March 26, 2008 GMT
No.8. Turkey...and Greece.

ASIA. I'd finally made it. I rolled off the ferry at Bandirma, found the main road heading south and did just that.

Hot and dusty. Just what you'd expect the Dusty Highway to be. Barren land for mile after mile. Maybe I should have taken my time and gone along the coast road. It's just that I'd had an idea I could be celebrating my birthday on Rhodes with my sister and her family. Looking over the map on a Petrol station forecourt I realised that if I got beyond Izmir that night, got a very early start I could just make the 9.00am ferry from Marmaris to Rhodes. HA! I could be enjoying my first glass of Ouzo by lunchtime! I apologised to the Turkish Tourist Board and got my head down....

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The sun was already low as I rode around Izmir and, as darkness fell, I pulled off the highway at Tombali which looked promising for an overnight stop. Nope. Turned out later to translate as ‘Never had an hotel – never will have.’

'Avoid riding in the dark at all costs'. I’d read somewhere. Hmmm. Too late. I rode cautiously west along the old road to Selcuk expecting to ride into the back of an unlit truck or be pulled off the bike by packs of marauding dogs. Or riding into the back of an unlit dog for that matter. Nothing happened and I managed to find myself a room. Over a dinner of stuffed peppers and rice in a cobbled square I read that that the Rhodes ferry sailed every day except Sunday. Tomorrow was Sunday. Whatever. The Lonely Planet had been wrong before.

5.00a.m. Still dark. Still cold. I retraced my steps to the highway and accelerated up the slip road as the sun broke the horizon. A beautiful, unforgettable moment - and double points because it was my birthday.

8.00a.m. 50kms to go. Three hours of breathtaking scenery and I was going to make it. I plunged into the outskirts of sleeping Marmaris. I raced through the town desperate for 'Ferry' signs. Nothing. The sea front. Left or right?? just a marina. Back. 8.45. Go! Go! GO! YES. The ticket office. Still closed but I'd experienced that before. They'll wait till the ferry is right here, mooring up...
Any biker who's raced for a ferry will know the sensation of a fizzing brain. Mine fizzed.
'Are you for ferry?' I looked up, shading my eyes. The voice came from the first floor. A man in his dressing gown.
'Yes!' I said, pulling out my paper work, relieved.
'Tuesday. Car ferry is once a week - on Tuesday.
I leaned forward resting my head on the dials.

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Over tea he went through the options.

A.Wait in Marmaris till Tuesday or B. Head back up the coast to Bodrum, take the ferry to Kos then on to Rhodes. Later in the trip I would have been more relaxed with this choice and would have simply found a campsite and fallen asleep lounging around until the Tuesday ferry turned up. But these were still early days and the gritty biker in me opted to get back out on the road.

Later that day in Bodrum, sipping a cocktail in a beach bar – alone and feeling sorry for myself, I’d rung my girlfriend Celia, and we’d made plans to meet up the following week in Fethiye, southern Turkey. My spirits lifted.

I argued my way out of Turkey and into Greece (insurance documents that weren’t green) and finally rode down off the ferry into the heat of Rhodes port. This felt so good. I’d flown to Rhodes a few times with my wife Julie – great cheap package holidays - but there was something about riding all the way here….

An hour later I pulled up outside the portals of Hotel Bacchus and was tugged from my bike by a manic nephew and niece.
‘Uncle Simon! Uncle SIMON! You’ve got to come and see the pool!...our room!…the beach!…everything!
I was surreptitiously fitted out with an ‘All inclusive’ wrist band and was led, at speed, to the restaurant and bar.

I ate, drank and was merry till the early hours in an atmosphere that made me think of a land locked cross-channel ferry. Sunburned Brits shouted at waiters ‘More drinks,mate!’. The same sunburned Brits shouted at their kids who raced around with wide Cola-charged eyes. The kids shouted at each other.
“Shouldn’t you be in bed?’ I asked, naively, pointing at my watch.
‘Nah! We’re on HOLIDAAAAY!’.

I spent the following day being pulled in all directions by fizzy drink-fuelled kids, buried alive and forced to ride an inflatable banana, while their parents lounged on sunbeds, chatting and drinking ‘inclusive' beer.

Stuffed with an ‘inclusive’ dinner, we made our way to one of the bars. By midnight I was ‘getting on well with Christine, an attractive woman from Cheltenham, when she was suddenly pulled from her bar stool by her three tired young children. I thought back to Devonshire holidays when I’d been allowed to join my parents in the evening for a milk shake – if I was lucky. ‘Seen not heard’. That’s what I say.

‘Uncle Simon, your dancing is really sad, ’ quipped Saffron, my niece. Time for bed.


‘Uncle Simon? UNCLE SIMON! Are you awake yet? When are you going, cos we want to go to the beach?’
I’d fallen asleep fully clothed and somehow got my tongue stuck to the floor – or that’s what it felt like. An hour later, I peeled the last small boy off the loaded bike, kissed the girls, shook mens’ hands manfully and set off. Heather and co were leaving the following day so I’d decide to find myself a shady beach-side campsite for a few days before getting back on the trail.

‘There are no campsites on Rhodes, sir’ said the pretty girl at the Lindos tourist information.
I must have stood there open-mouthed because she repeated it again as if to say ‘We no longer want your kind on our island’.
Right. Got the message. Back to the bloody port and run the gauntlet back to Bodrum because ‘The car ferry to Marmaris is…’
‘Only once a week’, I butted in. ’I know. Kos then Bodrum it is then.’

Tickets bought. Ferry boarded. Rhodes faded into the twylight as we steamed east again.

Posted by Simon Roberts at March 26, 2008 04:43 PM GMT

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