From Hama Syria, we headed to the border, and spend a while looking for a cheap hotel or camping. The tourist season hadn't really started so most of the places where closed, and those that were open wanted too much money. So we decided to go into Turkey. This was an un-usual decision for us since we usually like to go across borders early in the morning and not late in the afternoon (it was 17:00 already). The border post on both sides was virtually deserted, and all the paperwork was handled quickly and very easily, both getting out and in.
For the overview, check out Formalities: Turkey
Before we knew it we were in Turkey! We decided to head to the only campground we were aware of in Adana, which was another 280km away! The ride turned out to be excruciatingly long. First we were delayed by road building projects, apparently they are building a new "super-highway" towards the border. After that we had a flat just before sundown. I quickly got this fixed, but as soon as we got started again, and headed up over the mountains towards the coast the wind hit us really hard. The next 2 hours or so, we were constantly battling a very strong and gusting wind as we made our way over the mountains in the twighlight of early evening. As we looked out over the plains we caught sight of fires burning everywhere as they were burning the fields after having harvested. In the dark it looked like something out of Dante's Inferno. Very impressive. Luckily we didn't have to drive through any of the smoke, or at least not too much of it.
The area near the coast is very industrialized and had lots of heavy traffic, so we headed for the Toll road. This at least gave us a nice clear road and a lot less traffic. In Adana, we spent an hour looking for the camping. No-one we asked had heard of one, and we just couldn't find it, so around midnight we gave up and headed for a cheap hotel. We pretty much took the first one we found (ok, second one, the first wanted 60USD, the second, 40TKY around 32USD), and went straight to bed. The bikes, were parked on the sidewalk in front of the hotel watched over by the staff. In the morning, everything was still there, and we got going pretty early. I got a pretty good surprise as I paid. Apparently the room went for 25TKY not the 40TKY the other person had wanted the night before. This is the first time that they have charged me less than agreed upon. The room wasn't worth more anyway!
We headed out of town in the direction of Ankara. On the way we were stopped
by the police, for no apparent reason. They (3 of them) talked excitedly among
themselves, before coming over and posing for a picture in front of our bikes,
after which they let us go. Pretty funny actually. My bike was giving me problems,
leaking oil all over the bottom part of my left leg. So we decided to go to
Aksaray where there was a very nice camping and it wasn't too far away. There
I let the bike cool off before trying to tighten the engine stud which has been
loose since Morocco. Unfortunately afterwards, I started the engine and oil
was still dripping out. We then decided to stay an extra day and I would try
and fix the thing permanently by inserting the heli-coil which we had gotten
from home back in Egypt. As it was late, we decided to do the work in the morning
and enjoy the rest of the day relaxing in this very nice camping, which happened
to be totally deserted. It even had a kitchen area with gas stoves for cooking,
The next morning, I took the cylinder apart and quickly determined that the problem was the gasket. The cylinder gasket had blown and was the cause of the oil leak, the engine stud was still loose, so I decided to try and remove it, to see if I could do the heli-coil here. Once I got it out, I found that part of the threads were stripped, so I decided to skip the heli-coil and just clean up the threads, as I figured I would need a new stud before doing a heli-coil. I put the whole thing together and the oil leak problem was gone, the valve issue resulting from the loose stud would have to be solved in Ankara.
The next day we made it to Ankara without any further problems. Ankara is a large city, build partly on and between hills. We spent a frustrating couple of hours looking for accommodations. First, the camping which we knew about was no longer open. An alternative wasn't very appealing as it had no showers and didn't look very secure. So we headed back into town to find a tourist office, which turned out to be more difficult than predicted, in the end we tried a couple of hotels and settled for the most reasonable one, with a good spot for parking the bikes.
The following day (Friday) we started the visa quest, as we wanted to get something started before the weekend. First up was the Azerbaijan consulate. Here we found out that we needed a "recommendation" from our embassy and we had to pay 40USD per person at a local bank. So off we went. In order to speed it up we decided to take taxis this first day as we didn't really want to waste the time looking for everything ourselves. This really turned out to be a good (if expensive) idea. In the end we managed everything fairly quickly, unfortunately the embassies close at 12:00 so we would have to return on Monday to submit our paperwork. We rewarded ourselves with a movie and some fast food, and bought some detailed maps, so that we could find our own way around town.
On Saturday we decided to go by the embassy on the off chance that they might be open, unfortunately they weren't. It wasn't a total loss as we spent the next couple of hours riding around getting to know the area and finding other embassies which we would need.
The rest of the weekend, was spent relaxing and watching some more movies, as well as preparing for the coming week, by doing some last minute research. Early on Monday we submitted our paperwork and were told to return to pick up our passports (with visa) on Wednesday. The rest of the week was spent pretty much between embassies, internet, movie theaters, shops and hotel (updating the www.fernweh.ch pages).
Once we finally got all our visas together, as well as a couple of parcels from home it was time to move on. We never really planned on spending a lot of time visiting Turkey, as the season was passing us by, and we needed to get to Mongolia before it got too cold. So we basically headed straight north to the Black sea coast and then east to Georgia.
The Black sea coast is really wonderful, particularly the central/western part, which is less developed than the eastern (and probably the western) part. The towns all picture postcard beautiful, and the countryside lush green. The roads for the most part were good but the going was slow due to all the curves and small villages, which was fine with us. Particularly scenic were Asmara, and Sinop, after that it got a bit more "industrial", still pretty scenic though.
As we got closer to the Georgian border the weather started getting gloomier. Definitely looked like rain up ahead.
Our last stop in Turkey was Trabzon, the last major town before the border. It is a major port town, and we found it surprisingly nice. We spend an extra day here exploring. The park in the upper part of town, and the small streets around it were full of very interesting shops. We also went to an internet cafe, which turned out to be the nicest, most comfortable, not to mention speedy internet cafe we had ever seen.
The following morning we headed to the border. The ride along the coast was nice, but the wind was picking up and it looked like we would soon be getting drenched. At the last tunnel before the border, a cow had met and untimely end with a small bus. Which ended up looking marginally better than the cow.
The border was fairly quiet, and once we got in it didn't take too long to get our paperwork together. Unfortunately the reason it went so smooth, was we had forgotten something. So when we figured it was over and were about to drive out of the gate, the guards asked for a piece of paper we didn't have! (A customs document). So the next hour was spent getting this paper, during which time the rain started.
It turns out that getting the customs papers caused a stir. As soon as they tried entering our data in their computers the system crashed. So they tried it on all the different computers they had, still the same result. For some reason their program didn't like our data! In the end they just did it by hand, and we were finally out.
With all our papers in order, we were let out of Turkey and the rest will be continued in the Georgia journal.
All in all we enjoyed Turkey, and will someday have to come back and spend some time touring rather than just making a quick transit.
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