Georgia and the road to nowhere

Sat. 3rd May – 223 miles.

We left Niksar, a pleasant little town, nestled around a canyon, with steep streets and stunning views over the mountains. Turkey has been awesome so far and people very hospitable.
We picked up the mountain road, and up we went again. Once again it got colder and colder as we climbed the mountains, only to warm up a bit as we got down the valleys. We passed many villages.
Then a tunnel, the wind is so chilly, i think we are still at altitude, but no, on the other side, the black sea. It is barely 16 degrees…. I expected semi tropical weather!
From there on the road is unbelievably dull, a 4 lanes road along the seaside.
Very strange as this sort of motorway is  barely 50m from the sea, so anyone living there has to cross or use one of the rare underpass…. I guess there is no tradition of going to the beach!
We try to find a hotel in Trabzon, at the end of the day, but get caught up in crazy traffic. People jumping in front of me, vans trying to crush me against another van…. It is insane.. I shout at few drivers, using plenty of F words and things to do with their mothers that cannot be written here !!!
We get out of town and find a hotel by the side of the road.
Sunday 4th of May – 109 miles
At breakfast in the morning we see few men and 2 girls. The girls have about 6 inch heels, very heavy make up, hair extensions and clothes that hookers would blush to wear…. I think they are hookers… Turkish women wear occidental clothes but not like that! Alistair is not so sure…. So night in a  knocking shop then!? Ha!
Back on the road we decide to find a place near the border and do some washing, as, funny enough the weather has suddenly warmed up and become humid! It’s 23 degrees!!
We find a place in Hopa and do some laundry in the bathroom. We then have a look around town to check if we can find a sheepskin! We fail but have a nice walk around and  a nice lunch.
People less friendly by the black sea, although when we stopped for lunch yesterday, a man and hismother  came to see us. He said his mother saw the bikes and she wanted to say hello. She gave me a hug and a kiss! She seemed pleased to meet us! Nice people.
Monday 4th of May – mileage not noted …..
Strange day today!
We set off to the border, it was quite busy but we got through in about an hour. We had a long wait at custom behind lots of lorries and buses. Eventually we were in! We stopped just after the Georgian custom to change our turkish liras and get some cash from the ATM machines.
The weather had turned semi tropical…  It got up to 33 degrees…
Then we decided to take a nice road across the mountains, instead of the main road.
The road surface was pretty bad and then cows are left free to roam so we had to be very careful to avoid them, as well as giant potholes and cars stopping randomly on the road, usually after a bend!
We stopped for some lunch at a cafe. We asked some stuff from what we could understand on the menu but the woman there just seemed to bring ramdom things. When i said in russian harashow ( good) she gave me a big hug. Not sure why all matronly women these days want to hug me! Maybe I am getting cute with age?

Then we continued. We must have done about 65 miles and arrived at a small town. There was a very big square with lots of mini vans and taxis and lots and lots of men waiting around.

We stopped to get some water, then tried to continued. After many roads ending as dead end,we  found one going up the mountains…. For several miles… Until it ended, you guess it, as a dead end too.
The local farmers came to enqurie and try to help but we had to turn round. Bck to town we tried again but, from what we understood from some people trying to help us, the road was unterrupted or unpaved.
We could not find the right road. Another trail going out of town was blocked by a truck and did not look good.
We gave up and came back to Batumi for the night.
Oh and we lost another hour to time travel!

Riding into the storm

Thursday 1st April – 264 miles (Turkey)

