Travel Through Turkey on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter Forwood

Turkey on a Harley (31/5/97 - 23/6/97)
Distance 3344 km (72260 km to 75604 km)

This is part of the second section of our around the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map

Coming from  Iran

31/5/97 Border crossing as usual, one hour out, one hour in. Not even a cursory check at Turkish customs but decent search leaving Iran. Both sides requiring four different offices with no signs and no English or directions. It is like this almost every country. 35 km to Dogubeyazit, stopped to look at Mt Ararat (Noah's Ark's mountain) to find six guys dynamiting fish in the local river, a different country from Iran. Well after one month in Pakistan and one month in Iran, we decided to get pissed the first night in Turkey having bought duty free at the border. Same religion just different management of the details of the Koran. Strong beer and two months without alcohol, it didn't take too much to get pissed.

1/6/97 I was awokenAlcohol at the border after a dry Pakistan and Iran at 2 am, noises of broken glass and fighting in the corridor upstairs. Some Iranians, also getting pissed in Turkey, were fighting with some western tourists. Later awoke at 5 am with one of my room mates leaning over my bed throwing up out the second storey window. An interesting re-introduction to alcohol. A slow day just visiting the old palace and enjoying the bread and different foods here.

2/6/97 Headed off at 5 am for Erzurum, the two Enfields moving through Turkey faster than me, we parted company. At 2000m and rising to 2300m, it was incredibly cold with snow still in the pass despite it being June. I knew Europe was cold but this is June! The sheep dogs here (Anatolian Sheep dogs) must be about the most ferocious in the world, racing out to attack motorcycles. Luckily they are in the rural areas where I am moving quickly. An Irish bicyclist I met says he has to dismount and throw rocks to deter them. Erzurum a really nice town, dozens of old buildings back to 1200 AD and all in easy walking distance. Again the food superb and varied although dearer than I have been used to but cheap compared with Europe or Australia.

3/6/97 LeavingMt Ararat today for Yusufeli, first fuel in Turkey, quite a shock after Iran at 4c US a litre the cheapest to the dearest at 70c a litre. Also people here wear coats and long pants and some business men wear ties, banned as western in Iran. Who said the Ayatollah didn't do some good? Only 150 km today along a river through a gorge in desert country then up to an 8th Century church in a mountain village before settling into my hotel right alongside a raging river.

4/6/97 Since arriving in Iran, I have been travelling on the right side of the road, first time since leaving Australia so now my tyres are wearing the other side due to the camber of the road and I should get much greater mileage particularly from the front. Coming out of the desert and down to the Black Sea coast, I now feel as if I have hit Europe. The countryside is lush and green with small farms. West along the coast and back into the mountains to Ayder, a small mountain village in a magnificent setting of pine trees.

5/6/97 What a great feeling this is, to again be lost in a world of European faces, just one of the crowd, not the only one in the crowd. When with theOld stone bridge motorcycle, attracting only genuine interest and appreciation of distance travelled not a freak and the day's entertainment. Trabzon today and some light rain and overcast, it's totally western, still 99% Muslim but not a hint of Iran or Pakistan fundamentalism or repression of women. Young men literally poured into jeans with meat and two veg bulging and women's clothing showing tight coke bottle figures.

6/6/97 A short ride up to Sumela Monastery and National Park, and to Ataturk's Museum. Again drizzling, they tell me this is normal along the Black Sea coast in summer. Prices here substantially higher than elsewhere in Turkey, I guess it is the influx of tourists from the Russian states and the Natashas to satisfy the Turkish holiday makers. At least the Turkish petrol is excellent, despite the cheap Iranian fuel, it's octane rating was lower, not quite high enough for the Harley to purr. This is the first really good petrol since Thailand.

