Monday, 9 July 2012

Eastern Turkey

By Mark

After clearing Iran we made our way into the Turkish immigration where I firstly had to get myself a visa which is easy enough, no forms or photos just hand over 15 euro and you are good to go with 3 months stamped into my passport. Before we could clear the bikes though we did have to get insurance for them which cost us about $27 for both bikes which was pretty cheap. All friendly and helpful here and in no time we were on our way. We only had a nice short ride to our first destination to the town of Dogubayazit just 30km's away. The roads were empty and in good condition apart from the many trucks on their way to Iran with a 4km long convoy of trucks waiting to clear customs. Upon entering the town we were a little confused as to which way we needed to head at first to find our camp spot. While riding around we were greeted with some 'friendly' rock throwing kids which I didn't really take kindly to and decided to chase them on my bike where they fled in all directions but all seemed to end up in a small local shop where they had decided to lock themselves in. I went straight up to the front door to confront them and they seemed a little surprised at me coming to approach them, probably didn't help that I was yelling like a mad man. At first I never realised the doors were locked and upon trying to get in the shop for a second time I put my hand though a glass panel by accident! I don't know by this stage who was more shocked but the eldest of the boys came out and was not happy about what just happened, the only thing I could understand out of everything he was saying was "Polisi!", so I jumped on my bike and left. I just hoped that these boys got the message about throwing rocks. It didn't seem to end there however - the following morning on our way out of town we encountered the same problem but these boys were older, bigger and with hatred in their eyes decided upon firing golf ball size rocks at us. After yesterday's incident I let these boys go about their business and we roared out of town with a bad feeling about our newest country.
We were headed for the city of Erzurum to find a mechanic for our bikes. After a surprisingly cool ride we came across a very modern and clean city and many helpful people so we soon forgot about the little bastard rock throwing kids. We ended up staying here for 3 days while the bikes carbies and tanks were cleaned along with a change of oil and minor service. The down side was my oil problem on the bike was not solved and we would have to wait until we got to Istanbul to sort out the bigger issues. The other problem was the mechanics ended up showing that they were not the most capable of mechanics and went ahead and stripped nuts and were generally a bit complacent about their work but they did make up for it in feeding us, maybe they should become chefs instead? It was the first workshop in my life where they cook for you while you are waiting for your bike to be fixed, maybe just something for us and not the locals. Even though we still had some bike problems we packed up and left hoping that all would work itself out shortly in Istanbul. We had decided by this point we should head north for the Black Sea and not the south as it would have been a longer and harder trip on the bikes.
After the cost of hotels here we had decided it was time to go back to camping to bring down our costs and Turkey is great for camping with many opportunities to just pull off the road and find a nice field to set up in. Just when we think that we have managed to find a place out of the way, we always end up with some locals showing up out of the blue but no one has seemed bothered by our presence and some stop by for a chat and see what we are up too. The down side is it has been hard to communicate with them as many people in the east speak little to no English and our Turkish is almost non existent but somehow we still manage to get across what we are doing, relying heavily on our Turkish phrasebook we were given by a German bicycle traveler. We love that we are back camping as we have missed it through Asia and it is our little home away from home especially after spending 3 months camping everyday in Australia.

Our first night in Turkey and back to camping!

 The mountain range and old Mosque and Fort that surround the town of Dogubayazit

Some much needed attention to the poorly running bikes

 One dirty carby - the fuel tank was not much better

Not the biggest workshop, nor the most competent sadly

Myself with the "mechanics"

Our bikes got to sleep in the foyer of our hotel

A spot of camping in some wheat fields on our way to the Black Sea

The roadside fruit and veg stalls are very cheap and the quality is top notch!

There seems to be no shortage of places where you can find a spot to camp

Even the locals come by for a chat and don't seem to mind us being on their land

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