After a month in Corinthos I cannot resist it anymore and go back to the adventure. The sun is doing its best so I quickly respond to the travel jitters. At first I travel back to Thessaloniki where I have made an appointment at the well-known Steyr garage for an extensive service. I get an address where the bottom of the cabin is welded and strengthened again. I now hope for once and for all to get rid of the cabin problems, with which I have been struggling for a long time.
After that the voyage quickly continues towards Turkey. I skip Istanbul because that is not recommended from different sides. In the meantime it has become a modern city with a lot of high-rise buildings, so that the sights, such as the Aya Sofia, are being pushed aside. I have been there 30 years ago and I want to keep the memory of that time. I prefer the crossing of the Dardanelles between Gelibolu and Cardak by ferry over the famous (and expensive) bridge to the Asian continent.
My intention is to cross Turkey within a relatively short time towards Georgia. It is now the end of February and I am beginning to feel the pressure of time to have visited all the countries of Central Asia to Mongolia before the dawn of winter. Going on a trip without planning is impossible. My biggest concern is anticipating the extreme seasonal changes in these areas.
Originally, I wanted to travel to Georgia along the Black Sea, but considering all con’s and pro’s I decide to a cross-over over the middle of Turkey. The main roads in Turkey are wide and fast. Quality is not always optimal. New roads quickly become bumpy because in my opinion the surface is not solid enough. I notice that I ended up in another part of the world. In the streets you often see groups of men with mustaches and generally dressed in black. But maybe that’s because it’s winter. I see a remarkable number of women with a headscarf. Many times more than 30 years ago. But fortunately you still see fashionable and trendy ladies walking around. Early in the morning I am awakened again by the muezzin.
But here too people are friendly and helpful. The appearance of Piggy simplifies the making of contacts.
Cappadocia is one of the highlights of Turkey. Although I cannot recognize anything from 30 years ago, when Goreme was still a sleeping village, the impressive environment has of course remained the same. I camp in different places, the village of Cavusin is the most impressive.
A phenomenon that has become popular in recent years is making a trip by hot-air balloon above the worn pinnacles. Early in the morning, more than a hundred hot air balloons are air-born with an average of 15 to 20 passengers in the basket. For the majority Chinese tourists. And now it is only low season. How many will be in the air in high season?
It is a breathtaking spectacle. It seems as if the earth is flooded with aliens, roaring and burning at times, as they slowly but surely come to the top of the mountain tops.
My camera does not get any rest. Often the balloons drift so low that they almost touch the pointed tips of the sandstone cones.
I believe that a walk between the rocks with the low drifting balloons is much more fun than seeing everything from above. But maybe I’m wrong, because I regularly hear the oh’s and ah’s from the baskets, but they did not hear mine!!
The weather is bad. Gray clouds, drizzly. I am on my way to Nemrut Dagi. An artificial burial mound of a kingdom before Christ. This too is a reunion after 30 years, but now it is winter. The narrow steep road to the mountain top is slippery but still manageable. Suddenly I am in the snow. The road has not been cleared. Still, I try to get further, but in the end it is irresponsible to continue driving. The difference between road and abyss is difficult to distinguish and the 4 driven wheels begin to spin. Too bad … I have to abandon this plan. Skip it on my wishing list. Carefully I drive backwards, following my old track, until I find a wider spot where I can turn. I park the camper more downhill, where there no more snow anymore. After an hour the police visits me. Not the first time. On the road there is regular police- or army check-up. This area is being watched more closely because of the Kurdish issue. Usually they are extremely friendly and wish me a good trip.
To travel to Erzurum it is easiest to drive via Diyarbakir, the most important Kurdish city. Here a lot of military presence. The main road goes right through the city. Compared to 30 years ago, you now drive across a broad traffic route through the city with high modern office buildings and residential blocks on both sides. Each lamppost has an image of Erdogan and a Turkish flag. Do not let the people have any misunderstanding about this !!
Another highlight of my trip through Turkey is the ancient Armenian capital city of Ani. It was an important stopping point along the Silk Road and sensitively my journey along the Silk Road starts here eastwards. It was a big city of 100,000 inhabitants. It is a unique experience to walk between the debris with a view of the white snowy mountains.
Armenia is located to the left side of the deep river valley. To the right side, there is Turkey. There is a lookout post every few hundred meters. On both sides of the border. The border is well guarded. The 2 countries are not friends of each other. Large parts of the enormous city wall and various buildings such as churches and mosques are still standing. These have survived the earthquakes so far.
The road to the Georgian city of Batumi on the Black Sea leads over the snowy mountains. A magnificent sight, were it not that a large part of the view is obstructed by rain and snow. I do not feel great. Just keep on going. The weather will be milder on the Black Sea.
In the pouring rain I pass the border with Georgia. Always long-term delays. Waiting for an hour or more is common and is alternated with several times inspection of the truck. No drugs, no weapons sir?
Near the border lies the big city of Batumi. High-rise buildings are under construction. I find an open spot in the center between the construction plots. When I want to wash my hands, the water pump dies with a high whooping noise. The thing is really broken now. So no more brushing the teeth, washing hair, shower, etc. Very annoying in these cold and humid conditions. Here in Georgia nobody knows about motorhomes, let alone a water pump. No one speaks English. I get help from my English and Turkish friends I met in Corinth. They both live in Turkey. They arrange an identical water pump and installer for me in Trabzon. That means crossing the border back to Turkey to cover 250 km to Trabzon . In the meantime, a quick visit to a dentist here in Batumi. For 20 Euro he repairs my plumbing. Fortunately, the dentist has an English-speaking son who can translate my problem into Georgian.
Anyway, after a trip to Trabzon for the installation of the water pump, I am back in Batumi, Georgia, after a week. Along Abkhazia I drive towards the high mountains of the Caucasus. Interesting serpentine. Because a lot of rain has fallen, waterfalls have formed in several places, but also stone avalanches. I regularly have to avoid stones lying on the road, but at last there is no way to avoid a massive rock. It is bigger than Piggy. There are already people working on it with 2 large shovels. But they can not move the lump. After 2 hours they could create a passage through which I could squeeze Piggy through with some maneuvering work. Adrenaline, because there may still be stones falling.
In the meantime I am in Mestia for 2 days, which is becoming increasingly popular with hikers and alpinists. It is a beautiful area with high mountains above 4000 meters. click on Svaneti for more info about the region
TAKE A LOOK AT THE IMAGERY OF TURKEY & CAUCASUS