Third time’s a charm. We breathed a sigh of relief as we passed customs on our third attempted Turkish border crossing. There was even a woman at the departure window not wearing a shawl. The times were changing. We rode to Dogubayazit for a room that night. More women not wearing headscarves, but also more children with a hand out begging, and one with the back hand wound up with a rock ready to throw. We throttled on from the little tacker’s earnest requests. More religious freedom but perhaps less security. We headed back out to the highway and found a hotel with good security for the bikes and more importantly, beer on the menu!
We’d make plans to cover 370km… then cover half that. Problem was the temperatures were still subzero. Roads were salted and trucks had passed through, so there was passage on the blacktop while the snow was piled high to the sides. Our fingers still froze. We’d pull up every 30-50km when the shivering got too much, and walk into a roadside truckstop. The two most important words were “soba” and “chai” i.e. fire and tea.
The soba is the Turkish wood burner and whilst there are many variations on the theme, essentially it’s a metal bucket you fill with wood, set fire to and bung inside a tin box. They are used for heating, cooking, disposing of rubbish, drying clothes making tea, and thawing overlanders.
Eastern Turkish hospitality is right up there with Pakistan and Iran. Business operators would, instead of giving us just tea, proceed to also serve up a big bowl of soup, then refuse payment. There is something disarming about the Kurdish goodbye between men – touching temple to temple on both sides. Locals were surprised we were riding motorcycles. I think they felt sorry for us. We felt a bit sorry for ourselves. We didn’t see another motorcycle until we were half way across the country in Sivas. We pushed to Ankara for an oil change.
ANTALYA TO CESME
After Ankara, Dyl and I briefly parted ways – I rode south to mend and catch up with an old friend, and Dyl rode north to catch up with mates in Slovenia and… not mend so much.
60km north of Antalya the snow melted by the side of the road. Palm trees lined the highway. The Mediterranean was in sight. I could ride but barely walk. The ability to walk seemed a minimum requirement for overlanding Africa. Recovery is more fun with good company and fortunately an old friend, Jenell, was keen to see Turkey. She’d just come out of work in Alaska so we were both keen to thaw out in a warm place. Unluckily global warming is happening… but luckily it meant we enjoyed an unseasonally warm winter on the the Turquoise coast… perfect for mending.
WHERE DID EVERYBODY GO?
Tourism is slow in Turkey right now. Refugees are fleeing from the Middle East and North Africa across Turkey to reach the Greek Islands – to ultimately apply for asylum in Europe. The numbers compare to the largest migrations of the 20th century. More than one million people pressed into Europe in 2015, a four-fold increase over the year before, which itself was a new millennium high. Apparently it turned people off their breakfast at the seaside cafes watching refugees walk down to waiting dingys and to their freedom. Bombs also occasionally go off – mainly in Ankara, Istanbul or the South-East. The Turkish government is fighting a war against the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) in the South-East where Kurds are also fighting against ISIS in Syria and Iraq with American air support. The Assad government is fighting against ISIS in Syria with the help of Russian air support. Russia cancelled charter flights to Turkey after the Turkish military shot down a Russian Fighter jet that strayed into Turkish airspace one too many times. The ban has recently been lifted.
You would be VERY unlucky to encounter any problems in Turkey. It is for the most part a beautiful, safe country.
The Trojan Horse is a myth. The original Indiana Jones, a wealthy German treasure hunter named Heinrich Schliemann excavated and plundered the ancient city of Troia and transported his loot back to Berlin. The treasure was then plundered by the Russians in WW2. Most is now located in St Petersberg. Karma?
The horse was built for the sake of tourists. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it, but if you’re on your way north to Gallipoli anyway, the sunset over the ruins is worth the price of admission.
Prepare to stand in awe of your forefathers. We live in a time where many have bled before us so that we now live in peace. The Allies lost, and the Turks were humble in victory. One particular Turk, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, fought in this campaign, and went on to unite the old Ottoman empire into a new secular country called Turkey. He had these words to say…
“Those heros that shed their blood
and lost their lives…
You are now living in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
and the Mehmets to us where they died side by side.
Here is this country of ours…
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons from far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land they have
Become our sons as well.”
GALLIPOLI AS IT HAPPENED
If you want to read the account of how the Galippoli campaign unfolded, the following 10 plaques from the ANZAC Cove memorial provide more detail.
Lest we Forget.