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My travels in Turkey
1965 Istanbal-Ankara-Samsun-Giresun and back  ( I was 15 y.o and hitchhiked back to Holland with my 18  y.o     brother, nearly all roads outside the cities were dirt roads.
1967 with my brother Frans on   from Holland to IBMW R67/2)
1975 with my first wife from Holland to Istanbul (BMWR75/5)
1985 with my brother in law Ron Siebeling from Holland to Istanbul, Galiopli, Izmir , Pamukale (BMW R80RT)
1992 to from Holland to Istanbul-Ankara- Capadocia (BMW R80RT)
1994 with my 81 y.o  mum from Holland to Galipolli,Istanbul ( car)
1997 with Charly Miller and Peter Goodsir coming from Iran to Istanbul (BMW R80/100 )
2002 with my wife Yoka from Holland along the coast to Antakya-Ankara-Istanbul (R100GSPD)

 

Overland story continued
 It was my 7th visit to Turkey,  With Peter and Charlie the following route was taken:

From Iran-to Erzurum-Hopa-Trabzon-Samsun-Kayseri-Adana-Tarsus-Iskenderim --back- Icel (Mersin) coastal route to Antalya-inland route to Pamukale- Peter and Carlie went to the coast to Izmir and on to Galipolli- Istanbul, whilst i continues directly towards Istanbul.

It is cold at the border of Iran and Turkey.  After 2 hours hold up, due to formalities on both the Iranian and Turkish borders we set off and soon are surrounded by endless snowfields.  A very large mountain almost totally covered by snow lays on our right - Mount Ararat.  At this time I don’t care about whether Noah’s Ark is there on not - at zero degrees and 90 kph the chill factor is minus 15 deg c, my thermometer tells me,  the mind goes a bit dull.

We hit patches of fog to make things worse.  Charlie pulls off to the side of the road into a small snow free area and I follow him, only to get bogged in greasy wet clay.  With a rope we pull the bikes out.  The wheels don’t turn anymore.  On the side of the road I remove the front wheel to clear the mudguard from all this clay. Hands cold and no sticks around the job took quiet a while.

Again we face roads blocks because we are in a border area but also because this part of Turkey has its own problems due to the location and internal problems concerning Kurdistan.

For the first time we were stopped by some corrupt policemen, one of them pointed out the as we where motorcyclist we should have been riding 50 meters apart and this would cost us 50 dollars. I just laughed and objected, told him that we had no Turkish money but only travellers checks and that I would duly note their numbers and also his policeman’s number. I pointed out that in all my travel I had never met a corrupt cop like he was. He withdrew, I think that his companions were embarrassed about the whole incident and told him to give up.

The next incident was something I had expected as I had read many books on travelling in this part of the country and all had recorded the same, children throwing stone and rocks at passing traffic. One of them hit my spotlight but as I had a plastic protector in front of the light it did no damage, Charlie however had his mirror broken. The parents just stood there watching, I suppose they didn’t know any better as the must have been the kids I had read about some years before.

3.00 pm - More snow, but now from the sky.  We are travelling at 7,850 feet  and the temperature has dropped to minus 1 deg c.  We arrive in Erzurun (6,400 feet).  And find a reasonable hotel, the cheapest ever. A room for three persons for 200.000 lira (1 Aus$ is 105.000 Lira.

The streets are wet and the  wind is bitterly cold so we drink hot tea and go to bed fully dressed (after eating a great Iskender Kebab), only to wake up in the morning to find everything covered in 10 cm of snow.  I go outside to take a few pictures.  A walk across the block makes me shiver - it’s minus 5 deg c. Outside the bakery is a pile of bread, it must have delivered not so very long ago as it is still warm. I take two loaves with and shove some money under the door trusting that they know what it is for. It may be days before we are away from here I pondered, taking into account that we watched large snowdrifts being cleared just north of here near the coast.

 Under the snow is a layer of slippery ice.  I am sure that we are not going anywhere for time being. The city looks beautiful under its layer of snow and we take the opportunity to go to a very old Seljuk Mosque, it is ruins, the layer of snow makes it look like something out of a fairytail.

The hotel owner had assured us that by 12 oçlock we would be able to leave without any problems…well, we’ll see. Because of its elevation Erzurum is subject to rather large temperature fluctuations between day and night. Through the days the temp climbs up to around ten degrees whilst during the night it drops to minus ten. By around nine o’clock the temperature started to rise and the snow to melt. A strange sight, as on one side of the street the sun had melted all the snow whilst on the other side the snow had not moved at all.

Another discussion followed about which road we were best to take, our planned route would first lead us further west before turning north. The map showed that the road would rise even further and that we had to cross an even higher pass to reach the Black Sea. We decided to backtrack slightly and straight for the coast but, as we were quickly told, was not an option due to a broken bridge. Rather a broken bridge than ice on the road we reasoned and left town via sunny streets where the snow and ice had melted.

