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Week One Chapter - 01 ~ 07 May 2007 - Turkey

National Flag of Turkmenistan

"Thus, when the lamp that lighted
  The traveller at first goes out,
He feels awhile benighted,
  And looks around in fear and doubt.
But soon, the prospect clearing,
  By cloudless starlight on he treads,
And thinks no lamp so cheering
  As that light which Heaven sheds."

- Thomas Moore (1779–1852)

"I am not a great cook, I am not a great artist, but I love art, and I love food, so I am the perfect traveller." - Michael Palin

Starting location for this week: Istanbul, Turkey (European Continent)
Ending location for this week: Ürgüp, Turkey (Asian Continent)
Planned mileage for this week: 820 miles (1,312 kilometers)

Merhaba - "Hello" in Turkish

Selam - "Hello" in Turkish

Iyi gunler - "Hello" in Turkish

Thanks for joining us as we organize a 21st-century caravan and ride today's Silk Road, back-tracking from the eastern terminus in Istanbul, Turkey, heading for the western embarkation point - the city of Xi'an in the People's Republic of China.

In case you landed here without first visiting the Silk Road Adventure 2007 Home Page, you might want to stop by there first for some background on the Silk Road Adventure by clicking here.

Welcome to Week One of the Silk Road Adventure!

Mike, Your Webmeister

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The many forms of "Hello" in over 800 languages and other useful words and phrases are courtesy of Jennifer's Language Page.

To find out what time it is there (or anywhere!), visit The World Clock.

To see where they are now, visit the Navigation Technology Chapter.

For more information about Turkey in this week's leg of the Silk Road, please visit the resources listed below:

- The World Factbook, maintained by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States:

- The Consular Information Sheets, provided by the Department of State of the United States:

- The web-based, free-content encyclopedia entries at Wikipedia, maintained by "GlobeWriters" everywhere":

On the Galata Bridge, which spans the Golden Horn, the crowds were out fishing from the bridge and enjoying the day.

At major intersections, things looked a bit more ominous.

Just a few thousand meters away, things were pretty ugly.

The Turkish police and security forces got so hyped up...

... two of their armored vehicles collided, resulting in one policemen being thrown from the vehicle.

Day 1 - 01 May 2007 - Istanbul, Turkey
Subject: Demonstrations in Istanbul

Normally, I'd focus my contributions to any Live!Journal exclusively on the tour and its participants. However, local events have resulted in some concerned email about the group's safety, so I'll kick-off this Journal with some info about the demonstrations here in Istanbul over the last few days.

May Day generally doesn't carry any particular significance to those living in North America. However, as the following excerpt from Wikipedia shows, it has differing significance across much of the Pan Eurasian continents:

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May Day is May 1, and refers to any of several holidays celebrated on this day. May 1 was a traditional summer holiday in many pre-Christian European pagan cultures, and many elements of these holidays are still celebrated on May 1 today, such as the Maypole.

May Day also refers to various socialist and labor movement celebrations conducted on May 1, unrelated to the traditional celebrations, to commemorate the Haymarket martyrs of 1886 and the international socialist movement generally. The latter event is an important holiday in Communist and Socialist countries.

The date consequently became established as an anarchist and socialist holiday during the 20th century, and in these circles it is often known as International Workers' Day or Labour Day. In this form, May Day has become an international celebration of the social and economic achievements of the working class and labor movement.

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Over the last weekend, a number of peaceful demonstrations were held here, primarily showing secular Turks' dissatisfaction with what is viewed as increasing shift towards a more fundamentalist Islamic government. Although there were no problems caused by these, a number of riders that I met as I was riding towards Istanbul warned me of "riots" in the city.

On May Day (01 May) the police and city government took local residents by surprise, bringing in thousands of additional police from other cities, closing down transportation systems, and setting up roadblocks and security checkpoints throughout the city.

