One girl, one XT250, many kilometers from Australia to The Netherlands, Chick on the Chook Chaser

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Chick on the Chook, Feb 18, 2016.

  1. 10ecjed

    10ecjed Been here awhile

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    Fantastic report.
  2. Chick on the Chook

    Chick on the Chook Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2016
    Oddometer:
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    The Netherlands
    It is weekend again, time for a new report :) So much happened this week, and none of it was according to plan!

    November 10, 2016

    I woke up early, the sun just peeked over the sand dunes behind the tent. I made tea on the petrol burner and had a selection of fruit and yoghurt for breakfast. The view of the empty desert in the morning is dazzling. Then my ear drums were tingled by the unmistakable sounds of two-stroke engines. Bikes, and many of them. They go past and disappear towards the massive sand dunes in the distance. I hop on the bike and follow their tracks. What a feeling to be flying over the sandy tracks in the desert on an un-loaded bike, so much fun! At the dunes it’s a gathering of at least 15 bikes, crossing around in the dust, climbing up these massive mountains of sand. The man are all excited to see a women on a bike, and all the way from Australia too! They perform a lengthy routine of photo taking and an unseen number of wheelies and stoppies to show their skills. Meanwhile three camels are roaming around, unbothered by all the commotion. I could have stayed here all day, but I was on a schedule to get back to Tehran, so around 12 I packed up the tent and took the sandy stretch back to the main road. I arrived in Tehran just after 5. The purpose was to deliver some gifts at the bike shop. Since the guys had been of such tremendous help, I wanted to thank them with something special. I printed and framed two photos of the whole group in front of the shop with my bike and me. When they opened their gifts they were ecstatic and immediately went around to find the perfect place to hang it. Since the flat tyre in Tajikistan I didn’t have a spare front tube, so this was the perfect opportunity to stock up. However, according to the boys, the tyre place was already closed… It’s unclear to me whether it really was, or maybe they just wanted me to stay over and party at their place tonight. Which ever way, the boys proved perfect gentlemen again. They hosted me with such hospitality. We had another great night of broken English, photo watching, crazy dancing and loud singing.

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    November 11, 2016

    One of the last paperwork issues to be solved was the visa for Turkey, an online thing that should be really easy. So this morning, before all the guys woke up, I decided to get this hurdle out of the way. However, when I plugged in my passport details, it said “not valid”. It had been ages ago since I checked the requirements, but I was sure it should all be ok. Turkey is a popular holiday destination from Europe, visas were easy right? Well, when I checked the requirements again it turned out that my info was outdated, and that when I had checked it a few weeks ago, I looked at the requirements for an ID card, not a passport. Damn, that’s a serious setback, no online visa, but I was certain there would be a way around this. I called the embassy, the consulate, the visa helpdesk… They either referred to each other, or simply said they couldn’t help me. In the end the best advice they could give was to call the border police or to simply go to the border and hope they would let me in. The second option sounded like an enormous risk, possibly being stuck between the Iranian and Turkish border with everything that is happening there is simply asking for trouble! And a phone number for the border police was nowhere to be found… Crap! This was the point where I started to really worry. Kamal woke up and decided that like fixing my bike, he would fix this too. We called, googled, called again, talked to friends of his in Turkey, called again. But without much result. The embassies in Tehran were all closed for the coming two days… The situation was looking more and more grim. So we did the only thing we could do, go to the bike shop, drink tea, get a new tube and checked the head bearing as these seemed to be playing up. Towards the end of the afternoon the visa situation hadn’t moved, but I decided to go to Karaj to meet up with the family I stayed with before. With a big hug and a bigger thank you I left Kamal, Rasul and the other boys. The reception in Karaj was phenomenal. Since it was Friday (the Iranian Sunday) the entire family was together. It was so great to see them all again.

    November 12, 2016

    The embassies were still closed, the internet basically told me that I had been rather stupid to not check the requirements properly, there was nothing I could do at this point. So I set out to wash, check and organise everything for the mad dash to Europe. Meanwhile I found out that there should be a ferry service from Georgia to Bulgaria. If the visa didn’t work out this was still an option. Tomorrow would be a new day and I’d do everything to get this silly visa!

