Dienstag, 21. Mai 2019

SuzyBlue goes east 2019: Turkey's southeast, across the country, 12.-21.05.

After the great days in Göreme (Cappadokia) with ballonflight and offroad day Iˋm on the way now in stages eastwards. Meanwhile Iˋm riding with Jürgen and we will probably be on the road together until Usbekistan, eventually even Tadschikistan - in case I adapt my route a bit to his. After that he will travel on to Kasachstan, Mongolia, Russia and back home to Belgium. And I will spend first quite some time in Kirgistan and then travel on through China to Pakistan, north of India and finally Nepal. Not traveling alone anymore makes a big difference: you can share all the great impressions but on the other hand you have of course to be considerate of each others plans and ideas. Jürgen probably drives a bit slower now but on the other hand he makes a lot of photo stops as he is a passionate photographer as well. Thatˋs perfect as it means that I have enough time to catch up and admire the scenery - next to taking some pictures on my own of course. Most of the time we take small side roads or mountain roads what often leads us to unpaved, twisty gravel roads. Just great!! Hills, little mountain passes, up and down. Sometimes down to 1200feet and sometimes up to 7200feet. One valley more beautiful than the other, the colours of the rocks and stones remind me sometimes of the southwest of USA. Vast infinity, hardly any cars on the road, tiny villages with traditional dressed people. The colours of the landscape change from shiny green grassland to rocky stone deserts in white, yellow and red. Every possible spot is used for agriculture. Itˋs amazing!

We are still driving southeast - and are meanwhile just 200km away from Aleppo, Syria. Somehow a frightening thought as there isnˋt any evidence of that terrible war next to some military checkpoints when driving on main roads.
On the way towards Georgia we visit our probably last historic site in Turkey: Mount Nemrut, famous for its huge stone statues on 3 different terraces - of course in line with the cardinal directions. In front of the sitting statues the archaeologists placed the fallen heads; the statues show the most important Greek gods like Zeus. The site was built by king Antiochus 1., who had placed his own statue in the same row as Zeus and with that wanted to show how important and immortal he was. Archaeologists presume that his grave is underneath the mountain but as it contains mainly from loose gravel followed from solid rock in the middle they have not been able to prove that to now. The sight from Mount Nemrut with its almost 6500feet into the surrounding landscape is absolutely stunning.

But what stands out the most here in Southeast-Anatolia are the many dams. There are more than 13 of them just in the headwaters area of Euphrat and Tigris (now Iˋm honest... I didnˋt have ANY idea that these streams have their origin in Turkey... must defenitely have had a place at the window in Geography!!).  Some of them as big as 1000km². They all are part of the worldwide controversial "GAP-Project" that was already started during Atatürks governement. Some of them are still not finished. Only in the region of Euphrat and Tigris there are 22 barrier lakes with 19 hydro-electric power stations which produce about 27 Billion kWh per year!!!
Next to the electricity the remaining water is mainly for the use of the few squires who have endless monocultures and use tons of chemics and pesticides for a maximum output.
These sheer numbers but also mean for some hundred thousands of simple living people and little farmers that they lost their land, their only income without being paid out. Most of them moved either to poor mountain land or into the cities which exploded in the last 20 years (in some the population increased from 25ˋ000 to 350ˋ000 within 10 years) and where the unemployment is between 50 - 70%!! As good as power from renewable energy is, it is also a non-reversable damage for nature, biodiversity, archaeology and disturbs the complete biological system. And not only for Turkey but also for Syria and Irak which before used these two streams as well for their agriculture and the water for humans and animals. Turkey has it now in his hands.... a sort of terrifying thought. Although there would be international standards concerning the construction of such huge dams the governement of Turkey didnˋt pay any attention to these standards and did neither reforest nor paid the prior landowners nor created new jobs. A really poor handling. Nature will pay it back sooner or later.
Nevertheless the barrier lakes are amazing to look at and thatˋs why I still would like to show you some photos:

On the way we just meet some shepherds with their sheep herds. They always look very astonished when we slowly pass by. I guess they hardly have any tourists coming into their region. Always part of the herds - next to a donkey - at least 1 or 2 sheepdogs. Turkey has its own race, the "Kangal": a whitish, tall (up to 80cm high) great looking dog. I meet them always with big respect. But inspite of most of the dogs in Central- and South America these dogs hardly bark or run after us. They just stand alert next to their herd and watch us. It seems as if they know how much respect they create with their sheer presence.

