Belgium - Australia on an BMW R1100 GS motorcycle, solo.

Report #10 - August 10th to September 9th, 1998...

In Ankara there is a BMW bike dealer. But the distributor (in Istanbul) doubts whether he has the necessary parts in stock. The parts have to be shipped from Istanbul - I decide to go to Istanbul because shipping the parts would also take 2 days. I ride on a beautiful highway to Istanbul at high speeds.

The scenery is completely different than the ones I've seen lately. Ankara is situated on top of an elevation (as is almost all of Turkey). The average height is some 3000 feet. From Ankara to Istanbul the land slopes lightly downwards, back to sea level. There are green trees growing here without the aid of sprinkler installations! The hills of the Anatolian highlands catch enough rain to support growth on the many fields without irrigation. And the temperature is much better as well: for the first time in weeks I ride in a dry T-shirt. From Ankara the road first rises steeply, then it becomes rather hilly, and from then on my altitude meter shows a slow but steady drop. This area is very fertile and cool, and thus it is in use for growing crops. Some of the land even looks a bit like Holland, especially because of the many poplars acting as windbreaks.

In Istanbul I can easily locate the BMW distributor. But it is too late to start working on the bike now, we make an appointment for 8:30 next morning. From there I went to the now familiar camp site in Atakoy, this time without the police escort. Jopie was very excited indeed to see me again: she literally jumped up when she saw me coming. Kamil was very surprised as well. Of course there was coffee, and I had to tell them what I had done. Just before nightfall I put up my tent, but I got no sleep until after midnight.

The BMW distributor didn't have the cases and supports in store. They had to be shipped from Germany - this would take one or two weeks. They did have the stuff to do a maintenance check. They immediately started servicing the bike. They thought a moment about other appointments for that day, but those were quickly rescheduled. The story of my world trip gave me priority here as well.

But what to do ? Waiting in Istanbul for 2 weeks, after having spent 2 weeks arranging visa already ? Making a trip around the Black Sea ? Lying on the beach in Alibey ? Or: searching for a cheap plane ticket. To visit my mother before she starts her immunity therapy (and so before she gets very ill). And then going on to San Francisco to visit Carolyn (I more and more miss the daily phone calls, despite the exchange of email). And if I'm not mistaken, SCO Forum is held during these 2 weeks. An opportunity not to be missed.

I went to the airport with a cab, but getting a ticket proved to be difficult. The customs officer said it would be 'no problem' to park my bike. In the city it is crawling with travel agencies offering cheap tickets, and the next cab ride brought me to an agency. I returned with tickets from Istanbul to Brussels, from Brussels to San Francisco, and back to Istanbul. And a large case to transport the cases of the BMW.

Jopie and Kamil made some steak and salad for me, the tested beans-and-garlic salad. There were days when I didn't eat garlic before going on a plane. I decided to pass on that rule. It's obvious I thoroughly enjoyed this meal.

The next morning I got up late, packed everything, put all the stuff I normally carry on the back of the bike in some watertight bags, and tied it all together. I trusted Kamil with the rest of the luggage. I arrived at 11:45 AM at the customs parking lot, there I would leave behind the bike in exchange for a stamp in my passport voiding the export of the bike. They told me I had to get to the airport to get some form. 'No problem', I thought, and went to the airport.

When I arrived it was 11:55. They refused to help me before their lunch break (at noon). "But I'm only here to get a form", I tried. They were inexorable. I had to return at 1. I used the time to check in the strange, large suitcase which was tied on the back of my bike. I got a boarding pass with a deadline of 3 PM (at the gate). Unconcerned I waited, remembering the story the diving guide told me in Kas.

"I hab mir zehn Kilometer fur Kas auf's Maul gelegt", the story started. Last year Mark went on his bike to southern Turkey, and had an accident 10 kilometers before he reached his destination. He didn't suffer much, bruised his shoulder, some scratches and bumps. And he was eternally grateful he had the sense of wearing his motor jacket. The bike couldn't be repaired in Turkey, it had to be shipped back to Germany. He had insurance for this shipment, but he had to do all the paperwork himself. The reason was he wanted to leave Turkey without his bike, which was entered in his passport. The bike would go on a truck. He had to spend a full day, first importing the bike, then getting the papers to export it again, and meanwhile getting rid of the note in his passport.

