Eastern Europe and the Middle East
-Go to May Log-
1st June 2010
In a hostel in Belgrade tonight, we rode all day in pouring
rain and then couldn't find somewhere to stay in a city with 51 hostels!
Then bike 38 ran out of fuel, then all the restaurats were
Oh well, we cooked dinner in the hostel instead.
days with Mijo have been much fun. Croatia is such a stunning place. Tomorrow we head to Bulgaria, for good fetta
rain scheduled too which will not be fun but at least we have a dry room tonight so should be able to get suits,
boots and gloves dry...
our ‘gay’ European diversion…
Whoa, shit, what
The steering stop
on the lower clamp whacks the frame on the left, then again, this time on the right side. We all know what
this means… (Everyone except my Mum that is)
The bike lurches as the rear wheel breaks loose, I’m caught out; caught ‘napping’ as Mr. Kevin Magee would say.
Wheel spin is something you become accustomed to with 100 horsepower, and indeed on dirt it happens as often as you
like. On bitumen however, it’s a whole different story… and don’t get me started on the madness that is a Turkish
For a moment my
brain struggles with a sideways motorcycle on a busy motorway, and in particular, how has this come to be? It
matters naught at this point, as another rescue bid is well and truly in full swing.
drama, it’s always drama with you Paul” I can hear you guys saying…and right you are. I’m a right pain in the
proverbial; if only you knew the full extent of near ‘trip enders’; I report as much as I think my Mother can cope
with, but will fill you in personally on a sunny Sunday afternoon at The Ed, in a few months. Anyways, back
to the freakin’ story, hey…
Dean’s gone, a
few miles up the motorway by now, for he had the good fortune of finding (or making) a small gap in the
convoy of twenty or so enormous Missile Launchers trundling along at 100ish k’s per hour. “Missile
Launchers?” you say in disbelief, “What the?” That’s exactly what we said…
The plan when
travelling is always to stay close, so with Istanbul looming, a city of 14 million people, my immediate
instinct is to embrace the philosophy of safety in numbers, and find my Bro.
Patiently I wait
for a space in the Army Green façade, and moments later it arrives. Down two gears and a generous twist; that
should do it. Unfortunately this is when things turned a little green, the shade of green found on pears...
In a moment I’m sideways and in disbelief. ‘Diesel’ I’m thinking, ‘there’s diesel on the road, or oil, or
something, fuck it, what’s happening?’ as the steering stop whacks the frame again. Somehow I manage to straighten up and aim it for
the verge, unwillingly the enormous orange motorcycle complies, and the howl from the rear tyre, as the noise
from the wind drops away, confirms that “Diesel”, it was not.
Freeway flats are
something that play on my mind regularly, to be honest it scares the shit out of me. The more tired I get,
the more I contemplate the myriad of ‘what if’s’. We’ve been maintaining a steady 140k’s per hour on
motorways recently; this is not outrightly fast on road tyres, however aggressive off road tyres make it a challenge to
keep an already badly behaved bike in a straight line. Suffice to say, a blowout mid corner at speed could
end badly… drama, drama, drama, ‘Shut up Paul, get on with the story…’
I make it to the
verge, in a manner far from ‘as the crow flies’ and I’m shaking. My hands, my legs, I feel like my body is
vibrating. What gives? I’ve crashed a hundred times before, sometime three times in one day… but never
before, 40k’s out of Istanbul, on a busy freeway, on the trip of a lifetime, and certainly not without the
protection of a full Kangaroo Hide suit. Big difference, and as Naga from Ndola would say, “Big Problem”
(He’s the guy who offered to get us a pistol for our attempt at the Congo)
Resigned to the
fact that the verge and I will be friends for the next hour or so, I start to unpack the tools, pump and
repair kit, with turbo charged diesel engines buzzing me as if for fun. I start to think about a conversation
I had with P Murray shortly before we left home.
“I’ve told the
Missus a thousand times” he said. “If you get a flat on the freeway, don’t stop! I don’t care how far you
have to drive it on the rim, just don’t stop on the edge of the road.” Good
Quickly I remove
the right rear pannier and after a bit of a struggle, manage to get it on the center stand; usually a 2
person job. The aluminium box then gets jammed under the swing arm to keep the rear tyre off the ground. Then
it’s a nervous two minutes as my attention is allocated equally to the job at hand and at the traffic that
steadily streams towards me. Rear wheel in hand, I scurry towards a nearby storm water drain to repair the
offending tube, safe from the menacing freight carriers and their heavy loads.
A guy on a small
bike pulls up and says “ djhfergf jghr bgyewhjro ndbjhrt?” I figure this means ‘are you ok’ and I point to
the tools and electric pump. He seems satisfied by this, and we give each other the thumbs up. I’m sure he,
like pretty much everybody else we meet, wanted to roll up his sleeves and give me a hand… but somehow
thought the better of it…it must be the “don’t touch my fucking shit” vibe I give
This is the first
puncture I’ve had since our double header in Fungorume, in the Congo, so I’m not really upset by it. Rather,
in comparison, it’s not a bad experience. Repairing a tube, close to civilization and guaranteed cold beer,
at my own pace and without an audience, left me feeling strangely strangely
I send Dean a
text to let him know that I’m moving again, (doing a U Turn on that highway was a virtual impossibility, so
he continued on to Istanbul to try to find a hostel) and his reply is the first clue I have as to what is to
…copied from my
“exit after toll
booth to ‘ottogar’ than straight until brown sign for ‘sultanamet’. Follow signs for sultanamet. I have just
past ferries, still moving. Lost my wallet. Pooh. Good luck!”
forgot to mention that there’d be a brown sign that said ‘sultanaman’ when we planned this trip. Let me
guess? You’ve met some prepubescent child that wants to go for a ‘coffee’ with me too. Great, the trip that
goes from retarded to retardeder!
“Ok Follow signs
to sultanahmet and call me when you get there. (this is my favourite bit) it’s on this Europe side of the
water between europe and asia, on the right hand side, as far as you can go”
want a coffee, why didn’t you just say so?
By some miracle I
found the brown sign and rode for 20 k’s into what seemed like a ‘Choose your own Adventure’ story book. It
was MENTAL to the power of a million. Imagine Sydney, fresh from breakfast with the Bulgarian Weightlifting
team, then times it by 10. I shit you not, it’s enormous.
