Turkey motorcycle tour
Turkey lies at the most westerly point of Asia at the crossroads of civilizations. It is a country with a staggering amount of history having been home to the Ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires among others. With a interior 80% mountains and western coast sharing the Aegean sea with Greek islands I have long thought it would be an interesting place to ride a motorcycle.
Turkey never seems to get good press from motorcyclists. The overlander riders pass through on main highways and just complain about speed traps. I even had a guy from Turkey here in Japan tell me don’t bother going. Well there are plenty of places people tell me are no good for riding (like here in Japan) and usually it is because they never left the main highways.
A 50% off sale airfare appeared with my favourite airline Qatar and with the Turkish Lira devalued the Aus dollar is not worthless there like other countries at present so it all fell into place.
A couple of days before I was due to fly Qatar airlines offered me a upgrade to business class for a fraction of the usual cost for the long 11 hour outbound flight to Doha. This is how the other half live.
It was quite special, the food and fine wine kept flowing late into the evening before they come and make your bed and close the door to your private area, oh you are given luxury pyjamas to wear also. Honestly I don’t aspire to such things – if I did I would have stayed in my corporate life rather than choosing to ride motorcycles and eat cup noodles – but hey if the chance happens your way for a low price then try it one time.
Back to reality for rest of flight to Antalya but arriving in good shape. Very easy entry into Turkey, I am processed in a few minutes and in short amount of time have found ATM and obtained money, a sim card (but they are cheaper downtown) and taxi’s use meters so it’s a no hassle ride to my hotel.
I am renting from Kros and as usual chose the cheapest bike, a Yamaha XT600 at 37 Euro a day. Upon visiting the store by sheer coincidence another Australian is there and they have given him my bike so I am supplied a Yamaha XT660R same price. I discover a problem when filling out paperwork. I left my Australian drivers licence at home. I have my Japanese licence and a mismatched International Drivers Permit for my Australian licence. The shop agrees to go ahead with rental and seem pretty laid back.
After a rest day I got a late start collecting bike on public holiday and head off into 34 degrees and high humidity. Seems I have miscalculated the weather. Forecast is stinking hot and I did not bring all summer gear. September I thought would be milder, well once it this hot mesh makes little difference and it’s a matter of drinking lots of water and keep moving to get evaporative cooling.
My route takes me south east on a major highway. I have no idea really what the speed limits are the signs vary constantly between 110 to 50 often every 200m then the cars ignore these and are all doing about 140+ bumper to bumper like in a Mad Max movie while the XT660R is pushed to do much more than 90 and I am getting passed just inches away. Soon I am stopped at a radar trap, some other cars just gas it and ignore the direction to stop. This is bad as I don’t have my Australian licence on me. The police see I am foreigner and ask where I am from and upon hearing Australia says ah you can go and gives me a smile and wave.
Happy about being waved on and even more happy to get off the highways onto quiet and cooler back roads in the mountains. Now the ride begins proper. It’s immediately very enjoyable with great scenery. Alas I could not stop much as I was so far behind today’s schedule. I brought my Theta 360 cam with me this trip so a few shots from it will appear low resolution. (my QX-10 would have been better)
I pushed on skipping lunch which I thought won’t hurt me after the huge breakfast I had and by mid afternoon have caught up a little but it was clear I should take a faster route to my hotel. Looking at the map below you can see I chose a longer but open flowing road rather than a tight technical mountain course that would have been low gears slow ride. I had no idea this other road would turn out to be one of the nicest I have ridden.
I had to stop and take a look back. A beautiful ride I was gifted on a road I had no plan to visit. Tonight I stay in the town of Karaman in a newish 4 star hotel but the cost is same as just 1 star in Thailand and everyone at the hotel tries to chat with me and the manager who is only one speaking full English gives me lots of tips for things to see in their region and about other parts of my route. No one was upset or expected me to speak their language like when I travel in Europe.
Breakfast is biggest buffet I have ever seen. Honey seems to be a big thing in Turkey. There is about 30 bowls of different types. I’m on the road early and it’s cool and refreshing in the high tablelands. I have my jacket closed and am offered tea to warm up while getting fuel. Everyone is pleased I am touring their country.
Today I am going to Cappadocia via minor roads. It’s really lovely riding. Things turn to gravel for part of the way and simple village houses are made of stones with people goat herding. Riding with spokes I am mildly worried because I am not equipped to repair a flat by myself. I have a patch kit but not the tools. I carry a puncture repair can for tubeless but these only sometimes work on tubes. But I remind myself what Genghis Khan said – If you are afraid to do something then don’t, but if you are already doing something then don’t worry.
Back on regular roads some interesting ravines run through the area.
With a sensible route distance today I can stop for leisurely lunch in a small town. Nobody speaks each others language but it is no problem and smiles all round. France the staff would have refused to serve me.
Arriving at Cappadocia after a blissful day on low traffic farm roads was a slap in the face. Gridlock traffic, 1000’s of tourists.
The brochure The reality
I was lane splitting to move ahead in places where it ground to a halt, why did I come here again? I went to couple of the popular view points but they were crowded.
