This is part of the twelfth section of our around the
Complete Trip Overview & Map
Coming from Turkey
19/11/06 Six months ago a chance encounter with a Norwegian couple in Madagascar brought us here today. They travel to unusual destinations of the world, doing extensive research whilst at home and suggested it might be possible to enter Iraq from the Turkish, Kurdish region to the Iraqi, Kurdish region, considered to currently be the safest area in Iraq. On their return home they emailed us the exploits of Tony Wheeler, Lonely Planet fame, who last April crossed the same border in a local car with a guide. I had virtually been laughed out of the Iraqi Embassy in Teheran when I asked for a visa last year and had not thought it of any advantage to try to obtain one in Ankara whilst we were there last week, so we were arriving without any permission to enter. A few nights ago we had discussions in our hotel room whether we would compromise our no payment of bribe policy if it was critical in gaining entry to Iraq. We decided with difficulty that we did not want to compromise that stance and if necessary would have to return to Iraq when things there became more settled. A military person at the modern but smaller border post greeted us, checked our passports and directed us inside the building. Here our passports were thoroughly examined, passed around to what we presumed to be different security officers, and we were observed closely. A welcoming glass of tea was being offered to the few people crossing by car and we welcomed the warm drink and the friendly gesture. After about twenty minutes we were handed back our passports and asked where we were intending to visit in Iraq. Just the Kurdish area was our reply and a wry smile formed on the officer's face along with the comment to have a pleasant trip. Our passports had been stamped Republic of Iraq, Kurdistan Region, Executor Ibrahim Khalil, with a note to contact the Residence office within ten days. There was not even the hint of a request for money. Customs was equally efficient. The Carnet was produced, the motorcycle's engine and chassis numbers inspected, a form filled out and we were riding in Iraq, just two hours since arriving at the Turkish border. Unfortunately we were not allowed to enjoy our good fortune as we were now heading into the same storm that had been bothering us all day. With only an hour till dark and the same to our destination in Dohuk it started to rain, became heavier and with the cold my glasses fogged up and riding became slow and dangerous. We had little choice but to press on, taking the first hotel we spotted, a three star, Sindbad Hotel, on the main road skirting Dohuk.
20/11/06 The hotel was $US 40.00 a night with breakfast and could be paid for in Turkish Lira or Iraqi Dinars. We are it's only guests. Built when businessmen and foreign military were more prevalent immediately after the war it already looks a bit tired with no maintenance. The electricity goes on and off every couple of hours on regular power sharing as we become overheated and cooled as the heater goes on and off also. This area of Iraq has seen little of the problems further south even though it is only 70 km north of Mosul. It is this current window of time that we like to visit places where problems have previously existed. Immediately after a conflict, NGO's and the military push up local prices and occupy hotels to do their work. There is usually then a lull before an influx of tourists arrive and local hospitality is reduced. The friendly staff taxied us to town to change money and we wandered about our neighbourhood in late afternoon sunshine.
21/11/06 Amadiya, a town set upon a small plateau seventy km's from Dohuk was our out and back ride for today. We were initially surprised how little attention or interest the motorcycle drew as we passed until we reflected that the people here, like many others in similar situations, have learnt to let the unusual pass and not to become involved. Where just across the Turkish border people would gather when we stopped, here there is a distant interest, a polite friendliness. The old road winds through low mountains with small towns. The usual concrete buildings, ubiquitous also in Turkey, flat roofs and of little architectural beauty, fill each village. Development money is creating a four lane road out of Dohuk and an improvement to the electrical grid in the region. Military and police are prevalent, a couple of roadblocks, but we were not stopped. We had seen the occasional military person, rifle over the shoulder, patrolling the roadside and when we stopped alongside a small river for a bit of a sunshine rest two more soldiers strolled past. Petrol is sold officially, but with lines, for about $US 0.20 cents a litre, or privately from drums at about twice the price. This region also has a small population of Christians. The lady serving us at the local market and a man at a small restaurant introduced themselves as being Christians. Many women are seen out and about, many without a headscarf, and some younger women are western dressed although older women were more traditionally covered. Alcohol can also be purchased in a few shops. We returned to the same hotel, now with a couple more guests.
22/11/06 The weather has been mild the last couple of days and rather than pushing our luck we thought it better to return to Turkey and head over towards Iran. The ride out was much nicer in sunshine than the rain we arrived in and the border crossing out of Iraq only took 30 minutes.
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