Monday, 29 June 2015

Georgia satellite

. . . Well not so much a satellite.  More a surface rover .
. .  And Georgia seems like a nice place to be. Beautiful countryside although like most countries in this  region, it seems that the scenery is used as a prime dumping ground for household waste.
. . .I have hooked up with Stuart and Oli who are heading to Mongolia. . Travelling in the same direction for a while. .

The small towns and villages that a wide road passed through have modern shops and lots more expensive looking cars. Lots of Judge dread style Ford police specials patrol cars with lights lit at all times inhabiting every 5k and several cars being pulled over.
Camping on the first night was next to the beach. . A thunderstorm overnight didn't disturb me. A police officer parked overnight nearby until we left was a little strange but hey we left the area tidier than when we arrived.

Tbilisi beckons on day 2. .

On arrival Tbilisi was baking on the grass steppe under a cloudless sky,  hotter than a hot thing on a hot day. Even the air is turned up to ten.
40° feels like a furnace in my open face helmet with  the visor lifted even if I have acclimatised a bit.
Checking my Azerbaijan visa shows me I got things a bit wrong with the dates. . I will now stay Tbilisi until Monday  when my visa starts. .
Until then I've got some time to explore this city a bit. While it's not the prettiest city in the world it has it has some olde worlde charm away front the madness of the road system and battling traffic. I just need to uncover it somehow.

At least it's a very cheap place to live. The hotel is £8 a night, petrol at about 60p a litre and beer at not much more.

There is some affluence in this city though. New BMWs and Mercedes rubbing shoulder (quite literally in some cases) with old battered cars with missing body parts still labouring on beyond reasonable use. .

A taxi ride showed up the local driving habits first hand. . No mercy. . But I've got used to what initially felt like suicidal overtakes and undertakes and queue jumping and impatience because the driver  at the front of the queue actually waited for the lights to turn green!
It's all good . .

It all works somehow. . Just like the ramshackle buildings that somehow remain standing despite huge cracks in the brickwork . . One noticeable aspect has been the number of workers pulling debris from the river, which I have read has been deliberately lowered to enable the search for any victims of the recent flood. A grim task. Although I haven't seen first hand any of the flood damage, or indeed any escaped tigers!
I will also take the opportunity to change some money to universally accepted US dollars before I move on.

From Wednesday I'm back to being on my own. . Which is not so bad. I like making my own decisions and taking my own direction. Stopping when I want and moving when I choose.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Turkish delight

Not very long after my last blog entry but another internet access opportunity. .
Thursday saw my biggest day riding so far, to get from Bandirma to the black Sea coast at Amasra.
I spent most of the day with one or two of my triangle pieces complete. . Fuel and food on board.  Heading towards the coast i wasn't concerned about finding accommodation and I was right.
525 km in one day saw me across the hills that separate north and the middle. The roads varied from new motorway to worn out dual carriageway to broken down tarmac and plain rutted gravel. Some were half built and some were half ruined.
Likewise the countryside was dramatic. In places hot and dry, arid land littered with human detritus which gave way to softer greener landscapes as I climbed into the hills. The traffic went from modern cars, coaches and trucks to older Fiats, FSOs and Renaults. And temperatures from fearsome 30° to a chilly 15° in the mountain rain and a comfortable 20° on the coast.
Ying and yang. Most Turks don't seem to feel the need to clear up their rubbish it seems, indeed the countryside appears to offer the opportunity to dispose of everything from building rubble to household waste. In contrast it also seems to offer a million opportunities to plant a huge turkish flag, lest you forget where you are. It's a shame such national pride isn't reflected in their respect for the natural world.
Travelling the Black Sea coast road from the picturesque seaside town of Amasra was wonderful. A lot of the scenery felt like north Wales, with wooded hillsides soaring above blue green sea and stoney beaches. The road twisting and turning through valleys and over hills. It needs care though because the surface was once again along way on its journey back to nature. Rutted and rippled on the way into a corner,  littered with gravel on the apex and slick smooth worn tarmac on the exit. Most bike riders worst nightmare.
Still fun though!
By late afternoon I reached the historic port of Sinop. Full of ancient history and folklore and home to modern shopping on the busy main street and rows of old ships propped up on dry dock blocks down by the port.

A campsite by the sea on the leeward side of Sinop's isthmus provided the nights accommodation for about £7.
Turkey is a land of contrast. Good and bad. The people I've met seem genuinely friendly. While I'm sure there's lots to see if you were to take the time, I am just pushing on for now. My Azerbaijan visa starts in 6 days and my kazakhstan visa 12 days after that so it's time to travel through this land and see its virtues as I pass by, which actually is probably for the best. because if you look too closely, it is less appealing.
A bit like the famous sweet. Initially sweet and sugar coated, but strangely sickly and less cohesive underneath.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Turkey leg. . .

