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

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Turkey Feast

Monday-22 & Tuesday-23, September

Busy in Tbilisi ..

The rack mounts upon which the aluminium pannier cases hang are again starting to crack and fall apart. A little more welding and grinding solved the problem .. until such time as I eventually arrive in the Netherlands - next year sometime - where and when I plan to get the whole rear luggage system replaced.

New drive chain .. and sprockets - front and rear. It was about time. The old set-up had powered two slightly over-weight passengers and an excessive amount of luggage since leaving the city of Mount Isa, in the arid desert region of northwest Queensland, Australia .. 35,000 kilometres [nearly 22,000 miles] ago.

There's the old aussie rapidly wearing-out front sprocket on the left (above), alongside the new replacement on the right.

I also treated the old gal - the bike that is - to a new set of spark plugs; in addition to a routine engine oil and filter change. A return to 10W-40, in preference to the 15W-50 that I have been pouring into the crankcase in-and-around the hotter regions of Asia.

As you can probably tell, when it comes to engine oil viscosities .. I clearly don't have a clue.

Full Mineral, Synthetic, Semi-skimmed? .. lets not go there!

By Tuesday night (Sept-23rd) we were all tuned-up and ready to leave Tbilisi, for the second and probably the last time.

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Wednesday, Sept-24th

385 km [240 mi] along the Tbilisi-Senaki-Leselidze Highway to the resort destination city of Batumi on the Black Sea coast. And it rained .. and the wind howled .. for the whole six hour-long miserable ride.

Our first view of the Black Sea, which really was black that afternoon; crashing black stormy waves onto its black sandy beaches under a cold black sky.

My stereotype vision of this corner of the world, conjured-up from its dark title .. held true.

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Walking the streets from our hotel in the centre of the city, under an overcast and temperamental sky, darkened further by the shadows of 50-year old soviet-style apartment blocks; in late September it can be difficult to appreciate that Batumi is popular with holiday-makers across the Caucasus - including Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Turks and, of course, Georgians.

The tourist 'season' had, however, come and gone. Everything looked a little tired.

We walked along the 'grid system' pavements, through the botanical gardens towards the beach front.

Then it started to p!ss down with rain .. again!

Ellen with her pink brolly .. and me behind the camera, unsuccessfully balancing my black brolly squeezed between shoulder and chin.

The storms had made quite a mess of the seafront's esplanade. You can normally expect to party along here, with a night life to match that increasingly includes big name international DJs.

But that afternoon the walkway belonged to the city's council workers busily carrying shovels and pushing wheelbarrows.

There are a number of restaurants and bars overlooking the beach .. and we made a beeline for one and watched the waves thunder onto the shoreline .. with warm beer and chips as cold comfort.

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Friday-26th

An 18 km [11 mi] ride down to the border town of Sarpi in wonderfully contrasting bright sunshine, stopping along the way to fill the tank for the last time with comparitively cheap fuel; as across the border, in Turkey, the price increases by a whopping 75% from:

£0.78 (US $1.26) per litre
to
£1.35 (US $2.20) per litre

Turkey's is consistently in the top five most expensive places in the world to buy petrol. Only in Norway and Holland is the price generally always higher. 

Into No Man's Land with a full tank of petrol - Georgia to our right ..

Turkey to our left

.. and on with a new and appropriate flag decal-sticker.

We then headed west, under another greying sky, along a superbly made asphalt Turkish highway for 190 km [118 mi] along the Black Sea coast to the city of Trabzon, where we then turned left and headed inland (south) into the Altındere National Park for a further 39 km [24 mi] until we reached our rustic 'homely' lodgings, the Kayalar Pansiyon & Restaurant, for a 2-night stopover, specifically to visit ..

.. the spectacular rock-hewn fourth century Sumela Monastery, dramatically perched on a narrow ledge of a steep Altınderean cliff.

Saturday-27th

 It was quite a trek at 1,200 metres [3,900 ft] to get to up the Monastery, the last stages of which has to be done on foot along an undulating forest trail.

The buildings themselves have been fairly heavily restored in recent decades by the Turkish government.




The twentieth century, however, has not been kind to the Monastery.

The original frescoes have clearly suffered from decades of heart-wrenchingly pointless vandalism by modern-day travellers - and judging from the various alphabets and names scrawled across these religious works of art, it occured to me that just about every culture in the world has taken part in the desecration.

Shame on you Antonio Hudson for your stupidity in 1965 - a US Air Force military man should have more sense. There are better ways to build up your self esteem.

Out of breath, climbing up the steep stone staircases. I am getting old.

No Internet and no TV back at the Kayalar Pansiyon. Fairly decent home-cooked victuals though. Guests eat when the family eats.

The breakfast spread included: loosely scrambled eggs courtesy of the hens in the back yard, slabs of fresh home-baked bread; farmhouse butter, homemade cheeses, fresh honey, olives and figs from the garden .. and fig jam prepared by our landlady on the day of our arrival .. all washed down with freshly-brewed Turkish tea. Not a rice krispie, nor a sugar puff in sight.

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Sunday-28th & Monday-29th

Two hard days' riding followed our deparure from the Altındere NP, again often in rainy and always in cold conditions, which brought us firstly to the Black Sea coastal city of Samsun 365 km [227 mi] further westwards ..

.. before we headed inland and south for another 466 km [290 mi] to Cappadocia located in the heartland of the Anatolian Region.

Eight hours in the saddle through a bleak and bitterly cold arable lanscape at an average height of around 1,150 metres [3,770 ft]. Exhilerating .. in a perverse sort of way.

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Cappadocia

Tuesday-30th - and the weather finally breaks. HOORAH!

Cappadocia is an area in the Central Anatolia Region of Turkey .. and during the final day of September we spent an exquisite morning and afternoon exploring the lava-covered plains between the volcanic mountains of Erciyes, Melendiz and Hasan.


Cappadocia is best known for its unique moon-like landscape ..

 .. cave churches and still widely inhabited dwelling houses carved into the rock formations, which presents an 'otherworldly' appearance.

We visited an underground city in Kaymakli

 Eight storeys of underground tunnels and caves

Amazing!

And on a lighter note, the not-too-pushy (for a change) touts outside were selling the usual, and indeed somewhat unusual, aray of souvenirs .. and Turkish Delight

Gotta get me some a dat!

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Wednesday, 1st October

Cappadocia is renowned around the world as one of the best places to fly hot air balloons. I had been dreaming of this moment for quite some time ... and this was the day.

It meant a pre-dawn start at 5:00 am!

Not many words.. just look at the pictures







Meet our pilot, local man Osman Uslu.

.. who managed to land and park our wicker basket right smack-bang squarely onto the awaiting trailer. Amazing skill and co-ordination.

I made a short video of my hour-long voyage into the dawn sky. Join me:



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Tomorrow morning, Thursday 2nd October, we head south, down to the Mediterranean Sea.

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