Chapter 4 – Visas, Tyres and a tug for speeding!


We were hoping to ride from Lake Ohrid (Macedonia) Gallipoli (Turkey) today but knew it would be a long shot given the two border crossings. Having collected bagels and bananas we left town at 0745.

At the Macedonian border they wanted to see our ‘Green cards’ – we didn’t have any. This caused rather a fuss as they couldn’t understand how we’d been let in without them. Obviously the ‘She Devil’ had been a little slack when we’d entered. It was a bit late now though – we were leaving! A stale mate arose and nothing happened for seemingly ages until one of the customs guys mentioned Chelsea. Danny said ‘No, no – Arsenal!’ and following a bit of banter we were on our way. Maybe I’ll have to learn to speak ‘Football’ – not something that comes easily to my family. In a recent e-mail from my sister, following a trip to Barcelona where her and her boyfriend went to see Barcelona vs. Villa Real, she said that ‘Paul was disappointed that ‘Ron someone’ hadn’t played’.

20 miles from the Turkish border we turned off the main road and followed signs for ful to a nearby village. We filled both bikes to the brim but when we went to pay there was a problem with the connection to Visa and so none of our cards worked. Having not planned on spending any time in Greece, neither of us had any euros either. The attendant wanted to phone the police but in the end she agreed to let Danny stay whilst I rode the 25 mile round trip to Alexandroupolis to go to the cashpoint machine. By the time we eventually paid it was too late to tackle the border and so we headed for the campsite I’d passed on my way back to the petrol station. Here we me Phil (AZ) and Audrey (French Canadian). They’d left London a month before us but had done almost 3 times the mileage – in a ‘L’-reg Bedford van (Escort size) complete with snowboards and a surfboard! We all walked into town together for kebabs and a few beers.


The following morning we crossed into Turkey. A good job we didn’t attempt it the previous evening as, despite being friendly, there were no less than five ‘windows’ to visit – all with their own queues and requiring something different. On top of this we had to go to the ‘Visa’ office (20euros) and the ‘Green Card’ office (15euros). Just as we were leaving we were approached by a couple of gorgeous Brazilian backpackers trying to get to Greece; had they been trying to go to Turkey we’d have made a bit of space but as it was we introduced them to a half English/Turkish guy we’d met in the café who would be able to translate for them.

We spent two nights in a scuzzy hotel in Eceabat from where we toured the various Gallipoli memorials. The Turkish one being probably the most impressive  I’ve ever seen.

Turkish Memorial - Gallipoli

We followed the coast road alongside the Sea of Marmara to Istanbul. The road appeared to be undergoing reconstruction and aside from a few trucks we had the road to ourselves. I say road but it was just a gravel track that ran for miles, climbing up and down the cliffside and overlooking fisherman’s spindly jetties, made from what appeared to be (from a distance) bamboo poles and scaffold planks, that jutted out into the sea.

Whilst the driving in Albania had been unbelievably dangerous, in Istanbul they were out to get us! At traffic lights, drivers would squeeze between one of us and the central reservation. If you left just 2 bike lengths between you and the car in front they would fit a car in it. They would look at you, then drive straight at you, pull out in front of you or, best of all, pull up alongside you and ‘move’ you out of the way so they could have your space! Several times we kicked out at cars, narrowly avoiding denting some panel work – shame! And all of this is going on whilst trying to navigate!

After the shock of the price of fuel (approx £1.12 litre) and the price of accommodation (though we would later come to realise this was due to the impending ‘Anzac’ day at Gallipoli) we decided to camp.

Istanbul was an important stopover for us and we ended up spending twelve days there. We had visas to arrange and tyres to source and purchase as well as the Moto GP to visit.

On the first day (Friday) we visited the Iranian embassy only to find it closed (Friday is religious day) we returned on Saturday only to find it closed again (Visa section only open 0830-1130). We eventually gained entry on the Monday and the official we dealt with immediately laid his hands on the fax from the visa agency in Shiraz, Iran that I’d dealt with from the UK. We used the agency to gain clearance from the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They issued a reference number to the agency and our nominated Consulate (Istanbul). We then presented it along with passports, photocopies of our passports, Turkish visas, Pakistani visas, photos and visa application forms in duplicate. We were then given bank chitties to pay 95euros each into the bank opposite. Incredibly, the visas were then issued the following day along with a book about Iran and best wishes for a safe and enjoyable journey.

After two visits to both the British and Syrian embassies we were issued with Syrian visas. Having first enquired about the cost of a ‘Letter of Recommendation’ from the British Embassy (V.tight security – I even had to drink from my waterbottle to prove it was water!) we went to the Syrian Embassy to check the visa requirements and see how long they would take to issue only to miss closing time by 9 mins! We returned the following day and after a flying round trip by taxi to and from the British Embassy, Danny wedged his foot in the door just as they were closing. After a bit of pleading on our part and a bit of ‘tutting’ on theirs, they let us in. The visas were ready to collect the following day.

