We clocked up a 760km day today, all the way from Bodrum on the SW coast to Ankara, the capital of Turkey. A couple of days ago the plan was to make our way slowly around the SW tip of Turkey and slowly cruise up to Ankara, but in a rare moment of forward-thinking it dawned on me that we’d be arriving in Ankara on the weekend – completely unsuitable as the primary purpose of our visit is to go to the Iranian and Indian embassies and organise our visas.

Last night we were packed and sorted, and this morning we were up at 4:00am and just starting to get lost in Bodrum’s back streets at 04:50am. Despite having the GPS I was still missing turns as streets it was calling out looked more like private driveways or vertical hill climbs, so we toured Bodrum for a while dodging stray dogs out for an early stroll before I could pick up a main road and start to make our way out of town.

A few km out of town we pulled over and had a quick refuel and drink stop. We had 380km in the tank to start with – approx 2/3 fuel load – but rather than get caught short we topped up the remaining 10 litres, had a water and a coco pop bar we’d purchased the previous evening, and then set off towards Mugla.

The first 50km or so of the ride we were retracing our steps from a couple of days earlier, and I couldn’t figure out why the road looked so dark until I realised that the spotlights weren’t on …. duh !!!

There’s no direct route from Bodrum to Ankara so we found ourselves zig-zagging south-east and north-east for a while. I’d chunked the ride into approx 150km – 200km sections so I could gauge our progress, and we made good time and distance in the first few hours of the ride.

From Tavas we made our way towards Burdur via the scenic road that runs south of the lake, and on this rural back-road we picked up a lot of roadworks so had a slow a bit over the wet and slippery gravel. When Karen en checked later the back of the bike was plastered in mud flinged up by the rear wheel – looks like she has some cleaning and polishing to do this weekend!

Arriving in Burdur we refuelled on the main road that bypasses the town, then slipped into the town to look for a cafe for breakfast. Most places were closed but as we were approaching the other end of town she spotted a small cafe with people in, so we spun around (actually we crawled around as I turn the bike slowly) and went back there.

The owner made us most welcome, and when he heard we would like some bread for breakfast he thrust ten lira into another man’s hand and sent him down the road to get some bread. When he heard that I would like a coffee he crossed the road and brought back some Nescafé, and proceeded to whip up a coffee for me.

Karen and I had a lovely chat both with the Turkish owner – he spoke excellent English due to his language classes in primary and high school – and his friends, whom he translated for. I lifted out my map of Turkey and we had an animated and largely incomprehensible discussion on Turkey. One man pointed out Van, and through sign language showed that he came from there. He had his shoe-polishing equipment next to the cafe so Karen asked him to polish her boots, which he did most fastidiously.

Another gentleman slipped into the conversation – with lovely English – and passed me his business card – “Ilyas – Police Translator”. Ilyas invited us to visit his police station just down the road to take some pictures, so Karen and I followed him to the station house where Ilyas showed us the memorial to fallen officers. In his office, Ilyas said that he planned to retire in two years, and hoped to buy a motorcycle and go travelling to other countries on it, with his wife on the back!

From Burdur we made good time heading north through Afyon. We cruised comfortably around 130kmh in light traffic for most of the day.  With that said, the early ride in the darkness was just slow and steady, and then as the sun rose I was riding directly into it and the lane markings here in Turkey are very faint and this section of the road was in poor condition – even a section of brand new road had collapsed – so again this was all taken at a slower pace.

The only scare of the morning was having a low-loader start to pull out onto the road just in front of us just after we left Burdur – a quick right-left flick had us clear the truck, and it was a good wake-up call that just because they look at you and see you doesn’t mean they have any intentions of stopping. We were sitting on the posted 110kmh limit, and he had clear visibility as he rolled out of his driveway, but I don’t think he had any intention of stopping at the stop sign that faced him. As a footnote here – the vast majority of truck drivers in Turkey are great – the other day when one truckie saw some congestion building up ahead due to a slow tractor pulling a trailer of people stopped in the fast lane he was straight onto his brakes and then flipped on his hazard lights to warn me – it’s the car drivers here that are dangerous – even Ilyas our police friend warned us how bad they are!

We slipped through Afyon and stopped a short distance up the road at what just looked like a truck-stop diner, but in fact turned out to be a lovely restaurant overseen by the most generous of managers – Kaan. Kaan was so generous he supplied us with water to pack in our tank bag, hand wipes, spare plastic bags and a small container of cloves for dissolving in water and re-energising ourselves. He had previously worked on some cruise ships in the Caribbean, but now married and with two young children he now works closer to his family.

The pump operator at the adjacent servo was less engaging, so without refuelling we got back onto the road and headed up to our next stop at   Polatli. The three young attendents there – Mustafah, Nurellah and Mustafah – were in awe over Karen and the bike, and were eager to line up and have their photos taken. A quick water and Mars Bar and we were back on the road for the last 70km into Ankara.

