Hungary to Germany
Africa Tour August 2011 - August 2012
22/05/2012 Waiting for Turkey
Africa is now officially history. Today I set foot on Turkish soil. And
my little Suzuki is with me. We made it all the way from Port Said by
ferry, two long days and three nights on sea.
As most of the last week the ferry ride was another lesson in patience.
It took one full day to get onto the ferry last Friday in Port Said. One
day sitting next to the ferry and watch it. Just waiting. First it took
hours to unload all the Turkish trucks from it. Then there was a
problem with the paperwork for the ship. So it could not be loaded. Once
that was out of the way we were informed that we should not receive our
Carnet de Passage documents today. The documents we gave to the
shippimg company the morning before as instructed to finalise Customs
(=putting a stamp into it). Well obviously two days was not enough time
to get that done. And we were told Customs only stamps it once the ship
leaves the port. That would be 'normal procedure'. Leave the country
first, get your stamp later. The plan was to get the stamped document
sent to Turkey by DHL. Well, would you trust a shipping company with
that? A company that usually calls you to come there latest by ... just
to have you sitting there waiting for hours for nothing to happen? For
three days in a row? Now promising the document would be in Turkey
before the ferry arrives? A document worth many thousand Dollars
deposit? How likely was it we would wait for our Carnets for weeks once
we were out of sight? Nope! So we (the only five tourists on this ferry
trip) put the pressure on. And when we refused boarding for an hour or
so we got at least our unstamped Carnets back. I tell you, what a mess.
The ferry itself is awesome. The 'Anna Marine', a former Stena Line ship
was still up to British standards. Clean, modern, extremely
comfortable. We had two bed cabins with the most comfy beds I've had so
far on this trip. There were three good meals per day and unlimited
cooled drinking water, tea, coffee and crackers.
However, with only 6 passengers (the five of us plus one Turkish truck
driver) on board such a huge ship there was a lot of empty space. As
there was around the ship. The deep blue water of the Mediterranean all
around us, all the way 360 degrees as far as we could see. The ship's
bar was closed. There was no entertainment, no seats outside, no pool,
no shops, nothing. Basically nothing to do but sitting around and
drinking tea and waiting for the next meal. 'Waiting' continued to be
the big word of the day.
Sunday evening 5:30pm we arrived in Mersin. Well, arrived in the port.
The ship tried to dock. Unsuccessfully. Spun around by the wind or some
ocean current. Tried again. Again failure to dock properly. It was
pushed around by tug boats. No success. Going backwards and forwards.
Closing in on the concrete pier. Giving up and go the other way.
Eventually sailing far out of the harbour again to try another docking
location. It was around 10pm when the vessel was finally secured and the
ramp opened. By the time we were still able to clear immigration. But
had to sleep another night on the ship for everything else was closed.
Another night of waiting, being within reach of Turkish soil!
Next morning the game continued. First waiting for our agent who was
supposed to support us through Customs. Well, he arrived. But they don't
talk too much to you these people. Apart from 'Wait here!' while they
disappear. Waiting for what? For how long? No answer. So we waited.
Approximately two hours later the agent took us to the Customs office on
the other side of the port. And what did we do there? Of course what we
learned to do best in recent days. We waited. And waited. And waited.
For hours. Until we decided to skip the agent and do it ourselves. Which
worked nicely until one of the Customs guys mentioned we needed
insurance for the bikes to be released. Where did we get insurance from?
Somewhere in town. Can we go there with the bikes? Nope.
Aaaaaaarrrrrghhhh! So Mike and me, we called a taxi. And waited. And
waited. For it to arrive half an hour and one phone call later. To take
us to an ATM to have money for insurance. And finally to the insurance
office. Where it took another hour to issue the insurance for us. Back
with the taxi to Customs. And Customs was closed for lunch. We would
have to wait. Fortunately one Customs officer took mercy on us and gave
us two of the three stamps we needed. The third one we would get once an
inspector inspected our bikes. We knew the inspector, knew his office,
he knew us, so no problem.
Except for the fact that it was lunch break. And after lunch all
inspectors attended a meeting in some Customs headquarters. All of them.
Not one was available to clear the expanding queue of vehicles waiting.
How long would the meeting go for? 'Maybe an hour'. And so we waited.
By now I was so over the waiting game, so over it. Nothing we could do.
Two hours later the inspectors returned. By then we 'camped' right
outside their door to make sure we would get our stuff done first.
