Left UK 3rd march and landed in Cherbourg after a good crossing. Within an hour the weather had deteriated to snow showers. We made it to Tours, France and then it started as a blizzard for the whole of the next day.-
We stayed put in the hotel and slept, read and ate for 2 days and it probably did us a world of good to have a complete rest. It had been a hectic build up to the leave.
Roads were clear by the Monday and we were off. Bike is not like a Christmas
tree yet. Bet it will be later on ( ie. heavily laden ).
Travelled through France and along the Cote d'Azur. Stunning scenery and warm.
Have mixed the routes with some Auto route, as well. It does give Colin some respite from heavy town traffic.
Snow still on the tops of the mountains and the driving there has been cold but quiet with traffic.
Now in Pisa and have done our first touristy bit -as you do- and been up the Tower. ( I can confirm that it does lean !). It has been great
so far and as for the bet in the pub-- we have not fallen out yet !
Next on to Pompeii --to get all cultured out .
Left Pisa 13/03/06 to Tarquinia which is a medi-evil walled city. Very windy- this is called 'The Montana' and lasts either 1 or 3 days. It was day 2 when we got there. Normally I am not keen on high winds on the back of the Bike but she felt very stable and comfortable.
Colin has been very pleased with the very last 'mod' that he did before leaving UK. That was to fit handle bar muffs. They have been very succesful. I'm OK with the heated jacket and gloves.
From Pisa to Tarquinia, we diverted of the Autosrada to do the coastal route but it was'nt worth it, as it was very Industrial. Colin had been concerned about negotiating the ring roads around Rome and Naples but it turned out to be easy. Naples was worse than Rome, as it turned out.
Went on to Pompeii and intended to have 2 days off. The first day Pompeii was shut- due to a strike for more money. After meetings it was stated that it would open at 10.30am. This came and went and the next rumour was that it would open at 1 pm. There were loads of tourists waiting and we decided to hop on the train to Herculanium, so as not to waste time. This also opened at 1pm and we had a good look around.
Next day Pompeii was open at 8.30 am and we got in for 10 euro each. We thought it was busy but the Guide told us that there were 2000 tourists there that day and in summer they have 12,000. Loads of stray dogs around who will attatch themselves to the groups of people going around.
A fascinating place but in retrospect we need not have done both sites. Sadly, Vesuvius was 'shut' also , due to ice on the road. It is ominous in the background of the beautiful, bustling new town of Pompeii.
Drivers in Italy are manic but courteous to other road users. Petrol is 1.25 Euro. Drinks in cafes slightly cheaper than UK. Alot of police around and we were parked in a pull off one day and a blue light screeched in behind us, stopped and Policeman said' are you OK" , 'Fine' was the reply and he said' have a good trip' and was gone.
Beware of the Autosrada payments- some you get a ticket and pay at the end of the section and some you just pay a statuary toll by throwing the money in the bin.
I am reliably informed the the girls in Italy are ravishing !
Then on to Bari and the night feery for Greece on The Bluestar line. The ticket girl asked shyly' how old are you?' and we got Concessionary fares weithout asking for them. We were able to board early and were shown to our cabin on deck 8. (now that's a first ). We were assured that there would be' no roll' but we tied the bike down as best we could.
Colin spent a happy hour watching the lorry drivers reversing in a small space , in order to reverse on. One would be backing in whilst another lorry turned around- hardly space for a cigarette paper between them. Pedestrians and cars also in the same area. Health and Safety eat your heart out.
It was a 10 hour crossing and we had a very polite phone call at 5am to ensure we were awake. Now we are on Greek time which is 2 hours ahead of UK. Total mileage so far is 1,937.
Disembarkedat 6.30 am at Igoumenitsa and we were short of fuel. Managed to find some in the Port area and we were on th Autostrada immediately. It was a good job that Colin had done this as we then did'nt see any petrol stations or pull off's for miles. This turned out to be 139 miles of very demanding driving. At first it was dark, the roads wet and as we climbed into the mountains, it was low cloud with visibility of 50/ 100 feet , in places. Loose shale on the road, hair pin bends with sheer drops. We climbed to the Katalan pass and reached 14,000 feet. The snow line was here and on the roadside was 3 metres deep, although the roads were clear due to the 3 Snow plough/ blower stations that were there.
We reached the other side and the temperature was 13 degrees- positively balmy. On to Meteora where there are some fantastic rock formations made by wave action millions of years ago.
Then on to Thessolonika, the second largest city in Greece. Totally different terrain here , flat and marshy. All the shops seem to stay open here and there are loads of bikes and scooters. Drivers smoking as they are driving, no crash helmets and the pillion reading the paper .
Food is cheap here, petrol is 0.93 euro and rolling tobacco is 50 grams for 3 Euro. We managed to get new tyres and Colin was impressed at the care taken. About the same price as UK. The guy said it was a good job we had them changed in Thessolonika as in Istanbul the wait would be 3/5 days. He had not seen Ultraseal before or the tyre pressure caps.
Everyone has been so helpful- some speak good English. All the roadsigns are in Greek first , followed by a sign in English. The taxi drivers will pick up more than one fare at a time.