The traffic started to become a bit denser, which in Turkey is the perfect justification for everyone to start driving like knobs. The road was six lanes wide – three up and three down, but our side of the road had an invisible fourth lane that carried oncoming cars up our side of the road – possibly not completely legal but anything goes over here apparently. For a while I stayed in the fast lane but there I was getting swamped by cars so I switched to the slow lane, and that was working fine until I almost lost my head to a tow rope that snapped and was whipping around. In the lead-up to this I could see the slow lane was starting to bank up so I put the brakes on and was intending to just sit behind the slow cars ahead of me, until I saw in my mirrors a cement mixer bearing down on us at a rapid pace and unlikely to stop in time, so I pulled out to clear the slow cars ahead and at the same time their tow rope snapped – now that was a bit of a “what the f@ck!” moment.

What that said the traffic into Ankara was very tame after Istanbul – almost a complete non-event, and it helped that our hotel wasn’t far off a main road so we didn’t need to trawl through the backstreets for long. Arriving at our hotel – strategically located near the Iranian Embassy for our visit tomorrow, we parked the bike in the underground ballroom, sorted out some paperwork, had a cheap and cheerful dinner, and called it a night after a long but successful day.

As a footnote it was cooler and much less humid today – I noted a maximum of 32.5 degrees – and that made it much more pleasant to ride in as we weren’t sweating inside our riding gear as we had whilst riding along the west coast. After the 760km I was good for another couple of hundred kilometres I think 🙂


After our “Village Breakfast” at the Kos Hotel, we headed off for the Museum…we stopped off at the reception to get a business card….so we had the address for our return to we needed it…. and our host kindly organised a driver for us free of charge to take us there…which was very unexpected.

We used our Museum Passes to get in free. The Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology is housed in the Bodrum Castle of The Knights of St. John and its not a dusty collection of lifeless relics, it is very original, creative and interesting. It covers the history through exhibits that take you back in time into the worlds of ancient mariners who sailed to meet their destiny shipwrecked on Anatolian shores or to the medieval Age of Knights who built this castle from stones that once were part of one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient World: The Mausoleum of Halicarnasus.

Finds from The Yassıada shipwreck, found off the coast of the Bodrum Peninsula, are on show and there is a model of the wreck that you can walk over. In the ship, dated to the 6th century AD, there was a cargo of many amphorae that were filled with wine. During excavations, kitchen utensils, the remains of food and equipment of the vessel were salvaged. All the iron original artefacts that were salvaged were so badly corroded by the effects of the salt water that their character could not be determined. The most interesting find was the plaque with a pigs face on it and bearing and engraving of the name of the ship’s captain, George. The ship is displayed in what was once used as a chapel by the knights and later in the Ottoman period a Mosque.

The “Glass Shipwreck”, named because of the numerous glass items that were recovered, sank in the 11th century after striking rocks near the port of Serçe. The shipwreck was lying in 32 metres, and was excavated between 1977 and 1979 by Professor George Bass, who found it to be in a fairly good condition. After clearing the cargo of blocks of commercial glass, the belongings of a merchant who used to travel freely between the Islamic states and Byzantine were found. While the bulk glass was being loaded to be melted and shaped, the new products were sold in different ports. Many pieces from the early Islamic period, such as swords, cups with holes to drain and the checker pieces were found. With the help of the discoveries, it was established the ship sank around 1025.

Behind the Italian Tower, houses the sarcophagus, skeleton and private belongings of the Carian Princess Ada (Island) of the Henkatomnos dynasty.The identification of the skeleton, unearthed while foundations were being dug in 1989, was proven to be the Carian princess. A reconstruction of the flesh made in England based on the skeleton gave an indication that the face had similarities to a portrait of Princess Ada that was found in Priene, the jewellery also recovered has a Persian influence, while anthropologic studies showing that she had given birth multiple times made the argument even stronger. This woman, who died when she was 44, had had her jewellery, a drinking cup and gold embriodered clothing placed in her burial chamber. The princess died around 330 BC and, along with her skeleton, the skeleton of a mouse that had got in before the top of her tomb was shut with the large stone was also recovered. You can see the DVD of the recovering of the finds, a chronology of her family tree and a plaster copy of the face of the princess that was developed in England where the skull of the princess had been sent to the British Museum from Priene. Whilst photographing her jewellery I accidentally set off an alarm that scared me….but it went off many times whilst I was there…..as it was linked to some seats people kept sitting on!

They close the exhibits at lunch time so around 12.00 we went and had an icecream (to cool down) and a drink and waited (Vince had a little lay down – see pic) until 1.00 to see the final 3 exhibits.

They were worth the wait! Professor George Bass is recognized as one of the early pioneers of underwater archaeology along with Peter Throckmorton, Honor Frost (and others). Bass was the director of the first archaeological expedition to entirely excavate an ancient shipwreck: Cape Gelidonva in 1960 and since then he has excavated shipwrecks of the Bronze Age, Classical Age and Byzantine. He worked for the Uni of Pennsylvania and the Texas A&M Uni and many of his amazing finds were exhibited throughout the Museum. In 1973 he founded the Institute of Nautical Archaeology and there is a branch in Bodrum. His work and findings have thrown new light on things like the dating of Homer’s Odyssey, chronologies of Egyptian dynasties and Helladic cultures…..it was fascinating to hear about him in both TV displays, static displays and our audio guides (15TL each).

