Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Goodbye Turkey
Tuesday 29 May 2012
We were heading towards the Turkey/Georgia border crossing and it was like Turkey was saying “see what I’ve got to offer, you don’t need to leave and go to any other country, there’s plenty for you to see here”. We rode through some of the most amazing scenery we’ve ever experienced.  The mountains towered at either side of us and the river meandered down the valley, cutting its course through the rock.  We felt so insignificant, like ants running down a storm drain. 
 We rounded a corner and the road had been closed. We managed to establish that it would be shut for about an hour so Darren got the stove out to make a brew but a kindly lorry driver had already been to the hut and got us all hot drinks. As the traffic started to tail back, folk were coming out of their cars to come over and have a look at the bikes. This is something that happens everywhere, especially if you keep off the tourist trails, as we do. Darren decided it would be a good idea to have a stone throwing competition and we had to throw a stone and hit the rock on other side of the river. Well, as you can imagine, me and Leigh got about half way across the river but Darren and Iain were getting just short of the rock. One of the Turkish lads in the queue decided he would have a go and promptly threw a stone half way up the rock on the other side: Turkey 1 – England 0. Much hilarity (and excuses!) followed.
                                                                Free tea at the petrol stations
As time was passing, we pulled into the town on Artvin and met a local biker who showed us a hotel to stay in and then met us later and we went for a meal and a drink.
Wednesday 30 May 2012
We left Artvin to head for Posof where we were meeting up with Will to cross over into Georgia. The crossing was easy and we stopped in the first town and a bloke came over to chat. We asked about a hotel with parking and he jumped in his car and showed us the way. It’s very new, no sign and somehow it’s ended up with 4 of us in one room and Will in a room by himself! Again they’ve gone so far out of their way to accommodate us, it’s unreal! Also, the lightning tonight has been spectacular - no rain, no thunder , just a light show to remember. As beautiful as it is, I do prefer a sunny day.

Monday, 28 May 2012

We love Turkey!

We arrived in Istanbul, through the manic traffic, to a very warm welcome from Adil and Mehmet of Istanbul Bike Club. We were able to leave our bikes in their clubhouse and rent an apartment up above.  The following day, Mehmet gave us a guided tour of Istanbul, taking in, amongst other things, The Blue Mosque, The Grand Bazaar and The Spice Bazaar, all in glorious sunshine. Now, we’re not lovers of cities but we really enjoyed Istanbul, for as big as it is, it never really felt too crowded.  Belle and Nadine arrived that night too – it was great to see them again after the Scoots trip. The next day was Adil’s birthday but he gave his day up to take us places – nothing is too much trouble for these guys. At night there was a birthday party and we met lots of the club members. When it comes to bikes, language (or the lack of it) is not a problem.  There were other things we wanted to see in Turkey so we left the bike club the following day, taking the ferry out of Istanbul (easier and much prettier than riding the motorways) and arrived in Asia!
We headed down to Goreme, which is the next town to Cappadocia. On the way down, we came across this amazing site.
The area of Cappadocia is famous for the caves in the rocks. They are amazing. 

 From there we headed down to Sanliurfa where we’d meet Enkar and Hussan. We were given their details by Mehmet in Istanbul and Enkar came and met us and took us to Hassan’s house where he kindly let us stay. On the ride down we came across an accident where a lorry had gone off the road (carrying a combine harvester - bet you're all singing The Wurzels now!). Now, the crane was trying to lift the wreckage and folk are just wandering around, under the arm, stopping on the other side of the road and coming over for a look and no one cared. We didn’t want to sit too long so Darren asked the kind policeman if we could just ride round the lorry in the drainage ditch and as he drew on his cigarette, he just nodded and waved us on.  Such a relaxed outlook. We also keep getting free tea and coffee at garages we stop at, whether we are buying anything or have just stopped for a rest.
We visited Gobleki Tepe which archaeologists are working on. It dates back to 10000 BC – 12000 years old! We then head for Mount Nemrut which is renowned for the figures just below the summit. We arrived in the car park just as sun was setting and there was no way we’d be up and down before dark so we stayed up there. 4am next morning, we were up and climbing the final ascent to the summit to watch the sunrise, which was absolutely breathtaking (as was the climb!). It was well worth the effort. Once the sun was up, we were able to have a good look round at the figures. It must be amazing for archaeologists to make these finds.

