Thursday April 12 Ephesus, Western Turkey- Simon

Everybody says you have got to visit Ephesus. But nothing prepares you for the extent and magnificance of this ruined city. At home in the Uk we marvel at our dark damp Norman churches which take us back to 900-1000 AD at the most. Occassionally someone in a dank field in the Midlands gets excited and the maybe even  rich when they unearth  a Roman helmet from a field with a mine detector. Here in Turkey  you park your van in a scruffy street or car park , pay the equivlent of about £6 and walk into the site of a ruined city that catered for a population of nearly 300,000 and nothing much has changed in 2100 years apart from a few archaeiologist trying to sling a few of the stone pieces back into their original configurations. It is aboslutely mind boggling.


Richard is going to get caught one day popping out from behind a column

Why was Ephesus so great for so long- It is difficult to say. It had a great little port but it was a bugger to keep it open for shipping without constant dredging , It got attacked and taken over by everbody; Very recent excavations (1990) suggest it was founded by a Greek prince Androklos in about 10th century BC , but others argue that the Queen of the Amazons, Ephos was the founder. Who ever it was, built the largest temple in the world at that time within the city.

lads at the library

The Cimmerians, the Lydians all had a go at smashing it up and the Persians got in only to be beaten back by Alexander the Great. However from then on the city and its port did such great business that who ever took it over largely preserved the city and its inhabitants because it made so much money. Greek and Roman stewardship ensured the continued development of a highly sophisticated city with running water, sewers, shops, brothels, swimming baths and malls.

Men on marble sofa

St Paul got banged up there for causing a lot of trouble but the city became Christian in about 300 AD as the Romans converted.

There is fervent archaelogical digging at the moment under a huge weather proof structure beneath which a huge posh Roman housing complex is being unearthed, The painting and mosiacs are beautiful The complex is on the hill side overlooking the many agora. There are also grand  streets leading down to the harbour.

House B under restoration

On a lighter note – you probably dont know this but Ephesus houses the worlds second biggest collection of 20th centurary steam trains. Dave and I could not resist clamboring all over them and even tried out Ataturks private carriage. Sorry about the over exposure- my camera needs recalibrating.

Dave with his 2-6-0

Day 22 – Wednesday April 11 – Kutayha to Ephesus, Turkey – Dave

Awoke in Kutayha – the toilet capital of Turkey (and you can read that any way you want) – and set off southwest through the barren, highlands of central Anatolia.

Shitty Road in Anatolia

Mercifully it neither rained nor snowed and we made decent time towards the Aegean Coast at Izmir, then cut south towards Ephesus.  For the geographers among you, yes, we did go West today , but no, it wasn’t a mistake – we needed to get us some more culture. (A lot of people think us bikers are all just cool, Marlon Brando types, but but you’d be surprised how many of us are also into the more recondite aspects of Mycenaean Culture – know what I mean?)

Ended up in a ’boutique hotel’ in a hillside village where the owner, Mustapha – a gentle long-haired chap who spends half his time running this hotel and the other half being an economics professor in Istanbul – briefed us on the political economy of Turkey.  He made the disturbing statement that “It is not possible for a majority Muslim country to be a democracy”.

Boutique Hotel

Tomorrow a trip back in time with the ruins – in the ruins of Ephesus.

As it’s a slow news day, it’s a good opportunity to finally address some technical questions asked by Ben.  (How clever of him to pick me for such matters).

Why have you all chosen the same model? Is it for ease of spares, or just because something about them makes them the best option for this sort of journey?

When it comes to choosing a bike for this kind of trip (has to be comfortable for very long distances but capable of excellent off-road performance when needed) the choice narrows down pretty quickly to the KTM or the BMW.  We opted for the BMW because Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor looked really cool on theirs., and, because John told us to.

And as to us all having the same model?  Yes – ease of spares.  The downside, however, is that we resemble a ‘tour group’ (like those cute little packs of cyclists in the Loire or  Segway tourists in Beverly Hills), rather than the rugged, ultra-manly adventurers you all know us to be.

Also, who is the mechanic of the group, or do you all know the basics? 

As CEO of Britain’s leading engineering company, John is, of course, the natural choice for this role.

Unfortunately, he seems to know even less about motorcycles than I do.

Simon’s approach is interesting “It’s like the body – thumpy, thumpy, thumpy – lots of stuff circulating –  keep it at the right temperature – check the pressure – how hard can it be?”,  but even he wouldn’t claim to be ‘the mechanic of the group’.

The truth is that none of us think of ourselves as mechanics, but we know where the petrol goes in, can fix a puncture, top-up the oil etc.  Luckily, with the modern motorbike (as with the modern car), they are ridiculously reliable (You might want to save that sentence for a good laugh when my bike conks out crossing the Torurgat Pass into China).

I noticed the van is stocked with spare tyres – are you really expecting to use them? How long will a puncture delay you for?

We are in fact expecting to use most of the spare tires because they wear out on a trip this long – especially given the quality of the roads we’ll be on.

