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Turkey and Cappadocia by motorcycle

Turkey and Cappadocia by motorcycle

Antonio, Cosimo, Ago, and their three motorcycles: the friendship at the heart of this journey.

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Every journey unfolds in its unique way, day by day, taking on a shape and a life of its own which will stay with you forever, no matter where you may go.

Every journey unfolds in its unique way, day by day, taking on a shape and a life of its own which will stay with you forever, no matter where you may go.
Our incredible adventure covered 4,700 kilometres of sights and experiences, exploring and improvising as we went. Despite my best efforts to relate the journey here, it would be a challenge to describe just one-tenth of all we saw and heard, including the moments of deafening silence. "Antonio Ribezzo"

Day 1. We set out on a day of heavy rain. Ago took a fall, and for fifteen minutes that seemed to last forever, we feared the journey might be over before it began. Luckily, when we picked up the motorcycle, it was in one piece and still working. This was my first time trying out my new tyres and the GIVI Canyon set in rainy conditions. While the former failed to impress, it was thanks to the latter that I got to enjoy dry pyjamas every night: a perk not to be taken for granted.

Day 2. Refusing to let our haste to reach Istanbul get in the way, we took the time to enjoy the sunshine in Greece, where my motorcycle got bogged down in the sands of Thessaloniki, before crossing the border. Luckily, my Canyon bags let me get into bed clean that night, despite the “sand bath”. We got to Istanbul in the late afternoon: a city that will put your patience and riding skill to the test, and reward them with its magic.

Day 3. We dedicated half a day to visiting the Blue Mosque and some other parts of the Sultanahmet neighbourhood. In other words, we saw just 1% of what the city has to offer, for which I will offer a defence in my final reflections. We spent the second half of the day on our motorcycles, making our way to Kocaeli with a view of the Black Sea. As usual, I misread the GPS route and, instead of taking the underground tunnel across Istanbul, it led us on a tour of the city before crossing the July 15th Martyrs Bridge. What a thrill it was to finally read “Welcome to Asia” as we officially crossed over into that continent for the very first time.

Day 4. A day dedicated to covering ground, finishing up 100 kilometres or so beyond Ankara. Even on travel-heavy days like this, we had no shortage of curves in the road and stunning sites to enjoy. One eerie sight was Burj Al Babas, a ghost town where construction, which started in early 2014, was never finished after the development company failed. Over 500 identical castles have never been sold, the unsettling atmosphere apparently proving too much. That night, we set up our tent by the artificial lake on the Kızılırmak river, but the old memories shared and swapped over beers that night are a story for another time.

Day 5. With Cappadocia getting closer and closer, the urge to explore Turkey’s best-hidden yet most evocative sites was irresistible. First up was crossing the Salt Lake, an indescribable feeling. It had been a dream of mine for many years, which I can finally, happily, tick off my list. This was also where the day’s first quirk of fate took place, just a few metres from the lake, when we stopped to talk to two crazy cyclists. Fietsen and Kees had decided to enjoy a bike ride... all the way from the Netherlands to China! Impressed by their story, we were eager to chat and share a few moments with them. But there was more to come: who do you think we might bump into, out there in the middle of nowhere? A shepherd of course, arriving on the back of a mule, and asking: “Do you have a barbecue? Come on, let’s slaughter a sheep and share a meal”.
Eventually, the time came to say goodbye, as Cappadocia beckoned. We arrived in this incredibly scenic region in the early afternoon, as the sun began to slip behind the Fairy Chimneys. Sunset found us crossing the ups and downs of the sandy Rose Valley, giddy as children, a memory that will stay in our hearts forever.
But you never know what’s around the next corner, and when fate sees you enjoying yourself a little too much, it’s right there to bring you back down to earth. Who knows what tricks fate might have in store for us?