It couldn't be that hard, I thought. I returned to customs at exactly 1 PM. Two hours to get this form seemed ample enough, but that was not the case. I honestly tried to trace what they did, but the procedure is so complicated I lost track in no time. I received 3 different forms (in Turkish, of course). They had to be filled out, but of course I didn't understand what I had to write on the lines of the form, which was xeroxed many times over. Just that fact made the form unreadable. And there were not just a couple of questions: from the serial numbers of the frame and engine to my mother's maiden name.

With the help of a secretary (I think that was her job title) I completed the forms. One of them was a statement declaring the bike would be property of the Turkish government if I didn't return in time, without any compensation for me or my heirs. Then I had to make copies of the forms. One had to be done four times, the next three times, the last two times, but that turned out to be wrong - had to be three times after all. An extra trip to the Xerox machine.

Then the sending around started. Every empty office turned out to be inhabited with a person which, when tracked down, scribbled, stamped or put a clip on a form with the utmost reluctancy. They do have staplers, but because the forms keep getting reordered a paperclip does a better job. Sometimes they took away some forms, they were put on a (large) pile. Meanwhile I hadn't the faintest notion what was the intention of this all, and this was going on for an hour already. I bumped into a visitor who could speak English, and she turned out to be sensitive to my charmes. She helped me get through the remainder of the bureaucratic maze, until they took away my passport and carnet. This always makes me nervous - I never leave those documents in the care of others. The young lady explained I would get everything back when I had brought my bike to the customs parking lot some 3 miles further.

So I'm on my way. The parking lot also has a few offices, and the going-back-and-forth starts all over again. But finally they ask me to park my beloved bike. I found a place under a roof and installed a lock on the disk of the front brake, and one in the rear wheel. Then I activated the alarm. Three keys to move the bike on a guarded parking lot seems a bit of an overkill, but I wanted to be sure it would be there when I'd return three weeks later. Keeping in mind the declaration of renunciation I removed the contact key from the ring with the other keys. I was right: I had to hand in the keys, they were archived under number 484. They told me to remember the spot on the rack of keys myself, the rack was one mesh of keys and key rings.

"Finish", they added - I was all done here, and had some of the forms left. Quickly I arranged a ride back to the airport, back to customs. Arriving there the man said something was missing: they should have given me an extra form. "Excuse me, but they didn't give me that form - can't we arrange this in another way ?" No. "Not my problem", he countered my story. I didn't get back my carnet and passport without the new form.

I rented a taxi and went back. I had discovered where the chief of the parking lot was smoking his cigarettes (that was the only thing I saw him do) in his office, and I went straight for him. The man shared my excitement about the mistake and called his subordinate who should have given me the form, and then he accompanied me to the opposite side of the parking lot. All sweaty we arrived - one of the bureaucrates handed the form over with a depressed face. I barely made the 3 o'clock deadline. Just when a delay of the plane would come in handy these darn planes leave right on time. And that being my first Sabena flight...

My parents picked me up in Brussels. They were on their way to my house - the ride came in handy. During the interlude in Amsterdam for the wedding of Menno and Mirjam my parents were in southern Spain (the traveling doesn't come from strangers). We hadn't seem eachother in three months. And that was a long time, especially for my mother. One of the reasons to leave Istanbul was the fact that she would start an immune therapy in an attempt to battle a kidney cancer which was spreading to the lungs. She will get very ill from the treatment. It is experimental; the chances of succes are not very big. These are uncertain times, and she misses her son badly. Arriving home we celebrated the reunion and talked for a long time.

Next day my father and I did what we usually do: spending time together and doing small chores. This time I had to buy a new sleeping bag, clearing out a part of the overgrown backyard, putting up tents, replace the car battery, fixing the bed, reprogramming the satellite receiver, etcetera. It keeps us busy and we have the time to chat about all sorts of things. We use the afternoons to cook the meals and spend time with mother. Very nice.

Saturday evening Menno and Mirjam arrived to toast, to talk about business and to check out the world trip pictures Menno brought with him from Holland. I don't take enough pictures: some things are missing which should have deserved a shot when I talked about them.

