Candover Valley UK to Euphrates Valley Turkey - Updated with pictures.

Drumacoon Lad.

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Oct 6, 2008
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Central Basingstoke, Hampshire, England
This is the tidied up version of the ride report below, which was done en route.

PLAN(from the original thread)

“Adventure is just bad planning.” Roald Amundsen

Aiming to take 4 days to get to Istanbul and then go down to Cappadicia, along to Gaziantep and over to the Euphrates. Then to Antakya(Antioch) and spend about week following the south and west coast back to Gallipoli and through Greece to pick up a ferry from Igoumenitsa to Venice and home.


Distance – 5866 Miles (9,440 Km)
Time - 20 Days
Average Speed - 55.3
Average MPG - 50.4
Total fuel - 116.4 Gallons (529 Litres)

The bike on the drive pointing towards the road.

As many of you know I have usually travelled in a group or recently with a partner so this solo ride is a bit different. I fancied trying a trip on my own this year, maybe just to see if I could do it, and how different it would feel. The point was emphasised by EuroTunnel as I was the only bike on the train, the only vehicle in the last carrage. It was a quiet crossing.... It got even quieter as I hit the road in France and fancied a bit of music. After a few tracks the autocom blared a loud tone and I had to unplug the helmet. I’m quite familiar with the route from Calais to Mainz as I worked in Mainz for some time, about 15 years ago, and would drive back and forward from the UK. I even know that the speed camera on the approach to Brussels is exactly 42Km west of the Brussels Ring road. I filled up with petrol as I left the Chunnel hoping to arrive with only 2 further petrol stops. The traffic was fine and not too many trucks, as trucks are banned from German Autobahns on Sunday and it has an effect on the adjoining countries. Happly the Brussels ring was flowing smoothly as this can be a cause of delay on this trip. There is usually one or two strange manouvers by drivers as I pass through Belgium and this was no different. This time it was a Fiat which overtook me on the inside while going up a steep hill near Liege, I was doing about 80MPH! I have to admit to a little caution with Belgian drivers. I think this comes from the time I used to commute into London, with a colleague. Any time he would see a Belgian car he would become quite anxious and keep put of it’s way, stating, “They were one of the last countries to bring in the driving test”. I’m not sure whether this is true or not but some of his caution has remained with me and I remain wary, particularly on the Brussels ring.

The problems with the sound system on the bike continued for a day and a half until I wondered if the Kenwood bike-to-bike radio may be the cause. No need for it on a solo trip, so unplugged the radio and fixed the problem. The journey through, France, Belgium and Germany was good, apart from the odd Belgian driver, but nothing surprising there.

The journey through Belgium and Germany continued smoothly and I found I had enough time to call in with friends near Mainz for a coffee. It was good to catch up and see the twins, who had to climb over the bike before I left. I was however keen to get on to Mainz and get the bike parked up safely and begin a relaxing evening. I had a place to sleep in Mainz, Germany and it had the advantage/disadvantage of being above an Irish Pub, my favourite pub as it's run by friends. There was also access to a car park so the bike would be safe and dry. Mainz is such a familiar city that I did not take any photos this time but it is a good stopping off place if heading for Italy, Austria or the Balkans. It's about 5 and a half hours riding time from Calais. There is a reasonable Ibis hotel in the centre which I have used in the past with a good car park. It’s a small university city with good reasonably priced resturaunts and pubs. There is a bit of culture too if you want to exlore the Gutenberg museum, the Chagall stain glass windows or the Museum with Roman ships recovered from the Rhein. It’s also worth a stroll along the Rhein where you will find beer gardens in the summer. End of commercial for one of my favourite places.

The Irish Pub has live music at the weekends so I had a great evening of music, Guinness and friends.

I had explained to my friends that I would be making it a quiet evening as I had to get to Slovenia by bike the next day. However the craic and the music was good, particularly when the Saxofinist came on, and it proved not such an early night.

Day 2. My departure this morning was a quiet affair and no tricky manouvers were attempted until my head was fully clear around lunchtime. The 1200 is purring along fine. The roads today, Monday morning, went towards Frankfurt, were more messy with jams, roadworks and of course the trucks were back. My GPS was also playing up and it seems some maps for Gremany were missing. The missing maps were managable as I was doing a simple autobahn route, via Frankfurt, Nurnburg, Graz and on to Maribor, and I had a map in the tankbag. German autobahns have a unique feel and the standard of driving is high. If you need to pull out to overtake a slower car, the fast traffic normally will wait without complaing while you complete the manouver. However it was a while since I had ridden on unlimited autobahns and I had forgotton how quickly traffic can catch you up. I was cruising at around 120 – 130Kph, but the traffic in the outside lane may be doing twice that speed so I needed to refer to the mirrors more frequently for safe overtaking. Once I got away from Frakfurt and Nurenburg the traffic eased a bit and soon I was approaching the Austrian border and had to stop to get my autobahn Vignette, which was 4.50Euro for a 10 days for a motorbike, which meant I’d need another for my return. I used the time to get something to eat and the café had this sign on display which was a good read as I began my trip:-

Although the maps were missing for some of Germany, strangely they were there for Slovenia and I followed a waypoint to a cheap hotel I had picked out. The hotel in Maribor was closed, and it was chilly and beginnig to rain but I found another hotel nearby. It was a bit more than I needed but it was not expensive and I saved a bit on the evening meal with omlette and beer for 5.50Euro. The room was in fact a suite with a large telly in the sitting room. The bathroon would prove to be the same size as my whole room in Istanbul. The bike was tucked under a car port and dry and safe. The plan for tomorrow was to push on through Croatia then into Serbia, stopping just short of the Bulgarian border. The rain this evening was damping but nothing serious however the temperatures were still low with 13C being the highest yesterday, and around 15C today. The tunnels in Austria were a pleasure as they were a good bit warmer.

Day 3. Well today there were times when I believed I was living the dream but it did not begin that way, as I woke in Maribor to rain, just what you need when you have 830Km to ride. The BBC World weather man also mentioned storms over the Balkans, so waterproofs it would be to start. Over breakfast it seemed to ease and by the time I got out to the bike I could see a small patch of blue sky, at least the sky was brighter.

I've been fooled with a glimpse of blue sky before, so kept the waterproofs on, however 30 mins later the sun came out and it began to warm up and at the first stop the waterproofs came off. The sky cleared to leave just a few fluffy clouds near the horizon. Great riding weather. Overall a great day, heading south at the start of a holiday, sun shining, bike running smoothly, what more could you want... I even put on the Long Way Down soundtrack and got a bit carried away….

A lunch stop in Serbia in the heat.

The road at the start was not plain sailing, roadworks, borders, payage etc were a pain, but the sun was still shining, riding south etc. I did have a fair way to go, I left at 9:00 and was riding hard till at 1:30 I still had not done half distance. Borders where you have to show your passport, stop at customs are frustrating, but still there is something in recognising you are crossing into a different country. I had a chat with a few of the police about the ride and where they would like to go. One guy wanted to go to Mongolia and on to the road of bones. What have Ewan and Charley started! The most memorable crossing was into Bulgaria, where I went through the border, passport and customs, and I slowly rode away an Alsatian appeared, took an interest in me and the bike and next thing I felt him at my leg. He can't run as fast as a BMW R1200GS accelerating, but he gave it a go.... Welcome to Bulgaria!

I had not planned to come as far as Bulgaria today but met a German biker on the road. He was my age also retired, on a BMW 1600. I had seen him at a service station as I passed and without a helmet. He also saw me and decided to race after me and say hello. It was about 20 miles later when I saw a bike in the mirror and he tucked in behind me, and at the next tool booth suggested I pull in. He must have been going a fair old speed to catch me, but I’ve heard those 1600s are fast. He was off to Istanbul too and then on around the Black Sea to Georgia and Azerbaijan. He explained that the Sofia/Turkey border crossing can be very slow and he had been held up over 4 hours in the past. So I decided to ride an extra hour today and stay in Sofia and save myself a bit of time tomorrow. I found a small hotel from the GPS, and at 30Euro, it's fine. They even knocked me up something from the kitchen, which was OK. The parking was a bit exposed so I asked the receptionist if the bike would be safe, to gauge how careful I needed to be. She paused and announced that "Nothing is safe in Bulgaria" so I put the chain on and set the alarm. Last thing about Bulgaria is it seems I have crossed into a new time zone as it is 2 hours ahead of UK time. Off to the border and Istanbul tomorrow!

Day 4. I left the hotel in the north of Sofia and headed to the ring road and on south. I still had to ride 600Km to get to my hotel that night, and the time to get through the border was uncertain. I had been warned that there may be potholes on the Sofia ring and the warnings were well founded. Some potholes were the traditional ones caused when the road is getting worn out and breaking up but some more scary ones were about 20 - 25cm in diameter and deep with sharp edges. These circular potholes could certainly cause wheel damage and although I touched a couple of them did not get any head on. I found it helpful to leave a gap to the vehicle in front to get a chance to avoid the potholes also if following a local car then sometimes they would swerve to avoid the danger and give me a warning. The traffic was not hectic though and apart from the potholes was easy riding. Anyway was pleased to get off the ring road, which is a standard road with 2 way traffic, and was soon on to a motorway heading to Plovdiv and the Turkish border. This motorway was promising and I hoped to make some good time. The mountains above Sofia were covered with snow and glinted in the morning sun and it was good to have started this 4th leg of the run to Istanbul.

The motorway only lasted for about an hour and then we were back on to a normal road going through towns etc. and with frequent speed restrictions. There were a few firsts on Wednesday, one of these was seeing a horse drawn cart on the road and there is even a local sign which I now think bans these carts from using the road, but I did see some.

Another first was spotting a stork’s nest in Bulgaria. I know these birds nest over a broad stretch of south eastern Europe but the last time I saw them was in a tour of Morocco in 2010, a special moment to see them again.

After this slow stretch of road, it then improved. It is worth mentioning that it seems that some the nice people who drive in the middle lane of the motorways in UK at just below the speed limit, may have holiday homes in Bulgaria. Because drivers with Bulgarian plates were hogging the middle lane holding up the traffic. I believe they may find it a good lane to use while on the phone as many of them were on calls as I passed, staring at them shaking my head.

Anyway the run up to the Turkish border was OK and traffic not too heavy so I wondered even if the border may not be too busy. Arriving at the border it was very confusing. The Bulgarians were quite relaxed and one of the guards even asked if it was beer I had in my drinking bag but I said it was something stronger... There were more of the Bulgarian checking booths than I expected and I thought I had already arrived on the Turkish side but was told I needed to go a little further. Driving on through the border I came out into a big wide space, similar to a toll area on French Autoroutes near Paris. I think there were about 12 newly built lanes for checking in to Turkey. Clearly a lot of money has been spent to put this in place.

There was one lane open for cars but there were only about 3 cars queuing. At the first booth I had my passport checked and my bike registration number recorded. I was then told to leave my bike to the side and go to another booth and get a visa stamp. This cost 15Euro and I had to take back the stamp to the guy with my passport. He put the stamp in the passport and stamped it, so I now had a visa and was sent forward to the next booth where as well as my passport my bike documents were checked, including my green card I'd got in the UK. The documents seemed to be OK and I was feeling optimistic, but... The nice lady told me as she handed back my documents that I had to take my bike to be x-rayed, oh joy! Off I went to the x-ray team and the lady came out to greet me and told me I'd have to first take off my luggage. I did not ask her to be specific but grumbled. I began with my loose bag, then started on my GS tank-bag, which is a pain to get off, and in my case it is also wired to the battery and even more difficult to detach. She saw me struggling and came to have a look into it and let me leave it on. She then looked in the Givi topbox. My topbox was always known as the Tardis on previous tours as it seems to expand to contain about twice it's volume and was pretty full even early in the tour. She shook her head and smiled and agreed to leave it on. I did not even mention the Touratech metal panniers.... I then had to drive the bike into this shed and up this steep ramp, park up and retreat out of the shed.