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    November 13, 2016

    After another amazing home cooked breakfast it was time to figure out where I stood. I called the ferry company who subsequently told me they discontinued the line to Bulgaria, they only sailed to Russia and Ukraine. No!!!! This was bad, really bad! There were less than 5 weeks left to reach the Netherlands, and it was starting to look like I was stuck in Iran, on a visa that would expire in three days and no other option then taking a boat to Ukraine of all places! I lost it, I was so done with it, I just wanted to go home! I was so over all these bureaucracies, I had a passport that was still valid for 5 more months and just needed to travel for a week, through one more country, before reaching the safe havens of Europe. An emergency call to my parents cheered me up again a little bit and I jumped on the Chook Chaser to visit the Dutch embassy in Tehran, 50 km away. After explaining the issue there, the lady was determined to help me. She called the Turkish consul and did all she could. But the Turks wouldn’t budge, e-visa or nothing they said. And if your passport isn’t valid for more than 6 months, it’s nothing. Well, aren’t they helpful! So now it was Ukraine, or waiting a week for a new passport. Outside the embassy I called my parents again. They found another ferry, that would go to Bulgaria, but with a one day stop in Russia. But it was unclear whether you needed a Russian visa for this. I weighed up my options, calculated the money involved in both and finally came to the conclusion that getting a new passport would be the best thing to do in the long run. Unfortunately it was too late in the day to apply for the passport, I had to come back tomorrow. Back with the family in Karaj I told them the news and asked timidly if it would be possible to stay with them for the time being. My reluctant request was met with a victory dance and a wave of happiness. Thank you!!!

    November 14, 2016

    At 7 in the morning I rushed through Tehran traffic to the embassy. Got my photo taken by a guy in a car on the corner of the street. He took the photo against an old sheet, put op on the embassy wall, and printed it using the power from his car battery. Brilliant the ingenuity of the people here! The application was done quickly, I would have a new passport within a week. The next challenge, extending the Iranian visa. In a busy office in the middle of town this all went rather smoothly. At 12 o’clock all the bureaucracy was completed. Time for coffee with Carl who had arrived in Tehran. We spend the rest of the afternoon at the bazaar getting presents for our far-away families.

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    November 15, 2016

    I had a much needed quiet day and met up with Carl in the late afternoon. He’d been struggling to put all the presents in his luggage. A challenge I also soon had to face up to. We had a last amazing falafel dinner and said our goodbyes, for the fifth time. However, after all our encounters, this was likely the last time we would run into each other on this trip. When I started the bike it sounded weird, the throttle response was bad, and I feared the worst. However after a few streets the issue seemed to be better, and on the highway I could still easily reach 100 km/h. Surely I was worried for no reason.

    November 16, 2016

    Around 9 AM my phone rang, an unknown Iranian number. I was surprised to hear a familiar voice speaking Dutch. “Your passport will probably arrive here this afternoon” What!? That’s amazing! And indeed, at one o’clock the phone rang again, this time to confirm that the much wanted document had arrived in Tehran. Excited I jumped on the bike. However my excitement was soon tempered when the Chook Chaser again showed symptoms of a well-known illness… When I filled it up with petrol on the way to Tehran in only got worse. My priorities shifted, bike shop first. When I arrived Kamal was already waiting for me. He was hopeful it might be the sparkplug, but changing that showed little result. We disconnected the fuel hose and my worst fear was confirmed, the fuel came out at an uneven piss pressure. Another fuel pump busted. We ran some more test, I insisted to check the wiring, but the conclusion was inevitable. With my hands in my hair I slowly came to the realisation I had no way to pay for this repair. The new passport had robbed me of my last emergency dollars and bank or credit cards don’t work in Iran. Meanwhile mechanics from other shops came over and shared their opinions. Now three men were making phone calls, yelling and making large gestures indicating the price the seller on the other site asked for a new pump was outrageous. Kamal refused to put in another expensive aftermarket pump, fearing with the low quality fuel in Iran, it would break again. Eventually we came up with two options, a 400 dollar original pump for a Yamaha off-road bike (this would mean I would lose the fuel light) or make a pump for a Honda CBR600 fit my bike, at a much lower cost. Also, as if send by some sort of guardian angel, Reza, an Iranian guy living in Sydney arrived on the scene. He could give me the required money, I would just transfer it into his Australian account. Although it was 10 o’clock and pitch dark, the proverbial sky broke open and the sun came out. This problem would also be solved.