The Exhibition Hall of Bronze Age Wrecks: to the east of the castle, in front of the British Tower – home of the Knight of St John, pieces salvaged from the oldest shipwrecks found in Turkish waters are displayed. The şeytanderesi Batağı (The Streamlet of Satan Wreck) was found in a crevice in the Gulf of Gökova and the finds consist of cups and jars. While there was no information on the ship itself, the pieces recovered were dated to the 16th century BC and believed to come from the city of Keramos, named for its pottery production centre. The second wreck in the hall is the famous Gelindonya Point Wreck, which was carrying bronze plates, an anvil and shipping and agricultural tools when it sank.

The Gelindonya Wreck is believed to be the oldest shipwreck in Turkey. The vessel started its journey from the Caananite state in Palestine and according, to Egyptian records, was a merchant ship. In the vessel, which was dated to the 13th century BC, there was a cup from the Mycenaean world (discovered by Bass). Another wreck on display is that from Kaş-Uluburun. Most of the pieces are merchandise that came from Egypt, Caanan and Cyprus. The items of ivory and ebony in the cargo section are of African origin. There were copper blocks from Cyprus, and Caananite amphorae that were filled with Arab mastic incense. Moreover, many extraordinary pieces such as the golden seal belonging to the Egyptian Queen Nerfertiti that was sold to a scrap collector, an ivory fringed wooden book, a statue of the goddess of Caanan that protected ships and Egyptian blue glass blocks were recovered. With the study of the rings in the wood of the ship the vessel was dated to around 1316 BC.

It was a fascinating day and we spent around 4 hours in all. We then caught a Taxi (15TL) to Oasis….the first shopping centre in Bodrum….and we picked up a couple of things we needed and also took the chance to see the new Jurassic World movie…in air-conditioned comfort.

We walked back to our hotel as it was around 7.00pm by then and we just ordered a couple of hamburgers for dinner from the bar as we needed to pack and get organised for an early start tomorrow. We need to get to Ankara (at least 700km) by tomorrow evening as we have to get our Iranian visas first thing on Friday Morning. So an early night for us….subject to the DOOF DOOF music of course!

Selcuk to Bodrum

Today after our breakfast, at Homeros Pension and Guesthouse in Selcuk, we said our goodbyes and were given yet another key ring size Evil Eye to protect us on on travels from Saziye (Dervis’ Sister)……very kind.

We soon had the ANIMAL packed and loaded to go and we stopped off at the Travel Agency (initially told 5-10 min) we had to wait at least 20 min for Albi to arrive….life seems very casual in Turkey….even when we order food etc….it takes a long time to arrive….nothing is hurried. We wanted to check the name of the balloon company we are booked with (Skyways or Sultan …same company as changes to the government laws mean only 2 balloons per day per company…so companies are diversifying!). To make best use of our time, Vince went to get fuel whist I waited for Albi, it cost him 125TL for 26 Litres at 4.79 TL per litre (approx A$2.40). Upon his return a Danish couple approached him admiring the ANIMAL and he shared our plans with them before joining me inside the agency. After his arrival Albi was held up on the phone, a when he got to us we had a long explanation about something that should have been a few minutes answer…..we are in Turkey!

We thanked him for his help and were soon on our way for our short 175km ride (around 2 hours plus 30 min in the back streets of Bodrum, to find our cheap hotel (30 Euros per night). We did have a brief stop by   traffic police in a routine checkpoint just before arrival in Bodrum but once we showed our rego/insurance papers and he realised we were Aussies we were waved through without any need for searching.

It was so HOT I thought I might pass out ( the hot flushes I get these days don’t help either – Menopause on a Motorbike sucks!). When the bike is moving I can cope in this heat which is extreme making my dermatitis unbearable at times……even Vince is having problems with the heat. We noticed what looked to be gigantic showers positioned at the entrance to car parks….we saw them all along the road for the past few days….sometimes with a car under it. So we tried it out today for ourselves on the motorbike and it was very cooling! A bit wet of course….but very cooling….bring it on!

We had cold showers and cranked up the air conditioning…..something we will need to screen accommodation for from now on! After we cooled down we attempted a walk in town….but it was too hot and we ended up turning back and just going to a nearby restaurant for a late lunch…..uninspiring and uneventful! Back to our hotel to cool off again and do some internet surfing to sort out some upcoming stuff….visas, accommodation etc…..it’s all in the timing!

We checked out a near by Turkish Bath which we thought we might try tomorrow, but changed our minds….tomorrow we are off for a visit to the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology. Then we again attempted a walk to the Harbour for dinner this time…..but my legs are really sore from the heat of the last few days, where my trousers rubbed them raw…very uncomfortable and makes walking painful….when Vince realised we had been going in the wrong direction we again headed back to our hotel area for dinner instead. I stopped into an upholstery shop along the way and tried to get a new industrial strength zip fitted to replace my broken adventure jacket zip….but no luck….but the Turkish owner and I had fun and games trying to communicate my needs…..all good fun!

At the Lemoon Restaurant we tried their home made lemonade but I could not eat my lamb…it was too tough and chewy…even Vince could not eat it…not what we have come to expect from Turkish food.

Back at our hotel we have a room right near the bar that is currently playing DOOF DOOF music….let’s hope it doesn’t go on too late…..but I don’t like our chances!

