We set off early today for the 464 km ride to Ankara. We started on the main E 80 toll road, but then headed to the D140, which basically cut cross country south east. The ride is up and down several passes. It’s Wednesday today and we want to get there by Thursday so we have 2 weekdays to get the Turkmenistan visa sorted.
Squeezing out of the hotel parking!
Back on the toll for a bit. The alarm did sound when we exited, but no one seemed to care.
We had a surprisingly painless exit from the city with only one 15 minute section with bumper to bumper cars. Again the locals are pretty aggressive with speed, passing, and cutting over many lanes and between the bikes. This is such a cosmopolitan city!
The biggest event of the day was of course riding our bikes into ASIA!!!
Riding east to Ankara!
At the top of one of the passes we stopped for lunch. The owner did not speak English, but immediately called his cousin who did and Abdullah spent the next hour translating for us and making us feel very welcome. We had a great lunch and then bought some fresh cherries from their farm.
We thought it was going to be a long day and we had planned to stop in Beyparasi or Ayas, but we all felt pretty good and decided to press onto the city. Better to fight the traffic now then before our appointment at 945 am.
We had looked on line and hotels here are very expensive. In the end we picked one that was 10 km from the embassy, had underground parking, and ok rooms. It was still relatively expensive. The only problem was there were no restaurants within 3 km, but luckily the gas station next door had a cafe and they made us some pretty good cheese grill and burgers with fries.
Today we are all feeling a bit stressed. We have read and heard so many things about how difficult and unfriendly the Turkmenistan people are and that the rejection rate for transit visas is 50%. We decided to take a cab, which was a good idea with the very bad traffic and the stress level. The driver was using Daniel’s GPS for turn by turn directions. Arriving there we found a much cheaper and very ok looking hotel directly across the street from the embassy! We buzzed the embassy gate at 930 and we were met by a friendly guy who asked Visas? and directed us to an office in the back of the building. Here there is a small window and 2 men at desks with stacks of passports. He later said they get 150 visa requests a day here!!! We said we wanted to arrange visas. He asked if we had Iran visas and if not we would have to come back when we did to apply for Turkmenistan….AGH!!! Orvar has his Iran visa so they said they would do his. Then we said that we had Uzbekistan, Russia, and China visas, but they were still not convinced. It was not until Orvar handed over his copy of the LOI that they changed there mind. We four are all on the same LOI….”yes you can get a transit visa, but you must fill out a different form than the one you have filled out from on line and “printed doubled sided and never folded”. OK done! Next you walk down the hill 400 m to the Turkish bank, pay your 55$ USD for urgent processing (regular 3-5 days is 35$ not sure who does this) and bring back your receipt. Voila in 15 minutes you have your visas!
The taxi back was much quicker as there was almost no traffic now. We packed up and were on the road by 1230. But first we had to bring the bikes up to the front of the hotel for a photo op for the bellman.
The gang decided to press on today and try to make up a day and get to Sivas in 486 km. There is no way around the direct route on the 4 lane D200/E88. Boring but effective for making miles.
We stopped for lunch about 2 and again received a warm welcome and a very nice lunch. No-one spoke English, but one spoke German and so does Orvar. I was invited to the kitchen to make sure that we wanted the Chicken kebabs they wanted to cook for us. They also requested an picture with us. We stopped about every hour and at the gas stop the owner came our with 4 hot cups of tea for us (never happening in Canada).
We arrived to Sivas, which is a fairly big place of 300,000. There are lots of small hotels, but few with parking. We had decided on one (Dan described as a bit Bates), but then we spotted another down the road. Daniel went to check it out. The man at the deck said “I don’t speak English, but I will help you”. Done deal. They moved a car from the front door so we could park the 4 bikes where he could keep and eye on them. We went for a walk to the main street to find a local place to eat and we did manage to get a good grilled meat meal with some pointing and “salad”.
We all had the 430 am wake up call to prayer, but managed to get back to sleep. Today the forecast is for rain, but starting out it was sunny. For the 466 km ride to Trabzon over the mountains.
We went east and had to stop to put warmer clothes on as it was 9 degrees. After about 75 km on the E88 to Zara we then headed northeast thru the national park over the mountain pass on the D865.
The road surface was fairly rough. We had to get the rain suits on because of looming black clouds, but with a few stops well timed we missed the worst of it.
By noon we had mostly dry roads.
The road climes to the snow line at 2200 m. On the downward side we stopped to see a bridal falls and the park rangers immediately invited us into their cabin for tea. About 15 km later we stopped in a small village to get some snacks at the market. Again several people came over to offer us tea (Chai). We finished the good part with a bit of construction and then hit the D10.
We had 130 km to Trabzon and were stopped 3 times in traffic police checks. At the first one they took a quick peak at the plates and said drive on. At the second we all had to produce passports, drivers license, and vehicle registration. They then called 4 operate times and for each bike gave the plate number and the ID. After 15 min they let us go. Not 5 km later we were waved in again at the next stop. Dan said to the guy “were just all check 5 km ago”…Even the bus driver who was also pulled over at both stops came over and told the cop that all these bikes just had the full paper check. He made a call to the other officers and yes we were free to go.
Arriving to Trabazon the traffic was very heavy and as usual the drivers very aggressive. We checked a few hotels and all were very expensive. We decided to pass thru the town and at the airport there were a number of hotels. The next morning we were the only ones having breakfast at 8 am….First day of Ramadan today!