So… short story
long, we found a room and cold beer and some tourists eager to hear out tales of woe from the Congo, life was
Well, for the
most part our escape from Africa was uneventful, and our progress through Europe felt comparatively like a
‘transport stage’. It was great to spend some time with the relatives, and we left Italy well rested and more
importantly, well feed. Thanks to our Zia Maria Rosa for her usual, albeit untraditional, relaxed style of
hospitality. She was also so kind as to see us off with a pannier full of bread, cheese and salami which made
for some great and stress free lunches for days to come… It was also great to see our cousins, Chiara and
Alberto, and for the first time meet Alberto’s son, Leone, who we took for his first motorbike ride…we later
joked, ‘poor kid, we’ve ruined him, he’ll be making broom vroom noises in his
Our Zio Luciano
and his wife Luigia entertained us for an evening, recounting stories of growing up and the madness that the
Clan of 7 Martinello’s got up to in a small town called Loria, in the northern Veneto region of Italy. It was
great rolling into his driveway, seeing him with his head in his hands saying “..ma tuzie, siu matti?” in a
thick Veneto dialect. This loosely means, “..but kids, are you crazy”
So Kent, I challenge your appraisal
of our European Diversion as being of a non masculine nature, (I think you had a different word for
J) sure it ain’t the Congo, but
We’ve tracked our
way through Slovenia and Croatia (where we spent some time with Mijo, his Family and his enormous house; did
I mention he has a spiral staircase made from the same stone as is used in the Leaning Tower of Pisa?) Mijo
also taught me that I’m not the only one who can drink about 35 beers in 2 hours. The following morning he
took us for ride through a National Park that bordered Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia. It was really
interesting to learn some of the history that has seen the creation of all of these independent states, from
the former Yugoslavia.
The next morning
we left Croatia, against Mijo’s advice, in the belting rain.
bullshit, you stay here, leave tomorrow…”
We only had 200
or so k’s to ride to reach Serbia, however the weather was so shitty that it seemed to take an eternity. Then
there was the squabbling at the border over our ‘green card’ or rather, lack
Just to present a
little background on this one, we’ve managed to bluff the whole of Africa, and Western Europe with this
We pull up at the
border post where Dean aligns himself with the official’s window. I’m still starting my bike with the closest
piece of metal available so my motor stays running. Dean starts talking to the lady in the booth who can
barely hear over the noise of my bike, “passport and green card” she stammers. I start ramming Dean’s bike
with my front tyre, pushing him past the window. Unimpressed she repeats, “green card and
want to see our green cards?” At which point I start with the coffee and sega talk, which eventually
degenerates into something that Bryan would be proud of….
A green card, for
those of you that are not worldly travelers, is an insurance document that is compulsory in most countries.
Until now, smart arse’d brothers Martinello have convinced all those before them that our Registration
certificates are a “Global Policy” (and we always do the 2 fingered Dr Evil thing when we say it) that takes
place of their local requirements. Until now it has worked a treat, after all, it is Green, which is handy
when somebody asks you for a Green Card.
Sorry boys, your
“In Serbia is not
valid this thing, you must pay Serbia Green Card..”
“but, but… we’ve
come all the way from Cape Town with our special issue ‘Global’ Green Cards” we explain, knowing almost
certainly that it’s nearly over. Our global policy is about to expire.
“but,,, but, “ we
continue, trying to hold back laughter, wanting to say something about a sega…
“this no good, go
buy green cards” she shouts, and we know the dream’s over. Off we go to argue exchange rates with someone who
speaks no English and is not interested in taking payment in the Tunisian money that we have left over. We
offer her several different denominations, insisting that every note is worth more than 100 euro, “it’s a
great deal”, we insist trying our hardest not to cry with laughter. It’s no good, she’s not buying it, we
must pay with USD or Euro; so reluctantly we dismember the motorcycles again to locate our stashed USD. We
pay and leave, but not before trying it on one last time…
“can you change
our Tunisian dollars, how about Nigerian or Congolese or a sega..?”
made it to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, cold and wet. We embarked upon our usual journey of wasting as
much time as possible looking for a hostel that satisfied our unusual requirements. To lend a little
perspective to this scenario; we rolled into Belgrade as the fuel warning lights came up on the dashboard.
Usually we can get as much as 100k’s on the light, however due to the extended ‘tooling around’ looking for
lodging, mine coughed twice and stalled at precisely 53.4 k’s. By now it’s nearly dark, we’re still wet and
sans beer or room, stranded on Belgrade’s principle bus and tram route…
The biggest issue
we’ve had in Europe is finding off street parking for the bikes, and collectively I reckon we’ve spent days
roaming the streets of strange cities looking for cheap accommodation with somewhere safe to park. For those
of you considering this in the future, trust me, they don’t exist. Just make the best of a bad situation and
keep everything crossed. Security wise, it’s not nearly as bad as everyone will have you
The other thing
that’s become usual practice for us, is to leave dinner so late that everything closes and we’re left
hopelessly roaming the streets; invariably asking advice that usually ends in the locals pointing to the ever
visible Golden Arches…Ba Bao. So, it’s off to a 24/7 supermarket to buy a Barilla pasta sauce and some red
wine for a ‘nearly’ home cooked meal back at the hostel.
morning we wake to more rain and the prospect of 600 wet kilometers to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria.
Thankfully the rain only lasts about 2 hours and for the most part it’s a nice ride, with a beautiful ending
through some scenic country side. On the run into Bulgaria it is immediately obvious that the country is not
blessed with the same kind of wealth as its neighbors. There are a lot more old cars, typically rebadged
Fiats, and old Golfs. The once familiar roadside maintenance crew, armed with tractors and petrol powered
whipper snippers, steadily disappeared, making way for the old man and his razor sharp scythe, head clad with
old handkerchief… Suffice to say, it was starting to feel like ‘adventure’ was again, only a stonesthrow
Sofia is a
beautiful city, with a colourful and rich history. The hostel at which we stayed gave us a bit of an insight
into its past and some of the political difficulties this country has endured. We stayed at a place called
“Hostel Mostel” which was this enourmous building with one hundred or so beds. It was built in the 1700’s by
a Greek family, as a kind of out post for traders travelling the principal route through Eastern Europe.
There was also some reference made to it having been de-commissioned for 50 years, as Bulgaria closed all of
its borders to trade, which meant that the buildings significance as a kind of ‘truck stop’ was effectively
negated. During this time it was used for Municipal Offices and Administration, before being restored and
turned into heritage style accommodation.
We had the good
fortune of getting a spot in an 18 bed dorm, which is not as scary as it sounds, apart from the obvious
security concerns. Whilst we were out for dinner later that evening we joked about the 20 grand’s worth of
gear and tech’ stuff that we’d left unattended in the room, wondering if we might have to spend the next day
scouring through pawn shops to buy it all back. Fortunately we spent two nights there without incident and
all in all it was a pretty comfortable stay.
The other curious
point about this hostel is that it costs a sum total of 9 Euro each to stay there per night. In this price is
included free breakfast, free hi-speed internet and free dinner with a couple of beers. Crazy pants! I have
no idea how they can turn a profit at that rate, perhaps it’s the front for a huge clandestine lab’ in the
basement… who knows.
I had better sign off before I get
to Turkey, where we’ve been held up a little to sort the 47 visa’s we need for Central Asia, otherwise Dean
will be robbed of material… He’s out doing some shopping, and possibly having coffee with some local
Tomorrow is my
birthday, my first ever away from home. Sigh.
