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Old 07-09-2014, 09:49 PM   #1
bens109 OP
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Iraq - Iran - Turkmenistan

Iraqi - Iran - Turkmenistan

So I’ve been back in Australia nearly a year now after an amazing bike trip and still haven’t gotten around to writing a ride report. I figure it might be awhile before I have the time to write about the whole trip but I figure I will throw up some photos and a bit of advice about our crossing from Turkey through Kurdistan in Iraq, Iran and Turkmenistan as a lot of riders tend to avoid this route when going from Europe to Mongolia/Vladivostok.

Our entire trip took us from Italy through the former Yugoslavia, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakstan, Russia, Mongolia and back in to Russia to Vladivostok. There are lots of amazing ride reports on this site and the HUBB which gave me immeasurable help and inspiration when planning this trip, if you are interested in this part of the world use the search function and dedicate the next few weeks of your life reading through them!

A quick overview: We traveled as a group of 4 but sometimes broke off in to 2 groups of 2 bikes depending on what we wanted to see and how rough the roads got. I was riding a BMW XChallenge, Pete (my dad) was on a DR650, as was Dave from Melbourne while Paul from Melbourne was on an ’83 Yamaha Tenere.

The Bikes
Russia Trip - Uzbek

Peter
IMG_2674

Dave
IMG_1877

Paul
IMG_2616

Me
IMG_3026

The only visas we had arranged before leaving Australia were Mongolia, which was very easy, and Iran. Thanks to Touran Zamin (http://touranzamin.com/en/) we had our applications pre-approved by the Iranian government and set off for an early morning road trip to Canberra to visit the Iranian Embassy. Several somewhat nail-biting hours latter Dad and I had our Iranian visas and dropped off our passports to the Mongolian embassy (literally right next door), there was a 10-day approval period but the ambassador himself assured us everything would go smoothly.

Unfortunately in the week between our visit to the Iran embassy and Dave and Paul’s visit the Iranian embassy announced there would be a national election in July! What was a relatively straight forward process for us (they had not even asked for our insurance papers), turned in to something else entirely for the Melbourne duo. Despite the requested dates we had listed on the pre-approval form and on the form they filled out at the embassy their visas were issued for 21 days starting from the current date! We wouldn’t even have left Australia by that stage. The embassy staff were adamant that all visas were issued that way and there was no way that they could change the dates. After much heated discussion the boys went next door and asked the nice Mongolian ambassador for photo copies of Pete and my Iranian visas. Faced with the proof the Iranians backed down and agreed to reissue the visas.

Fast-forward to eastern Turkey and having read about a German on a BMW GS having ridden through northern Iraq, and a blog of some English lads travelling through in a London taxi, Paul and I made the decision to split from Pete and Dave and check out what all the fuss was about. We had spent the night before in the town Mardin after our worse day in Turkey when Paul’s tank bag with DSLR was stolen while eating lunch. The bag was recovered by the local police who Paul became very friendly with and the thief was made to apologise, beg for forgiveness, kiss Paul’s hand and turned over to a not-very-forgiving-looking father! Mardin was a nice town and apparently very old with remains from 4000BC and an old city with fantastic architecture. leaving the hotel in the morning we stopped for petrol only to discover the Tenere had decided it could do without most of the bolts holding on the rear sprocket. An hour later we had scavenged our collective spares kits and the local market and the sprocket was secure.

IMG_1547

IMG_1545

Heading south we dropped down out of the hills on to the Syrian border which we followed for most of the morning. The tensions over the civil war were evident with plenty of troops, armour and look our posts on the Turkish side of the road but merely empty look-out towers on the Syrian side. Paul and Dave had come this was several years previously riding Yamaha Diversions and had continued down to Damascus. It was rather poignant for them to see Syria inaccessible after hearing of the destruction and brutality of the conflict.

IMG_1553

IMG_1560

We stopped in the town town of Cizre for lunch where Paul managed to find a quasi Yamaha dealer and sprocket bolts that fit a little better while I spent a few ultimately fruitless hours with a large tyre dealer drinking tea and eating sweets in a very plush office while he tried to source a front tyre for me (I was using Paul’s spare after my front Mefo explorer finally gave up 500 meters from the (very un-helpful) BMW dealer in Istanbul). *While I had great luck with the rear Mefo putting 20,000km on it before switch in Russia with tread to spare, the front came off the rim twice once spitting me off the side of the road in Greece and in the middle of a 8km tunnel in the Italian Dolomites causing me to narrowly miss oncoming traffic!*. From here Paul and I went south towards Iraq while Pete and Dad headed east for 2 days of very enjoyable and very wet riding following the River to the Iran border.

