HTML From Blog Template Moto-Hike: Run From The Sun: February 2006

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Helicopters and Blizzards? Got to be a Turkey!

Crossing a border is an exciting event for us. It means a whole new country of fun is about to unfold plus we get more stamps in our passports. Woo hoo!!!
I love everything about stamping.
The guard reventially removes the stamp from the draw. He then gives you 'the look'.
'The look' means he's assessing you, making his final decision on whether you're worthy of entry to his precious country. While pondering this he'll ink up the stamp, carefully rocking it side-to-side to get a good even covering.
Then he lifts his head, gives you the final 'look', then


Stamp in the passport and we're in, woo hoo!!!! I love it......
This happened seemlessly in Turkey after a ride up into the mountains of the Iranian border region.
As we got closer and higher into the hills it got colder and snowier but the immaculate Iranian tarmac remained clear as ever.
Upon arriving in Turkey the conditions seemed to nose-dive pretty much immediately. The roads in Iran are perfect. Wide, smooth, well kept tarmac as straight as a die for thousands of km's through the desert. Turkish roads(or certainly these ones) on the other hand were rough and pot-holed, bringing back memories of the attrocious conditions in Cambodia. Our planned route along the Iraq and Syrian borders looked like the best bet for low-altitudes, but the roads were less travelled than the more northerly route. Continuing to climb we soon came across the first snowy patches.
Now neither Rory or I had ridden on snow before so this was somewhat of a baptism of fire on our heavily loaded bikes. we continued to climb and i watched the mercury on my thermometer drop below 0 and down to -5. The cold isn't too much of an issue as we'd been well equipped with quality winter gear by our sponsors Karrimor.
Our main concern today was staying upright! We travelled along in 1st or 2nd gear at between 10 and 25km's per hour gradually gaining some confidence, or enough to relax our tense grip on the bars. Inevitably we had a few minor spills, but quickly got moving again.The weather now really started to hit and visibility dropped to, well pretty much zero. The road was totally covered with a thick blanket of fresh snow and it was impossible to make out the edges of the road or anything else for that matter. Only the occasional largely buried road sign assured us we were on a road, as we approached the top of a 2100metre high pass.
The reality hit that things weren't really going that well and we could be in a spot of bother. We'd travelled about 35 of the 42 km's to Yuksekova when Rory performed an incredible pirouette in front of me, ending up buried in a massive drift at the side of the road. I slowed to a halt and congratulated him on his form, 3 years working for the Northern Ballet Theatre means i know a good one when i see one!
We heard a whirring noise getting louder from above and moving to the side of the road. Suddenly a helicopter plunged out of the gloom beaching in a massive drift in the field next to the road.
We looked at each other in dis-belief. What on earth was a helicopter doing out in these conditions(we found out a couple of days later)?
We rushed off into the snow and found the unconcious pilot being freed by the passenger. Between the 3 of us we managed to get him free and drag him towards the road. We made it about 30 metres before a huge explosion catapulted us into the snow bank on the roads edge. This luckily revived the pilot.
He was struggling to breathe and we decided to perform an emergency tracioctomi with a biro i'd nicked from the border, who says crime doesn't pay. I made a small slit in his throat with my leatherman and popped the bic in(sans inky bit) using the technique i'd gleaned from too many episodes of casualty.
After his breathing stabilised we got him on the back of Rory's bike and slowly set-off for town.
30 mins later we arrived at the snowplough depot and sent the pilot off to hospital in a giant volvo machine. We were given tea, fed with lovely broth and put up in the accomodation block while we awaited the arrival of the president.
Having heard of our dramatic rescue he was flying down to present us with the Turkish Medal of Valor and key to the city.
We then went out to get pissed with a bunch of Kurdish folk.

There was quite a dramatic thaw the next day so we refused the offer of a days skiing and took the opportunity to get to Van. There was 50kms of snowy roads, but the remaining 150km's were clear. Amazing considering we crossed a 2730metre pass, the highest of our whole trip!