I noticed the lady kept well back from the shed. The ramp looked a bit daunting but it was a GS I was riding, so just go for it. She wanted the bike to go up the left ramp, close to the x-ray machine. So up the ramp I went and put my foot down on the right and it landed on the dripped oil from the cars and vans and I nearly dropped the bike. Anyway, I got it on the side-stand and got out of the shed. Once the process was finished I was sent back to another booth, he sent me to a further booth, who sent me to another guy who stamped the passport and said "finished". Great! I got back and rode down the scary ramp and parked up and loaded up.

Had a coke and a marathon bar and prepared myself for the ride into Istanbul. So put the documents away and headed off out to the motorway but it seemed I was not finished, another booth and passport had to be checked, and the bike documents again. So off the bike, get the documents out of the Tardis and present them again and all OK. So this time I really was on my way and began to take on board that this was another first for me, first time in Turkey and I rode here in 3.5 days. I was so keen to get away I had not thought to fill up before joining the motorway. No great problem as I expected to see a service station one pretty soon. In Croatia and Serbia there were service station every 20 – 30 Km. However no services appeared and took one of the exits and asked the GPS for the nearest station and it took me to one about 4Km from the motorway. It’s a good GPS function. So back on the road and closing on Istanbul. The motorway was mostly quiet until I neared the city. However before I left the motorway we hit a traffic jam, we were still 25Km from the centre of Istanbul. I nudged forward in this traffic but the real fun happened when we neared the tool booths. The queues for the booths were chaotic, in fact to call them a queue is incorrect. A 5 wedge shaped lines formed aiming for one open booth and I was in the middle of it. People would leave the back of the queue, overtake everyone and force their way in front. Horns were tooting all around. Now normally on a GS1200 I feel I have a reasonable road presence and am not intimidated. This approach had worked in all the 10 countries I had passed through so far on the trip but was not going to work here. I was not going to be a push over but had to remember that lorries and vans are harder than bikes and had to give way at time to avoid an accident. As we know bikes are not ideal for slow manoeuvring so this added to the challenge. In the end we got through and then moved on to the queues on the city roads.

I observer a couple of things about Istanbul driving, you need to keep right close to the bumper in front, or someone will cut in on you or the car behind will toot his horn to nudge you forward. It seems that anything you can do and get away with, is OK. On a fully laden bike this was a barrel of fun... It reminded me once of driving my brother-in-laws car through the Tunis traffic many years ago and coming home all stressed out. He asked me what the problem was, I said I didn't understand the system with the Tunis traffic. He then gave me the key, and said there is no system, it's every man for himself. I took this approach out to the Tunis traffic the next day and in his old Renault 4, it found it quite liberating and competed like the rest and in fact enjoyed the experience. However, with a bike and the Istanbul traffic it's not so easy.

Lastly the fun was not over as I neared the booked hotel. I could not believe the roads the GPS was directing me up, they were cobbled, narrow, steep and resemble those in Mont Saint Michel or Clovelli, and then I saw the hotel on one of the steepest roads and no room outside to park, great. Eventually parked in the road and saw the hotel manager. He did not see a problem, he would move his car, I would drive up on the pavement and job done. Well that's what happened and it's been parked up outside since then.

There were a few casualties along the way.

Some people ask if these winglets do anything!

It is worth saying that the Hotel Coliseum is ideally situated for the sights. The Blue Mosque is 5 - 10 mins walk away and the other main sights are all close. It's very clean and modern, rooms small but well appointed and less then £60 for a single, which is good for this part of town. But if you are nervous about parking your bike on the road it may not be ideal, but the views from the roof are not bad.

That evening I was able to visit the Blue Mosque and wander up to the Grand Bazar which was just closing. The Blue Mosque was stunning and at that time of the evening was not too crowded. You have to remove your shoes of course but you have a sense of mixing with tourists but also pilgrims for whom the mosque also has a religious significance.

Up at the Grand Bazar I saw a shop selling belts, just belts. This was the chance of solving a problem as I could not find my belt in my luggage. I went in and spotted a thin leather belt which should fit the bill. The guy got it down and looked pleased that he was going to have an easy profitable sale. I asked the cost and he first told me the price in Turkish lira and then in Euro, 65 Euro. I laughed! He reduced the price to 45 Euro and I still chuckled, shaking my head and said I wanted a cheap belt and only planned to spend 5 Euro.…He looked suitably offended… To cut this short, I was leaving the shop 10 mins later when he finally agreed to the 5 Euro note I was holding out. I now had a belt. Not all my negotiations end this successfully and sometimes I miscalculate and lose out, but it’s fun to try. Of course the next day I found my original belt tucked away in the corner of my bag.

Dinner was meatballs in a busy little street near the Mosque, watching the waiters serve the local stew cooked in a fire, where the head of the stew pot is cracked off in front of the diner, and the meal is eaten out of the pot. It was great to feel the atmosphere of the city and reflect on the fact that 4 days ago I had started the engine of the bike back in Hampshire, noticed the temperature was 1.5C and headed off to the ferry. This balmy evening in Istanbul was a great start to the holiday and a chance to rest up a bit after 4 hard days on the road.

On the way back to the hotel I had to pass the Blue Mosque again and still had my camera.

and it’s only end of day 4….
Day 5 Istanbul.

Day 5. The bike stayed parked outside the hotel today and had not been touched overnight. I planned a bit of sightseeing so went and joined the queue at the Aya Sofia which was built as a church in the 6th century but of course became a mosque when Constantinople was captured by the Turks in 1453. The size and dome construction was revolutionary and was not copied till almost 1000 years later. The queue seemed long but moved quickly and I was inside in about 20 mins. The most impressive part of the structure for me were the mosaics, which were the original Christian ones, left intact by the Turks after it’s conversion to a mosque. The building does not have a religious function now but is a museum. There was a lot of scaffolding inside the building which prevented the full size being appreciated but I still had a sense of being in a special place rich in history.

Some views of the interior below, with the first being a quite famous one from the 10th Century of the Virgin flanked by 2 emperors, one offering a model of Aya Sofia the other offering a model of Constantinople:-

Coming out of Aya Sofia into the sunlight the Blue Mosque looked pretty good in daylight too:-

I headed off to see the Topkapi Palace once I’d got my bearings. The palace was the seat of the Ottoman emperors for 400 years. With this being my first visit to Turkey, I’ve been fascinated in reading about how the Ottoman empire operated, with Emperor having and using absolute power. They had a large Harem and any pretenders to the throne were killed once a new Emperor was installed, including the brothers of the new emperor. This palace was the centre of it all.

The palace area is massive and divided into different smaller exhibitions. There were lots of gold and jewelled items but overall the palace was not particularly photogenic. The Harem had a strange fascination as it seems such a strange concept viewed from the 21st century. One of the busiest exhibits was that on the religious relics, some from Mecca, including apparently a cast of the footprint of Mohammed.

There were pretty good views from the Palace:-

This window in the harem was quite beautiful:-

After the palace I stopped at a restaurant serving Turkish pancakes. These are made of dough which is rolled and stretched out and cooked on a concave pan and then filled with cheese etc. As I walked into the restaurant I was asked a strange question, “seat or couch?” I went for the couch and it felt a bit decadent to lounge while eating pancake and hummus. Although the pancakes are the focal point of the restaurant, but they are seen as just a starter and the staff were not impressed that I was not having a main meal, and their service to me was a bit offhand. I still enjoyed my light lunch and while the service was disappointing I had to remember this was a major city.

This was the lady who rolled the pancakes on the big wooden boards and then cooked them on the black upturned pan to her right:-

Alter lunch I meandered towards the Grand Bazar. On the way I explored a little entrance off the street and found myself on a large café, with a couple of hundred people, nearly all men, being served Cay(tea) and smoking Bubble pipes. I passed 2 men as I entered, who were fanning a couple of fires, which supply burning charcoal to keep the pipes alight. This tea house had a great atmosphere if a little strange, but then I had travelled to experience strange things. The smoke pipes are very common in Turkish restaurants and seem exempt from the laws against smoking in public places, as they are not used for tobacco but fruit or herbal pellets.
On to the Bazaar which was in a series of long arched buildings. I was surprised to be able to wander past the various stalls without being hassled to buy something. This is very different to the souks in North Africa where you would be pestered constantly. There was the occasional question in the Bazaar of “where are you from?” but it was very easy to ignore if you did not want to stop. I did buy a few things and was able to bargain a little, except when I wanted to buy a hat where I was told 10Tl was the price, and there was no bargaining. The Bazaar had a fascinating range of items for sale and while it served the Istanbul tourists, it was also used by locals, buying clothes, shoes or household items. One good thing about visiting these places on a bike trip is it limits the scope of what you can buy as space is limited. This did not help me in Morocco however.

On the way back to the hotel I was accosted by a young lad who had spotted my R1200GS tee shirt. I was planning to ignore him but he was pleasant and pointed out he was a biker too as he had a BMW K1200. He then explained his dad had a 1200GS like mine. Then his dad appeared and invited me for Chy(tea). The invite was into his shop, selling porcelain and carpets, quite upmarket. The tea arrived and we chatted about bikes, then he moved on to porcelain and carpets, and I could feel the hard sell coming. I immediately explained I was not in the market for his wares, particularly at the start of the trip. He did not push too hard and accepted I was not going to buy and we moved back to talking bikes. I probably should not have mentioned that a Moroccan salesmen had been more successful and he had sold me a carpet, and on a bike trip. The guy looked a bit crestfallen and I finished my tea and left.

In wandering around Istanbul I spotted a restaurant advertising Whirling Dervish dancers and decided to go there that evening. Not long ago my only knowledge of Dervishes was their mention in Dads Army, by Lance Corporal Jones, who apparently had been kidnapped by them in the Sudan. As part of my preparations for my trip to Turkey I’d read a little more about the Dervishes and was looking forward to the dance. I did fear it may be a bit tacky as the whirling is part of a religious service and quite a solemn act, originating in the 11th century from the teachings of a Sufi mystic poet called Rumi. In fact I did not need to worry as the whole event was carried out quite respectfully. It started with 3 musicians playing Turkish music and built up slowly to the point where the dancers began their dance. I felt quite moved by the music and the dancing.

Sadly the spell was broken when the show was soon followed by a rather tacky belly dancer. It was time to leave… and I had the small matter of loading up the bike tomorrow, riding though the rest of Istanbul and over the Bosphorus and onwards another 470 miles and pitch a tent in Cappadocia. That would be day 6.
Day 6. I was not looking for forward to competing with the Istanbul traffic again. I loaded the bike and got it off it’s perch outside the hotel and rode down to the road parallel to the sea. I followed this road around until I came to the bridge and the scene as I crossed over was pretty spectacular or at least the glimpses I had, as most of my concentration was on the traffic. In fact this morning the traffic was not so bad, similar to driving in London, but warmer. I joined the motorway and settled in for another long day in the saddle. Although I enjoyed Istanbul it was good to be back on the bike and moving again. I was looking forward to Cappadocia and to a bit of camping, but I was now heading east and some family and friends had concerns about me getting to close to Syria. There had just been some public statements about the use of chemical weapons in Syria and that Syria may have crossed a red line which may widen the conflict. As I drove east I noticed Turkish troops on the move, in this case heading for Istanbul and wondered if it meant anything. Of course I see troops moving along the local motorway back in Hampshire too and this does not necessarily mean a war is about to start. However, when I pulled in for petrol further down the motorway I was surprised to come across a large group of army trucks with troop carriers and tanks. The soldiers seemed quite relaxed and were tucking in at the restaurant. While I drank my coffee I sneaked a couple of photos of the bike with the trucks and tanks:-

You will also see that the bike has acquired a new mascot, a Turkish Bear from Istanbul. The previous mascot was a moose from Norway, picked up on my trip there last year. I felt it was unfair to expose the moose to the heat of Turkey so he stayed at home and the bear has taken his place.

