Into The World - 2Up around Africa, 2 bikes along the Silk Road

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by mrwwwhite, Jul 27, 2011.

  1. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the reply. I must admit that the last few months back in Romania have made us both more confused. I need to explain. We have left not because we just because are curious to experience the world, but because we cannot fit into the model that has been pushed onto us. Today I'm not even sure what this model is and if it's us two that is broken, not the model. This journey in Africa, more than our previous ones to other parts of the world, has stirred the angels and demons of the underbelly of our mind.
    In the process of trying to digest this experience, we have been speaking to others about what we think we have learned. Inevitably we sometimes fell pray to preaching things. And there is a shadow of guilt upon our trip. We wonder if we celebrate and preach about behaviours and traditions that make the people who live with them unhappy and unable, while selfishly emphasising only the positive aspects of their life. We feel a bit guilty for riding across their village as it s about to become a safe, tarred, sanitised, better-for-worse place.

    You are so right. Experiences, freedom, opportunities, these are the things sadly missing entirely from most african destinies. it made us furious to learn and see ridiculous amounts of cash being poured into containing the immense potential and desire of people to change. africans are just as thirsty for experiences as everybody else. i am sure we'll find the same vibe with other marginalised (geographically, politically, economically) people.

    Things are happening fast indeed. I believe that even as we become more mixed globally and even if cultures will eventually merge into a single unified, more efficient mass culture, if we strive today to incorporate aspects of obsolete traditions into what we put out there for future generations, everybody will benefit from it. But again it may be all locked in museums and amusement parks. As an architect I am primed to tackle change as an essential trait of the city. That's what we do: tear down old stuff, decide what to keep, what to convert into what, how people will leave many generations ahead etc.
    These exploratory travels into the world and into the wild are giving me a lot of stuff to work with.:)
  2. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    Thanks all for following.
    We have little to complain about: it was indeed a rough winter, we worked our butts off, we fought and won a legal battle, we gorged on memories. We don't know about others, but even if before this journey we have already traveled a bit off the beaten path (here is more info about that), the tour around Africa was far from a simple prolonged holiday... The rumours are true, now we are rolling again, and while our lust for adventure is just as unquenched as before, our set-up has changed. We are riding on 2 bikes, yup, Ana has taken the leap of faith, knowing that I got her back (she has the luxury to travel with her personal mechanic on tow, hahahahaha :rofl)
    We hope that the continuation of our journey will do us good. While we allow the African experience to settle, we will summarise what went on during the last months. I don't what to have a missing link...pun intended :D Some have asked - probably because in Romania there is a wonderful book by a very cool rider, Mihai Barbu - if we are gonna write about Africa. In all humbleness we'll say that we have started to do so, but more out of therapeutic reasons. Writing is our mantra, it helps clear our mind, sort out the what if's, the why, the "where do we go from here". We don't know if this story will ever get on paper, of course it would be nice. For now we are giving you a teaser: the first 120 or so pages that you can download for free from our website.
    We have designed the multimedia version as a hybrid between a travelogue peppered with pics, vids and sounds and a practical guide with maps, visa info, bubble boxes and details about modding the bike for such a trip, to be of use for any who plans to travel the same route. As we tried to build the concept on a freeware platform, the result can only survive for now in the Apple ecosystem. This is not an elitist choice. The multimedia book industry is just developing, and there are only a few available softs and aggregators to work with. We hope you'll like this. If you don't own an iPad you can read the Kindle or EPUB, or the PDF for any mobile or gizmo. Also please allow us the mistakes due to English not being our mother tongue.

    And now back Into The World:
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    We’re back in Romania before we know it: you know how it is, good times end soon, the adrenaline rises fast and you suddenly wake up, drenched in sweat, with your head spinning… but you’re just in your own bed. Far from the lion’s jungle, from the crocodile’s delta, from the mud huts and dirt roads. Far from Africa.
    This is where we have arrived after 14 months of wilderness, not to mention the previous 15 months when we had little contact with the hip and social scene of the city. I rode past the sign that says „BUCURESTI” (BUCHAREST) feeling nervous and frankly, a little… scared.
    We registered the slightly odd traffic on the national road, the flatness of the field, the familiar smell of dusty continental summer. We felt more like tourists on holiday than returning vagabonds. The feeling got stronger as we progressed to the fringes of the city, where there was a madness of cars and people rushing to fulfill whatever they must do on a busy Thursday. I turned right on the street where I have spent a good part of my childhood, where I had the accident, where my grandparents used to live. Their apartment is still available, and my mum must be waiting there for us. We have been fiddling with the idea of making a big announcement on the forum or our blog about our arrival but it seemed unnatural and before we could make up our mind we find ourselves in front of the gate.
    „Open it,” I ask Ana. The gate screeches and squeaks and the metallic sound echoes to the back of the yard. It looks like little has changed here since we left. But as I open the door of the garage, my mum shows up. Hugs and a spoon of tears follow. Then the garage opens as the mouth of an ogre ready to swallow us and the entire world. A Rabbit Hole into another universe. I park, pull the stand, turn the key, switch off the light and lock the door. Hrrrum! It shuts down to a chapter of our life.
    The apartment is almost unrecognisable, even though I am positive this is exactly as we left it. It’s just empty and white. We walk around and our steps and our chatter reverberate into the walls. In the living there’s a couch and a table, and in the bedroom a bunch of cardboard boxes with all our belongings.
    What’s in the boxes? I don’t care, really, but it makes me feel ashamed that I have ever dared to say to Africans that I was not as rich as the other westerners. What could I have more? T-shirts with a fancier label? A fridge with electronic display and an ice making machine? Seriously?

