Turkey – Amasra, 01 – 02 September 2018

Sinop to Amasra along the coast, D010 a route that I was told not to take hahaha and I can see why, in a car it would have been hell. Twisting and winding through the mountains and along the coast, rough and narrow, on an adventure bike it was fun, only 323 km and it took 5:50 hrs. Very little traffic upto Cide and then cars, trucks and even a few tour busses, not fun anymore, that was the last hour and a half. The closer I get to Istanbul the busier it gets. Anyway a great ride, reminiscent of the E65 along the Dalmatian coast in Croatia.

Amasra – its been around since BC, the Greeks and Romans were here, small seaside town, very quiet, this is the weekend so there are a few local tourists.

 

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Turkey – Sinop, 30 – 31 August 2018

Trabzon to Sinop, once again along the coast but the sea is not always visible, quite busy  for most of the way with many towns and local traffic, good 4 lane road so overtaking was never a problem, many tunnels and a few bits through the  mountains away from the sea.

Sinop – the birthplace of Diogenes and now a seaside holiday town, I wonder what he would think of it if he saw it today hahaha, an interesting character, follow the link.

 

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Turkey – Trabzon, 28 – 29 August 2018

Batumi to Trabzon in Turkey involved crossing the border from Georgia to Turkey. It took about 20 minutes to ride from Batumi to the border, there were about 10 cars queued up but no movement.  After 10 minutes in the hot sun I left my bike and walked up to an Immigration officer at the front and asked what was going on and he said the holdup was on the Turkish side and just then it cleared and I got my passport stamped, walked back got my bike and rode on to the Turkish side where there was a longer queue, being on a bike I rode to the front, the people in cars do not object to this and in fact expect it. As this was my 4th time crossing a Turkish border I was in their system and they stamped my passport no questions asked, next Customs and same thing here, I already had Turkish bike insurance, carry on, total time taken 45 min to cross both borders. There was a German biker waiting with me but he had German bike insurance for Turkey and this would have to be verified which meant going through the rigmarole, probably took another hour for him. Advice – Get your insurance at the border of whatever country you are visiting much cheaper, simpler and quicker. After that it was a relief to be back on Turkish roads, good quality 4 lane road all the way to Trabzon, mountains on one side and the sea on the other which meant many tunnels and beautiful views. What surprised me was the number of large towns along the way, I was expecting it to be less developed.

I visited the Hagia Sophia / Ayasofya which was originally a Greek Orthodox church, then a mosque, then a museum and now its back to being a mosque. It dates back to the thirteenth century and has some very interesting murals, all from the bible.

 

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Georgia – Batumi, 26 – 27 August 2018

Tbilisi to Batumi was not a very pleasant ride. The first 70 km or so was on a good 4 lane highway, after that 2 lanes through the mountains which would normally be good but there was too much traffic in both directions making it very painful as there were many slow trucks, tractors, cows, horses and even a pig. Constant overtaking gets tiring after a while and it got hotter as the day progressed. Near Kutaisi the main highway was closed and there were no signs directing me where to go so I headed for the town, stopped for petrol and asked the attendant and he told me in sign language that I would have to follow a secondary road that almost parallels the highway. This road now had to handle not only the local traffic passing through small and big towns but also the highway traffic and it wasn’t doing very well hahaha, pot holes and ruts were the order of the day but there were a few good stretches as I neared Batumi. Finally got to my hotel dripping and an air conditioned room after 5:40 hours and 383 km. This is the busiest road I have been on this whole trip.

Batumi is a seaside resort town with many casinos, all the major hotels chains have a casino attached to the hotel. Popular with the Russians and Turks who come for the sun and sand sorry rocks at the beach and to make a fortune at the tables.

 

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Georgia – Tbilisi, 24 – 25 August 2018

Yerevan to Tbilisi, this time I followed a different route, first to Sevan and then onto the M4 all the way to the Georgian Border. Overall it was a much better road than the  M6 which I had to go on because I visited the Haghpat Monastery. About half way to the border, I was in third in a line of cars and we came across a very slow truck being followed by a very slow battered old Lada. The first car which happened to be a police car started overtaking and the rest of us followed, just as I came abreast of the Lada the guy decided to pull out and overtake obviously without looking and he bangs into my right side pannier, I wobbled along for a bit, did not stop and then carried on with only minor damage to the pannier. This is not an isolated instance, it happens all the time, no one looks before they merge with traffic, overtake, pull out from a side street or when parked etc. But I did learn a trick that I heard other drivers using, blow you horn as a warming before and a couple of times as you are overtaking. I have a built in reluctance to using my horn at all but I had a very good incentive now to overcome that resistance and I had no trouble at all blasting away after that hahaha.

