Saturday, May 7, 2011

Week 6

Mon. May 7 Baykan to Van
Miles 188
A very eventful day. Before leaving the campsite we had a bath in the stream. All 3 of us standing stark naked in little pools, scrubbing away and singing at the top of our voices.
Got away about 9.30 on the road to Bitlis. Climbed steadily for a long time and eventually reached the town which is 4,500 ft above sea level. Our arrival caused quite a stir. A scruffy looking Turk approached us and asked where we came from, in very good English. It transpired that he had spent 4 years in Liverpool!

Figure 2.5: Bitlis

Figure 2.6: Bitlis

Figure 2.7: Bitlis
We did our shopping and then set out on the road to Van.
Just as we were leaving town a Turkish policeman stepped out and stopped us. He said we would have to go back the way we had come because we were in a military zone - a detour of about 300miles. We told him, no, we were not going to do that
After a lot of argument, most of it in sign language, a more senior officer appeared who spoke some English. He took our names and passport numbers, and told us to report to the police in Van as soon as we arrived.
When we got to Van and duly reported, they hadn’t a clue what we were talking about. The police in Bitlis obviously had not rung through.
The run between Bitlis & Van was very impressive. The lake (Van Golu) is 5,500 ft above sea level & some of the passes we have crossed must have been pushing 8,000 ft.
Wonderful scenery all the way; lake & mountain with distant views from the tops of passes. For variety of scenery it would be hard to beat Turkey. We have had arid plateaus; snow covered mountains, high passes, hot dry plains, and lush green valleys - the lot.
The people have all been very friendly, contrary to our expectations and we have had nothing stolen. Turkey is a country I would like to come back to some time.
Had some wiring trouble, which nearly resulted in our burning out the wiring harness. Now that would have been an interesting predicament.
Weather - cold & cloudy
Figure 2.8: Van
Figure 2.9: Van
Tues. May 8 Van to Dogubayazit Miles 215
Spent the first hour or so repositioning the front, offside spring on the land rover. Got away about 10.30, quite late for us, and drove to where our proposed short-cut left the main road, turned off onto a goat track that led to a small village called Muradiye.  
Against all local advice (they all said the road was impassable) we started off on what was supposed to be the good bit of road. This was so bad that we abandoned the idea and went the long way round via Ercis & Agri. We are now back on our original A.A.route.
Figure 2.10: Muradiye
Tonight we are camped just off the main road looking straight at Mt Ararat. Or we would be if it weren’t covered in cloud! We are hoping for a view tomorrow. Today we have gone from Kurdistan to Armenia. Weather - mixed, cool and cloudy

Wed. May 9 Dogubayazit to Khoy
Miles 164
Off to our customary early start. Bought bread in Dogubayazit and then to the frontier. For the last 30 miles to the frontier we were getting good views of Mt Ararat. The formalities here took far longer than usual.
The first town we came to in Persia was Maku. The town itself nestled under a huge limestone cliff and part of the old town was built inside an overhang on the cliff. 
Figure 2.11: Maku
Figure 2.12: Maku, Persia
The drive to Khoy was not like anything we have seen before. The land is very dry – everywhere there are dried up river beds – the road actually ran along one for a while.
We managed to change some money in Khoy then panic set in. We could not read the denomination of the banknotes as they were all in Cyrillic numerals and we could have been robbed blind and we would not have known.
However, a remedy was found at a petrol station. We copied the numbers from the dial on the petrol pump and, very quickly, we learned them. We had not been robbed.
Bought fuel & food. Fuel is very cheap here, the cheapest yet. We are camped tonight at the top of a pass in the hills just outside Khoy. We simply drove off the road onto the desert and camped.
Persia gives one a sense of size & grandeur - big mountains, distant views, wide-open spaces. It is good to be seeing the country of Khayam at last. I went outside at about 10p.m. and there was a new moon, a clear, starlit sky and a warm, gentle wind sighing across the desert. The Rubaiyat seemed to come alive.
Weather - fine and sunny

Thurs. May 10 Khoy to Minaeh
Miles 221
On the road early and on to Tabriz. Just outside Tabriz we got our first puncture, changed the wheel and carried on. Found the land rover agency but did not like the look of their service station so decided to push our luck and carry on to Tehran where we will be held up for a day or so anyway.
There are several jobs to do now. The brakes need re-lining and the gearbox oil seal must be attended to.
Figure 2.13: Tabriz
The road outside Tabriz, which is the capital city of Azerbaijan, was really bad: Potholes, banks of gravel, mounds of earth and hairpin bends, one after the other. Simply driving off the road and cutting the corner could avoid some of these.
We are camped tonight almost in the dried up bed of a river, and on the wrong side of it in relation to the road. We have just experienced one thunderstorm and if it rains too much we could be marooned. We did our 5000th mile today. We wrestled with the punctured wheel and, after a lot of mucking about, got the tyre off, found & removed the nail, and are now busy fixing the inner tube.
Weather - cold & showery