    My mum tells me that Ana's folks are on their way. They are arriving by train from my home town, 270 km east of Bucharest. We did not want to put them thru all the trouble, but soon we realise how foolish that was. After such a long time, who isn't eager to see who they've missed and hug who they love? When they arrive, I can barely see Ana's parents from behind an immense bunch of flowers. A couple of phone calls later our living room fills up with people: Andrei and Cristina arrive with a funny „cup” that says: INTO THE WORLD FIRST ROUND COMPLETED!
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    ... beer and gossip till after midnight. And it’s not all about Africa: Romania has been going through a bit of a political shakedown during the last few months and people are tensed. When we are left alone, we struggle to fall asleep. The bed is too soft and blobby; there are little street noises that make us throb: tires gritting, laughter, some music, a door slapped by the current, a TV left on somewhere. I don’t know how, but eventually I doze off.

    The following months are packed with events. A RHCP concert, seeing all our friends, learning who got married, who has a child and who broke up with who. Ana starts going to riding school. First day is quite unpleasant. Go figure, she says: pillion for so many miles, and still not ready to rock it.
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    After the third hour she relaxes a bit and discovers the gear lever, turning and stuff like that and also starts wondering what it took her so long to do this? By the end of fall, on a gloomy day and on a wreck of a bike that she sees for the first time in her life, Ana passes the exam. One afternoon our friend Stefan drops by to recover a bag, while on his way to a hippie seaside resort. I don’t know how, but 48 hours later I, Ana and Stefan end up sleeping in Stefan’s car on the beachfront across the port of Thassos, in Greece. The next few days are dedicated to pleasure: sun, sea, good food and off-road drills up the mountain, on a couple of springy XT 600.
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    A marble query in the middle of a stunning pine forest
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    On the summit, from where we enjoy the 360 degrees vistas of sea, with the bony fingers of the island dipped in turquoise water.
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    Back in Romania we take a short ride to Atra, a boutique resort in the Doftana valley. It's not that we have worked on this project when we were still dealing with clients and deadlines, but this place is quite a stunner. It's a tranquil corner to unwind and enjoy for a day.
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    The reason for our trip: we have been invited to sample the cuisine of a French chef who is jamming humble Romanian ingredients in superb French dishes. Like polenta with truffles in goat milk, homemade foie gras with homemade quince jam... It sure puts our national cooking to shame :)
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    While we are penning down the next instalment, feel free to drool on these pics:
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  3. Bli55

    Bli55 -

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    OMG, OH YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :clap :clap :clap

    Again, thank you for sharing such personal feelings and your amazing conveyance of emotions....
    It is as if we all also there...
  4. pfdavidz

    pfdavidz Been here awhile

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    yes! looking forward to the read!
  5. ckjj888

    ckjj888 Been here awhile

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  6. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    Cheers guys! Let's speed up the update.

    Almost immediately we open our first photographic show. Until the opening night we are a two man show, working our butts off to edit, crop and label and handle other curatorial bullshit. But on the 25th of October everything comes together with the help of many good people. A company sponsors our prints, a friend hauls a couple of kids to help at the bar, another friend puts up a playlist, a friends helps us to hang the posters and an advertising agency allows us to exhibit in their garage - a fitting venue for our endeavour.
    The idea is to show a positive image of Africa, which I’m sorry to say, is not by a long shot a popular destination for my folk. And plenty of people come. Just like the bride and groom at a wedding, we don’t get to meet a lot of them, or to enjoy the fruit of our work, running up and down, all blushed up and nervous about not screwing up. But it's good fun. Maybe one day one these people – perhaps the two months old baby I saw in the crowd, or the guy who left his pregnant wife home and drove 300 km to have Ana write on his 800 GS the GPS coordinates of Cape Agulhas – will soon invite us to their show and make us dream with their stories of adventure.
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    After the one-night event at the McCann Garage we move the photos to an indie gallery in Bucharest, then in Cluj, where we meet an electrifying community
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    After Cluj we pass by the newly renovated salt mine of Turda, an elegant example of how to spend EU development funds.
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    While sunny days last, I try to test-ride a BMW Xchallenge, but because I cannot find any within the area, I try the Çertao. The test is inconclusive.
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    Before the first freeze we have two dear guests coming over. We meet Alper on a joyride along Transfagarasan.
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    Esther comes to spend a few days together: we feel like we belong to the same breed of recovering travellers, struggling to cope with a different reality. We have unplugged from a set of values that made the backbone of our life, and we have a lot to share between each other about our experiences.
    Back to Bucharest, we have some anxieties to tackle. My solo rides start to make Ana worry again, and even I am not feeling confident anymore. City traffic feels more daunting than cotton mud. We move from bedroom to our living room where I lay the mattress on the floor, because after a few nights in the soft cushy bed my back is killing me. We are readjusting to new sounds: ambulances, sirens, neighbours slapping windows – it’s the reverse of what the animals in the movie Madagascar were experiencing. We struggle to take comfort in this urban jungle. One night something strange happens. As we're watching a movie, I hear something unruly. Ana goes to the kitchen to open the window: it’s raining! One of those light, warm summer rains that make even this bloody tarmac smell good and inspire people to make love. But we feel oddly nostalgic, and after we talk a bit about this, we realise why. This life giving rain is “outside” and we are “inside’. In our tent we knew when the rain would come before the first drop fell, we could smell it in the air, we could hear the wind swooshing. Now if the speakers of the laptop were any louder we would just miss it. But it’s all behind us, and soon the night traffic and the neighbourly sounds don’t bother us no more. We’ve become city dwellers again. That means we also cannot wake up anymore without an alarm clock.
    In November our story wets 2000 eyes at TEDxBucharest.
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    We feel deeply honored and quite emotional to share our journey with such a young and generous audience. It dawns on us that by talking about our experieence we can help others take that leap of faith into the unknown. So we do it again in a couple more venues:
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    And we wait patiently for winter holidays to come and pass. Radu, who hosted us in Gabon a year ago, brings a temporary ailment: news from Africa and his mother-in-law's pounded cassava with chilli.
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    By now, cracking cold, snow and darkness rule supreme. We meet up with another fellow adventurer and fellow Jupiter’s Traveller and we drink out tits off. All these make us sound like we’re bragging about our climb to success, but nothing could be further from the truth. We remain the same ordinary people, nothing changes on the surface, while big changes bubble on the inside. Perhaps there have been some lines written about us in some newspaper, that’s all. Our focus is to get our wheels spinning sooner. On the 1st of January Ana wakes up with high fever and the chills. On the 3rd the tropical diseases clinic opens and she gets tested for malaria. Negative. On the 5th she ends up in hospital, after five days of almost non-stop fever, with 8 blood pressure, pale as paper, to find out that she has pyelonephritis, an infection in her right kidney. Ironic,right? How we don’t get sick when we go camping, or picnicking in the bush, but a small bug in the big city gets us down. The episode has its perks: we get to remember something we so easily forget, that any day we have our health must be seized.
    Valentine’s Day, a holiday we've always ignored, comes with an emotional separation. After being our mobile home and our trusty companion through thick and thin, we must say good bye to the blue Tenere. She will be forever missed. It’s not the beefiest ride out there, but it puts a smile on my face. Man, it was a hard thing to do!
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But to pull out a continuation of our journey, we need different machines. As the snowdrops start pushing though mold and winter snows are thawing, Ana gets for her B-day a laser in the eye. It sounds dangerous and gross, but it ends well. After a couple of weeks she can drop the contact lens and embark on another voyage without risking to be forced to sleep with some plastic in the eye for months or having to apply drops that have been basking in 60 degrees Celsius for many days. In celebratory mood, my rookie girlfriend gives a shot to DRZ 400. Me? I rescue from the dullness of a garage my dream bike: a KTM 690 Enduro R. A beast with the looks of an angel.
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    My garage fills up with stuff, my hands get covered in grease and my mind bursts with ideas. I have a lot of work to get done before we can get rolling. In the meantime we become possibly the only Romanian architects who get interviewed by an architecture magazine not about their designs but about their vagabonding with a tent that they didn’t even make themselves. How did we sneak in there, I don’t know :) Slower than we'd want to, we pen down the first pages of the extended Africa travelogue. We are by no means writers, journalists or photographers. This is simply a way of dealing with our post-partum feelings, with our burning mal d'Afrique. You can download and read those first pages here.
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  7. bob66

