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Direction East - Motorcycle Adventure Central Asia - free part

 

Destination East The Magic of Central Asia

 

From the Author (Foreword)

 

The idea to write this book arose from the lack of available information concerning the destination in question. At the beginning, it was only intended to be an ordinary concise travelogue memoir that would contain everything necessary to guide anyone who wished to travel in this direction. Consequently, I reconsidered, thinking that it would be quite a pity not to be able to convey my thoughts, my feelings and emotions – everything that excited me during the whole duration of the trip. To be able to, at least a little, sense the magic of Central Asia. I would like to apologize in advance to all of you who will find the long and detailed descriptions not to your liking however, it is the only way I can make you see things as I did. I also apologize for my philosophical reflections that I tend to make every so often but, this is my point of view and in no way am I intending to force it upon you. Yet, for all of who will prefer to skip the long descriptions only to focus on the conservative numbers, at the end of the book, I have dedicated a special chapter that will provide a thorough description of how you may do it all; visas, routes, contacts along the way, prices and everything that you may eventually need.

 

I would like to say a big thank you to my family for their relentless support of all of my undertakings, however absurd and hopeless they may have appeared. I would also like to thank Dimitar Anastasov (a.k.a. Mitaka) for the fact that during the whole trip, he stoically endured my incessant grumbling and for all of those historical details and many additional moments that, without him, I would not have remembered to include.

 

Pleasant reading!

 

 

The Idea

 

I was sitting in my one bedroom dwelling in Berlin, staring at the awful green wall in front of me. I say awful because in no way, matter, shape or form did it match the light gray color of the other three walls, the beige decorative strips and the orange curtains. The woman who occupied the place before me had definitely showcased her talent and patience to achieve such a disastrous mismatch. It was such a total disaster that it almost awakened my interest of what on earth she was actually aiming to achieve. Pondering over this, I reached the ultimate conclusion that my surroundings perfectly reflected my own life or, the whole mess that I was able to create in the last five – six years. I will not bore you with the details of who I am, how and why I found myself where I did, but I will only note that I flew to Germany on my high horse riding the so called “World economic crisis” wave.

 

The apartment was furnished quite simply. A large bed, super comfortable in my opinion, a kitchen table with three chairs, a desk that I had assembled myself and something that resembled a wardrobe or shelf. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was but, I used it for both purposes. To put it simply, I regularly threw my clothes over it. On one wall, stuck one over the other, there were a few mirrors that made the room appear somewhat more modern. There was a terrace that gave me the ability to breathe fresh air and to witness my neighbors scurrying about their lives, and leaving for work in haste. Taking strides without even glancing sideways, they resembled obedient nuts and bolts, part of the giant machine called Germany. A machine that, without you even realizing, grabs you, reconditions you and transforms you into one of them. A compliant citizen, considerably indebted, with no future plans, no outward appearance, without ideals, hopes or desires. The other wall however, was my all-time favorite. On this wall, one year earlier, I had hung a large colored map of the world. It was this exact map that was holding my attention at that moment. I marked all of the places that I had visited with small red tacks. Quite densely in Europe, a few in Asia and another few in America. I remembered that I had the same map in my office in Varna, before everything had taken a fast downward plunge. It was so fast, indeed, that I had completely forgotten the map there. I looked at the map thinking to myself:

 

“The world is so big but, the time that we have on earth is so little.” I sat thinking, my mind boggled, what I could do to escape all that I had gotten myself into and how exactly I could manage to return my life back to normal.

 

Then, I thought about just how much I enjoyed to travel. This was one of the few things that made me feel liberated, to forget all about my bills, my work, my problems and to transport myself into another world. And now what? I had gotten myself stuck here, in this cold country, with these people, who were so foreign to me; I was feeling so grumpy that I wanted to cry out of frustration. To top it all off, it was raining once again. I was sitting staring emptily into my computer, surfing the internet almost aimlessly, just to pass the time. By accident, I stumbled upon a famous saying:

“We sometimes make wrong choices in order to arrive at the right place.”