As I rode on I thought about the photograph of the trucks and realised it was not the wisest thing to have done and decided to delete the photo from my camera before I got near to Syria. I had read that Turkey is not keen on people who take photos of their military and I did not want it found if I was stopped at a military checkpoint near the border. The road down from Istanbul was pretty good and dual carriageway to Aksaray. Just before I turned left at Askary towards Nevsehir I was stunned with the view ahead. Out of the mist came a snow covered volcanic shaped mountain which I now know was Mount Hassan .

Quite a sight, but not what I expected to see in Turkey:-

I came into Goreme with the sun low in the sky and the light on the rocks was quite special, highlighting the contours in the rocks. I chose a campsite from the Garmin, the Berlin Campsite, close to the town and to the Goreme Open-air Museum. The campsite had changed it’s name however it was OK and I parked up and unloaded the gear. I had not erected this lightweight Vaude tent for about 4 years and was pleased it did not take too long to set it up, roughly correct.

The only other tent on the site was that of a young Russian couple. I showered and went up the town about 500 meters away and had a meal. The town is a bit strange, lots of tourist businesses, bike hire, motorbike and quad hire, and of course balloon flights. It was the most tourist focussed place I would visit in Turkey. I came across a pub with an Australian barman and ordered a beer. The barman had been a truck driver, driving from Istanbul to Cairo and because of the political situation had to take up bar work. It was good to chat and have a couple of beers before heading back to the tent.

Day 7. Next morning I planned to leave the bike and do some walking to explore the rock shapes, cave houses and churches. I thought I’d try and walk to the next village which has a castle carved out of the rock. There was an obvious route along the road but I wanted to use a footpath through the valley. I got various and conflicting directions to find the footpath and asked one guy if I was on the right road out of town. He said I was going the right way but he doubted I’d find the path. He proved to be right and I decided to just explore what was nearby. I soon found myself in a quiet little valley with the strange rock shapes.

There were birds flying around and I was pleased to confirm one was a Hoopoe, a bird I’d not seen in the wild before. So although I did not find the path I had a relaxed and interesting morning. I still wanted to see the castle in the next village and took the bike. The castle was worth seeing and I climbed through the passageways to the top.

The views of the Cappadocia landscape from the top of the castle were spectacular.

On the way back to the campsite I called into the Goreme Open-air Museum and visited the underground churches. On the way around I spotted some bikers and asked them if they had been riding the BMW 1200GSs I saw in the town earlier. They were Italian and had come down from Italy to Greece by Ferry and had been along the south coast, the direction I was heading. It would have been better to visit the museum when it was quieter but the churches had a calmness despite the crowds and were well worth seeing.

The chicken curry I cooked that evening at the campsite was tasted great as meals do when cooked and eaten out in the fresh air. I went back to see my new mate at the bar. One of his customers was watching rugby on a laptop and was disappointed that Munster were losing, they lost. I recognised an Irish accent and we began to chat. The guy was working in the area and over a few beers we swapped stories and he explained he was a victim of the Irish banking crisis. He had been a property developer and had lost everything in the crash. It was a long way to go to be discussing affairs in Ireland, but a memorable evening.

Gaziantep, the Euphrates and Antakya

Day 8. The day started early as I was wakened before dawn by some balloon guys getting ready next to the campsite. I had heard ballooning was big in this area and noticed a couple of trailers parked next to the campsite but did not think they did their flights so early. Anyway, before setting off today I had to break camp and load up the bike with the camping gear. It was carefully packed in the panniers at home and I hoped that I could get it all back in there. I am using a lightweight Vaude 2 man tent, which weighs around 2 kilos, and even with the poles, it fits into a 41L TT pannier. At around 7AM I emerged from the tent to find the sky full of hot air balloons which is clearly how a lot of people enjoy Cappadocia. It is not for me as i had a narrow escape from a bad landing a couple of years ago. I'll just stick to the safety of motorcycling.

The tent was already drying at 7 and by the time I had got most of the packing done, the outer was dry and all I needed to do was turn the groundsheet over and let it dry in the sun. The joys of camping in a warm climate, so different to the rain of Norway last year where the tent had to be packed up wet.

Today I was going to Gaziantep and had a choice of routes, one motorway route or another longer route through the mountains. I’d discussed the routes with the campsite staff and chose the longer mountainous route as they reassured me the road would be fine. Leaving Goreme I rode directly east towards Kayseri to pick up the 300 road and on south on the 815 towards Goksun. The road was good and I soon noticed another of those extinct volcanos covered in snow, this one called Mount Erciyes at nearly 4000 Meters:-

The road continued to have a good surface and was mostly a dual carriageway. There was a fair bit of work being done on the road and the signs were not always that clear and for many miles we were operating 2-way traffic on the same carriageway, without any barrier between the 2 traffic streams. This required you to keep alert because if your mind wandered you could forget you were in road works and try and use the outside lane. Clearly one motorist got confused at the some road works as we met him coming down our outside lane. While I can understand him making a mistake, he made no effort to correct the situation and headed on at full speed meeting the oncoming traffic.

This is what I wrote the evening after it happened:

“A little funny today was driving down a dual carriageway and meeting a car coming the other way on the outside lane. Good to have the reflexes checked every now and then, eh, and the heart of course!”

The road climbed up with mountains all around and the scenery was beautiful. I had not expected to see so much snow but the road was now at about 2000m so the mountains were pretty high:

This photo also gives you a feel for how the road was constructed, without much of a division between the carriageways, just this ditch in the middle. Further on we went to a single carriageway for a while but still the scenery was beautiful:

Later on passing through Goksun I noticed that the locals were using a lot of sidecars on their small bikes. Some sidecars had 2 side-by-side seats, like a small 2 seater couch, which I assumed were used as taxis, and others like the one in the photo below were used to carry tools or goods.

The 2 lads riding this one found the sidecar a good place to store their helmets!

I’d been riding along at over 1000 meters for some time but as I neared Gaziantep we began to descend and aimed for the hotel I had picked out. One of the main roads I wanted to use was being dug up so the GPS picked out a diversion. At the time I wrote “It appeared the detours were put together by the BMW off-road team.” Once I’d left the main road I found myself in little backstreets, some did not look like streets at all, just alleyways. At one point I had to go through an arch and over a pile of rubble that nearly threw me off. Eventually I got back to the road with the hotel but it was quite busy and I passed by and looked for another alternative, and found one about a kilomerer away which was quiet and had off street parking. It was on the expensive side of my budget but I was feeling drained and was happy to pay. The room also had a shoe polish pad and I looked for a moment at my dusty boots, but gave up the idea immediately as being impractical. Even after a shower I felt very tired and reflected on the day. The temperature had been mid 30s centigrade for most of the day and I had been drinking, but I concluded that I had not been drinking enough to compensate for riding in that heat for many hours.

I decided a good meal was in order and took a taxi to the Imam Cagdas restaurant the most famous in Gaziantep. I picked a good time to go to for a meal because the local team was playing a team from Istanbul at that moment, and the restaurant was not busy when I arrived. There was a queue of people at one side of the restaurant and I wondered if it was a buffet counter. In fact it was a Baklava counter and people were queuing up to take home Baklava from Imam Cagdas. An English speaking waiter looked after me and I ordered hummus, followed by spicy kebab, and then the famous Baklava. The meal was excellent. The Baklava were quite solid but had a great taste. It’s one of my favourite deserts and I’ve eaten them in Morocco, Tunisia and Israel and in fact you can get pretty good Baklava in Green Lanes in London, made by the local Kurdish community.

After the meal I had a little walk around the area near the restaurant but decided to head back to the hotel. I could not find a taxi until I went back to the restaurant where they were queuing outside, waiting to deliver Baklava orders. The journey back was slower as we got caught up in traffic. I accepted I would have to pay the taxi more than on the outward journey. However, when we got to the hotel the taxi driver apologised for the traffic and reduced the fare to the same as earlier, a nice gesture.

Day 9. The plan for today was a ride east out of Gazientep to cross the Euphrates river and then head south west to Altakya(Antioch). Well this was the day the speculative title of this report was achieved as I parked my bike that morning by the Euphrates river. The day started with 25C at before 9 and the ride out of Gaziantep was a concern as the arrival was not a lot of fun. However, don’t you find leaving a city is always easier than arriving? Well so it proved this time too and soon I was heading east towards the Euphrates Valley. I crossed the famous river and parked up with a sense of achievement. Once I’d started planning the trip I had this idea of seeing the river. It is seen by many as a boundary between east and west in Turkey and I noticed that the only men I saw wearing arab headdress in Turkey were in Berecik, the town on the east bank of the river.

I went to take a couple of photos of the river and noticed the bike was attracting a lot of attention from the minibus drivers around. It was all friendly, they asked where I came from, and how much the bike cost. I had not planned to hang around as I wanted to get to Antakya, but as I was leaving one of the guys offered cay(tea). Initially I declined but then agreed and took my helmet off. The cay arrived, from the back of one of the vans, and by now we had about 10 drivers around the bike. More questions, how did my drinking bag work? One new arrival asked to see inside my top-box, I though it strange but opened it, and there was some interest in my binoculars etc. Then I noticed my host, the guy who brought the cay, motioning to me to close the topbox. I think the new guy had gone too far in asking me to open it and my host was embarrassed, and was looking after his guest.

It was a lovely little exchange with these men by the side of the river. Before I left I switched on the bike and everyone crowded around again. There was great interest in the GPS and I showed them the map of their town with the bridge over the river, and it got lots of nods of approval. I thanked my host again for the cay and rode off over that bridge, heading west for the first time in over a week, and towards my life in the west, a very different life from that of my new friends the drivers by the Euphrates. I had not taken a photograph of the drivers something I would like to have had but I wonder it may have spoiled the atmosphere, but I still have the memories.

The bike by the Euphrates:

A tranquil stretch of the river:

The temperature rose steadily during the day, 30C, then 34C and the highest temperature I saw on the bike thermometer was 39.5C. I had not felt great yesterday after the ride and concluded that I was dehydrated, even though I was drinking I was not drinking enough to compensate for the effect of the hot wind passing through my ventilated suit. So today I drank more and was better for it.

On the road back from the river I saw a number of trucks like this one:

Now you do not see these trucks in England. They look like the trucks you see on news coverage of the Kyber Pass. Some have just one set of front wheels some have two sets. They are not particularly fast on the motorway but they seem built to go anywhere.

I had debated which road to take to Antakya, the motorway and coastal route far from the Syrian border or the shorter route which went parallel to the Syrian border and got a bit close at times. As people seemed relaxed in the towns and cities I had stayed I decided on the shorter route.

This was the GPS picture as I headed south to Antakya with Syria on the left:

Here the Syrian hills off to the side of the road.

There were a few army checkpoints but I was not stopped. Maybe it’s because I was brought up near the Irish border that borders are not a big concern for me. However I did look across at Syria and it felt uneasy to be on holiday this close to a country in such conflict.

I arrived hot in Antakya mid afternoon. Nothing about the practicalities of the first few hours in Antioch went well but still I can’t help liking the place. The hotel is not great but I was beginning to feel it inappropriate to be in hotels with hair conditioner and complementary bath slippers on a supposed adventure holiday so I went for the cheaper option this time. I’m sure it will be fine, but its not the best. Then after a quick shower I rushed over to the town’s famous Archaeology museum to be told it was closed, apparently some special event. So I have go in the morning. The next best thing to see in Antioch is a cliff cave church which St Paul is supposed to have preached at, as he founded the Christian community in Antioch. It was still 38C so decided to take a taxi. As we drove off the driver held up his hand showing 5 so I assumed the charge was 5Lira, which was about right. However, when we got to the church he wanted 15lira and we had a problem. In the end I gave him 10 and said I would not give him any more. It was a bit of a standoff and after a while he gave in told me to get out. When I got out I was told me the church was closed due to rock falls. Happy days!

But from then on my time here has been great, I had a pleasant walk back to the hotel, visited the bazaar and was not harassed as I walked around, sat and read my book in a square listening to Turkish music and later had a back from a great meal.