As soon as we left the city the there was no further sign of any snow and could be make some headway towards Hopa.  A few roadsigns warned us of an upcoming traffic hazard and a road closure, we parked the bikes on the side of the road to investigate the reason for the closure. As we where told there was indeed a broken bridge, actually a collapsed bridge where (as we read later on in the newspaper) a truck with an unbelievable 13o ton transformer had tried to cross a 30 ton bridge. The truck had entered the bridge which had just folded in the middle, plummeting the entire truck and load down in the narrow river. New road work had been constructed by means of bulldozing a track next to the river and laying concrete pipes covered with earth and bitumen, lengthwise in the water, connecting to another new track on the other side of the river. Our timing was right as we only had to wait about 30 minutes, I guess some people would have been waiting for two days: we were the first to cross and rode our bikes on the still warm and soft newly laid bitumen.

Via a breathtaking gorge we rode on to Hopa, truly one of the most beautiful sites I have seen. Lots of hotels but not cheap, the possible reason being that the place is overrun by Russians and Russian prostitutes who also stayed at the same hotel. (so I think we stayed in a hotel which was converted into a hore-house) The Russian (Georgian ) border is only about 30 km from here. We bought a few beers and retreated to our room.

17 April 1997

After leaving town the next morning we stopped at a roadside bakery, bought a bun shaped typical Turkish style loaf of bread was still warm. I stuck the loaf in the tank bag to have literally breakfast on the run, munching away at small pieces at the time.

We now followed the twisting coastal road overlooking the Black Sea, at first it seemed that we would enjoy pleasant weather and riding conditions. The day did not start off too well as I got my first fine for overtaking crossing a single continues line. I tried to talk my way out of it but to no avail. When I protested at the amount of money 3.6 million Lira (about 32 AUD) the cop produced an article where he showed what the cost would be in other countries pointing out that the fine was rather cheap.

We were now only a few hundred km away from the point where I could say that I have completed my journey, as we were heading west along the Black Sea coast towards Rize, This area of Turkey lives mainly of the production of tea and hazelnuts.

We pass Trabzon, ancient Trapezus and Trabizond, famous for its rich history. Not far now to Espiye where I have been once before back when I was 15. I wondered if Zekeriya still lived there or if indeed he was still live (Zekeriye had once lived at our home as a Turkish guestworker and made his fortune in Holland, I remembered that he diceded to go back in 1985 after living in Holland for about 29 years.) We came to a bridge and at once I knew that we had passed through the town, and this without recognising anything. First of all when I visited before in 1965 I had the feeling it was 1835 because I hadn’t seen bitumen for a few thousand kilometres and the fact that everyting was old, poor and primitieve. I decided to ask the best person I could find and that was the postman, luckily he crossed the road in front of us so we didn’t have to find the postoffice.

Efedersiniz, Zekeriya Abanoz nerededir?  I asked in my best Turkish, do you know where I can find Zekeriya Abanoz? He pointed to a sign above a shop right next to us which read Abanoz super market. I was amazed at how quickly I was sent in the right direction. On entering the supermarket I was met by some your fellows who made a quick phone call.  Yes he is home, go across the bridge ,turn left and up the hill, there you will find him.

Zekeriya greeted me with gret joy in his voice and eyes , he was indeed very happy if not surprised to see me. I was introduced to his wife and two young children and I introduced them to Charlie and Peter. We stayed the rest of the day, went for a mountain walk and to a drive up the hill to see an old man who said he remembered me when I was there 35 years before, he remembered that I had been very sick and the whole village had talked about it.Well so much for that but I did not remember him, maybe because there was only two of us and hundreds of them when I was staying there. For Charlie and Peter it may have been a bit boring as Zekerya and I conversed in Dutch just about all of the time.

In two days it is Bayram, the feast commemorating when Abraham wanted to offer his son to God but was able to substitute with a sheep. Person who are better of buy a sheep or cow and have it ritually slaughtered, mostly in their back yards. As this is a family feast I felt that we should push on in the morning, I am sure they wanted me to stay but not sure the three of us. The next morning we watched a sheep being slaughtered in the yard and completely stripped and gutted. I had a bit of a guilt feeling as I pulled him by the horns, from under the house. The last time I had witnessed this was when I was here before, only at that time it was done as a going away gesture by the same family.

After we said our goodbye’s we continued along the same coastal road as the day before, we passed many villages, in some of them we saw cows and sheep being slaughtered.  Within a short distance the weather began to change, soon after we found ourselves in an unbearable situation – rain, strong headwinds and only a miserable 2 deg c.

We stop at a service station to get out of the rain and something to eat, Charlie discovers that he has a puncture. We decide to call it quits for the day, this was the worst day of the trip as far as the weather was concerned, I actually could feel pain in my hands and face although but are covered. Charlie is going to fix his tire and Peter and I ride on the Terme, the next town, to find a hotel.

