Saturday, July 2, 2011

30th June& 1st July, Konja and Goreme, Turkey

 Had quite a long drive to Konja, but as ever through exciting roads that tend to be in plains and surrounded by amazing mountains.

Stopped for a sort of lunch break at a lovely town called Egridir, which was by a lake of that name.

The only reason why I stopped at Konja, was because it was six inches away from Pamakkule on my map, 6 inches being about a days travel on the map I have. There was not much in the guide book other than it being a transport hub. In fact it is a main city in the carpet manufacturing industry.
Not having a hotel booked, I headed for the centre and asked Garmin for hotels and there were a few just nearby. I have a budget of about 30-40 Turkish Lira, which is about £11-15. I am not too fussy and as long as it looks clean,  I don't fanny about comparing for one night's stay. Otel Cinar  was on the corner and they had a lovely vivid pink single room, with a pink bed down. Perhaps they offer that room to all single chaps?
When I parked Batty in the adjacent carpark there was another bike, albeit with a cover on, but it was clearly an overlander's bike. The 4 or 5 local guys hanging around the attendant's kiosk came over, drawn by Batty's somewhat unique good looks no doubt, one of them spoke quite good English and when they hear it is diesel the questions started streaming; How fast? How far? Where are you from? How much? Etc. it goes in differing orders and all at once.  They told me that the other bike was  English too.
I came back downstairs after washing 8 hours worth of dust off, to try and find a local supper. Bending down next to Batty was John, as it turned out, taking down this website address from the stickers on the panniers. He and Jane were on the final leg of a RTW  trip, that started in the States. Over  supper and coffee the next morning, I enjoyed their very good company. They imparted so much valuable info, beit how to drive in India, where to stay in Nepal, what to look out for in Cambodia, get a bike cover for India, as well as many lovely stories of their year long travels.
They had met so many other overland bikers on the trip and so much info is willingly handed around like a giant 'pass the parcel' party. I am looking forward to more of these meetings as I go.

Off I went from this enjoyable meeting to the much vaunted Cappidosia (Land of the beautiful horse in Persian, and they are), 5 hours east.
This is a place resulting from a volcanic bang millennia ago, and in amongst the high rolling hills/mountains are some weird natural phenomena that man has put to use over the years. I was heading for Goreme, which is the main central town. As you head down the hill one sees what looks like blobs from a culinary creation, but these are big enough to have houses in them, which they do.

Staying in the comfortable Anatolya Cave Pension and will stay for 3 nights.

Airplanes beginning to use veg oil

Jane Burston sent me a link to a BBC article the other day about KLM starting to use veg oil in their planes, and now I see Thomson are doing the same in the Telegraph

Once the production issues are sorted out, and the consumption has no impact on food needs, this could be an important step towards mass transportation with low carbon emission.

Batty takes to the air...better get quick....

Thursday, June 30, 2011

28/29th Pamukkale & Heirapolis

Breakfasted on a delicious mountain of assorted pastries, filo based and filled with feta, mince and spinage, grt start to any day and too much for even my appetite.
Motored through large plains, surrounded by high hill ranges  It is harvest time and the fields are very busy with combines, tractors and balers. Takes me back to muscle building and pocket money earning days of haymaking on Dartmoor in my teens. They are still making bales that one can lift rather than the huge round ones that seem to have taken over in the UK, by and large. The top heavy, massively overloaded trailers are reminiscent too, although the flaggen of local cider being swigged by the guys on the top of the trailer is a missing ingredient. Perhaps they had some local apricot liquor to lighten the bales?
Arrived in Pamukkala after lunch and was pointed to a low key but delightful guesthouse, Allgau Hotel. Took the afternoon off and enjoyed the pool and sun lounger. I am still looking far too English skinned and if nothing else this trip should give me a chance to get some vitamin D into the pores.
Dined there very deliciously and met a lovely Australian couple, Daniel and Jessica. They were spending a couple of weeks in Turkey before going to Spain for 5 weeks language learning. They have introduced me to a hostel website along the same lines that Paddy had, which will be a great help.
We use to represent a great artist called Zafar Baran, who was from Turkey and I vividly remember him telling me about a place where mineral waters spring and there are incredible marble white pools that cascade down the hill side. He also said that there was 1% more oxygen in the air than normal. Well I think I am there. The best way I can describe this extraordinary natural spectacle, is to imagine being the size of an ant and being in one of those large opened up quartz. This quartz would would happen to have a stream running through it with dozens of infinity pools interconnecting. It is a huge area over several hundred acres and so white, one could be at a ski resort.


