I am the original 'Uneasy Rider' .. not especially blessed with much natural motorcycling talent, nor am I a particularly courageous motorcycle rider.
Nevertheless I went 'Right Way Round' New Zealand (at least twice) followed by a wonderful ride around Australia.

Then it was up to southeast Asia, around Indo-China, across southern Central Asia to the Middle East, Asia Minor .. and finally into Europe.

Right Way Round - all the way home .. from New Zealand to England, 2-up on a Honda Transalp.

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PROGRESS SO FAR - Distance covered across Western Europe: 6,411 km [3,984 miles] - as at Thursday, October-22nd, 2015

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Where the Hell Am I?

Sunday, 21 September

Current location: Tbilisi, Georgia

Below, a snapshot of my three-year Asian motorcycle ride - in five separate stages - westwards, starting in September 2011 from the former Portuguese colony of East Timor:

Click to enlarge

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And now, just two days before the autumnal equinox ((Sep-23rd), am I still in Asia .. or have I made it into Europe?

You see, after looking into this widely misunderstood question, I have discovered that the definition of 'Europe' is quite diverse.

For instance, one of the generally accepted borders between Asia and Europe in this region is the watershed area of the Greater Caucasus mountain range. By this particular definition, about 99% of Georgia is firmly located in Asia; and just a tiny part of it, near the Russian border crossing at Kazbegi-Lars, is in Europe. With this criteria in mind, I am definitely in Asia right now.

This is backed-up by the statistics division of the United Nations, which  records transcontinental states as being ".. on the continent where they have the majority of their population" - i.e. The UN position is that Turkey, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan are Asian. Russia, on the other hand, is by UN definition European.

Politically however, all states that have some territory both in Europe and Asia, seem to prefer association with Europe rather than Asia. For instance Kazakhstan, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Israel etc, all play football in the UEFA (Union of European Football Association), rather than the AFC (Asian Football Confederation). They are all allowed to enter the Eurovision song contest .. [sarcasm on] and what self-respecting nation wouldn't say 'Yay' to that? [sarcasm off!]

Note that Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are all members of the Council of Europe, depite being geographically Asian. Kazakhstan is also allowed to join the Council of Europe if it so chooses.

My travel insurer defines 'Europe' as: "The Continent of Europe west of the Ural Mountains including all countries with a Mediterranean coastline (except Israel, Lebanon and Libya.)" As Georgia is west of the Urals, I have saved a few pennies on my travel insurance premiums by buying 'European' as opposed to 'Worldwide' cover.

Summary:

I think I will settle on a compromise position: For the next few days I'll consider myself to be in 'Eurasia' - until I cross the border into Turkey, often widely referred to 'Asia Minor' and sometimes as  'Anatolia'.

Only when I arrive in Greece (or Bulgaria) - in about three weeks' time - will I be able to definitively claim that I have arrived 'home' in my native continent of Europe proper.

Glad I'm not Scottish!

Let's get started ..

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Pre-planning - getting here

The cheapest flight leaving from a convenient airport in the UK to Tbilisi is with Ukraine International Airlines: from London Gatwick via Kiev Borispol Airport, Ukraine ...


.. the second segment of which carries you uncomfortably close to and over the pro-Russian separatist conflict zone north of the Crimean Peninsula.

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Flashback to the recent tragedy of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, when 298 innocent travellers and air crew were blown out of the sky.




Contemplating that terrible event of July-17th (coicidentally, my birthday), it took me less than five seconds to decide on booking reservations with an different carrier, Turkish Airlines, which takes an alternative and less controversial flight path!


My slightly more expensive 3-segment flight path to Tbilisi:

NQY - LGW...................348 km (216 mi)
LGW - SAW................2,530 km (1,572 mi) - Goodbye United Kingdom. See you next in GMT.
SAW - TBS.................1,312 km (815 mi)
Total:                          4,190 km (2,603 mi)

A trip always 'starts' for me when I board the plane that takes me to my destination. Leaving home for London Gatwick from Newquay Airport (airport code NQY) meant that this trip started early .. just 7 miles (11¼ km), a 12-minute drive away from my front door.

NQY at 06:45 - It's no more than a baroque plastered cowshed, which has the bloody cheek to charge departing passengers a fiver (£5) each, which they label an 'Airport Development Fee'.

A little over an hour after take-off .. and you're waiting to pick your bags off the luggage carousel at London Gatwick's south terminal. Then the onward flights to Istanbul →Tbilisi doesn't happen for 5½ hours.

Therefore, apart from checking-in .. and going through the all the hassle and indiginity of modern-day travel security checks - just how does one kill 5½ hours in a bustling airport?

Partake in sipping coffee perhaps .. or supping beer and slurping wine?

No Contest!

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And here we are .. back in Tbilisi, with all its quirky, yet fascinating architecture and artifacts.

Back to a shepherd's pie pub lunch ..


Back to Premiership Football on a Sunday afternoon in front of a 42" wide-screen TV.

It's good to be abroad again!

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Where do we go from here?

Well, I have a broadbrush route in mind. After getting the bike all serviced-up and ready for the road:

We'll scoot westwards to Batumi on the Georgian Black Sea coast, before dropping down to the Turkish border. Then spend a couple of weeks making more westing across Turkey to Istanbul via a most indirect route, which will include a jaunt along the Turkish Mediterranean coastline.

From Istanbul, maybe we'll pop-into Greece for a week or two; I dunno, this will depend on the prevailing weather conditions and how we feel at the time. If we're not in the mood for Moussaka, then it'll be a ride straight into Bulgaria, where I know I can park and store the bike for the winter months.

You see, there is now something quite wonderful drawing me back home ..



Meet my new granddaughter, Grace Mary - born just three days ago.

I want to get to know her .. and for this reason I could be home early.

Life is a funny old thing.  It is the way it is, not the way I have imagined it .. up until now.






More from me .. in a few days' time.

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From Ellen's journal: click on this link →  Tbilisi - Georgia

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