4th May 2017 – Day # 0 – Brescia
Following months of preparation, for both the motorcycles and ourselves, everything seems to finally be in place, including the visas for Iran, Pakistan and India, the process of which made us all hold our breath: Claudio of Euroest Travel of Rome has handed us our passports so we are now finally ready to leave.
5th May – Day # 1 – Ancona: 430km
The only good news of the day relates to the weather forecast in Lombardy; under scorching sun and with temperatures hitting over 30 degrees we travel for about 400km from Brescia to Ancona. The bad news is the announcement of a delay – a delay of well over 5 hours – at the ferry terminal for our departure to Greece. We’re not too angry… even if this enforced delay leaves us having to make changes to the initial stages of our journey.
Day # 2 – Thessaloniki (Greece): 330km. Total distance travelled: 760km
After running along Albania and Corfu Island, at 5am we finally arrive at Igoumenitsa Harbour. We take a beautiful freeway (the E80) which is not very busy and in just over three hours we arrive in Thessaloniki.
The cultural centre of Greece’s second city is huge, thanks to the numerous museums and archaeological sites. Our evening walk in the city centre enables us to view the Galerio Arch which was built by the Romans to celebrate the triumph against Persian King Narsete, and the Rotonda, mausoleum of the same Galerio. Tomorrow we are facing a challenging stage which will take us to Turkey, beyond Istanbul so we will need to catch up on a few miles.
Day # 3 – Izmit (Turkey): 810km. Total distance travelled: 1,570km
This morning we are woken early by the annoying mosquitoes. So by 8am we are already in the saddle, ready to leave Thessaloniki. On the E90 we keep up a good average speed, despite the lack of service stations forcing us to leave the freeway in search of fuel. We reach Instanbul at rush hour and unluckily for us, we find ourselves trapped on the city’s freeway which is clogged up with thousands of cars. Taking a wrong exit loses us even more time and it takes two hours to finally leave the European borders to enter Asia. We manage to cross into Asia by taking the third bridge on the Bosphorus, near the Black Sea, built by the Italian company Astaldi and inaugurated in 2016: a truly spectacular feat of engineering. A Further 100km east takes us to Izmit at the end of the Marmara Sea. We’ve been on the go for 12 hours and we’ve travelled over 800km so it’s finally time for a rest. A quick dinner and straight to bed: tomorrow we will be heading east for another 600km.
Day # 4 – Amasya (Turkey): 580km. Total distance travelled: 2,150km
After taking the E80 towards Ankara, we travel quickly and expect to arrive at the door of Amasya by late afternoon. It’s a fast road with 4 lanes but it’s a bit busy in places.
We limit ourselves to fuel stops only and a stop for food. All in all, the heat is bearable.
We note that fasting for Ramadan is very much observed and whoever eats, does it with discretion. The landscape reveals small villages scattered in the countryside, each with its own minaret and a silver-coloured mosque.
Amisaya lies in the narrow throat of the Yesilirmak River and dates back to the 3rd Century BC. Its ruins are built on a rugged cliff on which, carved in the rock, are imposing Roman rock tombs. The night lighting in the area creates a particularly magical atmosphere. Tomorrow we’re looking to cover 700km and we expect to reach Agri, not far from the border with Iran.
Day # 5 – Agri (Turkey): 750km. Total distance travelled: 2,900km
The E80 is keeping us company again today and its surface is in good condition, as is the weather. Initially, we manage to keep up a good average riding speed but then we waste more than an hour, thanks to the local Turkish police who “clock” us with radar travelling at 102 km/h while the limit is 90! Smiling whilst at the same time being inflexible, the cops tell us (in their own language) that there is no way to avoid the fine: 40 Euros for each motorcycle… but they cannot collect the fine themselves. We are told to bring them to the bank but after trying several times without success we decide to give up trying to communicate. We decide we will pay the fine at the frontier before leaving Turkey. The last 200km are spectacular: at about 2,000m altitude, we cross a verdant valley with snowy mountain peaks. At dusk we choose to stay in a decent hotel, located on the outskirts of Agri. Tomorrow we will enter Iran and try to reach Tabriz …..after encountering the mysteries of the Iranian border.