Monday 17 June – The road from Cappadocia to Malatya took us though the first of many mountain passes. Shops, and more importantly petrol stations between towns were becoming less common, but still enough that we don’t have to really worry.
We stopped for lunch and a young group of boys inspected the bike as we ate, then asked the cost. We’d read about this, nothing to be worried about, they were genuinely interested, but we’re conscious that bike is probably worth a lot in comparison to the annual salaries out here in the sticks, so of course under value it.
The temperature dropped very noticeably and we had to stop to put on extra layers. This is the first time since Italy that my fingers have gone numb. We left in 30 degree heat. The road was an amazing ride through the mountains, and it’s true serenity when the slow moving trucks aren’t chugging along and spewing out black smoke.
We arrived late into Malatya after a long drive and as the final stretch was descending from the mountains, the heat has returned. I spotted a reading of 28 degrees at 20.00 pm. This city is famous for apricots, there is an ATM in the shape of one and a roundabout that features a giant apricot as the focal point. It’s not really on the tourist map and we have only come here as there is a Yamaha garage for a service before Iran and Pakistan.
Tuesday 18 June – Somehow we chose the closest hotel to the Yamaha garage, it was hotel with a shared bathroom and dirty walls but was ok. After a quick pack up we headed over. As we arrived a broken down Honda was being unloaded from a truck, and luckily for us the guy who had broken down was a student in Portugal and could speak good English so acted as our translator. We were seated and served Cay, whilst the young mechanic ran around servicing the bike. He made the bike look like it was as light as a feather and pirouetted it 180 degrees on the side stand. Amazing. Under an hour and it was fully serviced for less than £30. As we were leaving, a highway maintenance guy who was watching us load the bike offered us a Cay before we left, Turkish hospitality is amazing.
The road to Erzurum started off flat and ran along side a river. The military presence has increased in Eastern turkey, and I’ve been conscious not to point the camera in their direction, I can see peering eyes just above the little road side bunkers, a little unnerving as they look very serious.
We stopped at a small road side restaurant with no menu and therefore no prices. But unwisely assumed, because it was a ramshackle, it would be cheap. Clearly they saw the opportunity to make some money, whilst it still only cost £7 it was more than what we have been paying and I doubt that’s what the locals paid. Next to the restaurant was a bus stop with around 8 women wearing the full burka, unusual as so far we’d only really seen headscarves.
Further along the route, the road was under construction so it became a mixture of perfect roads to gravel and dust, but still they are vast in width and often empty so not too tough. There is a gentle incline through the mountains and as we drove higher we spotted snow – in June. We hadn’t realised how high we were. We pass mainly shepherds, who all wave to us and small temporary settlements which probably move with the grazing herds.
A grey, gloomy storm cloud appeared around an hour away from Erzurum and it began to rain, not enough to warrant the rain suit, but enough to remind us of England. We stopped at a local petrol station in search of the Cay to warm us up. Of course it’s on tap, and the owner refused to let us pay.
Arriving late, meant little patience in finding somewhere to stay so we stopped at the first place. Kral Otel, very clean but a weird little place,that is renovated only on every other floor. The porter is a Turkish replica of Danny Devito and insists on showing me the room even though i just want to know the price. I ask about the ‘otopark’ he shakes his head and replies ‘evet, evet’ yes yes. Deal is done.
So where is the parking? He motions a turn then down, which looks like he is indicating around the other side of the hotel and underground, but we were mistaken. He opened the pedestrian door to the nice shiny marbled floor lobby and pointed inside. Yes he let us park in the shiny lobby.
We were undecided on what to do now in Ezurum, wait a day or go to the border town of Dogubeyazit. We’d posted on a forum to meet up with some others on the same route but the English couple are not crossing until August and we haven’t heard from Rochdi, who we met in Istanbul nor anything from Martino who was awaiting his visa. We can’t wait for too long as a) staying static costs money in hotels and b) we want to stick to our original plan of the 22nd June to enter iran. So hopefully we will hear something tomorrow.
Wednesday 19th June – spend the day catching up, skyping home, trying to draw more dollars and walking around Erzurum. We met an English couple (one of which had worked at Bentley in Crewe) and a Swiss guy travelling by bicycle at a Cay shop and got chatting to them. Their blog is www.longwaytopedal.com
We heard from Rochdi and he is having trouble with his Iran authorization code so won’t be crossing with us as it could take a few weeks, hopefully we will catch up with him somewhere along the way. Nothing from Martino so we’ve made a decision to push on and just let him know our plans and perhaps he will catch us up.