This was what came when I ordered hummus for about £3.50

Followed by a mezze and kunefe(instead of baklava). In future I’d stick to Baklava but it was good to try the local dish. So overall I’d recommend Antakya for a visit if touring Turkey, it is remarkably relaxed, no hassle as you walk around and the food is excellent. Also I popped into a bar on the way back here to the hotel and the live group were tuning up so I went back later. The bar was quite empty, the 4 piece band played Turkish music and were quite good, the beer was average and there was a 10lire cover charge added to the bill which was a surprise…

I spotted this place as I wandered around and it made me smile…

N.B. As this is being written a few weeks after I visited Antakya the security situation may have changed around Antakya. As many of you will have heard there were 2 car bombs in Reyhanli since I visited. Reyhanli is between Antakya and the Syrian border, and much closer to the border than Antakya but it would be wise to review carefully the Foreign Office Website for advice before planning your visit to this area.
Nice report and brilliant pics.
Thanks for taking me down memory lane:thumb
I come from Mainz, , where about in Mainz did you work? I also worked for a year in Istanbul and travel to cappadocia too but not on bike. So yes lots of the pics bring back good memories.
Have you tried the youth hostel in mainz? Its brilliant. Cheap, decent breakfast and a pub
Cheers Pete
Antakya, Tarsul, Silifke to Olympos

Day 10. Anyway today started better than expected, with a good breakfast, even though overall the hotel was disappointing. With the fact the room was smelly(smoke), the shower sprayed water everywhere and ended up flooding the bathroom floor, electric plugs hanging off the wall and a general air of scruffiness, I had not expected this decent breakfast. Next I was off down to check the bike which was untouched overnight. At this point the hotel guy explained that I had not parked in view of the security camera he had told me about. Good to know these things in time!
I rushed over to the Archaeology Museum and if I understood the French guide correctly, the museum is the 2nd most important for Roman murals, only surpassed by the Tunis Museum. Well I had seen the murals in Tunis a long time ago, so this should be good. Well it was good, and maybe it would be better had they not been renovating it, but it did not excite me in the same way as Tunis. Some of the Hittite and other early carvings were impressive and there was a wonderfully carved marble sarcophagus.

There were some good mosaics

I liked the simplicity of this Hittite carving, around 3,000 years old.

So back to the hotel and suit up for the trip. The plan today was to head south east towards Samandag. The guide book said the town was nothing special and was having a lot of new building done and it was right. Not only buildings were being built but the roads too. The roads were either block paving(a popular road surface in some towns here), block paving with blocks missing and some a mixture of gravel and rocks. I was trying to find my way to a little coast road the other side of the town. This small road was on some maps but not on others, so it was a speculative plan. After a number of dead ends and getting lost in the road-works and general confusion after 30 minutes I was still in the town and it was already over 30C. There is only so much fun you can have lugging ¼ of a ton of motorbike around tight uneven streets in 30+ temperatures and I had about reached my limit. I stopped at a junction to review the options and fate intervened. I heard a whistle. Looking around I saw a policeman approaching and did not speak English. I gestured that ‘it wasn’t me’ or ‘I’m lost’ and he thought for a minute and said Antakya? I found myself saying “yes” and followed his directions, and in that moment giving up on the little road. It did mean making progress north by partially retracing my tracks back towards Antakya and I could then head north as planned. The little road is there for someone else to try out, and I’m sure someone has already, if so let me know what it was like.

As I left Samandag I spotted this bike park, and was sure if I needed a part for my 2008 R1200GS I’d find it here!

So the new plan was to head for Tarsus to see Cleopatra’s Gate, a Roman arch, that she may have come though when she met Mark Anthony in Tarsus. It’s more colloquially known as the “Gate of the Bitch”, but I can’t think why. So back on to motorway and watch the temperature rise on the bike thermometer. Pretty soon it was in the high 30s and climbing. It peaked at 41C and stayed there for about 3 hours of the ride today.

I’m not complaining about the heat. If you come to Turkey you have to believe it will be warm, but this little heat wave so early, has even surprised the locals and the temperatures are about 20C higher than they were 10 days ago. I have to recognise that prolonged riding in 40+ is draining. I do drink more now and this seems to help, and am very glad I have a Camel Back water bag. I’ll talk more about equipment at the end of the trip… The fact I am heading west, with most of the aims of the trip achieved, made me think about how the trip had gone so far, and what was ahead.

With the distances involved, and in less than 3 weeks, the ride only made sense if I rode long days on the way down but I had hoped for shorter more relaxing days on the return, to allow time for sightseeing. I had included the ferry Greece to Venice to save some road work. So far I’ve done about 3,120 miles or just over 5,000Km in 10 days. Two days were non riding days so its nearly 400 miles a day. What I found today, even though it was not a very long distance day, the excessive heat makes the riding hard. The plan for this trip, on my, own was to stretch me and, see how I coped and it’s certainly doing that. So if this was a project, it’s delivering on those objectives. But it is also true that when you are riding to a clear objecting like to arrive at Istanbul or to the Bosphorus somehow the motivation is stronger and the hard riding is not so draining.

I also began to work out that in 4 more days I need to be at Ismir for the ferry to Athens. Again another ferry to reduce the riding on the way back.
While I may not cope too well with the heat at times, the bike just does what it’s asked. I gave it a little oil today in Antakia, it hardly needed it but I felt I should give it a bit of TLC, as now that it has got me down here I’d quite like it to get me back. Checking oil and topping up is about all I do with the bike on long trips, specifically I don’t clean it, including the flies on the screen. They have to remain on the bike until its back on my drive as testament to the miles covered. The state of the front of it gets some funny looks, but I think it looks great, just the part! While topping up the oil this morning outside the hotel quite a crowd gathered. The usual questions, how much does it cost. I always feel a little uncomfortable with this question, equally I don’t like to be evasive, so have picked on a 20,000$ figure. When I said that to the guy at the Bosphorus he pointed at a large VW van and indicated he would expect to get a van, and probably a livelihood for that money, not just a bike. Today the guy in Antakya, outside the hotel, said he would expect a BMW car for the money. Anyway it’s worth it all for me on this trip.

On the motorway towards Tarsus I stopped for a break and for fuel. In Turkey the petrol is always served. The guy asked me a few questions and then offered cay. I accepted and reflected what a great custom this was. Imagine when you filled up with petrol in the UK that you were offered a free latte or cappuccino. It just made me stop a little longer and begin the journey more refreshed. I’m not saying that everything in Turkey is better than elsewhere, clearly not, but the cay custom is a great one. One of the things I like about travel is to reflect on how people in other countries live their lives, and what we may learn from them.

The fact that the Garmin had the location of the gate in Tarsus made finding it easy and on arrival I pulled over to take some pictures, parking outside a kebab shop.

So that was lunch sorted, coke, kebab, 2 side salads, small water, Nescafe to finish all for just over £2, less than 3 Euro, perfect. I took the chance to decide on the final destination tonight and the Rough Guide came out and the map.

This what a route planning meeting looks like on a solo bike trip, and as I’m chairing the meeting my decision is final.

I chose Silifke, about 2 more hours up the road and picked a hotel from the guide which was in the Garmin so easy to find. Silifle is also close to the Gusku delta famous for rare birds. About half way to Silifke the motorway ran out and the road hugged the coast. Some of the towns I rode through were quite touristy and it was a bit of a shock after the authenticity of Gazientep and Antakia but I suppose something I’ll have to get used to as I head west along the coast.

There were some old castles like this one out in the sea.

The Garmin led me to the Gusko Hotel and it looked promising and even had off-road parking, the bike would be pleased. I parked up and asked about a room. My English was not understood but the lady offered German so we continued the discussion in that language. They had singles for 60Lira about £22. I asked to see the room after last night’s experience, it was clean, no bathroom slippers or hair conditioner, so it would be OK for an adventure bike rider, and they had wifi!

I showered quickly as I hoped to get down to the delta for some bird-watching once I had something quick to eat. I heard a noise at the back of the hotel and went around to investigate. There was a little Turkish food festival in progress by the side of the river, happy days! So 5 minutes later, I’m sitting with a mince lamb wrap, cup of cay, bottle of water and baklava, by the side of the river looking up at a Byzantine castle which overlooks the town.

The pancakes were being prepared and cooked by these ladies tucked away in a tent.

The river of course is the one Fredric Barbarossa drowned in a few miles away, while on his way to the crusades.

So Turkish fast food and culture all at the same time. Isn’t travel great! However it’s was about 19:00 and the sun is setting and not much twilight here so it’s too late to see the birds. I used the time to fill up with petrol and will consider whether I’d go down in the morning before setting off.

Day 11. The ride today was further along the south coast towards Olympos. Before leaving Silifke I rode down to delta but saw no significant birds. Up to this point the roads I had been using were mostly motorways or good quality roads which were easy to ride and with the distances I was doing it was important they were like this. The road this morning was different, it was a single carriageway road which wound along the coast or when necessary snaked up into the hills before returning to the coast. It was twisty, narrow at times with wonderful views over the sea, in short it was a great riding road.

I took these pictures with my Drift headcam which I had just started using. There are a number of photos of the road but it was a bit special.

This is the kind of road I really enjoy riding and even with luggage the 1200GS handles the corners with ease. As I was revelling in this road I was saying to myself that I hope they have a road like this in heaven. Now putting aside whether heaven exists or if I have a chance of getting there, let’s hope there is a road like this and a fuelled R1200GS ready to ride. Of course I also considered the possibility that there may be a road like this in hell. If this road was in hell, then the R1200GSs would be fuelled, and ready to ride but there would be no keys, now that would be hell. It reminded me of a BBC comedy programme based on hell, where Satan had an interesting approach to punishment. A new arrival expressed his surprise that he had seen a well stocked bar in hell, and Dylan Thomas, Brendan Behan and Richard Burton and others were at the bar. Satan said yes that is true, but if you look closely although they wave their £10 notes vigorously at the barman, somehow the barman never sees them… so they never get served.

Anyway, back to the road and I really enjoyed the first hour of it, the second hour was pretty good too. I had a little break when I came around a corner and saw a man ploughing a field with a donkey or mule. While I looked at him he stopped and clambered over a ditch on to the road to say hello. I nodded at the donkey and smiled. He then told me all about it and I suspect about it’s ancestors, but I did not understand a word. I motioned that I’d like to take a photo and we went into the field. He stood proudly by the animal.

I wanted to get a photo of him ploughing and he obliged.

The last time I had seen someone ploughing with an animal was on a trip to Morocco. Of course when I was a young lad in Ireland some farmers were still using horses for ploughing. This quite basic scene is in contrast to the advanced civilisations in the Turkish cities. I took leave of my ploughman, shook his hand and thanked him for sharing some time with me.
As I rode away I spotted a hazard which I was glad was leaving the road.

This was not the only hazard I saw on the road, there was a large piece of wood on one corner, a bright green lizard and more turtles. After 2 great hours of this road I would have welcomed a bit of dual carriageway but it was not to be. I stopped for a rest and a coffee.

and the last hour was pretty good too but I was getting tired, and relieved when the road straightened out.

The scenery was still pretty good along the coast

When I stopped for petrol a young lad was very interested in the bike and with his mother’s permission I lifted him up on to the seat and he seemed to get a kick out of it.

Around the back of the service stations I spotted this, I suppose coming to Turkey I had to see one of them and this one was quite a specimen.

I arrived in Olympos and will cover that in the next update in a few days….
Olympos to Greece

Olympus a confusing place and the GPS was no help in finding any of the guide book hotels. So I tried the first one I found but while walking up the long drive with peacocks strutting about I felt this may be above my budget. I was right and was offered a room for 180Tl(around £70) which I politely declined. The lady pointed me at a B&B run by an English lady, but she was full. I then tried another place recommended by the English lady but it was closed. In the end I found a place for 60Tl which was a wooden hut in the garden of a B&B. which was basic and small but had a shower room and a bed and was clean. After a shower I went to the beach and had a great fish meal looking out on the beach.

