Cappodoc1a was a surreal place . The underground c1ty was l1ke Swiss cheese w1th a maize of tunnels interconnecting. Very claustrophobic- as it went down 40 metres. The columns of tuffa that have been formed from the lava rock are amazing with the biggest phallyx symbols in the world. In the early morning there must have been at least 10 hot air balloons over the area. Apparantly it is one of the best places to do this (expensive ).
Had several wonderful evenings in Turk1sh restaurants where you took your shoes off and sat on cushions on the floor. The meals are really good and cheap. Soup is a speciality and the kebabs are delicious. D1d see a Belly dance too !
They are a very soc1al people. The band will be playing and slowly the audience will join in. A great atmosphere. Very polite also. Wherever you go the door is held open for you and a cologne essence sprinkled on your hands as you are leaving. All very helpful. The men seem to congrgate 1n the cafes.
The road signs are in english which has been a bonus. Roads are tarmac but can degenerate very quickly to pot holes or broken up tarmac.
petrol is sl1ghtly dearer than UK. We have had several free g1fts from the garages- key fobs_ tissues and a peaked cap.
As we drive past the men will gawp at the bike- the children wave madly and the women totally ignore you.
Houses are 2 storey concrete pa1nted often 1n pink- blue or yellow ochre. Alot have solar panals. in towns the flats are usually 6 storeys h1gh.
As we have come further South the scenery has changed all the time. Spring is coming - the flowers are just starting to bloom. Swifts and storks are arriving. The almond- apple and apricot trees are 1n bloom. There are miles of vines and all types of agriculture- a very lush land. Huge bunches of mistletoe in the trees. They burn the stubble from the fields.
Loads of tourists around for the Ecl1pse .
Onto Malatya on 1 April. it was an eerie ride. M1les and miles of flat road unwinding ahead of you. This is a bustling city.
2 Apr1l we went on to Diyarbikir. This was the first day of rain that we have had. As we drove further South it became bleaker- austere and more and more barren. The rural areas are gradually looking poorer. Very mountainous area and at times you feel you are the only person in the world!
The Pass between Elazig and Diyarbikir was guarded and there are alot of militia 1n the c1ty due to the riots last week. We have just had our boots cleaned for £1. We decided to stay here today as well as it is pouring with rain.
We are now 1n Messopotania and crossed the Euphrates yesterday and tomorrow will cross the Tigris. i now feel more comfortable wearing a headscarf but am still in jeans. Will have to buy different clothes very soon.
Next on to Van wh1ch will be the last big place before entering iran. This will probably be on Thurday 6 April.
Turkey has been an amaz1ng country full of contradictions- wonderful scenery and helpful people. You never know what is around the next corner. Driving has been manic at times and then totally boring. you need your wits about you.
Total miles : 3959
We ended up staying inDiyarbikir for 2 days due to the weather. managed to have a look around but did not walk the city walls , (whıch are the second bıggest after the Great Wall of China) due to the warnings that you may be robbed.-- Discretion was the better part of valour. There are huge underground shopping malls here.
On 4th April we went onto Tatvan, on the West coast of Lake Van. Near to Bitlis. The ride was interesting to say the least. The first part was through huge lush plains and then into mountanous country. ( Colin now wishes he had fitted an Altimetre- perhaps ıt' good that he dıd'nt .)
The road from Bıtlis deteriorated to pure rubble that was still wet from the previous 2 days rain. We had 50 k of enforced 'off road' ride. It started to hail to add to the misery.There were huge snow frifts to the side of the road and only lorries seemed to be on the road- no cars at all. The lorries slowed us down and several times Colim had to pull back to allow space to get up a good run.
I was thinking ' stay loose and go with the bike '. A bit difficult when you can feel the back wheel sliding.
Colin says that this ride is firmly imprinted in his mind. There were alot of military checks as this is definitely Frontier country. The road blocks just waved us through. It made Colin's day when he saw a tank with a big plastic bag over the barrell to stop the rain from going inside !
Got to the hotel and the bike was parked in the back foyer. Had to wiggle the handlebars through 2 doorways and then park it on a marble floor. Such dedication- the bike was as warm as we were and had a wash as we were all caked with mud.
Next day we woke up and it was pouring with rain and intermıttent snow. So we had another 2 days off and set off to Van on 7th April- full of trepidation as to what the road would be like. however it was, thankfully OK.
We were pulled back by a road block and had to turn around thinking ' here we go'.- but all they wanted to do was look at the bike, give us tea and talk. The highest Pass was 7450 feet and Van is 5700 feet with an enormous alkaline lake which was clear ice blue. It took 3 hours to do 100 miles.
Van is renowned for white fluffy cats with one yellow and one blue eye. A very busy place.
Today (8th ) we are in Dogubayazit- about 40 k from the border. The ride was on good roads although we had several mountain dogs that chased the bıke- and they really do mean business. You have to put opn the power just to get away from them. the temperature here is 20 degrees- bliss.
