October 20, 2010 GMT
Ghazvin and Alamut valley
We continue east along a very boring straight road towards Ghazvin. Stay overnight in a nice guest-house Abrisham with kind and helpful staff, walk through city bustling streets and visit bazaar... itís kind of strange feeling walking around, everybody stare at us like we are from another planet. We donít feel very relaxed. Beside they cheat us in one of street kebab restaurant, where we pay 10 USD for, iíd say, nothing.
Next day we gather information about the Alamut valley in the hills north of Ghazvin and in the late morning weíre already on the way. Soon we leave the plain behind and rise along winding road up the hill; on the other side a magnificent view opens in front of us... the landscape is like being drawn, it flashes with interchanging colours of yellow reaped fields, colourful rocks and green oases in the valleys and villages. We descent, ride through a village and start ascending again; find a nice spot for camping before we get too high, with a marvellous view on the endless landscape of smooth hills and valleys. We wake up in the most beautiful day, the morning sun is making magical iridescence of shadows and light.
Few more kms and we reach Ghazor Khan, a village which lies below mighty Alamut castle and find hotel Koosaran, where most of travellers stop for a day or two. Itís something between a hostel and mountain cottage, in fact there is only one big room with 3 beds and a big table in extension of the house of a kind and hospitable family.
Steep stairs lead us to the Alamut castle, a fort with imposing position on the top of cliffy rock wall. There is quite a lot of visitors, itís Friday, which is free day in Iran, and Iranians like to go to nature, having picnics or visit archaeological sites. As foreigners we step out and everybody is eagerly saying hello and trying to speak to us. A man approaches us, speaking quite well English and we talk for some minutes. Then his friend mr. Ali comes, listening for a while and suddenly he interfere in the talk and invite us to his home in Ghazvin. We say: maybe tomorrow, but we donít take him too seriously.
Next morning we start early and go hiking in the valley behind the castle. There are no signs for the way, but we find many descriptions of trails from travellers in the guest-book of our hotel. Luckily landscape is mostly treeless and passable, so there is no bigger problem with orientation. Itís quite a long hike altogether, but itís worth every effort to visit this quiet and intact nature.
In the evening the storm surprises us, not much rain but strong wind is blowing. The whole village stays without electricity and we spend the rest of the evening at oil lamp. The morning is still cloudy and it doesnít look itís going to clear. We pack and ride back to Ghazvin, avoiding the rain which is all the time chasing us. Well, we have luck and stay dry. Because the weather is so unstable we decide to call mr. Ali and see if his invitation was sincere. He remembers us immediately and we meet at the margin of the city; in fact his son comes to pick us up and takes us home where Aliís wife Mahdi awaits us. They are educated and westerner-style family and there is no traditional clothing at home and no distinguishing between men and women. Mahdi prepares really delicious lunch of tasty Iranian dishes and after lunch Ali takes us on Ghazvin sightseeing. He is a unique guide with enormous knowledge of history and art. An interesting experience, this time Ghazvin seems like completely different city from the one we stayed few days ago.
Posted by Zoran Gricar at 11:35 AM
October 11, 2010 GMT
Crossing the border and western Iran
Some hundreds of meters before the border we drive past long column of trucks and reach the first hatch, where they only check the bike number plate and tell us to park in front of the terminal, near the border gate. We go inside, get a stamp in our passports and then they separate us without explanation (they only say Ė drivers go there and passengers here). I go through a short corridor and suddenly iím on Iranian border; well, that was really quick, iíd appreciate if someone told me about it, because all i have with me is a passport and a scarf (which i luckily put around my shoulders before the border), and everything else is left on a bike. Iím second in a line and before i realize whatís going on i have to give my passport. Man behind a hatch is looking at it but nothing happens. The line behind me is getting longer and longer. Weíre waiting without an explanation. First i think itís something wrong with my passport, but later it seems that the system is out and they cannot get a connection. Suddenly it starts to work, i get a stamp and soon after this i hear the words: ďMiss Tamara, welcome to Iran!Ē That was really easy, no checking, no complications... I go out hoping to find Zoran somewhere, but i canít see the bike anywhere. I hope everything works out and he comes soon. After about an hour he finally drives through the gate. Everythingís ok. He had some more complications on Turkish side, had to walk from one office to another, showing bike papers to different people, nobody speaking English and nobody paying much attention, so itís quite confused and unpleasant situation. Besides, it took some more time because the system was out. Good that there was one boy who helped and guided Zoran so everything was a bit quicker. He certainly deserved some reward, so we give him some liras we have left and weíre all satisfied. On Iranian side it goes quickly, he just gets a stamp in a passport and we have to show a carnet and thatís it. After 2 hours weíre on a road, riding towards new adventures.