Be Anne has been practicing her baking for a Birthday Party that the crew is having in our absence, so we’ll
try to catch up on Skype sometime during the day.
Some bad news.
We’ve just received a message from Sam Sam that Valentino has broken a bone in his shin, which will detract
largely from tomorrow’s race. Oh well, maybe Hayden will take line honours and make my birthday complete.
With some luck it will be the perfect day, and I’ll wake up Monday morning, nailed to my bed, looking at some
Turkish guy in a leather suit, asking me if I enjoyed the coffee. (That would be about as much fun as seeing
Hayden win) Also, if Sam drinks the beer that I would’ve drank tomorrow, and vomits on himself (I’ve seen
this before) that will be a bonus and great birthday gift. Do your best Mate.
As always, thanks
for all the support back home, we promise to keep writing so long as you guys keep
Hugs and kisses,
especially for my Missus
PS, Apologies to the girls for all
the muddaboike references, I sometimes forget that it’s not just the boys that log on. I will try to spend
more time on our ‘apparel’ and the way we ‘accessorise’ our riding suits in my next
J x o
Sitting in the hostel in Sofia in Bulgaria, Hostel Mostel, just
finished battling with my phone trying to update navigation software, Nokia 0, Dean
Today start as expected, that is, in pouring rain. Not really much fun
riding on highways in belting rain, but when it’s this wet you don’t really feel like taking a back road to
Bulgaria. “Back road to Bulgaria” that could be a good band name, or possibly the name of a porno film,
but now I digress…
The first hour this morning was really wet and blowing a gale. The
type of wind you need to compensate for when passing trucks otherwise the angle you carry just staying
straight turns you into the truck that acts as a wind break for a few seconds. Luckily the rain gave
way around lunch time and by the time we got to the border there was actually some sunshine so the ride into
the city was really enjoyable.
We spent the previous few days in Croatia hanging out with a friend we
made on the boat from Tunisia. Mijo runs an export business for merino wool products and he invited us
to stay with him when we passed through his part of the world. He lives in an amazing house complete
with lovely wife Jelena, 3 kids - Amanda, Mia and Marco, and a spiral marble staircase made from the same
stone as the tower of Pisa. Pretty impressive.
We drank a lot of beer with Mio. Quite a lot. Even for
Paul. Enough said.
I think I sent some quotes from Mijo already, but there were plenty
more to choose from, again most not fit for print, but this blog never started out PG so here
Mijo in crowded bar looking at a pretty girl wearing a black dress
looking in our direction… “this girl a beast, black beast, I think beast girl like
Me “um… maybe… um… um… I need to go to the toilet
Mijo in next crowded bar “we can make drive to next town, is bordello
there, only 70km from here, is ok, we can go yes?”
Me “what is there in the next town??”
Me to Paul “he wants to go to a brothel”
Paul “he wants to go to a fucking
Me “I need to go to the toilet now, can you deal with this
Mijo was incredibly kind to both of us and we laughed ourselves
senseless with him. His family was amazing, Jelena cooked us dinner and breakfast for the time we spent
in their home, and Marco kept us entertained with his amazing expressions at any opportunity. It was
pretty amazing to be invited into a relative strangers home to spend time with his family, and I hope to one
day be able to repay his kindness.
Off to Turkey tomorrow!
Started organizing visas for central asia, looking like being a bit of
a minefield. Turmenistan is obviously not high on the backpackers destination
Paul’s birthday today, we got a little too drunk last night so it’s
been a relatively quiet day, although we did get to watch the motogp in a bar on the laptop which was pretty
cool. Have spent the last few days chasing up embassies and organizing visas for onward travel.
So far we have lodged Kyrgyzstan, tomorrow will be Uzbek and then Kazakh later in the week when we get a
passport back. One big advantage of having two passports is that we can make 2 applications at the same
time, otherwise we’d be here for weeks!
Istanbul is enormous, without the GPS it would be impossible to find
these embassies, and even with gps it’s still hard. The Kaz embassy was not even at the right address
and no one spoke enough English when I called to tell me the address on the phone, so it took all afternoon
of being given incorrect directions by locals before I finally stumbled across it about 10km from where it
was supposed to be - in a back street in the burbs!
Anyhow, I think Paul has sent a big update recently too so I wont go
on too much, has occurred to me that we have been a little slack getting updates written, so I have an alarm
set on my phone to remind me to write something more often.
The visa circus for central Asia continues, today we lodged the
Uzbekistan application with our Italian passports, but not before I was sent away from the embassy to have
the passport pics stapled to the form (I guess it was too much to ask to get them to do it for me!).
Even small things like staples become a challenge when you don’t speak Turkish and no one speaks English, but
my mime skills have improved to the extent that even Em would be impressed! The visas should be ready
We’re hoping to pick up our Aussie passports from the Kyrgyzstan
embassy on Wednesday, and then lodge the Kazakhstan application on Thursday morning. If by some miracle
they can turn that around in a day we’ll leave here on Saturday. Otherwise if they need a week (more
likely) then we might split up, and one of us go forward to Ankara to lodge the Turkmenistan visa application
while the other waits here to get back the Kazakhstan one.
Are you following all this?
Fortunately using both the Aus and Italian passports we haven’t needed
to get Letters Of Invitation for these visa applications. An LOI is a bit of paper from a travel agent
saying you have been ‘Invited’ to stay in that country, and usually includes accommodation bookings
etc. They aren’t hard to get, but usually cost a little (Russia was US70 each!), and they take some
time to organize too, but some countries are usually exempt from needing an LOI due to reciprocal
arrangements between governments, in Uzbekistan for example, Italians are exempt, hence using the Italian
passport for that one.
The Russian LOI can only be applied for within 45 of the intended
travel dates, but then takes 20 days to be approved by the Russian authorities… so we’re still waiting for
that one, and hope to get it before we arrive in Takshent?? UZ.
On the up side, these are the
last few visas we will need for the trip, (apart from Mongolia which we’ll apply for in Kazakhstan), which is
good news because it isn’t much fun and takes up a lot of time which could be better spent drinking some
coffee with locals
Yesterday Paul headed off to Ankara to apply for our Tajik visas,
while I wait here in Istanbul for the Kazak visas to be issued today. We initially couldn’t decided who
would go ahead so we tossed a coin for it…
He left early after a quick brekky and goodbye to the local lads
running the various bars and hostels in the street in Sultanamet where we’re staying, needless to say they
were all sad to see him leave.
The bike looked pretty enormous with a set of tyres strapped to
the top box, I guess it won’t be any heavier than they were through the Congo with all that fuel and water,
but the weight is really high this time, so I just hope I don’t drop mine off the stand again!