    bob66 Been here awhile

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    Finally you guys started again. That's what we waited for so long. A new journey made by IntoTheWorld. Good luck on the road, maybe we meet someday out there.

    Va tin pumnii !

    Cristian
  8. Edmond Dantès

    Edmond Dantès The Kanto Pain

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    Ok I admit that I haven't read everything that you wrote on the RR (I have been too mesmerized by the extraordinary photography) but please tell me more about the Tenere? Did you sell it? How many kilometers had it clocked up? Any numbers regarding engine maintenance? It must have been heartbreaking to let the bike go.
  9. lakota

    lakota Geeser

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    AWESOME does not do justice to this report
    thanks for letting me share your adventure
    and looking forward to the next step "into the world"
  10. Vicks

    Vicks gets stuck in sand

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    fantastic pics and writing style. Although the thread title says "Into the world" this RR is out of this world !!! :clap:clap
  11. SS in Vzla.

    SS in Vzla. Totally Normal? I'm not!

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    Very happy to see your interesting writing style and sweet photos again :clap:clap:clap Nice bikes you chose, looking forward to the build thread as much as the trip itself.
  12. rtwpaul

    rtwpaul out riding...

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    great stuff john :thumb
  13. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    heartwarming words you have for us fellas, big thanks for both of us
    we had a tricky start of this new leg of the journey - it's be weird not to happen this way - and after a few twists and turns we are back on the grid and hopefully we ll make good use of electricity and internet connection to deliver the next instalment of this RR
    tune back and bear with us :)
  14. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    Definitely it was a hard thing to do! Our beloved Tenere had 72.000km but still was going strong. I still had the option to swap the engine with 30.000km on it and continue riding but as we decided to ride 2 bikes, I wanted something lighter and with better performance (suspension, engine). I guess those are the setbacks of the Tenere.
  15. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

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    When in 2011 we had the idea to start blogging about our travels on motociclism.ro and advrider.com we needed a name for our thread. It was late in the night, we were tired, so we just called it "Into The World - 2up around Africa and beyond" At that moment we had no idea what was to come. We had a vague itinerary, had done some research. We didn't know how to accomplish our plan. We did know though that the money was not enough to go, like we had sketched on Google maps, from Romania to Djibouti then to Yemen, Oman and so on, but we pressed ENTER and that was that. Many months later, somewhere in Kenya, we were getting pissed that had not lingered in some places, or that we had not used our budget more stingily - even if I am not convinced that is humanly possible, given our practical needs and our profile. It was already becoming evident that the tour around Africa was about to end, but we had a strong feeling about the necessity of a continuation. Of a .... "and beyond".
    It took a while to make it happen. And we dare to say we did not waste all of it. We managed to fight and sort of win a legal war with the insurance company that finally paid for the damages of my 2010 crash. In a reasonable amount, considering we are in Romania, so I decided to lick my wounds and move on. It's time to close this chapter and put this unfortunate even behind me. While winter pushed on we worked, we fundraised, we wrote emails and got some negative and some very positive replies, we stressed out and debated vigourously. And we made our decision. To push our limits further. To continue our journey Into The World on two motorbikes.

    Ana freaked out a bit when she saw her metal horse for the first time. The DRZ comes from Italy and it has about 16.000 km. I got to work: lowering it, modifying the suspension, manufacturing new links, butchering the seat beyond recognition until it fit her diminutive height (1.55m). In the early days Ana was like a wobbly ballerina on the DRZ. But despite our worst fears, within two weeks she makes the transition from a testing ground - actually a parking lot in an industrial area of Bucharest - and from riding without a seat on a folded pair of jeans...