Usually our breakfasts that are included in our accommodation take the form of a “Village Breakfast”….a smorgasboard of offerings such as bread, bagels, fresh fruits, cheese, the whitest shelled hard boiled eggs you’ve ever seen, various meats, olives, tomatoes, various spreads etc and you just help yourself…..along with Turkish Tea or Coffee of course! But today at Homeros Pension and Guesthouse in Selcuk, our hostess served us an individual platter each with such offerings…..the pressure was on to eat as much as we could so as not to offend. We gave Dervis’ sister our washing (25TL) including our riding gear….so nice to get it all clean…although I did have to return to her three pieces of washing that were not ours!

After breakfast, a friend of the owner, who also runs a carpet shop (they all do here!) came and kindly took us in his car to the top of Ephesus and dropped us off….free of charge! We were able to use the Museum Passes that Vince had purchased for 75TL (Turkish Lira) each at the Acropoli in Bergama, and enter free….but we did need to pay 15TL for special entry into the Austrian supported restoration project for the Terrace Houses….and we were glad we did….it was awesome and well worth the money! Anyone who doesn’t do this is really missing out on the whole Ephesus experience.

Vince and I were in awe at every turn….so much history …..unbelievable. Our Audio guides (20TL each) were well coordinated this time (unlike the problems we had encountered at the Acropoli previously where signs were missing and the map didn’t match anything). The commentaries were very informative…and we had read some books in the roof top bar at our hotel the night before and I was thrilled to see the real live versions of history… Including the place where the statue of Artemis was found…..(that is now is the Ephesus Museum)….the Library of Celsus…the magnificent Temple of Hadrian (with replica friezes)…..and we even found the marble stone path that lead from the port up to the brothels….a little to the left (left footprint) ….to the girls (female head) ….who despite their broken hearts will show you love (dotted heart). We even saw the work being done on the restoration by the Americans on the Church of Mary….the first Christian Church in the world – their dig is in full sun, where as the Austrians are under a special covered-in roof with aircon!

We were so inspired by the sense of history that we went to the Ephesus Museum in the afternoon and it was even more exciting to see all the artefacts that had been uncovered from the site….including the statues of Artemis and the real friezes from the Temple of Hadrian….I was so excited and kept urging Vince to “you have to come and see this!!!!!”. The past few days really have been a case of BIG (Troy), BIGGER (Acropoli) and BIGGEST (Ephesus).

The day overall was fantastic……but it was a little soured when we finished at Ephesus….as it was stinking hot and we had spent around 3 hours in the blistering Turkish heat….we had drunk our water….and even though we had sunscreen and I had a hat and sunglasses…..we were roasting! So at the cafe at the end we bought 2 ice creams and 2 small bottles of water….I went to pay with 20TL and she told me it was 32TL ….I begrudgingly paid the extortionate amount (7.50 TL for each water and 8.50 TL for each ice-cream….criminal!) …Vince was shocked and stunned!

On the flip-side – we didn’t get fleeced by the taxi-driver who returned us from the lower gate at Ephesus back to our pension even though he wanted to charge a 50% premium for taking us a few hundred metres beyond the bus-stop. Before he even started driving we’d jumped out of the taxi and had started walking, and that was enough to bring him back to earth. With that said he drove like a bat out of hell all the way back to town, like he was intent on killing us in a car crash just because we hadn’t caved into his demands.

Turkey is a place of total contrast….those kind giving souls who will do anything for your and are generous to a fault and those ready and willing to screw you over….no problem!

We looked briefly in a local artist’s hand painted pottery shop (she was there the day before and asked us to come in but we were rushed for time then)….we considered buying a few bowls to send home….they were only 35TL each but the postage costs were going to be more than the bowls…so we left it.

We also called by a local Tour Agency to check out if we needed to book our ballon flight for Cappadocia….and lucky we did….we got some good intelligence from Albi, the Manager, and we came back later that evening to make some bookings….so we are going to stay in a Cave and go up at 4.20am in a balloon to see the sunrise……how exciting!

Our lunch was back in Selcuk, and we had pizza….and it was reasonably priced at 30TL…and they gave us free bread, free salad and a plate of fried tomatoes for free also. At dinner time we thought we would “share the tourist love” and try another business [Vince’s note – this is something I’ve learnt from Rob – my good riding buddy in Perth – as he’s always keen to spread his money around different businesses when he’s out touring] ….. but Alibaba charged 65TL for 4 drinks and two main meals (mine was only 6TL according to the menu) was a bit more than what we expected ..NO itemised bill was given and no receipt….I guess you live and learn and in future we’ll be more astute. Like I said ….Turkey is a place of complete contrast!

During our breakfast which Angel had so carefully laid out for ourselves and the Dutch couple we met last night Vince was catching up on some emails whilst I was looking on booking.com for some accommodation options in Selcuk (todays destination). Our host, Iden, saw what I was doing and recommended a friend of his….Dervish, who owned Homeros Pension and Guesthouse for the same price we were paying here (120TL around 40 Euro). He made a call for us and before we knew it the phone was handed to Vince and he organised two nights, including secure parking for the ANIMAL.