We think the next place we’re going to find rubber will be in
Kazakhstan, and have lots of miles to do between now and then, so decided to buy a set here and carry them as
far as our patience holds out before fitting them to the bikes, (the set we have on are only half
I got to spend my 36th birthday wandering the streets
Istanbul, chatting to people about the big world cup game coming
up and having the odd cup of tea, then watched some football matches, and lamented with the rest of the
Aussies here at our teams poor performance.
So today is my last day here… it’s been nice to stop for a while
and get to know some of the locals, the night before last our hostel owner Ahmet invited us to have a bbq
with him and another friend on the roof of the hostel to celebrate his divorce! It was awesome to get
away from the tourist oriented food this city is full of and just sit quietly with a beer in hand more or
less the same way we would in our own back yards. Ahmet and his friend Sasha (who runs a few other
hostels on the same street) were hilarious, it will be sad to say goodbye to them - if anyone is planning a
trip to Istanbul we can definitely put you in touch with some guys who will look after you and keep you
laughing the whole time!
Next post will be from Ankara, hopefully armed with 3 more visas
to push into central asia with
Our visas for Tajikistan and Kazakhstan have come thru today
(have been asked to wait at the kaz embassy for over an hour now so they better have it ready sometime today!), and
the Turkmenistan transit visa is in progress and will be issued in Georgia.
All this means we are about to hit the road again... On the
road again, I cant wait to get back on the road again... la la la la la... music with my friends, I cant wait to
get on the road again :))
Ps thanks to all my beautiful friends for the well wishes for my
birthday, you guys all woke me up with sms's on a searing hangover but i love you all the
We changed plans at the last minute and decided to both ride to
Cappadocia yesterday instead of me going to meet Paul in Ankara.
After not really being on the bike for 10 days the 750km ride was
nice, if a little sore on the bum.
Bike is very heavy with a spare set of tyres strapped to the top, but
still manageable, a little worried about damaging the subframe but fingers crossed they hold together.
All the visas came through as hoped, so now we’ll spend a day here
looking at some of the amazing underground cities in the region before going to Georgia where we’ll head off
the beaten track once again to cross at the less frequented border post at Posof (or at least that’s plan
The gang at Sultanamet put on breakfast for me before I left, which
was really nice of them, and even called ahead to Cappadocia to make sure a friend in a hotel here did us a
great deal on accommodation. Being stuck in a city waiting for visas initially seemed like it was going
to be a drag, but it has turned out to be a great opportunity to get to know some people and if we’re lucky,
be invited into their world to see how it works.
It seems strange to say it,
but even after just a few days of hanging out with some people, they’ve been such amazing experiences that we
really feel like we’re going to miss them when we leave, so if you’re reading this… hello to DuToit from RSA,
Our Belgian flying friends Peter and Edit from the Delta, Arthur, Sanjay, Roberto and the gang from Ndola,
Eugene the dairy farmer, Patrick from Lubombashi (stop using all your credit trying to call me, sms is
better!!) Chief Oscar from the DRC, Ali and the Crew from the DRC, Miles and Jani on bicycles in Kinshasa and
Brazza, Olivier, Darren and the Sandlovers from Hippocamp, Mike and Sully from Kano, Mohammed and Ali from
Algeria, Fathi from KTM in Tunisia, Paolo and Claudio from Rome, Zia, Chiara, Alberto and Leone from Bassano,
Mijo and Jelena from Croatia, Emily and James from the UK, and now Ahmet, Farhart and Sasha from Istanbul…
and many more that aren’t popping into my slighty hazy brainspace just now.
Emily and James are a couple
travelling in a similar direction from the UK, who we caught up with on a few occasions for a beer and chat
about the football. Emily hadn’t actually ever ridden a bike on the road (apart from her riders test)
before heading off on their adventure, pretty amazing really! Good luck guys, I’m sure you’ll get to
Singapore eventually, maybe even Australia someday
Just arrived in Erzincan Turkey, a hard 460km ride due to strong head
wind and self induced head-ache.
We were caught by Turkish
police for speeding today, it was pretty comical as we’ve been blatantly disregarding all manner of road laws
here and no one seems to care, so we thought our luck had finally run out, (and this time we didn’t fancy our
chances of bribing our way out of it).
They went into mime to
explain that they had to fine us because it was caught on camera, that we would need to pay the fine in a
bank, and that it was $150 each… but then smiled and told us not to bother paying it, and that as soon as we
are over the border we can throw away the ticket!
They were all smiles and
handshakes, and were even happy to have some pictures taken with us. The three guys looked like the
police from the 70’s show Chips
After this we rode through an alpine-ish area getting as high as 2200m
for a period, pretty cold up there, I wonder how the Pamir is going to feel at around
Tomorrow we take some B roads to the border post, and the following
day hopefully into Georgia.
Found a nice cheap place to stay tonight with fast net access so will send some recent pics, along
with some older ones I found in an incorrectly labeled folder from the DRC, so take a look at that series
again if you’re interested.Click Here
Today is Saturday!!!
We thought it was Thursday...
We rode for hours in the rain, fell over, broke shit, and
paid for an expensive hotel because we thought it was thursday and we need to lodge a vise application on
What a cock up.
'I just crashed on a steel bridge in heavy
It was raining and there was oil on the bridge.
Realised I'd lost something off the bike so rode 80 k's back to find it, with no
I found it, (helmet cam transponder) it has been run over several hundred times
now i'll ride back to Tblisi in the dark, 100 k's.
Bad day, wish me luck.
I need a beer and I need to poo.'
Yesterday we somehow thought it was Thursday, and we planned to get to Tbilisi last night in time to
apply for a visa today. So we rode in a rush all day, much of it in rain, crossed the border to Georgia
at Posof (very easy), then rode along bumpy roads at speed all afternoon in Georgia, Paul slipped off on a
diesel covered steel floored bridge and busted something on the bike, I checked into an more expensive hotel
than we would normally use, and we ate Elvis burgers (don’t ask) for dinner at 11pm. Then we worked out
that it was actually Saturday.
We still can’t work out where Friday went… To top it off, a guy
we just met has told us we can get a transit visa at the border in Azerbaijan so we don’t even need to bother
going to the embassy here to apply for a visa! (Em and James, if you’re reading this, stay tuned, this is to
be confirmed). So we could be moving again tomorrow! Ah well… Fridays are overrated
A little funny story that Paul has specifically asked me not to tell…
o k p a u l I w I l l n
o t t e l l a n y o n e
We’ve already made mention of the man-touching in Tunisia, and at risk
of seeming homophobic I’m going to mention it again because this story is too funny to leave out.
Before I start, just let me make the disclaimer that I quite like the man-touch, it’s not a sexual thing in
any way, just that the guys over here are more comfortable to have other guys in their personal space than we
Aussies are back at home. But for us it’s pretty strange to see men walking down the road holding
hands, that’s all.
So we have quite a few routines that we use to keep each other
entertained while on the road, and one of the newest ones has been ‘spot the man-touch’. This involves
scanning for men holding hands or walking down the street arm in arm, at which point one of us will yell into
the intercom “MAN-TOUCH!!” This may not seem very funny, but we have been on the road for over 3 months
now so it’s the little things that keep us entertained.