The best road signs that we have seen is a car sliding with an umbrella up ! Another with tortoises crossing the road. Most of the town traffic lights have a countdown for the change from red to green- or the other way. Every one sits and revs up on the count off 4 seconds !
All the children have a school unıform. There are no ınner safety doors on the lifts so you must remember not to lean towards the door. The fast food places are delivering food at all times of the day to other shop keepers.
Internet is cheap at 45 pence per hour.
We weighed ourselves yesterday with some kiddies who had a pair of scales (? borrowed from mum ) and they were doing a roaring trade and making a few pence.-- Life goes on the same wherever you are. It's amazing to thınk that we left 5 weeks and 3 days ago and here we are on the Iranian border and we have had 13 days off in that time. Total mileage : 4330
We waved byebye to Mount Arrarat, the mountain guide who had 14 children ( and had promised his mother to have 20 !) and 3 English lads who were cycling from London to Bejing.
The hip flask was drained and a book swap managed ( very important ).
We changed money to Rials and ,for once in our life were millionaires, as there are 16000 rials to 1GBP.
Colin went into the Iran weather on the Net and was very impressed- as you can get the weather for the actual piece of road you are travelling.
We had got the Iran visa before leaving UK. First you have to get a number from Tehrain and when this is issued you get the visa. We were granted 30 days in a period of 3 months.
We crossed the border on Sunday 9th April. It took 2 hours to go through and we were told to take a seat whilst the formalties were done. The bike was disinfected and we were told not to travel North of Tehrain due to Bird Flu.
There was no baggage check. The carnet was stamped and perused over and over again.( This is the Insurance that you do nt sell the vehicle whilst in the country- and costs mega bucks !)
Immediately the temperature was 20 degrees and we went onto Maku, which is definitely a frontier town. It is in a deep gorge which traps the pollution nicely. We ended up in a right doss house of a hotel (shared stinking squat loo amd shower) but the bed was clean and at 4GBP- what could you expect ?
We learnt from this to stick out for the hotel that you want- despite what the locals say. The bike was safe- driven down a tyre width ramp into the foyer and 2 guys helped Colin push it up the next day.
Onto Tabriz on 10th. A large city and traffic unbelivable. Every one thinks they have right of way. There are no traffic lights- or a few that are constantly flashing red or amber and do not change at all. People go the wrong way around roundabouts, up one way streets the wrong way or back up if they have taken a wrong turn.
We were shown to the hotel by a policeman who stopped all the traffic on a one way road, guided us across the road and up onto the pavement to the hotel !
Onto Zanjan next day. all the lorries will wave and beep as they pass. The tarmac is good and all major road signs in English. At each petrol station there are queues for diesel but the Benzine is readily available and for 11 litres ( 1/2 tank) is .....50 pence. Water is dearer. Meal out is 7GBP. Hotels about 18GBP per night.
There are' cardboard cut outs' for police cars on the side of the road and people can be picnicing, or selling their wares. Tolls for the Freeway but we do not pay.
Alot of 1950/60 trucks that do not help the pollution that seems to hang over all towns amd woe betide you if you are right behind one on the open road,. 125 mopeds and the record (so far) is 6 on one bike- mum,dad and 4 kids!
Alot of police checks but we have o nly been stopped once on the road and in one hotel were seen by the Police whilst we were having dinner - 'why were we visiting Iran and describe Iran '.
Karaj on 13 th where we had arranged to have the bike serviced at the BMW place. ( phoned ahead ) We thought that this would mean a trip into Tehran but luckily for us the workshop was at karaj- about 17 K away. Colin was very relieved that he did not have to drive in Tehran.
We turned up for the service at 9am. given tea and cakes. 10.30am- banana and orange each and at 12.45pm- lunch was served ! and all for the price of 45GBP. it was unelievable hospitality.
And so on to Kashan(15th) , Yazd and Kerman where we are having a day off (17th).
All the towns have big boulevards on entry with Evergreen trees that are carefully nurtured. A huge flower arrangement in the central square with statues.
Huge shopping malls with alot of Western clothes.
Shops closed Friday and Sunday apart from a few food shops. there is a mixture of clothes. Some wearing full chadda but we have only seen one with the full face grille. Alot of the younger girls have jeans on under the ch adda and are wearing makeup.
Crossing the road is a definite art form and you literally dodge the traffic. At that point I always hold on to colin's hand despite the etiquette.
We have passed through flat lush country, huge salt flats and are now in desert scrub land . it is getting up to 32 degrees- and that is when we are travelling. We are now wearing the Camel packs for water and they are good.
Yesterday we were offered bread and water as cars pulled up beside us. We have had loads of photos taken of the bikeand everyone has been very kind. Alot speak English or enough to get by.
I pull the headscarf down for travelling and pull it up as son as the helmet is off- and no one as complained.next onto Bam and real desert country........
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