Day 6. Ago’s clutch broke last night in Rose Valley. We came close to despair at that moment, as his motorcycle is an untameable beast, almost impossible to ride without the clutch. We’d originally planned to spend the night a few hours outside of Goreme, but as fate would have it, we’d ended up booking a night in the city itself even before we found out about the clutch. The hotel owner was a helpful guy, and kindly had his trusted mechanic work on Ago’s motorcycle the next morning, which was a Sunday.
We were soon headed back to the hotel in high spirits, just €70 lighter. The man at the hotel asked us to wait as he had to fuel up. Between ourselves, we wondered where he might be doing that, as all we could see around us were caves. Returning, he explained that this was where the animals were taken care of. Curious, we asked if we could go in. His father and aunt lived right there, in a cave. Our minds were blown by this discovery: the most memorable moment of the whole journey.
The road before us next was long and unexciting, at least until we reached the curves of Lake Eğirdir, which we took in the dark. We counted ourselves lucky to have experienced those curves.

Day 7. Waking up to a lakeside view for the second time, we set off for Antalya. Though we had many, many kilometres to cross, we could hear the Mediterranean calling to us. The water was the perfect temperature, and we took things easy: after all, that’s part of what a trip is all about. Though the first section along the shore consisted of boring roads, the second stretch, after our dip, treated us to breath-taking curves and views: you could almost believe you were in Croatia. As usual, it was late evening when we reached our destination: Pamukkale.

Day 8. Time for a rest day. The plan was to relax in the warm waters of Pamukkale. At the archaeological site, you can admire the ruins of the city of Hierapolis and chill out for a few hours in the natural springs of the Cleopatra Antique Pools, at the cost of just €6 for a single ticket.

Day 9. After even a single day without riding, you start to miss the feeling. GIVI Canyon bags packed and mounted, we set out for Çanakkale. We took our time, travelling slowly, not wanting the hours to pass. It was day 9 and we were headed back to European territory… we were on the way home. Along the way, we got a close look at the Trojan horse statue used in the Wolfgang Petersen film Troy.
The longest suspension bridge in the world, over the Dardanelles Strait, awaited us. Crossing this mighty piece of infrastructure, at this point of the journey, gave rise to mixed feelings: satisfaction at having ventured deep into the Asian continent, and regret over having to go back to the same old routine.
We looked for a place to camp and found one at the entrance to Gallipoli, in a pine grove overlooking the sea. However, a series of inconveniences forced us to pick up and keep going, despite the darkness and the late hour. We finally found a hotel in Şarköy, about forty minutes from Gallipoli.

Day 10. From Şarköy, our next destination was Grevena, in Greece. The idea was to cover as much ground as possible, so that we could take things easier on the last day. Before crossing the border, we spent about an hour stopped still at the service station; and no, it wasn’t to try smuggling petrol - for the price of €1.10 - in our underwear too: we simply didn’t want to leave. We'd had an incredible time in Turkey, where the people are friendly, generous and hospitable.
Our whole way back through Greece featured stunning curves, though there was one nasty shock: around Alexandroupolis, we could see part of the 80,000 hectares of forest burned by the fires in August 2023. A terrible, tragic waste.

Day 11. Our journey was at an end. With the ferry at one in the morning, there was nothing left to do but make the most of our last hours. Cosimo and I decided to share with Ago a place we’d been to before: Meteora. We explored every inch of those monasteries, built on the top of majestic rock pillars, on foot.
When it was time to go, two more travellers far from home were waiting for us in Igoumenitsa to have dinner together: Santino (28) and Martina (30), brought together by a love of travel. Although we’d taken different itineraries, our paths had crossed several times along the way: another of the joys of travelling.
The ferry set sail, bringing us back home. Upon my return, I was so full of plans that my sadness had lifted. I have the genuine desire to spend my life travelling by motorcycle.

A journey by motorcycle, bicycle, on foot, in a van, or by any other means of travel is not about the destination: the destination is the journey itself, the road and all the thrills you find along the way. Just you and your unbridled freedom. Istanbul undeniably deserves more than half a day, and I have promised myself that I will return. However, as I’ve just described, we see the point of a motorcycle journey as something quite different. It’s about getting to grips with the road, forgotten places, villages, the people of the countryside greeting you with their hands on their hearts or blowing kisses. It’s about travel companions pulling over for a pee, or meeting two people who live in a cave and offer to share their lunch.
I loved all of these experiences, more than ever, and like every journey, the only question left at the end is: “Where next?”.