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    November 17, 2016

    After another night at the mechanics house I needed to go to the embassy. With my own bike in pieces in the shop one of the boys offered to take me. We had the most fun manoeuvring through Tehran traffic, singing out loud, not being able to communicate more than hello, good morning and swearing at taxies and the police. The passport was there, one thing solved. For the bike we decided to go for the option of fitting the CBR pump. Kamal spend all day, scraping away bits of plastic, redoing the wiring, fitting the o-rings etc. Reza took me to his parents for an amazing lunch, cooked by his mother, and by sunset I arrived at the bike shop with a big box of pastries. My little Chook Chaser felt like new. We pieced together that the old pump likely ran hot two days ago when I rushed to the embassy on an almost empty tank. With low quality Iranian fuel, and a crappy aftermarket pump it was a recipe for disaster. I couldn’t be happier with what Kamal did with the new pump. They even gave me a spare motor in case another one would go bust. There were no words to express my gratitude to this guy, my brother, my mechanic.

    November 18, 2016

    Back in Karaj today Hani decided it was time to get out the imminent Iranian city smog and climb a mountain. The views over the tiny houses below were amazing. Sometimes retreating to nature can really recharge you. Later we watched some local motorcross, met some riders and spend more time with the family. It is amazing how people who were strangers a mere 3 weeks ago can become so close to you.
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  3. Chick on the Chook

    Chick on the Chook Adventurer

    Joined:
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  4. Orgnoi1

    Orgnoi1 Uber-Noob

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    The last shot is the perfect ending to a crazy day... =)
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  5. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

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    It seems inconceivable to me that such an oil rich country has such poor quality gasoline. At any rate, glad things worked out, both with the passport and the fuel pump.
  6. allroadtoine

    allroadtoine Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2007
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    100
    I hope you're gonna make it back home in time.
    Love your writingstyle.

    Greetings,

    Toine
  7. bromax

    bromax Bromax Supporter

    Joined:
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    Edmonton Alberta Canada
    I just found this and read it all in one sitting. Wow what a great adventure, post and pictures.
  8. enfielddnepr

    enfielddnepr Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2011
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    216
    Location:
    Assen, Netherlands
    Indeed you would not expect low quality fuel over there..
    the welcoming of the people you describe seems almost unrealstic!
    And..
    I must say, you show a remarkable flexibility towards the buraucracy stuff you're encountering..
    Ofcourse you have no choice, but i think i would ndulge in a self-destructive/non repaying coping style..
    Now..et the fuck over here! hug you kin! Eat boerenkool, rauwe andijvie stamppot en oliebollen!
  9. Chick on the Chook

    Chick on the Chook Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2016
    Oddometer:
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    The Netherlands
    Thanks for all the great replies! It's amazing to see so many people entertained by my humble adventures :)
    With regards to the fuel quality in Iran. From what I've heard the technologies they are using to produce petrol are incredible outdated. And due to the trade embargoes it's hard to upgrade the technologies. Just reciting what they told me, I'm not an expert at all!

    Now the last few days have been seriously exciting riding and travelling. So instead of posting a whole week's update, here are the first 3 days

    November 20, 2016

    Today is the big day. The start of the mad dash to Holland. Poory prepares me one last breakfast and with a full stomach I’m ready to leave. It’s cold, so I’m almost fully geared up, including rain jacket and rain pants to keep the piercing wind out. About 50 km into the trip they come in very handy when small white fluffy things start falling from the sky. I can’t believe it, within minutes I’m in the middle of a snow storm! Luckily the temperature is still above 0 degrees Celcius, so the snow doesn’t stay on the ground. However every 10 seconds I have to wipe it of the visor, the visibility is minimal and still some people are driving like idiots! When the snow stops the road starts climbing. The Iran-Turkey border area is very mountainous. For the coming days the road will go up and up, while the temperatures will only go down. The fuel light comes on, I have a look at the map, there is a fuel stop 50 km away, that should be fine. But when I’m nearly there the road slopes up, and the bike starts doing weird things again. No No No it can’t be true, it feels as if the fuel pump gave up again! But then I come to the bright realisation that maybe I’m simply out of petrol! Indeed, a quick look in the tank confirms the hypothesis. Relieved, yet well aware of the silly situation I’m in, I start undoing the ties of the spare fuel can. I know it’s empty, but in the distance I can make out the shapes of the petrol station. All I need to do is take the red container there, fill up, come back, easy.