But the funniest is when one of us is directly involved in the
man-touch, as per the pics of paul arm in arm with 2 guys in the last set of photos, where I was torn between
hitting the ground laughing and trying to get out my camera to take some
So the night before last we were out for dinner, and while I went back
to the hotel to get some money Paul ordered dinner and ‘something’ transpired between him and a local guy, he
says nothing happened but... So I returned from the hotel, and this guy came to the table to ask if we
wanted any drinks. But he didn’t ask us both, he only asked Paul. Odd. A minute later Paul
was trying to get some water out of a jug, and the guy came back and manhandled the jug out of Paul’s hands,
poured him a glass (leaving my glass empty), and asked if he wanted anything else, again completely ignoring
It was all I could do not to laugh out loud, the “sexy man” was on
fire! But then 5 minutes later the guy (who until then we had thought was working there) came by to let
Paul know he was leaving. “I go now, very pleasure to meet you” …awkward pause… Paul still slightly
confused went to shake his hand, but the guy sort of took Paul’s hand in both of his, caressed it, and drew
Paul in as if for a kiss, but then quite gently touched his temple against Paul’s temple, first on the left,
then on the right, and then he left.
“what the fuck was that?”
“I have no idea”
“I really wasn’t good with that, but I didn’t really know what to do
to make it stop”
Anyone reading this that knows my brother will know how much Paul
likes his personal space, so this one was a corker. He looks at me, smiles awkwardly and says “well…
that was weird, but hey, it looks like I’ve still got it!”
So now we have both embraced the man-touching, and are getting on
board with it ourselves. Yesterday crossing the border into Georgia the customs guys were talking to
Paul about making us fit the spare tyres we’re carrying or pay import duty on them, but then I rolled into
the inspection shed, jumped off my bike and gave the guy a big exaggerated hug and got into some serious
man-touching, he was a little awkward about it at first but really warmed to us after that and was all smiles
and waves when we left.
We’re also trying to touch
the immigration police through the window or across the counter whenever we need to get something stamped,
it’s totally inappropriate but incredibly funny, these guys are usually not very friendly and quite serious
about their job, so they don’t quite know what to do when 2 guys start leaning into the window and trying to
hold hands with them J
Another quick update on
Paul’s ongoing man-touching, last night we were out late with some new friends from Tbilisi when a drunk
homeless guy (with his pants half down!) stumbled into the group of people and made a bee line for Paul to
hug, kiss, and man-touch, and Paul unknowingly reciprocated thinking he was someone’s friend! The guy
then tried to get into the back seat of the car with Paul (aka Sexy Man). I laughed so hard I was
crying, as did all the other guys from Tbilisi who all asked Paul for a kiss goodnight later
Waiting here in Tbilisi for another 2 days for a visa (at the embassy
they said a transit visa was not possible), Paul also needs to find replacement parts for the bike so it’s no
biggie, it’s a great city too so we’re happy enough to wait around.
The Road to
Tblisi; Broken Promises and Broken Dreams…
Have I got a
pearler to share!
It’s an absolutely belting tale of woe and near catastrophe and broken parts and
crushed spirit and all that shit that I usually bang on about…
due to a recent promise to keep the drama to a minimum, I’ll exercise my right to privacy on this
God it was a good one though…
The kind of moment that leaves you with sweaty palms, the taste of metal in your
mouth and a pooper that won’t stop quivering.
It’s a pity to have to keep it
to myself, but a promise is a promise. I guess it’s more of the usual ‘today we did this and tomorrow we’re doing
that and yesterday I was touched inappropriately by a bloke from…’ Okay then…
So, today I woke
up and scratched my balls and went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Then I scratched my balls some more and
went back to sleep. A bit later I woke up again and…. Boooooring!!!
“Bring on the
tales of woe and broken dreams and damaged motorcycles and trawling strange cities for obscure parts for
bikes they’ve never even heard of!!” you say? Righty-oh then, perhaps
a man of my word I am not?
Fuck it; let’s get on with it, no one likes to hear about ball scratching and
The road from
Ankara to Cappadocia was pretty easy; about 375 k’s of tar B roads.
Unfortunately as we’d split up a couple of days earlier,(to finalise the Visa
Dean had to make the trip from Istanbul (800ish k’s) so by the time he arrived, he
was looking a little second hand.
He’d made a pretty late start due to the farewells of the many friends we’d made in
Sultanaman, and subsequently arrived a couple of hours after me.
“You wanna beer
Bro?” I said as he pulled up.
“Does a bear shit
in the reeds?”
Well actually, no.
I’ll get you a beer anyway.
Cappadocia is an
ancient underground city that was carved out (literally) because the Catholics of the time needed somewhere
to hide. So they chiseled out these enormous underground cities in the soft rock that is prevalent in this
To give an accurate and factual description of this place and its history could take
an eternity. So, I’ll sum it up by saying that it was “really cool” and move on.
We stayed there for a couple of days, riding around to see some of the significant
sites, which ‘I repeat’ were “really cool”. That is until we reached the last one for the day, which we both agreed
was ‘a bit shit’.
This prompted an off road excursion which ended badly. Primarily because the road
fizzed out into nothing and secondly, because it was so steep that we couldn’t turn back. Oh and, did I mention
that we were wearing shorts and sandals…
The next couple of days we meandered
our way towards Georgia over some amazing mountain passes, well over 2500 metres above sea level; at one
point it snowed. The altitude is immediately noticeable for a few reasons.
cold. As you head through 1800 m it starts to feel chilly and the scale seems to become exponential
thereafter. By 2000m it’s freezing and at 2500m it’s time to change gloves and add a thermal
The caps of the mountains are all covered in snow and the road has this greasy,
uncertain feel to it. Then, when it starts to rain, that’s a whole new story. It feels more like ballet than bike
riding, treading ever so gently in anticipation of a slide. It really takes a lot of concentration to ride in these
motor starts to feel like a single rather than a stonking twin.
The midrange starts to disappear and all these strange flat spots begin to influence
the torque curve. It starts to feel more like a Ducati than a KTM… (Sorry Howie, I couldn’t resist)
I start thinking about Air Fuel ratios and what affect the less dense air is having
on the mix, is it dangerous? Are the pistons trying to climb out of the motor?
Reassured by the basic principles of ‘rich and lean’ I think we’re safe and push on.
If I was a wanker I could easily toss the word ‘stoichiometric’ into this little rant; but I’m not, so I
Shit, there I go again, mumbo jumbo, engines and motors and blah blah
let’s talk about our ‘apparel’.
Thirdly, we start
to think about our riding suits and the colour of the layers that we’ve chosen for the day. What effect is
this altitude having on our colour selection and has all the beer we drank in Istanbul made our bums look big
in the riding pants. I’ve chosen a blue neck warmer for the day and find myself questioning this choice.