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    ...to the Romanian highway. By the way, did I mention that she has a driving license but she never drove cars? So biking, traffic, all these are new to her.

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    This is how the Suzuki was modded:
    - Linx fairing Britannia Composites

    - tank 4Gal IMS
    
- homemade links
    
- custom seat from Seat Concepts Low, tailored by me to accommodate Ana

    - Enduristan textile luggage (1x Tornado L, 1xSandstorm)

    - tires Dunlop Trailmax & 908 Rallyraid
    - wheels DRZ 400 S (21" + 18") - we made an exchange with an UK rider, who got Ana's SM
    - handlebar Renthal KTM bend, handguards KTM + rally ride foam grips + heater and Shorai Lithium Battery

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    The KTM is a whole other ballgame. Because Barbu & comp. summon me to an off-road trip in Dobrogea, I suggest to Ana to crash the surprise b-dy party for her mum, happening in Galati, and transform the detour into a proper test for our new set-up. So we ride from Bucharest to Galati, then to Constanta and back to the capital, taking a few days to enjoy family, friends and some amazing wilderness in one of the least discovered stretches of Romania. MamaYa trophy - the informal ride I was supposed to join, is good fun. I'm only posting some pics from this indie event when we got our wheels wet and savoured superb traditional cooking of our fantastic hosts.

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    That's what I did to the KTM:
    - sprocket Dirt Tricks Ironman

    - extra tank 14l Aqualine Safari

    - custom seat by Seat Concepts + AirHawk2 for my butt (from Africa)

    - Linx fairing Britannia Composites

    - MK3 pivot pegs adapted from the Tenere

    - foam air filter from Unifilter

    - Renthal Dakar fatbar + KTM plastic hand guards + rally ride foam grips + heater

    - RalleMoto RM2 steering damper kit

    - Scottoiler

    - 150W invertor

    - textile luggage from Enduristan (1x Monsoon 2 + isolation bags, 1x Tornado L, 1xSandstorm)
    - tires from Dunlop: Trailmax & 908 Rallyraid
    - GPS GARMIN Montana 650 + OSM Maps
    - Cable OBD2 + TuneECU and Shorai Lithium Battery

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    OK, must cut this report short. In Romania spring is springy, nettles and wild hers are already on our plates, Easter passed. It's time to get rolling, we've been promising a continuation for too long.

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    We start packing. To save money - that was the idea anyway - we bought online a tent and whatnot, from the US of A. But the forwarder we used so many times before now screws us big. Our parcel arrives over 2 - yeah, that's right, two months late. And things are missing, perhaps the most important things of them all: the auxiliary tank for my KTM, the Shorai batteries and the fuel pomp for the KTM, it's Achille's tendon sort of speak.
    Great, that's what I needed. But we have already bought some visas that might expire and Ana is still quite very slow on-road, so we must move. We cannot wait for this mess to be sorted out. I organize for someone to collect my parts when they will arrive and instruct them to ship them by bus to Istanbul, where we will need to stop for a few days for more visa shopping. Cross my fingers that this unlikely plan should work.

    On the eve of departure our pals catch us again in the middle of a hectic display of unpacked gear. Mihai points to some cool trails through the Pamir. We toast a few drinks. And by morning we're ready.

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    It's the 13th of May. Mihai and Bobe make us question our choice of vehicles for this leg of the journey. Should we reconsider?

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    But we stay with the bikes. Iulian obliges to accompany us again to the border, just like he did the other time. This, my friend, will not do for a
    third, you'll have to come along for the entire way!

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    The ferry across the Danube takes us African style from Calarasi in Romania to some decrepit village in Bulgaria. At least this time we did not have to pay in gasoline and push the rusty monster. Also I can erst assured about our safety: we even have life vests onboard!

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    We find the other bank flooded in river, just as we are flooded in emotions. I love you, I say to Ana though the walkie talkie. The Chinese radio screeches and squeaks but delivers the message. We are in the best mood for the road across Bulgaria. And I don't know how, but this time everything feels great: the coffee at the gas station is tasty, the provincial town look neat, the parks feel chilled...even the Bulgarian chicks look rather sexy. Hmmm.... it's like a bizarre reverse situation of what we felt last time we crossed Bulgaria, on our way back from Africa.
    To keep our spirits high we avoid the highways, but we stay on tarmac. Let's not forget that Ana has barely done 400 km of riding. And how else to baptise this than with a bit of rain?

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    Black Locust is in bloom. Ana can't help but eat a bunch. I sample a few. It's a light, slightly sweet flavour. In her home town they celebrate a kind of festival when people eat the raw flowers and even deep-fry them in pancake dough. It doesn't sound bad at all.

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    We buy some food from a supermarket, because soon after Varna we must stop and search for a camping spot. After about 350 km of tar we deserve a quiet place to sleep. Of course we hope for a sandy stretch. And obviously we can't get to the beach unless we get off the road. So it is that Ana has the opportunity to ride her first 5 km of piste, on a bumpy dirt track that leads to the prize. From up here we can see what it is:

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    After I ride down the 45 degrees slope, the place is revealed to be even more stunning that I suspected. Infested in poppies and wild thyme, a stream trickling into the sea, and not even too many mosquitoes. I looked for a spot like this on the GPS, and I was afraid it will turn out to be a complete disaster, much like our first accidental bushcamp in Morocco. But this time I am on the money.

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    To be frank, even if the place is gorgeous, we don't spend here the more restful night. It gets quite cold, the tent - like any new piece of kit - swooshes out of every zipper - and the surf is roaring and munching into the shores. We need, I say, a couple of nights to wild back. To readjust to the sounds of nature, to accept a frugal border between our intimate space and the unpredictable surroundings. To let our guard down and trust that everything will be alright. But already both of us can sense that... a significant weight is being lifted off our hearts.
    The next morning we leave regretfully this first wildcamp of our route towards Asia. Just as we have found it, so other wonderers may enjoy it too.