It took 3 hours to get to the border 35 minutes getting through both countries Immigration and Customs and another hour and a half to get to Tbilisi. When you leave Armenia you have to get the Customs form you were given when you entered stamped before you can go through Immigration. The guy pointed me at a building and I went in and stood in a queue for 15 minutes and then got told that it was the wrong queue and to turn around and go to Customs which was behind me hahaha, walked over there and there was no queue at all, the guy stamped the form and I was out. Rode my bike and joined the queue of cars for Immigration and got stamped out of the country. Georgia again took only 5 minutes, no one checked my panniers on either side and if it hadn’t been for me being in the wrong queue the whole process would only have taken 20 minutes. After that it was quite a busy 2 lane road all the way to Tbilisi.

I booked a hotel on the other side of the city because that’s where the bike shop where I am getting my new tyres fitted was located. I had ordered the tyres on 4 August 2018 when I was in Turkey, they had to come from Germany, arrived on 14 August and I had them fitted on 25 August 2018. I cannot speak highly enough of Graham who is the owner of Rushmore Motorcycles, he is from the UK and answered all my questions within an hour or two. The Showroom and workshop are immaculate, up to the standards of any developed country and he is a nice guy. There is no other facility like this in Azerbaijan, Georgia or Armenia and it is very reassuring to know that you have someone who is reliable and you can trust.

After initial contact I used WhatsApp to keep in touch +995 557 188 484.

His email address is graham@rushmore-motorcycles.ge
Facebook – Rushmore Motorcycles Georgia LLC
Webpage – https://rushmore-motorcycles.business.site/

 

So this visit was just a pit stop for new tyres and an Oil change which I did myself. The oil came from Rushmore as well, finding motorcycle oil is not as easy as it sounds, especially in these countries where there are very few motorcycles.

 

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Armenia – Yerevan, 19 – 23 August 2018

Haghpat to Yerevan – once again the road was bad with numerous road works until Sevan, after that it was a good 4 lane road to Yerevan.

Yerevan – capital of Armenia, a clean and modern city, no old town, lots of art works scattered around the city.

Art Gallery – very good. Museum – not many English translations and no photos. Blue Mosque – the only mosque in the country. Saint Gregory’s Cathedral.

Half day trip to the Khor Virap Monastery (interesting story) on my bike, its only about 45 km from the city on a good 4 lane road with a view of Ararat. From the Armenian side, Little Ararat or Mount Sis can be seen clearly, it is not as clear from the Turkish side. The monastery is on top of a small hill and is quite popular so expect to give your knees a workout on the climb up and be besieged by a bunch of screaming brats hahaha.

 

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Armenia – Haghpat, 17 – 18 August 2018

Ganja, Azerbaijan to Haghpat, Armenia involved crossing two borders, first from Azerbaijan to Georgia and 40 minutes later from Georgia to Armenia. I had to visit Armenia after Azerbaijan because if I had a Armenian stamp in my passport Azerbaijan could have denied me entry, at the very least I may have been questioned about my time in Armenia. I have already covered the Georgia and Azerbaijan border crossings and nothing changed. Just before you enter the Armenian border complex there are money changers and I changed my remaining Manat to Georgian Lari.

Crossing into Armenia from Georgia, the Georgian side took all of 5 minutes and then on the Armenian side (no queues at all) I was asked the reason for my visit and the guy recorded the name and phone number of the hotel I was booked into for that night. Next to the Customs building where the guy recorded my bike details and printed off a form and said take it and buy Insurance, so I rode a short distance and paid 44 euro (in 120 Georgian Lari, they preferred the Lari for some reason) for 10 days insurance, exorbitant compared to any of the other countries. I passed through 4 customs check points at the 2 borders and none of them asked me any questions or asked me to open my panniers. Quite painless and quick overall.

The road from the border to Haghpat was the worst I have encountered on this trip so far, more potholes than road which made for an entertaining ride.

I stopped at Haghpat because it was fairly close to the border and also because it has an old monastery that looked interesting.

 

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