However, they opened the door and a whole bunch of agents poured in and
drowned the inspectors in paperwork for waiting trucks. They ignored us
completely. Us, standing there in the hot office squeezed between the
agents waiving their papers. No one even looked at us and our papers.
That was it, I was ready to kill people. I had a list in my mind who to
kill first and who should die the most painfully. The thought of this
pleasure seemed to calm me down somewhat.
But don't worry, it didn't come to that. Half an hour after opening his
office an inspector took our papers, asked if we have anything to
declare and just stamped them. No inspection. Just like that. Three out
of three stamps. Means we are free to leave. It shouldn't be that easy.
We asked how to exit the port and people gave us directions. We juggled
ourselves through all the trucks and got there. To be told we could not
exit there. Wrong exit. Go to the other one. It also must be said that
the exits are not signposted. So it takes a while to find them in the
huge port area. However. We found it. To be told it was the wrong exit
for us. Go to another one. 1km down that way. Going there it was of
course the wrong exit. Aaaaaaarrrrgggggghhhhhh! One exit kept sending us
to the other one, none would let us through. They wouldn't even look at
our documents. No explanation why one exit is different from the other.
None. Just 'not here, go there'. Playing this game for half an hour -
it just became ridiculous. Stuff that. We went back to the Police where a
couple of people had sent us to. And there, behind parked cars and some
rubbish bins, the officer opened a gate which obviously has not been
opened in months. For us to exit! So we did, not wasting a second. What
made this exit behing the rubbish bins the only one right for us? We
shall never know. It was now 4pm.
But the important fact remains: we are now in Turkey. With our bikes. Free. Awesome!
My plan from here is to stay in Mersin for a day or two to get my little
Suzuki back up to scratch. Replace the bent handlebars. Do some
maintenance. Get the oil seals for the fork replaced. They too got
damaged in the accident which makes both front shocks leaking oil.
Once done I shall take on the final 3000km of this journey. No more waiting...
Leaving Port Said harbour. It is a long way out a channel before the
ship reaches the open ocean. A good way to say good bye to Port Said, a
friendly town to be our home for four days.
Our ferry was mostly empty. Two motorbikes, two cars and one truck was all that occupied the two RoRo vehicle decks.
The end of the journey through the black continent. Somehow it feels
like the end of my journey. The last picture of Africa as it slowly
disappears in the distance.
This is what you see when you travel the Mediterranean. Blue water. Nothing else for two days.
The first picture of Turkey. Arriving in the port of Mersin.
Our ship and our home for two days and three nights. The 'Anna Marine'.
Thanks everyone for your nice comments, you guys really keep me going!
Just a short one today, I have to take the opportunity to use the free WIFI in my hotel.
After coming from Africa, Turkey keeps surprising me. Things are suddenly so easy in so in many aspects.
Back on Monday in Mersin, when we finally got out of the port and found a
cheap hotel, I was ready for action. Full of energy that now, there was
no need for waiting for anything any more. Ready to get things done.
First priority has of course my little Suzuki. The accident seemed to
have misplaced the oil seals of my front shocks, both were leaking oil
badly. And I needed to find a solution for the bent handlebar. So I
asked at the hotel if they know a Suzuki workshop in town. Which the guy
on the front desk googled and without me knowing he called them on the
phone to make them come to the hotel. Just wait. Maybe half an hour.
The hotel guy was a really lucky guy that day. When he said 'Just wait'
he got himself in real danger. I was ready to go to places, check out
places, ask in workshops before they close for the evening. What was I
doing now? WAITING!!!!! Thanks again! I suppose he noticed my face
turning angry and in an pre-emptive strike invited me for a cup of
excellent milk coffee. Well, okay then.
At the end though it was a really good thing. The mechanic came to the
hotel as promised half an hour later. On a Chinese bike with a Suzuki
badge on either side. Which was not a good omen. He had a look at the
leaking forks. And to my surprise he said 'yes, we can...' (repair
them). Which was a good omen. It would take two days to order the new
oil seals. And that's all we need. Fortunately I carried a pair of new
oil seals for my shocks with me all the way through Africa. So we could
start the next morning at his workshop.
When it comes to my little Suzuki I don't trust everyone. Africa taught
me to have a close look at the mechanic and the tools first. 'Yes we
can' often meant 'We will try if we can bodge something'.
