October 04, 2006 GMT
Turkey - part 1

At the border it is quite hilarious, we pass through Greek immigration who want to know where our Greece stamp is, we don't have one we arrived at 4.30 in the morning and couldn't find anyone to stamp our passports. "OK" and stamp stamp stamp, off we go, past the Greek and Turkish guards dressed in traditional dress.

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Arrive at the Turkish border, stop, check passport, "You must go and get visa over there" Ok so off I go, Skill stays with the bike while I chat to the visa guys. Success back to border control, stamp, stamp, stamp.

OK next we need to change money which I do at the bank, and chat to a lovely young man who helps me out and wants to know all about the bike.

Next it was onto another border control, who needed to view our passports, the carnet, license, registration and something else, I can't remember. Being able to produce these documents pleased them no end, but of course we need to purchase green card insurance so off Skill goes, I wait with the bike, and wait and wait. When he returns he informs me he has been drinking tea and chatting.

Ok stamp,stamp, stamp, and off we go, freedom we think, but no there is one more border control. We wait for ten minutes for him to get off the phone, then "Papers". I climb off again and show him the papers that his mate 10 metres away has just stamped. All is cool and he says "Welcome to Turkey" Yay we are free.

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In fairness it did only take an hour so that was good going.

The ride to Istanbul is horrendous, not because of the traffic or because of signage or anything like that, it really is blowing a gale, the wind is just buffeting us from all directions, Skill really struggles to keep it all together.

We stop for fuel and lunch, local cuisine, somehow I end up with fantastic food,(kofte) and Skill scores liver, which he nearly gags on. I share mine and we are on our way again. The wind does not give up and on the entrance to the freeway grassfires are out of control, this is not a good combination but we do survive. Our plan for getting into Istanbul, well we don't have one. I vaguely suggest that if we head to the airport I might recognise the roads from when I visited 4 years ago.

We get to the airport roundabout and I am not sure, talk to the guy in the car next to us, Sultanahmet I ask, he points to the exit and then as we get onto the roundabout he motions that we should follow him. Next roundabout same deal I ask a taxi driver "Sultanahmet" same response follow me. And then unbelievably I do recognise where we are and in we go. As we are riding along people are yelling out "Aussie", high fiving us and beeping their horns. At first we wonder what the hell is going on but then figure out it is a "Welcome to Istanbul".

We can't take the left hand turn we want so over the Bosphorus to Beygolu, a big blockie and back into the Sultanahmet. I make Skill park the bike while I look for the hotel, which I find less then 100m away but we cannot get to it because of all the one way streets. OK back over the Bosphorus big blockie, and into the Sultanahmet. Finally success we get to the hotel nearly an hour after I first find it.

Unpack, of course the Turkish are so friendly, they help us unpack the bike, find a park and take all the gear up to our room, a little different to the Thessoloniki Hotel, where I was ignored. I must say we are pretty happy to be in Turkey and Skill can not believe how friendly the people are.

The first night I have a great time giving Skill a quick tour of the sights and we head down to the back packer quarter where we have dinner. Istanbul is the most magical city and we spend till late wandering the streets.

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Next morning off to breakfast where I befriend "Sergai" the hotel alley cat. The waiter tells us "His name is Sergai, he very lazy cat, every morning at window till 10.00 o'clock (which incidentally is the finish of breakfast) then he sleep all day"

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We spend the first day trying to organise our Iranian Visa. Off to the Iranian Consulate, talk to the armed guard in front of the big black door who talks to the man behind the big black door and we are let in. I ask if I should wear a scarf, "No, no problem" is the response. Because the embassy closes at 11.00 am they give us the forms and instructions and tell us to come back tomorrow.

Ok now it is off to retrieve our mail that my sister has sent Poste Restante. The Post Office is two blocks away and all is going well until they tell us that the bigger parcel is out at Taksim and we must go there to collect it. When we ask them how to get there they shake their heads, pour over our Istanbul map and say we must go to Topkapi tram stop. Alrighty onto the tram and out to Topkapi (we are now in the boon docks), after asking countless people we arrive at the Post Office an hour later but they are shut for lunch, OK off to a risky looking café, have lunch and back to the Post Office. Are redirected to four different counters, sign four different pieces of paper in triplicate and finally we have our parcel, Yay. It was worth it, I now have vegemite again. (Thanks Schell)

The afternoon we spend wandering the streets before heading up to the Orient Hostel Bar for a beer or two. I think this is the best view in town.

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Next day it off to the Iranian Embassy again where we put in our applications and pay our 100 Euro. Patience is definitely a virtue in these circumstances. The final straw comes when we hand over all our documents in a zip lock bag and he informs us "you need two plastic". I am gobsmacked, he just made that up, no one else including the other Westerners in the place have presented their documents in a plastic bag. Skill informs him "one plastic". AHHHHHHHHH

Skill goes off to the Aya Sofya while I do the washing

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and in the afternoon we head to the Cistern for a look.

