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Silk Road Adventure 2011

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Chapter 01 Dispatch from Len Adams

We left the Greek border with our passports stamped thinking we are in Turkey.  We quickly realized when we saw the Turkish flags and soldiers that we had only just begun our customs procedure.  It took a visa purchase, three more check points and greetings from a fellow rider from Romania and two gentlemen from Georgia.  We were now in Turkey on our way to Istanbul.  On the way we stopped for gas at 4.29 TRY or $2.68/ltr.  All gas stations have attendants and this was the first time I have been offered tea after a fill up.  We arrived at our hotel the long way through the heart of town after missing a turn on our GPS. Istanbul has many steep narrow cobblestone streets with busy traffic.  


The official part of our tour had now begun.  We met the first evening for a initial meeting to explain the next couple days and what to expect from customs. The plans were set for the "Overlanders" to go and have oil and tires changed, while the "Boat People" would head to the port for an estimated long day of paperwork.  We were to have our welcome dinner that evening, but no riders, no bikes and only a message our dinner was delayed until the next day.  The next day we enjoyed a tour of the town while the "Boat People" enjoyed a second relaxing day at the port working on retrieving their bikes.  We were all quite relieved to see the boys with smiles and bikes a few minutes before dinner.  


Our first riding day was wet but it was nice to be on our way.  We made our way to the ferry and we had a couple quick issues right away with a bike that did not want to start and a small electrical fire.  Helge and Kaz our fixer, guide, translator and all around great guy was able to get us going and we made our ferry.  With all the effort at customs the Overlanders did not get to attend "GPS" school.  Helge loaded our GPS's with the tracks for the trip and gave us very detailed instructions.  Turn on the GPS and follow the green line to Xian.  Sounds easy, more on that later.  Even with the rain it was a great ride through the back roads through mountains, around lakes and we found ourselves at another great hotel complete with narrow cobblestone lanes and parking area.  The hotel in Bursa was awesome complete with a spa.  So far no roughing it.


Day two after the call to prayers over the loud speaker we were up and keen to ride.  This was scheduled to be a longer ride of 464km.  Jeff and I set out first thing to get the best light for pictures and headed out on the green line to Xian.  We had a killer morning ride and stopped to take a picture overlooking a large blue lake.  Jeff checked the GPS to get the name of the lake.  To our surprise we had traced the green line from the previous day and were headed back to Istanbul.  So after a quick u-turn we traced our way back to the starting point after our 120k pleasant detour.  This side trip added a couple hours to the day and we were now at the tail end of the field.   Shortly after returning to the start we found Helge behind us as we headed down a dirt path that would start intended ride for the day.  Within a few hundred yards there was a mud section of the road that was very slick.  A couple of us in different groups decided to inspect the mud much closer than the others.  Or leader met up with us to find me picking up my bike. Being ever so helpful he immediately jumped off his bike to ensure he got a good photograph.  But no harm after the soft landing and we decided to follow our fearless leader down the trail for additional mud training.  Helge sped ahead easily carving through the trail.  Jeff and I reached the next technical section to find our leader with his camera at the ready to see if we learned our lessons well.  However this time the tip worked and we proceeded without incident.  


Our couple miscues turned into a real windfall as we were able to ride with Helge for a few hours and stopped to deliver pictures he had taken on previous tours and meet several people thrilled at the gesture.  It seems like each experience connects to the next with silver linings behind every cloud.  Our day ended at Safranbolu, an old Ottoman town that is a UNESCO heritage site.  We stayed at an old caravansaray or ancient camel motel.  After dinner in the inner courtyard it was off for an early night.


Day three was another longer riding day that led us though some tight mountain switchbacks and led us down through a town with the weekly market in full swing.  We arrived at our hotel in Cappadocia famous for the striking volcanic landscape. Our hotel has stunning views and we enjoyed a couple beverages with the boys as they came in.  The highlight of Cappadocia came the next morning at 0430 when we awoke to the call to morning prayers and headed out for a ballon ride.  Balloon rides are a big deal in Cappadocia as each day 1000 people fly in over 60 balloons.  This was a photography paradise, sunrise, colourful balloons over the volcanic landscape.  The morning finished with a glass of champagne before we headed back to the hotel for our luxury breakfast.


