Monday 20th July – Trabzon to Agri.
After a quiet Sunday, spent mainly on researching accommodation options in Iran, we were up early on Monday morning, getting ready for our 500km ride to Agri, 132km west of the Iranian border.
Our first stop of the day was to call in at Ihan’s Moto Garaj, opposite the Otogar (bus station) to collect the TKC80 tyres we had previously ordered from Bora in Bandirma. Fortunately I’d used Google Maps to locate the garage, as the GPS couldn’t find the street, and it was almost sheer luck we stumbled across it, tucked up a little alley behind some other workshops.
Ihan and his assistant were very helpful – we only wanted the rear tyre fitting as the front still has about 6,000km use left in it, so Ihan removed the rear wheel, and put it and the new rear tyre in a customer’s pick-up truck to take them around to a tyre fitter. In the meantime James – another customer of Ihan’s – had pulled up on his 1150RT and pointed out the transmission oil pissing out from the rear seal. I’d taken some photos from Google Images of the tyre pressure sensor inside the rim and showed these to Ihan, so despite the language gap he was made aware that the rim had a sensor inside.
When Ihan drove off with the tyres James invited us for breakfast, and so we walked back to the main road and had a bowl of soup with a piece of lamb in it, and a cup of chia. James showed us photos on his iPhone of his recent holiday trip to Europe, and pointing to an advert for high rise buildings in the daily paper explained that he owned that construction company. James insisted on paying for our breakfast before he walked off down the street, and we walked back to the garage.
Ihan had returned at this stage, so we strapped our new spare front tyre to the top box, thanked Ihan for his great service (20TL for the fitting), and a round of photos, we wobbled off down the road as I acclimatised to the additional load on the bike.
We retraced our path towards Sumela Monastery, but at the turn-off we continued south on the main road towards Ezerum. The road initially swept through green mountains before the countryside started to dry out and become more barren. We pushed on for about 100km before I started looking for fuel as at that stage we only had another 100km range, and after the first servo we stopped at said they had no benzine, the next one a few km the road did, so we filled up there and had a cold drink and a cup of chia.
We pushed on the next 200km or so towards Ezerum where we planned to stop for lunch, but the townsite was off the main road so we just pulled in to a servo for fuel and lunch at the adjacent restaurant. When we entered the large and largely vacant restaurant an Iranian gentleman and his wife waved to us, and a short while later they were inviting Karen and I to visit them in Qom, south of Tehran. They were lovely to chat with and we are looking forwards to accepting their invitation.
From Ezerum the road turns east and heads towards the border. We had another 200km to ride to Agri, where I’d again made an arrangement with Bora – this time to pick up a new rear tyre so I could carry that as a spare. Arriving in Agri just before 5:20pm I quickly pulled the iPad out to check on the address of the Continental tyre dealer in Agri, but then incorrectly entered the street number into the GPS, so that sparked a bit of a wild goose chase for a while. We were directed toward the correct street, but I couldn’t get onto it as it was a pedestrian mall, so then I tried to work my way around to it but was blocked at various times by one way streets, one way streets equipped with tyre-shredding metal teeth set in grates in the road, a contingent of police armed with automatic weapons massing in side street near a water cannon, and other obstacles. Once we’d navigated these and I’d got as close as possible to the location before I couldn’t ride any further I got off and walked whilst Karen guarded the bike, but I quickly realised that Number 28 was a mosque and not a tyre dealer, so it was back on the bike and off again in the crazy traffic to the right location.
Having found the dealer – the GPS was taking us in the right direction but Karen spotted the shop well in advance of where the GPS thought the shop was, collecting the tyre and having another round of photos taken, we wobbled even more precariously to our hotel, which ironically was only about 50m from where I’d stopped to go walkabout. Some men pointed out that I was trying to go up a one-way street the wrong way but I pointed to the hotel just 20m on the other side of a tyre-shredder, so they bent a street sign out of the way so I could squeeze the bike past without snagging the tyres.
We unloaded the bike and hauled our gear upstairs to our roasting room – no air conditioning and a baking afternoon sun had turned it into a sauna. A while later I was told that I could move the bike into an underground car park around the corner, so I shifted the bike and later that evening I was grateful that it was off the street, as around midnight there were young street kids running amuck outside, causing a bit of mayhem. Dinner that evening was the driest and most uninspiring doner kebab I’d ever endured in Turkey, but nothing could dampen our enthusiasm for tomorrow – as tomorrow we leave Turkey behind after almost four weeks here and cross into Iran !!!