Kurdistan and Anatolia
Leaving Iran was a lot easier than entering it. I skipped the long line of trucks and buses queuing at the border to be first across the line when it opened, only to be delayed a few hours sorting out Turkish insurance on the other side.
Stopping for a break and having some tea with an old Turkish man, I found out that I was actually in Kurdistan. Given the proximity to the Iraqi and Syrian borders and the number of military checkpoints I’d encountered, this started to make sense.
The next few days I traveled West through the middle of Turkey via Van, Elazig and Cappadocia.
The “Fairy Chimney” rock formations of Goreme were spectacular and riding off road through them, I got a great tour before encountering the TransAnatolia Rally camped outside town.
Race officials were surprised to see a fully laden adventure bike cross the finish line on day 3 of the rally; but I quickly got to know the GlobeScout Rally team who’s KTM450EXC had just finished. They did a quick service and some maintenance for the next day as well as giving me the names of a few places I could pick up some replacement sprockets in Istanbul.
My existing sprockets had over 30,000km on them and the replacement chain I picked up in India was starting to illustrate why you don’t buy motorcycle parts in India. I could only hope that it’d last me to Istanbul, unfortunately it didn’t.
After some time exploring Cappadocia I carried on West to Pamukkale. Turkey was turning out to be great for camping and I spent a few nights in between towns in the middle of nowhere.
Pamukkale was interesting, but theTravertine pools aren’t what they once were (mostly dry) and partly ruined by the hordes of tourists. However the ruins of Hierapolis were impressive and I did find a mechanic with an angle grinder where we attempted to cut the stiff links out of my loose chain. This didn’t help much, only resulting in a taught, stiff chain which is probably worse.
South-west to Bodrum where I checked out the Castle before heading North towards Istanbul where I’d arranged to meet Leslie for a week. Over the next few days it became evident that the chain was damaging my tired sprockets and I was now nursing the bike the rest of the way.
Searching for a campsite outside Balikesir I took a steep trail – too ambitious given my worn sprockets; and the ensuing ominous grinding sound and loss of power confirmed that I’d just stripped the rear sprocket. Not much I could do at that time of night so I set up camp and went to sleep.
The next day was an ordeal. I woke up to be attacked by a wild dog before packing up, crawling the bike to Balikesir and through broken English, searching for a mechanic.
Unsurprisingly the bike shopped lacked the right sprockets but was fortunately located next to potentially the most well equipped machine shop in town. After a quick look at the problem, Mehmet whipped out some steel plate and proceeded to MAKE me a new rear sprocket.
It was amazing to watch him work as he also lathed out the center of my front sprocket and a new sprocket before welding the pieces together, whilst I drank tea. You don’t often see this sort of ingenuity and the workmanship was bordering on a work of art. This combined with a chain from the bike shop and I was amazed to find myself back on the road.
Buoyed by my amazing luck I then drove into the heaviest rain I’d encountered since monsoonal Indonesia. The main difference being this was much colder.
Stopping on the way to Istanbul I met a lovely Turksih/Belgian family on holiday who furnished me with cake and redbull for my final approach.
Despite all the troubles I was ecstatic after 7 months and 30,000km through 15 countries to be finally crossing the bridge over the Bhosphorus and officially entering Europe.