Sunday Menno and I behaved like brats - we raced a tour through Odrimont - Trois-Ponts - Vielsalm with his Mercedes SLK and my MG. Menno won. He sure can drive a car! When I was going 100 mph over a small secondary road he didn't mind following me at a mere 6 feet, and still he pushed me!

Meanwhile my parents entertained the visitors, The, Krijna and the three kids. That's why we put up the tents in the backyard - what a party. I don't think the kids had much sleep. I continued my trip to San Francisco Monday morning - The was kind enough to take me to the airport.

My arrival in San Francisco was again on time - one of the very rare times everything went on schedule. Carolyn was waiting for me at the gate, and that meant the first hug of many to come. Getting home I gave presents to the kids and grandma, but that was the last thing I did, apart from sleeping very long. I didn't rest a lot in Belgium, and now the time difference on top of that.

The next day an early rise, there was "work" to be done: SCO Forum. SCO is a manufacturer of UNIX operating systems, and yearly this company organizes a conference, held on the campus of the Santa Cruz University. Dupaco (the company I founded in 1985, together with Erik Monninkhof) has been a Dutch distributor of the SCO products. Carolyn is employed by SCO, we met three years ago during this conference. We celebrated our third anniversary. That first morning (we missed the opening speech of Doug Michels) I shaked hands with many friends and acquaintances. And had to tell many times that I was just taking a break, the trip would go on. And the complete Dupaco crew was present! They weren't all that surprised to see me, Erik had already told them I was coming.


That afternoon Dupaco had rented the Chardonnay II, and I was invited as well. We went sailing on the Pacific Ocean. The Chardonnay II is a sail boat that used to compete in several sailing events; she still holds the record for the race from San Francisco to Honolulu on Hawaii. It's a very fast boat evidently. Nowadays all kind of stuff has been built in: a stereo set, fridges, a microwave oven. These things surely weren't present when they sailed these races. The boat is now used for trips for business people looking for a change. And Dupaco is very busy making the Chardonnay II a synonym for SCO Forum.

I accepted the invitation for the next day as well: a tour on the vineyard of Bernardus. This vineyard is the property of Ben Pon, a well-known car distributor in Holland. Normally such a tour is no more than a story about making wine, a look in the extraction room, the steel barrels containing the freshly made wine, and the wooden barrels used to age the wine. Sometimes they show the bottlery as well. This vineyard is different. First off, we are not in Napa, but in Carmel. South of Monterey, more than three hours south of Napa. Where the influence of the cold Pacific Ocean is much larger than in Napa, situated farther from the ocean.

The wish to be different is also evident in the tour: we get to see the man responsible for growing the grapes. A technician, but then in growing stuff. I immediately liked him. He started talking about his evaporators. "Evaporators?", I asked. "Yes, so I know how much water is evaporated by the plants during the day". And he uses those data to determine the amount of water to supply to the plants. Then I realize that growing grapes forces one to make a lot of choices. The amount of water is an evidential one. In the early season he deliberately gives them not enough water, so the plants think a dry period is coming. That way the grapes stay small, and that is his intention. And he also knows the influence the fog has when it flows inlands from the ocean - the evaporators loose less water on cloudy days.

The Bernardus vineyard is young - the first plants were placed in 1989/1990, And so they had to think about how they would situate the rows of plants. Placing the rows north to south would ensure them the grapes would have sunshine all day long. Placing then east to west would cause shadows between the rows, especially in the early and late season. Unless the rows are sufficiently far apart, or unless the leaves which cover the grapes are removed just before the harvest. So many things that can be adjusted. And we didn't even talk about the acid level of the soil, the specific demands per species of grapes, the erosion, the orientation of the slopes, the height. It all was mindboggling. Without a doubt this was the best tour I ever had.

Thursday morning I gave in to my techie nature: all morning I was a witness of a series of talks (mainly by Intel) about their new 64-bit processor they've been working on for so long. They went on about speculative instruction execution, branch prediction, the usefulness of executing 6 instructions in parallel, and more exciting stuff.

After a lazy weekend (Carolyn had to work all week, but she got leave for the next week) I thought it was time to ride a bike. We left Tuesday to make a trip around California on a BMW K75 (the old bike I parked at Carolyn's). From Santa Cruz to Monterey, through the Carmel Valley, over the mountains to the Central Valley, and from there to Sequoia National Park. There we went for a little walk, but that was hard wearing a leather motor suit and dragging along a tank case.