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  16. Angelos

    Angelos Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2009
    Oddometer:
    34
    Location:
    Igoumenitsa,Greece
    I'm not jealous.I'm not jealous.I'm not jealous.I'm not jealous.I'm not jealous.I'm not jealous...:becca

    ...You got adrenaline rushing through my vains and I'm not even close to riding.This is gonna be great guys.And Ana is going to enjoy this in a whole new way.
    Take care of yourselves.Be safe and enjoy this at it's fullest!!!

    :freaky
    Cheers to you,
    Angelos

    PS.Got to say I kinda digged the Tenere.In my head you are still pictured two up on that.It's gonna me take a while to adjust to the new wheels of yours,but I'm sure you are once again going to have a blast!
  17. lakota

    lakota Geeser

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2007
    Oddometer:
    3,223
    Location:
    Annapolis MD
    they are back on the road:clap:clap:clap
  18. Bli55

    Bli55 -

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2012
    Oddometer:
    401
    Location:
    Russia, N56 E49.
    Hey, you must know someone sitting at a big desk to get them numberplates!! :D

    And it looked like you were mocking up a carboard bashplate with storage, but your bike has the slim one still???
  19. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    653
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
    Thanks, Angelos.
    To be honest by the time we'll arrive with the story in Georgia you will only picture yellow and orange :))

    Cheers!

    I know it looks like it but the thing is they added a digit to the plates from Bucharest in 2010 (the year I bought my first Tenere) so any nice combinations are up for grabs. Unfortunately for Ana 400 was already taken so we went with 398 (the real engine size).

    The bashplate remained a project for future as I ran out of time, but I got to cardbord mockup V2.0 :p.
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    The first bushcamp makes the first victims amongst our kit. The wind blows one of the pads we were using as drybag support, then one of our cooking mugs cracks open. But no sweat, dude, because we are busy with some trail riding for breakfast: the 5 km of slops and rocky patches back to the tarred road that should give Ana a better idea of what is to come in the Pamir. Well, as she's already done this trail the night before, she cranks it up with more confidence and enough gas to see herself thru with a smile. It's more fun than on the tarmac, she says, *and that confession makes me happy. We *feed our metal horses and get back in the saddle. We need to step up our game and try to make up for the time lost with waiting for parts and gear to arrive - like over two weeks of delay by now. And our day is long - one month ago, when we were discussing the pace for this trip, we were both convinced we would not be able to do over 300K in one day, given Ana's experience. But here we are, doing it, and we roll across the Turkish border with still some energy to spare. The first pleasant surprise in Turkey - which has become like an old friend, really - is that at the gas station where we stop to refuel tea is free. :)

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    Luckily this time we are riding behing the rain - we barely get a few drops on us, and with this Rukka goretex gear we don't care. But the woods where we decide to pitch camp - at about 100 km off Istanbul - is soaking wet. Our road tires aren't up for this job, so Ana gets a taste of mud. In such a charming place though, it is hard for anyone - even with mud on their clothes and all spent out - to stay mad.

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    After a rainy night we roll into Istanbul - a city of 17 million souls, and all seem to be already driving some sort of vehicle at this hour. The traffic is as bad as they say: suffocating, mind boggling. We advance centimeter by centimeter, wheel to wheel. The roads are never flat, always steep and the turns always sharp. Ana sweats buckets, her tip-toes barely scarping the asphalt, her hands gripping the clutch and brake, her nerves almost exploding. Somehow she manages to keep it together and we arrive in the neighbourhood where the embassy of Uzbekistan is located. The visa processing is fast: within two hours I have it in my pocket.

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    While I am dealing with paperwork Ana is taking in some local scene. Since crossing the border it is obvious these people are anything but lazy: we see plenty of old men or teenagers carrying or pushing something that looks heavy. Across the street there's this small shop where a tailor sporting the beard of a Santa Claus is even skipping lunch to work. The veg vendor keeps sorting the produce, organising his stand, decorating with fresh leaves. It smells of strawberries and flowers, the street is zooming and Istanbul pushes some of its awesome energy back into our drained systems. Better grab a bit to top this excellent morning up.

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    After lunch we navigate our way to Kurtulus, where our couchsurfing host - Ozgur- lives. It's a maze of 45 degrees inclines and narrow alleys and the prize of making it up to our destination alive is a proper Istanbul snack: stuffed mussels.

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    But Ozgur has bigger plans. As if he knew we are such devoted foodies, for the next days he takes the concept of Turkish gourmet to a whole new level. You know, couchsurfing is risky. It can be hit and miss. We have done the backpackers's Istanbul, the *old grandma's Istanbul, the big hotels Istanbul. This time we wanted to stay local, and within our age group, so we said, what the heck. And honestly, we did not find a host, we've found a friend. Ozgur - feel free to be jealous - gives us his bed, takes us to some of the most divine restaurants and always picks up the bill. We dine on meze and raki at one of his grand-dad's fav joints, open for business since the 30s. We eat the lightest, crunchiest deep fried sardines and anchovies at the legendary *Adem Baba*in Arnavutköy, frocking on this side of Istanbul since 1998. How can I make you imagine how their fried fish melts in your mouth, bones and head and everything? Their stuffed mussels? Ten times better than any other version I've tasted before. Even their desert - a humble baked squash drizzled with honey and sprinkled with walnuts - is delicious, just like their other mains like the shepherd's salad with gourmet cheese from Anatolia, the shrimp baked in a clay pot, the squid.... oh, brother, I don't know how we'll cope with the dreaded Mongolian cow's head stew after this.