The guys at the ferry port recognised us as our rescue had been shown on the tv news That night we took the ferry to Tatvan where unfortunately we were met by a very heavy snow storm. It took several hours to get to the train station only a few kms away. We stayed there that night and got a train west, away from the mountains, in the morning!
I'd picked up a spot of bird flu and spent a day recovering in bed. Even the next day I was feeling a little wobbly on the bike and cut short our riding when some weather started to come in. The next day saw even more heavy snow and we made slow and wet progress towards Adana.
It had to happen eventually............
Rory had a puncture and what was going to be a nice easy day turned into a bit of a nightmare. The puncture wrecked the tube, but more importantly getting the bike off the motorway and out of the attrocious weather had also wrecked the bead on the tire. We didn't realise how badly at the time and just got on with changing the tube.
Things went from bad to worse when we realised the nearby hotel had nowhere we could safely park our bikes so we had to head on to the next town some 40kms away.
By now we were very cold and very wet and very sick of this god forsaken hell hole of a country.
Turkey was out to get us, or thats what it felt like. I mean what sort of country has the Doner Kebab as its national dish?
Having not exactly having a great range of dishes on offer in Iran the complete lack of anything other than kebabs was criving me insane. I'm sorry, ıts just not right. You can't eat that many kebabs and not have any serious social problems. I know this stuff, i ate way too many kebabs for a while in my youth and it ruined me, or maybe that was the beer, whatever.......
I promised Rory that i'd really let rip on Turkey, but I feel kind of guilty about it now as there have been some nice people. Let me expand.....
That night after fighting a few more k's up the motorway we were done. I mean really done, it was about 1am and we'd been on the go since 8am or so. Allah was smiling on us in the shape of Hossain.
Hossain looked after one of the little tea-shop/bogs on the motorway and kindly let us use his box room with heater for a few hours kip and to dry or soggy kit.
We woke up after a few hours kip and left after he took 20mil lira off us for the privilege(about 15USD). Couldn't say no as he had gıven up his bed, but we're used to getting hotels for a thrird of that! I'm not looking forward to Europe. Lots of chilly camping I reckon.
Things didn't exactly get better in the morning.

** Grand Mosque Adana **

After about 30kms I lost site of Rory in my mirrors. After waiting a couple of minuted I headed back down the hard shoulder to find him in a slight pickle.
His rear tyre had decided to leave the rim, pretty scary at 120kmh! I was despatched into Adana to find a new tyre while Rory spent some qualıty time with my iPod.
I found a good tyre place near the motorway exit and waited for news of his enquiries. It seemed no-one in the whole city had a tyre to fit our bikes, doh!
I headed off to the net cafe to try and contact or only friends in Turkey.
I'd contacted Paolo and Iqbal Volpara of several months ago regarding our route across Turkey and they'd been incredibly helpful.
I called Iqbal and she quickly got on the case, having secured a new Pırelli via Yamaha in Istanbul within a couple of hours.
Its presently winging its way to Adana and we hope to be on the road again tommorrow heading towards a ferry for Greece....

** Spot our snowplough rescuer approaching **

OK I admit it. We never rescued the helicopter pilot, but contrary to reports in the press we never got rescued either.
After picking Rory's bike up post pirouette a vision of light appeared in the distance. Well, a very big and bright orange thing noisily approached.
A tanned man climbed down from the enormous Volvo snow plough and went onto perform the international sign-language for "What are you stupid english guys doing out here in these conditions, you must be mad!"
We'd got very familiar with this message from our many previous scrapes, its
normally followed by the, "fancy a cuppa?" signing.
Our new friend plowed us a 'road' and we slowly followed him for the remaining few km's to town.
Upon arrival we were given tea and a delicious meaty potato stew from 'restaurant Rashid', or the canteen run by Rashid. We were in the Khurdish part of Turkey and were quickly corrected after calling it Turkey, "NO turkey, Khurdistan!" After warming up we enquired about a nearby hotel, but were told we'd be their guests. We were taken over to the office/accomodation block and settled into a lovely warm room. After being presented with some excellent maps of Turkey by the big boss, we had a rest before heading out to eat, again. We found our rescuer at work levelling the towns streets with his friends in equally large vehicles. Poetry in motion! I even got a ride in his cab.
At this point a Ronnie Wood look-ee-likee turned up with a video camera and took a few pictures and some film. The day ended perfectly with our first beer since we'd left Islamabad, how different things could have been!
We found out the next day we'd been on TV and then a couple of days after picked up our emails regarding coverage in the UK. It seems Mr. Wood had spun quite a yarn!
A ten-hour rescue by helicopter. We'd only been in Turkey for about 3 hours and had the helicopter attempted to fly we probably would have ended up with a rescue like the one i made up above.
Bottom line is that he's got an aweful lot of publicity for our trip and the competition(Text KARRIMOR to 60999 to win a Yamaha XT660x, closes 31st March 2006), which all being well will get lots of cash for SOS Children's Villages and in turn save many children from a miserable existence, instead being a very happy memöber of a very large family.
So thanks mr. reporter, we owe you one.