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    Before I properly have the spare tank in my hands a car stops. They offer me a ride to the petrol station, and on the way back to the bike, serve up some hot coffee and cookies. You gotta love Iran! Due to the snow my gloves got wet and thus very cold. When I stop to go to the toilet there is a man in the little building, poking up a fire in a small metal can. Yes, inside the toilet facilities! Over the glowing coals I dry my gloves and then hit the road again. The rest of the day is sunny, the environment is beautiful with the occasional snow-capped mountain, and the cold is just bearable. At the last fuel stop before reaching Tabriz I kneel down to warm my hands on the engine. When the guys spot what I’m doing they gesture me to come into the small building. They put a chair next to the heater, crank it up to full and serve ample amounts of hot tea. So lovely! The last stretch to the city is so cold, tiny snowflakes come down again and I wonder what the temperature is. Tonight I’m couchsurfing with a lovely guy when I arrive he also brings out the tea and I position myself in front of the heater. Google states it’s -1 degrees Celcius. No wonder my fingers were about to fall off!

    November 21, 2016

    I’m planning to leave early, but the cold is overwhelming, and my host insist on having a good breakfast before entering the challenging battle. So indeed, after the last Iranian delicacies I jump on the bike at 10.30. The sun is out and it’s a beautiful winter day. When I start it, it seems to struggle, but I blame the cold. However a little later, after stopping for some photos, it’s even harder to start and the engine lights flashes on for just a second… The engine is hot now, so that can’t be the issue... Oil, flashes through my mind. And indeed, when I check the level there is none there. Shit! Reluctant to unpack my entire bag to reach the tools, I ride a little further and stop at a garage. They happily lend me a 14 spanner and a funnel and I top up the precious lubrication liquid. When firing up, the Chook Chaser spins like a happy cat. I’m ready to go to Turkey! There are some 250 kilometers to the border. Every once in a while I stop to warm my hands on the engine, and I figure out that it is perfectly fine to reach down to warm your left hand while riding 90 km/h. All and all the ride is much less challenging than anticipated.

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    At the border it’s a typical chaos. The place is overrun with trucks and truckers. When I mention the word carnet, they point me to a building, but once I fight my way through the yelling, paper waving man it’s clear this is only for commercial carnets, I have to go up the hill, to the passenger terminal. Once there a flock of money changers surrounds me, and is all too eager to direct me to the right place. I already exchanged all my cash, so with a few thank you’s I enter the office. Stamp from guy one, signature from guy two, stamp in the passport and both the chook chaser and I are free to go. The gate, with the Iranian flag painted on it, is opened. Then the next gate, painted in the colours of the Turkish pride, slides to the side as well. I’m directed to passport control. It takes the guy 5 agonising minutes to locate my evisa. He speaks no English whatsoever, and it appears that he has no clue that the country internationally recognised and The Netherlands, is in Turkey referred to as Holland. But once I clear up the confusion, the brand new passport receives its first stamp. Next, get insurance for the bike. In the little office it takes longer and longer before the man explains “System problem!” So we wait, with more hot tea and he turns on the wifi for me so I can freely access facebook again! Eventually it is all sorted and the next gate is opened, I’m in Turkey! I had planned to go to the next city after the border, but it was already dark and really cold. I tossed up the options, but came to the conclusion that dark no mans land in a new country while temperatures are below freezing falls in the category of suicide missions. So instead I rolled into town, bought a sim card and for the first time since Tajikistan got cash from an ATM. On the ground next to the ATM was a weird glistening substance. When I poked it with my foot I realised it was ice, a frozen puddle. There was no more question, it was well below 0! A fruit seller approached me, he spoke perfect English and told me he used to be a tourguide. Over tea in a small café he explained that the tourism here used to be a vibrant business. But, even though this area is completely safe, since all the unrest no one comes to Turkey anymore. He pointed me to a cheap place to stay, just outside the city. Once I arrived there the staff outnumbered the guests 4 to 1. They gave me a small room on the roof of the restaurant. This place was usually for the staff, but since they are more of a camping/huts place their usual rooms don’t have heating. The room was perfect, soft bed, hot shower, and a glowing heater. Ow yeah! Score!