However, arriving at the workshop in Mersin really surprised me. There
were BMW bikes, KTM, Kawasaki KLRs parked outside. There were workshop
posters of Suzuki bikes on the wall. Everything looked clean and
professional. And watching the mechanic made me feel like him loving my
bike just as much as I do. Really good man. Within three hours and many
many teas later and with the help of my DR650 workshop handbook
everything was back to perfect order. New fork oil according to Suzuki
specs, new oil seals, the handlebar bent back and sprayed black again,
you would not see a difference to a new one. Seeing me smiling all the
time he also cleaned the whole bike and lubed the chain with real chain
lube (not just old motor oil as they did in Africa). Wow!
All this made me really happy! I planned to stay for two days in Mersin
to get it all done without knowing if it could be done in Mersin at all.
Now it took just half a day and my little Suzuki has absolutely no
issues remaining from that accident! Back in the hotel I just wanted her
to be in even more perfect shape and celebrated her with a set of shiny
new spark plugs and a replacement of the broken aluminium cross brace
of the Safari tank. With her being in such perfect state I couldn't wait
to go riding again.
And so I did today. I must say I don't know nothing about Turkey. I
tried to get at least a map in Mersin but failed. Using a free map from a
petrol station (showing you all the stations of this brand overlaid on a
map with dots for towns and lines for streets) I stumble through Turkey
like a blind man. But hey, what counts is that riding here is so much
fun. My little Suzuki and me, we did almost 400km today. Along awesome
paved roads through the mountains. Small roads with next to no traffic.
Winding their way up and down and through small towns with big mosques
pitched on the mountain side. It felt like a dream being able to ride
and ride and ride again. Feeling the freedom again without my knee
putting any restraints on the fun. Or the little issues on the bike
casting small shadows. No, everything was good. For the first time in
many weeks I was free to ride. Troublefree. The environment was awesome.
Everything worked. Nothing to be waiting for. Just go. And go. And go.
Everywhere I stopped I found friendly people. I guess me smiling on my
bike, I was just radiating freedom. And this attracted many good people.
So I pretty much got stuck in these towns whenever I dared to stop. But
it's nice. Turkish people are very friendly. Same as in Egypt, whatever
you do, you do it with a glass of fresh tea in your hand. Which really
hypes you up. I strongly believe my journey through Turkey will be a
The shocking part of today though was how cold it got! I started in the
morning into a beautifully warm mediterranean summer day in Mersin. And
ended up in snow in the mountains just a few hours later. The first snow
since Kilimanjaro. But this time right next to the road. Fortunately
not yet on the road.
I guess this is the way the next few days will go. Choosing some small
roads through rural Turkey, roads which lead roughly in North Westerly
direction. And enjoy riding as much as I can. Easy.
28/05/2012 Last days in Turkey
Who's got the biggest bike now?
She is back in perfect shape - my little Suzuki loving the mountains of Turkey
After all this time waiting and waiting and waiting it felt so good to be free to move again, see places, do stuff.
My new buddy in the snow. Unfortunately he couldn't hold on at speed.
Does this look cold? Yep!
The cold and sometimes rainy conditions in Turkey made me travel
faster than I usually would. The route I chose went in a pretty straight
line from Mersin near the Syrian border in the South to Canakkale in
the North West of Turkey. Passing through Mut, Bozkir, Aksehir,
Afyonkarahisar, Kuetahya and Balikesir. Starting on the warm
Mediterranean coast in Mersin the road quickly went up to an altitude of
around 1800m and stayed in the mountains all the way to Kuehtaya. It's
beautiful scenery as you ride along. The roads are small and windy. The
views far and awesome. There is next to no traffic. So cruising along
you can make the most of this landscape, stop anytime, take photos. It
feels like you and your bike own the road. Really just relax and enjoy
28/05/2012 Turkey pics
The mountains are quite cold though and there is snow. Nothing some
proper riding gear can't cope with though. So I was riding with almost
empty panniers, wearing pretty much all the clothes I could find. But
once past Kuetahya everything changes. Most importantly the terrain is
getting flatter. There is no more snow. It's much warmer. And everything
looks nice and green. It looks a bit like the Hobbit Land out of the
Lord of the Rings. An undulating landscape and everything covered in
green. Most of it is agriculture, wheat fields or rye, often even rice.
But still, there are hardly any settlements. Usually there is a town
every 50km or so. And the roads are all yours to enjoy. Past Kuetahya
the roads turned into highways, split carriageways, two lanes each
direction. And much more straight than the small mountain roads. But
still almost no traffic.