Next stop was Yosemite National Park, on our third day. There we went to Glacier Point. That is a big detour, and it's no fun in a car in between slow-moving Americans. But on a bike it was great. It was years ago that I was here. The waterfalls Carolyn and I climbed (Vernal and Nevada) can be seen in one view. Just to the left Half Dome rises. We sat there for an hour, just looking at the scenery. It is so impressive I keep returning here. I think I visited Yosemite at least once a year each of the past years, and it never gets boring. The valley is very deep amidst the enormous monolythic mountains. You loose all sense of proportion - until you start walking and find out it takes a day to climb one of these waterfalls.

The purpose of visiting Yosemite was to do the Tioga Pass on bike. It is a pass at about 9000 feet altitude. Mountain passes and bikers are one. I definitely look forward to riding the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan - 12,000 feet high. Riding around the US is very easy. Nice roads, everything you need to travel comfortably is situated along the road: hotels, gas stations, diners. Yosemite, with all her miles of roads, is no exception. And so you can ride comfortably to great heights.

Arriving at the bottom of the valley (about 5600 feet high) we picked a motel in a small village. The room was acceptable, but the kitchen was supposed to be marvelous. And we wanted to eat something special, it was the day of our third anniversary. The bartender was friendly. He did talk a lot, and spilled all his past: being married, on the booze, but now he had completely recovered. He only served alcohol, he didn't drink it. He served me a bottle of Grolsch (!).

I had a bowl of soup, a salad and ... lambs meat. Oh well, after a month of Syria and thereabouts I couldn't stand kebabs anymore, but now I found this a pleasant change. Eating in the US is a pleasure: every nationality is culinarly present. You can try out a meal from a different country every day.

We had a lovely meal, and I thought a glass of cognac would nicely finish it off. I already spotted the bottle of Remy Martin. Most establishments in the US are very generous in their servings, and when we thought it was time to retreat in our room we hadn't finished our cognac. It is like swearing in the church to throw away such a drink, and therefor I took the glasses with us to our room.

Outside the bartender came after us. "You cannot take those glasses outside. You are committing a fellony by transporting these opened alcohol containers on the street", he told us. "If you hadn't stopped us, we would have reached our room already, and no one would have been harmed", I said. The wrong answer. He would call the police. "By all means!", I said, for I couldn't see why any official would give us a hard time over something he hadn't witnessed himself. We walked on and went into our room. Five minutes later the bartender called. Again he threatened us, and I decided he was bluffing. Another ten minutes later a female police officer was at our door, visibly ill at ease with the situation. Carolyn thought it best to give back the glasses (still not empty). Seems the alcohol problems still weren't history for the bartender...

The next day we had to cross the same mountains again, but I don't like riding back. I spotted another pass north of Tioga. This one turned out to be very long - it took us about 4 hours. After that we crossed Central Valley again. Central Valley is what makes California famous: everything, really everything grows there. From oranges to garlic, from broccoli to peaches. There is enough water, the soil is fertile and the weather is warm all the time. But after 2 hours of fields, interspersed with small villages with Spanish the dominating language (many Latino's find their jobs in the fields) it gets boring. My map showed a small road going from the valley straight to San Jose. It turned out to be a pass, made out of many, many curves.

In San Jose (at 4:30 PM) I was very tired, and on top of that we landed in heavy traffic. The car in front of us braked heavily, just when I was figuring out why we weren't going any faster. With both wheels locked tight we sailed towards the fender of the white car. We already were keeling over when I showed my best reflex ever: I released the brake and braked again. This made us miss the car by a hair and all was well. That's what happens when you want to ride as much passes as possible in one day...

The way back to Istanbul is via New York, and it starts at 7:30 AM. With a one and a half hour drive to the airport, half an hour for the traffic jams and the checking-in time we had to get up at 4. We are nicely on time, and have time to enjoy a breakfast. This time the flight leaves on schedule as well, and I arrive in Istanbul at 10 the next morning. The customs officer is surprised about the chaos of stamps concerning a motor bike in my passport, but lets me through. Then I go see the men who last time had kept me busy for 2 hours. This time they went about it a bit faster, it took me one and a half hour. When I'm ready to leave it starts to rain. But it is noon, and I cannot take shelter: the gentlemen are going for lunch and they won't let me hide for the rain. My rain suit is stored with the rest of the luggage - I arrive soaked in Atakoy.