I had a hour long dip in the mineral pools at the top in amongst the submerged colonnades and ruins of the old Roman Baths. Perfect bath temperature water that never got cool (my bath pet frustration). 

Then up the hill a bit to the Roman theater ruins which are not really that ruined, and what with the restoration taking place it takes very little to imagine how it was 2000+ years ago.

This was a large and much visited place throughout history for it's climate and restorative waters.

I have loved if here and finished the visit with a fine  dinner with Daniel and Jessica at the hotel. They are very well traveled  and talked a lot about South America as well as South East Asia, which has whetted the appetite all the more. They have just got married and combine their medical careers with travel and his art.
Ironically both their fathers left Australia as young men and found their respective wives in Germany and Brazil before bringing them back to Perth, as opposed to Daniel and Jessica who were brought up 2 streets apart.
Daniel and Jessica (L & R) with our charming hosts

27th Bandirma, Turkey

Stayed in a very comfortable hotel called Eken in Bandirma, a quite modern town that has a ferry to Istanbul, and has quite a lot of through traffic to and from mainland Turkey. I was there as I needed a new back tyre and had seen various recommendations for Bora Eris's establishment on Horizons Unlimited. We had been in contact and he was able to find the right tyre. I was surprised that the size was not very common in these parts, so it was a bit of a struggle. The old tyre had done a bit under 6000 miles, so it was a bit of a disappointment, thinking I would get to India on the set I had. In retrospect, I should have upgraded when commissioning Batty. Bora was most helpful and arranged for the tyre to be fitted and his colleague set about cleaning Batty, without any prompting and did a great job. I had said I wanted to clean her up a bit, for no other reason than to monitor a seeming oil leak from the rocker box cover. The nuts were a bit loose, and I hoped that was all it was, and it was.  It was a great and enjoyable service.
Left at about lunchtime to make for Pamukkale further south.

I knew something was amiss with the centre stand on the bike for sometime, as it had stopped supporting the bike and was dropping down. I got fed up with it and took it off, a very oily roadside job and having had pretty clean hands for a number of days, I was back to blackened finger nails. Alas Swarfega and nail brushes are not easily found items here.
I have noticed a brilliant concept in Shanghai, as well as in Cambodia, of this simple count down of seconds on the traffic light before they change, and I noticed it here as well. Such a simple way, of keeping everyone calm, and then getting everyone prepared to move off etc. It is such a benefit to drivers, I wish they would start introducing it it back in the UK. 
Staying in a lesser establishment in Akhisar, although perfectly functional and clean-ish, it is tired to say the least, but it is half the price of last nights at £10, and fine for my light needs. It is very central and have felt very close to the gentle hustle and bustle of the place. Trying to explain the need for a nailbrush to shop keepers has been an amusing challenge and impossible so far.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

24th/25th June. Greece/Turkey.

Stuck to the motorway to the border. It was about 250 miles and very light traffic. I wanted to push on and get into Asia.
I had not particularly thought about Greece in terms of expectation of experience, it was a country to cross on the way to Eastern promise. Funnily enough I have enjoyed the country and it's people a great deal. Nothing but friendliness and generosity. The roads are a dream, mixing exciting scenery, very little traffic and generally good repair. That said I did have one hairy moment on the first day, when the road suddenly narrowed because of a landslip. The right hand side of the road was an unguarded precipice of hundreds of feet and the on coming car only gave me inches to squeeze between it and the said cliff face. Both Batty and I did a cartoon type breathing in act to make it.
This was my first border crossing of any consequence. Of course I completely forgot all the stuff I had been reading up on and made a bit of a meal of it. After about an hour of to-ing and fro-ing, being sent from one kiosk to another, accompanied by insanely loud piped Turkish music, I was in the land with the red flag with stars and a young moon.
Staying in Gallipoli in a somewhat suspect hotel, but with a great proprietor who has helped get road maps and a fine diner.
25th June
It is difficult when in a place that nearly a hundred years ago were the fields of huge loss of life, of extraordinary suffering and bravery, to know as where or what to see. I decided to just drive around the peninsular that saw much of the fighting and stopped at the most southern point, where there is a huge commonwealth memorial.

There are so many memorials every few miles that it gives some scale of the fight. Whatever the rights or wrongs, and who did what, it is the Turkish massive loss that I found extraordinary, something like 3 to 1. The French were the second biggest losers, followed by the Brits and Commonwealth countries. The Turks were defending their land, and in spite of their loss, this is the translation of a Kemal Ataturk's words that gives a little bit of the hint of graciousness and generosity of spirit that has been my experience over the last 48 hrs (apart from some drivers...):

I ferried across the Dardanelles to Asia, and you can see why it was so strategic. This stretch of water that took about 10 mins to cross, connects 2 economic and political worlds. Had Churchill and his fellow planners succeeded in beating the Turks it would have changed the shape of the war enormously.