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    No wonder the fish is so tasty in Istanbul. Half of the city's population hangs out by the Bosphorus and Golden Horn, trying to get the best catch of the day or just for fun. They can do whatever they please with their fish: keep it, sell it, slice it and sushi it up on a piece of newspaper right there on the shores. The crowd of enthusiasts and professionals keep at it from dawn till dusk and even later into the night.
    But just walking along the sea will not do for a perfect end of our meal, says Ozgur. So he takes us to the best ice-cream address in Bebek, a hole-in-the-wall that we are sharing here with you. If you've tasted the sticky Turkish dondurma, well, this place makes a 5.1 version of it.

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    As we walk by the many boats tied along the shores of this posh neighbourhood, we learn that one of them is about to become a floating concert hall for the next couple of hours. It'll set sail any minute now, so we grab three tickets and jump in along with a very young and artsy crowd. Lights off, drinks start pouring, boats starts dancing on waves and... the voice of Birsen Tezer makes the air tremble. We're charmed. I close my eyes and listen how the sound becomes the sea, the seagulls, a beating heart of someone falling in love. Isn't Istanbul a wonderful city? says Birsen after the first song ends. We are lucky to live in such a fantastic place, let's drinks to this.

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    The next day we sort out the Tajikistan visa. Foodie samples of the day: lentil soup in a meyhana at lunch, an Adana kebap at Durumzade, and a wet hamburger while walking through Taksim - which has recently heated up. Dinner is fancy: Ozgur makes us sample the otoman cuisine at an establishment that serves stuffed eggplants, artichokes in olive oil, whole-baked lamp and stuff like that for over a century. Again, the dishes resemble some than we have adopted in Romania into our national cuisine, but the taste has nothing to do with what we've known from home. I'm not sure why we are calling them by the same name. In our version of this delights, the spices, the technique of cooking, the quality of the ingredients - are all missing. For example the dolmas - vine leaves stuffed with rice - are something that you much eat at every wedding, funeral and baptism in Romania. At home Ana hates them, as they are usually oily and tasteless; this ones are made with herbs and*dried fruits and cooked in olive oil, so she gulps them joyfully. If her mum could see her...

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    But no adventure is free of turbulences. When I call Bucharest to check in my parcel, I learn that I has arrived, it passed customs but now there is no viable method to have it shipped to Istanbul. By courier or cargo plane it costs a fortune, plus I should pay again the taxes they've charged in Bucharest's airport. And not even the busses that do daily runs to Istanbul will not take it. For some reason they've changed their mind, as a week ago I was assured it will be ok, now the bus companies refuse my parcel, one by one. I have the option to have someone drive to the border of Bulgaria with my parcel, or I can ride myself back to Bucharest to pick it up. After a few moments of confusion, I decide to go with the second plan. Fitting the safari tank on the side of the road is risky, it's better I do it in my garage, where I'll have all the tools I might need. Anyway, riding to the border of Bulgaria means there would be only about 60km more until home. So at 7 a.m. here I am rushing back to where I've come from. Which makes me conclude that this expedition will have two starts, just like the previous leg of our journey. I guess we'll have to wait and see how all these play out...

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    Ana:*After Ionut leaves to Romania to sort out the shipping disaster, we continue our culinary journey at three: I, Ozgur and his g-friend. Passing by one of the oldest brick buildings still standing in Constantinople we arrive at the feet of Galata tower. Legend has it that a pioneer of early aviation*once flew from this tower with handmade wings. This is a dangerous man, the *Murad Khan said, he must be able to do anything he might put his mind at. It's not safe for us to have someone like him hanging around. So the visionary was sent to die in exile in Algeria. A breakthrough in any field scares people, and why is that I don't know.

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    We dont' find the brunch we were looking for, but we step into a more contemporary restaurant, which serves fusion cuisine. Centuries old recipes are reinvented, old imperial dishes are celebrated, and everything on the menu is starring the best locals ingredients. Minuscule dolmas with rosemary and mint,*Maş çorbası*a Gaziantep soup of wheat, lentils and tomatoes, minced meat pie baked between two layers of wheat,*Sirken &*Hindibağ kavurma *- local wild herbs sautéed in olive oil with figs and other dried fruit. Another meal to die for.

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    A few kilometers of walking buy us the right to sample some Turkish sweets. The famous*Güllüoğlu*is the address for this since 1820. And my Turkish friends teach me that this caloric bombs are even tastier with a dollop of *kaymak on top. They say that this is the food in heaven, as the dead do not need to worry about the extra kilos or a coronary stroke. And if that sounds exaggerated, that is because you haven't tasted yet the Turkish kaymak, and I sincerely urge to.

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    By the way, the best kaymak maker in the city is an 85 years old man,*Pando Usta, of Bulgarian descent. I've passed by his shop, but he was not open. he's a sort of a kaymak nazy they say. To make kaymak, buffalo milk is slowly heated in baine-marie, then the fat is skimmed and allowed to cool. The result is something between butter and cream. To spend this bonus calories we stroll again along the canal, where the fishing community is doing what they do best. And some artist has even left a reason to throw your hook for a larger prey.

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    At midnight it's time for me to pay for my culinary sins: Ozgur helps me borrow a bicycle and we join 4000 people for Istanbul's first Velonotte event. The idea was to tour the historical part of the city while a professor would broadcasts information over radio. In typical Asian style it does not work out this way. We crowd into the streets in a madness of cyclists and confused cars, but it's good fun and good workout. Around 2 a.m. we abandon the tour, but many stayed until 6, even attending the final tea-party (where one was supposed to bring their own cookies). Aferim!