Jopie and Kamil have left. The guy at the reception has no idea where my luggage is. I don't worry much, this man is not very bright. After a while I locate the boss. He knows where my stuff is, but he doesn't have the necessary keys. After an hour Said is found - he returns me my tent, sleeping mat, motor boots and my cold weather gear. A bit disappointed about the departure of Jopie and Kamil I put up my tent, and I wonder what has happened to them to not leave a message on my cell phone.

Meanwhile it is 2 PM, but according to my biological clock it is 4 AM. I am tired. But if I go to sleep now I'll undoubtedly be awake half of the night. It stopped raining - I decide to go to the BMW distributor. They have received all the necessary parts, and they immediately start working on the bike. I stayed around a bit, and a good thing too. The BMW course tells them how to tune this bike, but making 10 (!) holes for mounting each lock on the case hasn't been in the lessons. Finally they let me do this myself - they helpfully provide tools and some additional material.

After my credit card has been depleted of yet another several million Turkish Lires I return completely satisfied. The bike is fully prepared - now it's time for myself. Somehow I find the energy to get myself a hair cut, a pizza and some beer. At 8 PM (sunset) I crash, and I sleep the whole night. Next morning I add my new GPS on the bike, along with the new thermometer. I rearrange the luggage, and when it gets dark again everything is set. Gunay, Kamil's sister, drops by to pick up the presents I bought for Jopie and Kamil. She also takes with her the suit case.

I resume my trip on Thursday September 3rd. I go to Cankiri, where Halıl and Çanan live - the Turkish people I met in Kapadokya. The address is easily located with some excellent help: I'm given an escort. Only Çanan is home; using lots of gestures she explains me Halıl has gone fishing. A certain Sabri reports as the guide for the trip to the fishing grounds, but not before we had another tea. Everyone is interested to meet this foreigner. Speaking with him is even better.

Sabri and I travel quite a long way - some 13 miles. We end up at an artificial lake, and Halıl sees us coming. We stay fishing until sunset, but concentration has left Halıl completely. His companion catches 4 small brass-like fish. It has become very cold, but Sabri refuses to accept a sweater. Finally we return (cold to the bone) to the appartment of Halıl and Çanan.

Of course Çanan has prepared a meal for us. And the house is all tidied up. They have 2 sons named Abdoullah and Yusuf. And grandma lives in as well. Everything is according to Turkish tradition. For example, my shoes are in the hallway; I wear slippers destined for guests. We eat together; apparently I now am part of their friends, the women have no problems addressing me directly. But after dinner the men retreat in the living room; the women only enter to serve us tea and otherwise stay in the kitchen. Halıl and Çanan are very pleased with the pictures I brought along from the collection Menno gave me in Belgium.

Actually that was the reason for my visit - I want to continue my trip the next morning. Halıl doesn't agree: he already has plans for the next 3 days. That's not what I want: I want to go to Iran. We settle this with a one-day ride in the neighborhood of Cankiri, Halıl on the back of my bike.

The next day (it is Friday) we're busy visiting (probably) all his friends. I know the Turkish names of the various countries (Suriye, Lubnan, Urdun etcetera, up until Australia), and over and over again I hear this row. I don't have to tell them about the specs of the bike, the number of cylinders - Halıl knows and tells it all before they even ask about it. Halıl takes me to his job, where he prays amidst his colleagues (they all shake hands with me afterwards) we start the real thing: a grand tour.

Tracks near Çankiri

Most of the time we ride on sand and gravel roads. I guess we have made about 100 miles on unpaved mountain passes. And that with someone on the back without a helmet! I learned some more riding skills that afternoon.

When I say goodbye the next day Halıl wishes me "Allah Korusun!". Coming from such a devote man this had a special meaning. Without anything noteworthy (just a bit of rain and cold) I arrive in Samsun. This is situated at the Black Sea, and I follow its coast line. Via Rize and a very high mountain pass I go to Erzurum, and the next day to Dogabayazit, 20 miles to the Iran border.

Gule gule! (from Turkey)