Sorry for typos but not easy to type on an ipad!
As we woke up, the weather was cloudy but dry. We left Afyon and continued on the D-300 east, passing Konya and Aksaray. We were then in Cappadocia. The road had been a superb 4 lanes since Cesme.
Soon after leaving the hotel, we stopped for fuel. We put some chain lube on both bikes and decided to chek the oil. Few days ago it had been fine. Well, this time, Alistair’s bike was dry! Not a drop of oil to be found! Oh dear that was not good! We bought a bottle and filled it. The engine sounded better after that. We had been complacent, once again. Not the first time on our trips! We continued, wondering if the bikes would actually make it further than Turkey…
We came off the D300 early afternoon, riding toward a touristy town of Ilhiara.
We did not get there in the end. We stopped for a look and decided that, as we would need to ride back the next day, the spot we were in was good and there was a hotel nearby. We stopped there. As it is still low season we were the only guests. On the plus side we managed to get some beer at the restaurant, albeit at a price! Oh well what do you expect in touristy places! Even the hotel was wildly overpriced comparing with previous hotels.
Friday 2d May – 321 miles
After a mediocre breakfast we left by 9 am.
First, after running the engine few minutes we checked the oil again. Alistair’s bike was dry again. No leak… That was a big worry now! We rode few miles to the nearest fuel station and checked the oil again…. This time it was ok. Fewwww!! What a relief that was, but from now on we are checking every day. Alistair also found out the bike runs better with a bit of oil in! 😀
We decided to take the scenic route across the highlands and mountains… And it was scenic! Absolutely  spectacular. Unfortunately the few photos we took don’t show the best…too hard to stop every 5 minutes… The best views are in our memories….
We passed then the touristic town of Goreme and rejoined the D300.
At a fuel station in Goreme, we got talking with a local. Our intention was to continue east via the Central route. However one man told us of a couple of really nice places going toward the black sea. He also said something about ” the situation” further east on the central road….. We decided to follow his advice and aim for the little town of Niksar… And avoid ” situations”!
Once again we took some minor mountains roads that provided amazing views! A we rode East we could sea a very clear cut zone of white clouds and then black clouds…we were riding straight into a storm! However, with our change of plans, as we left the D300 and turned north,  we just skimmed the edge of the storm, getting wet here and there but finally getting away!
We went through some gravel and unsurfaced / under construction roads. Our little bikes behaved impeccably! We arrived at a hotel in the centre of Niksar by 7 pm, covered in mud, but happy! It had been an amazing riding day, great twisty mountains roads, magnificent views… And great dinner at night!

Miserable day

Weds. 30th April – 147 miles ( Turkey, Afyon)
What a day! It started gorgeous enough with the most impressive breakfast buffet! There was an incredible amount of stuff to chose from, lots of it not sure what it was so we sampled few things.
As the weather was cloudy we put our waterproofs on and loaded the bikes, it was time to move on.
That’s when Alistair checked my bike and tried to start it. Nothing happended. We tried again, several times, same thing. The light will be on but the bike would not start at all! Not  good.
We started removing the bags to examine the bike again, nothing obvious. It could be the battery ( it was new), the voltage regulator, the starter motor ( new as well)…..
One lad, Kenan, and the receptionist, came out to check on us. After many gestures and using google translate, kenan and Alistair tried to bump start the bike by pushing it on a side quite street. They got it started  but did not solve the problem!
Kenan , whose honda CG125 was parked next to ours, phone a mechanic who arrived quickly. After some time looking at the bike, Alistair and Kenan bump started the bike once again, and Kenan guided Alistair to a workshop, while i waited at reception with the luggage.
About 2 hours laters they were back. Success! This is what happened. The starter motor was completely seized and as a result the Relay ( solenoid) was also broken. The shop next door had a starter motor that fitted the bike! Then the mechanic phoned someone, and 5 minutes later, someone brought a relay, that also fitted my bike! Quite remarkable, or all those little 125 have standard type of parts that can be swapped between models?
Cost fo all this? Parts and labour 90 TL ( about 42 dollars)…. In the UK a Honda starter motor costs at least 130 pounds!
After many thanks and exchange of details,we left, soon after midday. The people there had beenvery helpful   and friendly.
The destination for the day was 250 miles away, still doable….except that, as we kept going the weather turned to storm and it got progressively colder and colder, and the rain and wind was relentless…. We stopped after a while to get some fuel and i added a jumper.
An hour later we stopped again as it was too cold. We were given some tea ( tea and coffee seems to be usually on offer for free at fuel stations!) by a lad in the restaurant near the fuel station. I got my feather jacket on and my under gloves.
As we climbed to 1000m altitude we got even colder and stopped again. Around 3:30 pm we pulled at the usual restaurant sitting next to fuel stations. The staff there told us to come behind the counter near a giant barbecue to warm up our hands. We were totally shivering and could not get warm.
They gave us some tea, and as the kitchen was open, we decided to have a kebab to warm up a bit.
The kebab came with plenty of side dishes and salads and pickled chillis… They seem to love chillis here!
We got the maps out. It was clear we would be able to go very far in that sort of weather. Our gear was wet, the gloves were drenched inside as the water seeped inside from the jacket, and my plastic rain over trousers were leaking…. After drinking more tea brought by the staff, we decided to get to the nearest town, Afyon, which seemed to have plenty of hotels, acccording the the GPS.
So went back under the storm and made the 30 ish miles to Afyon.
We stopped at the first hotel we saw from the side of the road,  and got a room. It was a business hotel / thermal spa. We got all the wet gear hanging from my camping washing line and the placed looked like a gypsy camp with stuff all over the place. One of the panniers was also leaking water and some stuff got wet despite the dry bags! Gear was drying everywhere. Not a good day in total! I expected that at least in Turkey we would have some sunshine, instead this has been the coldest and wettest day so far!
What happened to Spring?