“Is it too much
blue?” I muse, desperate for a woman’s approval. I think, “What would Miss say if she saw me like this”
becoming ever more self conscious and unsure.
“Maybe it is too much blue”…
After all, I’m wearing a blue jacket and a blue Ice breaker jersey and a blue neck warmer and, fuck it, I’m
wearing a blue helmet too!
“You idiot!!! You
Stoopid fool, of course that’s too much blue” I yell in the helmet, trying to ignore the fact that I’m more
than likely wearing blue underpants too. I’m ashamed and embarrassed, and make a silent commitment to try to
do better next time. Any tips will be taken on board.
Finally, and of
course fourthly, the GPS has the altitude plastered all over the screen. Genius.
It was a Saturday
morning when we left Turkey, (we thought it was Thursday, this will make some sense later) bound for the
Georgian border and a control point near a town called Posof.
We left a quiet little town called Oltu where we officially declared that we may have
OD’d on Chi (Turkish tea) that the locals will shout you and eventually force upon you at every given
Don’t get me wrong, we like it, a lot. However eight cups a day is about where I draw
So with our farewells bid, we mounted up and set off for Georgia, and
ultimately its capital, Tblisi. It was a stunning morning’s riding with yet another set of features to add to our
‘memorable landscapes’ list.
We descended into
a valley at around 1100 meters above sea level and the mountains of the day’s prior morphed into some of the
biggest jutted rock features that I’d ever seen. Actually, to be more specific, I have never before seen such
a wild and rugged set of features. I felt completely dwarfed by my surroundings, as though I was an ant in a
say the least…
We reached Posof
and set about trying to find the road to Georgia and the control point. It no longer surprises me how well
they are able to hide these roads.
‘For fucksake’ I
mutter in the helmet. ‘It’s the freakin’ entrance to a country, as if there isn’t even a sign, a small sign,
A few laps on the cobblestone streets and a minor backtrack past an
enormous bull, see us headed in the right direction and sadly, we say goodbye to Turkey.
We thoroughly enjoyed it and would absolutely recommend it as tourist destination. As
a country (and this is a massive generalisation) it has a bit of everything. From colorful market place stalls, to
spectacular and rugged landscapes.
The people are very hospitable and will generally bend over backwards to help,
(sometimes forwards too) even with little or no spoken English. And, they do great tea, or Chi as they call
Book a ticket, go see it.
One quick mention
before I start upon the ‘story’.
We caught up with some old friends, David and Judy Mott from Western Australia who
coincidentally happened to be in Istanbul at the same time as us. (We think they were following us, too much of a
Dave worked for many years with our Old Man on cross country gas transmission
projects in Australia in the 60’s and 70’s and more recently they worked abroad in some fairly inhospitable
I remember Dad coming home from a project he worked on in Kazakhstan, with such frost
burned toes that it made me wince.
Anyways, I digress; it was great to see Dave and Judy and we were only too pleased to
crank up the Sheesha pipe for a few happy snaps.
‘Oldies’ could not be swayed by peer group pressure and chose to settle for a beer and really crap white wine
back at our hostel, instead.
The border crossing into Georgia was
probably our most simple to date, and I’m very pleased to report, our ‘Green Card’ has some life in it
Bemused the Georgian official looked it over, turned it over, paused to reflect and
scurried away to let someone more senior make a call on it.
“He doesn’t like
it” Dean says, “Not one bit”
“Yeah, I know,
doesn’t look good...” trying not to laugh…
mostly unsatisfied, but conceded that it ‘might possibly be a green card’. He starts stamping passports and
peeling off stickers, and it begins…
Dean. “Try to
touch his hand when he gives you the passport back”
Dean. “Touch his
hand, show him some love…”
Me. “Ah, Okay,
The once confused
official became REALLY confused when I managed an accidental hand caress when taking back my documents. It
stopped him, and he looked straight at me, one eyebrow raised, almost certainly saying “What the?” in his
mind. I fled and left Dean to struggle with a straight face.
there’s the part where we offered a random bus driver a piece of salami through his window…Hilarious, mostly
because it’s the same piece of salami that we’ve been snacking on since Italy, and to be honest, it don’t’
smell so good no more.
You could make reality TV
with this stuff. You could call it “Donkey and the Mule, behaving badly at border posts” Shit, its genius,
somebody call someone and get it happening, we’ll be rich!
Jeepers, I can
bang on, where was I??? Georgia, yes the next country, number 20 in fact, concentrate Donkey. This has been
quite an introduction to the story of utmost peril; I hope I can actually deliver on this one… I shall do my
We’ve been riding
along this river for a couple of hours now and every time I look at it, it seems to gaining momentum. I guess
it’s because there are a lot of other streams feeding into it as it steadily makes its way toward
It’s so bizarre
to be riding alongside this body of water, feeling absolutely certain that we’re riding downhill, only to see
the water heading in the opposite direction. A strange optical illusion me thinks. It’s not raining but the
road is wet, and every kilometer that passes it’s getting wetter. We must certainly be following a rain
shower or storm. It’s a pity the tar is wet as were on a great set of twisties, following the path of a river
to our right.
Despite the wet surface we push on, and after some time were actually enjoying it,
having a bit of a tentative play.
“This front tyre
is doing nothing for my confidence” Dean confesses.
“Yeah, no shit,
it’s doing my head in too…” I agree.
“Every time I try
to turn and brake it starts plowing straight”
Desert fronts have done about 6000 k’s and are missing every second row of knobs, making cornering in the wet
a bit of a challenge. Not to worry, ride to the conditions I guess.
We carry on like this for a hundred or so kilometers as we need to make Tblisi
tonight to start the visa process first thing; otherwise we’ll be there for a few days as the Consulate is not open
on weekends. At this point we were still acting out a scene from Dumb and Dumber, racing toward an Embassy that was
closed as it was Saturday, not Thursday like we thought. It’s one thing to be out by a day, but two? Damn… ain’t
After a couple of
hours of this we start to see signs to Tblisi, so we figure we must be getting close, and it’s still
daylight; we’re both feeling pretty good. We’ll get into town, get a room and watch the football.
Unfortunately this is not exactly how it played out, not even
The road is wet,
has been for hours, no biggie. We’re in traffic now; I’m guessing it’s the town prior to the capital. The
tricky part about this road is trying to stay together when passing traffic. Hard acceleration is virtually
impossible when it’s wet, as the back wheel just starts spinning, even at speed. So when you pull out of the
spray to pass a truck you need to have a healthy gap to play with. It’s not like being on a 1098 on a dry
road where you pull out, open the throttle, blink twice and pull back in. Subsequently we found ourselves
separated by long distances frequently.