IMG_1576

We crossed the border between the Turkish town of Baskoy and the Iraqi town of Zakho. Initially it looked like we were in for a wait but he traffic was 100% trucks and the car line was empty so we sped past 2kms of trucks to the Turkish border control. The two young blokes at passport control greeted my request to pass in to Iraq with “why the fuck do you want to go to Iraq” then proceeded to ask me how many husbands I had. It was all in good fun but they had a very low opinion of Iraq and Iraqis and were doubtful that we were going to last long. I was confident that we would be able to obtain our visa stamp for the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq, but when we were entered the passport control building, and our Australia passports created a bit of a fuss, I thought we may have been in for a long wait. When we gusted towards two of the easily 600 empty seats in the waiting room and given tea I pulled out a book and got ready to settle in, however 2 minutes latter we were called up to the window and handed our passports with the required damps - result! Unfortunately we were now left with paper cups of scalding hot tea which, not wanting to appear rude, took another 10 minutes to drink.

IMG_1577

The customs check was the most rigours we experienced in the entire trip and the only time we had our frame and engine numbers checked. Once again everyone was very friendly and we had more tea in the office while several forms were filled in and signed by various customs officers. By the time we left the border it was getting rater late in the afternoon and the road leading away was very busy, very rough and wind was mixed with sand and diesel fumes. We were heading for Arbil for the night but we knew the main highway would take us through Mosul (not a very friendly place in 2013, extremely unfriendly right now!) which was not only dangerous but also not part of the Kurdish region our visas permitted us to visit. This was one of the only times on the trip where our GPS loaded with Open Street Maps let us down, in the end we relied on three methods of navigation; 1) heading roughly south-east 2) asking for directions to Arbil or Erbil (I could pronounce the town 7 different ways to the same person before they finally realised I was talking about their capital city of two syllables!) and most reliably 3) being stopped at army check points every 20km and at the entry and exit of each town where the soldiers would very animately point in one direction, say “Mosul - bad” and make a cross with their arms then send us off in the opposite direction.

IMG_1578

IMG_1579
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Old 07-09-2014, 11:02 PM   #2
IvanRUS
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Hi!
Good that you have already gone, I was planning to go through Iraq this September ...
The war destroyed the plans.
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Old 07-10-2014, 12:46 AM   #3
darrel632
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Iraq - Kurdistan

Other than a significant fuel shortage right now (you can buy at private sites for 2.5 X the price of regular). there is nothing wrong with Kurdistan stay north and run from Dohuk to Sulahmanya then to the Iran border and you will have an enjoyable trip. DO NOT go through Mosul, Kirkuk or anywhere near the 36th where the Peshmirga are set up to keep ISIL or ISIS or DASH or whatever flavor of the day insurgent group is active on the south side of the 36th and you will be fine.
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Old 07-10-2014, 02:40 AM   #4
IvanRUS
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Originally Posted by darrel632 View Post
Other than a significant fuel shortage right now (you can buy at private sites for 2.5 X the price of regular). there is nothing wrong with Kurdistan stay north and run from Dohuk to Sulahmanya then to the Iran border and you will have an enjoyable trip. DO NOT go through Mosul, Kirkuk or anywhere near the 36th where the Peshmirga are set up to keep ISIL or ISIS or DASH or whatever flavor of the day insurgent group is active on the south side of the 36th and you will be fine.
Darrel
Thank you, Darrell!
That advise how to get from Turkey to Jordan?
Ivan
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Old 07-10-2014, 03:03 AM   #5
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Great stuff. Looking fwd to more
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Old 07-10-2014, 05:19 AM   #6
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Old 07-10-2014, 06:15 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IvanRUS View Post
how to get from Turkey to Jordan?
Ivan
Via the Mediterranean and Egypt.
Southern/South west Iraq is no go, as is Syria.
This makes Jordon virtually a dead end, mate.
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Old 07-11-2014, 03:47 AM   #8
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Old 07-15-2014, 01:41 PM   #9
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I'm in
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Old 07-15-2014, 05:50 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bens109 View Post
We were heading for Arbil for the night but we knew the main highway would take us through Mosul (not a very friendly place in 2013, extremely unfriendly right now!) which was not only dangerous but also not part of the Kurdish region our visas permitted us to visit. This was one of the only times on the trip where our GPS loaded with Open Street Maps let us down, in the end we relied on three methods of navigation; 1) heading roughly south-east 2) asking for directions to Arbil or Erbil (I could pronounce the town 7 different ways to the same person before they finally realised I was talking about their capital city of two syllables!) and most reliably 3) being stopped at army check points every 20km and at the entry and exit of each town where the soldiers would very animately point in one direction, say “Mosul - bad” and make a cross with their arms then send us off in the opposite direction.
I found the iraq map from gpsfiledepot.com to be very accurate when I was in the South
Here is the link for the file: http://www.gpsfiledepot.com/maps/view/85/

Edit. Looks like that map is based on the 'open street map' you already have...

Stay safe
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Old 07-16-2014, 02:04 PM   #11
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I'm in

Subscribed!
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Old 07-17-2014, 09:04 AM   #12
WimDH
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I'm in... Keep 'm coming!
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Old 07-17-2014, 02:30 PM   #13
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In, looks so laid back and easy, so it's got to be something special
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