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    The foodie week in Istanbul cannot be complete without a proper Turkish breakfast. For the locals this is a full meal, but I cannot imagine who could make it through the day if they would do breakfast, then lunch, then tea and sweets and finally a just as opulent dinner. Our morning feast takes place at Bourdain's*Kale Cafe in Rumeli, an Istanbul institution. We go for regular*kahvaltı - halemi grilled cheese from Cyprus, Turkish white and yellow cheese, olives in vinaigrette, salad and menemen*and a selection of fresh bread. The*lavaş - something like a phylo bread - is meant to to savoured while steaming hot and with bal*kayak, which means the above mentioned delight drenched in honey. Shall I say that teat is unlimited? But hey, who has roos for so much tea, really?

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    In the meantime in Romania the drama of the Safari tank for the KTM continues. John takes over for details:
    John: I cut straight across Bulgaria to save time, but I still have about 650 km of highways to negotiate, stopping only at gas stations to pour more coffee into my system. 8 hours of marathon later I'm in the garage, and I finally get to open the box I've waited for almost 3 months to arrive.

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    The blow take me by surprise: even though i have repeatedly warned the shop in the USA that the parcel will go through two forwarders and that they must secure the packaging as well as they can, all the small fitting parts have been put in a regular ziplock bag. The bag is torn and washers and other bits are floating in the cardboard box. I cringe. I start counting. There's plenty missing: some of the stuff I can easily replace at any hardware store, but some are irreplaceable!

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    I remember that this dude, Bob from *www.wildwalk.ro, used to have the same 690 fitted with the same Safari tank, that he has sold to someone. Could he be in contact with the new owner? Well, he is, and the new owner, Alex, proved one hell of a guy. His KTM has been in an accident and is stored in a service shop, but he is willing to help me out and borrow the missing parts. For a hile, until I can figre out a better solution to this mess. As it's Saturday the service shop is closed. We find someone who works there and all Sunday we wait for a return call, hoping that we can transplant the parts from one KTM to another as soon as possible.

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    That only happens on Monday morning. Tank fitted and checked, I am ready to ride back to Istanbul. But it s past noon and I'm already out of steam. *I take on the hundreds of Ks of highway and Bulgarian traffic, stopping only at gas stations to fill up and pour more caffeine into my deranged system.

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    About 9 p.m. I fall flat on Ozgur's doorstep. A generous dinner awaits: a Doner kebap the size of my arm, lahmacun and ayran. Plus the cure for all sorrow and pain - Şalgam, black carrot juice. Thanks Bob, thanks you Alex! Tessekur ederim Ozgur!

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  20. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    653
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
    We already feel like home in this neighbourhood: we're friends with the small shops owners, the tailor, the baker, the veggie salesman. But if we don't want to let the cute felines keep peeing on our bike cover, we need to get going where we set out to go in the first place. Not without performing the much needed oil change, and fitting Ana's DRZ with the new Shorai battery. For now all I can share about this batteries is that they are much lighter than I expected, yet look super sturdy. Time will tell how good they actually are.

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    Out of Istanbul, we are heading towards the shores of the Black Sea. The plan is to follow the coastline for a while, later we'll see, perhaps we do a loop innerland, or keep with the shores. The villages we cross on our way to the sea reveal an unseen Turkey: much humbler and underdeveloped than the cosmopolitan Istanbul, the edgy Ankara, the surreal Cappadocia or the uber-touristic Aegean resorts. We lunch with the truck drivers in a little town. They are the modern-day caravaners, and their food is just as honest and *rightful as they are: bread, grilled eggplant and peppers with yoghurt dressing, a kebap. In the meantime we count the fisrt signs that our gear is finally doing its job. And frankly, so far it does it very well. The lunch is great fuel until the first ships pop out in the distance.

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    The air is salty - we are getting closer to the sea, but there's a steep cliff to ride until we'll be abe to see the blue. No time for tonight, we'll camp on the mountain. We're in luck again: in the apex of a hairpin I see a littered dirt road. That might lead us somewhere! And it does. Past the hill of garbage, the forest opens to the valley from where we can hear a muezzin calling to prayer. How could we not say Allahu Akbar for this spot?

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    In the morning we decide not to waste anymore time with cooking our breakfast. Good timing, because as soon as we ride back to the tarmac, we meet a police squad patrolling the mountain. Before they can start asking questions, we flood them with giggles, handshakes and stories about the turtle that we have seen. So they say nothing, and we continue our journey undisturbed. For what I know, maybe it was never in their intention to question us anyway.
    Finally we can see the calm expanse of water. It's not a familiar sight. The southern shores of our Black Sea are dramatically different than Romania's sandy beeches: steep, rocky, green. Small town cling to the mountain, narrow roads are thrusting up and down, head-spinning vistas at every turn... and on the sea there are delicate floating structures: mussel farms.

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    By lunch we arrive in charming Amasra, a fishing village that in summer becomes a popular resort for the Istanbul and Ankara crowds. As it's off-season, the place is deserted. But the fishermen do their daily runs as usual. They're just back from the sea with their nets full of anchovies and mackerel. We'll grab some, deep fried, next to a salad. Our meal is far from the perfection of the Adem Baba's fare, but nevertheless it's delicious. We eat everything, bone included.

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    The next stop is in an UNESCO Heritage site: Safranbolu. The name says it all. It was once a center for growing and selling saffron. Today the saffron industry has moved 20 km away, in the village of *Davutobası, and Safranbolu has become more touristic. There are shops selling saffron flavoured lokum. But we came for a walk down the cobbled alleys of Çarşı, the Old Town.

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    The area where the best preserved Ottoman houses can be found is the old town and the neighbourhood of Bağlar. The houses are several storeys high and have picturesque wooden frames. The central market is just the ouverture of the rest of the town. Safranbolu is a chilled place, to be uncovered at a slow pace. Even if we are wearing our bulky touring boots, it feels great to shake the rust off our limbs. We leave our sweaty jacket to dry out in the sun and we grab a bagel and an ayran and start walking. We enjoy a few hours browsing through the stalls with crafts, carpets, traditional garb and kitschy souvenirs. There's even a hammam, a bakery and plenty of tea-houses to keep anybody busy and satisfied. Many shops display at the entrance an interesting wood panel, decorated with quartz.
    It is a lovely break from our riding routine. But soon it'll be dark, so we should look for a place to sleep. I'm not quite confident we'll do well tonight, I say to myself as I stir right into the woods. Ana follows me closely, less tensed than usual. And soon our patience is rewarded: we find a nice clearing, surrounded by pines. Perfect!