Week one has been quite something.  Stunning scenery of Turkey, hundreds of kilometres of switchbacks, twisties through the mountains and many sights to take in 24/7.  It is good to get to know the other members of the group.  Everyone is getting along well and there are quite a few laughs and stories over an "Efes" at the end of the day.






Chapter 01 Dispatch from Randy McClanahan

May 6, 2011.


First two days spent waiting at port to get bikes.  Finally cleared customs at 6:00 pm on day two.  So, we had no opportunity to see any sights in Istanbul.  Disappointing, but glad to finally be on the road.  Currently the "road" is a ferry crossing the Bosporus Straight. Goodby Europe, hello Asia!


May 7.


Arrived at Bursa, Turkey.  Much larger than I expected.  2.5 million people.  Rained all day.  One accident.  Fred fell in a switchback. Broken heel.  He is headed home. I'm bummed.  Wanted to get to know him.  Oh well.  Turkey is beautiful and the people are very friendly.  The people and small villages are right off the postcard!  In the attached photo, I thought I had run into Dan, Cliff, Bill and Dick.  Turned out to just be some locals who looked exactly like them!


May 8


Beautiful ride today.  Long, some mud.  My battery is  dead.  Will have to jump it until get new one can be arranged.






Sent from my iPad





Chapter 01 Dispatch from John Oates

I arrived in Istanbul via the croatian coast a few days early and had a great time checking out the town. There was a lot going on, in addition to the great historical sites like the Blue Mosque and Sophia Hagia, I got to see a soccer rally on Istikal street, watched a massive march across the Galata Bridge (and the riot police response), late night parades with full bands, a Hidrellz( Gypsy/spring festival with fire in the street, music, dancing and fire jumping- just a ton of energy in this town. The tour started on May 3rd with the first few days in Istanbul so we could meet each other, sight see and get our bikes through customs and all sorted ahead of our long journey. Several of us had new tires fitted and fresh oil put in our bikes on the 4th and took some tours on the 5th while the others spent 2 full days trying to clear customs.


Friday the 6th we rolled out of the garage to begin, first stop a ferry ride across the Marmara sea just a few miles from the hotel. Aside from some rain, one bike that wouldn't start and one that caught fire, everything was moving along. Off the ferry in Yalova and on to Bursa for the night via Iznik. Some great roads in the hills and despite the weather it was good to finally be on our way. There was one unfortunate tip over on a tough hill ending the journey for one just as it has begun.


Saturday we headed out to Safranbolu and stayed in an old Camel hotel, very cool place and really set the mood for the silk road. Long day as we all ended up scattered across the route. Enroute Pawel noticed his bike had oil leaking out of the engine. With Helge's help we figured out both of our bikes were overfilled during the oil change in Istanbul. So Pawel and I decided to have an impromptu demonstration on how to drain oil from your motorcycle at a road side gas station in the laziest manner possible. We took a non traditional approach and armed with state of the art tools- a plastic bag, paper towel and a torx wrench. Messy, but it worked. Randy's battery died, tethering him to Helge for the rest of the day so he can get a jump start every time he stops his bike. Some challenging roads, with some mud and dirt- all but two unnamed people took the prescribed path. As for the other two, we (umm, I meant they) took the long way around. No major mishaps, a few splash downs in the messy stuff but everyone made it in one piece, albeit later than planned. Went for a Turkish bath, and that's all I really feel comfortable saying about that.


Sunday we made out way to Cappadocia for a few nights. Good, uneventful ride, great weather and stunning views. Woke up exceeding early to take a contour ballon ride through the area as with the ballon hugging the valley walls. We'll worth the sleep deprivation. Check out Cappadocia online it's really unique.






Chapter 01 Dispatch from Nick Gudewill

Day 1
Friday, May 6th- this was a wet, short excursion to Bursa which is famous for being the first capital of the Ottoman Empire and is a city of about 2 million. We got a 90 minute ferry to Yalova on windy and choppy seas. It was good that it was a short day (about 250 km) because it was cold and wet and some of the terrain was difficult to ride especially it being our first day.  Driving into Bursa was challenging because we were all a bit rusty with the gps and finding the out of the way hotel was a challenge especially with lots of traffic.  We arrived and unpacked and headed for a few beers and dinner in a private dining room. It was a sumptuous affair and we were all asked why we had chosen to come on the Silk Road in the first place. There were some entertaining responses and we all got a good feel for each other.