We packed up and reluctantly said farewell….it was such a nice place…..a 17th Century Ottoman house in the old town that was used for the Camel Traders. We set off up to the cable car to the Acropolis but when we got there a local indicated to Vince that we could ride up instead. So we back tracked and took the other road that wound up the mountain….a bit steep but nothing the ANIMAL couldn’t handle. At the top we were inundated with market sellers but made our way through to get our tickets. Vince choose to purchase the 7 Day Turkish Museum pass for 75TL each (instead of 25TL each)….we then got some audio guides (10 TL each) but these proved to be of little use as after the first couple of stops we found that nothing matched…..there were few signs,  the map didn’t match and this made it very difficult to really understand where we were and what we were looking at. That said…it was still a great thing to see….much larger than Troy….but far less organised. It was VERY hot and despite my hat and water…..we decided to stop at one of the shops for an ice cream and cool water. On the way through I was tempted by a silk scarf which I ended up purchasing for 25TL…..I think it will look nice over my black Hijab when I get to Iran….I have seen the same item elsewhere for 50TL and 75TL ….so I think I did well….and it fold up tiny and is light so will fit in my dry bag.

One of the older men gave us a carpet place brochure, which we took so as not to offend, and gave us a tiny Evil Eye each to keep us safe as we are travelling so far and through “dangerous places”. I will put it onto the ANIMAL along side the larger (keyring size) Evil Eye that was a gift from Fatih at the Emerald Hotel (for the same reason). This is apparently a Turkish tradition…..very sweet.

We set off for Selcuk on a 186km trip taking around 3 hours on the main highway. We had a little difficulty finding our hotel as the GPS took us up a very steep road….but Vince circled around the block and we took a downward approach which was better. Our host, Dervish, was soon at the door welcoming us and told us we were to feel at home and be part of the family….if we weren’t happy we need not pay! The room was small but totally charming and eclectic…we loved it!

We showered and freshened up and then accepted his offer of a welcome drink on the rooftop bar of pomegranete tea….delicious! We then took a walk into town and had a cool drink. We walked past some local shops and there was an artist out front doing hand painted pottery….she invited us to come and have a look in her shop ….”no need to buy” but we said we could come back another time.

Some other high pressure people tried to sell us things and coerce us into their shops but we managed to politely avoid this. Back at our pension we had dinner at the roof top bar (25TL each) and it was unusual….no menu was given nor order taken, we were just presented with a series of small offerings including….bread…..soup…..assorted vegetable dishes (zucchini and green beans)….grilled chicken on rice….and fresh fruit platter….all brought out as separate courses.

We had an early night as we were pretty tired from the heat of the day…..Turkey is HOT!

Indiana Jones – eat your heart out!!!!

Karen and I hit up the ancient ruins of Troy this morning, and we had an absolutely fascinating visit. The ruins are a few km off the main road, about 20km south of Canakkule. We parked the bike, paid our entrance fee (maybe 20TL each) and hired an Audio Guide each (10TL), and then started our self-guided, self-paced walk through history, using the map that accompanied our audio-guides and which showed where we needed to listen to the next narration.

A German man – Heinrich Schliemann is credited with discovering Troy, and for starting the science of archeology, but his early techniques which included digging a deep, wide trench through the hillside down to bedrock and destroying everything he encountered on the way down met with criticism at the time, and once he realised the damage he caused he started using other techniques to preserve things he found.

The ancient ruins of Troy consist of nine seperate strata, built up on top of one-another over the centuries. As old houses fell into disrepair they were just destroyed and new buildings erected on top, creating the strata effect.

Troy was originally a port-city and was located at a strategic junction at the southern tip of the Dardennelles, but silting of the port over time had pushed the sea back, and from the hilltop ruins we could look out over the farmers fields to the distant sea.

The audio guide provided a very interesting insight into the history of the city, and we thoroughly enjoyed our walk around the small site.

Once we’d finished and had cooled down a bit with a cold drink and an ice cream we rejoined the main road south to Bergama – the E87. Our ride distance today was only about 230km, but after our long day yesterday on the bike we were both looking forwards to arriving at our destination.

Again we had an idea for some accommodation options but hadn’t made a booking – that allows us to maintain flexibility and change our plans if necessary, so I pulled up in Bergama just up from the fruit and vegetable markets so we could check the addresses and plug them into the GPS. We headed up the cobbled street and made our way to the Athena Pension, and were immediately greeted by Angel, the young lady caring for the property – which we later learned was originally a camel trader’s mansion dating back to the 17th century.

I parked the bike inside the cobbled courtyard, and Angel showed us around the property, leading us into the garden and pointing out the Acropoli high on the hill overlooking the town below. Karen and I were stoked to be so close to the Acropoli, and when we pulled back the curtains in our cosy room we could look out the window at the same enthralling view.

After a shower and change of clothes we went for a walk into town. Iden – the owner of Athena Pansyion had recommended a small cafe to us for dinner and we went off searching for that, but couldn’t find it.

We walked through the Covered Bazaar and bumped into Angel, chatting with her Japanese sister-in-law outside her textile shop, and we were invited in for tea and conversation. Angel’s brother Yakoob soon joined us, and described in some detail the disappointment local businessmen and women were experiencing as they had anticipated a lot of tourist trade to arise from the Canakkule 2015 (2015 Anzac Day) celebrations, and in reality little if any tourists had ventured south from Canakkale to Bergama.

Karen bought a lovely lightweight towel from Angel’s sister-in-law and we carried on our walk, stopping for tea at a little eating place. Due to a small communication mix-up we ate our cold dinners there, when neither of us really wanted to eat there once we’d seen what was being offered, and how it was being offered. With that said neither of us got sick and we’ve now sorted out how we can quickly pull the pin on a restaurant.

