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 www.motoreast.com 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.
Hey, what's up guys. It's Captain Bob in Hawaii. Lovin' your diary. Makes me wish I'd come with you. Haven't got as many stories as you, but the flying has been really cool recently. Its humpback whale breeding season at the moment and I see at least 2 or 3 every time I go up. Sometimes they do tricks for you like fully breaching or swimming on their back and waving at you with their flippers. They are truly awesome creatures. Went flying over Kilauea (the active volcano) with Chet and Jill which was really cool. Hovering about 200 ft from the lava. It wasn't spouting, but you could see it bubbling away down there. Chet got some pictures but it doesn't really do it justice cos there's loads of smoke too. We 're going to go to Kauai in 10 days or so for a bit of culture n that. Should be fun. Its where they filmed Jurassic Park and the scenery is super cool. Planning to take a flight there too. I guess you've heard that we got engaged at New Year. Trying to pursuade Chet to have a fancy dres wedding. I really want to go as Batman with a bow-tie. Not sure that she's too into it though. Maybe we can do it for the reception. Anyway boys, I'm out of news, so I'll talk to you later. PS I'll send you some pics by e-mail. Not sure if you read these comments. Keep it rockin', best of luck with the rest of your journey. I'm back on 7/8th April. Belated birthday wishes to you both too. Love Bob. PS Maybe we can set up a real helicopter rescue in the Alps. Laters
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