Day #2
Sat, May 7th- we were up bright and early for about a 500 km day which is a longish ride on a motorbike. The hill country was spectacular though and we drove through many mostly subsistence rural communities dependent on animal herding such as sheep and goat with a few cattle and some crop growing.  We were ably led by Randy until his battery died and he had to wait for our sweeper Helge to come and do his magic.  Mac, Chris, Nicolas and I headed off on our own and promptly took a wrong turn. It was getting late and cold and we had to take a side road detour which we were very careful on. Arriving at Safranbolu we got separated in traffic and had to fend for ourselves. It was quite a trick because the Cinci Han Hotel is an old 16th century camel stopoff- one of 250 in the country (they travelled 20 miles per day in those days) located in a very old part of town distinguished by a lot of walking tourist traffic and cobblestone streets. I came up this narrow incline lane to turn the corner where the hotel supposedly was and had to navigate three posts in the way to prevent car traffic from going there. It turned out to be the alternate approach! It is hard to explain but it was a real test of determination for Nick with nearly all the other riders milling and socializing below outside of this charming old place. With all eyes on me I had to summon considerable courage and manoever this 550 lb bike around the tight corner and down the hill. Thank goodness I had not re-fueled because the 1200 GS Adventure holds 33 litres which is about 50 lbs at a high point on the bike. Suffice to say I managed just fine but it was kind of a personal test for me after a long, tiring day.  That evening we had our usual meeting, a few beers with dinner and then several of us retired to a Turkish steam and rub down which was heaven.


Day #3
Sun May 8th- this was an equally long day in terms of the 500 km ride but the last 40% was a dream on gently swerving fast roads and we were able to get in to the old town of Uchisar and stay at the Argos Hotel in reasonably good time. The hotel is an incredible place at the top of a hill over looking the Cappadocia area and we had a sumptuous dinner and then a meeting where several safety issues were appropriately brought up.  Helge has quite intelligently taken us on a counter clockwise rotation around Ankara before heading east to points as yet unknown. This is my observation only but I think it has cleverly given him an opportunity to assess his crew, iron out any problems and check on the condition of all the bikes because we have a long way to go. It looks to me like we have a good group of experienced riders but Randy says wait for a month when everyone's carefully hidden warts all start to come out- can't wait!

By the way, there are 85000 mosques in Turkey and at 4:30 in the morning it sounds like they are all going off at once! Glad I my ear plugs firmly in place.

Better get this off and hope it is not too long winded!!







Chapter 01 Dispatch from Mac McCaulley

Great trip so far.  Will have to return to Istanbul someday.  


Lost a day waiting for the bikes...a couple of years ago MUCH money passed into drawers at the port and after a HUGE bust all agents are now in camera sight and all seven steps and signatures HADE to be accomplished.  Also, our vehicles are probably worth twice over here and also governments want to collect import duties for all vehicles sold in their country.  The port had never had motorcycles shipped to their country and not sold in the country.


The Turkish government also likes to tax.  Because most people work and do not pay taxes the government charges a ton on gasoline.  Would you believe that we are paying $10  for a gallon of gas. America quit complaining !!


Great weather so far.  Just a few raindrops following our ferry ride from Istanbul.  Two great hotels so far.  One was an old camel hotel and another was a cave hotel in Cappadocia. Today's highlight was visiting a Hittite ruins when they controlled  almost the entire mid east from 1800 BC to 1200 BC !!


Many more countries to come but Turkey is a winner !!





Chapter 01 Dispatch from Pawel Chrobok

The week started out a bit bumpy.  The guys that shipped their bike to Istanbul had trouble getting their bike through customs.  Those of us the rode to istanbul got our tires and oil changed.


On our first day of riding we took a ferry across the sea Marmara. It was raining all day but aside from one bike fire, one dead bike and one really unlucky tip over the the trip got off to a relatively good start.


On our second day John and I stopped for a break and realized that our oil had been over filled in Istanbul. Instead of taking the time to remove our skid plates and crash bars to open the drain plug, we put our bikes on their side stands and loosened the valve covers.  This is much faster but very messy and definitely not something that BMW would endorse.  The first time I started the bike with the valve cove loose it squirt oil all over the place but we accomplished what we wanted (See the photo that Helge posted).