The landscape is still hilly at first, only it is bleaker than in Turkey. Before we reach Orumiye, we leave the hills behind; there is more and more traffic and in a city it gets really chaotic. Everybody is driving fast, there are no rules except the rule of stronger and the only communication that works is tooting. Beside we are witness to an accident, when a car hits a woman crossing the road; luckily nothing serious happens because she stands up and walks away. It seems that driving here itís going to be a special adventure.
Next day in Mahabad we experience a different kind of shock. With the intention to buy some food we stop in a centre of a city. On the way through the busy streets we can hear all the time from different sides ďhello mister! How are you.Ē When we finally stop, a group of people surrounds us in few seconds. I feel quite embarrassed having to put off my helmet and put on a scarf, while 50 curios people are looking at me. Different questions are raining from everywhere. Soon we realize that these questions are all the same: how are you, where are you from, whatís your name and what you think about Iran Ė thatís about it. And of course they want to know everything about a bike. Otherwise people are very nice; they help us to find a store where we can buy some food and then they even pay for it, they donít let us pay.
Soon after Mahabad beside a small river we find a nice spot for camping on a green meadow. In the evening we observe some herdsmen stopping near us, resting, having tea (chai) and talking. In the morning they come by again, this time they stop only 15 m away; they unload a mule, make a fire and observe us packing. Soon we sit together, drinking chai, talking with our hands and laughing.
Late afternoon after unscrambling farsi signs we arrive to Takt-e-Suleiman castle near Takab. Thereís no camp or hotel; thereís only some kind of thermal pools about 5 km before the castle, with a big parking and a picnic ground. When passing we see a tent so we return there; they offer us an empty room (only a carpet is on a floor) for 25 USD, trying to convince us that this is really cheap. The toilet is about 200 m away and showers are 100 m away. For putting up a tent they want 10 USD. Itís late so we decide to camp there overnight. We unpack, put up a tent (with some problems, because the wind is blowing like hell) and go to take a shower. Hm, they donít let us in, because we donít have a ticket!? Nobody said anything about this before. We try to explain we just want a shower, not swimming in thermal water, but nothing helps. Ok, thatís enough, we pack again and drive few km back and find a better spot for camping Ė at least itís peaceful and no wind. In the nigh we hear some strange voices of probably some wild animals and the dogs are barking the whole night, so in the morning weíre not really fresh. We visit the ruins of a castle which was built around beautiful natural lake at the top of a hill; very nice place to relax a bit and enjoy in wonderful views.
From here we continue across the beautiful landscape across the mountains towards Zanjan. We come around 5 in the afternoon, trying to find a normal hotel for normal price. Well, one is without showers, one with stuffy rooms with no windows and one is too expensive for us. We end up in a city park, a local camping ground, with policeman watching and WC near. Weíre the first to put up a tent and we feel a little bit confused and uncomfortable. But as time is passing, more and more ďcampersĒ are coming. I think there were about 15 tents there at last; looks like very set thing to do this. Finally the night is quite peaceful, except the traffic noise thereís nothing or no one disturbing us.
More photos here:
Posted by Zoran Gricar at 12:45 PM
October 02, 2010 GMT
More photos here:
From Alanya we follow the road inland which takes us through beautiful mountainous area. The road is built in steep cliffs and the views are fabulous. At places the road is being repaired and the parts are not in very good condition. In a nice town Sariveliler we stop to buy some food. People are kind and curious. You can see this is not touristic place. We have a quiet sleep in a hillside not far away from the town.
Next morning we continue to Ermenek and descent towards Mut. Itís terribly hot so we just ride on to Kharman and then among endless plains of wheat fields towards Cappadocia. We decide to first visit less known places of Cappadocia, so we stop at small village Guzelyurt, which has its own underground city. We stop at old church and explore the surroundings. There are caves all around, made in the rocks, used in the past for living. We meet an English guy travelling by bike and we talk for some minutes. He is on the way to Africa.
We continue towards Derinkuyu, another old small village built in beautiful rocky area with thousands of caves all around, and then to Soganli, where we find a nice restaurant with the beautiful garden full of apple trees. The owner is very nice and allows us to camp for free if we eat dinner there; and beside we have free entrance to Cappadocia (Soganli Kapadokya Restaurant, Nuri in Yilmaz Ablak). We enjoy Cappadocia very much, itís like a dwarf town, with many well preserved churches and millions of pinnacles and caves. Once again we discover oil on first wheel Ė this time the left fork is leaking. Once again Zoran puts it apart and fix it. We donít know where exactly a problem is; there is no visible mistake, just leaking?!
We leave Soganli and drive to Urgup, but itís too touristic for us, so we continue to the east. Itís late in the afternoon and we find a small cave to stay overnight. Very comfortable and peaceful with a nice view and we donít have to put up a tent.
After Cappadocia we ride through picturesque landscape towards the mountain Nemrut Dagi which is archaeological and touristic attraction Ė on the top there are relicts of huge stony heads of different gods or divinities, some of them facing the east and some the west. We are there late in the afternoon, just the right time to catch the sunset. However, there are so many tourists on the top so we donít wait.
