Day 1: I can see how the tank box might look a bit cumbersome and precarious…
Day 1: … but actually it’s already functioning perfectly
Day 1: However the £2.99 eBay jacket is a bit smelly.
Day 22: Pamukkale, Turkey. Armed with iPod to drown out the chatter, and my camera to capture the scene, I walk up. It’s actually pretty good
Pamukkale, As dust falls the tourists leave the attractions.
This place was densely populated long before the dawn of tourism.
Day 25: Seydisehir , Turkey. No need for dodgy hotel artwork, not with the view from my bed
Day 27: Ankara, Turkey. The last wispy hairs on a balding head and fresh ones on a sagging chin.
Day 27: The city’s dusty atmosphere glows orange as the sun silhouettes the hills it sets behind.
Day 30: Cappdocia, Turkey. one of those moments when independent overland midsize motorcycle travel gives you its big bonus…
…the ability to just leave the road and ride over to the most appealing hoodoo I can find.
Some have been carved out so subtly it’s hard to tell a home from a hoodoo that isn’t hollow.
Day 51: Cappdocia. The sky is full of them; I count 40 hot air balloons.
Day 32: Kahta Siverek Feribotu, Turkey. I don’t think it is a command for any water going craft; it’s just the highest point of what lies beneath.
Day 32, Na-na na-na, na-na na-na, Batman, Turkey
Day 32: Eruh, Turkey. I’d cycle this bit; I’d definitely cycle this bit. If there was a square meter without a watermelon size boulder I might even consider camping here.
DAY 34: Dohuk, Iraq. in the most polite and respectful manor I can convey, I interrupt their meeting with ‘Good afternoon gentlemen, may I take your photo please?’
in the time it takes me to get the camera to my eye and compose the picture their expressions have turned to sternness.
when I take the camera from my face to thank them they are all smiles and happiness again.
I settle for market traders and their wares.
DAY 35: Amedi Iraq. He is young, has a defined Dan Dare jaw line and would be a handsome man if not for his silly red military beret. He invites me for chai
Is it trust or stupidity that would make him leave his weapon behind? Has he never seen how John Travolta met his demise in Pulp Fiction?
DAY 37: Think I’m in the wrong lane.
They are solid individual killing machines, covered in weaponry and bullet-proofed. My god they could kill a terminator with that lot.
IRAQ: To be honest I’m ready to turn round now anyway, I came, I saw and I realise I have seriously underestimated the situation.
DAY 38: There are modest mosques against the dark blue of the high skies.
Lake Van dusk.
What boys want.
DAY 40: Fields of poppies stretch off into the horizon, shining bright red like thousands of little Ducati trees.
It’s a cover shot.
DAY 41; Fast like a racer or slow like a sightseer? Maybe I should do it twice.
DAY 42: Batumi, Three quarters of the way up, stuck in the side is a London Eye-style big wheel, that’s outrageous.
DAY 44: Traders push their barrows of fresh fish and fruit beneath my balcony
DAY 45: Georgian Military Highway. The monument that looks like a one storey colosseum.
Indulging in the luxury of no self-timer or tripod we hand our cameras to each other and pose proudly by our vehicles.
It was built to signify unity, a gesture of Georgian/Soviet friendship.
There are no little girls in red coats but the subtle colours of brown cows, terracotta tiles, and the rust of corrugated iron, all glow like rainbows in their subdued surroundings.
When I stop for supplies I hear Boney M is being played, man I’d love one of their royalty cheques.
DAY 47: Azerbaijan. There is no first impression, there is no impression to have. The road is adequate, there is a slight embankment each side and nothing else remarkable.
DAY 52: Baku, at night the three identical skyscrapers are illuminated, there are LCD screens built into them giving a flame effect glowing up the 600 feet structures that can be seen across the whole city, except from where I was.
He seems to indicate camping is not only OK but I’d be a fool to pass up such an opportunity.
DAY 54: I have the luxury of a low wooden bridge where the river has nearly dammed itself with pine trees it has swept away and then jammed under the supports.
DAY 55: I find the village which is to be our meeting point, there is nothing here at all, a single dirt track between some wooden shacks,
The family shut after shop after my shopping spree, this is how their lives pass, three generations on the side of a dirt track.
DAY 56: The track is getting very muddy in places. I suppose it will only get worse, I don’t expect to see tarmac today.
I lean it over and drag it into another rut, the rear tyre feels flat but it’s so caked in mud that I can’t even tell.
The road increases in elevation and the scenery becomes even more breath-taking. I have no breath left.
I can’t stand it any longer. I need to stop and take a breath; I need to get the tripod out.
There are sporadic pockets of snow which look like white sand bunkers on a vertical golf course.
DAY 57: Ushguli, Dog, as I have called him, sits with his back to me looking at the mountains as I gaze down at the towers in the village of stone
There are small half-wild pigs that have coarse hairy mohicans along their backs
I’ve just walked into the Middle Ages, not a Disney theme but a genuine working way of life.
