July 16, 2000 GMT
Turkey - 1

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.

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.

Posted by Martin Rooiman at 03:04 AM GMT
August 24, 2000 GMT
Turkey - 2

Erzin (14-08-2000) till Dogubayazit (24-08-2000)

My goal was Adana where my father had sent a small package to the TNT office containing the palmtop. I had asked around for any address to send this package to, but the Dutch embassy and the AMEX-office both said they refused it 'for security reasons' and private persons refused to give their address as soon they heard there were electronic parts inside the package. Turkey customs would ask then for additional payments. So sending it to the TNT-office was the only solution left.

But I couldn't make it to Adana today and I parked along an orchard of orange-trees. The owner visited me and said it was dangerous to stay here as they were hunting around. But one of the hunters was with him and so knew I was here so I wasn't really worried. Also it was already getting dark and I didn't want to look for a different place.

I was not even 5 minutes inside my sleeping bag when a police van appeared and 6 armed men demanded that I pack my things. I wasn't really impressed (more pissed off that they didn't leave me alone) and started to pack my bike under everyone's full attention. Both my baggage rolls went into the police van and I had to follow the van to the police station. There they checked my passport and after a brief lecture I was 'free' to leave and had a free police escort back to the highway. There I drove a little bit further and parked (and slept) along an orchard as well without any problem. In fact, the next morning someone came by and switched on the pump, which pumped up groundwater to irrigate the field so I had a great opportunity to clean the bike and myself.

Then on to Adana where I found the TNT-office after asking a few times. I entered the office fully ready to battle with Turkish customs but was really surprised when they told me my package was already waiting in their office for a couple of days. Everything went through customs without the slightest problem. According to the office manager it was because his name was mentioned on the papers but I didn't care at all. Finally, after 2.5 months, I had my palmtop back. I could even use their computer to write an email to my father that I received the package.

I drove on to Mersin to visit the Internet caf?where I copied some files from floppy disk to the palmtop. Because I didn't want to travel that day anymore I went to a garage trying to repair my GPS-antenna. I had found out that there was a broken copper track on the PCB in the antenna, which I wanted to fix by soldering a piece of wire to bypass it. They indeed had a soldering iron and I managed to fix the wire. Immediately I went outside to see if my GPS was picking up any satellites now and... indeed it did. It worked out perfectly well! Carefully I glued back together the antenna and was in a very good mood: Today I got my palmtop back and repaired my GPS.

The rest of the afternoon I went into the mountains north of Mersin and reorganised the emails on my palmtop (and reread them). I needed also most of the next day to sort out all the emails, which I did at a teahouse in a small mountain village. I was sitting on a terrace drinking a cup of tea occasionally, a really pleasant relaxed atmosphere. In the late afternoon I went back to the Internet café to copy the resting emails but when I saved the file I got an error message in Turkish and got the owner who 'solved' the problem by exiting without saving. I was furious: 2 hours work had gone. She also realised her mistake and disappeared. As did I without paying.

The next morning I went back and repeated all again and had everything done in an hour. So I went back to Adana and visited the BMW-dealer along the road. They were very friendly but hadn't any motorbike spare parts on stock (I needed only some unimportant parts). I also wanted to take 5 litres of motor oil with me so I could exchange the motor oil somewhere in Pakistan or India, as high grade motorbike oil was impossible to get there. They had a 5 litre jerry can but it didn't fit into my tank bag. So they gave me the address of a hypermarket in Adana where I also could buy oil for a motorbike as well as a jerry can. And indeed they had the required motor oil but only in 1 litre packs.

Single jerry cans weren't sold so I bought a 5 litre jerry can 'Anti freeze', drained the contents in the toilet and replaced it, at the parking, by the bottles of motor oil. I also bought a new pump, to replace the one which was fatally damaged in Wadi Rum by sand, but the gauge wasn't displaying the right pressure. Replacing the pump for another one didn't bring any improvement. So I ended up throwing away the defective pump and kept its gauge. And after replacing my front brake pads I finally I was ready to head for Iran.

Martin Rooiman in Turkey.