Batty on the ferry across the Dardanelles,  her 3rd time on water, she has quite got her sea wheels.

In the later afternoon I went to Troy. Although ruins, it again was positioned very strategically as a trading post/ harbour for ships that could then only sail with the wind. As the prevailing wind is from the north, ships had to wait a long time at Troy for the southerly wind. This caused trouble as the Greeks and then the Romans wanted to lay their hands on it.. I had a good look around for Helen, but alas not even a glimmer.

 Horror of horror, I suppose they have to for the kids?
Some fellow bikers, every friendly and spoke great English (please say hello here if you read this blog, I am afraid I did not catch your names). Thank you and hello again Erdem and Cihan, it was great to meet you and good luck in India and your studies.

I think I have started to get careless, I managed to leave my laptop on top of the bike and in clear view of everyone for over an hour, whilst I went around the War Memorial. And I have also lost a credit card. I am sure it is not stolen, as I keep it with others, but it must have been left in the ATM machine....that will be a headache. Sharpen up Harry

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Neptune's Revenge. 22/23 June, Paralia, Greece.

What was meant to be a 2 day, 3 night r&r has been extended by an extra day. Yesterday I either ate a funny squid, took on some seawater, or had too much sun. The result was a somewhat sleepless night ( best endured alone) and a considerable weight loss. Enough said.
The extra day has been useful as I have been able to send all my camping kit to Sarah, my colleague in Australia. Now that I am at the end of Europe, and guest houses are the price of camping sites till I get to Auz, it makes sense . It amounted to 10 kilos, or a stone and a half. What with this, some other rationing of kit and my own lightening, Batty will have an easier job by probably 15KGs or 2 stone. It will also make her less top heavy, which has to be a good thing.
Am going for Turkey tomorrow, and will cross the boarder if I get there in time, or first thing on Sat.
BTW. The riddle of the furs has been explained, there are lots of Russians holidaying here and they are the market. I guess Greek fur is cheaper than Russian, or better. Who knows, but there are a hell of a lot of furs for sale, so I guess it is good business.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

19th/20th, Greece

Managed about 6 hrs kip on the ferry, and set off North. Garmin the Challenging, had us going up tracks and lanes that a enduro bike would have been made for, but Batty held her own despite her rider's anx. Harry the Idiot had forgotten to reprogram the routing system, so the shortest route, included tracks.
Once back on hard stuff, I was taken into a world of natural beauty and quiet yet thrilling roads, that it had me re-gauging my index. Historically I had the Pyrenees as the prettiest mountains, then the Alps in my experience to date, but the Veloyxi are top of the pops for me now.

This natural beauty was then complemented by the people I met. First off a local farm insisted on buying me a drink in a bar an hour or so after arriving in the country, only to be followed by Kostas and Anna Noetakitz standing me dinner in the evening. I had met them as I turned up at a taverna, just a short way from the guesthouse I was staying in. Batty again, you see, was the magnet. A delightful couple on a 3 day break from Athens visiting her home town of Loutra Smokovou. I was there because it had got about 6pm and I needed to find a bed and happened upon this idillic spar village. Kostas spoke good English, although he claims that it was just from school- he must have been top of the class. they told be much about this magical place and I had the best day and evening of the trip having left friends 1000 miles back.
Batty clocked 5000 miles today.

This whole area was at Philippe's hints and he was very right. He also suggested going to the Meteora area...reminding me of the James Bond films when Roger Moore scales a fantastic rock face on service to her Majesty. I hadn't realised that there are a host of them:

Having spent a few hours at these marvels, it was off to the beach for me. Paralia is a classic seaside resort with thousands of holidaymakers and highly geared for the job. It is easy and mindless and perfect place for a couple of days R&R. I have taken a room 150 yrds back from the beach for a gentle €25 per night. It is a weird place...and particularly my street, where all you can buy is fur coats. I am sure it gets cooler in winter, but in 33 degrees, it seems a bit odd.
That all said I seem to have spent the day planning Turkey, some work things and other trip related admin/research.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

17th/18th June, Brindisi, Italy.

Found a first class campsite, that was more of a holiday resort. Friendly staff, particularly Maria in reception who spoke excellent English. A very well run place that was clean and had a pizzeria by the pool. Saved troubling the Colman stove etc. Slept like a log till this incredible racket at 3am woke me. Thinking that this huge engined thing was going to run me over, I got out to see that it was a tractor with a spray machine, dowsing the numerous hedges with insecticide. I found out that it had to be then as that is when the mozzys settle.