 

This powerful quote rose up in the air and practically smacked me right in the face. For an instant, I considered that my arrival here was not consequential at all. Most probably, I was meant reach a dead end in order to realize that I was running around in circles, like a dog chasing its tail – surely making a mistake somewhere and surely, not looking in the right direction. I was in need of a complete transformation – a change of philosophy, beliefs, behavior and even, style of living.

 

Wise people say that if you love what you do, everything else will fall into place. In any case, I had tried almost all options and, why on earth not this one? I decided to do the thing that I loved most…to travel.

 

I was fully aware that this was a mission that would complicate my lifestyle and that would take me out of my comfort zone. It would temporarily cease my income, that I so desperately was in need of but, I was absolutely convinced that, by following my calling – the voice within me, I would not be making a mistake. Life passes us by while we are wrapped up doing things that we must and, we cannot even image doing something that we actually have a desire to do. When did you last pursue your dream? Most likely, it was when you were 12 years old or even younger?

 

I decided that I had to see the world and I had no intention of delaying any longer. When do I start? Naturally, right away! How? By motorcycle. Why by motorcycle you ask? Because we all have our preferences. Some like to travel luxury – flying only first class, others think that buses are the most rational and practical choice. A few cycle like mad and find it of great enjoyment! I owned a motorcycle and I found riding it so relaxing that, I literally used it as an antidepressant drug. The feeling you get from it cannot be compared to anything else in the world. You feel every hole, every scent, every noise and every gust of wind…including every instance of bad weather but, these are just details that should not concern you at this time.

 

“Your wish is my command” was the response of the universe that proceeded to launch the preparation of everything I needed.

 

The big question remained – what will my family think and how will they accept it? I decided that, if they wouldn’t support me, it must only mean that I had really messed up somewhere down the line. I knew and sincerely believed that they love me and that they would have my back, supporting whichever decision I made. For starters, I had no intention of making them endure a long test, myself included. The plan was to go to Mongolia (through Russia), to ride there a week or two and to return – a month in total.

 

Why there, why out East? Why not throughout Europe? Because I know myself very well. I have always been attracted to strange places, places that practically no one desires to visit. Where all things appear frozen in time. Unaffected by the contemporary way of life, or literally ruined by man. To tour first-class roads and luxury hotels was never my cup of tea. Quite frankly put, I am a sucker for exciting adventures.

 

 

The Preparation

 

The motorcycle was far from new but, with a few minor amendments and replacement of some parts I believed that it would take me there and back. The only question I couldn’t answer was with whom? I reasoned that two would be the most optimal number. True that, on one side, I would then have to bear in mind this person and adjust myself accordingly but, on the other hand, I would always have company and assistance should the need arise.

Generally, I can get along with all types of people irrespective of ethnicity, sex or age. For this destination in particular I did not encounter any enthusiasts who wished to join me. The conversation would commence with interest but, when we’d get to the part concerning the travel to Mongolia, I constantly had to face the following comments:

“Are you crazy? What on earth will we do there? If we’re talking about Europe, no problem but Mongolia, it’s definitely not for me!”

 

I had almost come to accept the fact that I was going to be alone and I had started my planning when my telephone rang. It was Mitaka, a very funny and positive character. He had just entered into his forties with a trendy shaved head and abdominal muscles, consisting of one huge pack. Relentless optimist, easily distracted, typical bohemian, Facebook lover, fan of the news and homemade alcohol. We had met a few years earlier in Berlin and since then, he frequently impelled me with activities such as driving, beer drinking, and far more serious things. Last year, he coerced me to go to Norway, an initiative that I found very much to my liking. So I had already travelled with him, even though it was quite a short trip we had gotten to know each other quite well. Since he’s very direct, he started:

“Listen now, forget about Mongolia, there is nothing there, lets travel around Central Asia. All former Russian republics and we’ll even go to Pamir, high mountain lakes, passages with elevation of over 4000m, peaks, rivers…

 

There was a good argument, it was quite difficult to acquire a multiple entry visa to Russian and without such, one would never be able to leave Mongolia. The option was to fly one way. No, it wouldn’t work because it would be way too expensive and the main idea to leave and return on motorbike would be totally abandoned.

