October 24, 2009 GMT
Nemrut Dagi

Pushing on with how events unfolded: After Sanliurfa I visited Harran, famous for its beehive houses. There I got immediately attacked by a "tourist guide" which was quite probably a junkie. Of dogginess so infinite that he spoilt my entire mood and I thought "sod this" and left without seeing the beehive houses. I'm sure my life will be forever incomplete now.

But, it turned out that this was a good thing - if I hadn't left on that precise time, I wouldn't have stopped to check the epoxy fix of the broken pannier base. I wouldn't have noticed that the fix was very temporary, and needed a proper fix soon.

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And I wouldn't have met a random passer-by who approached to help and told me there was a guy 2km down the road that can fix this - "no problem".

So I went 2km down the road in a petrol station that was out of petrol, but the dude was there. The man with the golden hands. The dude. His dudeness. The duder. He took one look at the breakage, went "no problem" after slightly scoffing at me for being stressed with something so obviously trivial, and proceeded to weld the thing once and for all. While he was at it he also proceeded to adjust the tie-down clips and make the pannier that was slightly bent since Norway last year actually straight! I would have been banging for hours/days/years with questionable results, he took one look, put it down under his knee, and pressed it once at the right point with the right angle and that was that. The Duder. When asked in sign language "what do I owe you, o demigod of metal?" he shrugged, smiled and waved me goodbye. That was after I had been served tea. Dammit, I just couldn't leave like that, so I just left a fiver, shook dirty hands heartily and left with a smile.

And with that, I was super-happy and care-free. All was well. The birds were singing, the morning rain had ceased, and breakfast was as nutritious and healthy as ever.

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So I drove up Mnt Nemrut...

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...and after a bit of "exploring" (i.e. getting lost) I found Damlacik and its Garden Camping. That's where I had addressed the pannier lid to be sent from Greece... so when I got there and a man greeted me I immediately said "Ibrahim?" - he said "YES!", I said "Alex!" and it was as if good'ol buddies had met. Of course he's in his 60's and doesn't speak more than 10 words of English, but when was that a problem? When I asked how much he charged per night to pitch my tent he pointed to me and said "musafir!" (i.e, "you are my guest") and that was that. I had dinner with the rest of the family, and the next day three meals, and even when I was late for dinner they saved a portion for me. What can I say.

They've got lovely view from the *ahem* men's bathroom:

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So after parking the bike on the lovely grass and pitching my tent, I heard a "plomp" and turned around to see the bike on the ground. Apparently the ground was not as hard as I thought and after a while on the double stand (the most secure in general), it went over. So, first drop of the trip, and of course gloriously adventurous as usual. From parked. Oh well.

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It was a gentle drop, I picked it up relatively easily, had a look over, looked fine. I mean, it fell on soft grass from being still. WTF.

After a while I tried to put the lid on the "good" pannier and realised something was wrong.

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Dammit, it's bent. Went to have another look on the other pannier:

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Bollocks. This is more serious than I thought. Now BOTH panniers are so deformed I can't close them. Crap.

On a THIRD, even more serious look, I notice that this is an EVEN BIGGER problem than I thought. What's that crack?

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Lovely. The panniers are disintegrating. That's it. Emotional low. I'm an idiot (of course, I should have analyzed the geological composition before parking). I've done it again. Both trashed. Crap (and other unprintable things).

Next morning I think "screw this" and rationalise, ask around, figure out closest master fixer is in Kahta (just 30km away), go there, find the dude, he sends me to another dude who sends me to another dude (to be more precise, the penultimate dude sends off a kid with my pannier in hand and I shoot off after him on foot, not even having the time to take the key off the ignition and I just leave the bike there).

To cut a long story short (I sincerely think you're a hero or 1st degree relative if you're reading this), the 3rd guy is also a wizard and does a lot of wonderful things, after which my panniers are better than ever.

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Poetry on aluminium, I'm sure you agree.

Ahem.

So anyway, again the birds are singing, right? Alex is happy. I get back around noon to the campsite (just in time for lunch - how convenient - and by the way they do have fantastic food!) and basically wait for the lid to arrive from Greece... it doesn't by 16:00 and I'm despairing that I lost the day, tomorrow is Saturday, next delivery chance is Monday, poo and all that, days lost, etc etc. Again emotional low. Well done me, I 've turned my emotional status to a bloody trampoline!

Oh I also forgot that my trusty mobile phone which I've used since 2006 with no hiccups whatsoever, decides to break in a funky way and doesn't like my turkish SIM any longer.