Ferrys to Turkey

Sunday 27th – 5 miles

We went to get some fuel and rode to the ferry terminal by late morning. It was a massive ferry and we got a nice cabine actually, tiny but fine. We had previously bought some food for the 24h trip at a  super market.
Then we went for a beer at one of the ferry’s bar, because that’s what you do on a ferry!
Monday 28th April – 138 miles
We arrived at Patras at 2:30 and we lost another hour to time travel! Another hour forward for our watches!
We managed with a bit of effort, due to no road signs, to find our way out of town and into the main road to Athen and Pirreus. One day it will be a nice motorway, for now it was only dual carriage way with hard shoulders,a nd 70 miles of road work…a lthough we only saw two tiny teams working for all that distance… We did as the locals and got out of the way of very fast cars by riding on the hard shoulder! We eventually found Pirreus and the ferry terminal and ensured a connection to Turkey, via the Island of Chios.
The first fery was leaving at 9 pm so we had time for a stogy gyros.  We then rode to the ferry. This time i could not bother take off the soft panniers. We took few essentials for a shower and left the rest hoping no one will steal our dirty clothes!
We had a “luxury cabin” as duals were all full and we could only have shared same sex ones! For 14 euros more we expected just the same tiny cabin than the ferry before, but with some window? Well, wrong, it was huge! It even had a large bath!
Tuesday 29th April – 117 miles
The ferry was due at Chios at 5am and we ahd a wake up call at 3:45!
We were out by 5 am and we found a coffee open. We crashed there until 7 am. We could not see any other ferry. We eventually made some enquiries and were told to go to the other side of the terminal! Go figure!
Anyway, we found our connecting ferry. It was leaving at 8:30 so we had plenty of time. This ferry was tiny though. Ther was a big struggle, by the crew, to fit a car and a camper van. The camper van very nearly didn’t make it and the driver and passenge were stuck in the van once parked inside the ferry!
The crossing was only 18km so it was done under an hour.
After that we dealt with the passports. We then had to walk to the insurance office, in the town centre to get insurance for the bikes.
All in all it took maybe an hour to get to Cesme:
Once the bikes were released by custom we were on our way for a late brunch. By then it was 11 am and we had been up for hours!
The staff at the border control was really friendly and helpful.
Then it was time to hit the road. We passed Izmir with great difficulty due to lack of map, unreliable Gps and terrible drivers.
Turkish people are reallynice and   friendly, but, like in brazil, they turn into maniacs behind a wheel.
It was a stressful moment. We survived and got out of town and into the road to Ankara ( that we intend to avoid!).
Tired after such a long day we arrived at a little town, found a nice cheap hotel. Sadly none of the hotels we found had parking but we were assured it would be fine to leave the bikes on the pavement.
Time will tell!

Blasting through Europe at 55mph!

Tuesday 22d April – 274 miles

So we packed up and got ready to go, justas  the rain started. Typical! I could have bet weeks ago it would rain on on departure day!
We got to the eurotunnel in good time, it was fairly quite.
On the other side we started having problems with the automated road tolls…. The sensors don’t always detect a bike, or the second one!

At 7 pm we finally arrived, under more rain, to our destination for the day: the beautiful house of my school friend Christine, in Normandy. We had a quiet evening.

