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Joel Stewart’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 11 Apr 2009

Location: Turkey

Map4/11/09 - 800 km on a bike and only feel over once

Amazingly I have survived riding a motorcycle - I mean a real motorcycle with straddle the seat - shift gears - use a foot brake - the whole friken thing!! The only real mishap was today 3 of us got off on the wrong road and we stopped where the road ended (a good clue it is the wrong road) and I put down the kick stand and leaned over the bike to rest on it - the only problems is that the kick stand was not down (the phantom kick stand as I am now calling it) and the bike kept on tipping and I yell - OH SH*T - and it went all the way over. I crawled out from underneath and one of the other riders picked up my bike and put the real kick stand down. Then the discussion of where the hell were we - where we should go - and finally we called the tour guide but try telling him that we are near 2 minarets in Bidkeget or something and he sort of threw up his hands over the phone. I have a GPS and could get to the hotel we were shooting for but who knows if it was the same as the intended route where everyone else was (2 other motorcycles and a support bus with 4 others in it) and lunch was just an hour down the road - not a time to be the lost duckling from the mom.

After we got a plan we got on the bikes and then my motorcycle wouldn’t start - what do you do if you are lost in turkey with a dead motorcycle? You make another phone call - part of the support group is a mechanic - but again no one knows really where you are. As we got looking (30 minutes later) we discover a loose wire going to the clutch and once we figure out how to connect it the bike starts up and hums like a champ! We are off and running again.

It was a 450 km day today - lovely winding roads with little traffic for 70% of it - and the other 30 was industrial city shit – hard riding.

The first day I did amaze myself with learning to ride a motorcycle and negotiating out of intense traffic jams out of Istanbul. clutch-shift-gas-break-clutch-shift-clutch-shift BREAK BREAK BRAKE shift gas gas gas break break stop shift gas shift - for 2 hours.

That 1st night we were in a hotel in a bland little cluster of suburbs - nice room - but we took our mini bus down to the center of the little fishing village we were in and had beers sitting next to fisherman coiling up their nets in the back of their boats. It was a real slice of Turkish life away from the industry of tourism.

Not so with the hotel tonight - a wonderful room but it might as well be a cruise ship with the industrial processing of tourist for dinner and the pumped up drink prices of 9 lira per bottle to maximize profits.

The group is small - only 6 bikes - and all of them have done from one to 12 other tours with this same guide - Bhutan - India - Nepal - Canada - Morocco- and up and coming Dalmatian Coast. The hotel tonight and some of the other eating places have been tourism central - the only thing different from us coming on a tour bus is that we come on motorcycles. But the scenery is delightful – green rolling hills with orchards and small villages. I probably passed 30 horse carts on the road today - as well as 100 trucks - 75 buses - and thousands of cars. But we did slow down for a herd of cows to cross the road and also passing a herd of sheep with a dog watching close - no idea if they were going to bolt into the road.

The Aussies did their pilgrimage to Gallipoli. War is hell but it seems that nations need defining moments to create the glue of a nation. It did that for both the Aussies and Turks.

Sitting in Seattle it sounded adventurous to be going on a motorcycle riding through Turkey - but now that I am here it is not as distant and the far corner of the world as I had thought. It is not that much different than riding the back roads of Oregon. (of course there is over 3500 km left in the tour so who know what will appear). It is amazing how nice the people are - when we were stopped trying to figure out the route today 5 different people got out of their cars and came over and offered help. People are very nice and always ready with a smile.

Tomorrow Ephesus. Tonight - a well deserved rest.

I am well and finally really getting a kick out of this shifting and braking game.