Dean’s a little
way ahead now, far enough that the intercom is out of range. Unbeknown to me he’s nearly just tossed his bike
away over a steel bridge. I round this right hand bend at about 80 k’s per hour and the road starts to
straighten up. There’s a military truck in front of me with a hand full of soldiers all hanging out the back
trying to get a look at where all the noise is coming from. They make the usual ‘do a stunt’ gesture with
both hand working the throttle, arms flailing up and down. I toy with the idea for a second; “a big handful
in second and I’m an instant hero” I think… Hmmm, “maybe not” I decide as the tyres pass over a couple of
speed humps, then a couple more.
The truck is
still in front of me, pretty close so I can’t see the road ahead, and I guess I’m still toying with the idea
of a ‘stunt’ of some kind to light up their faces. The truck has a little stutter as the road surface changes
and that is the only clue I have as to what is ahead. In a second I’m on it; the bridge. The glistening,
shiny steel bridge, with not a hint of tar or any other anti slip medium. Can you imagine this happening on a
main in road in Australia? The mind boggles…
It takes me a
second to realise that the bridge is steel and slipperier that the clay that took us both down in Cameroon,
and as I didn’t know it was coming it’s quite a surprise. My immediate reaction is to close the throttle and
this is when things get messy. Somewhere in my mind I can hear the midget dwarf shit himself, for he knows
only too well that he’ll be looking for work on Monday. Stoopid Dwarf, how hard can it be, “pull the lever,
PULL THE FREAKIN’ LEVER!!!” I’m thinking.
It’s too late;
with the throttle closed the engine starts to brake and the rear wheel wants to be in front. In vein I
attempt to correct with the front but that only makes the front slide, and reluctantly I concede that I’m a
passenger, again. The military guys make it to their feet just in time to see the sparks coming off the
bridge as bike 38 touches down. Bang! It’s a hard hit too,
almost like a ‘low side’ hard on the brakes, and the bridge echoes as metal whacks metal. My first thought is
for the bike; surely it won’t go over the edge?
I’m on my bum
now, sailing along behind the ‘toom which is pirouetting nicely, and in my peripheral I can see lots of
structural members that will keep the bike on the road so somehow I take something positive from this. It
seems to take an eternity to stop and my mind flashes between the traffic around me and the trajectory of the
bike; it’s staying on our side of the road. That’s good.
For a split second I think back to the day that Muzz took out 14 bikes in turn one,
in the driving rain at Winton, and how long it took all of those bikes to stop when they hit the wet
Sheet, The stuff that goes through your mind, it’s crazy. (Don’t even think about
keying my toolbox Murray, I’ll get you back!)
stops; we stop, and I need to get it together, quickly. There are cars skidding all around me as they try to
stop or go around, and I’m trying desperately to get some help. It’s actually hard to walk, it’s so slippery.
It’s not just wet steel slippery, its a million leaked drops of oil slippery; and they’ve all conspired
against me to cause this chaos. There’s a van coming towards me and I mime the ‘I need a lift’ gesture. He
nods and starts to slow, but he’s caught out too, and as he approaches the wheels lock and the gentle lean of
the bridge stats to push him to the right.
“Fuck me!” I’m
thinking, “I’m going to get run over too” as he sails towards me, full lock to the left and front wheels
He stops, a few
metres short, and we exchange ‘Phew’s’ through his windscreen.
Together we try to lift, but the tyres won’t grip so we’re just pushing the bike
around on the bridge and the cars that have banked up are getting impatient. They try to drive around the mess,
wheels spinning, horns tooting; not much in the way of sympathy happening.
Finally another bloke gives us a hand and the bike’s back on its feet, albeit facing
the wrong direction.
I survey the damage and start trying to correct its orientation, but it’s still so
slippery. The front brake is not working, but the lever is still there; I’m thinking the caliper has been taken
out, or something, still not thinking clearly. Too much traffic, too slippery, too much is happening…
I know that since it’s been on its side for a while the bike will be hard to start,
so I decide to push, 80 metres or so, I guess.
It feels like it
takes forever and my hearts racing now, from the fall and from the push. Eventually I make it to safer
ground, and decide to ride it a few hundred meters where the road widens and there’s some space to stop
I take the coin out of the front pouch of the tank bag and bridge the starter
solenoid terminals; but it takes so long to fire that eventually the coin starts to burn the skin through my
I need something heavier; I unclip a stainless D shackle from the rear luggage net
and try again. The motor coughs and splutters then eventually fires, black smoke spewing from the exhaust. I climb
aboard and head for safer ground, trying to remember there is no front brake. Again, something weird comes into my
‘all the times
that I’ve crashed at the race track and broken off the front brake lever, then nearly sailed into the pit
wall trying to get back to the garages, because the bike won’t stop with just the rear’
There’s more than
a few that will be able to relate to that story…
The bike is ok and so am I,
thankfully. The right hand bag has big scrape marks on it and the bark buster has taken out the front brake
pipe, hence no brakes.
I light a cigarette and wait for Dean; by the time he arrives he already knows what
has happened, as the guy that helped me had made some ‘crash’ and ‘bridge’ gestures to Dean as he was waiting for
me on the side of the road ahead.
We take a look at the bike and decide to push on. Then it’s about 40 minutes of
autostrada, plenty of time to think about all the ‘what if’s’ and ‘thank god’s’.
Eventually I notice that the transponder for my helmet cam (it’s a remote switch,
located on the top clamp that you hit to start and stop recording) is missing.
I fire some expletives down the intercom and we stop on the side of the road, trying
to decide what to do.
I’m grumpy now, it’s late, we haven’t eaten all day and I crashed on a
Fuck it all!
We decide that Dean will push on and find some accommodation whilst I go back to the
bridge, to play ‘needle in a haystack’.
It’s about 80 k’s
and I’m pretty much over it by now, so the speedo is made to read 170 for about 30 minutes; probably not that
sensible with no front brakes, but like I said, I was over it…
I arrived at the bridge to find chaos again, there were cops everywhere with tape
measures and cans of white paint; and I see a smashed up car and a bus with no windscreen.
“Clearly this happens a lot when it rains, why don’t they do something about
So I park the
bike and start the long walk down the bridge, thinking there is no chance, but halfway down I see it, at
least it looks like it; and indeed it is. Unfortunately, it had been run over several hundred times, and is
unlikely to ever work again. I’ll pull it apart tomorrow and see if it can be
By now it’s nearly dark, so I get my
stuff together and head for Tblisi where Dean will hopefully have found somewhere to stay.
It was there that part two of ‘Bad Day’ would be played out, and again it involved
the most obscure text message directions from Bro.
It’s funny how the directions you give can seem so simple and straightforward when
you’ve actually seen what you’re describing. However, for the recipient (that’s usually me) it’s as though it’s in
another language. Take this for example.
“Follow signs to
centre, then liberation square or maybe independence square or maybe freedom square…
Cant remember now.
hen you get there turn right and follow the big road with shops and monuments, it
will turn left uphill, make a u turn at the big screen and then hotel entrance is small rd on rhs hard to see but
just past the small blue hotel sign. good luck! did you find remote?”
