Next stop is Trabzon, Turkey on the Black Sea coast to order our Iranian visa at $50US each, as there is a Consulate there, which can process the application in 2 weeks. They issue a completion number and we can pick up the visa from any Iranian Consulate in the world. There is a unique and picturesque Byzantine monastery carved into the side of a sheer cliff and hidden away in solitary location.
Unexpectedly, we bump into Baha the HU member for Istanbul on his TDM 900 who offers his services as a tour guide and companion for the next week.
Weather is clear so we set off for a wonderful ride on the Black Sea road which hugs the coast nearly all the way to Istanbul.
Baha lead us on a merry chase along 1000kms of nonstop surpentine roads which clung to an undulating and cliffy terrain with constant views of this beautiful Blue Sea. Why did they name this the Black Sea? Three glorious days took us to postcard town of Amasra, a popular holiday spot for the Turks as the fortified town is built on a peninsula sandwiched between two beaches and twin harbours and surrounded by high cliffs.
Two days would have got us there, if we hadnt taken another one of Belindas shortcuts and expose Baha and his newish TDM to rough trails which appeared as good roads on the GPS. Luckily Baha spoke Turkish and could ask the local farmers which general direction we should drive. We remained relatively cool with our airflow clothing, but Baha was basting in his own juices as his clothes were designed for much cooler temps and higher speeds.
Our biggest danger to date are the aggressive and careless northern Turkish drivers. They constantly pull out to pass and expect us to pull off the road to avoid them. We saw Baha have two very close calls. The Lebanese drivers have nothing on these guys. Baha had to drive between two oncoming trucks coming around a blind corner in the mountains. Our constant practice on these roads is "avoidance driving".
Baha resides in a quiet and trendy suburb close to the Sea of Marmara and it is here that we rest up for a few days to Bahas generous hospitality visiting nice restaurants, strolling the Esplanade and refreshing our MP3 with new songs.
In order to miss the traffic in a city of 16 million people, we ferry it across the Sea of Marmaras to the coast near Bursa. Here we find more idyllic biking roads with little traffic next to the coastline reminicent of those along the Black Sea coast and followed these to the Gallipoli ferry crossing at Lapseki.
It was a freeway cruise to the Greek Med city of Alexandroupoli and our first fabulous Greek meal in what seemed like months. Fuel now was only 1.30 euro or 2.17 aus per liter.
Browsing the map the next morning for a plan of attack, we spotted the nearby island of Thassos which had a coastal ring road that would be great for exploring the whole island.
During the short ferry ride over, a British couple on a Honda 250 started a chat and soon we found ourselves having lunch at their newly built house for their retirement overlooking the Med.
For three days our hosts voluntered their favourite restaurants, beaches and hideaways as well as escorting Pat to the Medical clinic for a shot of quartizone to counter the allergic reaction of a bee sting on his chest, inflicted while riding.
The 45 minute ferry ride to the mainland cost us 11 euros total and we set off for Sofia, Bulgaria enroute to Oradea, Romania to visit Csilla and Oli Schul, our good friends and the HU members there.
We lodged just outside of Sofia as we have learned that the hotels near the center of capital cities are double the price, usually have no secure parking, and are a hassle to find in congested traffic.
The next day is our biggest day of this trip, with 2 border crossings and just under 600kms as the satelite shows an enormous storm heading in our direction. Our average day is a mear 150kms and we boast the slowest RTWorld trip.
A week of partying and eating with Csilla and Oli and 3 month old Dominik, servicing the bike and replacing the rear tyre with another Metzeler Tourance as we got 28000kms from the old one.
Now we are off to Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Northern Greece to meet up with Orestis and travel around Northern Greece for 3 weeks.
We finally left Cyprus, the ferry to the mainland being 12 hours late leaving at 12 midnight with every seat full and no sleeping cabins available. With very rough seas the toilet reservoirs overflowed which caused even more people to throw up everywhere. Great fun. Cost was 108 euros for ferry plus 29 euros harbour tax.
Upon arriving at 8am we encountered a 2.5 hour queue to get through customs and immigration and a 8 hour ride to Cappadochia ahead of us. Luckily the scenery and roads were fantastic, which helped keep us awake to make our destination.
Goreme in Cappadochia was a return visit for us from 1999 as we loved it so much the first time. A 2000 year old community of caves dug into the cliffs and hills made from compressed volcanic ash, giving you the feeling of visiting a Flinstone village.
Here seemed to be a meeting place for bike travellers including Mike and Dan doing a RTW on their BMW R100GSs and Sami, the HU member for the area and John, on a R1200GS.
Departing 3 days later for Nemrut Dagi we follow wonderful winding mountain and valley roads til Belinda discovers a shortcut which looks great on the map, but none of the locals seem to be using it. One local said that you cant get there on this road, but what do the locals know anyway and besides, its right here on the GPS.
After 4 hours of boulders and 3 ridge crossings we arrive on the mountain of Unesco site Nemrut Dagi using its Back Door entrance. At least this road allowed us to drive the bike right to the top to catch a Super Sunset and not make the long climb that the other tourists did.
Departing our old but only available hotel where we were the only guests , we set off next morning for Merdin on the Syrian Border.