On the way back to the hut I met the guy who had showed me the hut earlier when I arrived. He was living in a similar, if bigger, hut also I the garden. He was drinking wine and offered me a glass and we chatted in a mixture of English and German. I asked him if he ever worked in Germany, as many Turks have, but he said no that he had learned his German from tourists. The wine was good and it was tempting to have more but I wanted to do a bit of trip planning before bed. Later back at the hut I linked up to the internet and looked again for the ferry from Izmir to Greece but still could not find any that I could book. I suspect there may be some available but I decided I would not risk it and would go home via the Gallipoli peninsula and ride through Greece to Igoumenitsa. With that settled I planned a big day tomorrow with a visit to the Chimaera in the morning, then a ride up to the mountains to see Pamukkale and Hierapolis and hopefully ride down to the coast again to be near Ephesus so I could visit it the roman city first thing the next morning. I went to bed happy that I had a workable plan for the rest of the trip.

Day 12. I got up early in my hut and began loading the bike. Here was little activity around the breakfast area. I then noticed a sign saying the breakfast was served from 08:30 and it was around 07:20, however my wine drinking companion of the night before saw me and organised that I got an early breakfast. Fully breakfasted I rode off the 5Km to the Chimaera. The road became a gravel track for the last couple of Km and I stood up on the pegs. There was no need to stand but I prefer riding in gravel like that and it gives you extra GS style points, if seen. There was no one around that morning, not on the track, nor in the car-park when I arrived. I paid my entrance fee and strode off up the slope for the 1Km climb.

The path was quite rough but was feeling fresh and managed fine in motorbike boots.

I had little idea what this place would be like, as all I knew of it was that flames apparently come out of rocks. Firstly I enjoyed the walk up, it was pretty silent apart from the birds and there was no one else to be seen. Most of my time on this trip has been busy, either riding or in towns with other people, so it was good to be on my own in a quiet place for a while. The Chimaera site is a big slab of rock about 100 meter square and as I arrived the first thing I saw were large lizards scuttling away, as lizards do. Dotted around the slope there were small areas where fires were burning in a slight depression in the rocks. There was no molten rock but the rock looked charred a bit by the flames.

The flames were hot and if I happened to have a frying-pan and some bacon and maybe a few eggs I was confident I could knock up breakfast in no time. So what causes the flames? I suspect the locals do not want the mystery to be understood too well but apparently methane has been detected, but that may not be the full story. It seems that if the fire is ever extinguished then it will reignite automatically. I wandered around the slope, looking at the various flames, taking my time and enjoying the chance to explore this strange place alone. After a while I meandered back down the path and met the attendant on his way up to keep watch over the site. I was delighted I have got here early and to be undisturbed while I experienced this wonder of nature.

The route to Pamukkale took me back a bit towards Antalya with the sea on my right and I spotted this tall ship moored on the bay.

It was a little busy around Antalya but once I got away from the city the traffic eased. The road climbed as I left the coast behind and headed towards the mountains. The road was now pretty quiet and a pleasure to ride. This was a typical dual carriageway Turkish main road.

It wound up towards the mountains and had some great sweeping bends which were enjoyable to ride. Some miles from Pamukkale I saw something very white on a slope some distance ahead. I wondered what it was and though it may be a large marquee. As I got closer I realised that I was looking at the Pamukkale hot springs itself. The entrance to the car-park was free for a motorbike and I parked up with the coaches. As the temperature was in the mid 30s I took off my bike gear and put light trousers, leaving my bike jacket, helmet and trousers lying on the bike.
The ticket for the site covered both Pamukkale and Hierapolis and first I entered the roman city which is still being excavated.

I was happy to stroll through the ancient site and but did not linger in the heat. Soon I found myself at the edge of the Pamukkale springs proper and was astonished at the spectacle in front of me and it is hard to describe so I will rely on pictures to help.

The key to the site is a hot salt spring which gushes out of the mountain. It would be better to describe the spring as a stream or brook, but the hot water is rushing out of the mountain and forms these natural semi-circular pools as it works its way down the mountain.

The whiteness all around is the salt deposited over centuries by this water. Some of the pools are quite deep and many people come in swimming gear and towels and have a bathe in the hot pools. I had a paddle, like I might on a cold British beach and felt a bit out of it and resolved to return another time and have a proper bathe. One rule of the site that shoes are banned on the salt and this is closely monitored by guards with whistles, so be prepared to go barefoot on the rough salt.

Back at the bike it was late afternoon and I used the GPS to search for Selcuk which I knew was in the Izmir region and my destination for the night. The GPS found Selcuk in Izmir and I asked it to plot a course. It seemed a little further than I had expected but I did not know how far it was anyway. I also checked the Rough Guide for hotels in Selcuk and found a few which would be OK. However, I did not immediately find the hotels in the GPS. In hindsight, the lack of the hotels was a big clue that something was not right, but I missed it. I topped up my Camel Back with a nice cold bottle of water. This bottle was the most expensive of the trip. Typically 1.5L bottles were 1 TL(40 Pence) in shops unless on the motorway they would be 2Tl but this one in the Pamukkale gift shop was 3Tl, but it was refreshing.

Riding away from the car- park I noticed it had clouded over, the first significant clouds I had seen since Slovenia and some of the clouds were dark and I saw showers in the distance. It took a while to make much progress as the GPS took the scenic route, which went through small towns and narrow roads, ordinarily I would like these roads but it had been a long day and I was keen to get to the hotel and park up. I was also watching the showers which seemed intense and dotted around the mountains and I hoped I would miss them. Once on the main road I made good progress leaving the showers behind and eventually I joined a motorway. I tried searching the GPS again for a hotel near my destination Selcuk and did not find any I recognised so chose one from its list. I came off the motorway and followed the route. It was a much busier place than I expected and as I got a bit further through the traffic I came to a point where I could see the sea, I did not think Selcuk was by the sea so this was a surprise. I pulled over and got the map out. A guy approached me and I said I was trying to get to Selcuk near Ephesus. He checked my number plate and asked me if I preferred directions in miles or kilometres I said I did not mind but asked him where it was, he said he would direct me but I had to choose to get directions in miles or kilometres. Well it had been a long day and I know he was trying to help but I felt like shouting at him, just tell me how to get to Selcuk, please!!! Finally he said Selcuk was about 75Km away, yet my GPS said I was quite close. I asked him where I was, he said Izmir. It took a few minutes for this to sink in, then I checked the GPS more closely. Again it said Selcuk was close by(and clearly a suburb of Izmir), but when I scrolled over to the next page there was another Selcuk, also in Izmir region, but over 70Km away, clearly this was the Selcuk I needed. Now what the guy was telling me made more sense. He was a little disappointed not to be able to give me exact directions to Selcuk, but he had been helpful and I thanked him.

I now had to decide what to do. It was now almost dark and I was quite tired and one of my “rules” on these trips is not to ride at night, but I didn’t want to give up on visiting Ephesus in the morning. I decided to ride towards Selcuk and maybe stay about half way, at Torbali. I got back to the motorway pretty easily and then changed my mind and headed directly for Selcuk. I checked on the list of hotels in this Selcuk on the GPS and some of them looked familiar from the guide book. One hotel name stuck in my mind, “Jimmy’s Place, so chose to go there. Selcuk is not too large and pretty soon I was pulling up outside Jimmy’s Palace at around 9:00PM, 13 hours since I set off from Olympos, but I had arrived. There was a guy sitting on the veranda outside the hotel who spotted my arrival. I asked him if he was Jimmy. He said he was. So I asked him if he had a room for one. He said he had. I then asked if he does a discount for “Jimmys”, he smiled, and said he do me a nice room. The room was fine, and at 60Tl good value.

Thirty minutes later I had changed and showered and was heading for a restaurant Jimmy recommended. I sat outside with some locals, eating my meal and having a cold beer. It was the beer I had been drinking on and off all around Turkey, Efes beer. It was only then I realised it came from here, from Ephesus(or Efes as the locals call it). The locals in the restaurant were watching a match on a TV, a Turkish team Fernabace against Ben Fica in a European semi-final. Looking around the square, the other bars and restaurants all had screens outside and clearly there was a lot of interest. Fernabace had won the first match so there was hope they would win through to the final, however in this leg they were playing Ben Fica at home and ended up narrowly beaten. I felt disappointed for the Turks, but enjoyed sharing in their passion for the local team that night. It rounded off a great day.

Day 13. Breakfast in Jimmy’s palace was taken on the veranda before the short ride to Ephesus. I was a little later than hoped because of the long day yesterday. No charge for the bike at the car-park and went in to the site. There were not too many people about and I started exploring and taking some photos.

The amphitheatre was enormous.

Another view of the amphitheatre, giving a better of the scale.

This building was a library built by an emperor for his wife.

Of course this building had a more basic function, but the Romans had catered for it.

I liked these small carved figures.

After getting about half way through the site, I looked towards the other entrance and there were hoards of people coming, hundreds and hundreds.

Suddenly I was surrounded and lost all pleasure in being there and headed back. Just as I was leaving I spotted storks roosting on one of the roman columns, something I last saw in Morocco, the highpoint of the visit.

In Ephesus is a significant site end they say one of the best preserved roman cities, but it’s hard not to compare it to Pompeii which is in a different league in terms of complete buildings and in understanding the Roman way of life. I’m glad to have seen it though and some if the detailed carving was quite special.

There were a number of shops outside the site and one had a sign which caught my eye.

Back at the bike all was as I had left it, with my jacket and trousers, helmet underneath, all untouched. Over the time here I’ve got to trust the people and the bike has been parked outside hotels mostly in the street without a problem. After filling up the Camel Back and checking there are a few sweets in the handle bar bag, I was off, up North, past Izmir and heading for Assos. This stretch of road to Izmir was becoming familiar as I was the 3rd time I had ridden it. The route was motorway first and then a dual carriageway with traffic lights. Now and again the road was very close to the sea and there were wonderful views. As I neared Assos the route led down a little road which had the worst surface so far in Turkey. It was a narrow road but badly potholed. On a bike you can miss the worst of the potholes and I am on a GS, but one nearly caught me out as it was just over a crest. I’d kept to my side as I rode over the crest in case there was anything coming and just over the crest was the nastiest pothole, which may have thrown me off. Luckily there was nothing coming the other way and I was able to skirt it by diving over to the other side.

I was warned in the guide book that Assos is popular, expensive and may be overbooked. However, the first hotel in Assos Harbour I tried, had rooms at reasonable cost and was just in front of the beach. The young girl looking after reception was sleeping on a couch when I arrived, she did not have any English but a smattering of German, so we managed. It was only 4 PM and I could have travelled further but decided to stick to my plan particularly after a busy and long day yesterday, so a restful evening was welcome. The only downside of the hotel is the car-park, nice fresh gravel, about 20 cm of it. I know I’m a wimp but I hate gravel and had to have it removed from the house I bought a few years ago, replaced with paving. It was a good decision to stay here I had a chilled afternoon Then had a nice fish meal and rested up a bit after a full-on trip up to now. The hotel appears to have only one guest this evening and one diner in the restaurant. Further north tomorrow, Troy and Gallipoli

Day 14. Breakfast this morning was on the hotel terrace and again the only guest to show. Warm enough for shirtsleeves and there was a haze on the sea.

The hotel cat pestered me, like last night, but this time I gave her a piece of my sausage. The plan for the day was to ride up the little road going west of Assos and going though Gulpinar before re-joining the main road to Troy. The limitations of the girl’s German showed up when I got the bill, the price for the room was OK but the meal had proved more expensive than I had understood. Maybe of course it was my error but I believe it was hers and she reduced the price to acknowledge this.

The little road from Assos was a delight, not potholed like the road in to Assos, it wound it’s way through the hills, down to the sea at times and through farming villages. It was an easy ride not like the one west of Silifke, the corners here were not sharp and it was almost a case of giving the bike it’s head and taking in the scenery.

There was the odd tortoise crossing the road but he was easy to avoid, not like rabbits who can change direction quickly. There were a few other animals which had to be given preference:-

I did have to stop initially and modify the damping on the suspension to lessen it a bit now I was on a more bumpy road and I seem now to have found the ideal setting. The people in the villagers are clearly not used to tourists and I was watched as I rode through. In one village I came across a small street market and stopped for a look. The women in this area wear a traditional dress which is very colourful.