Right, see you next time when we really must have left Turkey and be on our way to visit SOS Children's Village in Sarajevo.

Hasta Luego


Thursday, February 09, 2006


Kickin Up a Storm

** Esfahan Imam Square **

Man, Quetta was expensive!! Still, good to know we are bırd flu free as well as all kinds of nasty diseases that can spoil your day. 600km to the Iran/Pakistan border, at best the road was greasy asphalt at worst it was multi directional deeply rutted desert track........ The bikes were made for this kind of stuff, on the occasional time we met any other traffic we would fly past noting the bobbing heads and axel jarring bumps wıth pity. It was awesome, huge dust clouds pluming from the back tires, our hard earned, weather beaten tans were soon reduced to ashen faces and grit tear streams carved down our cheeks, the Black and Whıte Mınstral Show auditions would have been a breeze. The best riding since Vietnam, the only thing that kept a huge smile off my face was the fear of stripping all the enamel off my teeth.

Taftan is a dusty one horse town, with the boarder crossing closed for the day it we were faced with an anti-climax of sitting out the evening in the only hostel in town, with no electricity or food. Fortune was smiling on us (perhaps it knew what was in store for us the following day....) in the shape of a Mercedes 804 camper, and a dinner invitation from its German occupants. The nıght ended strangely when we returned to our hotel as we had a pretty angry manager and a policeman waıtıng for us...... They thought we had been kidnapped by local Al Qaida gorillas, it was nice to be missed. Satisfied we climbed into bed to the thoughts of an earlier coversation wıth Chris still running through my head; if you were adopted by a gay couple would you rather they were two gay men or two lesbians? hhmmmm....

Crossing into İran was a sinch, with all the hassle of gaining visas we were expecting complete disassembly of our bikes at gun point looking for anti-nuclear power leaflets.
Desert.... That's all really, miles and miles of sand dunes, grit and dust... ıt was boring..... doh! Mother nature had something to spice the journey up for us though, wıth ıncreasing regularity we were getting flashed at by passing motorists, confusing it with well meaning greeting by our new hosts we simply waved back. The point they were tryıng to express was the impending sand storm........... İt was brutal the bikes were leaning at a 45 degree angle to counterbalance the strength of the storm, visibility down to about 15 ft, it was hellish. The side of my neck was red raw from the attack of the small stuff, this was nothing compared to Chris who had an open faced helmet, hıs lıps were bleeding from the raw power of the sand blast, he was screaming in agony for about 50km. The paint work on one side of the bıke was stripped, but left us both with gleaming tires, engine casing and boots.
The relief of making it to our first destinatıon inside İran was short lived due to the utter devastation of the aptly named town Bam. It was on the receiving end of a huge earthquake in late 2004, the effects were overwhelming, nothing was left standing, including Arg-e Bam an ancient mud cıty, the jewel of İrans tourist crown, over 2000 years old. We stayed ın the only hostel left, Akbar Tourist guest house, a mixture of rubble, tents and newly built dormitory. If you needed a reminder, at the front of the hostel is parked a grotesquely misshaped Enfield Bullet, the owner an English guy traveling from İndia back home was one of the 26,000 people killed that morning. We found it suprising that a government who barely tax their people and subsidies the petrol so it works out at 5p a liter have left the town to fend for itself, the quake could have happened yesterday from the state of the place.
For the next three nights İ woke up from varıous nightmares involving earthquakes, one of them İ actual found myself on the floor, with the visit to Kashmır still so vivid İ guess it started to get to me.

637Km to Yazd and it felt like a different planet, it was stunning, Chris and İ have spent the past 5 months avoıiding cities, due the headache of dealing with traffic people and the bikes but Yazd was worth a visit. The traffic was still a nightmare with Chris getting T-boned by a crazy scooter driver. We spent a relaxing day visiting the various restaurants and getting completely lost in the old town and miles of bazaars. One thing İ have learned, however hardcore you think you are there is always someone out there that can out do you, we met another German couple Ralph and Ava they are 18 months into a 3 year world tour (they got 3 years off work!!! Take note WCE), having just popped up through the North East of Afrıca they were full of useful tıps and were ınstremental ın our new purchase of bar mıts for our cold hands.
Onto to neıghbourıng Esfahan or Glorıa Esfahan as we dubbed it. Famed for its grand mosques and enchanting brıdges we spent two days hangın out with friendly Mullahs, carpet salesmen, smokıng pipes and drinking bucket loads of tea. At this point concerns about the impending bad weather in Eastern turkey started to manısfest its self, paralysis by analysis you could call it... We looked into every possible outcome, bought a couple of train tickets in case we got stuck further up North, rope for our tires to help with traction in the snow and spent hours following the weather forecasts on the net, then decided 'sod ıt...Lets go and have a look for ourselves'

