vstrom:


...and I was lucky enough to find my way back to the centre of Sanliurfa after being "temporarily misplaced" for about an hour in the byzantine sokaks of the old town. It has some quite beautiful corners, but its main attraction for me is its role as the gateway to Eastern Anatolia.


Here's hoping to less Coca-Cola signs and more dusty old villages, lovely gorges and tranquil lakes.

Till next time!

(for technical details of this trip and the bike, read on)


I ride a Suzuki DL650A (casually known as the Vstrom 650), 2007 model which I purchased brand new in Greece in the beginning of 2007.

I started this trip with 60,000 km on the clock.

Modifications of the bike:

(1) A rear shock absorber by Ohlins (PCS46) installed by KAIS Performance in Manchester, UK. Luckily I survived the experience (as the shock was found with the top bolt just about to slip out after 2000km of riding).

(2) 12V socket outlets installed in the top case - very useful for charging camera, phone, batteries for GPS and head torch

(3) Continental TKC80 tyres - very good grip and feel in the frequent gravel I've met so far in Turkey, but afraid they wear quickly and will need a new set before long. They're not cheap either.

(4) Improved X-ring DID transmission chain. I hope it will take the mistreatment I'm going to give it with a smile.

Other than that the Vstrom is as stock as possible. I'm very happy with it so far.

I travel on highways with 100km/h (4,500 rpm with 6th gear) which gives me 4,3Lt/100km consumption, or roughly 500km on a (22Lt) petrol tank.

In Athens I had the following parts installed brand new (and Suzuki originals):

1. All brake pads
2. Battery
3. Air filter
4. Engine oil
5. Engine oil filter
6. Ignition switch assembly (incl. kill switch - it was beginning to act up)
7. Front & rear transmission sprockets

Cylinders balanced, injection valves adjusted, fingers crossed and we're off!

Posted by Alexandros Papadopoulos at October 21, 2009 05:03 PM GMT

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