This guy was selling handmade tools, and I even made a purchase of one of the hoe heads.

I fancied one of these scythe blades but could not think of a safe way to pack it.

The Renault 12 photo is here because I saw a lot of these as I rode around Turkey. I owned 2 Renault 12s many years ago and had one, a TS in white which served me well. Good to see them still in service.

One weakness they had was the gear linkage would come apart and you could not select or deselect gear. I had this failure while selecting reverse and had to reverse a mile home, to the amusement of my neighbours, so I could carry out a repair.

Well before too long the little road ran out and I was back out on the main road near Ezine and en route for Troy. The first thing I saw when I arrived at the entrance to Troy was sign saying the wooden horse was being refurbished. What, Troy without a wooden horse, impossible! The attendant explained that the wooden horse was still here but it was not possible to go inside. As I got close to it I relised the horse was very present, it was enormous.

And the scale is shown by the workman near the front ley. The ancient site is just my size and you could get around it in about 30 mins. It’s worth a visit as you can see how it was laid out. It goes back to well before the Romans and the name has a bit of a ring to it…
I do like an old stone wall.

The little theatre

The first excavations were done by a wealthy German/American called Heinrich Schliemann but these were done in a very crude way and destroyed a lot of information. He just dug a deep trench down to the bedrock to find how old the place was. The trench is still there:-

In fact a lot of hard lessons were learned from Schliemann’s work, which have informed excavation best practice worldwide.
I drank a coffee before I left and a French guy asked to sit at my table and we chatted. He is a tour guide researching Turkey for future tours. We were comparing notes and saying what place Turkey was both in the richness of what it offers and how efficiently things are run. He was using public transport to get around and told me how efficient it was, free drinks on the coaches, always on time etc. He had come down from Istanbul on a ferry, with a flat screen in front of him and a selection of films to view. It was a pleasant exchange and good to chat and get someone else’s perspective on the country I was visiting.

As well as my coffee I had a choc-ice and this cat would have happily stolen it off me.

As I was riding away in a good mood I was thinking about the Trojan horse and having a laugh with myself and imagined the following conversation:-
- So where did you go today
- Troy
- Ah, those were the guys who build the big horse with the soldiers inside
- That's them, and they have done it again
- It won’t work a second time
- They say it's a better horse this time, with windows
- Why windows?
- They said the soldiers were complaining it was hot and they couldn't see out
- I see, did you mention about Homer writing about it, and everyone now knows the secret now
- I did, they said who's Homer, at that point I thought it better to leave them to it
Anyway, it amused me and passed a few kilometres on the road

I suspected the 2nd half of the day was not going to be so light-hearted as I rode towards Gallipoli. The ferry across the Dardanelles was from Canakkale and proved difficult to locate, but 2nd time round the roundabout I spotted the correct exit, partially hidden by a police car. I arrived at the ferry as it was loading but was not sure it was the correct one for me, and hesitated, and the barrier came down and I thought I had missed it. However I had to go to a booth and pay 6Tl(just over £2) for a ticket.

The view from the ferry.

When I landed I turned left and went down the peninsula. The first thing that strikes you is how beautiful it is, green sloping hills, beaches, and a turquoise sea.

However you can see that it would be a hard place to attack if the enemy was on the hills and well prepared. I rode along and stopped at a Turkish Cemetery. This reminded me that there were deaths on both sides in this unfortunate conflict.

Crossing over to the other side of the peninsula I came across British and ANSAC graveyards. Now I was aware of Gallipoli before planning my Turkish trip but apart from it being a failed campaign during the first world war it did not have great significance to me. I found a graveyard which was supposed to be of soldiers from a medical detachment and it somehow drew me in. The lane up was a real “green lane” and again I was glad to be on a GS. It was a beautiful day and till then I had not connected much with the conflict. However in that graveyard one of the first graves I found was that of a soldier from the Hampshire regiment.

Now I have lived in Hampshire for nearly a quarter of a century and was moved to think these were lads came from the same county as me, maybe knew the same villages and drank in the same pubs. Next I came across graves of soldiers from the Connaught Rangers, Irish lads like myself who had come all this way, not on holiday to enjoy the sunshine but to be killed.

It also brought to mind that a few years ago I was in Sarajevo and standing on the corner where Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s driver made the wrong turn and gave his assassin a 2nd chance to shoot him and this time the assassin was successful, starting WW1. In a way, one consequence of that mistake in Sarajevo was the deaths of these poor guys here, from Hampshire and Connaught. I looked at a few more graveyards and took in the topography of the place.

This is the ANZAC monument, which has such significance in Australia and New Zealand as so many of their troops were killed on this peninsula.

In the end headed further north in a sombre mode, deciding to read up more about the campaign, now that it had greater meaning for me. Travel eh!

After leaving the area of conflict and the graveyards yesterday I went further north with the intention of staying in Gallipoli the town, but the only hotel recommended was closed so I decided to go on to Kesan, nearer to the Greek border, which would allow me to go further into Greece the next day. Kesan was not suggested by the Rough Guide as a place to stay and it did not recommend a hotel, so I went for a hotel in the Garmin but could not find it, but later fell over the Prestige Hotel and pulled over. The communication was difficult as there was little English but effectively they had a £20 room not refurbished or a refurbished room at £30. Now if it had been earlier in the holiday I’d have taken the cheap one but it was my last day in Turkey so I splashed out on the new room. They also had a car park which was a plus. The hotel guy came out to direct me to the car-park. One snag was there was a street market in progress and he seemed to be directing me through the middle of it, and yes he was. He tried to part the people and then waved me on, and I think he wanted me to go a bit faster and scatter them. Anyway we got to the park and I don’t believe I ran over anyone and got the bike parked. He assured me there was 24 hour security. However the next morning there was clear evidence the bike had been tampered with, the first time and on my last night in Turkey, quite disappointing. Yes, those were certainly cat hairs all over my sheepskin seat cover. It seems the hotel cat had a comfortable night.

Day 15. Got packed up and away and it was a short ride to the border. The procedure to leave Turkey was a lot simpler than getting into Turkey. It took about 5 mins, but there were still 3 booths to be visited and vehicle documents to be checked.

I crossed a bridge over a river which formed the border with Greece, the end of my Turkish adventure. Two Greek soldiers on the bridge were in ceremonial dress uniform and I asked if I could take a photo. There was another soldier in normal dress and he said no and told me to move on.
Getting into Greece and the EU consisted of one question:-

- Are you from Italy? –
- No, Ireland!
- Then carry on.

And suddenly I was in Greece, back in the EU and on a motorway heading west. Not just any motorway this was one of the smoothest roads I have ever been on. It was pretty empty too. It had wonderful scenery as well. Mountains on one side and glimpses of the sea to the left at times. It also had corners now and then, nice smooth bends where you could lean the bike over, a quite enjoyable motorway. Long Way Down music came on again, 1st time since Serbia.

However, before I get carried away, the Greeks can clearly build good motorways, and they did invent democracy, but they have not yet understood the idea of a motorway service station, i.e. s service station built by the side of the motorway which you can enter directly from the motorway, refuel and re-join the motor immediately. Their idea of a refuelling stop is to take an exit into the next village and use the village petrol station. I was getting grumpy about this as I rode along, but in the end had to give in and take an exit and go to the petrol station about a mile from the motorway. However, maybe the Greeks have something in the idea, as it was a pleasant stop. The guys chatted to me, offered to wash the bike but I declined, and ended up giving me a free drink from the cooler. I returned to the motorway more refreshed than normal and feeling good about the human condition.

Did I mention how well the bike was running? I’m sure my positive view of the motorway was coloured by how smooth the bike felt today. Do you know those sort of days when you almost have to hold the bike back and you are not conscious of a load of metal clattering under the petrol tank but feel there is a turbine which will smoothly deliver as much power as you want. Well it was that sort of day! The other pleasure of this ride was that I started to notice bikes coming the other way. Big bikes, GSs and GSAs and other bikes with luggage. Despite the bike gliding along I was not going fast enough for the 4 Italian guys who came up behind me. They passed very close, with a wave and rode off like part of the Italian close formation riding team, no more than a few meters apart, doing 140Km/h. It was good to feel bikes around me.

Arriving in Thessalonica I headed for a hotel I had picked out. However there was major road-works and it was difficult to get to it. I parked up and walked, they had a room, and I had decided I could park the bike outside, hidden behind the road-works partitions. They mentioned a price and I suggested it was more than I could afford and we agreed on a price 7Euro less and the 10Euro I budgeted for parking also saved.

Thessalonica is a great little city. Lots of street life around the harbour, bars, restaurant and just people promenading along, a bit like happens in Spain. A cool frappe looking out on the harbour was a good way to relax after the ride. Later I watched the local bikers posing as they rode along the harbour one way street, and the scooter riders went back along the cycle-path to go down the one way street again.

I walked along to the White Tower, which was painted white to try and make people forget it’s murky past as a prison and also a place of torture. Now it is a focal point on the harbour.

Leaving the Verginia hotel in Thesselonica was fine, the bike had sat on the pavement outside reception and not been touched, even by a cat. I was quickly on the motorway heading west and I had to take back a couple of things I said about Greek motorways, as I did see a motorway service station, however not at the time I needed petrol. When I did need petrol I had the usual petrol sign pointing at an exit. I took the exit and followed the sign, 6km before arriving at the station! Now a kilometre or so is OK but 6km is too far and I got grumpy with the Greeks again about their lack of proper service stations. The woes of the European traveller! This motorway was also pleasant and with hills on either side to admire.

Another thing caught my eye as I passed this van and did a double take at what was on the roof rack.

There were not real ducks thankfully, but they did look funny, travelling serenely along the motorway.

Because I was heading to the Vikos gorge I eventually left the motorway and found myself suddenly on small roads, I had also caught the edge of a shower, getting wet and riding on narrow wet roads needed a bit of quick readjustment. I decided the shower would not last and did not put on waterproofs but my jacket got quite damp. It was still warm and in a while it and the roads had dried out. These were pleasant riding roads good corners, not excessively sharp some sweeping bends and great fun. There were a couple of things to watch out for as the surface had some gravel near the edges and it seemed cattle used the road, as there was some cow dung on the surface too.

However, what you had to watch out for were the stones that seem to have been washed out from the banks of the road and some were bigger than a tennis ball and made it on to the surface of the road. You could see the stones and avoid them but they prevented riding the road with full commitment to a corner in case a rock was on your line around the next bend. It was good though to be on a proper riding road again after all the motorway miles I had done.

Up in the mountains the scenery was beautiful:-

I came into a village and arrived at a little square with cars all around and people drinking in groups. I stopped as a coffee would have been welcome.

It was strange as I approaches the people, it seemed like they were not acknowledging my existence. The tables were all taken and no one suggested I join them so I sat on a bench. Still no one looked my way or made any contact and I sat watching to see would happen next. Eventually a table was vacated so I sat on it and caught a waiter’s eye and ordered a coffee. A few people came up to the table, but only to take chairs from it, sometimes asking sometimes not. The joys of the lone traveller. It was a strange sensation. I thought of leaving but somehow I wanted to play it out, and I also noticed someone had double parked and I was blocked in. A few minutes later a lady came into the square, spoke to a few people but also came to me and asked in English if I spoke Greek, and when I said, no, she asked if I needed anything. I said I had ordered a coffee which I hoped would come and also at some point I’ll need the car to move so I can leave. She found out who the car owner was and we nodded at each other and I indicated it was OK for now, and he gave a friendly smile. Some more minutes, another lady, not one of the waiters brought my coffee with some ceremony. I asked how much, and she did not know but went back into the café and came to tell me it was 1 Euro. So it took a little time to start to break into this little closed group, but eventually 2 people decided to help me out and show some kindness. I wonder if I will remember this scene when I see a stranger enter my company and look a little lost.