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    November 22, 2016

    It was cold outside when I woke up, really, really cold. Leaving early in the morning was simply not an option if I wanted to keep all 10 toes and fingers. So instead I did some writing, called my parents and enjoyed the brilliant heat of the small heater. Around midday I finally gathered myself and my belongings and mounted the bike. Yesterday night I hadn’t noticed it, but on the sides of the hotel driveway were piles of snow… Just to paint the picture… The road was easy, perfect, no potholes, no weird bumps, almost as if I wasn’t travelling at all. But the views reminded me that I was in a place I’d definitely never been before. The mountains were stunning and the longer I rode, the more snow appeared on them. Until at some point the snow reached all the way to the road. There was snow left right and (literally) center. Luckily the road itself was clean so it was safe to ride. I stopped several times to warm my hands on the engine and to take pictures. When I filled up with petrol and was jumping around the bike in a kangaroo like fashion to warm my toes, I was invited for tea in the office. There the men told me that Agri, this city, was the coldest city in the whole country. Well, it does feel that way to me! When I jumped back on the bike there were 180 km left to the next town, Erzurum. The road went up, the temperature down, the road went down, the temperature up. The peaks reached over 2000 meter. It was simply a matter of holding the throttle open and thinking about palm trees, beaches and coconuts. Just after sunset I arrived in the city. The map indicated one hotel so I followed the directions. In the city the snow was even more prevalent, it was in the streets, frozen solid to the tarmac. Sheets of black ice were everywhere, I had to watch out really well and once held up a lot of angry traffic when turning back from a totally icy street. When I arrived at the hotel it was way too fancy, but the entire street was full of places to stay. Some looked really shabby, some quite fine. I decided that after this temperaturic torture I had the right to have at least a good bed and a hot shower. Which luckily turned out to be of reasonable price too.

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  10. Chick on the Chook

    Chick on the Chook Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2016
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    The Netherlands
  11. durtwurm

    durtwurm Talented Amateur

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    Park City, Utah
    Yours is quite the adventure; a woman alone traveling toward a distant horizon. Admirable and interesting.
  12. TigerTanker

    TigerTanker Husqurducycle

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    Wow, nice story going here! You have a good eye for photos.
  13. Orgnoi1

    Orgnoi1 Uber-Noob

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    Upstate NY
    The first mountain shot is amazing... they are all amazing... =)
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  14. * SHAG *

    * SHAG * Unstable

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    Really enjoying the updates of your journey. :rogue
  15. DavidM1

    DavidM1 Unicorn hunting

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  16. hplp

    hplp n00b

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    Thank you lots for sharing. All the best with the final leg back to the Netherlands!
  17. Chick on the Chook

    Chick on the Chook Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2016
    Oddometer:
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    You guys are all so awesome! Really, the comments and responses here convince me to keep it all up to date :)
    So here we are again, another week of cold adventuring!

    November 23, 2016

    It is cold, colder than I have experienced in about 4 years. At 10 AM the ice in the streets is still frozen solid. I wait another hour, but there seems no change. If I want to make it to today’s destination, there is no other option then packing and riding. I’m super careful to avoid anything that might be water, ice, snow or a mixture of the above. Once I’m out of the city the road is properly cleaned, I relax and enjoy the fairy tale views of the mountains. The world is covered in this magical dusting of powder sugar. The joy of the environment is enough to forget my icy fingers and toes for a few minutes. But then the road surface changes, suddenly it looks shiny and black, and I have nowhere to go, nothing to do. It looks like I’m heading straight onto gigantic amounts of black ice. I brake as much as possible, hold my breath and hope for the best. But as my wheels touch the suspicious surface, I realise it’s simply a different kind of tarmac. This process repeats itself numerous times and every time again I fear it’s ice. 100 km in it’s time for a fuel and warm-up-stop. When I gesture towards the petrol station office, asking if I can sit inside to warm up, they immediately sit me down next to the heater. A few seconds later a big black kettle is carried in, it is at least 40 cm in diameter and of the type that you see witches brew their potions in. However, instead of spell invoking undefinable green liquid, this one contained the most amazing stew. Every one working at or around the fuel station came in to fill a bowl, and as their surprise guest I was served a double portion. I left the petrol station warm and stuffed with food. Luckily, as I was approaching the Black sea, the rest of the ride became gradually warmer. In Gorele, on the Black Sea coast I was welcomed by Kaan, a young Turkish motorbike rider. His father, who at the moment was out of town, has followed my adventures for months. He invited me to stay with his family. Kaan’s riding friends came over, we went for a ride around town and talked travel and bikes via google translate. The language of bikes and bikers knows no borders!

