The scenery is beginning to change....

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Where I stayed
A shithole

Flag of Turkey  , Ankara,
Friday, October 28, 2011

Today was a near perfect day on the road. We started out in Istanbul. I had few expectations from Turkey after being engaged to a girl who comes from here. After that miserable experience I figured there was little left here that could shock or repulse me further. Istanbul was a pleasant surprise, it was a bustling, vibrant city with great architecture and friendly people. More importantly the toll roads weren't guarded and the police let us drive wherever we pleased.

This morning w got a few snaps to remember passing through and it all began to wear a bit thin. The friendly people started getting a little irritating. They’re clearly after something all the time and their hopelessly unsophisticated attempts to appeal to our western mentality was just grating after the novelty of the first few.

A girl today started trying to engage us in conversation after we parked on her tourist attraction. She proclaimed loudly that I had a perfect bike. I love her to bits but right now she’s covered in scrappy bolt-ons that are uglier than a Bulgarian super-model and she’s as dirty as I wish my girlfriend was. She then told Marcin that he had a perfect bum. We looked at one another and didn’t know how to reply to that one. In the end I took the moral high-ground like an Englishman would and asked the only sensible question, ie what was wrong with mine?

Talking of which there were two toilets this morning but someone seemed to have moved into one of them. The Turkish practice of leaving food in tepid metal cans all day and then serving had made my stomach feel slightly unsettled and there was no waiting for the troubled individual in the normal, Western toilet so I had to make do with the other one. To call it a toilet was a compliment, it’s a hole in the ground, incapable of flushing or accepting toilet paper. The easiest thing in the world in this position is to shit in your own underpants but I avoided soiling myself and mostly hit the target, rather proud of myself that I had succeeded on my first attempt. Marcin came back from the shower and told me someone with real power had been using the toilet. I admitted it was me. When we packed the bike I sniffed the air and there was a foul, sickly aroma wafting around the entire hotel lobby. He grinned and said, "it was me. Don’t you recognise?"

So after a number of encounters with various Turkish people who were offering every imaginable favour as a special gift and the constant rush-hour traffic that lasts all day we finally got on the road out of there. We headed for a major bridge, Marcin was very keen to get on it. I was a bit disappointed because it was just a bridge. A big bridge but just a bridge. So it took us close to 40 miles to get out of the city sprawl. Istanbul is just that massive and seems to reach on forever. A city of 14 million people of whom roughly half own or work in the mindless, endless mostly identical cafes that all have the same food at the same price and the rest just drive around, bumper to bumper until they crash into something. The wind was still fairly strong and I was buffeted a lot although Marcin seemed fine.

We stopped to gas up and have some lunch at a petrol station on the motorway. The station was the biggest I have ever seen with a mall literally attached to the petrol station. It had half a dozen restaurants, shops, cafes and bars. Just utterly ridiculous. The toilets were even more so. The urinals had TV screens above each one and everything was so clean you’d honestly think you were in a first world country. The food was expensive and second rate. I had some macaroni cheese, some beans and a little salad. Marcin had everything else. Even after four bowls of food he was still hungry but we carried on regardless. He’s a one-man famine waiting to afflict a country. A ravenous plague devouring its way from continent to continent. I’m sure it must have made the news, after the terrible Earthquake now Marcin is coming and... he’s hungry!

For whatever reason the weather seemed to improve. The wind died down so I could comfortably add a few extra miles per hour and the trip was far more comfortable. Even though it was warmer than we’re used to it was still cold to ride in it. The wind blasting over us and the slight humidity means we’re effectively experiencing the same conditions as the inside of a fridge and for those that want to know it does appear that the light stays on. Soon after that the terrain changed. Even though we were on a motorway the scenery went from banal to spectacular. Green hills took hold of the horizons and rolled into infinity around us and then the mountains lumbered out way. The ground flattened out into a barren rocky wasteland peppered with yellow bushes and stretches of water glistened a deep blue under a perfect, cloudless sky. The ride was everything you could ask of a road trip today.

Somehow Marcin lost a catch on his helmet but my handy box of spares put us right. He’s still struggling with a 300 video camera that came supplied with a 50p fitting clip that’s failed completely so towards Ankara we bodged him up with double sided tape and a power lead running from a hastily assembled collection of wires and plugs. Once we’d disguised him as an evil cyborg from a bad sci-fi move with Death, Evil or Killer in the title we made on for the last hour or so of our trip. The petrol is a higher quality here, my fuel economy is pretty much normal again and Marcin is having none of the running problems we had outside of Bulgaria. They have a strange system where someone has to unlock the pump before it works but invariably there’s never enough people working so everyone stands around waiting to pay 20% more for a litre of fuel than England.

We reached Ankara after duelling with several coach divers who drive with their accelerator buried in the carpet in all conditions and several myopic and stupid drivers who shouldn’t be allowed to walk on their own let alone take control of a car. To say the driving mentality here is unsophisticated is like saying Marcin smells a bit when he farts.

Our GPS took us to the heart of the town. Anatomically it looked like an organ lower down in the human body where things are disposed of. This is the capital city and it’s run down, battered and decaying. There’s no sophistication here, it’s like it’s run by adults with children’s brains. The people do well not to eat one another and the building do well to remain standing if it rains. Some parts were little more than huts, others were a pale imitation of Istanbul. How this is the capital is beyond me. It’s an ugly little town with the style and facilities, noise, smell and comfort of a 2-stoke enduro motorcycle but without being able to ride over curbs. We found a hotel at a price that we felt was right but to call it basic is selling it short. It’s cruder than a kick to the bollocks, the toilet is a hole and doesn’t have paper of any kind. You’re expected to simply remove the leftovers with your hand and wash it off. The room is a bos with crumbling walls and a single socket that’s been nailed to a plank of wood. Conditions are expected to get far worse from here but then that’s why we’re doing it. So we stayed right here in Ankara. The time was about 6.30 when we settled in. The journey was just long enough, just entertaining enough and just quick enough to be just right. Tomorrow we’re going to go further, slower and longer. We’re going to try to make time and get out of here in 2 more days and cross into Iran the next morning. Tomorrow sees an early start and realistically an all-day ride at more plodding speeds on roads where plodding is quick. First there will be beer.
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Comments

thunderstick
thunderstick on

Superb pics, especially the eastern KTM. I imagine that's far superior because it can also double up as a woman on those long, cold lonely nights in the 5 star hotels you're staying in. MOT chappie laughed when I said your travelling companero was on a KTM. Excellent blogging, can't wait to read the book: will there be more on Istanbul and other cities? I hope you can get to slow down a bit and take in the cities and villages coming up...I want to hear about lots of conversations with toothless hags and their teenaged mothers...and of your delightfully English 'delicate' situations with them and a pint of the local firewater...

thunderstick
thunderstick on

P.S. when you saw that dog splashed in the road the other day,did Marcin stop to scrape it up as a snack?

jtw000
jtw000 on

The KTM is doing ok. Only problem so far is losing a screw from the handlbars and we're fixing that tomorrow. Mine is running like a little trooper. So pleased with her, I love her a little more each day. She's keeping up with a bike twice her size and in the corners and cities she's making easy work of it. Enjoying writing the blog but after a day on the road just doing that is sucking up all my time. The book will have to wait until we finish or the KTM breaks down... I wonder which will happen first.

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