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So I buy another phone in a spur of hopelessness since I KNOW this is something with the configuration of the Turkcell network really, and not a hardware issue (since my phone works with other SIMs), but I can't afford to call them and argue in Turkish (they'll win) so I just buy the cheapest phone I find. Surprise! It's crap. Horrible. Stupid. Argh!

So I decide I'll see the sights of Mt Nemrut tonight, and leave for somewhere else tomorrow to make some use out of the weekend, and then come back on Monday if need be to grab the lid. So I frantically leave the campsite, pack a flashlight, the GPS, the earth/sea/sky super-high-tech long sleeve that Ping-Yi brought me, walking shoes, I wear the bike trousers & boots as the LonelyPlanet says the final 3km of the approach are horrilble steep dirt road with a couple of crocodiles thrown in to spice it up, and leave.

I get to the ticket office of Nemrut Dagi Milli Parki and get told I'm too late and will miss the sunset. I return a "I don't think so kiddo" look and vanish in a cloud of smoke. It's uphill alright. Initially I rush but then I remember that riding like mad is fine if you're enjoying it, NOT if you're in a rush. So I slow down, but the road is actually very good and there's no completely off-road part (never mind what the LonelyPlanet says), and especially the final 1000 meters of the approach to the tourist kiosk look like the grand ski jump thingy (the one where you jump off and either get a world record or die) and the Vstrom tears at the cement tiles of the road at 3rd gear and it must all look quite cool because when I park and turn around all the tour guides who were having their tea waiting for the tourists to take their pictures have stopped chatting and are all silently looking at me. I throw a smile in their general direction, don't bother changing to walking shoes and zoom through the tourist kiosk to the mountain path that will take me to the summit.

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At this point I must say I'm happy I got Sidi touring boots and not storm-trooper-plastic-enduro boots, because that would just have been impossible (or deadly). So I stride up the path, get thiiiiis close to a heart attack (it's quite steep and I was in a rush), and turn around and see the damn sunset and think to myself "eat your heart out, ticket office fools!".

These boots are made for walking:

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I then proceed to lie down and half suffocate / half cough for 5 minutes until I get my breath back and my heartrate goes out of the red "NUCLEAR REACTOR ABOUT TO EXPLODE" band. All good.

Pictures of a king's idea of grandeur:

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and my idea of it:

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The way down is fantastic, the sweet night falls over the mountain, and oh man, this is the time of colour, of silence, of magic. It takes me an hour to descend to Damlacik.

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When I get back, a surprise! The lid is there. Hurray! Alex happy. Wait a minute... wrong colour sticker on the inside. Check size. Bollocks. It's too small. I obviously sent the wrong measurement to Touratech Greece. Excellent. Idiot. Alex very unhappy once more.

The next day I pack up everything and by 8am I am on the road. I need to go somewhere... anywhere! I do emails etc in the morning, get an anxiety-inducing for a fellow traveller (he talks of servicing the bike before entering Iran - doing WHAT to the bike?) and then I ride over the mountain, north, in the general direction of Malatya.

The map shows there are dirt roads connecting the villages, and indeed after about 50km of dirt with lovely twisty roads on the mountain...

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... (and of course being ever so slightly lost) I get to a surfaced road that I'm sure reaches Malatya after 70km, pace up, the wind blows, all is good... and the road ends.

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There has been a landslide, I realise there is no other way than back again over the mountain and sort-of get anxious, but the dudes of the work site tell me it'll be only 5 minutes. Hrmf. Is this like the "Money Pit" (movie with Tom Hanks and a house that was broken in all possible ways) "2 weeks" thing? Let's see.

But they're fast:

Indeed after half an hour the dudes have worked wonders and the road is free.

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Get to manic, frantic, busier than Ankara Malatya just before dark. Check into the dodgiest possible hotel in town (the staircase is constantly full with people in business suits carrying huge suitcases). Strangely, my mood is very good.

What does all this jazz mean to me? That I am fighting against noone else but myself. That I only have fear itself to fear. That this trip is an exercise in Zen, in dealing with my stupid emotional ups and downs in a better way (or perish trying). A lot of small silly things are going wrong (stuff breaking, damages etc) and this is lesson number one: Stop sweating the small things.

I shall learn it one day. I'm getting a lot of practice.

End of nursing for tonight. Thank you for reading.

Posted by Alexandros Papadopoulos at October 24, 2009 04:28 PM GMT
 



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