Fri. May 11 Minaeh to Tehran
Miles 278
On the road by 8am, and a very rough road it was, too. We bumped and crashed our way along for about 170 miles to a place called Takistan.
Lo & behold! A tarmac road, no bumps, just smooth tarmac, our first for 2000 miles.
We made full use of it upto just outside Tehran where we turned off the main road and into the foothills of the Elburz Mts to camp for the night prior to entering Tehran tomorrow morning.
This afternoon the clutch started to slip again so that means more expense here. The idiots put in a new clutch plate in Istanbul without bothering to find out where the oil was coming from that had caused the original trouble!!
We are camping in real desert country tonight: dry, dusty, and overlooking the plain where we can just see Tehran. To the south & east of us now is the Great Salt Desert.
We have a choice of 3 routes. North to the shores of the Caspian Sea, South of the Elburz Mts & just North of the desert to Meshed and Afghanistan, or to follow the edge of the desert and via Baluchistan to Quetta in Pakistan, thus missing Afghanistan completely. We will have to take the last option if the Afghanis refuse to renew our visas.
Weather - quite rainy
Figure 2.14: Camp outside Tehran
Sat. May 12 Tehran
Miles nil
Into Tehran early, and full-speed ahead to the British Embassy. I got the unprecedented total of 6 letters. We found the Rover agents and then went for a meal.
We had shish kebabs, a traditional dish, and it was very good. It cost about 10 shillings, which we thought very reasonable.
Found the Rover agency and the manager is letting us camp in his office while the work is carried out. Just as we turned in to the works, we got our second puncture of the trip. Spent the afternoon in a fruitless search for the Afghan Embassy to renew our visas. I am writing this now seated at the manager‘s desk.
Weather - hot & sunny
Figure 2.15: Tehran
Sun. May13 Tehran
Miles  nil
A weary morning spent haring around town in taxis looking for, first, the Afghan Embassy, then next, the Pakistani.
The Afghanis told us that our visas were o.k. and then added, as an afterthought, that the Afghan/ Pakistan frontier is closed! We went to the Pakistan Embassy and, after a lot of waiting, were told that it would cost us 5 pounds just to find out whether or not permission would be forthcoming!
So we said to hell with it, and will now take the southern route through Persia and direct into Pakistan. We then spent all afternoon looking for the police office that issues exit passes. I have never seen a country like this one for filling up passports. Tehran is a very modern city, clean & spaciously laid-out but with little of real interest in the city itself. It is the warmest place we have been in so far and I don’t think I would like it in summer.
Weather - hot & sunny

Figure 2.16: Tehran

Week 5 - end of part 1

Mon. April 30 Istanbul to Bolu
Miles 165
Up early for a change & straight down to the Matas trading co. to pay our respects and thank the management for their hospitality. From there to the embassy to arrange to have mail forwarded to Tehran. Finally, at about 10.40. we drove onto the ferry & 10mins later we drove off at Scutari in Asia. Past the Florence Nightingale Hospital & the infamous barracks, and we were away on the road to Ankara.
Figure 1.50: Tony Stead, ferry to Scutari
Just outside Izmit the roof rack started to fall to bits so we had a longish stop to get it sorted out. We have a really pleasant camp-site for tonight-quite high up in the hills and away from the main road. Did an engine oil change on the land rover, also cleaned the air filter.
Weather - warm & cloudy.

Tues. May 1 Bolu to Ankara
Miles 207
Left early & after a pretty fast run got in to Ankara at about 2p.m.. Hung around until 3p.m.then went up to the Marconi office in Pan-American building. Renewed acquaintances with Bill Leonard, whom we had met previously in Kavalla. He introduced us to Reg Willard who invited us out to dinner with him. He also took us down to his hotel room and gave us the run of the bathroom. Just what we needed. After a good bathe & shave, we changed and drove around Ankara until 8. Back to the hotel to pick Reg up and then off to a restaurant for dinner.
Met another Englishman, Mick, who invited us back to his place for a nightcap. Drove out of town and camped for the night. Ankara is a very modern city compared to Istanbul. It is well laid out and relatively clean with spacious streets and underground arcades of shops, but it has none of the character of Istanbul. Did our 3000th mile today. During the night it poured with rain.
Weather - warm & wet.