Fixing a puncture usually only takes 15-20 minutes.

And actually, although I fear this is a blackadder query (what do we do if we step on a landmine? -Well, normal procedure…) what on earth do you do on a motorbike if a tyre goes pop? Turn on the hazard indicators, and rapidly slow to a complete stop?

Yes.  Unless it is a front tyre that goes pop while you’re racing down a mountain road – in which case turning on your hazard indicators  won’t cross your mind as you face the most rapid of all stops.

I hope that helps and that it’s not too technical for all you non-scientists out there.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with motorbikes…

This is a motorbike

Dinner on the Bosphorous

As the guys are totally exhausted after a Haniballian experience in
the mountains it is my pleasure to write the blog tonight.

The post war boom in Turkey’s economy has to a considerable extent been the result of the farsightedness of several Istanbul business dynasties
and Ramhi Koc and his Son Mustapha Koc own and manage much of the car construction, white goods and petrol chemical industries from their basein Istanbul. John has know them for a few years and liked them, as creative, warm and hugely energetic individuals.  John emailed him to say that themotorbike gang were in town . He got invited to dinner and since all theothers in the bike group had their wives/ partners in town John suggestedI joined him as his date(!!) I was  now another singleton.

Initially we were to dine on the family yacht but even for this monster
craft the weather in the Bosphorus was a bit rough and so Mustapha and
his wife Caroline held a dinner party at the house to welcome John , a
few of their close friends and family. We were picked up by limo from
our hotel after John had raced back across town from the BMW garage
having had his blown clutch replaced for the price of a new Genoa. We
were a bit late and the limo driver gave us our second hair-raising run
across the city in the rush hour charging up one way streets the wrong
way and driving at terrifying speeds . After one and half hours we
turned off the south beach road on the Bosphorus, through a set of
massive gates opened by a set of dark suited musclemen looking like they
were moonlighting from the CIA. We travelled up a winding drive and into
a beautiful circular drive way to have all the doors of the limo
wrenched open by a further set of minders who whisked us towards the
house, up marble stairways and past fountains.

Oncemore further squadrons of Mediterranean men took our anoraks(!!!!) anescorted us upstairs to a sumptuous drawing room. (I counted at least 5
settees ) . We were introduced to Mustapha and his wife and in turn to
brothers and sisters plus their spouses. Everyone spoke immaculate
English. Mustapha and his wife had just got off a flight from the US but
despite this were incredibly warm and interested in our trip. His bother
in law Serti was also crazy about bikes and offered John his own BMW
should the repairs not hold.

We were of course offered drinkies, John and I chose red wine and were
given a large glass the size of a bucket with about £500 worth of
Chateau de Wotnot in each, plus quaint little custom -we had to hold
these enormous glasses with a small napkin- I initially pocketed mine
until I noticed that everyone else wasn’t touching their glass but had
insulated them with their little white napkin- so I whipped my crumpled
square out of my pocket and followed suit
I chatted to Sula, the very beautiful wife to Serti, she had of course
lived in LA, New York and New Jersey- Naturally she ran her own white
goods business with her father and looked after her 18 month old son
while her hubby runs most of the petrol chemical industry in Turkey not
run by Mustapha.

Mustapha is about 45 and weighs in about 20 stone-a big guy and kept on
putting his arms around John and throwing him up in the air- so very glad
to see him again. He was very warm and very amusing and even with a strong and guttural Turkish accent he managed to interject a number of  wonderful profanitiesinto his boisterous discussions. He is crazy about diving and photographing leopards- he has done about a thousand of each. In fact hehas published his own book on the African wildlife he has snapped andwas happy to tell John and I that a leather bound copy would bearriving for both of us in London soon.

The House was in the grand Ottoman style, wood and stone , shielded
from the rest of the world and the Bosphorus by two huge Mangolia
Grandiflorae . The house inside was lined with beautiful white painted
panelling plus arched windows like the palaces in Venice. The walls were
painted in dark greens and reds/plums;every spare space of wall had an
original painting , many portraits of sultans , relatives etc. And , of
course, Persian carpets the size of tennis courts.

After a while we were formally called to dinner in a room with a massive
mahogany table that could land an F16 . Caroline , Mustapha’s wife had
got the placement all sorted and we were wafted to our places. I think I
was surrounded by about 6 beautiful women between the ages of 20
and 35, their faces engaging lit up by the massive array of silver at
each table place. It was straight from the set for dinner at Downton
Abbey . Caroline had recently returned from Xian where she had acquired
about 25 midget terracotta warriors who had lost their arms -poor things –
so she had artfully secured them to a beautiful 1000 year old Chinese
buffet( rather like ours Susan) with iron stirrups.

Anyway, appreciating that if my mother were a fly on the wall she would
now be thinking that everything she had taught me about decorum and
manners, with luck, could now finally come into its own. I thought I had started well by declining a second bucket of absolutely fantastic claret in order not to fall face down into my starter.