A demonstration in the central Taksim Square area (commemorating those who died from a previous May Day gathering there in 1997) got briefly out of hand, with police over-reacting to this "unapproved" rally by dispersing the crowd with water cannons and tear gas.  Watching the event unfold on local television was certainly cause for concern, with close-up shots of black-suited armored forces clubbing protesters, and arresting between 500 and 800 residents.

Without a doubt, there were injuries, and I don't mean to diminish the beliefs of all involved, but as is usually the case, anyone just arriving and watching TV would assume that a full-scale riot was in progress and growing. However, as we drove though the central part of the city to check on the arrivals of our group, 99% of the people were out enjoying a warm sunny day and going about their business as best they could with the roads and transportation systems in chaos.

Our riders stayed close to their hotels, got settled in and time adjusted, and prepared for the chore and process of clearing bikes through Turkish Customs the following day.

I'm fond of repeating a favorite quote, "And adventure is a vacation gone horribly wrong." With rain in the forecast, riot police and armored vehicles throughout the city and rain in the forecast, the adventure has already begun <g>.

[NOTE: To read the AP (Associated Press) news article about the May Day demonstrations in Istanbul, please click here.]



Day 2 - 02 May 2007 - Blue House Hotel, Istanbul, Turkey
Subject: Sometimes, the Challenges Begin at Home

As Helge noted in his "launch" newsletter, sometimes, the adventure begins at home.  Certainly, air travel has become nothing more than a dehumanizing cattle ride.  Whereas Delta wouldn't board our leader without a return ticket, and offered no alternatives or assistance, which might have stranded a less resourceful passenger, British Airways took me aboard (I also had a one-way ticket) without batting a proper British eye.

For Bill Jenkins, another travelers nightmare manifested itself, as his irreplacable motorcycle panniers, and all of his gear, got "lost in transit" somewhere in Chicago.  He arrived in Istanbul with nothing more than what he was wearing.  Two days later, his precious cargo finally made its way to the Blue House.

A couple of weeks before the tour began, I shipped my sidecar from Vancouver, BC on KLM, bound for Frankfurt, Germany. My wife, Aillene, sister, Lily, and brother-in-law, Rick, had all planned to rider the Schwarzwald, Alps, and Dolomites for a couple of week, after which they'd fly home, and I'd make my way overland to Istanbul.

GlobeRiders guide Jeff Munn, also planning to wander a bit to get warmed-up, shipped his bike out of Montreal, Canada, to Heathrow, England, and also made his way overland to Istanbul.

In addition, our contigent of European riders left homes in England, Switzerland, Ireland and Greece, meeting up in Thessanoliki, Greece, then riding as a group to Istanbul.

For those who shipped in our container and arrived by air, for a while, it looked like their Silk Road Adventure might be renamed "53 Days on 24 Feet".

The day's activity for Wednesday 02 May, the day after everyone's arrival, was unloading the container and reclaiming the bikes from Turkish Customs. It was a rainy morning when the group headed out, happy and excited to put rubber to the road for the first time since leaving home.  It was not to be. . . .

Since Haydarpasa is a container port, final consignment of it's cargo and unloading proceeded fairly smoothly. All the bikes arrived intact and undamaged, and engines roared to life. Unfortunately, the Customs agency had changed over to a new software-based system, and apparently all of the needed code had not been loaded on to their system. Once it was, they discovered that there was no way to register the licences plates and VINs of the bikes, the first step in actually releasing the bikes.  After hours of excuses, delays, and finally, profuse apologies from the Port Master on down, the group left, empty-handed, with the promise that things would be settled the next day.

For the fortunate "overlanders", things were going more smoothly.  With bikes securely parked in front of the Blue House, attentions turned to personal preparations. Maps were unfolded, GPSs uploaded, camera batteries checked, local currency procured, all the normal commerce for just another day (NOT!) in the office.

There's a wonderful and time-honored Turkish toast, translated, it goes "May today be the worst day of your life". On the morrow, we'd put that to the test.

