Trabzon (27-06-2000) till Cevlik (16-07-2000)
After an overnight trip in a very damp and hot cabin deep down in the ferry we arrived in Trabzon very early. There was only my bike and one Russian car to go through the paperwork so they had plenty of time. But they offered me some tea as well. It finally cost me USD 20 to pay for all the 'stamps' they had to put on all different kind of papers but then I was ready to go into Turkey.
First trying to find a campground which was a real pain as I got several addresses of the Tourist office but none was existing (at least I couldn't find it). Finally I ended up at a campground sign. It was a restaurant only and I was allowed to put my tent on the grass. I could use the toilet of the restaurant but no water and certainly no shower. Because of my last couple of hectic days in Russia I needed to do some laundry washing urgently. I ended up doing the washing in the sink of the restaurant's kitchen.
After a relaxing day visiting the beautiful monastery Sumela build on the mountains like a swallow nest and the 'nothing special to see' city of Trabzon I found some wonderful roads unpaved roads through the mountains into the Anatolian plateau. Almost no vehicles on the road and passing through the most remote villages made it a wonderful trip and I decided to head through the mountains again to the Black Sea using a different unpaved road.
In Ordu I spend the night on a campground at the beach and was able to see Holland first EK soccer match which they lost by missing 5 out of the 6 penalties; quite embarrassing!
Spending some days driving through the Anatolian plateau heading for Ankara I visited the Hittiet ruins of Bogazkale where i spend the day with Ian, a Brit, who was working for an American company, which run a power station in Istanbul. A nice bloke to meet, but not for too long as he had to drive the 700 km. back to Istanbul.
At the moment I'm staying in a campground close to Ankara and busy in applying for visas. I already have the Jordanian visa, hope to get the Syrian tomorrow and can pick up my Iranian and Indian visas next Monday. In the meantime I'm able to update my travel reports and respond on the many emails I received. The access to Internet is so much easier here than in the Ukraine or Russia, so I hope to report more frequently in the future. Also my motorbike has already drove me more than 10.000 km and desperately needed some attention from me.
Obtaining a visa for Iran was a slow process, which took a week. First I had to get a letter of recommendation from the Dutch embassy. Getting this paper was no problem it cost me USD 12. Together with the application form and some photos I handed them in and to come back in one week. Speeding up the process was impossible. The Jordan visa was no problem at all, and I got it within a couple of hours (and also found out that France had won the European Championship Soccer). The next day I applied for the Syrian visa which was no problem but quite expensive. In the afternoon waiting in front of the embassy to pickup my passport I met two Dutch bikers planning to follow the same route as I was to India. However they were in much greater hurry as one of them had to finish in India by the end of August.
Together with Wytze, Gerbrant (Dutch bikers I met in Ankara) and Kaptan (local biker) and the bikes at Ankara
Because I had to wait for a week I inquired how long it would take to apply for an Indian visa. When I applied directly it would we ready on the same day as my Iranian visa and valid for 6 month so I applied for it as well. (You don't have to hand over your passport when applying for a visa. When the visa is issued you just hand over your passport and can pick it up a couple of hours later). I also use do these days to do some service on the bike myself at the local BMW dealer.
Staying for 3 more days in Ankara wasn't really worth while so I drove to Cappadocia to spend those couple of days down there. I visited Gorome and drove around through a really amazing landscape and visited also some underground cities which where nicely cool as there was a heat wave down there and my motor clothing wasn't really the best outfit to wear during sightseeing.
After these three days I was able to pickup my Iranian visa but after checking I found out that the visa was only valid for 1 month which was useless for me as I was planning to visit Syria and Jordan first. Also it wasn't what I applied for. After some discussion they extended my visa for one more month which was enough. The next day I got my Indian visa as well and now I had all the visas I needed to India. The only thing was that the Syrian embassy wasn't prepared to issue me a double-entry visa to I had to apply for a new Syrian visa in Amman.
The next day I left Ankara to head down south to reach the Mediterranean shores at Fethye and drove the coastal route eastwards along marvellous winding roads to Antalya. Because the heat wave was giving me a headache when driving too long I had to stop quite often which wasn't any problem at all as there were a lot of ruins to see (although not all that nice and interesting). Another good thing was that most of these ruins were on the shoreline so you could have a swim there as well. After Antalya the road was straight and boring but some parts where very winding, so interesting. On a road into the mountains to Arlanskoy I spend the night sleeping under the stars next to the bike on a deserted unpaved road, as I like to do frequently. In Mersin I checked my email before entering into Syria and don't really know what to expect there. The last night in Turkey I spend on some hills with a marvellous view over a little city (Cevlik). I ended up at the parking of a local spring water bottling company and they had no problem when I spend the night there.
The next day there was only 10 km to the Syrian border but after some unmarked crossings I wasn't sure I was on the right road but a military guard was assuring me I was on the right road. I questioned that when suddenly the pavement ended at a holiday park and a small unpaved road went steep up the hill. I managed to get up the hill and when I was passing a minibus I knew I was on the right route. It definitely wasn't the planned road on the map but it was a fabulous road.
Tartus (16-07-2000) till As'sweida (22-07-2000)
The border wasn't that difficult. The only thing was that they forgot to give me a Turkish visa and the officer wouldn't stamp out my passport when I didn't buy one, even if I was leaving the country. But because it was a multiple entry visa valid for 3 months I had to buy it anyhow once I was returning from Syria I bought the visa.
On the Syrian site of the border there were no real problems as I had my 'Carnet de passage' (a temporary import document) it was just a couple of minutes. Of course they want to get money from you as well. E.g. it's only possible to get a 2-week visa for Syria but for the insurance of the bike it's only possible to get it for 1 month minimal. At least I can use it for the return trip as well.
In Syria I mainly followed the Mediterranean shore with little trips into the mountains to ride along the several castles build by the Crusaders. The most important one was 'Crac des Chaveliers' which was a really well preserved castle and a real joy to stroll around.
Crac des Chevaliers (crusaders castle) in West Syria
From there I went on to Damascus to visit some (former) colleagues who where working on a project there. I spend a couple of days with them and visited the company the machine was standing as well to make some minor adjustments. Because they rented a house it was no problem to stay with them for a couple of days.
After 4 days however I wanted to continue down south to Suweida mainly riding across small and quiet roads.
I spend the night on this stony site at As 'sweida in South Syria
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