I tried to listen to the beautiful and interesting Sula on my right but was slightly distracted as every time she said anything (about twice a sentence) she would pat me robustly on the shoulder or hand. I became somewhat nervous about this and looked acrosstowards her husband , another 18 stone of all male who engagingly
shouted across the table that we must all motor south to Bodrum and
immediately use his yacht to go game fishing; he clearly was used to his
wife affectionately slapping her dinner guests and saw no harm in it.

The wall across from me had another priceless Chinese buffet with 5
massive silver hunting cups which Caroline’s father has won horse racing,
above it a large and beautiful painting of cherries in bowls in a rather
Islamic style. Of course massive great chandelier plonked above the table.

We started off with a whole artichoke bored out and filled some gorgeous
Turkish tzatziki stuff , followed by osso bucco served in massive
silver trays. I was so intent on protecting myself from the
gesticulating Sula that I wasn’t quite ready for the surprise poke in the ribs
from the other side. I turned round quickly to check that my dinner
guest to the right didn’t have the same habit and clonked my nose on a
large silver tray being thrust between us by a flunky who was clearly fed
up with trying to attract my attention. All future offerings were
preceded by a sharp double tap just below my left scapula- I was by now
getting the hang of this.

Had a great time talking about sailing with Sula who of course has to
take a 120 foot gullet each summer for a 2 months to get out of the heat of
Istanbul. Mustapha overheard me trying to explain to Sula that we
preferred bareboat charter and said that I must be “f—– nuts -I
would have to wind a winch”. He also said that in his view in anything
under 80 foot the toilets always stank!! Well Janet I think you and he
would get on.!!

Next up another flunky scares the living daylights out of me by
actually inserting his mouth inside my external auditory meatus to ask
me whether I would like a brandy.; remembering a few boozy miltary doos
I had padded out in my fathers time I obligingly said yes and was
supplied with another £500 worth of armangnac and horrified to see that I
was the only person who had opted for a sticky. I took one sniff, and
nearly anaesthetised myself and decided to put it carefully to one side
so I would be fully compos to deal with further sallies from the beautiful and generous

Suffice it say it really was one of the poshest evenings I have ever
attended and I suppose I have to put it up there with my birthday tea
party at the Whitehouse with President Eisenhower.

Seriously though it was a great evening and I cannot have blotted my
copybook too much because everyone was very generous and kind plus
Mustapha gave me an enormous bear hug and slapped me hard on the back on
the way out the Limo which got us back to Central Istanbul in about
10 minutes.

I hope that give a flavour of the experience

Day 21 – Tuesday April 10th – Istanbul to Kutahya, South West Turkey – Simon

We breakfasted simply in the apartment, and prepared kit for the  onward journey. Loaded the van and after saying good bye to Karen and Kelly headed across the Golden Horn to hitch up with the rest of the gang. The sun of previous days had deserted us and It was raining hard, very windy and we knew from our first experience on entering Istanbul that the traffic would be mean towards us, an innocent  and hesitant bikers’ convoy.

I slithered the van down steep narrow cobbled streets from the Galata Tower to the bridge over the Horn and immediately got jammed on a sharp bend . Dave got out ( His bike was on the other ide of the Golden Horn Estuary) and directed me backwards to get more room. Checking my mirrors carefully to avoid hitting the side of the van on the walls of the buildings I eased forwards – there was a deafening crunch and my left front wheel fell 2 foot down some steps. The van was stranded like a whale with only 3 wheels on the ground.  Horns honked as I amassed a major backstreet jam. I got out , inspected the damage and became convinced that we were here for the duration and that we would need a rescue truck to lift us out.

But that is not how problems are solved in the Orient. Within minutes a multitude had gathered and it was not long before stones and bricks were prepared . Then about 15 very energetic Turkish men grabbed the front of the van where upon with the leader of the house hurling me back into the cab, issued me with intructions to reverse the van while our Musselmen  lifted the van out of the hole screaming at me to keep flooring  it back up the hill. Eat your heart out RAC!!

Needless to say we got out of that city fast. It was too much for us. The sheer kinetic energy of the Turkish drivers had reduced us to incompetants. Once across the great suspension bridge and into Asia we relaxed. Passing new developments on the scale of Dubai.

The temperature was about 8 deg C with a following wind- we had 425 Km ahead of us to get well down to the south west . There was a request for coffee, Nick urged us on and wisely so because it looked a “bit black over Bill’s mother’s”

As we climbed higher into the southern mountains the rain began to turn to snow. At first the guys on the bikes coped well but they had to reduce speed and there began another problem; Trucks. Truck, water snow and bikes dont go well together.

The next sequence of shots shows us grinding to a halt on the hard shoulder while the guys cleared snow off their screens and goggles while the Great Ataturk, the founder of Modern Turkey stared at us through the blizzard. I drove behind the group and would stop and block off the trucks so the guys could get their kit sorted.We clearly have some more practice to complete before managing the Tourugat Pass into China at 12500 feet.