Seeing people on quad bike tours I just turned off the road and started riding around the landscape too. Not sure if you are supposed to but what the hell.
I enjoyed the off road exploring but by now was hot and dusty so very happy to get under a cool shower at hotel. The town of Goreme is your typical tourist trap, prices 3 times etc but it still had mostly friendly staff, surprisingly not too jaded.
I woke up before dawn to go see the hot air balloons the area is known for. However I got lost twice on way to the view point using Maps.me which steered me to dead ends. On foot I ran out of time so just found an elevated spot.
The balloons just keep coming. This many again in the 2nd and 3rd wave. Big business, each carries what looks like 20 people, 200-300 euros each. I was slightly upset I did not reach the higher view point but at daybreak could see 100+ people up there jostling for position with drones buzzing around so perhaps no loss. Oddly my iPhone took a better photo in the low light than my Canon which I lugged with me especially for this. In hindsight I could have ridden off road to a isolated point and made a nice time lapse of the balloons, but I’m fine as is.
Today is a long route but I planned it as such knowing I would be up early. It’s high plains west on 4 lane super slab and I just got on with it. Besides a fuel break did not stop until past the city of Konya.
Then I pushed on to Beysehir by late lunch but unable to find something simple to access I just had a iced coffee and muesli bar at a gas station stop and felt no need for more with such big breakfasts.
The afternoon was off the highway on quiet and superbly surveyed roads over a mountain range which was a delightful ride.
Arriving at my destination I was presented with further superb roads and scenery. I’m staying on that small peninsular tonight in the town of Egidir which is void of tourism despite the amazing location.
Woke up for the breakfast I paid for but the pension I am staying at is empty, oh well good chance to hit the road early. I only get short way and see a bakery open so stop and enjoy some fresh baked bread items and hot tea and cost just $1.50 AUD. Turkey is more affordable than SE Asia.
I am on my way to the archaeological site of Sagalossos this morning and chose the circular highway route but since I now know the multi lane highways here suck I decided spur of the moment to try ride as crow flys over this mountain instead.
The Garmin does not want to route me via this saying its gravel but I continue and actually it not gravel at all but in fact another fantastic ride.
Route D685 towards Sagalossos is superb and then the ascent to the ancient city is also terrific. They really picked a spectacular location at about 1600m.
I was worried about securing my gear but I need not have, I am only person here.
I’m not particularly interested in historical sites anymore, most are crowded and I come away underwhelmed but this was great. The location, how well the site has been excavated, little touches like reconnecting the original spring water fountain that ran thousands of years ago and of course wandering around with nobody there. Google the site as it’s history is beyond my writing ability to summarize (and I am only posting one small area of it – this is a riding blog after all)
You are going to get tired of me saying this – but the roads here are great. The good riding continued all afternoon.
The afternoon however really heated up. All over the place I have been seeing spring water outlets with people filling up bottles and so I stopped at one. Chilled natural spring water! What a idiot, I have been riding past them :D. I have a water bottle and even a belt bottle holder I bought years ago for this very sort of thing and now I can stop in these spots and enjoy a cool drink regularly which will go a long way to easing the heat and keeping me alert.
Dropping into a salt flat the temperature soared. I actually did ride out onto it but not perfect white so unable to do those trick photos and baking hot. I come across a guy broken down so put him on back of bike and he guides me back to his village which is along the road I was taking anyway. No words of each others language but the smile on his face as he shook my hand will remain in my mind a long time and I have banked some good karma for my journey ahead.
Visiting Sagalossos blew my ETA out and this afternoon I am fatigued riding in traffic. Lapses of concentration in the ultra aggressive traffic here would be dangerous. I take an extended break and observe the Russian truckers and Turkish farmers in their old Renault’s before the last push to my hotel.
Day five and I am away early on a lovely road north from Salihli. So far I have been short on time every day and not stopping to take the sort of photos I like. But this morning I feel I have some time to spare. Yes I am the weird guy that climbs an embankment to get a nice road shot. Your welcome 😀
In olive country this morning. As far as the eye can see at times.
I take the roads less traveled after this and startle the locals in tiny villages and love every minute on the very minor roads even though the worry of a puncture returns to my mind. Just think like GK would Warren.
Change of pace then I take the highway north to make up some time, this allowed me to have lunch easy at one of the roadhouses. I had their signature sandwich shown on the billboard in front of the bike, with lots of curiosity from staff and smiles from the very pretty girl serving who unable to pronounce my name to call me to collect brought my meal over to me special 🙂
I just pushed on a bit this afternoon stopping at natural springs to rest but did not take many photos despite the countryside being quite lovely. Actually at the refill spot below it’s starting to look very European I thought. Perhaps because I arrive today at Canakkale which is the end of Asia. Tomorrow I will cross the Dardanelles into Europe and visit the Gallipoli battlefields.
More about that in the second part of my tour in Turkey.
To celebrate the half way point I went to the mall and had a tasty dinner with the locals for a few dollars then got some huge fresh local grown olives (not in oil, I mean real fresh, amazing) and some Turkish wine. Cheers!