 

“Ok, so, when do we do Mongolia?” I asked, even though I was already aware of the answer.

 

“We will include it in the trip around the world” replied Mitaka automatically, without really thinking about it. That’s what I wanted to hear! I left Mongolia on “standby”.

 

I don’t know whether it was by fluke, most probably not, but a few years earlier I had read the travelogue “On the Way to the Silk” by Dimo Kalaidzhiev. It was a truly unique adventure through Central Asia. With his amazing photographs and casual writing style, he helped me sense this almost unknown to me part of the world. I remember that he left such an impression on me that I did not go to bed before I completely finished the book. Afterwards, quite a few times, I went back to reread it over and over and over. I said to myself that one day, I had to see all of this with my own two eyes. In order to turn this into a reality, I needed free time and stable financing. I didn’t have either at the moment but, I knew that, sooner or later, I would. I was absolutely convinced, to the same extent as you are of the fact that, each day is followed by night.

 

The first and most important step was the attainment of all necessary visas. This question was one of great difficulty or, more precisely, it was just slow. Living and travelling in Europe, you almost get used to the absence of borders and consider it quite normal. But, it is not quite so when you have to travel in Asia. We had to traverse the territories of 17 countries, most of which required a visa. Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kirgizstan, Kazakhstan and Russia. Did I count them all? Seven in total. A pile of documents for each visa and one to two weeks…came out to quite a pain in the neck. Naturally, there was an easy way. We could choose to go to a large travel agency and they would prepare everything for us. Unfortunately, we did not possess the necessary spare change to afford this service, so we had to face the bureaucracy reigning in each embassy head on. Mediocre civil servants, bored out of their minds, hiding behind bulletproof glass and utilizing the power they had temporarily acquired to make it additionally difficult, so that you opt to give up in the end. They wish to break you with the intention to leave you with only one option to surrender and beg for help. If you have watched the movie “Mission to London”, you will recall what I am getting at. In our case, the stress level was high because of the little time we actually had.

In the beginning of February I realized that my passport had expired. I immediately applied for a new one in the embassy in Berlin. After I paid all of the fees and made all of the necessary pictures, they informed me that the waiting period is 2 months. This meant that there was no chance that would happen before the beginning of April. As always, I remained positive and told myself that we have April, May and 2 weeks of June. We had set the date of departure on June 15th. Yes, but No! The two months then became three, marking the beginning of a series of running around, pleading…and in the end, thanks to the fact that I am quite a lucky chap, everything did happen on time. Yet, I have to say that I ended up dealing with a few quite helpful and smiling individuals to whom I am extremely grateful.

 

The second question was how to prepare the bike so that it would not give me any problems? We were expecting to travel the next 15 000 – 20 000 km. mainly on bad roads or something that resembled a road. Sparsely populated or unpopulated at all. Regarding luxury, in terms of spare part and service stations, it was all completely out of the question. Naturally, I believe that a person can receive help just about anywhere but, in any case I preferred to be prepared. How was I to prepare adequately for everything that could happen? Everything that we could possibly need? The answer is quite simple really – there is no way. I decided to change everything that needed to be changed since, it would have to be done quite soon anyways. So far, so good but where? I started calling up various ads, looking for garages, facilities, basements, whatever, as long as I wasn’t left on the street. I also called some specialized service shops, enough to ruin my mood with their price lists that exceeded the value of my entire motorcycle. And in an instant, the solution presented itself right before my eyes.

I transformed my apartment into a garage. I elevated half of the motorcycle in my kitchen, since I was not able to do it in its entirety. I had scattered spare parts and instruments everywhere. The kitchen counter had become a work top. Pots and pans were filled with windshield washer fluid (antifreeze) and brake fluid.

