Turkey Motorcycle Tour – continued.
I am continuing my motorcycle tour of Turkey as well as my references to the famous Turkish film director Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Unlike his films that whilst beautifully photographed tend to focus on disillusionment and existential angst I have found Turkey to be very upbeat. Full of friendly smiling people, with affordable food, good scenery and great riding.
I am in Canakkale the childhood home of Ceylan and the edge of Asia where I am taking a short ferry trip then riding onto Europe to visit the Gallipoli battlefields.
I wanted a day off the bike but the bus tour for Australians doesn’t visit the Turkish memorials and that did not seem right so I went by myself. I lack the qualifications to give an accurate description of the campaign. Here is a link to an Australian Government site however Wikipedia gives a broader overview. I know this is a riding blog but bear with me as this is of significance to Australians.
Anzac cove is beautiful. There is nobody here and it’s very peaceful.
I am now above Anzac cove on a very narrow ledge called The Nek. This is where the charge of the Australian Light Horse men took place on the 7th of August 1915 that was featured in Peter Weirs movie Gallipoli (1981). At dawn the Victorian 8th Light Horse regiment were sent forward and all shot down immediately by machine guns. The young men from Western Australian 10th Light Horse regiment hurriedly scribbled farewell notes to family then too went forward to their deaths followed by the 3rd Light Horse regiment before the attack was called off. No ground was gained nor it seems a single death inflicted. “A deed of self sacrificing bravery which has never been surpassed in military history” – Captain Bean noted war historian wrote. Far worst happened on the western front for this is but one moment in a war that killed 16 million however there was a connection made between events in Gallipoli and Australian nationhood. The country was just 14 years old in 1915 and some characteristics of the Anzac spirit and peoples reaction in Australia to these young men’s sacrifice became an early part of our attempt to define ourselves as a people.
And this knoll, Chunuk Bair just a little higher up is as far as was briefly reached by the invading force. On the 10th the hero of Turkey Mustafa Kemel commanded his 8th division at dawn to force them off the high ground sacrificing all his men but turning the battle and saving his nation.
I looked at a great many things here then made my way to the end of the peninsular to the Turkish martyrs memorial.
Unlike the Anzac area which I had to myself the Turkish memorial area was packed with people – naturally. There is a forest of these grave markers. 134,000 people died in this battle, they go on a very long way. I had to wait ages to get the photos below as many school tour groups and Turkish people paying their respects.
Glad I came to see this. Not nearly enough time, but I am satisfied with what I experienced and ready to get back to the ride.
Day seven and I have stopped checking the forecasts, its sun, sun, sun as Steve Martin said in LA Story.
At breakfast when it opens 7.00 am then on the road by 7.45. This lets me beat the morning rush and ride in cool air. The main highway south is usual radar traps every small town but I exit to minor roads for a visit to Asso. Its a very long walk up to the entrance gate – never going to happen in motorcycle gear so I simply go around the bollards and ride up. Nobody seems to mind and I get to enjoy the temple of Athena to myself before anyone that came by car.
Its a spectacular location, the city once would have cascaded down to the Aegean sea and that’s the island of Lesbos just a short way off. A shame most of the stones from the temple were stolen and sit in museums in Paris and Boston but I guess looting has affected all ancient sites.
Back for bit more highway and more speed traps. I know what to look for now, white Citroen vans parked on side facing oncoming traffic. A km or two later they will be funneling cars down to one lane and pulling in speeders. Everyone drives aggressive racing each other like Thailand. I presume no points system and small fines. If you are not keeping up with traffic then need to move to side of road as cars won’t shift to passing lane, just brush past you a few inches clear.
Only good thing about highways is easy access to eateries. So many sorts of kebab, this is adana kebab and it was superb. After lunch I exit and enjoy lovely bit of riding through wooded hills on beautiful country roads. I was enjoying it so much I forgot to photograph.
I was going to visit Pergamon, a fairly significant archaeological site this afternoon. I was passing by so rode up and enjoyed the view but then just rode on. That might seem odd but I enjoyed Assos this morning in the cool, devoid of tourists. Here was busy and baking hot. I thought I’m happy with what I’ve already seen, lets have a relaxed afternoon on back roads with time to spare rather than end up pressed for time and back on the highway. In the photo below the ruins can just be made out on hill to right.
I really enjoyed this afternoon stopping to rest in shady spots and drink cool spring water. I was feeling at ease with myself. Something not so easy as I get older.
Off the beaten track all afternoon but I was not worried about anything. Bike was running fine. I had fuel and water and enjoyed the landscapes which as Chillertek commented in part one are reminiscent of Australia however this land has seen many mighty empires I am riding through so much history.
Back in olive and wine growing district tonight I get some of both at the local mall. Whilst not a big range of Turkish wine what I’ve had so far has been good. The dry hot climate and stony soil I thought could suit grapes and upon further investigation I find the word ‘Wine’ comes from ‘Wiyana’ from the ancient Hittite language. An ancient ‘city of wine’ called Wiyanawanda was some 4000 years ago located in the region now Antalya, Turkey.