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    November 24, 2016

    It’s such a shame when you’re travelling but you’re in a hurry to get somewhere. I felt sad to have to leave this wonderful family already, but I had no choice, the ride must go on. Before I really left town Kaan escorted me to the middle of town. There, some 10 bikers had gathered to wish me a good journey. So kind! Today the ride leads mostly along the Black Sea coast. Blue water on the right, hills and mountains to my left and the most perfect highway towards the horizon. A day of pure enjoyment. Later the roads turns inlands, starts climbing and with this the temperatures drop again. A thin layer of snow covers the hills and the fields next to the road. It beautifully reflects the colours of the setting sun. But it’s so cold! Brrr, time to find a hotel. I head to the nearest town, 70 km, find the ATM and a friendly English speaking local points me to the hotel around the corner. I made it, my toes survived another day! For dinner I check out one of the most famous local specialties, Kofte. This dish used to be made with raw meat. However, since the regulations around selling raw meat changed, they decided to make the thing entirely vegetarian. Two wraps with salad and this delicacy set me back less than two dollars. I love Turkey!

    November 25, 2016

    Breakfast at the hotel was incredible, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, two types of cheese and fresh bread. I had two plates! Then, with a layer of white frost still on the roofs of the houses, I packed my belongings and hit the road. Ready for a long day to Istanbul. The views were again stunning, with the occasional dusting of snow on the mountains and the petrol station employees, as usual, asked me in for tea. I completed 550 kilometers, and found myself, with only 20 km left, in the worst traffic jam ever. Really, the traffic in Istanbul is nuts! Even with a bike it was hard to navigate through a jampacked highway. Especially when trucks start using the emergency lane and block everyone from going anywhere… Just as I exited the highway my phone, and thus GPS, decided to have a melt down. Or maybe it was a freeze down. It just kept powering off, while it still had charge… Then because of the total system reset my GPS app somehow couldn’t find the maps on the SD card… Aghrrr! Meanwhile Turkish traffic was flying past, honking and cutting right in front of me. Not my problem if you have anger issues mate! Finally the phone worked again, I downloaded the map, changed the settings and all was fine and dandy. Now finally I could make my way to Ozgur. This Turkish national has travelled a bit around Europe on is BMW, and he invited me to stay with him. His girlfriend Deniz was also there and together we had a simple yet so welcomed pasta pesto, salad and selection of French cheeses. Ow my, heaven just landed on earth! To have good cheese after a year in Asia! We talked about travel and have a great night together, I feel so lucky to have landed in a great place like this again. Turkey has been a continuous struggle against the cold, but the hospitality is heart warming.

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    November 26, 2016

    Since I made it from Tehran to Istanbul in less than a week, I had time to stay for a day. Istanbul is a beautiful city and the meeting point of east and west. When Ozgur and Deniz took me to the city centre this became even more obvious. Istanbul’s inhabitants range from fully European looking to middle eastern and Asian complexity. The buildings range from silk road style mosques to old Victorian mansions. This was the first time in almost 2.5 year that I set foot on the European continent, yet it felt like I was still so far from home! Because a day is by far not long enough to properly visit the city, I decided to leave all the mosques and other architecture of cultural importance for another time. Instead I tried out a relaxing, 300 year old, Turkish Hammam (bathhouse). The building was stunning, marble everywhere, beautiful old woodwork and even a fountain in the middle. Over the years many famous people had visited this place, and it was easy to see why, it was living breathing and relaxing Turkish heritage. After all the cold fingers and riding in cramped up positions a hot bath and massage were a most amazing treat. Later I reunited with Deniz and Ozgur, we roamed around the Grand Bazar, sniffed the smells of the Spice Bazar and walked over the bridge. There, it seemed that the entire male population of Istanbul had devoted themselves to the sport of fishing. They all cast of the bridge, into the river. It was so crowded that a few even used the road’s storm drains to fish through. It was a true spectacle to watch them. We walked further through one of the shopping streets with all the major brands represented, people were playing music in the streets, the atmosphere was great. There were cafes where people were smoking shisha outside, and playing chess. Istanbul’s mixture of East and West suits the place perfectly. Ozgur and Deniz were the perfect hosts to show the life of the city.