Well back to the road and it continued to be enjoyable. The mountain scenery was quite special and you would round corners and have a great panorama open up of a valley below, or some towering cliffs, and indeed snow-capped mountains. As I rode along I thought I saw a bike in front, yes it was and a big bike, ah indeed it’s a GS another 1200 like mine.

I started reeling in the guy and soon caught up and it was a local bike just with a small seat bag. I sat behind for a bit, enjoying the feeling of riding with another GS, the first since the trip started. Soon however I could not delay any longer and overtook him. Soon after that another shower started and I did not want to get the jacked wet again so I stopped to put on a waterproof. Of course the GS went sailing by, with the local guy suggesting it would pass soon. I headed off again and as expected the rain eased. This is a phenomenon well known to bikers, golfers etc. That if you take the trouble to stop for waterproofs it makes the rain stop. I was hoping that the local guy was grateful for my efforts in making the rain go away. He was probably thinking that when it starts to rain, the Irish guy on the GS believe it will rain all day like it does where he comes from. We will never know what he thought. I overtook him again, and he overtook me when I stopped to take a picture of a valley with a heavy shower at the other end…

…and if my GPS reading was right that was where we were heading. Maybe the waterproof was not such a bad idea.

I headed off and overtook the GS again and we were gradually closing in on the storm. I tried to convince myself we’d just catch the edge of it, but I was wrong. Just as I was riding along this mountain road, on the edge of the valley, I hit it. It was the heaviest rain I have been in for some time and of course with the blustery wind of a thunderstorm. I don’t think I had mentioned the lightening, it was cracking around too. Visibility was the biggest problem as I could hardly see out of the visor.

I just focussed on keeping the bike steady against the wind the seeing where I was going. I wondered how the guy was getting on behind in his leather jacket and jeans. The lightening made me wonder what risk I was running. I’d not heard of a biker hit by lightning but in truth I’d not done the research. I wondered if a well ridden GS as like a golfer using a 1 iron in the thunderstorm, (sorry a golfing joke). The point being that the GS rider would be hard for lightening to strike. I wrote this on the ferry and did not have access to the net so someone else will have research on lightning strikes and motorcyclists. Well I came through the storm and I was relieved to see the GS behind, looking a little damp mind you. He also seemed to be keeping more in touch with me now perhaps he felt he should show that local riders can also ride fast or maybe he just wanted to get home to get his jeans dry.

With all this excitement on the road I had missed my turn to Vikos and this gorge. As the weather was still unsettled and I needed an early night, I considered keeping going to the hotel, but when would I be back this way, so I did a u-turn to find the gorge turnoff. Of course the road up to the gorge was twisty and wet but the scenery spectacular, some of the cliffs I saw in the distance turned out to be the gorge, but I did not know that then. There had been no big sign pointing towards the gorge nor was there much commercialism in Vikos village when I arrived. There were a couple of restaurants and a small sign indicating the way to the viewpoint. About a 2 minute walk led to a rickety old wooden platform, but beyond it the view was spectacular. On one side there were sheer cliffs on the other side the rocks were more rounded and down at the bottom a blue river.

For what claims to be the deepest gorge in the world(Guinness book of Records) it is remarkably undeveloped. I looked but there were no helicopter rides across like in the Grand Canyon. Not even a string of donkeys to trek you down to the bottom. However, the quietness of it all was special enough for me particularly as I was the only person in sight, so all was peace and quiet and I could take the photos I wanted, undisturbed. It is certainly worth a visit if you are in the area, and is about 100Km from Igoumenitsa so not much more than an hour away.

Back at the bike I noticed the time had moved on and was feeling peckish and decided to eat in the village. The first restaurant offered spinach pie, so I declined and followed the great cooking smell coming from the other establishment. They were doing lamb, and when it finally arrived was very tasty and nicely flavoured with herbs. I sat at a table with a couple of guys and I could hear then speaking in guttural German and asked them if they were Austrian or Bavarian, wrong, they were Swiss. This was like asking a New Zelander if they were an Auzzie and I’ve done that too. Anyway they were OK and we chatted. They had just walked the gorge, 4 hours from end to end, but were now stuck because there was no transport to get them back to the start, and they did not want another 4 hour walk. I asked them what was the gorge walk like and they said a steep walk down, then a flat walk, and a steep walk up again. I was sorry I asked! With a few more enquiries they did explain that the Vikos half of the walk was the best. This gave me the idea that I I came back I would walk from Vikos along half the walk and then walk back thus avoiding the transport problem, Did I mention lack of commercialism, not even a taxi in the village. So they were trying to cadge a lift from the locals, who had room in the back for 2 burly Swiss guys. It was amusing to watch and passed the time while waiting for the lamb.

Once I had consumed the long awaited lamb I was off, it would now be 6PM by the time I got to my hotel and I had some sorting out to do before the ferry. However before I got to the main road I spotted a road I off to the right. I was looking down on it and it snaked up the side of a spur in the hill like a snake.

There were quite a few hairpins. I decided I must take a few photos as someone will want to come back and do that road in the future. I stopped for the photos and to get a better view and the road did look good. I was pleased with myself for spotting it and felt it looked like one of those roads bikers would travel some distance just to climb. But hey, I’m a biker and like twisty roads and I have a chance to try and climb the road today. OK I’ll do it. Just after I’d made the decision it started to rain, another good reason to head straight for the hotel, but I carried on to the road.
To get to it I descended another narrow twisty road and cross a steeply humped back bridge, crossing, I believe, the river that runs through the gorge.

Over the bridge was the start of the the zig-zag road. The hairpins were sharp, but not as sharp as those on the Stelvio, but the surface is good and it was a great feeling to get to the top. It was more a sense of achievement than a pleasure as the road was now quite wet and I had to manoeuvre the loaded GS with care. I didn’t set any speed records but got to the top and came back down and then on to the hotel.

The run in to the hotel was trouble free and the motorway leading to Igounenitsa is a pleasure to ride as it goes over some mountains and is quite dramatics in places. My hotel was the Paradosi Rooms and would recommend them, very friendly staff, really clean and they even had a small kitchen.
From Greece to Home.

Day 17. The ferry to Venice was timed to leave at 8 AM and the documentation from Anek Lines stressed the importance of arriving at least 2 hours before. So I did my packing the night before and set the alarm for 5AM and was at the docks at 5:40, but where was the long queue for the ferry? There was one lorry waiting to get into the port, but the entrance was closed and no one was around. I rode around and went into the main offices but the Anek office was closed. I wondered if there really was a boat today and stopped to check my paperwork, had I booked for June by mistake? No the paperwork was correct, but where to go and where was everyone else. I went back to the lone truck. The Romanian driver was out of the cab and I asked he if he was going to Venetzia, he nodded. I parked up and found a guy just leaving the port and he agreed this was the right place for the ferry. I also asked the police who said the gates would be open at 7, so I parked behind the lorry and when a car arrived we were now a queue of 3, but still outside the port. Suddenly the guards arrived and opened the gates, which let us in to the right part of the port. I had to go into the offices again, which were now open and had a queue to get my internet reference number turned into a ticket for me and the bike.

The bike on the docks at Igounenitsa waiting for the ferry.

The cost for the bike, for a 24 hour sailing is only 38Euros and about twice that for me. The ferry arrived and they put me up the steep ramp on the top.

The Ferry.

The bike loading was quite casual and they had no tie down system. I parked close to a partition and left it on the side-stand. They were happy with that but I put on a strap from bike to the partition so it is restrained on the side stand and against the partition. Next I locked the brake with a tie on the front brake lever. I’m sure it will be fine.

Because the bike was on the top exposed deck I could keep an eye on it during the voyage.

Because I was supposed to be on an adventure holiday, and to save well over £100, I did not take a cabin on the ferry. This meant I’d be sleeping in the reclining seats. There was one room of these seats on the ferry and by the time I had secured the bike, all the middle rows were taken. The middle rows are prized as they are groups of 4 seats and this allows you to stretch out and sleep better. I had a 2 seat option so it was a little cramped. I thought of asking if there were any spare cabins but resisted in case the cost sounded tempting. It was quite a long day on the ferry. I had a rest first after my too early start and did some of this writing up. There was no free access but you could opt for a 2 hour internet slot for €3. I decided now I was back in the EU to take the Euro traveller package from Vodafone for £3 per day, giving me my UK allowances for phone, text and internet access. It’s a bit of an experiment to see how it will work in practice. There were periods when we did not have any phone coverage, but I picked up Rumanian and Croatian signals as we went along and I was able to check emails etc. The ship did not retransmit phone signals as I believe they do on the Portsmouth Santander ferry. I’d charged my phone and spare battery in advance, as well as the pad and the netbook. Some experienced travellers on this boat found quiet corners where there was a light running from a socket and used the outlet for their computers. I did sit in a stairwell for a while, with my pad plugged into a socked, as I was using it for Kindle reading. On the bike I have the ability to charge, my phone, pad and head-cam while riding but will discuss this later when talking about equipment. From my time on the internet I learned that the forecast for Venice and Austria was around 20C and thunder showers, can’t wait!

This proved to be a more basic boat than I'd seen before on this route and only has one café and restaurant. In the past where I’ve travelled this route with the campervan they have been more luxurious, even with a swimming pool and similar to a small cruise ship. This boat had a "Sun deck" but it was just cheap plastic chairs on the helicopter landing area. With a campervan you can camp-on-deck, sleeping in you campervan on the open deck, even plugged into electricity like at a campsite. They have special decks with open sides so if you are lucky, and I have been, you can open your door and look out directly on the sea. Sunset from a boat is always a bit special and this was no exception so I’ll include just one of the many photo’s I took.

The night passed OK and I got a few hours of sleep and looking forward to the arrival at Venice. Again from experience the view can be quite spectacular as you pass directly in front of St Mark’s square and quite close, getting a great view of the Doge’s palace, Bridge of Sighs as well of course of St Marks square and cathedral . Hopefully it will be the same this time.

Day 18. As hoped the boat came into the Venice lagoon and the buildings of Venice loomed out of the mist. If you ever travel this route make sure to be on the right side of the boat with your camera ready. The view did not disappoint.

I always get pleasure from seeing this minor bridge before we get to the famous buildings around St. Marks.

Then the main event gets closer...

Finally we are looking directly on the Campanile, St Marks Square, The Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs.

The Bridge of Sighs was part of the route prisoners walked on their way to the dungeons in the Doge’s Palace and for many prisioners the windows on the bridge were the last chance to see the sky.

As we moved on towards the berth I noticed this tower which may need a bit of shoring up soon.

I never enjoy getting on and off ferries on a bike as there always seems a risk of slipping on oil or stalling the cold bike on a steep ramp. No such problems this time and I was soon out and joining the Italian traffic. The GPS however was not too happy and I realised that it did not have maps loaded and could not plot a route. This was disappointing as I had loaded maps to the Garmin from my netbook the last night in Greece but tit was not a big issue as I had driven this route a few times and would take the motorway to Verona, then north to Bolzano, up to Innsbruck via the Brenner pass, over to Garmish and then on to Munich. The biggest problem may be finding my relative’s house in Munich. I rode along the motorway and pretty soon the GPS picked up on the route and we were back on maps. In seems I had just missed out the Venice map when I was downloading and all the rest were loaded.

The motorway was busy enough at the start but when I thinned out I was able to look at the Italian scenery. I believe if you blindfolded me and took me to Italy and let me look at the countryside I’d quickly recognise it as Italy, with the castles and buildings so prominent like this..

As we passed Verona I wondered if I would see some beautiful Italian sports cars, but the only cars of interest were these…

2nd one

It appears there had been a Trabant rally and these were 2 of the entrants.

Despite all the stories about Italian driving I find the driver discipline on the Italian motorways to be good and it was quite a relaxed ride. There are tolls to pay like in France but not quite as expensive but they had seemed to have increased since I was in Italy last. There is an additional charge to pay of course to get through the Brenner pass. Some of the readers may wonder why I did not take the chance to ride some of the more challenging passes, the Stelvio etc. but it had been quite a tiring trip with big mileages and I was happy to use the motorway home. Also, I had done most of the major passes at least once and will be back in the alps in the future.