7/6/97 Trabzon to Amasya via Unye and Niksar. I love the Turkish mountain countryside in spring. Everything brilliant green and fresh strawberries and cherries at $US 2 per kg. 600 km of high altitude mountain riding.Joern and Judith, heading towards India It amazes me the number of new mosques being built here. Big mosques. If Turkey follows the west, the people will become more educated, move away from formal religion and leave hundreds of mosques empty as happened to churches in the 70’s and 80’s. Such a waste of money that could be used for greater good elsewhere in the community.

8/6/97 A quick trip up to the rock tombs and the local Ottoman period house before a cold wet ride to Goreme. 300 km again through spring green fields. While Iran had vast stretches of desert between oases, Turkey has massive rolling hills of green. It is easy to see why it is one of the few countries that is a net exporter of agricultural products. The US dollar is again king here as with 100% inflation, the locals like holding $US as a hedge against inflation. I wonder what will happen when the $US goes out of favour. With the billions held throughout the world.

9/6/97 Goreme, met a German biker and his girl friend travelling to India from Germany, been out 7 weeks on a Yamaha 750 Africa Twin. Went forUnusual landscape of Goreme a ride together around the local sites, great to ride with someone for a while instead of being on my own. Goreme has a weird landscape with pinnacle rocks like cone heads. People have carved homes out of the rocks for thousands of years and some are still occupied. Almost each house has a small church inside. This is no small area but thousands of houses in rock cones and caves.

10/6/97 After being out on the booze the night before till 3.30 am watching belly dancers at the local, it was a slow start. Trip to the underground city. When invaded, the people here would move underground along with stock. Some cities were enormous, 12 stories deep with voice tubes between rooms, air shafts and water tanks, with rolling stone wheel door locks to prevent access by invaders.
11/6/97 Another late night saying goodbye to the Germans and different belly dancers, this time with swords. Easy day as the rain has been off and on each afternoon, and I haven't seen many mornings. Good chance to clean the motorcycle with the grime softened by the rain. Showing signs of road use at 74,000 km, needs a couple of days heavy cleaning whenPensione owner on the Turkish carpet I just bought I get to Greece.

12/6/97 No booze last night but rain again today, good chance between showers to do minor maintenance, also bought a Turkish carpet. The Pensione owner bought a carpet for herself for $US 100. There was no way I could buy one at that price so I asked her to buy me one. The one she showed me was dearer and an odd shape so she offered me hers and said she would have the new one which after a few polite refusals, I accepted. It is old, worn but very nice and a great memory of the place.

13/6/97 7am walk with the birds and foxes hunting. Up to see the sunrise and explore some more fairy chimneys and churches. Some houses are 4 levels carved into these stone pillars, each with a small church and usually a stable for the stock. The rest of the day relaxing and packing for an early start.

14/6/97 OffPinnacles of Capadoccia at am for Ihlara, a magnificent gorge cut by a small river with poplar trees and small market gardens. In the walls of the gorge are cut 20 plus churches and homes, some with frescoes still in good condition. The afternoon spent strolling around town watching the efficient recycling of vegetable matter. Cows are kept inside barns and grass collected in the fields on donkeys. The cow is milked and calf eaten while the cow shit is dried and used as fuel for fires or to fertilize the fields. I don't think the cow ever sees daylight.

15/6/97 Ihlara to Konya, early start, and again cold and still raining early, 200 km. A short stop at Sultanhani where the cross Asia silk road caravans have been stopping for centuries. Those camel caravans rested up here with stables, baths and trading on their travels. I realize now that I am at the cross-road of Asia and Europe. Although historically this occurs at the Sea of Marmara to the west, European tourism has effectively moved Europe or its culture and influence east to Konya. Tourists abound. Also the travellers I have been so happy to travel with in Asia are being swamped by tourists or safe travellers (those venturing in European surroundings only). The influence of the motorcycle here is also different, seen as an adventurer, I can negotiate rock bottom accommodation prices just to get me to stay, unlike Asia where I was paying higher prices as a wealthy person would.