Everywhere, even over the toilet seat, I had black fingerprints proving my inarguable guilt. The tires, I changed them indoors over the laminate flooring; the oil outside, in front of the apartment building using the car as a cover. I was basically doing everything that an ordinary German would never even dream of doing. Not because of any other reason other than that it is not permitted.

However, in order to change the clutch, I had placed the motorcycle lying flat, as a dead horse. The engine cover was removed, and spare parts were rolling around inside the whole trunk. Creative chaos thrived and I looked like your average neighborhood mechanic. As I was trying to insert two fat fingers in a hole fit for one thin one, the neighbor from the floor above surprised me by saying: “Wow neighbor, what’s happening, is it broken? Will it ever run again?”

“Yes,” I answered determined. “There’s nothing wrong with it. I have changed the clutch, really a routine procedure.”

 

“I don’t know. It really doesn’t look good, looks more like “scheisse” eh?

“No problem,” I answered. “Everything is under control…I am Bulgarian, remember?” He left deep in thought, shaking his head left to right as only a German can.

 

After an hour he returned just as I was testing what I had done in front of the building. He couldn’t believe his own two eyes. The motorcycle was, in fact, working. From this point on, his attitude towards me is that of considerable respect, quite often inquiring about his own technical questions related to his automobile. Sadly, most Germans are like him, they don’t even dare change one light bulb on their own. For the purpose, they prefer to call a company specializing in such work to perform the job instead.

 

As you very well know time is absolutely relative. If we are at work – time practically freezes, but if we are with a loved one – it flies. For me, these three months basically flew right by. As I already mentioned, Germany is not a country for slackers. You either work hard or, you leave. The system is iron clad and does not accept any exceptions to the rule. The active tourist season started in May and this was the sphere of my work. To top it all off, the final of the Champions League, Barcelona vs. Juventus was scheduled to take place on June 6th. The city was practically going to bust! From every which direction people were calling, writing or coming in person offering to pay significantly more than the norm. All transportation companies and tour operators were facing considerable difficulties. The hotels even stopped answering incoming calls, which came persistently and incessantly. Everywhere you look, drunk fans wearing scarves and holding beers were wondering around. The last day, tickets reached fantastic prices. Before my eyes, 4 tickets were purchased for €40,000. I still can’t believe it to date, that such crazy people willing to pay such colossal prices exist!

 

For the sum of €40,000 I would have toured the whole world, were these people nuts? But who am I to judge?

 

Like all others, I had taken on way more than I could actually do. Systematically, I was trying to race with time, but it never seemed to work. I even decided not to waste time sleeping or eating, to write mails in motion but not even that managed to work. After keeping this pace a few days, I became painfully aware that is was never going to work so, I stopped trying. Although, I can’t help but mention that on account of this faced paced and crazy week, I was able to fully finance my whole trip to Asia. And if you ask me whether I’d do it all over again, my answer would be: Oh, yes, I’d do it all if I could!

 

The date was approaching fast, I had taken care of the finances, my motorcycle was ready for action and I was half-way out the door. However, Mitaka had purchased his motorcycle in April and not including the 250 km to Burgas, he hadn’t really ridden his bike. The idea was for me to leave Berlin, to meet with him in Burgas and to start the trip from there. He wanted to return to Bulgaria a little earlier and to use up this time to fine-tune his bike until I arrived. Knowing him, I had my doubts that it would happen exactly like this but, I will go into greater detail later on.

 

The date set for departure was June 9th. This date had no other significance really, it was just consequential. I decided that I had enough of work and I wished to disappear quite urgently. That same morning, I performed a quick check of my luggage, I loaded it on my bike and without much thinking, I took off for Bulgaria. One way or another, if I had forgotten something or if my motorbike was to give me problems, I had a few days in Varna to take care of all of this.