We are well on the way north now and we hope to be in Georgia in 2/3 days time.
Turkey has been a constant surprise for us both. The country is stunning but also the warmth of the Turkish folk is never ending. Thank you to you all for making our Turkish journey so wonderful.

Thursday, 17 May 2012


We left Poland in a blaze of sunshine! We crossed the border into Slovakia through the mountains. The area is a ski resort and the roads were real fun. Into Slovakia we continued to be blessed with lovely scenery and weather.  The last time we travelled through Slovakia we stuck to the motorway – boring – but this time it was a real treat. Into Hungary and the weather and temperature took a nose dive. Thankfully we didn’t have to far to ride to reach our destination for that evening – Magyar Route 66 Biker Guesthouse and Campsite. The site is in Szilvasvarad and is run by a Dutch guy called Leen. When we arrived, he was out taking his Hungarian visitors on a bike tour but arrived shortly after.   The site has a swimming pool, a bar area, a grill area – it has everything you need! Leen brought us a welcome beer and after tea we joined him and his friends for a drink. We were given a shot of some Hungarian drink. They only gave us a small shot, which I think was wise!
In the morning, we set off in our waterproofs as it was still damp and cold. We headed straight for Romania. Just through the border and we met a couple with familiar accents – they were originally from Consett - just down the road from Sunderland.  Romania is a beautiful country. It also has a lot of stray dogs roaming around. They tend to ignore cars but for some reason the sound of the bike must anger/excite them and they chase you. Now that may sound funny but having experienced it the last time we were in Romania, it can be quite daunting. Having a barking hound chasing you – you’re trying to get away from the dog, watch the road, watch the Romanian drivers, not get the dog under your wheels.  On one occasion this time I thought the dog was going to leap onto the sidecar! On the other side, some of them are quite cute and I forget that they are manky and stroke them (then wash my hands). With the amount of dogs roaming around there is the inevitable road deaths and I still find it difficult when we see dead dogs lying at the side of the road.
The Transfagarasan Pass was beckoning and we stayed at a campsite just a few km north of the start.  The campsite owner told us the pass was shut. It was due to open on 15th May (the next day) but it was staying shut longer. We went up anyway and as expected the ‘closed’ sign was up. We spoke to one of the souvenir shop owners and he said it was closed due to snow further up but that we could go up and take a few photos then come down so that’s what we did and it was well worth it. The road was littered with rock falls and snow was covering half the road in places but the views are out of this world. We got up to just over 5000 feet before rounding a corner and being met with snow on both sides of the road. It had been cleared but snow had slipped from higher up and came down and blocked the road again.  This now means we will have to come back to Romania at a later date so we can do the pass.
 Leaving Romania we had torrential rain accompanied by lightning – beautiful but a wee bit scary too! As we entered Bulgaria there was no let up in the weather and it continued all the way to Moto camp Bulgaria in Idilevo, where we were meeting up with Will. By the time we arrived there the thunder was also filling the air. I don’t think I’ve experienced thunder and lightning that went on for so long. We were greeted by Polly, Ivo and Peach and of course Will. Polly put the heater on in our room while we had a cuppa to warm up and we enjoyed our first evening in Bulgaria in lovely company. We are hoping also to catch up with some other friends while we are here but they have had real weather problems coming down the other side of Europe,  Darren and Leigh have had their tent wrecked in the storms – so not sure if we’ll see them or not. Belle and Nads were to be coming here but have had to change their route after being stuck in Sarajevo due to snow so hopefully we’ll catch up with them in Istanbul.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Wandering Willies Win!

We boarded the ferry, dumped our stuff and then straight up onto the deck to watch the shores of North and South Tyneside disappear and to wave goodbye to the good folk that had come to see us away.  We then went to the bar where a quiz was just about to start. We’ll have a go at that we thought and would you believe it, the wandering willies (for that was us) won! A bottle of champagne the welcome prize. Will opened it, the cork stotted of the roof then my head!!