We had an interesting stroll back to our pension via a section of the old town, and upon our arrival we were invited to sit in the garden with Iden and some of his other guests – a Dutch couple on a three week cycling holiday in Turkey, and enjoy a glass of Iden’s Turkish wine.

We had a lovely time chatting to Jaques and Monique, even whilst we questioned their sanity at riding push bikes for holiday fun – and especially when they said that their second overseas ride was in China, and had required them to push their bicycles for 18 kilometres through thick mud on an unmade road. They were a fascinating couple to chat with, and it was only when the wine ran out that we all said goodnight and retired for the evening.

Istanbul to Canakkale

After our nerve-wracking ride into Istanbul a few days earlier – right into the centre to Taksim Square – we were both keen to have an early departure to try and avoid some of the traffic on our way out.

We were awake around 4:00am, and had the bike loaded and on the road by 5:00am, just as the sky was starting to lighten with the first rays of the false dawn. We crossed the Bospheros Bridge almost completely alone, and could look to the right and see the full moon between the clouds and the bridge stays.

To put some distance between us and Istanbul we stayed on the E80 and made good time towards Golcuk, where we refuelled but couldn’t get a coffee or snack as it wasn’t yet 7am and the adjoining cafe/market was still closed. The servo operator offered us both a glass of Turkish tea however, and we enjoyed sipping that down as we had a short rest.

We pushed on for another hour and then stopped at a cafe that had customers seated outside, enjoying some sticky treats for breakfast, and a hot coffee for me.

Our interim destination for the day was to meet up with another Horizons Unlimited member – Bora Eris – at his tyre shop in Bandirma. Bora has arranged for a pair of new Continental TKC80’s to be waiting for us in Trabzon, and so it was a good opportunity for us to pop in and have a chat on our way through to Canakkale, our evening destination.

Bora and his staff made us very welcome in his shop, and we had a long and pleasant chat – not only about riding and tyres, but Bora spoke to us about his family history – showing us photographs of his father, grand-father and great grand-father, and a special medal his grand-father had received, and also showing us photos of his young daughters and his farm, as he discussed farming techniques he uses for his wheat crop. Bora attended a superbike training school in Istanbul a few years ago so we also chatted about riding techniques – both for racetracks and off-road, all between cups of Turkish tea.

After our long conversation and a few photos we bade Bora farewell and had a quick lunch in town before rejoining the E90 towards Canakkule. By the time we reached Canakkule we’d clocked up 505km for the day, and we were both tired from the early start and the long, uninspiring ride. We had considered stopping a little short but none of the smaller villages we passed through appeared to have a hotel nearby, and by overnighting in Canakkule that would place us just 25km away from the ancient ruins of Troy – our first destination for tomorrow.

We had pinpointed a couple of cheap hotels in Canakkale that offered bike parking via booking.com the previous day, and so we rode to the first place on our list but their bike parking was just the road verge outside, so we looped around the cobble-stoned block again and pulled up at the Hotel Helen Park where we could park in their secure car park off the road.

With the bike unloaded we had a stroll along the foreshore and saw the  Trojan Horse used in the making of the 2004 movie ‘Troy’. We stopped in at a little Italian pasta place for dinner but walked out again without ordering when we found out that they offered almost nothing that was featured on their menu. A pleasant stroll through some of the backstreets led us to a small diner where we enjoyed a simple but tasty dinner. After our long day of riding it was then back to our hotel for sleep as we were both knackered from our day.

A very easy start to the day….we had another She Tour booked for this afternoon and didn’t get collected until 1.15pm. So a sleep in until around 8.30am then breakfast at the hotel and catching up on emails etc. Around noon we headed out for lunch in a nearby cafe off Taksim Square. The food was very nice….but a bit too “hot” for me….Vince loved it!. I managed to finally get the mashed potatoe I have been craving for the past few weeks…..yum! Along the way we saw a group of people in Takim Square putting a floral tribute below a statue and there were police with rifles nearby….not sure what was going on but it all seemed fairly tame.
We made our way back to the hotel, freshened up and waited outside for our Guide. Before long we found ourselves back on the bus on the way to the old city, where again we had to change buses and Guides according to our tour (No 5 – Two Continents (Asia and Europe) costing 40 Euro each). The tour normally covers the Beylerbei Palace…the summer residence of the Ottoman Sultantans with original furniture, magnificent gardens with the Harem on the Asian side. But this is closed on Thursdays and is replaced with the Chora Museum….originally a Church then a Mosque and now a Museum. It has very interesting mosaics depicting not only the life of Christ but that of the Virgin Mary also.
We crossed over the Bosphorus River on the Bosphorus suspension bridge (No 1 Bridge) with the crazy traffic and then drove to Camlica Hill, one of the highest points in Istanbul. From there we could see over Istanbul. We had stopped at one of the terrace cafes….and ordered one banana split…..for the tidy sum of 24 TL….Vince said that should have bought us a whole meal in some places….but NOT in Istanbul.
The tour was also schedule to stop at a leather and fur factory, and Vince was concerned we might be pressured into buying his and her matching jackets or something (LOL) but luckily none of the 11 people on the tour wanted to go….so we finished early getting dropped back to our hotel around 4.15…so all in all around 3 hours on tour.
We want to get an early start tomorrow to try to avoid the traffic as best we can….so we planned an early dinner and when we were out we organised a pair of sunglasses for me, as mine got really scratched in our top box. We narrowed it down to a pair of Ray Bans (415 down to 350 TL) and a pair of Red Bull Racing (350 down to 210 TL) ….we settled on the Red Bulls….I’m not sure if they are boys glasses or not….but Vince likes them so that’s fine by me.
Whilst out we saw a large contingent of police with riot shields and rifles along side a water-cannon…we then saw a group of protesters coming towards us….I’m not sure what it was all about but we got out of there quick smart!
We were tempted to see the new Jurassic Park or Terminator movies….but as we wanted an early night we gave it a miss. On the way back to our hotel we saw a large group of people about to break their fast (we are two weeks into Ramadan here). We have seen places set up like this all over Istanbul.
Back at our hotel (Emerald Hotel) we said goodbye to Fatih Yapici (the Front Office Manager)  and thanked him again for all the assistance he has given us. Vince asked if we could take a photo for our blog (we gave him one of our stickers) and he was happy to do so. We would certainly recommend this hotel to anyone wishing to be well looked after in Istanbul. He popped up to our room later with a gift of Turkish Delight and a keyring of the Evil Eye which he explained to Vince (I was in the shower) was to keep us safe on our travels.
So it is an early night for these little black ducks tonight….wish us luck for tomorrow in that CRAZY traffic!