 

 

The Trip

 

Germany – Bulgaria

 

I have travelled this destination so much that I am no longer counting. I have done this in all possible ways. By bus, mini-bus, car and a few times by motorcycle. Each time I depart, I always have it in the back of my mind that it is such a long and boring route. Afterwards, I do realize that I just have to start my engine and everything falls into place. Somehow, I relax and glide off like a bird. Fuel, washrooms, tea, sandwiches, over and over it repeats. I knew the route by heart but, I had switched on my navigation, referring to it from time to time, just to check how much time I had left to travel. Approximately around 9:00pm, I had almost reached the Romanian border. I had surpassed the kilometers I had planned for the day long ago but, because I knew that I had 1 hour at most to the hotel I usually slept at, I decided to force myself a little to reach it. A little before the border, the road was under construction and there was a detour. Naturally, I took the exit indicated by a large sign. All was clear for a considerable period of time. Then I started to enter some villages, encounter some odd road signs…at the end, I had to refer to the navigation in order to proceed further. The navigation though, kept on insisting to have me return back to the main road that was under construction. I am sure that, at one time or another, you have faced the same situation, contemplating what source to trust – the road signs or the electronics. I opted for the latter. I found a new course to follow. And so forth, village after village, turn after turn…3 km to the nearest exit…7 km later, turn left…200 m then after, turn right…the kilometers kept on piling, time kept on passing, it got dark and the border was nowhere to be seen. To top it all off, the road was awful. Pothole after pothole, tracks and sand at the bends. And even more so, the film strip of my helmet was so smudged from the flies on the road that I couldn’t see at all. I opened my visor in order to get better visibility and as soon as I did, something flew in at full speed. A fly, a wasp or a bee I still can’t determine but, it went right in my eye. I had to stop, remove my helmet, rub my eye, washed it with water, blinked, cried and a short while later, I felt some relief. I looked around, enough to realize that it was only me, the motorcycle and the crickets that I could hear in the darkness. My engine was making rhythmic sounds, my headlight shone a few meters ahead like a beacon of hope in this somewhat confusing situation.

 

“What if my bike was to break down right now, what was I going to do?” I immediately erased this thought from my head. I had way too long of a way to travel to allow myself the luxury to worry. Some lights were on in the nearby village and I hoped that I would find someone there whom I could ask for directions. Unfortunately, there was absolutely no one. From 7:00 am I was on the move. I had passed more than 1200 km and over 14 hrs of driving. I wanted to sleep, my head was getting heavy, my eye was hurting, I just wanted to stop. Somehow, I found my way and at around 1:00am, I parked my bike in front of the hotel. Hastily, I grabbed the key and headed for my room. With great pleasure I removed my boots, threw my clothes and slumped myself on the bed. I slept like a baby.

 

Romania

 

The following day, everything started as planned. The kilometers were melting and the weather was ideal. As most countries of the former Socialist bloc, Romania was also a country characterized by contrasts. On the roads, you could very well see the latest model Mercedes followed by a horse-drawn wagon full of corn, handled by an old man, resembling a character from a black and white film. But what impresses me each time is the beauty of the Carpathian mountain range. The green hills that surround you on all sides make you feel so happy that you are there, at that moment in time, all alone that you most certainly don’t need anything else.

 

Small little huts with bales of hay were scattered throughout as far as your eye can see. Cows, sheep and some old antique tractor completed the picture. It was as if an invisible time machine had passed though, taking everything 50 years back in time. I was consumed in my own thoughts and I just took the time to enjoy the road until a banged up Opel Astra woke me and sent me back to reality with its rude attempts to convince me that the road, in its entirety, belongs to it. Constantly switching on and off its one working headlight, inducing me to move over immediately. I, myself, had given up long ago my will to teach others or to solve the world’s problems. I had adopted a more philosophical approach. I had all the time in the world and he most probably did not. I moved to the very right of my lane and the car flew right by leaving a trail of black exhaust behind. The rest of the trip through Romania proceeded quite smoothly. My motorcycle was behaving well and my luggage was firmly in place. By evening time I had reached Varna. The first part of my trip was a success.