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And then it is off to the Orient for a few more beers. Chatting away to the bar guy when 4 young Aussie backpackers walk in. We have a bit of a giggle as they try to order Rump Steak. I turn around and laughingly say "It's not going to happen guys."

The young girl responds by saying "What's your name"
Me "Alanna Skillington".
Young Girl "Oh my God, your'e Mrs Skilly. You taught Shaun and I in Preschool 19 years ago, I'm Telan Wade"
Me "#%$^ you make me feel old"

Anyway needless to say we had a late night and many beers enjoying their company. Unbelievable. What are the chances of meeting young kids you taught two decades ago (in a little town with a population of less than 20 000) in a bar in Istanbul.

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Our next two days are spent visiting the Spice Bazaar,

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Blue Mosque,

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The Hippodrome.

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On our last evening we brave the Grand Bazaar, before heading off to the Blue Mosque light show.

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Next day we leave Istanbul very easily following the coast road for the ride to Ecebat. A nice days ride although it is still windy. We arrive in Ecebat and find TJs new hostel at the Hotel Ecebat. He has parking for us not in the foyer but beside the foyer in a lockable area. Clean room which is good, reasonably priced. Book our Gallipoli tour and up to the bar for a beer. Meet two kiwis so we spend the night talking to them, BBQ tea and bed. The view from our window...

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Next morning Skill checks his emails. We discover that a HU overlander called Marcus is in town bunking down at the Boomerang Bar. Skill responds and we head off on our tour.

There are so many thing one could say about Gallipoli but it is difficult to find the right words to describe the way you feel when you are there. I guess that is why so many Aussies, Kiwis and Turks make the pilgrimage.

Simpson's Grave

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Anzac Cove

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Anzac Beach and Sphinx

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Lone Pine

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The Trenches

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The Turkish Memorial

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When we get back to Ecebat we head to the incredibly dodgy Boomerang Bar, but Marcus is not there so we have a few beers and meet Marsut the owner. I cannot believe it but the boomerang we gave to him four years ago is still behind the bar.

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Eventually Marcus turns up, what a great guy, travelling the same route as us on his BMW R100 GS he bought in Germany.

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Well you can guess what happened, late night, lots of beers and no food, although Skill and I managed a plate of casserole at 11.30.

Next day we are off to Bergama and Marcus decides he will tag along, which is great,

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we ride a pretty ordinary highway before taking some scenic back roads. Just before Bergama we are pulled over by the Jandarma who think we are German, "No we are Aussies", they check our papers and bid us a very friendly goodbye. We arrive in Bergama where I find the Athena Pension and our good mate Aydin who does remember me. (Kath one of my travelling companions of four years ago had been back the previous year to visit him)

Aydin lets us park the bikes in his newly acquired house and garden. Locked up tight.

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We have a lazy afternoon with Marcus drinking beer at a local café before heading back to Aydin's kitchen where Marcus cooks for us all. (Including Aydin)

Next day Skill and I head up to the ruins of Pergamum through the hole in the fence following the blue dots.

A very hot day but stunning all the same. We spend the day wandering around the ruins, eat our picnic lunch under a fig tree, and have figs for dessert. When travelling like we are sometimes you have to pinch yourself and say "Oh my God look at where we are, sitting in a ruin that is more than 2000 years old eating fresh figs. It doesn't get a whole lot better than this."

The ruins of Pergamum are in my opinion wonderful as you can wander at your leisure all over them with no guides, touts or other tourists to hassle you. There are even archeological digs in progress but with no one around.

The Temple of Trajan

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10000 seat Theatre

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We spend the afternoon back at the Pension with Marcus and Aydin, leftovers for dinner, beer and bed.

Next day we say goodbye to Marcus as he has word that his Iranian visa is approved and he needs to pick it up in Ankara.

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It is market day in Bergama so Skill and I are off to the markets, what a visual feast. We buy our fresh fruit and veges, and chicken for tea.

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When we get back to the Pension Aydin takes us for a ride (him on his scooter, us on the bike) out to Allianoi the ancient Roman Spa Town complete with hot spa baths.

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Sadly all this is going to be flooded by the Yortanli Dam which is nearing completion. We feel very sad for Aydin as he feels so passionately attached to this amazing historic site. To us it is almost unbelievable that you could flood and ancient working ruin like this.

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From here we are off to a local fish farm tucked away in the mountains, fed by a mountain stream. Fresh trout and salad for lunch. Absolutely sensational.

On the way back to Bergama, Aydin's scooter dies so we have to toe him through Turkish traffic to the Honda shop. Skill says to me "I can't believe I'm doing this, do you know how dangerous this is", as the trucks and dolmuses blast past us.