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    In the mo' all the flowers in our camping spot are busy with bees and other nectar-loving insects. We'd stay for another day - the place calls for it - but don't have enough food supplies and we are really longing for a sunset on the sea shores. The sea has been luring us for the past couple of days.

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    To reach our target we must break a record of miles per day. hat off to Ana, she does her part honourably. We only make a few brief stops, to hit the bush or to crack our bones. By the end of the day we mark 466 km! In general we're not happy to ride so much in one day, but even the secondary roads in Turkey are better than our highways. It's so easy to ride, and our progress is smooth. Ana has forgotten that two weeks ago in Romania she told me she would never ride at 90km/h. She just goes.
    Way past lunchtime we realise we're very hungry. In Turkey everything is delicious, but the best bet to discover what is good in a particular place is to pull over where the truck drivers do. We happen to drive tru a a town where menemen is the thing to eat. This dish is more than a wet omlet: the eggs are cooked with onions, tomatoes and bell peppers, and finally baked in the oven with a dollop of cheese and butter. When one is hungry, an omlet can taste better than steak, but this omlet is damn fine! The bread is a perfect compliment to this stunning meal: it hot, right out of the oven, as the bakery is located in the same house as the restaurant! I love to eat bread that has been touched by human hands, it's a rare sight in Romania, and not a very common one in western world either.

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    Bellies full, we can pick up the marathon from where we've left it. We try to avoid the highway and to drive around the perimeter of the peninsula. I'm looking for a way to reach the shoreline, where we might get lucky. Bummer: the roads keep climbing higher, and when we least expect it, the wind starts blowing hard. There's a storm coming. Within minutes the sky turns black, the treest fold under the whip of wind, the air becomes cooler. Every trail I try is a dead end, taking me to a rockier and rockier slope. Ana can hardly keep her balance in this, and after a curve she brakes a bit to hard, and she slides and hits the ground. Nothing serious, actually it's a lucky event for us. I notice a sign pointing to the shores. Ana abandoned camping.

    That requires some investigation. You can go, no problem, say the young fellows on the side of the road. I take a look, and I figure that'll do for the night. But as we set camp on a cleared stretch of sand, between the dog house and the former restaurant, we discover how lucky we are. Not only the beach is superb, but we have toilets, a shower with running water and soap in the dispenser! It'a not super clean, but it's free, and more than we could have asked for. Ana washes all our dirty layers, underwear and socks, we clean up and enjoy a bag of apricots with ayran. Later we make love on the music of relentless surf.
    Early in the morning Ana cannot help herself but go for a barefoot jog on the beach. We realise that our paranoia from last night was unfounded: more locals come out for a stroll, and they all wave kindly, and smile. We all share this beach, and nobody minds that we have occupied it for little more than a few hours.

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    You need to stop in Akçaabat*for their famed köfte, reads the text message from Ozgur. And this is not an advice to be taken lightly. So we navigate our way across the above mentioned city in search of a much recommended restaurant. Yet the place comes out as too fancy for our budget and attire. We'd better search again. We do get to sample the meatballs, in a shabby restaurant located closer to the city outskirts. The meatballs are good, but a bit too similar to a Romanian summer staple, so we leave rather unimpressed.

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    Turkey is an expensive place - at almost 2 euro/litre gas has possibly the steepest price in the world. Food is not cheap either. At least we are saving on accommodation. And tonight it look like we're gonna pitch our tent in the wet. We are happy to have goretex suits: it's been raining on and off all day, *and this time we couldn't care less. These suits are mighty fine :)

    We take a right turn, and suddenly we're in a Turkish Ceylon. At the home of the fragrant turkish tea. The road follows the river and winds among mountain faces and green terraces covered in tea plantations. In villages women gather the precious leaves in huge bags, then men load then into trucks. Up on the mountains lights signal a daring family that has chosen the highest spot for the plantation. There are wires connecting the house to the valley, so the tea can be easily transported down to the main road. Soon this road will be just a memory. We are left with a dirt trail, that in this rainy weather is muddy and slippery for our road tires. Let's just stop somewhere, we decide, who cares if we get seen by locals, they won'd care. We pull over and pitch by the river. It's a bit noisy, perhaps too damp and too cold. We sleep with everything on, like dead people, exhausted after a long and tiresome day.

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    Only in the morning we are able to appreciate the true beauty of this place. In the village of Potomya we end our journey across Turkey just as we've started: with free tea, courtesy of Murat. Next-door there's the village restaurant, so we buy some soup. Açar brings our plates with a irresistible smile. Isn't she a great gal? her father says. He's obviously very proud of his daughter, and rightfully so. In this place everybody knows everybody. I feel that if we don't leave soon, we might never leave :) Ana's rudimentary Turkish has improved over the week, and if we take a closer look at the windows, we see why it might be easy for us to settle and make ourselves understood in this *place.

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    On our way back to the main road we stop often: to stare at the mountain, at its many shades of grey, at it s wrinkled skin of rock and dirt; to smell the fresh inebriating air; to listen to the muezzin asking for Allah's pity; to admire - without ruining the intimate moment with a camera - the frame of a woman who is leaning in the tea field, with a large straw hat and a colourful scarf wrapped around her neck. We take in this enchanted vibe, before we are awoken by the familiar roar of cars. There are only a few more kilometres to Georgia, a country we've heard so much about, that we have all the reasons to switch to fifth gear and move at full speed ahead!
    *