 

 

Bulgaria

 

I spent a few days with my family and then started for Burgas. Mitaka was there to greet me, proudly sitting on his new motorcycle:

“C’mon man, how long must I wait for you? Learn how to push the pedal to the metal!”

In his typical style, his preparations were far from completed. Excluding the large fuel tank he had mounted on the bike, everything else was still in a box in the garage. I helped him, as much as I could but, a lot of things we promised ourselves to do somewhere along the way. Because he was quite fond of his ‘ass-ets’, he had ordered a new seat. A special ergonomic shape, resembling the seat of his favorite chopper or type barber chair. As most parts, it arrived in the nick of time. We didn’t even have adequate time to assemble it properly…but, as you may assume, we were going to do it somewhere along the way.

 

“Mitak, are we going to ride or are we going to service your bike,” I asked.

 

“I am a professional, I can fix all types of machines!” was his clever answer.

 

“Well, I know that you are a professional, but I also know that as a mechanic you suck” I affirmed.

 

“Eh, no fear, you are with me, right?” he said grinning.

 

“Right, I guess we are going to be counting on my luck again,” I replied questioningly.

 

 

“Mine’s not so bad either, we are both lucky, we don’t need to worry about the small things.” he concluded.

 

The two days passed in an instant, last preparations, luggage, oil changes, new tires and one rock concert for desert. On the morning of the 17th, we were ready for a noteworthy departure. A lot of his friends came, people who I knew from afar. I was happy to have the chance to meet them in person. It was sunny and the excitement charged the air. After a few coffees, lots of laughter and jokes, we decided that we must do what we had gathered to celebrate. Around 10:00 am, the whole group, Mitaka, a few well-wishers and I headed off to Malko Tarnovo. After about an hour, we were at the border. We laughed a little, they wished us luck and we parted. Our trip had finally begun.

 

 

 

 

 

I will pause a little here because I would like to tell you something really important:

 

I had never travelled to Turkey and I always harbored biased feelings toward the Turkish people and the country as a whole. Even during the years when all goods were imported from there and everybody was rushing to go, I never even had the slightest desire to. I will tell you the reason behind this. I am going to do this for only one purpose, to demonstrate just how easy a person can be fooled if he/she has never had the opportunity to visit a country and has never had direct contact with the locals.

 

Maybe you are aware of our history; Bulgaria was, at one time, part of the Ottoman Empire for five centuries – from the 14th to the 19th Centuries. We had learnt all of this in school. Our parents had told us stories about it and we have watched many movies on the topic. Massacres, killings, rape, a time of brutal separations, blood tax and so forth. Without even realizing, by the time I was 15 years old, I felt deep hatred towards all Turks and all Muslims as well. The environment that I lived in hammered the last nails on the coffin. I grew up in a small isolated suburb where everybody knew everybody. From my teenage years, I had to learn to fight for my place. To be Bulgarian, to safeguard my honor, to protect and never sellout my friends. Very rarely did children from other suburbs come over, but if they did by accident, they would receive a beating and quickly return to where they came from. There was absolutely no presence of Ethnic Turks or people of Roma descent. Or even if there were, they were single cases that we hadn’t noticed. We had always discussed them and shared our common hatred towards those two groups. The Renaissance process we underwent in 1986 helped a lot in further deepening this created notion of hatred. We had transformed into young patriots or, as I can say now, idiots. The year 1987 marked the creation of army bases. The general idea was that in all regions with concentrated populations of Muslims there had to be an army base positioned with at least 300 strong young men ready to stop, punish, physically torture or kill, if necessary, in order to control and prevent the creation of ethnic unrest. I was assigned to one of these so called bases. I will not go into detail of my time there but, I will say that by the end of my service, I was ready to do anything they ordered me to. They were able to, very skillfully, manipulate my patriotism. I am tremendously grateful that I never got to actually put to practice what I had been trained to do. After I completed my service, it took me over 15 years and numerous contacts with Muslims all over the world to be able to fully comprehend that they are just people like all of us and that, among them, there are very good people as there are bad and that they also have families they care for and love and people they hate. With this trip, I wanted to put the official end to my wrongful prejudices.