Now in Alexandroupholi and next stop will be Turkey tomorrow. More to come.
Left Thessolonıka 21/3/06 for Alexandroupolı. The 2 hour tıme dıfference and seeıng a road sıgn for Yugoslavıa and Bulgarıa brıgs home how far we are away- but ıt does,nt seem very long sınce we started.
The shops are stıll open at 9pm and the chıldren out wıth theır parents. There ıs no graffıttı and everywhere ıs clean. Concrete houses of 2 storeys each wıth verandas.
We have been doıng an average of 200 mıles per dayın approx 5 hours.Thatşs allowıng for 2 stops. Leave around 10am and hotel found by 4pm latest.Dual carrıageway, long straıght roads wıth very lıttle traffıc out of towns.
We have had a couple of fast food meals as most of the restaurants seem to do prepared food and keep ıt hot ın steam tables throughout the day. Goıng on the adage - ıf you see ıt beıng cooked- we have opted out of that.
Colın cleaned the bıke as the Fıns on the engıne were encrusted wıth drıed salt and mud- not so good for the engıne coolıng.
Next on to Turkey-----
We entered turkey on 22 march hav1ng driven past the 50 lorries wa1ting to cross the border. We had to buy vusas for 20 euro and insurance for 17 euro because despite what the RAC and insurance compan1es say - you still need the Green card.
The crossing took 2 hours and the Customs were more 1nterested in the bike ane where we were going than looking for controband.
Rural Turkey was like stepping back in time. Chickens- sheppards w1th their sheep or goats ( and if cold wearing a goat skin cape )- dogs barking at and sometimes chasing the bike. This is all just by the side of the road. Donkey or pony and cart. Flat marshy land. Dead stra1ght roads and 5 cars was a traff1c jam. 20 degrees.
The hotel in Ecreabat was a gem w1th laundry facilities- book swap and a bar with a balcony that overlooked The dardenalles where we saw the Dolph1ns jumping later in the day.
Had a day off to v1ew the Gall1poli sites . Anzac beach 1s desolate and a place for quiet reflection despite the hoards of coaches coming in.
Took the feerry to Cannacale on the 24th. to go to Banderma. The whole idea was to leave the bike in Banderma and go to istanbul as foot passengers. This d1d not happen as despite all the research ther is one ferry on a saturday and 2 on a Sunday. Crossing time is 2 hours each wat- so that d1d not leave much t1me and not worth it. So we binned that idea.
When we left for the ferry ther was no indication of what was to come. The wind got up and was gusting at 50 knots. it got so bad at one stage that i thought Colin would turn round - but we ploughed SLOWLY on and got to Banderma. We were so relieved to be secure_ warm and safe 1n the hotel that we failed to see the mosque 50 yards away and for the next 2 days enjoyed the early call to prayer at 4 am.
Somewhere along the line here i lost the 1nterconnect1ng lead for the intercom. it had never come apart in the 2 years that we have had the system and now when we need it the most .......
We had a d1scussion and Colin decided that we would try to find the parts to make it up here. The follow1ng morning we traipsed from shop to shopa and eventually found a guy who had the correct connections and w1re. He put 2 core w1re doubled. Sat and made 1t wh1st we waiwed and drank complentary tea. All for the cost of £4 .67. We are now talking afin and the lead 1s black taped on and i am on pain of s1vorce to lose it again !
So on to Man1sa ( izmir) where we threw the boat out and stayed 1n a 4 star hotel for the n1ght. Normally the cost 1s £30 per n1ght 1ncluding breakgast- but th1s was double that.
Then to Pammekale where The Travertine pools are. We avo1ded the 3 k walk and i was taken on what i was assured wasa short cut and we cl1mbed up the Roman wall. The sav1ng grace 1s the the calc1um format1on is totally non sl1ppery. Had a very expensive swim in the Roman spa but it was worth every penny. Warm and buoyant looking up to thr clear blue sky and palm trees.
Eg1d1r on the 28 march to stay on an island surrounded by snow capped mountains . A really good place to relax in 20 degrees.
29 march and we on route to cappodocia and the total eclipse of the sun happened. We knew that 1t was to happen on wednesday but had no idea of the time. 1.55 1t gradually got darker. Colin pulled over- iy got dark_ cold- the street l1ghts came on- b1rds stopped singing and them totally dark for one and half minutes.it was magic. People have been plann1ng to be hear for a year to see this and we just happened to be in the right place at the r1ght t1me.
30 march and we are now in Cappodocia w1th the starling formations of tuffa wh1ch is a volcanic rock. We are staying in a cave hotel and have visited the under ground city of 7 levels. The interior is like a rabbit warren and goes underground to 50 metrs. Glad i did it - but never again !
Turkey has been full of suprises- you never know what is round the next corner could be valleys lush w1th fertile fields tended by 2people. Or mountains w1th Alp1ne scenery.
Petrol is same as UK. Draught beer is 82 p. Kebaba are delicious - warm macaroons and Turk1sh Delight to die for !
Note to other travellers- do a Commando training course before you embark on a trip like this - we have been mountain goats_ troglodites and long distance walkers ! more to come .....
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