There must be 40 stone towers in view from up here; some are over 1,000 years old, built to protect the families from nomadic mountain invaders as well as from village infighting.
Not in the highway code.
A medieval tower lit by the moon, a sky pierced by stars above a snow covered mountain with wisps of cloud blowing, blurred over the summit.
DAY 58: Sad to be leaving this place of living history and ride the cowshit and boulder-strewn muddy paths to the road
“Drink vodka” says another one and pours me a shot. ‘Oh go on then’ I can see where this is leading,
DAY 59: When I’m not looking into the eyes of a beautiful girl or at the bottom of a shot glass I realise that from here I can see a pyramid mountain top and the snow turns from orange to purple as the last of the sun shines on its peak.
DAY 60: The track takes me past wooden fences that appear to keep nothing in or out, then up into flowery pastures …
…slowly rises to a full panoramic mountain view. The sky is clear and the diversity of the peaks is incredible;
DAY 62: Fresh diamond-shaped Georgian bread and other breakfast supplies.
DAY 64: Armenia, When I do look up I see my sales assistants are a couple of very wrinkled women with polka dot aprons, knitted cardigans and gummy smiles
The sun shoots beams over the mountain it has set behind – it’s a signal for feeding time and I am besieged by mozzies.
DAY 65: Sisian, I’m not quite sure how their credibility stays intact when they are not where they originally stood and what they stood for.
If there is one thing that is not needed around ancient stones it’s impatience. In my haste I somehow manage to transfer some super glue to my eyelid, blink frantically and move my eye ball around as if I’m stuck talking to a boring person and looking for rescue.
DAY 66: I have a stunning view of Mount Ararat out of my tent; I hear the mozzies high pitched drone as the evening prayer from the mosques drift over the border.
DAY 68: I can take a photo that looks like the rainbow ends in my tank box. When I’ve finished playing with rainbows I ride on to the next town and get a room.
DAY 69: The scenes remain the same, farming is farming in Armenia, Georgia and Turkey, the only distinguishing difference here is a single minaret standing tall above the turf-roofed huts of the hillside villages.
I’ve been preoccupied; my bike has been out of my sight but it’s just a fact of travelling alone, the only thing taken is photos.
DAY 70: Our smiles, our body language, don’t show the anger at the irresponsible media reports spreading religious hatred like napalm. We sum each other up as individuals and we like what we see. It’s just a cup of chai, it’s a tiny gesture and it’s so significant.
DAY 74: What an intense meeting; he could be a recruiter for a cult religion. He could be a lot of things. I walk out to some rocks and watch the skinny Shiva moon set.
DAY 75: And then it all makes sense. The song of prayer drifts over from a mosque. The daily fasting of Ramadan is over and we all tuck in.
DAY 76: Before I cross the Bosphorus I stop and take a photo of the bridge, my bike in the foreground of course, as I cross back officially into Europe.
Look in the eyes, not around the eyes.
DAY 81: Serbia, It looks like a Joy Division album cover.
DAY 82: Albania, . Exhausted, I drop the bike a third time, it’s a bad one, I tuck and roll but the bike goes down hard and is on an incline.
No time to assess damage; petrol is leaking and there is no way to lift this dead weight at this angle. I have to just drag it along the ground, the agony of scrapping stickers.
DAY 83: Montenegro, A facebook friend, Doug, suggests ‘if you have a pair of mole grips you can use them as a temporary lever?’.
DAY 84: Albania, I pull all the covers off my bed, shake them and then decide to go down to the bike and get my sleeping bag.
DAY 86: The claws look very sharp, I hold out my hand, free to make contact if I’m stupid enough and I nearly am but sense over-rides impulse.
A sweet little girl is standing in the road selling blackcurrants in plastic beakers,she seems ecstatically pleased with a Euro coin and poses hesitantly with Monklet for a photo. What the hell am I going to do with these? I don’t even like blackcurrants.
There is the odd token white concrete bollard that won’t stop anything falling off the edge.
DAY 86: Other than her helmet she is wearing her bike boots with hot pants and a boob-tube. I want one like that. Not the boob-tube, the girl.
DAY 86: I’m surrounded by an arena of looming snow streaked mountains, under the cavernous blue moonlit sky, a canopy pierced by a few resilient stars like tiny candles that light the corners… of the dark.
DAY 88: Montenegro, The first sight for my morning eyes is not a red LED numbers glaring in my face or a window of condensation censoring the world beyond the bedroom. Looking out my tent into a misty morning I see this.
DAY 89: Croatia, I pull over at a roadside wheelie bin and, with a short ceremony, a few photos and as much respect as the action allows, I throw the Mefos away.
DAY 97: France, Fixed without frustration, methodical and patient, very Zen-like.
DAY 99: I go and eat my baguette with my travel companion, our last meal of the trip together. I leave cup rings and yoke drips on its top box.