 

 

Turkey

 

We passed the border in 20 minutes time. My first impressions were very nice. The roads were perfect and the people were very friendly. The temperature climbed quite rapidly to 35 ºC. This was not one of my favorite things but I had to get used to it. The other thing that I was not pleased about was the price of the fuel – almost double that of Bulgaria. Aside from these two aspects, everything else was on point.

 

We stopped a few times for food at restaurants along the way and I was pleasantly surprised of the service we received everywhere we went. At around 3:00pm, we arrived in Istanbul. Naturally, we did delay a bit in the infamous traffic. I had heard about it but I could never have imagined just how bad it is in reality. The administration had attempted to solve this problem in a variety of ways, including digging an underground tunnel almost 14 km in length going under the Bosporus. But despite all, there was no change. It took us more than an hour and a half to cross from one end of the city to the other, considering that during the whole time we were dodging cars, trucks and technically, we were constantly moving. All others didn’t budge. I assume that by car, it would take at least 3 hours. Of course, the locals used this to their advantage as a business opportunity – selling coffee, tea, water, food; which actually wasn’t so bad. At least, it was certain that you wouldn’t die of thirst or starvation while you wait. In the afternoon we crossed the Bosporus and we had officially entered Asia.

 

 

From there on, everything was much easier. We maintained a constant speed and the distance got shorter by the minute. We were not bored at all, quite to the contrary, we were fully enjoying the scenery around us that was changing constantly. We stopped once, just enough to exchange some Turkish Lira and we continued on. Fuel stations and restaurants were in abundance along the way and, in our case, we really did not need anything else. At around 9:00 pm it had already gotten dark, raining and in summary, quite uncomfortable. In the distance, we could see the lights of a small town. We stopped at the first hotel that came up. We both shared the same opinion on this issue. We had no qualms regarding the category of the establishment or the service as long as the price was right. We were going to spend almost two months on the road and each expense was significant. The room was the same size as a jail cell, the beds resembling the same style, the toilet seat broken, but these are just details that after a day of riding, we really did not notice. At least there was hot water and we were able to dine very well in the little restaurant in front of the hotel. Everything was going according to plan. Naturally, we slept fantastically.

 

The following morning, we got up really early – maybe it was around 6:00 am. I looked out the window and was quite surprised at what I saw. Everywhere I looked there were beautiful old houses. In the darkness of the evening before, I had failed to notice them. I quickly grabbed my camera and went out for a quick walk.

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The boy at the reception desk had positioned himself quite uncomfortably, a result of which he startled himself on account of his own snoring. I opened the door quietly and stepped outside. The only things on the street were some stray dogs and I. The air was filled with light morning fog that was losing its density, clearing the view to the hidden beauty of the small town. The sky was filled with bunches of fluffy white clouds which were moving quite slowly, as if they wished to tell me that they are there only for my pleasure. And maybe this was really so.

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I spent half an hour taking photos of everything around with great interest. People started appearing and immediately, the whole area was infused with the aroma of fresh baked bread. I spent half an hour taking pictures of everything around that I found of great interest. I entered the first open shop and, without hiding my hunger, I started examining the overflowing shelves. The smiling owner of the place greeted me with a “Good morning Effendi!” The rest I did not understand but I bowed my head in reply. I bought coffee, tea and all components part of the renowned traditional Gözleme.

 

 

 

 

 

After a few failing attempts to carry everything, without spilling, he sent his son to help me get everything to the hotel. As I already mentioned, the customer service was first-class.