We arrive at the Honda shop in one piece, they fix Aydin's drive belt and we head back to the Pension where Skill and I cook a chicken casserole for dinner. Aydin's mum joins us and she adds the fresh corn she has cooked to the feast. Aydin shares a bottle of white wine and all is good in the world. The four of us share a great meal.

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We are hesitant to leave Bergama but make the short ride to ANZ Pension at Selcuk. A wonderful spot with lovely people running it. A Turkish family who lived in Australia for 12 years own it. Once again they offer us parking in the central reception area but we feel the bike is safe parked on the quiet street and we can see it from our room.

Next day it is off to Ephesus where we spend most of the day. Ancient Ephesus was a great trading city and centre for the cult of Cybele, an Anotolian fetlility goddess. Over time Cybele became Artemis and a huge temple was built in her honour (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world) When the Romans took over, Artemis became Diana and Ephesus became the Asian Roman Capital. The origins of Ephesus date from around 600 BC.

The Library

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Curetes Way

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Loos with a view

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Harbour Street

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In the afternoon we visit the remains of "The Temple of Artemis" not very much is left, only a few pillars. In this photo you can also see the Basilica of St John on the hill. (Beside the pillar) St John is believed to have come to Ephesus in his old age to write his gospel. He is meant to be buried in a tomb beneath the church.

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We also visit the Museum which houses the most amazing artifacts.

From Ephesus we have a long days ride out to the ruins of Afrodisas.

Most of Afrodisias dates from the 1st Century AD. The name is derived from the Greek for the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite called Venus by the Romans.

The Tetrapylon (Monumental Gateway)

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270m long stadium

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The beautiful marble bouleuterion

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And then it was down to Lake Koycegiz, we are weighing up our Pension options when Skill says, "Where did you stay last time?" To which I answer "I don't want to be boring, maybe we should go to Dalyan".

Skill says "I've had enough for the day lets just head to the Tango Pension". Alright, in we ride get off the bike and go inside to negotiate a room. When I come back out Skill is chatting to two other people. Unbelievably it is Belinda and Patrick Peck from Cairns. (Also HU members) Two Qld registered motorcycles at Lake Koycegiz???????? But wait it is stranger than that. On the previous night their friends who live one block away from them in Cairns also turned up at the Pension. They had no idea that they were coming to Turkey and certainly no idea they would be at the Pension. What are the chances of that happening?

So it is 7 loud and excited Aussies that drink cocktails "Sex on the Beach" and beer before heading out to dinner, what a great night and what lovely people.

Next day Grant, Susan and Liz are off on a sea kayaking trip while Patrick and Belinda are off to Fethiye. Skill and I go off on a boat trip on the Lake, to Dalyan and Turtle Beach. A lovely day but storms all around.

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Next day we head off to Fethiye and arrive at the Pension where we think Belinda and Patrick are, get a text message from them, they are still in Dalyan so head back there and join them. Can't find the hotel in Dalyan so ask some construction workers who get on their scooter and show us the way.

We spend a lovely evening wandering around Dalyan, tea looking out over the Lake up to the Lycain Tombs. Hard to find a better location.

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Next morning there are storms all around, decide to stay in bed. About 1.00pm after group discussion we make the break and ride to Fethiye, in hindsight not a good idea. About five kilometres outside the town it just buckets down, Belinda and Patrick are in front and pull into a servo to wait for us and have their first fall of the trip because the servo has so much diesel on the smooth concrete driveway. They are OK and the bike is fine. We make the rest of the ride into Fethiye through flooding rain.

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After we try four different hotels we end up in an OK hotel with beautiful views of the harbour.

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Dinner/Lunch then out for a walk around the town, Belinda wants a massage for her sore neck (from the fall) so we get two back/neck massages for 12 lira. We had to protect our honour as they also want to give us a boob massage as well. "No my husband, he will not like"

Then back to the hotel for a few room drinks. Got into trouble for being too noisy again.

Next day beautiful sunshine so after brekky we pack up

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and head to Sakilkent Gorge where we walk up the gorge for a short way. Because of the flooding rains the water is quite dirty.

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A lovely trout lunch before heading to Patara where we score an amazing Pension for 30 lira a night.

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And probably one of the best dinners we have had in Turkey home cooked by the ladies of the house.

Next day is my birthday, Skill goes to phone the Iranian Embassy. D DAY for visas. Yee ha, they have approved out visa. To celebrate we walk to the beach and spend most of our day there before it is back to the Pension for lunch and then a wine and nibbly sunset before a sumptuous dinner.

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A pretty idyllic birthday. And a big thanks to Patrick and Belinda who changed their plans and spent the day with us. It was great to have some Aussie company for my birthday, I really appreciated it.

Thanks to everyone who called and sent text messages. Even got a little bit homesick.

Tomorrow we have a long ride to Ankara so,

Cheers and Beers for now

Quote for the Week:
"Don't tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have travelled" Mohammed

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Posted by John Skillington at October 04, 2006 04:46 PM GMT
 
 

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