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 🙂