Across the last remnants of hills we descent to an endless plain and follow a straight road through bleak stony desert towards Diyarbakir. No shadow to stop for a rest. After big and dusty Diyarbakir the landscape becomes more green and hilly and we ride beside cotton fields to another dusty town Batman, from where we turn and follow a nice road through a river canyon to a small village Hasakeyf, old village made in rocks, which will be flooded in the near future. Unfortunately a large part of old town is closed for visitors because a huge rock fell down recently and the place is being under reparation.
We continue towards Lake Van. Just before Tatvan we hardly find a small sign for volcano Nemrut dagi (yes, another Nemrut); we ascend to 2500 m and then descent to 2250 m into the crater with 3 lakes. At Warm Lake we find a kind of camping site, but there is nothing just a small hut where you can get a tea. And a nice guy Fejzir who ďrunsĒ a camp. He explains that we are out of the season right now and he is not on work but on holidays. We stay, put up a tent near the hut, just above the lake and we spend an interesting and funny evening with Fejzir, sitting at fire, drinking tea and talking. Itís freezing cold, but itís beautiful night, so peaceful with million stars on the clear sky. Next day we do some hiking, all alone in the wild landscape, finding some magnificent views.
For border crossing with Iran we take the southern crossing Esendere/Serou. We ride through small Kurdish villages frequently passing military basis; the atmosphere here is a little bit different and we donít feel really relaxed. However, people are still very nice, just kids can be sometimes annoying or even aggressive. Before the border we stop at Yuksekova and stay overnight at hotel Aslan (they donít have a shower, but itís cheap and they helped to park the motorbike inside the hotel, in the hall). We have just another 40 km left to the border.
Posted by Zoran Gricar at 02:29 PM
September 22, 2010 GMT
More photos here:
Wild ride to the coast
In Denizli we find a moto service where we buy forks oil and weíre on to the seaside. Soon we get tempted by side-roads as we are not fans of big main roads. We continue through the cabbage valley from where GPS takes us to the road uphill. Soon the road becomes red tarmac and still going uphill. By this time road is still wide and all right and we meet quite some cars. The road takes us to the village, we ride through but after the village it becomes more and more narrow and looks more like a forest road. At places it is quite destroyed from water erosion with big stones on the way and itís getting worse and worse. After a while we catch a man on the motorcycle with side-trailer and we feel relief, ok that must be the way somewhere. But unfortunately he soon turns in the forest and weíre on our own again. We continue and hope it doesnít end as a blind way. After some hardly passable parts we luckily see a wide white tarmac road not so far below us. Some more turns and weíre there! We find a nice place among pine trees to put up a tent and have a good quiet and peaceful sleep.
In the morning we follow the white road and soon weíre on asphalt road again. Riding through beautiful hilly landscape full of colours, we come to the main road for Kas. The nature becomes more mediterranean as we descent towards the sea. The last kilometres take us right next to the rocky coast. It feels good to be at the seaside.
In Kas we stayed one night at Olympos camp (12 eur for a tent and 2 persons). At first we planned to stay longer but after we meet David from HUBB community (which we contacted in Pamukkale about our problems with forks), who generously invites us to stay with him and his wife Juliet for few days, we pack and follow him to Kasaba, where they have a beautiful home (hosting also 7 dogs and 6 cats) in the middle of nature. We had a really nice and warm stay with great company of David and Juliet and all the animals, which you simply have to love.
The next day we empty the bike and David takes us to a nice ride across Akdaglar mountains. It was really a marvellous trip crossing so many beautiful valleys and hills in the quiet and peaceful landscape. David knows this area very good and he takes us to the most beautiful places. We really have a good time and itís so nice to be on a ride without all the heavy luggage.
We stay 3 days, would really like to stay more, because itís nice to have some company to talk to after a long time and Juliet prepares such tasty meals. Itís like a little heaven, but we have to move on, so we say goodbye and head on.
We stay on main roads to and past Antalya Ė itís time we do some kilometres, for Turkey is big and so far we are moving really slowly. After we leave Antalya behind, we visit Koprulu canyon, quite nice although full of tourists. Itís popular for rafting and all the way along the valley there are restaurants offering rafting. We get a really good price (10 eur for both) for rafting so we do it, although we do not intend to at first.
Back to the seaside we find a nice little camp near Manavgat, about 15 km to the east. Itís just above the sandy beach, clean and quiet and cheap (8 eur for 2 persons). We stay here 3 days to fill up the batteries; we relax, swim, write our diaries and enjoy.
Posted by Zoran Gricar at 12:30 PM
September 10, 2010 GMT
Not much to say. Very beatutiful, although very turistic. We approached Pamukkale by side roads from NW direction (from the road Sarigon - Buldan we turned left from the main road a little before Buldan) and found a nice small camp in a small unspoilt village Develi (10 eur for a tent and 2 persons).
Posted by Zoran Gricar at 05:56 AM