In terms of the weather Turkey is quite a change to Egypt. Not just the
cold conditions in the mountains. But also rain. It is not so green for
no reason. I guess it is a combination of these facts, enjoying the ride
so much and trying to escape from uncomfortable weather, which made me
gain a lot of km during the last few days.
So consequently - I am now on European soil. Still in Turkey. There is a
ferry across the Bosporus from Canakkale to Eceabat which I took. And
Eceabat is Europe.
Much more importantly though is the fact that Eceabat is on the
Gallipoli peninsula. As an Australian you can not go to Turkey and not
visit Gallipoli. In fact I would say that for Aussies Gallipoli is the
most significant place outside Australia. Why?
Long time back in the WW1 it was here that the Australian and New
Zealand Army Corp (ANZAC) appeared on the world stage for the first time
as an independent entity. In support of Mother England the ANZAC landed
on a beach on the West coast of the Gallipoli peninsula on the 25th
April 1915 in order to open up a new front and keep Turkey out of the
war in Europe. After months of fierce fighting and thousands of
casualties the operation failed. It ended in the evacuation of the ANZAC
troops and Turkey reclaiming the tiny bit of land they had occupied.
The reason why it is so significant for Australia (and New Zealand) is
the fact that Australia got involved as Australia. Not as before mixed
up with English or Commonwealth troops. No, this time the Aussies stood
on their own feet. They might have lost the battle. But established a
reputation. And Australia's self confidence. And so, till today, the
25th of April continues to be a public holiday in Australia in
commemoration of the ANZAC.
Thinking about it - it is an odd thing: while Australia celebrates it's
defeat with a public holiday every year, Turkey accepts and supports
memorials on their soil for troops attacking and occupying their
country, resulting in the death of thousands of Turkish soldiers. The
Turkish government even officially renamed the small bay at Gallipoli's
West coast to 'ANZAC cove' as many brass plaques along the beach will
tell you. In honour of an attacking force?? However, war does not make
sense. And obviously lots has changed between Turkey and Australia in
I liked the fact that my first foot steps onto the European continent
would take place in Gallipoli. Arriving there after a short ride with a
car ferry really was an awesome feeling. It's the same Gallipoli I heard
so much about, saw so many pictures of. Was that really happening?
Sydney to Gallipoli on a motorbike?
What I did not know was that Gallipoli is not just one site, no it is a
peninsula full of sites. Of course the battle for Gallipoli is just as
important for Turkish people as it is for Australians. After all Turkey
successfully defended their country against the almigty Commonwealth
troops. So the Gallipoli peninsula is full of monuments, brass plaques,
historic sites. And cemetaries. Most of all cemetaries. The majority of
the sites commemorate the Turkish involvement in the battle. And Turkish
people take it in by the bus load. Okay, I went there on the weekend,
but there were literally hundreds of buses. And thousands of people.
The ANZAC sites though were mostly deserted. However, there was one
small bus with Australian tourists. And I met two more groups of Aussies
in a rental car each. When I heard the familiar accent I felt all warm
In moments like these I start missing Australia. It's strange. I love
travelling. Really do. And sometimes, when travelling, I miss Australia.
And I know, once I am back home I will miss travelling. And the freedom
it gives you. And how much you grow through travelling. Now that the
journey slowly comes to an end I start thinking about what life back
home will be like. Back in the old appartment. Back in the old job. But
the journey changed me to a new person. No doubt about that. Will it all
be compatible again?
But that's a bridge I will cross when I get there.
For now I am in Edirne. Ready to cross into Bulgaria, the next country
on this journey. Again I must admit, a country I know almost nothing
about. No info, no map, no idea. I prepared myself nicely for Africa.
But skipped the Europe part completely in my preparations. So it will be
a surprise. I guess a good one.
The landscape Nort of Kuetahya changed into a beautiful green.
At the town of Canakkale - looking across the Bosporus to Europe and the Gallipoli peninsula.
My little Suzuki wedged in by buses on the ferry across the Bosporus.
The other side, Europe!!!
The main Turkish memorial site, consisting of a huge war cemetary and a
tall monumental tower. It was just buzzing with people coming here on a
The ANZAC cove, a beach where the ANZAC troops landed back in 1915 and the struggle for Gallipoli started.
Me at one of the memorial sites.
The main ANZAC memorial site. Also a big cemetary and a colossal monument. But almost no one there.