Most of the time we start already in the early afternoon to look for a place to set up our tents. Again something I didnˋt do as long as traveling alone: wild camping. The place we look for should be quite flat, enough space for two tents, if possible next to a river or a lake and not visible from the street. And meanwhile with some shade as well ;-)
That means that we quite often drive into the countryside, away from proper roads. Jürgen has "an eye" to find such places and we mostly spend quiet peaceful nights in the middle of nowhere. Only "disturbed" from the calls of birds, frogs and crickets.

Another highlight on our way to Georgia is the "dark canyon". A small gravel road that leeds for 10km along a river in a deep canyon and through many unlighted tunnels. What a fun ;-)

Now we had in mind to get back to the mountains - exactly to Erzurum - a last time and from there head for a small border crossing into Georgia.
Unfortunately Jürgen had quite a bad crash into a roadside ditch. Because he had lost his left mirror during an earlier fall he had looked back while driving to check whether I had taken the right turn. His motorcycle stood - after a salto with a complete turnaround (as it seems) in the ditch. Just looking into the wrong direction.
Jürgen was quite lucky... next to some scratches on his helmet and his leather jacket no dmage or injuries. But the frame of his bike and one pannier was in bad conditions. We managed to drive back to the gas station we had fueled up some minutes ago.  Full of Adrelanin Jürgen was able to bend the frame with a steel bar back into its former shape. But he had also to remove the complete front, get out all the little stones that stuck everywhere and to hammer the pannier back into shape. We realised that all that work would take hours. So I asked the owner of the gas station whether we could set up our tents next to the gas station. He was happy to help us and within minutes I guess almost the whole village knew about us. Some men came by and offered their help. Really great people. We even had been invited for dinner from a neighbour. It was a simple dinner but it seemd that he was proud to have us as his guests. These situation showed me once more how hospitable and helpful people are most of the time - even to complete strangers.


The next day we drive straight to Trabzon at the Black Sea. It is time to relax a couple of days, had we been driving for 6 days now with sometimes really quite challenging roads. And meanwhile Jürgen also showed symptons of a light nausea.
We have rented a little house in the hills above Trabzon for a couple of days and will use the time for maintenance on our bikes as well. We found a small motorcycle garage where we can change the oil and use the tools for everything we like to do on our own. A great service and really friendly guy there. So in the end we and our bikes will be fit again for the coming kilometers. My SuzyBlue is doing with 5500km more on the tacho a great job and that should stay like that :-)


For Georgia and Aserbeidschan the weather forcast is not that could right now. So we will decide Tuesday whether to drive along the coast or again into the mountains.
We do not have any appointments any more as it is clear by now that we will neither drive to Iran nor to Turkmenistan but take the ferry from Aserbeidschan to Kasachstan.
Due to the fact that a law that forbids motorcycle with a bigger motor capacity than 250ccm to enter Iran now. It would be possible to buy (for quite some money) a special transit visa of max. 8 days to cross the country from Armenia to Turkmenistan. But there we also have just a transit visa of 5 days. Iran has far more to see and to experience than you could see in just 8 days. The political situation - thanks to the American Clown - is not that good as well. So better to skip it at the moment anyway. I was quite disappointed at the beginning when it was clear that we have to change our travel plans. Iran was thought to be one of the highlights of my trip. But on the other hand: to postpone it does not mean not to make it.... good to know that I still have some things on my bucket list the coming years ;-)

But before we still have Georgia and Aserbeidschan to experience. I'm really looking forward to it and just hope that the weather gods will be as nice to me as so far. I didn't had any rain for one month now and temperatures raising everyday up to 32°C meanwhile. Jürgen said this fact alone would be enough reason to travel with me ;-)

Samstag, 11. Mai 2019

SuzyBlue goes east 2019: coast, mountains, caves and many balloons, 04.- 11.05.

After all the historical sights I travel on, heading south. Ihave in mind to relax a couple of days at the coast of south Turkey. I had already been there quite some years ago but didn't remember how many hotels and resorts had been built along the coast. Some of them directly at the beach, some of them separated through the highway. But these resorts had an extra tunnel which connected the resort with the beach. Huge resorts, some of them absolutely kitschy. I don't want to know how it is here during high season.

The weather is really ok - mainly when I compare it with the weather in Switzerland right now - but for sunbathing still a little too fresh and too windy.

