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.
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 ;-)