Figure 1.51: Ankara

Wed. May 2 Ankara
Miles 75
A terrific day. Dereck & I set off up the local mountain (Elmadag), which dominates the Ankara skyline. Reached the top in about 2.5 hrs. Very impressive views and plenty of good scrambling on the way. There is an old ruin on the top, which looks to have been a mosque at some time. Made our way down slowly and arrived at camp at about 4p.m. Went into town to have dinner with Bill & Audrey Leonard, also a very charming English girl called Penny. After a first class meal we stayed around, talking & drinking until nearly 1a.m. I think Penny would have come with us if she had been asked.
Weather – mixed.

Part 2: Ankara to Quetta

Thurs. May 3 Ankara to Ulukizla
Miles 240
Spent a frustrating morning trying to get visas for Iraq & Syria. For Iraq, no-go and for Syria, too dear. We have decided to take the southern route through Turkey instead of the Black Sea coast on account of weather, roads etc.
Took Penny for her tin of baked beans, said our goodbyes to the Marconi crowd and pushed off on the road to Adana, & the Med. As soon as we left Ankara the scenery changed to wild semi-desert & has been the same since. Passed the peak of snow covered Hasan Dag and we are camped at the foot of the Taurus Mts through which we will pass tomorrow. They are well snowed up.
Met an American today, riding a big Triumph motorbike. He has come from San Francisco across the States, by sea to Tangier, Gibraltar, and London and then by our route across Europe, heading for Israel. He seems to be absolutely clueless about lots of things; he didn’t even have a map of Turkey. Stopped at a place called Aksaray this afternoon and we couldn’t even find a butcher shop Today’s run has been over some of the longest, straightest roads I have seen. We see lots of these dirty, big Anatolian sheepdogs now. We have also seen vultures, performing bears, and camels. We passed 2 lots of the latter today.
Weather - fine & warm turning to cold & wet

Fri. May 4 Ulukizla to Adana
Miles 162
A very interesting run. The first few miles across a dead flat plain on a dead straight road heading for the seemingly unbroken line of the Taurus Mts. Just as we reached the hills the road swung left in their shadow and entered a fantastic series of gorges which led through the mountains, down to the plain and to the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. The gorges are known as the Cilician Gates. At the narrowest part, about a car width wide, is a stone tablet inscribed in Latin, commemorating the passage of the Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius with his army. Saw quite a few nomads near the mouth of the gorges, complete with camels, goats, donkeys, and dogs. Drove through Tarsus, birthplace of St Paul, and on to Mersin to have a look at the sea. After a quick look we turned east again and headed for Adana. We can still see the snow-clad peaks of the Taurus.
Weather - warm & sunny

Figure 2.1: Cilician Gates
Figure 2.2: Cilician Gates

Sat. May 5 Adana to Urfa
Miles 233
Another interesting day’s run. From Adana up over mountain ranges followed by a long plain, and then a long climb onto the Anatolian Plateau and the town of Gaziantep.
From there the road was over the high, rolling plateau. Most of the villages on the plateau seem to be built of mud bricks. Surprisingly, all the land seems to be cultivated but we have been unable to find out what it is that they are growing.
The land now is very dry and we have trouble getting the water bags filled. Saw the results of several bad accidents during the last 2 days. An oil tanker on its nose at the bottom of a ravine, a minibus on its side across the road, and several other quite bad smashes. Turkish driving is just not good. The land rover is losing oil, we think from the gearbox from a “gone” oil seal on the clutch-operating sleeve. We will have to do something about that at the earliest opportunity. Did our 4000th mile today.
Weather - wet on the coast then dry as we moved inland

Figure 2.3: Anatolian Plain, Turkey

Sun. May 6 Urfa to Baykan
Miles 237
On the road by 8 a.m. and through the village of Urfa, then on to Diyarbakir. Just as we entered the town we hit a most monstrous pothole, & the roof rack fell to bits - again! Every time we hit a big bump we have to effect repairs to it with bits of wood, rope and even the heel of an old boot on one occasion. If it lasts as far as Tehran it will be doing well.

Figure 2.4: Diyabakir

All day we have been driving through rich, cultivated land. These people are so keen to use every scrap of land that they grow crops on the flat roofs of their houses. We even saw a donkey grazing on the roof of one today. The women make colourful figures in their national costumes, which they wear all the time and not just to please tourists. The headdresses seem to change every few miles.
The mean average height of Turkey is 3000ft above sea level. We are now travelling through the lesser-known parts of Turkey and a crowd is quick to gather when we stop. It is nice to be off the tourist track.
Weather - cloudy but warm