Best Regards,


The Blue House is ideally situated for seeing one of the world's most amazing cities.  Across the street, The Blue Mosque, and adjacent, Hagia Sophia. The Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar are only a short walk away, and offer to purchase Turkish carpets abound every step of the way.

A happy and enthusiastic Dan T. Moore made the local paper back home with his departure and the journey ahead.

For the staff, the many months of preparation bring no relief. Here I am, uploading GPS maps, waypoints, routes and tracks to a variety of portable GPS receivers

At times, every tour becomes a technology geek-fest.  Here (right to left) Robin, Mark, Roger and Jeff check over their electronics while Joe observes.

Tribulations at the port aside for now, the group enjoys their first dinner together.  White linen, liveried wait-staff, and amazing variety of courses, we advise all "Don't get used to it".

A pensive Henry Black, takes shelter in the now-empty container at the port.

As a smiling Pete Pawluk shows, release of the bikes was Immanent.

Bikes cleared, Mike Mathews checks things over.

Mark Boyadjian, just finishing up checking tire pressures, ready to ride.

In the crowded and narrow streets of Istanbul, the final line-up of bikes is pretty impressive.

Day 3 - 03 May 2007 - Port of Haydarpasa, near Istanbul, Turkey
Subject: Reclaiming the Bikes, Take Two

Once again, riders boarded our chase vehicle for the ride to the port. The weather had broken, and the promise of sun and warmer weather was unfolding as they made their way to Haydarpasa for the 2nd time.

Even after getting the software straightened out, the Customs people found another problem.  Before the bikes could be processed, they had to be registered with the Turkish police authority.  The problem, no such agency or the needed terminal and computer system existed at the container yard, where raw materials and finished goods, not "a bunch of use motorcycle" was the norm.

Fortunately, a work-around was found. A RORO (Roll-On, Roll-Off) port existed several kilometers down the coast.  As a vehicle port, they had all the processed in place for vehicle registration.  One by one, the information for each bike was telephoned to a terminal operator at the RORO facility, and the bikes were "remotely" entered into the system.  With this step accomplished, the rest of the paperwork could be produced and cleared, by mid-afternoon, the "container" riders left en masses into the swirl of traffic, and everyone, all the gear, and the final complement of motorcycles finally arrived at the Blue House, on time for the scheduled departure tomorrow morning.

Here's hoping today is also the worst day of the rest of our lives!

Almost on the road,


Day 3 - 03 May 2007 - Istanbul, Turkey
Subject: Buying "New Shoes" at the Market

Several of the Silk Road riders decided to ride to Istanbul for the start of the tour. Some of us were Americans who wanted to see Europe first, and some were Europeans who simply decided to ride down. Jason (from Athens) kindly offered to host a pre-Silk Road tour meeting in Thessaloniki, Greece for all the “Overlanders”. Once together in Greece we all then rode as a group to Turkey and arrived in Istanbul with the same need; new tires for our steeds for the start of the tour.

With great prior coordination, GlobeRiders arranged to have a local shop have 8 sets of Metzler Tourance tires ready for us. All we had to do was ride across Istanbul (a small city of 15 million people) and find the shop. Yeah, right. We had no fear though and let Yves S. lead the way since he had been to Istanbul before.

Dodging buses and pedestrians, we did battle with the chaotic traffic for almost an hour before arriving at the tiny street where we were told the shop was. Imagine our chagrin when we discovered that it was market day and the road to the shop was closed!

Almost one-half-mile of the street was jam-packed with street vendors and pedestrians. What were we to do? Inventiveness and toolkits saved the day.

While the shop mechanic, Olkan, rode three of the bikes (one at a time) thru the market and into the shop, three of the GlobeRiders decided to help out and pull off their wheels in the alley 100m away. So there we were, grown men in strange gear, using old lettuce crates and boards to prop up the motorcycles and pull the wheels off in front of astonished locals. We then carried them one by one thru the market to the shop to have the new tires put on and balanced.