It was a short run into the town and found a ferry booking agent almost immediately, I had allowed an hour for this, so this put me ahead of the day. Alas no cabins left, so an airline time seat was the next best thing.
With 6 hrs to fill, I parked Batty by the train station and wondered into the centre/port. Great town that has many echoes of the Romans. In the museum it tells how it use to be their eastern Mediterranean port that many a campaign launched from. Next to the museum was the cathedral and there was a wedding taking place, so did not venture in. The side door looked right into the service and this beautiful bride in the loveliest of dresses was kneeling taking her vows next to this thug of a man... Mafia I thought, rather ungenerously.
After lunch found Internet cafe right  by where I had left Batty and caught up a bit.
Yesterday and today have been the hottest day of the trip so far, 31 degrees I saw on a sign. When on the move, it is fine, but wearing all the armor etc when one pulls up, it is a sweaty business.
At the docks have had the pleasure of meeting Paddy, a 70+ year old retired architect biker from Waterford in Ireland. He is on a 6ish week tour of Europe. He is having a great time, largely staying in youth hostels. It is his 45 wedding anniversary tonight, and poor chap has had me across the table as his wife is minding the fort back home.

Also on the boat, who we met queuing for the boat, about 20 Vespa owners from Sicily making their annual tour. Great guys of all ages, who love their bikes and a fun time. They were mighty perplexed by Batty, but she won them over quickly enough.
Bye bye Italy, I have loved nearly a thousand miles of your roads, your fabulous hill top villages and towns, rich history and architecture ( what little i saw). Alas I did not found you the friendliest bunch, although the exceptions were lovely, I guess had I spoken your language it would have been a different story. I was a surprised that the Pizza is your national dish, far more pizzerias than UK tandouris, let alone pubs, they were on every corner and in the tiniest of village.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

15th/16th/17th June, Italy

I had let the battery run down by having the lap top on charge for too long,  although great to be able to have caught up on matters communications,  a bit of a pain bump starting Batty. Luckily we were on a hill and it was not a problem, but that fear of it not starting is quite intense. A few miles down the road and short on fuel, I stopped to buy 8 liters of veg oil at the Penny store, a chain of supermarkets, now I am pretty blind to the odd looks I get when that is all that is in the basket. I had parked Batty at the entrance, which was also a garage forecourt. It takes a bit of a time to empty the bottles into the tank and I have learnt to take the fiddly tops off in advance which does speed things up a bit. Anyway it does attract attention and the pump attendant, yes they still have them here, came over to see what was what. He laughed and laughed, which got only louder when I could not start her. Eventually the kick start worked and all was well. To give him his due, he did offer to push the bike to bump start her. An old lesson re-learnt, don't stop the engine for at least 30 mins when the battery has been flat.
One thing I have noticed is the proliferation of solar panel farms here. There are a lot and it would be interesting what proportion of their energy comes that way. UK is way behind. This resonated with a discussion Humphrey and I had at the weekend, he has a long proven and successful track record of investing early on in all matters technology and the like, he is of the view that Sun energy will win out over all other energy forms  as the panels become more efficient, from the current 15% to 40% and even 60% over the next 5-10 years. Which combined with an annual 20% drop in production costs, makes it compelling. The holy grail is storage of energy, and that is what the boffins are intensely working to crack. There is promise that mass and efficient storage is not far away. He  imagined a world with hardly any power cables scaring our landscapes as most energy needs are created locally.
Talking of energy, the last fill up was on 1/3 to 2/3 veg oil, and all seems fine. Today I will switch to 1/4 diesel and see if I can standardise on that.
Having sat outside the DHL office from 2 till 4pm in Foggia, waiting for it to open after the very generous length of lunchs they have here ( in fact had a long lunch myself... and devoured a few more Neville Shute pages). When it didn't, I translated the rest of the message on the window, with my iPhone app, which said that they were closed all Thursday  afternoons. So plans had to be changed a bit. Bloody SIM card, why does the law of sod say that I will never need it?
Found a local shabby hotel room, as the nearest campsite is an hour away it has a very single bed and a view of a wall. My needs are modest, and it has turned into a clothes washing opportunity. Alas no Internet. But what do you expect for €45.
As I have driven further south in Italy, there are 2 economic indicators that have become apparent. The first is that I have seen no Ferraris south of Milan, but loads north  and the second, much more importantly, is that the further south Batty has been over taking cars almost regularly, twice yesterday, and 3 times today. Ok so they are quite slow cars, driven by somewhat elderly folk, but even so I can feel her gusto swell as we sweep past.   I will keep these indicators going as more of the world greets us.