So far the riding has been outstanding.  We are very luck to have Kaz as our guide in Turkey.  He is also a rider and his choice of roads and routes has been great. Not to mention he is a great guy and his knowledge of Turkish history is phenomenal.


The roads over the last few days have ranged from single lane local roads to large two lane divided highways. John and I had a little run in with the Turkish authorities on one of the big roads. We were happily riding on one of the divided highway and got caught in a speed trap. There is an old law in Turkey that says motorcycles can not drive faster then 70km/h and we were well above the limit. (for my mother's sake I will not say how fast we were going) But we made the best of the situation and had some fun with the cops. My fine was 290 Turkish lira and John's fine was 160 lira.


The group is a good mix of guys from various places and backgrounds. This is going to be a great trip.



Sent from my iPad


P.S. If you would like to follow along with Pawel's journey please visit his personal weblog by clicking here.





Chapter 01 Dispatch from Helge Pedersen

Istanbul greeted the GlobeRiders Silk Road Adventure 2011 team with joy and hardship nicely wrapped up in a big blue container. The red tape took us by surprise considering the look and feel of a modern looking Istanbul harbor. For two full days we had to go through the hurry up and wait game, totally ridicules stuff when you think about it. Just for us to be able to enter the harbor to retrieve the bikes a permit had to be issued and no less than 7 offices ending at the top boss of the harbor signed this permit.


While this were going on those that had ridden their bikes in from northern Europe enjoyed all the good stuff Istanbul has to offer. They had passed the land border between Greece and turkey in a mater of minutes compared to our 2 days ordeal. The Blue Mosque, Sofia, spice bazar, grand bazar kept them entertained while they tour this wonderful city.


As if we had not had enough excitement the first days in Istanbul our first day on the road made for even more drama. To get fast out of town we were to take a ferry across Marmara and that ferry left at 8:30am. At 8am the group left our hotel while Dan desperately tried to trouble shoot his KTM 990 Adventure that would not start. Ignition problems he told me when I rushed after the group to fetch Kaz so that he could return to help a fellow KTM rider in need. On the way to the ferry I met Chris on the edge of the road jumping up and down of excitement after his bike had caught fire. Very excited he told me that flames had shot up at him from the front of the bike down by the fork tubes. A quick look and I could see that the accessory lights had melted cables and exposed copper cables. No problem I told Chris, just get to the ferry. Lucky for him the bike was still running.


Dan got his bike running and just made it to the ferry in time for departure. Later he told me that the problem came as a result that he had switched to his new spare key that morning and that was the fault of the problem that he had. Apparently KTM spare keys need to be coded in a certain manner before they are recognized by the bikes ignition.


The first miles of the riding this morning was rather wet, but still it was good to be on the road again. I had on my brand new Klim Badlands Pro riding suit. It was quite a baptizing for this suit and I let it have all the rain that came my way. It did perform great and I took note of some of the new great features that I never had seen in other riding suits that I have owned. I can not talk about the suit in more detail right now as I am testing a suit that is not yet a final production sample.


I think that there is a saying that when it rains it poor’s. Not quite figuratively, but close enough in this case. We had just left the main highway and started to climb a steep mountain road when I came up on a group of our riders loading Fred’s bike in to our support vehicle. A chill went down my spine and I could not park fast enough to find out what had happened. Fortunately Fred was doing OK, just a sprained ankle I were told. To make a long story short Fred’s bike had fallen on his right foot when he fell going up a steep hill. The bike had stalled and Fred had nowhere to put his foot on the steep hill. After a visit to a hospital in Bursa the doctors determined that Fred’s heal needed surgery and unfortunately that meant that the Silk Road Adventure was over for Fred.


It was very sad for all of us to loos such a great team member this early in the journey, but so is life at times. We continued our riding through some beautiful countryside as we slowly, but surely worked our way East towards Georgia. I am writing you these words from beautiful Cappadocia where the group went Hot Air Ballooning this early morning. I followed by bike and took lots of pictures of dozens of balloons floating above the incredible landscape of Cappadocia.


The weather has finally turned to the better and we are getting in to the rhythm of being on the road.


Until next week,


Helge P.


Helge's Photo Gallery


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