The diaries - 3   

28 August

Turkey and in to Iran


Blimey, I never knew I had so many brothers!  We’re just two days in to Iran and it feels like home…. except for the dust and the heat.  We are greeted everywhere we go, cars come alongside and the drivers try to shake hands with you, even when there’s another bugger coming towards us.  Whenever we stop people come to us with fruit, wanting to shake hands.  The Kurds especially so, they will shake hands with Sue and they are quick to point out that they are Kurds, not Iranians.  Religion, beliefs and customs are no barrier here; we all have our hearts in the same place.  As Joe (The Celt) says… Travel is fatal to bigotry and hatred and prejudice.

We had left Gallipoli with warm hearts as we worked our way steadily eastwards.  Sue’s little 250TTR will cruise all day at 45 to 55 miles an hour and this is just fine for me on the F800GS.  I’m showing 78mpg and will do well over 200 miles to the tank full.  We have time to have eye contact with the people, wave and pull in.  But I’d like to know who planned this trip through Eastern Turkey and Iran during Ramadan for there are no café’s or restaurants open.  We feel a little uneasy buying water and biscuits and refreshing ourselves in view of the people, so we find a little shade in the countryside and have our picnic of biscuits and fresh fruit. The temperature ranges from 25 to 36 degrees.

We pull in to the first hotel we see in Adiyaman, it looks expensive.  It is, 170 Turkish Lira a night (about £65) Sue turns it down out of hand.  I smile; I have a feeling we’ll be back.  We spend the next hour and a half looking for another hotel and decide to ride out of town and in to the night. We see Hotel Antioches for the second time and Sue turns in, and smiling at the staff she eats her humble pie most gracefully.

To cross
the lake between Kahta and Bitlis we need to take the ferry.  Traffic has to be ‘backed on’ in order to be able to drive off forward at the other side. A quite simple operation one would think, but not so when it comes to two well laden motorcycles.  We’re in the line and the deckhand directs the beaten up old Renault behind me to reverse up the ramp, but the driver has the clutch control of a Lemming and slides forward down the ramp in to my offside pannier not once but twice and nearly has me in the water.  I told him what I thought of his driving in quaint old fashioned Anglo Saxon, I do believe he understood me.  All the cars and a couple of lorries were now on board before we were able to ride on and turn the bikes round in the garden shed size space remaining.  We had been talking to a Turkish Doctor, who at our suggestion asked the ferryman why he didn’t allow the bikes on first so that they could turn round on the empty deck, tuck well in to the side, be out of the way and be ready for disembarkation.  The roughly translated reply was that this wasn’t the first time he had loaded motorcycles on board.  The Doctor did add though that the guy didn’t seem to be very bright. [Now if this were Fair Isle, the answer would be "Because it's never been done before." DW]

Turkey is undergoing a major road reconstruction programme; it was doing so back in 2005 when we were last here.  Basically all the major, and lots of minor roads, are being widened. Turkey’s infrastructure is being rebuilt. Not as we would know it in the UK though.  Here in Turkey the roads are being widened as the traffic continues to use them.  Mile after mile of loose limestone chippings, deeply rutted in places, huge mountains of limestone to be negotiated, as bulldozers go back and forth oblivious of the traffic trying to dodge them. We see a bus, a lorry and a car all racing towards us vying for the dust free clear visibility of ‘pole position’.  There are no white lines to separate the traffic.  A lorry races past us and we dive in to his slipstream knowing those coming towards us will get out of his way.  We trust to luck because if we slow down we’ll get shunted from the rear for sure.  A maelstrom of dust and gravel is kicked up and we know the oncoming is now behind us.  This isn’t just one incident, this was continuous, for mile after mile … life in the fast lane… Ha!

Now well in to Eastern Turkey, close to the border with Iran, we are heading towards Hakkari.  We near a village and a dog runs from the left hand side of the road and directly under Sue’s front wheel. There’s a helluva thump as the TTR leaps in to the air but Sue manages to stop on the bike, the dog was less fortunate and dropped to the ground motionless.  I guess we should have stopped but Sue rode on for a couple of hundred yards and pulled up.  She was distraught and in tears.  Ten minutes later we continued but it had upset Sue for sure.   Half an hour later she pulled up with intense pains in her chest, she thought she was having a heart attack.  I diagnosed post traumatic stress, I jest not, or indigestion from the fish she had eaten earlier in the day when we had been fortunate enough to find an Armenian restaurant… no Ramadan for them.  Ten minutes later and we’re on the road again, more slowly, but still some 60km from Hakkari, the only place we were going to be able to find a hotel.  The sun was dropping and it would be dark soon.  We had made a pact on our last trip not to ride in the dark on these ventures but today it looked like we
would have to. 

