Tuesday, July 5, 2011

2nd July, Cappadocia, Goreme, Turkey

I joined a herd in the shape of a conducted tour, via my guesthouse. It was an all day thing that was to cover much of the areas highlights.
For this lone traveler it was a bit of a shock being pitched in to a minibus with a whole lot of strangers. Cappadocia is a big area and it seemed a good way to see some of the gems. The last group joining the bus in the town, were about 8 Koreans, all babbling away. I was rather nervous that it could be a mistake. I was wrong, they were very charming and spoke excellent English. Hitomi was staying in my Otel and there were a couple of fun Italian girls as well. One thing is for sure, these trips are a great way of meeting people. I will tell the story of the day in as few pics as possible.
The one thing difficult to show is the under ground town. Build over a 1000 years ago to protect the minority Christian groups. About 20-100 people for many centuries lived all there domestic life in these very deep dug out caves. Over 7 storeys deep and hundreds of feet. Now I can do caves, and have even been pot holing, but this was not a thing anyone should do with the slightest twinge of claustrophobia. There were about 10 of us, and probably 200 other trippers at the site as well, they filed us down and down these tiny interconnecting stairwells, that one had to crouch going down and was a bit of a squeeze.  It was fascinating, but I am afraid I was getting very nervy by the time we got to the bottom. I was practicing my 'fear of flying' anxiety busting techniques, i.e squeezing ones' bum cheeks and deep steady breathing, I even started writing some journal up to get my mind off it. Talking of shitting one self, they apparently used clay pots that were bought up daily.
As we climbed back higher it became easier but the idea of living there was incredible. I am not surprised that it was abandoned when the threat stopped.

That evening John and Jane rolled into town and after being introduced to a cool bar by Anna and Claudia from Roma, we all went and supped at the 'Local' restaurant, which served a delicious speciality called a clay pot Kabab. Basically a stew, which they have to break the pottery cooking pot to serve. Grt fun.
The next day was rather relaxed and  we went to a local museum in the morning, had lunch, a potter abound the town, tried to get some sunset shots in the Rose valley then a beer followed by supper again at Local. We all agreed it was the best Turkish food we had had and worth paying a few quid extra.

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 vegiplane.com 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.