Weds. 23rd April – 147 miles
We got up early to say goodbye to Christine who was leaving early and left soon after her. Our second planned stop in France was in Angers, at my brother house. Once again the weather was wet and cold.
We arrived early afternoon and went shopping at the local outdoor shop, for some additional thermal layers with Mimi, my sister in law.
After an evening of too much food an drinks we went to bed late a a bit tipsy!

Thurs 24th April – 361 miles
So far our little bikes have been going incredibly well. The only issue we had was the slow speed,e specially of Alistair’s bike. He could barely push up beyond 55 mph, until we devised a new plan!
Tagging behind a lorry would protect us from the wind and keep up at 55 to 60 mph, sometime even peeking at 65 or 70! Result. So we kept picking trucks to follow!
Despite this game we had a long tiring day, punctuated by fuel stops and rest stops every 60 to 70 miles.

It is also becoming urgent to buy some sheepskins as we end up with very sore bottoms!

We kept having problems with the automated tolls.
By 7 pm we  got off the motorway and found a   nice and cheap hotel. We got the bikes locked in the patio restaurant,and after a quick meal went straight to sleep, exhausted.

Friday 25th april – 300 miles

After a massive breakfast we left alter than planned.
We set off to go round Lyon, but with bad signals and stupid Gps,we  ended up going straight across the town centre, losing over an hour!

After unwillingly visiting Lyon, we got back on the motorway and climbed into the Alps. Beautiful views but very low clouds! We went through the tunnel du Frejus, at 28€ per bike for the pleasure!

We were then in Italy! We passed turin and by end of the day, despite wasting lots of time in Lyon we got near piacenza where we got off the motorway to find a hotel. We found a hotel by a petrol station but the place look deserted. Alistair went to  investigate but it was locked. As we started putting back our helmets an old lady came out. We parked the bikes in an enclosed yard, guarded by 2 very savage looking dogs!

After a quick shower we went to investigate the area and found a pizzeria! Dinner!

Saturday 26th April – 292 miles

We got up early, packed and left.we  rode about a mile before we saw a bakery / coffeeshop and   we stopped for breakfast.

We continued then on the motorway, with the same annoying tolls problems! We saw some other local bikers having the same problems…

As it was saturday, and for once the weather was actually rather sunny, there were lots of stylish italian bikers out for a ride. A big gang of Harley riders passed us. The last one had an open face helmet  and was smoking a huge cigar! Italians!

During one of our stops we discussed wether to get a ferry from Ancona to Patras, or ride further south and   catch a ferry from brindisi. That would mean a further 600 km to do… The choice was simple and we got to Ancona.

We arrived mid afternoon and went straight to the ferry terminal to buy our tickets for the next day.
After that we decided to find a nice little hotel in village by the coast. Without a map that did not go down well and ended up lost in various shopping or industrial zones! After an hour we gave up,cam e back to the town centre and just picked a hotel with garage!

To be continued…..

starting the paper work

Before moving to Brazil, in June 2011, we had been planning to motorcycle from London to Sydney via northern Asia.

Brazil (and work!) got on the way.

As part of my trip preparation, I had been learning Russian for 1 1/2 year. Very tough!
But as we came back to the UK late last year, I had to revive our plan. At least ride to Mongolia.

So I am taking lessons again. Across all of central Asia, and even in Mongolia, speaking a bit of Russian will come very useful. No one speak much English on those parts of the world!

This time, as I have little time, I am having one to one sessions with a great teacher! She is designing the course for my specific needs on the road. So I can ask my way round, find the border, find where and how to ask about buying local insurance for the bikes, food, shelter, we will cover all that.

Of course the hardest part is to understand the answer! 🙂

I have bought all the maps we need from Stanfords, in Covent Garden, I love that bookshop! I could spend hours looking at their maps and guides. These maps will help me with my planning. You see, I deal with all the logistic, while Alistair deals with the mechanic and bikes preparations, as well as the GPS (OSM maps to loads and lots of way-points to add). That will be essential in Mongolia, where there are virtually no roads.

Tomorrow I am sending my bike’s seat to get customised (lowered!). In January the bikes are going to the workshop to get checked, serviced, lots of parts replaced ….

That’s all for now on our preparations! добрый вечер!

our travel bikes (well mine, but the other is similar!)