After a gorgeous but early (7.15am) breakfast (included in our 70 Euro per night rate – 10 Euro extra to securely park the ANIMAL) at the very welcoming Emerald Hotel (just off Taksim Square) we got ready to be picked up for our half day walking tour of Istanbul – Byzantine Relics with She Tours at 8.15am.

Before we were collected we dropped into a nearby store to pick up some SD cards for our cameras as we have run out (100 TL for a 32 Gig Card). Our Guide collected us and walked us to a nearby bus which took us to the old town across the river where we saw our first glimpse of the biggest Mosque in Istanbul, the Süleymaniye Mosque overlooking the Golden Horn, a striking landmark for the city of Istanbul. A part of the mosque bears resemblance to the Byzantine basilica, especially, the Hagia Sophia (which we saw later as part of our tour). Although we did not go into this Mosque, I have read that in contrast to the imposing size, the interior of the mosque is minimalistic. The striking feature  is the fineİznik tiles in the mihrab. The mosque has four monumental columns, one brought from Baalbek, one from the city of Alexandria, and two from the Byzantine palaces in İstanbul. İbrahim the Drunkard worked on stained-glass panes of the windows. The walls of the mosque are embellished with the verses from the Koran. Like the Blue Mosque, it has reserved spaces for the women in the form of galleries located over the entrance and on the sides. It  is sturdy enough to have survived many earthquakes, without a single crack. We soon arrived outside the walls of the old city,  where we had to change buses and Guides (according to our tour which was No 1) and we set off for the Blue Mosque. From here the rest of the tour was on foot.
At the Blue Mosque we had to line up for about 15 minutes…the guide explained that in about half an hour the line would be so long it would be several hours wait! We passed by the ablution area where they wash themselves before prayer and women had to wear a head scarf (you can wear your own or they loan you one) and those who had uncovered arms and legs had to were other clothing issued (both men and women). Vince and I were relatively prepared in that our off bike gear includes long pants and long sleeved shirts. I had not brought a head scarf so just borrowed one from the Mosque. Vince said I looked very fetching….like a professional! LOL The Blue Mosque (Called Sultanahmet Camii in Turkish) is an historical mosque in Istanbul. It is called the Blue Mosque because of blue tiles surrounding the interior walls and was built between 1609 and 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasa and a hospice. Besides being tourist attraction, it’s also a active mosque, so it’s closed to non worshippers for a half hour or so during the five daily prayers. The best way to see great architecture of the Blue Mosque is to approach it from the Hippodrome. (West side of the mosque)  If you are non-Muslim visitor, you also have to use a different entry and entrance to Muslims….their entrance is from the side and ensures that they are facing Mecca as as they enter. We then saw the Hippodrome of Constantinople (now Istanbul) and capital of the Byzantine Empire, which was the sporting arena (Greek hippos = horse) for horse and chariot racing. Today the square is called Sultanahmet Meydanı (Sultan Ahmet Square) with just a few parts of the original structure remaining. Emperor Constantine brought works for art from all over the empire and set them up as monuments in the middle (spina) of the Hippodrome. One was the Tripod of Pletea (Serpant Column) cast to celebrate the Greek Victory over the Persians in 5th Century BC. It was taken from the Temple of Apollo in Delphi but the golden bowl and three serpent heads went missing…one is now in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. The Obelisk of Thutmose III was cut by silk thread and 21m brought from the Temple of Karnak in Luxor Egypt to the Hippodrome (1489 BC) and has survived 3500 years in excellent condition. The third is the Walled Obelisk which was built in the 10th Century BC by Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus and was covered in golden bronze plaques but in the Crusades these were stolen. Only the core  remains now.
We walked passed the water fountain that was a gift from Austria (Germany) and our Guide explained the reasons that the Turks sided with the Germans during the first World War.
We then arrived at the Hagia Sophia (meaning holy wisdom). It was originally a Church, then became a Mosque and is now a Museum (opened 1 Feb 1935). Famous in particular for its massive dome it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and was the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years, until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520. Hagia Sophia is the second-most visited museum in Turkey, attracting almost 3.3 million visitors annually.From its initial conversion until the construction of the nearby larger Sultan Ahmed Mosque(Blue Mosque of Istanbul) in 1616, it was the principal mosque of Istanbul.
From here we walked 500m down to the Grand Bazzar…it is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. It is listed No.1 among world’s most-visited tourist attractions with 91,250,000 annual visitors. We could have gone back on the bus to be dropped off at the hotel, but we opted to just do our own thing. We spent about 2 hours looking around and I bought a pair of silver studs, a cotton top, a Hajib that is easy to put on (no pins required) and some Turkish sweets. We stopped for lunch at a stall and got ripped off with a huge “Service Charge” for a couple of Kebabs, a coke and a juice….60 TL ….when Vince questioned it the waiter showed him the menu with fine print….I through Vince was ready to smack him out……another 3 Aussies were about to sit down, but we put them straight as to what had just happened and they got up and walked out with us! Vote with your feet guys!
On the way to the Bazzar we passed a Pandora shop and we bought a little silver teapot charm (in Aust it would be around $30) they charged us 139 TL (A$68) more than double the RRP….absolute robbery!!!!! They must think tourists are dumb! We won’t forget Istanbul in a hurry and we certainly won’t hurry to come back!
We had a bit of an adventure on public transport to get home…..catching the tram for 4TL each to Kapatas and then the funicular (another 4 TL each) up the steep hill to Taksim Square. From there just a short walk to our hotel. Later we went to the Currency Exchange and got some of the notes we no longer need, Kunu, Lek and UAE money, converted into Turkish Lera. We then found a restaurant and had dinner….a cheese platter and pizza with a couple of beers for Vince and scotch and coke for me….this cost 137 TL …..puts my teapot charm into context doesn’t it!!!!!