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    November 27, 2016

    There are many places I’ve been this year, that I would like to go back to, but Istanbul is very high up on that list. Seriously regretting the lack of time I had to spend here, I pack and get ready to leave. Ozgur escorts me to the highway. Soon I reach the Bridge across the Bosporus. This is it, the end of the Asian continent. On the European side things are just as I remembered them to be. Cold, grey and within half an hour it starts to rain… Great… Slowly I make my way to the border with Bulgaria on a monotonous highway. Getting out of Turkey is really fast, check the computer, stamp the passport, done. On the Bulgarian end they checked the passport, and ask for the bike papers. I explain we don’t have actual papers in Australia, show them that I paid my registration and showed the carnet with all the bike details. Suddenly there was a lot of commotion, the guy left his booth, went into the office and came back without my papers. I explained that I needed insurance, I knew that, and asked where I could get it… He mumbled something and said “Chief in office, go there” Inside the office things didn’t become much clearer. The customs chief didn’t speak a word of English, but we got someone from the border police to translate. He explained I needed a particular paper, but they weren’t too sure. Eventually they allowed me to go get insurance, just outside the customs area, but they kept my passport. After the boom gate Yan was waiting for me. This English biker owns a B&B, called Stara Elena, about 10km away, and he offered to pick me up from the border. But instead of riding home, we had a few hours of paperwork ahead of us.

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    After getting the insurance Customs was now adamant, you need this paper, and you have only 7 days to officially import your bike into the European Union. They said it was because I’m a European citizen, on an Australian bike. But I’m 99% sure it is utter nonsense. To confirm, I call a friend who has done the same thing, and he agrees, bull shit. But Customs stand their ground, this is the law! They don’t even allow me to use my bike to go the 500 meter to the office to get the piece of paperwork I supposedly need. So on the back of Yan’s bike we go to the little office. The lady there explains that this paper is for cargo, even if she wanted to she couldn’t give me one. She also explains that the custom guys here are idiots, they have no idea what they are doing, and that I’m better off going back into turkey and riding around 70 km to the next border post… By now it is dark, foggy and occasionally drizzling. There is no way I’m gonna ride back into Turkey just because a bunch of idiots in a uniform aren’t doing their job right. So back at the border I explain the whole situation, how they are confusing a vehicle for cargo, and insist that what they want me to do is against the law. They aren’t really listening to my diplomatic arguments so it’s time to pull out the last weapon, the tactical rage. Now with raised voice and a tone of conviction I repeat all the arguments, and demand that if they don’t know what they are doing, they should call the other border. Finally something seems to shift, people are starting to make calls. I’m ordered to wait 15 minutes. Outside, Yan offers we could leave the bike and come back in the morning, but I’m determined, this needs to be settled now. When I enter the office again they want to inspect the carnet once more. I lose my patience, raise my voice and exclaim: “The carnet has nothing to do with it, the bike is mine, I’m legally allowed to ride it in Europe for 6 months before importing it. Can I go now?!” Two minutes later the chief nods, pushes the papers towards me and stares at an empty computer screen. He just made a fool out of himself and he knows it, he doesn’t even dare to look in my direction. I thank the guys who have been translating and finally, 4 hours late, follow Yan to Granitovo. When I open the door to my room there are chocolates on the bed and 2 bottles of engine oil on the bedside table. Now that’s a bikers welcome!
  18. Chick on the Chook

    Chick on the Chook Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2016
    Oddometer:
    71
    Location:
    The Netherlands
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    fishing through the storm drain!!

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    BillUA, 10ecjed, Orgnoi1 and 3 others like this.
  19. yamalama

    yamalama wet coaster

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,780
    Location:
    vancouver bc
    thanks for the update. nicely done!
  20. juno

    juno Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2014
    Oddometer:
    2,081
    Location:
    Jupiter
    Great updates! Turkey is a beautiful country, even in the cold!
    I am glad you are back in Europe and close to 'home'.