16/6/97 Konya to Olimpos on the Mediterranean Sea. Pacific Ocean to Mediterranean complete. Having been cold for the last month travelling the plateaux of Turkey and Iran, to ride out of the Quartz Mountains near Antalya and onto the seaside, hot (supposedly 44 C) was a bit of a shock. Also the peak summer season with all its traffic and hype is a bit of a culture shock after Asia. To ride from the empty plateau to the crowded coast. Kadirs Tree House Hotel is as unusual as the people who frequent it. Spartan cabins or platforms without mattresses with dinner, bed & breakfast starting at $US 5, ensures full capacity of backpackers, but Europe only. Of 100, I am the only Tree house accommodation person from or going to central Asia. Again the cultural shock of Europe backpackers compared with Asia backpackers needs digesting. Just the sheer numbers is daunting.

17/6/97 Stroll down to the beach, well Australians wouldn't call it a beach, no surf and pebbles, good temperature water, boats at anchor and limestone cliffs. A wander through the overgrown Olimpos ruins, felt like Indiana Jones smashing my way to the lost city. Back to an even more packed Tree House. European sweat shop workers, room and food in exchange for eight hours work a day, i.e. $US 5 a day or 62c an hour. This is the situation everywhere along the coast. Backpackers fight each other to work here though, as do the sweat shop workers in Asia who also work for little more than subsistence wages.

18/6/97 Two days was plenty, of European holiday backpackers out to enjoy life, for me, onto Fethiye. A nice coastal road with ocean views most of the way and little traffic. The only problem is that it is made with limestone gravel which wears smooth and must be hell in the wet. I lost the rearGetting a mud bath end while overtaking (accelerating) on a curve, narrowly missing coming down. Barren mountains with olive trees everywhere. A couple of hours in Saklikent Gorge, the highest and narrowest I have seen. Walking up the small river you lose the sun into almost total darkness as the walls of the gorge narrow. At Fethiye, I have moved from backpackers to packaged tourists. People's figures are bigger, fatter, gone are the slim figures of Asians and the slim backpackers. Up go the prices, everything double at least of eastern Turkey and walking down the street in my torn but clean jeans, I am not hassled by anyone selling things or urging me in to dinner. What a change to move from being a filthy rich money tree in Asia to being poorer in touristy Turkey without changing a smidgen. All in the perception of the sellers.

19/6/97 Continuing on around the coast to Dalyan, not far, after a quick trip to a deserted town. Same again, packaged tourists, the dress-for-dinner crowd, where people are boring shits, life revolves around Neighbours and football, the pub and cups of tea. What is worse is those petty people are so condescending to the Turks. No meaningful, in depth or interesting conversation here, same back home. I hope again to glimpse the real Turkey before leaving next week.

20/6/97 Caught one of the hundreds of boats for a day trip to a cave, beach, ruins and sulphur hot springs. All these attractions are within 4 or 5 kilometres of each other, no wonder there are heaps of tourists. Very pleasant day but like most European tourists, the topless turned from white pointers to bronzed whalers as the day progressed and we all got a bit much sun.

21/6/97 Enough, enough of tourists, vowing only to travel the fringe season, which I am told this is - well maybe the fringe, fringe. Off to Selchuk near the great ruins of Ephesus. About half way, I noticed an unusual noise in the engine, different from the slowly getting louder rattle that had caused me concern. The knocking seemed a bit on and off and with the bike running hot with the weather at 40 C and me ready to get home, I thought a boat trip from Kusadasi to Athens might be in order.Ephesus

22/6/97 Cannot come all this way and miss Ephesus, so a day trip in the scorching heat to yet another ruin. I really am getting jaded, time to get home. Visit to the museum, wander around town. Found the storks nesting on a pillar more interesting than the ruins or the museum and booked my boat cruise to Samos.

23/6/97 The shortest ferry crossing between countries that I am likely to do for a while, 3 km at the nearest point although the ferry does considerably more, port to port. Just a small boat, three cars and a couple of hundred passengers. Quick customs both out of Turkey and into Greece.

Move with me to Greece or go to our next visit to Turkey




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