The small $5.00 hotel is warm, cosy and  with plenty of hot tea and conversation. We leave our bikes outside for the time being so Charlie can see them when he arrives. Meanwhile we try to get warm and cosy while waiting for Charlie. After 1 ½ hours I began to wonder if Charlie would have missed us, in that case it would be difficult to find him again; I waited on the roadside for half an hour and just when I decided to give up I heard him coming. Towards the evening we went for a stroll to look for food but nothing was to be found other them getting some sausage and bread from a small corner store. The hotel manager was worried about our bikes and told us to follow him down stairs into a bakery, no idea what the connection was, maybe he was the owner. Interesting that there were no harsh words in the morning seeing that the bikes were very much in their way. The bakers had already baked some bread and we had breakfast consisting out of freshly baked warm leafs and some tea.

It was now the 19th of April, I think our plan to visit Gallipoli on Anzac day we have to let go, today was a 545 km day via Samsun end Corum, we met a very interesting person on the road to Corum. Charlie and Peter had slowed down a bit to look while I came to a standstill to wonder what I was looking at. I think it was the small Indian flag which caught my eye. Here was man walking inside a threewheeled bicycles. It consisted of a light frame with vertical  stays just a bit taller than himself , above his head was a light aluminium roof, he had a harness  with which he pulled the whole thing, walking freely, his hands resting on a bar. At night he would place some aluminium sheets on a centre frame. Lower two  canvass  side sheets and create a tent where he could safely sleep about one metre of the ground. I asked where he was from…..India ! he said, and where have you been? India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, Rumania, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Latvia, Lituania , Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Holland ,Germany……rattling away all the European countries, Oh..Ok Ok I said, I was reciting these countries at such a speed that I could hardly follow him. Why are you doing this and how long have you been walking, well he said I walk for world peace and have been walking for ten years. About the cost he added that  people would give him food or money and that the main costs were his shoes which he maintained  himself by cutting  pieces of rubber out of tires he found along the side of the road. Very interesting. It was about an hour later that I realised that he said that the only way he was surviving was by what people would give him, and what had we given him?…nothing. Hadn’t even crossed our mind I guess, we could given him a few dollars worth or maybe our Iranian left over notes, didn’t even think of it. Maybe next time, I figure if you walk for peace he would walk until he dies so maybe we will cross his path again.

April 20 1997

We are staying at Urgup, at the same hotel where I been before, including the quaint little inner courtyard. Charlie and Peter are going to Goreme national park for the day, the area where you can see all the little fairy chimneys. I looked at the map and ventured out inland to a village I had been before, In the town square I had spoken to some women who sat in a row selling little home made dolls, they cost 1 AUD each. When I approached they all shouted for attention, I walked slowly passed them until I came to a girl who just looked at me and said nothing at all. I asked how old she was, 15 she said, I pulled a picture of Nathalie out of my pocket and showed it to her, “this is my daughter”, she is also 15 I said. She smiled. I indicated that I would buy a doll of her, instantly the women started to shout at me that I should buy of them as they had families to feed. Some started pulling on my jacket to get my attention, I made up my mind immediately and bought all her dolls, twelve in all, to great dismay of all. I put them in my tank bag and handed them out to children I passed along the side of the road about 40 km back towards Urgup. I wanted to have another look there but found no one there except for a teahouse and a broken down bus about 50 meters away.

I made conversation with the owner of the teahouse, a 24 year old guy who told me that there was not much business due to the cold weather. He introduced himself as Yavuz. What about the bus I asked, He shrugged his shoulders. There must be about 50 tourists standing there next to the bus. I liked the guy and said I would help him. The bus was Turkish but the group where Italians visiting the area. I walked over and started a conversation with some of them. Once I told them I had come by motorcycle from Australia I really got their attention; while telling some stories about India and Iran a took a few steps in the direction of the teahouse. I show you the bike, I said. As it was parked near the entrance about 20 people followed me to have a look. It started to rain slightly and I used the opportunity straightaway, opening the door to the teahouse all of them followed me inside to the amazement of Yavus. Some more people started walking our way and within a few minutes every seat was taken. Yavuz quickly got some help and served tea and biscuits to everyone. While I kept them busy with stories (being translated into Italian by one of the students) Yavuz kept running to and fro with his pots of tea.

After about twenty minutes the driver signalled that everything was ok , they could continue their journey. In no time everyone left and were Yavuz and I alone, he looked at me and started to laugh. Lets go he said and indicted that he wanted to close the shop. The bike would be fine at the shop, just follow me and come home with me. We walked up a hill and entered to house. Here I was in a genuine Turkish home like I always imaged it to be. Leaving my shoes outside I entered the main room decorated with brightly coloured carpets, cushions on the floor were the only furniture in the room.

Immediately his mother and sister entered, both dressed in traditional clothing. I don’t speak enough Turkish to hold a proper conversation but enough to make contact ,ask questions and understand enough to understand what they are saying. Tea and snacks were served while Yavuz told his family about the bus and its passengers. Both of them laughed loudly. I said goodbye to Yavuz, he gave me his address details and said that next time I was in the area that I should stay at his house.

 

to be continued