I start day eight by climbing straight up a high outcrop that the city of Manisa sits beside. This was a fantastic ride, particularly down the other side.
My route all morning is rural mountain roads serving small villages. One lane but almost no traffic. It’s been nice easy pace riding and very scenic. I try to photograph but have not managed to capture the true feeling here.
Dropping down out of mountains I was gob smacked to find a brand new perfectly surveyed sweeping road that would be a sports bike riders dream.
All this was great but refueling in the next town I realize I will never make my destination at this rate. I have been riding 5 1/2 hours already and only at the half way point. I skip lunch and reluctantly have the GPS recalculate via highway to Bodrum. I have to abandon visiting an archaeological site this afternoon and then with 50kph coastal road that features radar traps every few km I skip riding to view islands as planned. Still I am happy because exploring places less visited all morning with dash of the unknown is what I travel for, not to visit tourist sights.
Bodrum is a tourist trap town in every sense however I find a bar and have some expensive beers and a burger while people watching and quite enjoy it since there are no regular bars in Japan to do this sort of thing.
Change of plans for day nine. I was going to take the ferry but it does not leave until after 9.00am thus it would be around 10.30am by the time I started riding which is too late.
No breakfast served until 8.00am so I left at 7.00 and rode the coast west (long blue arrow on map) with no idea what to expect. Small villages then the road petered out to a dirt track and I wondered does it even go through? yes it does and the second half was amazing.
Once again a road I had no plan to ride and never read anything about turns out to be a gem. After here I rode down to the coastal area South East from Marmaris – to roads that were recommended on the web but turned out a disappointment. Very touristy, lots of traffic. I got half way then stopped and turned back.
From here I wanted to go east along the coast (small blue arrow on map) but whilst a road exists my GPS and Maps.me refused to route via it. An inquiry at gas station earlier revealed some sort of military facility there.
Speaking of gas stations you don’t operate pumps yourself. You pay the attendant if cash, for card he gives you invoice which you take into the shop. You get two receipts, one is for the attendant. If you buy a drink that is paid for separately. There are gas stations seemingly every few km but Shell is the only chain selling any food.
Re-purposing old airliners as restaurants on highways is a thing here, seen a few of these. I just made my way to my hotel this afternoon. Reasonably good run I am off the road by 3pm beating the worst of the heat.
My route day ten had been along the coast main road. By now I knew that would be a poor choice so I made a new route last night inland. This will again be minor roads with no idea what to expect.
Initially nothing special but not unpleasant one lane roads between villages.
Another moment of inner peace about 8.00am in morning sun while enjoying cool spring water and tranquil back roads. Looking at my dusty pants and boots and thinking how lucky I am to be sitting here now instead of sitting in some meeting in my former career listening to bullshit letting the years slip by.
At this point on last day I am completely satisfied if nothing else but some flat roads to take me back to Antalya. But Turkey would have none of that thinking.
The riding here on rural roads is nothing short of phenomenal. These are again just no name roads never mentioned on any best roads site. I have lots more images on the way to the coast but probably will start to bore you.
Returning to the highway I actually did come across this nice section. It soon reverts to regular 4 lane but this D400 route is not too busy.
I am again out of time because the back roads are slow average speed. I want to ride inland for the remainder but this will blow out my ETA. I dwell on abandoning my route over a gas station mystery bread item but know it’s the smart thing to avoid arriving Antalya in afternoon rush so change to highway. (from gas station symbol on map. The other icons were items on my original route)
Its still scenic along the coast from here. Mt Olympus rears up on my left as do a number of other stone massive outcrops that form a dramatic backdrop.
Still confused about speed zones I am waved over at one of the speed traps. A few metres beyond where tickets are being written is the entrance to a BP petrol station. The car in front of me also waved over indicates and pulls over then drifts forward into the gas station. I follow. He drives through then rejoins highway. I park and observe. The cops writing tickets are too busy to note who is being flagged down and the cop who waves people over doesn’t check as too busy. After a drink I remount and ride off 😀
It was a good call to return the bike earlier rather than later. Daytime traffic was not too bad and I am parked back at shop just prior to the intense afternoon heat.
Turkey exceeded my expectations by a huge margin. My photos don’t capture how interesting the landscapes are and I am but a amateur hack lacking the finesse to describe things but this has to be one of the most underrated riding destinations at present. And everyone here tells me the north and south east are much better!
I’ve already decided I will return. Yes I enjoyed it that much. But I have tentatively seven rides in various stages of pre planning at present – so it won’t be for a little while. But I will ride the east in future.
I stopped over at Doha on way back for one night, almost free 5 star hotel provided by Qatar airlines for anyone with extended layover between flights. Probably only airline in world still offering such exceptional service.
I will follow up this ride report with a few things I learnt, some words about the XT660R and what I might do different next time. To anyone still reading – thanks for weighing through all of this.
Regards, Warren.PART ONE Turkey extras Yamaha XT660R review