Turkey would also be the last place we would be able to by tyres before Bangkok. During the planning stages of this trip we had gained a lot of our information from a motorcycle travellers’ website called I sent an e-mail to the registered ‘local community’ of Istanbul asking where to buy tyres and received several replies. We eventually settled on a shop called Genc Motos where we met the owner Genc. He spoke excellent English, his dad has a bike shop in London and 2 years ago he had spent 4 months riding a Yamaha XT600 to Nepal and back. We were caught in a bit of a dilemma over what type of tyres to buy. We needed them to last to Bangkok but we also wanted something more suitable for the dirt roads of Northern Pakistan, especially given some of their precarious locations! We wanted to avoid carrying tyres but we seem to have no choice at the moment as those on the bike will do a few more miles yet. We eventually settled on Metzeler Enduro 3 Sahara’s. Genc had one pair in stock, ordered a second pair to be sent directly from the supplier to our campsite (FOC) and then said that if we returned at 2000 when he closed, he’d give us a lift back to the campsite. We got something to eat and did just that – Top bloke!

During the rest of our time in Istanbul we visited various Mosque’s, Topkapi Palace, the covered bazaar etc. We averaged approx 10 miles walking a day (no exaggeration) despite catching the bus from the campsite into the city.

The Blue Mosque

We won’t bore everyone with the details of getting from Istanbul to the Moto GP, needless to say that the poor number of spectators was purely down to the lack of information available in the City. Even the bus driver went the wrong way on the way there! We collected our passes courtesy of Paul Denning, Suzuki Moto GP Team manager (Thanks Paul) and had a look around the garages before searching out the best place to watch on the Sunday.

Being typical of the new generation of F1 circuits, all the grandstands are so far from the track you need binoculars to work out who’s who and only the grandstands in the vicinity of the start/finish area had big screens (Though we still needed binoculars to read the writing!)

After the hassle of the ridiculously longwinded public transport journey to Istanbul Park we decided to ride the bikes there on raceday. This meant crossing the toll bridge between Europe and Asia. This is the first toll bridge we’ve ever encountered that doesn’t take cash! You can either have a radar fitted to your vehicle or use a rechargeable swipe card. There are no instructions, in any language, to tell anybody this. Unable to proceed through the toll booth, a guy in the car behind explained we would have to park up and walk back to the control office where we could pay the 3 Lira toll. So that’s what we did. Through the booth, set the alarm off, park bikes, walk to office expecting to find ticket booth. No chance. We have to go to controller’s office on top floor, who hand writes two tickets with our registration numbers on and gives us a duplicate copy each! Unbelievable!

We finally got to the circuit settled on the complex before the start/finish straight. A good choice; we were rewarded with the best of the action from 3 three cracking races.

To avoid a 250 mile round trip through Istanbul we decided to cross the Sea of Marmara to Bandirma by ferry. The ferry terminal was only a few miles from the campsite but there were only two a day. Having packed everything barring the tents the previous evening, we got up at 0500 and were at the ferry for 0620 for the 0700 sailing. From here we rode to Pamucak Beach campsite (3 miles from Ephesus) via the Acropolis at Pergamon (Nr.Bergama).

Istanbul - Bandirma Ferry

We’d planned to spend a little more time here than we did. Having spent an afternoon visiting the remains of the ancient city of Ephesus we had planned a day ride to take in the ruins at Priene and Latmos. However, just as we were loading the bikes a thunder storm broke and it poured with rain for hours. Fed up with being eaten alive by mossies at the campsite we left early and rode to Pamukkale (The white pools you see posters of in every kebab shop in England). Here we found a Pansiyon for the same price we had been paying for camping and so stayed for two nights.

Pammukkula Amphitheatre

From where, we rode to our current location in Fethiye, but not without incident. It was an easy 150 mile ride with some great scenery, especially the views down the valleys prior to the decent into Fethiye.

A copper stood in the road and flagged us down; another checkpoint, or so we thought. Not this time; we’d been nicked for speeding. Speeding!! In the middle of nowhere and doing 101 Km/h! He directed us to a picnic table around which 5 other coppers were sitting. None of them spoke English and he wrote down our speed of 101Km/h then showed us a chart stating the speed limit for motorcycles was 70 Km/h. (A Traffic cop in Gallipoli had told us the limit was 90). He wrote down 206 YTL (£90) and indicated this was what we had to pay – each! We refused to pay saying we didn’t have that kind of money and that the speed limit was 90 so his fine was ridiculous for 11Km/h over the top. He led us to his car and showed us a video of us riding. We agreed it was us but again refused to pay. Then he made some % calculation and the fine went up to over 300YTL each. Again we refused to pay. Then he wanted driving licences which we refused to hand over so he demanded passports. Again, we refused to hand these over and I suggested we should all go to the local police station. It was then that he turned around and pointed to the adjacent building with a big sign on the front saying ‘Trafik Polis’ – DOH! He then produced his identity card. I said h should fetch someone who spoke English. He then produced his copy of the previous speeding ticket he’d issued for 206YTL but when Danny tried to see how fast the culprit had been driving he started getting angry. As he started banging his fist on his ticket book so one of the other coppers started speaking to me. He seemed to find it funny that I had no idea what he was saying though I’m sure it went along the lines of ‘You stinking Eeengligh peeg’, ‘Your father was a ‘amster and your mother smells of elderberries’ etc. With that, another one who’d been wandering around the bikes came over and ushered us away. We got on our bikes and rode off! Bizarre!

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snowboard uk
14 years ago

just want to show some appretiation, i visit every now and again to stay with the current news.