It was a soggy start to Day 36, it had rained early in the morning and was still going at 10am when I wanted to leave. The hotel owner was still asleep on the sofa in reception, obviously, but I got the bike geared up then waited a little for the rain to slow, I was in no rush anyway.
I rode the 100m or so to the ferry port and started asking where I could catch one to Cardak. They all pointed me to a boat and it seemed I didn’t need a ticket. I tentatively rolled up to the boats ramp and waited for someone to stop me. They didn’t, so I rode on, then a guy came over to meet me, pointed me where to park and asked for about £2. Fair enough.
I sat and had a coffee and phoned my dad while waiting for the ferry to fill up and leave. Once we got going I started pondering the crossing. It was the first ferry I’ve been on and getting the bike transported somewhere always make it feel significant, like Euro Tunnel. There’s a lot less grandeur in crossing a land border, especially in the EU where you don’t even stop.
This crossing was taking me from Continental Europe into Asia. It was still Turkey and pretty much everything is the same; but it’s significant to me at least. I’ve never been to any of Asia, not even technically. So I was on new ground. After the ferry it was a fairly dull ride to Erdek. The roads were much better than expected and it just a few hours of motorway riding. It meant I got there quite early though and could start getting myself sorted. I was basically staying in a Coastal Holiday town, primarily Turkish people from what I could gather, the Hotel was dirt cheap and right on the beach though.
A fairly lazy and late start to Day 37. Not a lot on the agenda today other than getting Donkey some new shoes so there was no rush so I headed over to the tyre place at lunch time. I found Bora on Horizons Unlimited, he ships tyres all around Turkey to make it easy for travellers like me to get hold of the exact tyre they want. He’s based in Bandirma, so it was easier for me to come to him than to try and find a garage closer to ship too with only a couple of days notice. With the state my tyres were in I couldn’t afford to wait any longer. Getting punctures two days before was either very bad luck, or very good luck since I’d already arranged the replacements.
Bora doesn’t actually do any tyre changing, especially on motorbikes, but he has a friend who helps out when it needs doing. His friend doesn’t speak any English though, so it was Round 2 of non-verbal tag team mechanics. I now knew what I was doing with the rear tyre so that was easy enough, but then we had some fun with the front. Getting the various sensors off and brake calipers out the way, then tracking down a tool to fit in the front axle, since I forgot to bring mine from the hotel. We got it sorted though and everything went back on straight. Donkey is strutting around in shiny new shoes. They’re really shiny too, the last time I had new tyres I pulled out the garage and immediately slid down the road, shiny new tyres are slippy, FYI. I rode back to the hotel like I had a puncture, determined not to fall off again. Turkeys roads are pretty slippery anyway, let alone with polish on the tyres.
After the tyres were changed there was pretty much nothing. Just chilling on the beach and by the pool for a an hour then sorting through some more stuff. There’s a constant churn of stuff to do on the bike, with the gear and with the photos and videos to keep everything running smoothly. If I go a couple of days without doing them it mounts up; at best into a big task, at worst into a problem with the bike. I’m doing better at keeping up with some things than others, being a serial procrastinator does not help.
A quick start to Day 38 and lugging all the bike gear down two flights of stairs in 3 trips. Then riding East across some horizon touching roads, makes for dull riding, but stunning views sometimes. A stop for lunch in Bursa at an amazing bakery, finding good Börek is hard but so worth it, it’s basically a filo pastry bake with various fillings but so good when it’s done right, and with a Turkish Coffee obviously.
I stopped at one town I passed through when I ended up on a busy industrial road. Just people moving about everywhere and trucks crossing from one shop to another. There was a tyre place at the end and I went in to see if they had any Tyre Seal, or knew where I could get some; since I was now without a way of even limping my tyre to a town if I got another puncture. Google Translate came in handy again and one of the mechanics ran off to some other places nearby. I’m not sure why but I guess to try and find some tyre seal for me. After he came back empty handed the guy just gave me their tool, and 7 seals. I’d told him about the trip and he basically said “it’s important for you” and I forced some money on him for them. I’m sure it’s not a lot, but I was just some guy who turned up 5 minutes ago without speaking their language asking for some seals, being nice was just his default response.