We found no tourists in this ancient castle town overlooking the Mesopotamian plains of Syria. Publicity of PKK rebellions of the past have taken many beautiful spots off of the tourist routes.
We circumnavigate Lake Van at 2000 meters enroute to Dogubayazit which is at the base of Mt Ararat and the resting spot for Noahs Ark. We will be back here again in Sept. on our way to Iran as it is only 35 kms to the border.
Kars is enroute to the Georgian border, but we did stop to visit the breathtaking ancient fortified city of Ani (another Unesco site).
The Pofos border crossing is at a picturesque pass with little traffic, but the Turks still took 3 hours becasuse of a mistake made at the previous crossing. The Georgian side tooks only 20 minutes, but cost 36Euros each and free for the bike.
Fuel here is only 0.89euro as in Turkey it is 1.85euros per liter.
The road leaving the border was so bad that we turned back to ask if it was the right road. Luckily that only lasted for 10kms and became a small but wonderful curvy ashphalt road following this fast flowing river down to the mountain town of Borjormi.
Next day we headed up 30kms to Bakuriani, a small ski resort town where we found a 4 star hotel with full board for 30 US each (thats 3 buffet meals a day). It was a bit rainy so we just had to stay for 2 nights.
On the way to Tbilisi the capital we had to visit Gori, the birthplace of Stalin and where his museum exists. His popularity has definately wained. Iraqli, the HU member there greeted us and showed us around this ancient town of castles and heroic statues , divided by a windy river with high banks.
Next morning "found us lost" in rush hour traffic trying to exit the city for the Mountain town of Signaghi. Out of nowhere comes a CBR1000 with the driver asking if we need help and we say YES. He is George, a dentist on the way to work, but said to follow him to our road. We finally parted after much car weaving with a handshake and a smile.
Sighnaghi , a carasmetic fortified town, was extensively renovated by the Government as Georgias Tourist Gem and really was impressive.
Belinda finds this great shortcut on the way to our next town of Kazbegi on the Russian border so we(?) thought we would give it a go. You guessed it, another battering. Nice scenery though.
Bad roads over, we crossed through the highest ski resort of Georgia on fantastic surpentine ashphalt roads up to 3100 meters with many dark tunnels to pass through on our way to Kazbegi.
The Russian border drew us close, even though we had no visa and it was a bit further down on our itinery. It was all downhill to our nighting again in Tbilisi where we arched off toward the Armenian border town of Sadakhlo. Once again we "found ourselves lost" in taffic and low and behold comes this CBR1000. Its George coming to our rescue yet again. Follow me. On parting he has now invited us to his house upon our return to Tbilisi, but sadly it was not on our route back to Turkey. Next time through.
Armenia border crossing was quick with $50us each and free for Miss Adventure. The small roads to Dilijan were great and interesting and a quaint B&B awaited our tired bottoms.
Temps around the Med and the Middle East were sweltering while we getting 19 to 20c and sunny skies, probably because we were consistantly over 1000 meters.
Lake Sevan is Armenias holiday area, as it is a landlocked country with only one lake, but even though the president has a summer home there, we only spent one night.
Our southern turn around point for Armenia is a mountain town of Goris, near the Iran border, similar to Cappadochia with a bygone village of cavedwellers etched into the cliff.
Good roads lead us on to the Capital Yerevan again at the base of Mt Ararat, but on the Armenian side. Typically a congested city, but with a grand Central Square surrounded by monumentally grand buildings of a wealthy bygone era.
The Georgian crossing at Bavra cost a redused 20us for a 3 day tansit visa, but that is about our time frame, so off we head for Akhaltsikhe on the road parralleling the Turk border. All the spelling of these towns seem to be picked at random from Alphabet Soup, but wait, most road signs use the Russian alphabet.
Next day our hotelier (in very broken English) said that it should take 6 hours to do the 150kms to Batumi on the Black Sea coast and 60kms of that is good ashphalt. That cant be right.
In my 40 years of riding and over 400,000kms I can pick a line where the bike can go, but today I just had to point her in the general right direction and hope she came out OK at the other end.
Leaving the coastal resort town of Batumi next day for the border, we fill our fuel tank to save almost 1 euro per liter on the Turkish side. Quick crossing on Georgia side , but slow crossing for Turkey and our visa still seems to be active as there is no cost for bike or ourselves.
Leaving the border we clock 12 kms of trucks waiting to cross into Georgia.
In summary, Armenian and Georgian people are warm, friendly and very inviting with no hints from the bad rumours we heard. The countryside is mountainous and lush with some great enduro type rides. A week later war broke out between Georgia and Russia, that was too close!
Next HU Events
- Brazil: Feb 22-23
- Germany: May 29-June 1
- HUBB UK: June 19-22
- NEW! Canada Maritimes: July 4-6
- USA Colorado: July 11-13
- Ireland: July 18-20
- Canada West: Aug 21-24
- USA North Carolina: Sept. 4-7
- Canada Ontario: Sept. 11-14
- NEW! UK - Haggs Bank: Sept. 19-21
- USA California: Sept. 25-28
- Aus Queensland: Oct 3-6
- Aus Perth: Oct 10-12
- Aus VIC: Oct 24-26
- NEW! South Africa: Nov 14-16
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