Eceabat to Istanbul

Tuesday 30th June

Distance travelled today (approx) – 300km.

Refueled the bike in Eceabat, before heading north to Istanbul. The service station attendant offered us a tea but we’d already put our helmets back on so we politely declined and got rolling just after 10:00am. Took the D550 north past Gelibolu (Gallipoli) before veering right and picking up the bumpy D120 back-road to Sarkoy on the coast.

My hope was to pass along the hills called the Tekir Dagi as I’d read that they were the strategic objective of the assault on Gallipoli, and I wasn’t disappointed as the road first ran between the base of the cliffs and the Sea of Marmara, and then it climbed up into the mountains and at times seemed to almost fall off the cliffs into the sea below. Whilst the GPS was telling me that this road was unsealed it was beautifully sealed and an absolute pleasure to ride on.

We passed through a number of sleepy fishing villages before getting into a more coastal holiday region near Tekirdig, and it’s here we joined the dual carriage 110 running toward Istanbul.

I’d intended to stay on the more minor of the major roads but we got sucked onto the main E80 about 20km west of Istanbul and had a roller coaster ride into the this city of 14 million people, most of whom were out driving their cars this afternoon and few if any know how to drive safely. At times I rode down the breakdown lane as this was safer than being on the road, as lane markings mean absolutely fuck-all over here and collecting a motorcycle must score bonus points as some drivers seemed to almost target us deliberately.

The GPS peeled us off the main road and the manic driving abated for a few seconds whilst I was on the off-ramp, before long we were back on another shitmixer of a road, just now we had other things to contend with like trucks being serviced on the road and other obstacles. Again the GPS encouraged me to turn onto a smaller road, and we ended up riding across a confusing array of back streets that defied gravity – they were so steep I couldn’t even contemplate trying to turn the bike up onto them, so I baled out and tried to approach our hotel from another angle.

Finally pulled up outside the hotel as shown by the chequered flag on my GPS, but the hotel name didn’t match up with what we had booked via booking.com that morning and when Karen investigated we found out we were at the wrong address – I’m still learning how to read the way addresses are written here in Turkey. The hotel manager contacted the other property, explained our dilemma (I’d got us lost – just by about 500m – but in this spaghetti road system that’s as good as 500km), and the other hotel kindly cancelled our booking and we lobbed in where I’d pulled up, as quite honestly I’d had enough of the drivers around here and my good nature was wearing a bit thin.

the staff of the Emerald a Hotel helped us carry our gear to our room, and we’ve booked in for three nights – I fought so hard to get here I’m going to stay for a while, plus I need a chance to chill out before I go riding out there again. Parked the bike in a secure, undercover car park across the road, and after a shower and change into our off-bike clothes we walked a few hundred metres up the road to Taksim Square. I recognised this name as it was mentioned in an ABC news article just a few days ago.

Heaps of people were walking around the square – it’s obviously a popular place for both tourists and locals alike. We had a cheap but enjoyable and filling dinner in a restaurant just around the corner from the square, and Karen bought some small Turkish sweets as a ‘thank you’ for the hotel staff who helped us out this afternoon.

We’ve booked onto a 1/2 day walking tour of the ‘Byzantian Relics’ tomorrow morning, and will see some fascinating sights including the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar, so check back tomorrow and see how our exploration of Istanbul worked out 🙂