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Old 02-09-2011, 05:36 AM   #4
asphaltmueller OP
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Joined: Dec 2008
Location: an Austrian in Ankara
Oddometer: 1,006
chapter 2, from Ankara to Plovdiv, Bulgaria

So we set out on Saturday the 22nd January - late as usual.
The goal of this day was Istanbul, where we would stay overnight in a guestroom of the Consulate General, which is located not to far from the northern bridge.
Anybody who has an idea of this 13 million mega-city knows, how location and traffic affects everything - Özge's wife was there this day on business, but in an other part of town, and so they couldn't see each other - it would have taken hours.
This etape was planned as a quiet familiarization ride for the hacks and the way they are loaded and for us; in Istanbul we would still be within our networks, have friends, shelter, cheap spares and specialists relatively easily available.
The first break down of the trip happened right out of my garage door - flat sidecar tire, when I tried to pump it up, the valve blew out.


As we had a spare wheel I simply changed the wheel, with the help of the security guards of the company next door.
So half an hour late we are on the way.



Ankara's Saturday morning traffic is no big headache, and we hit the highway soon, passing the treated Bolu Mountains with a pass height of 1.580m and their cold, fog and unpredictable weather at noon, the best time.





But it soon proofed to us that the distances of our days etapes where to be a major problem of this trip - to long.
The hacks where cruising at about 80/85 - km/h, not miles. We just didn't have enough days to comfortably fit in the miles necessary.
I had had no problem to get the vacation for this trip, in a relatively dead season without school holidays ( all my collegues have school age children), but Turks have very little vacation rights, and Özge had put in overtime since summer to get 2 weeks of, which was really a maximum for his company.


After the long ascent to the Bolu mountains we continued our leisurely path in acceptable temperatures onward to Istanbul.


We arrived in the area shortly after nightfall and at the toll station I had a major shock – I couldn’t get the bike into neutral. After a few minutes of desperately haggling around in the stiff feeling gearbox, I found it, started up and continued, just to find that 3rd gear would not engage.

My heart fell really to the bottom and I just thought that it couldn’t be, that the trip was already over before Istanbul.

I tried several time anxiously to engage the gear, riding slowly in second on the right embankment. After a while the gear would engage, then also 4 th; 5th stayed blocked for some more time.

With some relief I rolled over the bridge connecting Asia and Europe.
But for all the remaining ride I had serious problems in finding a neutral, what together with a not really separating clutch is a bit suboptimal in city traffic. So now an overhaul of the gearbox is going to have to happen.


We arrived in the consulate, lifted the necessary luggage 3 floors up to the small guestroom under the roof, organized some beer and went in the beginning rain to find a restaurant for a not to expensive dinner.



Pretty soon we were fast asleep.
The Consulate General is situated in an old small palace, that Sultan Abdulhamit the second had gifted to the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef some 150 Years ago. Luckily the Sultan had written in the deed that it may not be sold. Now the Consulate and the Cultural Institute are placed in this lovely building




In the morning packing takes a bit longer because Özge had found that his newly modified and strengthened rear rack has cracked; he uses some wire to fix it, which will hold till today.


We set out through the urban landscape of Istanbul in beginning rain, which will strengthen to a veritable rainstorm.



While my fishing-trawler flotation suite holds well, Özge hesitates to put on his rain suit and then is soaked and miserable within minutes. The temp is about 8 C, not nice for riding soaked wet.



We hed to a small town appr. 100km after Istanbul for a late breakfast, invited by inmate “VENTURER”, whom I met last summer on the aegean shore (it's real time to finish your ride report, Birdal !!)



A nice meeting and good food, but time presses.
We ride the long, rolling hills of Thrace, run out of petrol out of neglect for the first time, but the reserves are sufficient.


the cooling towers do not belong to an atomic power station


In the late afternoon we arrive at the border. The Turkish side passes fast, with some lovely customs girl shuddering at our sight –“you rode here from Ankara – brrr”

At the Bulgarian border we are met by a friendly farm boy type cop with whom I had a sort of conversation about the MZ ( “we had 251 – what is 301 ? engine nema problem”) and a customs guy who smiles and tells us he rides a Virago.
In the middle between the two is an Idiot who thinks Özges Schengen-Visa is fake. As my team doesn’t issue fake Visas in general I’m getting in a foul mood and hold him my passport under his nose, telling him clearly that I’m the Austrian Consul. After that he beats retreat.
We met a few officials on the way who were amused or had troubles to connect my appearance with my diplomatic passport, but no other with a hostile attitude.


We were informed, that we didn’t need a toll sticker for the bikes, changed some money and filled up with cheap gas – gas in Turkey is 2 € /Ltr – and continued our way to Plovdiv on the Bulgarian state roads – no highway here.

Once in a while we stopped for a coffee and a cigarette, trying to warm up.




great cheese in this area

In the car I hate this stretch of road, but when you are the slowest vehicle on it, it's quite good riding.



Near Plovdiv RTW Doug had provided us with a contact where we could stay for the night, with safe parking for the hacks, which was one of our major concerns on this trip – unloading would not be funny at all.

After having been lead by Özges Navigation system right into Plovdiv instead of around it and loosing our way there admidst the communist high rises, due to deviations because of road construction, we found Atanas small town and after an interesting ride through the small streets of a town still very much trapped in the old times we found Atanas house (after calling him, actually, but we where in the neighborhood).

Atanas is a bear of a man, a real gentle giant, which proofed handy immediately, as he hadn’t calculated the width of our hacks and we had to build a way through his garden to park them behind the house. Luckily some concrete slabs were already there for later construction.





Afterwards we are royally treated by Atanas and his cart racing wife, pork chops and farm chicken, Kamenitza dark beer, home made peach compot with Vodka…
Just thinking that I hope I will lose some weight on this trip, not only because I really should, but also as an argument for further tours.




Chapter three soon to follow

edit : Özge has prepared some maps now, here's for the frst two days




asphaltmueller screwed with this post 02-09-2011 at 12:52 PM
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