After a road check by the army, who wanted all our details, we road the last 30km in to Hakkari in the dark.

The next day Sue was feeling much better.  We retraced our steps to where the army checkpoint had been, to make our turn for the border crossing with Iran at Serow.  You’ve guessed it, stopped, checked and all our details taken again.

We have our game at Border crossings.  Sue guesses how long it will take; I have to go over or under.  “Three Hours” she says.  I go under and win with a time of 2 ¾ hours.  The crossing was hassle free and smooth, and we found ourselves in Iran.
Trying to leave Orumiyeh, our first stopover in Iran, we seek the help of a young man on a motorcycle who leads us out of town in the direction of Bukan.  It was like something out of the Elvis Presley film.  He looked like Elvis, he preened his hair and checked in his mirrors for pimples as he rode along one handed and carefree, missing the cars by inches.  We followed, stuck to his exhaust like a limpet.  I was singing ‘Wooden Heart’ as we three played dodgems.  The lad pulled up and Sue wanted a photograph of him and in her haste to get it promptly dropped her bike.   ‘One all’ … I had dropped the GS at Mount Nemrut when I lost my footing on uneven ground.

So we had re learnt what we had first discovered in Russia in 2005… when riding into town wave down another motorcyclist.  As we rode in to Bukan this is just what Sue did, and another page is written.

Now in Hamadan after almost four weeks on the road, with not a day off the bikes, over 4,000 miles on the clock, we’re having two or three nights here to chill out, get some washing done and stretch the legs.

We don’t count the hours or days, we don’t count the miles, we’re just riding our bikes to India one day at a time.  We’re in a different world.

PS.  There is no mobile phone signal for us in Iran, but the email working fine.


This TTR250 is a great little bike; she goes all day at the same speed 40 – 50mph with a drop down to 30 above 7000ft. Using a little oil but other than that, touch wood, nothing to report. No bearings to replace – yet. One up to the Japanese then!

The road conditions are abysmal in the main, both of us turning up at hotels in the evening looking like scruffs, covered in white dust; both bikes though are the largest we have seen in Asia where they tend to ride 125 and 200cc’s so when we do ride past there seems to be lots of interest.

We have been doing a little of the tourist bit just lately, visiting historical sites – or ‘bloody castles on hills’ as Mick is fond of grumbling. In Cappadocia we visited an underground city, crawle
d along in a tunnel 3 feet high at best, for what seemed like miles between the chambers. Mick’s technique was to crawl on his hands and knees regularly banging his head, mine was to have hands on the floor, bum in the air – that now has bruises on it too! Emerging from the underground city, which I might add was delightfully cool, the locals squealed with delight as two ageing and scruffy motorcyclists huffed and puffed and tried to straighten their backs.
From Adiyaman we rode first to see the 1st century B.C.Tumulus of King Karakus so I tried to impress himself with a bit of knowledge – Rolf Harris singing about the court of King Karakus wasn’t appreciated. The Roman bridge built by the XVI legion during the reign of Septimus Servus was next, but the piece d’resistance was the 9000ft (baring 500ft which we walked) ride up Mount Nemrut to see the stone heads. The road was awesome in the extreme, up through the gorges, hairpin bends like I have never seen in my life, narrow, steep, melting tar in the mid day sun, unbelievable, I was dreading going back down before I even made it to the top! Incre
dibly the surface evened out about 2 miles from the top and the smoothest block paving you have ever seen had been laid. That was where Mick chose to drop his bike and grind a little corner off his pannier – they are already attaining a genuinely acquired patina!

The first people we met at the top were a family of Kurds from Sheffield. He works at a kebab house on Sheffield Road in Barnsley. I was literally gobsmacked talk about a small world. Lovely people.

Heading east towards Iran there is more of a police and army presence here and the attitude of the men has changed towards me too. The Kurdish men are very open and will greet us both, sha
ke hands, but now the men talk only to Mick and when I mistakenly offered my hand to a young man he recoiled instantly.

As mentioned earlier by Mick, on arriving in Bukan and not being able to find a hotel, I flag a young man down who has two women on the back of his bike and ask him if there is a hotel. None of them understand English but two hands together at the side of the cheek and a quick snore and he gets my meaning. We think he is taking us to where the hotel is and follow. Pulling up outside a gate he intimates that we follow him in – we do – into his concrete garden space.

We are invited to stay the night, we pitch our tent (though he actually wanted us to sleep in the house) and another memorable evening begins. Family members roll in to greet us and we have a picnic on an Iranian carpet in his house that would cost many thousands of pounds back home.

I drift off to sleep later that night chuckling at the absurdity.  We are in Iran, sleeping in the home environs of a Kurdish family – wonder what the news reporters would make of that!