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Joel Stewart’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 19 Apr 2009

Location: Turkey

Map4/19/09 - In the home of the Flintstones and Bedrock

The 2nd of 3 days in one hotel - the longest we will stay anyplace. We are in Cappidocia - the cities and monasteries carved into the tuffa cones with a bolder on top - the main pictures that people see of this place is called LOVE VALLEY in the tourist books but here the signs say PENIS VALLEY - it is easy to see where they got the name. A number of the rooms in this hotel are 1/2 carved into rock - mine is not but it has a balcony that overlooks the main ridgeline where many of the old troglodyte homes are. It feels a bit like being in a hotel in the middle of Pompey the center of some sort of ancient history museum.

The mode is fairly festive today. It is the type of humor after an engine on a plane goes out and all land safe - be not all of us did. We started out with 6 motorcycles with 8 riders. Now we are down to 4 motorbikes with 5 riders. The worst one was a couple of days ago when Chris was following the main tour leader along a twisty windy curvy bendy (this is to try to give the impression that there were about 1500 curves in about a mile) and the road was only about a lane and a half wide. On a blind corner a truck was coming at him and it swinging wide into his lane and he was not at the edge of his lane and they crashed. I got there about 5 minutes later and already the tour leader was over him and the military guard that happened to be at that corner were bending over Chris and stopping traffic. He looked bad - it looked like a compound fracture in his left leg and he was knock unconscious and was very dazed. Amazingly with a cell phone an ambulance was there in a half hour and that night after 2 ambulance rides he was into surgery. As it turned out no bones were broken but his foot was totally dislocated and all the soft tissue torn. His wife was in the van that showed up 20 minutes after the accident and they both a very long night but now they are back on the tour and he is in the hotel room with his leg up. After the accident I still had 100km to go before we got to a hotel and you can be sure that I was almost the slowest person on the road being very very careful.

The other motorcycle was a low riding cruiser and had already knocked the oil pan off while getting off a ferry. The oil spilled out and they hit the slick and slid down at about 3 mph. The couple riding it is about 77 years old (and the woman has MS) - after that they didn't really trust the bike and after Chris's accident decided not ride any more and got in the support van. There are some good riders on this trip and I have to remind myself that it is stupid to try to keep up with them. But I am reminded of a time, when I was probably in the 9th grade and trying to keep up with my brother who is 6 years older than me, climbing Hogsback mountain outside of Klamath Falls in southern Oregon - I would be huffing and puffing and dragging along and just catch up with them after they had a 20 minute rest waiting for me and as I got there they said it was time to go, always playing catch up and no real rest.

Turkey is sort of a mix of Italy and Mexico - All the amenities of a 1st world country but some of the poverty and good food of Mexico. 5 or 6 times a day I see a horse cart pulling construction supplies to a 1/2 built house. Unemployment is high and many many men sit in the road side tea shops smoking and talking. Kids wait at the side of the road trying to sell nuts or oranges. Many many little fruit stand and orange shops selling fresh squeezed orange juice for 2 dollars. Some parts of the beach are lined with hotels like Miami or Costa del Sol but you pass 5 or 6 flocks of goats or sheep in a day with the Shepard standing looking at them leaning on a staff. One road hazard the other day was 5 camels jumping out and crossing the road. Drivers are crazy here - there really are no lane and they all think they are driving a Formula 1 race even if they are turning in 400 meters - they just need to be in front of you and to do that they almost bump you with their bumper to get past you or try to tell you to get out of their way. I pull over and wait for the road to be free and try to make it so I can relax and just concentrate on the road and turning rather than being run over from behind.

The only place that I have been that the people are this friendly is Ireland - there they have the gift of gab and a story. Here everyone is friendly and try to talk to me. One big difference here is that I never feel life theft is a problem. The carpet salesman today (though being Turk) is a naturalized US citizen and lives in the Bronx in New York - you get him talking and he forgets to put the Turkish accent on and slipped into New York slang. But they know how to sell hard - at the carpet store when it was apparent that I was not buying they sent a friendly pretty buxom saleswoman out and she said "we have many rooms down stairs that you can see special carpets alone" - with them serving beer and wine I am not sure if I would have been able to get out of there with out a carpet - one woman in our group bought 4 carpets for $12,000 and another woman 1 carpet for $2500 - nice rugs but I am not that domestic and a homebody.

So the country is very varied and beautiful, the people and friendly, the food is good, the weather is stunning, the hotel is a delight, and I am being slow a careful and my goal is to finish the tour staying up on two wheels even if I get to the hotel 3 hours behind everyone else. So far I have 3 invites to go to Australia and many prodding to go on one of the India tours.

Time to take a shower and off to a barbeque and then a "cultural" night - Sufi dancing and all the beer, wine or Raki that I can drink.