 

 

Mitaka had taken a shower; he had shaved and groomed himself as if I were taking him out on a date. Actually, during the whole trip, I was in awe of his enthusiasm and the effort he placed on looking good. I, on the other hand, aside from the generic shower, which was absolutely mandatory in our case, I really could care less about all the rest. When I am in Berlin, because of the nature of my job, I must shave almost every day. I decided that now was the time when I could give all this a rest and allow my beard to grow. After about two weeks, the locals started to greet me with the traditional “Salaam Alaikum” and Mitaka gave me a new nickname “The Taliban”. I did not really care, I was on vacation and I did not feel the need to be liked by anyone.

We attacked the Gözleme feast like hyenas and in 20 minutes there was no trace of anything. After we finished our solid breakfast, we got on our horses and I can honestly say that we did not stop until the end of the day aside from a few minor exceptions for fuel and a small maintenance job on the way. We settled in the coastal town called Giresun. After we found a nice hotel, we decided that it’s time to go in the sea. We left our luggage and with one towel over our shoulder, we headed off to find a beach. It took us a little over an hour to find out that a beach, or at least what we imagine as a beach with sand, umbrellas and beach chairs did not exist. Almost the whole coast was a rocky shore or obstructed with concrete blocks. So, realizing that we took out our towels only for a walk in the park, resembling curious tourists, we headed back to the hotel. We passed though the center of the town which appeared crowded, as if all inhabitants had gathered there without exception and we proceeded to enter some narrow cobblestone streets.

 

The Turkish style of construction made me really think. Each person had done what he wanted. In the center it was somewhat OK but if you stray off from it, you’d be marveled. Two floors below, three on top and one to the side. Beside this piece of work, was a small room practically in the air, hanging there only by the architectural knowledge of its owner and the good will of Allah. It no longer surprises me that after the earthquake a few years back, everything was in ruins.

 

 

 

 

Every front yard was turned into a restaurant, every window – a shop and every Turk was a businessman. The men were relaxing drinking tea, playing with worry-beads (strings of beads somewhat resembling a Catholic rosary) while the women were busy carrying large shopping bags. The children played ball or ran around aimlessly. Complete kitsch as far as the naked eye can see, business going strong, everyone looked satisfied without stressing over about instilling order or paying taxes. I actually almost liked this, but in parallel, it made me really think. We ate in a weird place, looking like a garage, where a smiling older lady assured us that no one but her could cook up such a great meal. After we decided to test the lady’s skills, we rushed off to the hotel. We had saved a little place for desert and we decided to indulge in some baklava. It ended up being such a greasy baklava that I still remember it and probably will as long as I live. The cool shower and the air conditioning in the hotel was all we needed to doze off into peaceful sleep.

 

This is a free part. To read the full book, please go to: http://rtw-adventures.com

 

 


Direction East - Motorcycle Adventure Central Asia - free part

The idea to write this book arose from the lack of available information concerning the destination in question. At the beginning, it was only intended to be an ordinary concise travelogue memoir that would contain everything necessary to guide anyone who wished to travel in this direction. Consequently, I reconsidered, thinking that it would be quite a pity not to be able to convey my thoughts, my feelings and emotions – everything that excited me during the whole duration of the trip. To be able to, at least a little, sense the magic of Central Asia. I would like to apologize in advance to all of you who will find the long and detailed descriptions not to your liking however, it is the only way I can make you see things as I did. I also apologize for my philosophical reflections that I tend to make every so often but, this is my point of view and in no way am I intending to force it upon you. Yet, for all of who will prefer to skip the long descriptions only to focus on the conservative numbers, at the end of the book, I have dedicated a special chapter that will provide a thorough description of how you may do it all; visas, routes, contacts along the way, prices and everything that you may eventually need.

  • ISBN: 9781311659712
  • Author: guideberlin
  • Published: 2016-01-24 18:05:08
  • Words: 6992
Direction East - Motorcycle Adventure Central Asia - free part Direction East - Motorcycle Adventure Central Asia - free part