"I know not how I seem to others, but to myself I am but a small child wandering upon the vast shores of knowledge, every now and then finding a small bright pebble to content myself with while the vast ocean of undiscovered truth lies before me."
(Google it if you're interested)

. . . .

Crossing the Turkey border on Friday into country number five I've found a rhythm to travelling. . The crossing itself was relatively easy. . About an hour of document checks and double check and triple checks, but at least they didn't want to unpack all my bags, which they did with a few cars. . The border guard baulked at my packing I think

Covering the miles is no problem. . It gives me time. . .Time to watch the scenery from rolling hills, mountainous regions, flat farmland or urban areas. Time to think clearly or time to just relax and enjoy the feel of riding my bike.

Camping is a ritual of unpacking and repacking.

My daily list of "needs" consists of three things. . . Fuel in the tank. . Somewhere to sleep and something to eat. . .life doesn't get much less complicated than that. It's become my eternal triangle.

Greece was a fabulous place to be, the Turkey I've seen so far has been very different. . As with Greece, away from the tourist areas life is not one long holiday town. . .and near the nether regions of country borders it's downright ugly.

I suffered culture shock on arrival but I think that's true whenever you enter a new country and I expect it will be bigger the further East I go.
But get away from the dirt and grime that seems to stick like shit to lines on a map or the shiny tourist hotpots and you find the real country. The real people and a true sense of what a country is.

Sat in a hotel room with a loud speaker calling the devoted to prayer competing with Arabian rhythms from a particularly loud stereo system, cars and bikes hooting at each other, the sound of ships in the harbour and smells of kebab and spices wafting in on the hot night air feels much more like a foreign country than any European travel ever can. .

Later than anticipated but I got new tyres today. . .actually one new tyre. . The front is still hardly worn after 7000km. . The rear was still serviceable. A real tribute to supposedly soft compound rain tyres and at £130 for the pair I can highly recommend them . .
Still now I'm equipped with offroad capability and feel I can deal with what comes next.

The culture shock has eased a little and I'm ready to take the next step along the way. .

I still can't upload video. . It's getting that I'm so far behind and I want to publish them in chronological order so they make sense, but it's become something of a task. . Now if I had a film crew with me. . . Hmm. . Maybe that would lose the effect of my out of focus or out of shot film production. . Being the director, camera man and subject means I get it wrong more often than I get it right, but that's part of the charm

I hope . . ?

So while the turkish nightlife kicks off this particular weary traveller is kicking back for tonight.  A hot day's riding, from watching a glorious sun rise this morning to an equally impressive sunset over the harbour is enough sensory input for one day in a journey that is a constant stream of experience.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Crystal Aegean Contemplation

Few days without internet . . So in a similar vein to the Imola entry this is a collection of thoughts . . But mostly without the excessive alcohol consumption, so hopefully it will be a little more concise.

After reaching the Aegean coast I decided to stop rushing along quite so much. . I think I got a bit over anxious about the time and distance I had to cover .. but having reached the the eastern side of Greece, I have to be realistic about the distance I can travel in the daytime heat.  Sitting here in shorts with a nice breeze off the sea, it is very pleasant. Entirely different to riding, kitted up with the bike loaded up. .

I've taken a right turn and plumped for the middle finger of the three that poke out into the sea on this peninsular - Sithonia . . Small coastal roads with rugged rocky landscapes sloping to sandy beaches with a clear turquoise sea .. .

I got as far as Toroni . .Found a campsite and just stopped. . Not going any further today. . High twenties . . Cool clear sea. . Bar for a cold beer . .
Not moving!

Second day here. . Gone to the beach! .. going to hang around here till after the weekend. Although the road back off this spit of land is fairly small I think it will be fine once I get back to the main road and head into Turkey. ...Still got time and I'm enjoying the peaceful relaxation of Greece. Its laid back and easy going. Everyone speaks English and maybe I'm just avoiding moving on for a while, but its a great place to be. 

I've got an extra tarpaulin that I've used to create extra space on the front of my tent, but it works very well as a beach sunshade. .

Hot again today. . Probably 30°+ I can't quite raise the enthusiasm for pulling on hot textile trousers and jacket, taking another day.

Looking the at the map I can get to the Turkey border in a about day's ride if I push on, but for now I'm going to move around the coast here a bit. . travelling in jeans and denim jacket.. Not the most protective of travel clothing, but then I am very overdressed compared to the locals in flipflops and shorts. There is a balance and staying cooler helps with concentration that is for sure.. There will be times when I will have to grin and bear it. Travelling across barren rock strewn landscapes will demand that level of protection, but cruising around the coast... I've taken a leaf out of the locals book. travel cool. Just don't fall off!

Well didn't get very far.. Got to Kalamisti, white sand and a campsite that almost touches the beach, more blue sea and the usual flotilla of pleasure boats pulled me off the hot tarmac and refused to let me go.. not trying to resist very hard. 