Instead of going to the beach I relax a bit different and make a short hike through a small, pretty canyon near Alanya. The road going there twisty, exactly what I like.

And I decide that I don't "need" more of this region. I prefer to travel towards Cappadokia. Again I find tremendous mountain roads, leading up to almost 6000fasl.
It looks as if the road should be renewed but they stopped somehow. Means that part of the road is either gravel or really bad tarmac. And you never know wthat to expect coming around a bend ;-) 
But there is still enough time to look around and admire the wonderful landscape.
Exactly what I like: twisty mountain roads, beautiful scenery and because of the changing road conditions never boring. To add there is a sometimes voilent sidewind that forces me to stay alert all the time.

The Turkish language has words that are astonishingly quite similar to German, like: Kuaför, Kahve, Otogar..... but my asbolut favourit Turkish word is ..... (drumroll)......TÜNELI:  that's like perfect Swiss German ;-)

On my way to Cappadokia I reach Karaman as inbetween stop. For a change I do not stay in a hotel or hostel but I'm couchsurfing. The traveling in a country I do not speak the language makes me feel a bit lonely. So I decid that I need some company. I can stay at Carmen's and Laura's place.Two Romanian students and for the time being studying one semester in Karaman.
Because it's Ramadan meanwhile most of the restaurants and even shops are closed during the day. The Turkish life has a complete different "groove" now. Only after sunset the villages get alive again and the streets and restaurants are full of people.
Carmen and Laura show me their favourite restaurants and we eat typical Turkish dishes like:  Gözleme, Krumpir, Günefer and we drink Ayran (a Turkish joghurtdrink)....hmmm..... very tasty..... and because all of it with almost no calories absolutely perfect for my slim bodyline ;-)


We have lots of fun together and they ask me very interested about the political system in Switzerland. But that's all I'm allowed to contribute to my stay. They had been really nice and it was a great time with them. 

From now on no more detours but I drive on the highway directly to Göreme, the main touristic village around Cappadokia. I'll stay at "Ali's Guesthouse", a cozy, simple little hostel with some private double/triple rooms and two dormitories. And as most of the hotels  here part of  it carved into the rock: a so-called cave hostel. A place I really can recommend as the two hosts Orkan and Carlos are absolutely kind and helpful. That they are also family of a cat with 8 (!!) babies makes it just perfect (for me at least).  After a short walk through the village I go to bed early as I'll have to get up already at 4.30 in the morning.

The next morning then I can enjoy one of the highlights of my journey. A drive with a balloon at sunrise. Expensive but absolutely worth the money. Together with appr. 3000 other tourists in appr. 150 balloons. But this time I don't care to be part of the "touristic machine". The night has been clear and so we have a spectacular sunrise that paints the scenery in incredible colours. Absolutely magic. But no more words now; I'll let the pictures speak: 

As the weatherforcast for tomorrow is not that good I use the rest of the day hiking and exploring the near valleys. Means about 15km walking but thinking of the great Turkish cuisine that can only be healthy ;-)
Of course I did read a bit about the histoy of Cappadokia before. To know a little about the reasons for all these makes all the caves, hidden churches and really special carved rock formations even more impressing and interesting.
The first caves have been "built" about 300BC and had been mainly used as a shelter and protection against enemies. Some of these underground cities could host up to 20'000 people and went up to 8 floors deep into the underground!


Friday now I meet Jürgen, a motorbike friend from Belgium. We had met in 2017 when I was traveling up to the Northkap and we had decided to travel some time together now as Jürgen intended to travel at least until Usbekistan quite the same direction.
There are just some harmless clouds and we want to explore the surrounding valleys - away from all the tourists. And this time of course with our bikes. We take mainly little country roads, most of them gravel. After about 100km we have seen some really special valleys and plateaus. Some parts of the paths have been really sandy.... an underground  I really do not like and is quite exhausting to drive. But it was great to drive some offroad as I will for sure find some similar roads in all the "stan"-countries. 


And of course we had some water crossings.... not really what I like most!!

Today now I really relax. Wash my clothes, go to the Hamam. Tomorrow we will head direction east/southeast. So far I really like to be in Turkey. It's a huge, interesting country with absolut different sceneries. Although of course people sort of stare at me when I drive through the little villages in the countryside. There people really still live quite traditional. But all the encounters so far absolutely friendly and interested (and astonished). Even to the he regularly call to prayer of the Muezzin I'm getting used to meanwhile:-)