As I drove up north the mountains looked beautiful.

So pretty soon I was in Germany and the route between Innsbruck and Garmish was on local roads with lots of motorbikes and also cars to overtake. Cars are put on this earth just to give motorcyclists the pleasure of overtaking them.

I like the look of the pastures in Bavaria but have never fully understood why they have these wooden huts…

As I passed through a small town I saw a little shop with a stall selling antiques and stopped for a rummage. I found an old travelling corkscrew/bottle-opener in a leather case which seemed an appropriate souvenir of a bike trip.

Antique stall in Bavaria

It was good to park the bike up in Munich and as I was staying with family this almost seemed like the end of the trip.

Day 19. After a relaxing evening and generous breakfast I left Munich mid morning for the ride to Mainz. It was only as I approached Stuttgart that it occurred to me that I had missed a trick in Munich. In seeing signs for Stuttgart I remembered a visit I had made with GSEddie on an earlier trip to the Porsche Museum. The Porsche museum had been great, and I realised there had been time to visit the BMW Museum before I left Munich and still meet up with friends in Mainz, but the opportunity had passed. Ah well, it will still be in Munich next time I visit but it would have been a great way to end the trip.

Day 20. The day began with a visit to the Friday market in Mainz which was still being set up at 07:20 but I was able to buy some flowers and a couple of rolls. Just to confirm I had not over-packed this time there was room for the flowers and the rolls in the topbox without getting squashed. Maybe after years of bike tours I’m finally learning not to try and take every bit of kit I own. The run up to Calais was fine, passing Koblenz, Aachen, Liege, Brussels, Bruges to Calais, and using the Chunnel I was hope in Hampshire late afternoon, 20 days after leaving I was able to deliver the Mainz flowers.

It is quite interesting to be writing these reflections some weeks after the trip has ended. Part of the delay has been that I’ve been on a campervan holiday in Norway, to see the midnight sun since I got back from Turkey. The joys of early retirement!

The planning of the trip started with the thought of doing a trip on my own, both as a challenge and to see how I would cope on my own on a long trip. The suggestion of going to Istanbul came from Edventure of this forum, over a pint, when I was struggling to find a destination which got me excited but also seemed possible. The idea of Istanbul got my attention and I did some research and seemed it could be reached in 4-5 days of riding. However, when I began to read more about Istanbul I realised I could not ride that far and not explore the country a bit more, hence visiting Cappadocia, Antakya etc. and many of the historic sites. I had not realised the richness of Turkish history and culture until I began my research.

Turkey proved a very easy country to visit. It is well organised with very professional and helpful people and for my time there was safe. (The car bombs near Antakya and the on-going demonstrations which were after I visited, would have to be considered for future trips but I would still be happy to do a return visit.) To my embarrassment I was surprised at how easy it was travel around the country, get hotels and food and visit ancient sites and museums. In truth I had expected it to be a bit more 3rd world but in fact much of the country is very much 21st century.

There was a bit on uncertainty in not having accommodation booked before arriving into a town and not sure where you were going to sleep that night and if this worries you this kind of lightly structured trip may not be for you. For me it just became the challenge at the end of the day and was always resolved without too much hassle and this trip was meant to be an adventure on some level.

So I suppose the next part of the adventure was the travelling and in truth I did cover a significant mileage, but mostly on reasonable roads. I would say I only had 6 or 7 long riding days and on these tiredness was a factor at times but usually sorted by stopping and having a break. Of course I was mostly on main roads and motorways but it would not have been possible to cover so much of the country if I was always on B roads and twisties. Again on the riding side I do not remember a serious “moment” when I thought I was going to have an accident or drop the bike which has not always been the case on other shorter trips.

I have complained about the roads in Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece in the write up and now having returned to UK I think I was a bit unfair, as the potholes on the local roads in Hampshire are as bad as anything I saw while travelling.

If I was doing this again I would reconsider whether it was worth taking the ferry from Greece. On day 14, if I had decided to miss out Greece and gone back to the border at Bulgaria and retraced my tracks I would have been home earlier or had time to explore a little and maybe visited Sarajevo for instance. This would have meant more riding but would have been manageable.

Planning the trip and doing it on my own worked out fine. I thought it would be OK but you never know till you try something like this. I enjoyed the autonomy of it all just being able to decide each day what to do and when. If it worked out well I could feel good about it and if I made a mistake there was no one else to blame. Overall I got great satisfaction that the plans I had made over the winter worked out and I ended up with a great trip. At some level I was disappointed there was not a little(or big) crisis to be managed on the trip as it all went well. Sometimes good things can come out of having difficulties and needing help from people.

Accommodation was easier than I expected, with hotels easy to find and not expensive. I had 4 nights where I did not pay for accommodation, 3 nights with friends and one night on the Venice ferry, and 2 nights camping. As I rode along I worked out my average spend on accommodation was less than £20 a night over the 20 days. Fuel costs were more significant with the cost per Litre being around £1.50 and I did 5,850 miles at an average of 50.4 MPG so something around £40 a day on average.
So I have got the taste of travelling on my own so where next…sadly no suitable venue comes to mind so maybe I have to consider one which is a bit unsuitable….

The section below will probably only be of interest if you are a biker who goes on long distance trips.

The Bike: –
- BMW R1200GS 2008, factory lowered suspension.

- Khelin headers, Remus can, Hilltop ECU Remap , Yacugar suspension, Sergent seat and Sheepskin buttpad. GSA Screen. Tourance tyres.

- TT Zega Panniers with Inner bags, Givi topbox, BMW waterproof Zip Bag, Small BMW tankbag, TT handlebar bag, under carrier bag and tool tube.

- Garmin Zumo 550, Autocom, (Kenwood TK3207 Radio with external arial was disconnected), Amplirider Amp


- Fuel Pump Controller, Antenna ring, spare alternator belt, plugs, Autocom headset, tubeless tyre plugger, bulbs, spare bike keys

Photography and Computing

Lumix compact camera, Drift HD170 Headcam. Samsung Netbook, Samsung 7ins Tab and smartphone. Cigarette socket inside tank-bag allowed simultaneous charging of phone, Tab and Drift while travelling.


- Halfords ¼ and 3/8 professional sockets, Torx set, front wheel removal tool, plug cap removal tool. Slime tyre pump, petrol syphon hose. BMW dealer phone number and of course Steptoe’s number.


Vaude 2 man hikers tent, fleece sleeping bag and air bed.


BMW R1200GS, which was 100% reliable, carried luggage well and a joy to ride and returned 50+ MPG.

Vaude tent, light(2.1Kg) and easy to carry in a pannier.

Helinox camping chair, less than a Kg, and fits in a pannier, and comfortable. Great chair but probably could have managed without as only camped 2 nights.

Using hotels for accommodation in Turkey and on the way down, not expensive and reasonable standard. It’s always worth taking the time to check out the room before making the final decision.

Using the guide book to select a hotel and the GPS to guide you to it. Many of the recommended hotels from the Rough Guide were pre loaded in the GPS database.

Autocom audio systems, with helmet speakers for GPS audio and MP3 music.

Touratech Zega Panniers, Givi topbox, BMW waterproof zip bag.

My Camelback water bag was essential for maintaining hydration particularly when the temperature went over 40C. This one has a few pockets and was also able to carry a phone, guide book, wallet, etc. for walking around cities or ancient sites. Where I got caught out was not recognising early enough, that when the weather suddenly got a lot warmer I needed to drink a lot more, once I realised this hydration was not a problem.

Touratech handlebar bag is great for small things, allen/torx set, sweets to eat as you ride, etc. and was waterproof.

A stock of Cereal snack bars.

A small Lifeventure coffee flask(Blacks) for those morning stops where there are no cafes.

BMW Ralley 2 suit with Goretex, coped with most of the weather and gives reasonable ventilation in the heat. I also use a waterproof suit which fits over the Ralley 2, for heavy rain and chilly days.

Lumix compact digital camera for stills and Drift head-cam for action photos. The Drift can of course take videos but I prefer stills and had a remote switch in the handlebars to trigger the Drift to take a photo without taking the hands off the handlebars.

A mini electric kettle was great for coffee in the room and also for coffee to take with me in a flask in the morning. However many of the hotel rooms in Turkey supplied a kettle.

Having a photocopy of all important documents, spare keys and a spare credit card tucked away on the bike. Not needed on this trip but it takes some of the worry out of losing a documents, wallet or keys.

Compression sacks for sleeping bag, pillow, spare clothes. Does not make them lighter but much easier to stow in panniers.

DID NOT WORK(so well)

I could have managed with a little less clothes. As the weather was so warm then the daily shower doubled as a socks and underpants wash, and these would dry either overnight or on the top of the top-box as a rode along.

I did not need as much camping stuff, as I only camped 2 nights. The seat and spare gas I could have done without. In fact I could have done without the camping gear on this trip and used hotels all the way and saved a lot of room.

With hindsight I could have ridden back all the way and not used the ferry from Greece to Venice. This would have meant more riding and missing out on the Gorge in Greece and the views of Venice. However, i could have had an extra day in Turkey or taken time to explore Bulgaria a bit or visit Bosnia again and perhaps have a night in Sarajevo. These are not regrets for me but options for others considering a similar trip.

Clearly there was a problem with my Kenwood bike-to-bike radio/Autocom combination. I’ve had noises before from the Autocom and not been sure where they came from but have never so clearly been able to tell that by removing the radio the noise goes away and stays away. I know other riders who have had noise issues with a similar Auticom/radio setup and replaced the complete Autocom system to attempt a cure. I am still unsure of where the problem lies and even wonder of the radio was occasionally picking up some signal that caused it to error and it then fed noise into the Autocom system. I was just relieved that unplugging the radio connections from the Autocom cured the noise problem on this trip.
Will be taking some time to read this through tomorrow... Thanks for posting the updated version :thumb2 :clap :thumb2
Just read the whole thing, and really enjoyed it!

Would be perfect to have taken twice as long on that trip, the pace was too quick for me.

All I missed, was a map showing the route... Could you upload one..?
Great report


I really had great pleasure from reading your report and looking at the photos.

It one trip that I would like to do sometime, thanks you for sharing this with us.

What a fantastic adventure. Really pleased you spent time to share it with us.:clap
Thanks for the positive comments guys and it was a great trip. The star of the trip and the write-up was the country Turkey and I look forward to going back in the future.

I'll take up David's suggestion of a putting in a map of the route. Also, for anyone who read the earlier version, I owe an explanation of the contents of the black flask shown on the bike in the 1st picture.... I hope to get these updates done in the next few days...
The Route

I was asked to upload the route of the trip and I’ve attempted to show this on the following map photos, marking the overnight stops and stating which day I stayed.

The first map is from Hampshire in UK to just past Passau in Austria, showing the first stop in Mainz.

The second map takes us from Maribor in Slovenia to south east of Sofia,
Bulgaria, Day 3 and the start of day 4. It also shows the return leg coming in from the ferry to Venice and the ride up to Munich, on to Mainz via Stuttgart and the start of the return home.

This third photo shows the route down into Istanbul for day 4 and 5 and the start of the route east. The bottom line shows part of the return leg from Day 11 at Olympos, up in to Greece, to Thesselonica and then on to the Vikos Gorge and to Igoumenitsa and the ferry to Venice. A forth map will show Turkey in more detail.

This forth Map is the map I kept in the map case of the tank-bag during the trip. It’s a plastic coated Insight Map which I would recommend as it's plastic coated and very tough. The detail is not perfect but it’s good for an overview. I also had a Michelin detail map as backup to the GPS.

This map shows where I went and stayed overnight in Turkey and on which days. Now I look again it surprises me that I only took 8 days to get down to the Gaziantep, and with 2 days in Istanbul and 2 in Goreme. The maps may not look too clear but there is detail if you wanted to zoom in. Hope these help clarify the route.

Nice one.

Hello Drumacoon lad. Really enjoyed reading about the trip and photos. And done the whole thing solo, nice one. Always wanted to do the Gallipoli site myself and will use the thread for reference. :thumby: ATB Jack.

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