In less than three hours we had six new sets of tires and the bikes were ready to go. Teamwork and great attitudes had taken a potential roadblock and made it a very interesting experience. Yves S., Yves G., Rupert, Jason, Enda and I, then rode back to the Blue House Hotel and were ready to start our great adventure. This is one of the reasons I love traveling in new countries. Rarely does something planned ever turn out quite the way you expected, but you always find help along the way and everything usually turns out fine.


If you look carefully in the center of the photo, one of our bikes making its way through the throng at the market.

Jason making his way through the textiles section

For the rest of us, it was "wheels off" in a back alley.

Enda and Rupert, new tires, ready to roll!

Day 05 - 05 May 2007 - Safranbolu, Turkey
Airline ticket to Istanbul - $785.00
Vaccinations for foreign diseases - $850.00
Turkish Visa - $50.00
Donar Kabab - 3 Turkish Lira
Gasoline for the motorcycle - $8.00/gallon

Traveling from Istanbul to Xian, China on a motorcycles with 21 of your newest friends - PRICELESS!!!

I arrived in Istanbul on April 30th and had a chance to rest for a day before most of the others in the group arrived on May 1st. We quickly got to know each other and set off to explore Turkey together.

Turkey is a beautiful country of extreme contrast - from Istanbul with its rich history and high energy to the sleepy country villages that have changed little over the centuries.

From the frantic, crazy and very challenging traffic of Istanbul, dodging pedestrians and cars at a frantic pace, to the relaxed countryside where cows, sheep, dogs and tractors (also used as the family car) are the standard roadway hazards.

But of all of Turkey's wonders and peculiarities, the thing that strikes me the most are the people; beautifully friendly and generous people. We have consistently found the people to be very curious about who we are and where we are from. We stop at a small village for a cup of tea or some gas and it is only a few moments until we are surrounded by a small crowd asking all sorts of questions.

We have stopped to buy gas and are quickly offered to visit for awhile and have some tea. If there is a communication problem, they will call a friend on their cell phone who speaks English and have them translate. We have stopped in small villages to ask for directions, only to have a person jump in their car and ask us to follow them as they guide us out of town and set us on our way again.

One day about a dozen of us stopped in a small village to take a break and have some tea. We were quickly offered tea and the shop keeper would not accept any money from us. Children wave wildly at us as we drive by.

We stopped at a small convenience store thinking it was a restaurant. We asked for food, but were informed that they did not have any prepared meals. So we bought some snacks and drinks and sat out front of the store eating them.

Within a few minutes, the family that owned the store brought out a huge bowl of home-made yogurt and 4 large spoons. We ate what we could and they packed up the rest for us to take on our journey. Again, they would accept no money!!!!

We only have a few more days to enjoy Turkey and it's people and then we are on to Georgia and Azerbaijan and beyond. Turkey's countrymen have set the bar very high with their hospitality. We look forward to the treasures that await us as we venture forward.


Day 6 - 06 May 2007 - Urgup (Cappadocia), Turkey
A GlobeRiders adventure tour is an expensive proposition. Its a lot of time, a very substantial amount of money, and it takes both physical and mental fortitude. We want our clients to enjoy the journey. The best assurance of a good day's ride, is a good night's rest.  Our local travel partners do their best to secure the "best available" accommodations.  Sometimes, they are, well, "quaint", but most of the time, they rate 3, 4 or even 5 stars.

One that I'm sure all our riders will remember is the Yunak Evleri, one of the cave hotels in the fantastic environs of Urgup, also known as Cappadocia. Amidst the twisted and eroded spires of this vast volcanic landscape, Yunak Evleri's rooms are literally carved out of rock.

Although the local Bedrock Cafe and Disco was buried in a landslide last year, our rooms were cool, secure, and vast.  It's a magical place, worthy of a Star Wars movie set.


Helge Pedersen Images from Istanbul, on the Silk Road

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