SIM cards don't come easily, but at 12.30 it had turned up, having been at another depot. The DHL chap was v helpful and spoke pretty good English.
On Southward and have a less twisty route, putting up with the odd juggernaut. They seem less violent somehow down here, maybe I am just getting use to them.
Much my joy I came across lots of  Trulli buildings, I wasn't sure where they were in Italy but knew it was southern. Having read about these funny shaped houses that are the things of fairytales, there are thousands south of Bari.
Now in the heel of Italy and the port of Brindisi only an hour away, I am hoping to get a ferry to Petra in Greece tomorrow evening.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What has Hannibal and Batty got in common? They both crossed the Alps....

More of that later.

Bella, Humphrey, Ben, Sasha, Millie and Sam Nokes have been marvelous hosts to me for the last couple of days. As well as the amazing hospitality, the time spent going over the plans, washing Batty, learning so much about Switzerland and the Alps has been grt fun and a great launch pad for the trip on going.

View from their back door...

Left Champery after a fine breakfast and given a big farewell from clan Nokes. The joy ride trips the evening before on Batty, with riding hats and ski helmets adorned had gone down a treat with Ben, Sasha, and Millie. Their enthusiasm for all things Batty  was most touching.

All the wiser, the suggested  drive up the Rhone Valley, surrounded by vineyards, was a special morning. Then to have the slow but spectacular chug up the 2000m to Simplonpass with the snow topped peaks just moments away, made even the expense of the rather ordinary sausage that I had for lunch at the top forgivable.

Batted down the other side into Italy   .  I have spent little time here before and am sure it is a place to share, rather than as a lone traveller. So I may crack on through, taking in the odd site.
I had read about it, but it took a bit of time to sink in, what the made up girls at the side of the road waving at the drivers were. Hitchhikers dressed like that? And so many all of a sudden. Then it clicked that these were the desperate victims of horrid events and circumstances in Africa manifesting themselves as prostitution on country roads in North Italy.
4000 miles rolled onto Batty's clock towards the end of the day.
Philippe was right about Italian campsites being crowded and expensive, €13.50 for the night and crammed next to the chatty, movie watching neighbours, makes for a different experience to the almost empty €8 French sites.
There was I thinking that the sun would only shine now that I was in Italy, all night it rained and I lie on my re inflated sleeping bag/ mattress combo in the tent at 8.30am, waiting for it to ease enough to break camp and head for Pisa. Luckily I am reacquainting myself with a Neville Shute novel 'Requiem to a Wren' which is so charmingly and well written the kindle pages afresh at a great rate.
 First night's setting in Italy, Lago di Virerone


Rain subsided and had a magical drive through Piedmont country side. Zigzagging for endless miles. Garmin the Great took me on fabulous roads through the likes of Gavi, a favorite Italian wine of mine and then to the north of Genova.

 My picnic lunch views

Camped at a very over grown campsite that was more akin to a wildlife sanctuary. When I left at 7.30 in the morning the poor hassled proprietress, had she spoken English, would have been quite clear about her thoughts of having to get up to let me out. Had I spoken Italian, I would have given her a thought or 2 of my own about the smelly loos and the flea bites that were a gift from her non stop barking dog...

Having enjoyed fabulous roads yesterday that took me to the heart of the countryside, it did however take a lot of time and the miles were not very direct, so today the Garmin was reset to include 'highways' and as a result got to Pisa at noon to spend an hour or so wondering at a wonder.

Then on through Tuscany, which it had to be, if the number of UK license plates were to go by. What a fabulous landscape, and deserves a prolonged trip, but not this time...there is a world to see first.

Spot the rainbow...after a vicious down pour

Siena is now, and the campsite is 5 star. Clean and tidy, grt showers and internet to boot. Dining at the Alla Speranza in the Campo, trying to imagine a barebacked horse race....I wanted to say that having seen their driving, I could understand the mad mindset, but so far the French have won that prize.

I have been putting my friends to an awful lot of trouble over a silly SIM card. I have a paranoia that if I loose  my phone, I will be incommunicado and lost. Firstly 02 have sent a duplicate for activation in the event, but of course to my London hse. Jacqui DHL'd it to Bella in Switzerland, DHL could not find the address (I could, with ease) but they could somehow today.....this had Bella running around all over Switzerland so that it could be forwarded to a depot in southern Italy for me to collect. After all that, if I don't loose the phone, I will be a real time wasting numpty.