Martin Rooiman in Turkey

But first I had to go through Turkey for some days. Taking small roads doesn't really help to cover the distance fast but the scenery is much more breathtaking. I headed for Mount Nemrut and hope to drive some off-road. The road to the mountain was really nice but all paved. Not the best pavement but paved. It's necessary while all the minibuses are going up the mountain twice a day, for sunrise and sunset. The next day I wanted to drive around the mountain on secondary roads. I stopped in the first village I passed to buy a replacement for a lost lock and was offered some tea. When they found out where I intended to go to they told me it was a very bad road; I'd better drive back. But when they found out I liked off-road driving they advised me another route straight through the mountains. This really sounded great to me so I headed to the explained directions and ended up in a small village.

No, this was not the right track but a car coming from the opposite direction would send me up the right track which was a small track climbing steep up the mountain, but not after he made sure I had enough fuel with me. The track was quite full with stones so I had to climb in first gear mainly but made it to the top. The following descent was more difficult: even in first gear I went to fast and had to brake. I couldn't use my rear brake as I kept my feet close to the ground to control the sliding over the loose stones. So I used the front brake and once I slipped away completely and the bike felt on its right side: breaking its front blinker and its cylinder protector and bending its mirror and aluminum suitcase. I put the bike upright and put the broken pieces into my pocket. The rest was a piece of cake compared to the first hilltop and after 52 km. I reached Pütürge and the tarmac. In Maden I passed a military control post and found a place to spend the night on a track into the mountains.

At 23.30 hours, while I was sleeping a car showed up and stopped. The driver shouted at me and I totally ignored him hoping he would leave. But not this guy, his shouting was getting louder and he moved the car so that its headlights were pointed at me. When he started to use his cellphone I decided to 'wake up' and this made him even madder and his two sons had difficulties to keep him into control.

As soon as he found out I was a tourist from Holland he cooled down a bit but still I had to move so I started packing the bike under his full attention. I had to follow him for a place to sleep and we ended up in a little village where about 20 people awaited us. They all looked at the bike and we had some tea. Some local militaries showed up and needed to see my passport. No, I couldn't spend the night here but I had to follow them.

They drove back to Maden where we didn't go to a hotel but to a police station. There they had to see my passport again and I had to explain what I was doing there. Eeeehhhh, nowaaa, not very much, only sleeping. Why I was lost far away from the main roads. So I told them my story. They said it was a dangerous area, why they wouldn't tell me. Has the PKK something to do with it? That was a wrong thing to ask because suddenly I had to answer all kind of questions. After an hour (02.30 am meanwhile) I 'was a free man' although I never felt myself arrested and could go. I wanted to sleep so I asked if I could stay at the police station, which was impossible. Where should I go then? Tjsa, eehh... go back to the same place. Then I really didn't understand it anymore. I didn't care either so I drove back and saw the car that brought me to the police station. They asked me what I was doing and invited me to spend the night at their house.

There we played some cards, drunk tea, and went to sleep at 4 am.. We couldn't sleep long the next morning as the people from the village saw my bike parked outside and started knocking on the door. They arranged a huge breakfast but only men were joining. After playing some cards I decided to leave and left the village leaving behind a lot of people waving. Only after a couple of kilometers I had to stop at a military checkpoint where I had show my passport. As soon as my name was mentioned over the radio I could continue as they remembered my name from last night.

The first part was over local roads, very nice to drive on but I wanted to get to Iran now so I had to make kilometres and took the main road towards lake Van. I had learned from last night, took no risk and slept at a petrol station and continued the next day and reached Dogubayazit, the last village before the Iranian border and stayed there at a campground where there were also two German bikers coming from Iran.

They had a five week holiday and had their bikes shipped to Pakistan, flew in and drove around in Pakistan for three weeks, went in four days through Iran (so hadn't seen anything and they still had one week to cross Turkey before the ferry took them to Venice. It's a way seeing some of the world but I'm glad I've got some more time.

The next morning we had breakfast together and they left. I had a shower and it was really warm water; wonderful! I realised that I had to do some laundry as well and decided to stay another day. Went to the supermarket and spend my last Turkish money and met an American who wanted to go to Iran as well but a visa was refused at three different Iranian embassies, so he had to fly to Pakistan now.

Posted by Martin Rooiman at 03:04 AM GMT

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