3 ladies came over and asked if we were Iain + Debz, now this is the second time complete strangers have approached and called us by name (the first being in The Gambia) and I can tell you, it’s strange but brings a smile to our faces! They were from the Harley Davidson club if Utrecht and had been to Scotland and stayed with friends of ours, Andy & Maya. They had filled them in our trip and told them to look out for us.
From Holland, through Germany and into Poland. We were headed for Oswiecim to visit the Museum of Auschwitz.  What a moving experience. We’ve all seen the documentaries about this place but to actually stand looking at piles of peoples belongings, knowing their fate, is like nothing either of us have experienced before. I could type for hours about what I saw today but I don’t feel my words would do it justice.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Well, it’s here! We leave the UK today and have no idea when we’ll be returning. I can tell you, it’s a funny old feeling.  

Yesterday was spent making last minute adjustments to the bike. On Saturday, Jeff had managed to get us the exact size of rear tyre that we needed so the task was to get that fitted. First of all it had a puncture so Iain whizzed it over to a local tyre place and got it sorted (I have to point out that it’s a car tyre, not a bike tyre otherwise he’d have mended it himself) and then he fitted it. Great. Not so. With the wider tyre it was catching the mud guard and the exhaust. Out with the hack saw and the mud guard was appropriately fashioned and the exhaust and pannier rail were put right. It was a late night. 

It’s 6.50am, Peter’s been in with our morning cuppa for the last time. We’re doing last minute packing. We’re both quite calm at the moment but that may change when we get down to the bike and try and get everything in! 

So the next time we update you we’ll be in Europe and the adventure will well and truly have begun.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

It’s nearly time for us to leave this green and pleasant island and embark on a journey which we’ve dreamt and talked about endlessly. I would say we have been very lucky in the last couple of years and have been able to use events, which were very much out of our control and would normally be a cause for concern, to our advantage.  Our pint glass is always half full now......personally, I’d rather it was ‘all the way’ full but that’s just because I like beer!

The trip will take us through Europe down to Bulgaria to meet a few friends who have their own trips on the go.  From there it’s through Turkey, Russia, Mongolia and then back into Russia.  From the east coast of Russia it’s a long swim (probably via South Korea) to Seattle or Vancouver. From there, at the moment, it’s south basically.

The bike is a BMW R100GS PD with a Hedingham ETH sidecar attached. We’ve had it for a few years now and it is so much fun.

As we’ve been using the bike, there have been things that Iain has decided he’d like to change and as prep for this journey he’s stripped the bike down and made those changes.  For pics of the re-build, follow this link:

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

March 2012

It’s been a hectic few months for us in the lead up to this trip, our own fault as we decided it would be a great idea to accompany 12 other (daft?) folk on a charity trip down to The Gambia.  Why daft I hear you ask – because 8 of us were on Honda C90’s and 4 on Chinese copies of the C90, Iain driving the back-up vehicle and John running around filming us!  Not daft at all because these bikes provide a lifeline at Bansang Hospital ( where the bikes are used to, amongst other things, visit patients in outlying villages and to collect blood.  For this self funded trip, we rode the scooters ( from the UK to Bansang and then donated them to the hospital.  We also spent a couple of days at the hospital seeing the bikes in use and helping out where ever needed at the hospital.  The whole experience touched every single one of us.  We also made some very good friends along the way!  Most of the group flew back after the 4 week trip but we’d agreed to travel back overland with Dennis, lasting another 2 weeks.  Arriving back in the UK with only 2 weeks to get ourselves sorted for this trip.  The trip was superb but it’s been harder than we thought to get everything done and the intended departure date has already slipped by a few days.  Fingers crossed there are no more delays.

From back L-R: Gordon Sinclair, Belle Sinclair, Nadine Holfter; Carolyn Barns, Sue White, Mark ‘Finbarr’ Denton; Peter ‘Naughty Boy’ Darke, Mike ‘Mr Clean’ White, Dennis Robinson, Debz Simpson;  John Hunter, Will English, Iain Patterson and Anita Smith