“Fuck Me, are you
serious? Yes, squashed though”
“Not sure, on the
outskirts. Better be a cold beer nearby. Hotel name?”
“Gutsa, but it’s
not on the sign” like I said, seems simple when you’re there.
“I’m looking at
the flat screen, I may have come in a different way”
its on the left”
This is where it gets really
confusing, as the directions start to contradict each other… I start riding around in circles, following an
arrow on a GPS that has no map data for Georgia; I’m getting grumpy now. Really Grumpy. I realize that I’ve
left my gloves on the top box the last time I stopped, they are gone. I drop the bike in a dark alley, trying
to do a hill start. This is nearly impossible with no front brake, as you cannot lift the side stand while
your right foot holds the rear brake. Think about it… if you’re not convinced, try it; make sure it’s a steep
J This leads me to my
next text message…
“Bro, you know
I’ve got no front brake, no headlight, no starter switch and no map. I’ve lost my gloves and dropped my bike
again. Going back to the flat screen, come get me.”
The next couple
of hours were pretty quiet between us, and I’m sure Dean was thinking “fucking idiot, can’t even follow
simple directions” and all I could think was “fucking idiot, as if he didn’t just meet me at the flat
Anyways, we got
cleaned up, went out and ‘built a bridge’; beer is very helpful on these
The following morning we found a
hostel down the road and booked it, as it was about half the price of what we’d paid the night prior.
Coincidentally, it was about one tenth as nice. It rated 97% on the Hostel World website, but unfortunately
turned out to be an absolute shit hole. We reckon the owners must sit around all day writing their own
JWe might write one for them too
after we leave…
When we arrived
at the Hostel, this guy came out of a building nearby and introduced himself as Whako (easy one to remember).
He told us we could park the bikes in the car park of his bakery and that they’d be safe there. Also, he
informed us that he was part of a ‘bike club’ and that we should not make any plans for
“Now you rest,
not eat or drink anything. We come 7 or 8, we will show you our things”
Ahhh, okay then.
See you at 7. This is a story in itself and I think I’ve done my dash with this computer for the day, I
delegate responsibility to Dean. Suffice to say, chaos reigns!
This brings me to the end, and as
usual I’m left wondering if it will make sense to anyone but me. I’m sure somebody will get some of it,
To finish, a few
parting words and thank you’s…
We just found out
that a couple we met in Istanbul, James and Emily, have had some bad luck. This is the email they sent
Just read your post. hope Paul (and the bike) are all ok? Did you make it back in the
dark? More importantly, did you manage to find a toilet?!..
We've had similar drama here. Riding back from the dealer on saturday afternoon a cab
parked at the sid of the road did a u-turn and clipped Em, knocking her off. She's ok, nothing broken but has her
leg in plaster for the next week or so!.... Still, she's ok, but we're ready to leave Istanbul
Were thinking of you Em, hoping you have a speedy recovery, Mwah x x
Also a massive thanks to the Toyota Mechanic in Tblisi (who drinks beer
at work) who put me onto a guy called Nick, a KTM nut. Not easy to find in a city that only has 250
motorcycles. Nick was a massive help in getting my front brake pipe repaired, (see previous photo, the
replacement union was machined from a solid piece of brass, then tapped internally for reinforcement) and
although I didn’t get to meet the guy that did the job, I have a feeling he was an ‘old school’ craftsman.
Top job, I nearly fell off my chair when I saw it…
To the crew of bikers in Tblisi, who treated us like brothers 10 minutes
after they met us, big up. Won’t say too much more about them until we can do it some
To an old mate who’s just come back from a big vacation, you know who
you are, Welcome Home!
To my boss back home, who hasn’t sent me a message since I left; a
message would be nice… Something like …
“Hey paul, great to hear the trip’s going well, we really miss you around here, things
aren’t the same since you left, you’re the best tech’ ever, come home safe and soon, I’ll give you a pay
rise” would be fine.
As always, a massive thanks to our great friend and web mistress,
Hamsamwhichstensen, you’re making us look better than we are. Great job. How’s the Gobbie counter looking?
Guess I’m gonna be busy when I get home…
And of course a big thanks to y’all for the many messages of support and
for taking an interest in what we’re doing. We love you’s…
That’s 4852 words, easily a new P B.
Ciao for now
Hugs and kisses and heaps of man
x x x
One last PS, and this is said with the utmost respect to all. As much as
I LOVE all the text messages, I’ll reluctantly request that all non essential communication be done via
email. My last two Telstra bills have given a thousand bucks a nudge… Sorry, and again, absolutely no offence
We crossed into Azerbaijan today, used the northerly border
post and it went quite smoothly.
We have 14 day visa, but bikes have to leave in 3, pretty dumb
Appparently there is a way to register them in Baku so hope to
get around that tomorrow.
Staying in a little village just off the road, we just got the bikes into the 'lobby' when a ferocious
storm hit, pretty happy to have avoided that one!
Antics at the border escalated today to the point of me trying to climb through a window to hug a customs
guy, and then doing a pig mime when asked what the gps is (complete with noises and fingers used to replicate
tusks), 'yes yes is gps, you know gps?
is like a pig... Oink oink' (the guy solemny nodded in comprehension)... and finally trying to bribe a policeman
with a leftover tomato to avoid paying a speeding fine (unsucessfully)...
we have no money' (manhug) 'we have only one tomato, is from australia, is good... you take??'
it sounds ridiculous thats because it was!
to be back somewhere lawless enough to be able to bribe the cops though, it feels like our adventure has started
Quick update. We are moored in the harbour at Turkmenbashi in the Caspian sea waiting for other boats to
clear before we are unloaded.
could take anything from a few hours to a few days, no one seems to know.
has to be the most disorganised 'ferry' service in the world, bar none.
After 6 different visits to the camoflauged sales desk in 5hr intervals, we finally got tickets yesterday
at 11pm, and had to be at the dock this morning at 2am to board. We ended up sleeping in the carpark until 7am,
dodging several bribe attempts by customs and finally boarded tired and grumpy around 8am.
ferry is incredibly dilapidated, life boats inoperable, doors hanging off hinges, toilets dont flush, blocked
shower drains etc, but we can see Turkmenbashi in the distance, so hopefully we're not here for too
Tuesday at 4pm, 29th june.
We finally got off the ferry at 4pm, then took 5 and a half hrs to get through immigration at
a total cost of US370!!
Have never seen so many forms and stamps, it was red tape to a new level.
Last night we slept in a fancy hotel because it was
the only one in town that would take US dollars, and today are on the road to ashgabat.
Our guide looks and talks just like Azamat from Borat
'is very nice, i like'...
Unbeknown to us initially, Turkmenistan is mostly
desert so it's hot as hell again, but luckily today we met some friendly locals at a truck stop who gave us a
watermelon to eat.
Ashgabat tonight, the derveza burning gas crater
tomorrow, really looking forward to it.
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