I’d decided I wanted to get back to the black sea coast. The centre of the country wasn’t very enticing and I had no plans, so faced with the choice, I chose the coast. It was fairly dull roads to get there though so I stuck on my audio book and got the miles done. I made my way right to the coast in the first town I came too and road down the beach road, inquiring in hotels along the way. I planned to camp, but it doesn’t hurt to check for a bargain in a nice town. Eventually I found a nice wild camping spot outside of town on the beach. It looked like a picnic spot, there was a lot of litter and car tracks everywhere, since it was easy to drive up to. So I made my way far enough down the beach that I didn’t think anyone would come in the night. Also navigated my first bits of sand of the trip, sand is scary on a bike, it steals the wheels and you just have to keep balance, like riding one of those stupid bucking bulls at parties.
Some kids found me and rode up on their little motorbike, all 3 of them aboard. One of them spoke a little English but they mostly just marvelled at the bike for a bit and tried to wrap their heads around the fact that I was camping here. I may now know why they were confused by it…
I made some dinner and got down to blogging and chilling out on the beach watching the sunset. About 5 minutes after the sun set my own personal hell broke loose into the world. Something loud buzzed by my head and I instinctively swatted at it, I hate wasps and bees, so one being close to me just freaks me out. I caught sight of it and it looked like a fat bee, almost cockroach sized, that worried me anyway, but it didn’t seem interested in me. Then I looked up at Donkey about 5 meters away on the grass and he was swarming with them… at least 30 or 40 of them buzzing around the bags, jacket and helmet. Shit. The tent and all my gear was still in the bags. Whether I stayed or left I had to get to my gear. I cautiously approached and a few took interest in me, I lightly waved at them (don’t anger them!) and they just became more interested, until 5 or 6 of them were trying to land on me. NOPE. NOPE. NOPE. back to the beach! Once I got on the sand they lost interest, guess they don’t go near the water. I stopped squealing like a girl, and then laughed at myself since I’d just ran down the beach, swatting at my own head, alone, anyone watching would have thought someone was filming a sketch show.
I plucked up some courage (seriously, I was freaking out at this point, they’d taken Donkey hostage!) and ran over to the bike. I Grabbed the helmet and jacket, knocking other stuff flying, and ran back to the beach. Now I had some armour. I put the helmet on, closed the visor and did up the jacket. Now the only things exposed were my hands. I walked back up to the bike, trying not to annoy the flesh eating locusts and gathered up everything on the floor, now I was being swarmed since I was super interesting. I was still freaking out in my beekeerpers suit so I walked all my stuff I gathered further down the beach. Horrified to find they followed me all the way, I ran back to the sand…
I had some of my stuff with me on the sand, including some petrol for the stove, so I tried walking like a motorcycle priest with open petrol canister held out in front of me. They didn’t give a fuck. I grabbed the (super strong) insect repellent out of my bag. No fucks given. OK last resort. Run to the bike, shove stuff in bags, stab keys in, start and gun it down the beach. Anything that falls off or I leave behind, I can walk back for in the beekeeper suit. Fortunately I’d left the bags secured but open, so I threw everything in and gunned it down the beach. The followed me for a good 100 meters until I couldn’t see them out the helmet anymore. But I’m pretty sure one of them gave me the finger before he flew off.
I should add that by this point, I’d been wearing all my bike gear, running around for about 15 minutes, with the visor closed (I ride with the visor open at 60mph because it’s too warm). So I was drenched in sweat from terror and heat by now. Perfect time to come across a Turkish family breaking their fast with a nice picnic. They were nice enough about it though and while I breathed heavily in the corner drinking a litre of water the kids had fun revving the bike and their dad was looking back down the beach like “where the hell did you just come from”.
I decided I was done with camping for today and broke my rule of no night driving to try and find a hotel. Luckily it was only about 30 minutes and I found some apartments. So I had an apartment to myself with decent internet for about £15.
It turns out, the bugs may have just been some type of Cicada, which don’t sting or even attack really, but I still wouldn’t camp their knowing that. I must have been camped directly on some kind of nest, or Donkey has some epic pheromones that attracted them. If I’d have already had my tent up with my things inside, I would have just stuck around, since they couldn’t have gotten in and would have hopefully got bored eventually. Lesson learned, sometimes waiting until dark to put the tent up for securities sake is not the best plan.
The apartment I stayed at was amazing for one reason though: the dogs. When I arrived a big dog came running up barking his head off and circled me. Fairly common in my bike gear, especially if I’ve got the helmet on. I just stood still and waited for him to chill out, once I scratched behind his ear he was instantly my best friend. Then I saw the puppy come walking up and he was back to Dad Mode barking at me for going near it, but he slowly came round to that idea too.
I spent the rest of the night with the puppy asleep on my lap and the dad cuddled up on the bench with me. The Mum arrived back with the owner at about 11 and she soon came around too, though the dad was a little occupied after that…