Travelled as far as the beach - sat under my tarp and back again..far enough thanks.

Bar with wifi and I can at least update the blog. All internet connection seems to be via satellite, which can be a it on the slow side.

Not sure if I'm being reluctant to leave Greece or not.. I think I am a bit. Its comfortable. Its warm and sunny. Its one big holiday and I know that things will get tougher as I go further east. So I think I'm making the most of it while I can. Plus I think I had a bit too much sun yesterday, feel a bit light headed today. Not travelling far 

I will get to the Turkey border by next weekend and push on from there. I think that the north coast of Turkey will be a bit cooler to travel and put some miles in once I've sorted out replacing the tyres in Istanbul ... Well actually a bit south of Istanbul, so I hope I will be able to bypass the major centre of traffic chaos.

As this is a bit of a compilation  of updates I thought it worth updating my state of mind. I know after the Imola update I seemed a bit melancholy about missing things about my normal life. A lot of those feelings were brought about I think by the slight disappointment I felt by the Imola world superbike meeting not matching my expectations. Mugello made up for that and lots of experiences since have made me realise what it is I'm doing here.. Yes some of it isn't easy, some of it  is tough. some of it challenges what I think I am capable of and who I am.. But some of it like this place makes me realise how amazing the whole experience is as it stretches out in front of me with so much more to come.. 

Moving on.... soon 

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Olympic origins

As the seat of the Greek gods and the birthplace of civilisation. Package holiday dream and land of endless sunshine, big skies and huge scenery I can understand why so many fall in love with this country. Like anywhere there are good and bad bits but the good are amazing! Crystal clear seas lapping against hot sandy shorelines is a difficult combination to beat. .

Not much sign to this passing traveller of the financial woes this country is suffering, but I haven't got access to 24 hour news channels that need to fill empty airtime. . Not that I want it!

With the Agean gently rolling against the land, I have found a place to kick back for a while. . Getting across Greece is not as far as I had thought and I'm taking a little time out . .I could be in Turkey by the weekend, but I'm of a mind to explore a bit more of this coast. . I'm not far from the 3 pronged chalkidiki peninsular and I'm loving swimming in wonderful clear sea water. . .With plenty of desert ahead I'm making the most of it. .

I don't yet know what Turkey has in store but as a holiday destination Greece is idyllic . . I know some will see this whole trip as one long holiday, and in some respects it is, but the endless moving on demands a bit of down time for me. . That way it works. . I can find a spot and get to know it a little. . Feel almost at home. . It positively charges me for the next challenge.

I can't find a fast enough internet connection to upload video but I'm still recording as I go. . I'll get somewhere where I can put it online. . .

Time for a swim . . It's tough but someone's gotta do it. . Might as well be me lol

Friday, 5 June 2015

And Greece is the way we are feeling. . .

An overnight ferry bound for Patras proved an entertaining evening . . .

With a troupe of hells angels from all points of the compass drinking the journey through. . . Still with pint of lager in hand early in the morning.  . . . "Brother"!

Chill out guys life isn't a competition.

So a shaded campsite at €10 a night is my introduction to Greece. . The cheapest night so far. . At least they are still in the euro , which given that I have a reserve of euros with me is a good thing! Wasn't sure they would be by the time I got here. . .

I need to press on a bit as my kazakhstan visa starts on the 13th of July and I need to be at the Russian border for the start of that visa at the beginning of August to have enough time to get to Vladivostock before it expires. . .
so a limited time to get through Greece, Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. . .

One thing I was trying to avoid was to be tied to deadlines on this journey, but the need for visas has made that a necessity. . That the way of it so I just have to suck it up and go with the flow. . .

Just need to cover some miles. .  .Sadly my supposed tyre supplier . . (Rhyme by mistake) has informed me he can't get the tyres I wanted to cross Kazakhstan now. . And seeing as I sold the pair I had before I left rather than carry them across Europe leaves me with a bit of a dilemma. . . The tyres I've got, I am now confident will last until Istanbul. . Quite a recommendation for a "rain" tyre given the heat they've been subjected to. . .I'll publish they're finishing mileage once I know it. . .

But for now a bottle of cheap red, some strange spicy olive paste and crusty bread makes life sweet. . .

It's gonna get hotta!

Quick publish of this post at a cafe with WiFi. . .It has got hotter! Over 30° today. . I'm seriously considering how I can travel without so much of the bike gear at the moment. . . Safety is important but so is being able to concentrate without being boiled alive. . I need to find a balance. Greece seems easier than Italy so far. . The drivers aren't quite as mad. . Just the sun is fierce at midday and I needed to find some shade. . I think I will need to travel earlier in the day and later in the afternoon. . . I could do with a couple of nights in one spot to find my feet a bit. . .

"It's all Greek" now has a whole new meaning. . Luckily English is spoken almost everywhere so far. . Efharisto!