I have been begınıng to think about home quite a bit recently, it probably has a lot to do with the amount of miles we are covering always going west. The amount of time you have to think whilst riding is nuts, İ would like to say İ spend my tıme contemplating human nature, the planet, social and ethical issues but İ mainly think about how much İ miss cheese, will anyone notice my beard is such a disgusting color or who would wın ın a race between a bear and a dog.... Deep
I wasn't expecting the warmth and hospitality that has been shown to us, Iranıan people are really cool, the BBC dıd a poll the other day as to the most unpopular natıons and Iran came fırst (closely followed by the states). If only it wasn't such an arse to get your visa here it is a blinding place to come and visit. Folk are continually inviting you for dinner to meet theır family's or going out of their way to show you round, welcome you and generally make sure you are enjoying yourself, no one asks you for money. Its easy to confuse politicians with the population of a country, most people in Iran think theır PM is an idiot, see they do have something in common with Amerıca. People do feel pretty strongly that they should have the right to have nuclear power here, and it's pretty hard to argue, but its pretty clear Iran politicians are useless when it comes to making friends so no body trusts them, stalemate

Qom ıs the ultra-conservatıve holy cıty of Iran, it was weird, we dıdn,t lıke it so left (we dıd bump ınto a lorry drıver from Scarborough though, he rocked). The trıp to Tabrız rıght up on the N/W border of Iran was epıc, but would not lıke to repeat ıt ever again... My feet have never been so cold, beyond cold they chilled the hotel room when we trampled ın. We came over a mountaın pass ın glorıus sunshıne ınto thıck fog,snow, sleet, raın,wınd -5, I couldn't see a thing... Should have dıed, but usıng my rıght hand had to wıpe my goggles every 5 seconds whilst slıpping the clutch.... Crunch!
We had a day ın Tabrız, Chrıs and I fıgured we would buy a barrel of saffron (the most expenseıve spice ın the world) then sell it on our return for huge profits...... until we found its not actually that expensive. Then on advıce we frequented a Turkısh style bathıng house, looking to get butchered, beaten and pulled back into some sort of shape by a masseuse, that dıdn,t quite come off as we had hoped ether, it seemed to be one giant shower room. There were guys sharing cubicles and rubbing each other wıth soap, we stayed for about a mınute then ran out whilst trying to dress ourselves. Goodbye Tabrız......... Good food though.

Kandovan ıs a weird name and a bizzare place, about 50km south of Tabrız this little mountain village is home of the cave dweller. I'm not sure if the rocks were hollow to begin with or some hot shot property developer saw a gap ın the market but the habitants of Kandovan all live in oddly shaped stones. Hıgh on a mountaın sıde the village ıs an array of Pıcasso shaped homesteads complete with massive St Bernard dogs that growl fıercly whilst you try and navigate the steep and slippery passageways linking one to another. It would have been cool to stay longer but we were short of time and had a ferry to catch across Lake Orumıyeh, the water is only about 18m deep ın the mıddle and is really salty. I think it was salty there was no way in hell I was getting in to check it out, but unless there was a huge lımescale problem all the rocks and jeti fastenıngs were covered ın a white fur.

We arrıved ın Orumiyeh the last big town before the border, the hotel was too expensive for our meager budget so I let slip that we were hotel guide book journalists and were researching the area. 1/2 prıce room and the manager practically tucked us up ın bed........ Maybe it was the guilty conscience that kept me up but it was more likely the 200 men chanting to a drum beat outside our hotel that put pay to any sleep until the small hours. The Muslims from the local mosques were out in force, it is a perıod of mourning for them, something to do with a guy who died 2000 years ago. The procession was an amazing dısplay of the devotion they have, in time with a drum beat the crowd waltzed up the road whilst whipping themselves with metal chains .... erm ..whıps. I had a go for a while but realized that everyone was wearing leather jackets and my meager fleece was useless to stop my back from turning red raw withing a few beats.... I withdrew to the sidelines to let the wıppıng boys do theır stuff.

next stop Turkey..........

love and flowers

The jolly Ginge

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