Andreas from the Circus and Pierre from the Eastseven are on their way to Japan by motorbike. Andreas is sending us updates from the trip for the blog, and here are the entries from the last week…
31st July – Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul… after 2,500km in four days and what could have been a decent trip in its own right. Here, it feels like nothing but a warm up of things to come. I had to laugh yesterday when I realized we have crossed eight borders and there are now only two to come.
The trip to get here will probably not make it to my lift of all time favourite bike rides I am afraid. The boredom of long stretches of overland highways, combined with seemingly half of Northern Europeans on the way to see family in Turkey, or get packed and stapled onto the beaches of Croatia or Bulgaria made it a more pragmatic affair, which was to be expected. To make things a bit more difficult Pierre caught some stomach issues along the way, and I travelled with a swollen right half of my face, after a bee chose my helmet as it’s deathbed and caused some nice damage along the way. I sported a proper hunchback look for 3 days, but better now.
The idea behind riding into Bosnia was to pay a surprise visit to a Serbian friend of mine, but of course he left 2 days before our arrival for Scandinavia.
Worst though – and what did I expect? – are the temperatures…32 to 36 degrees during the day with the thermometer rising to 39 degrees in Bulgaria and Turkey brings even the fanciest equipment to its limit, and it actually feels like riding the bike inside a hairdryer. Checking the weather forecasts we can’t really expect this to change the next days, but you’ll never know.
Video from Istanbul:
2nd August – Sinop, Black Sea
Two beautiful days on the bike riding along the coast of the Black Sea… a blue sky, mild temperatures, hardly any traffic, and a landscape of pure beauty. Thick green forests on your right with the smell of pine and all the shades of blue a sea you can have on your left. It reminds me of the Julian Alps meets the Cote d’Azur… with Mosques and Kebap… and without Brigitte Bardot…
We had our first fall today, when Pierre underestimated one of the thousands of serpentines we rode. He’s okay, but one of the cases broke. I had a few hours where I struggled with dehydration and rode like Jim in Croatia. Not nice to watch.
Things that happen when you go east: the streets are getting worse. People get poorer. People get nicer. More cows on the street. Speed limits count less. Foreigners get weirder.
We met a Swiss couple on push bikes on their way home to Zurich. An English fellow crossing Turkey on foot. A German-Argentinian couple on a motorbike on their way to India. Wow, I thought. Pierre told them where we’re going. “Wow”, they said. Maybe the first time on this trip I kind of realized what we’re doing. It felt good…felt real…
Off to Trabzon to catch the ferry. We should be in time. Here’s a video from the port:
On the ferry:
6th August – Sochi
Had a pretty entertaining ferry ride overnight, crossing the Black Sea, amidst 200 Turkish workers (on a ship allowed to carry 50 ppl max) and after a few beers the barman put on some funky folky tunes and we saw an all-male party with some decent hip moves unfolding… Nice one.
Getting into Sochi was a prime example of Russian bureaucracy and the willingness to use it. Circling in front If the harbor for hours, after landing not being allowed to leave ship, then hour-long custom procedures. And all this in 36 degrees.
Rolling out into a new country is always special, this time even more so. I have to say I had a lot of respect for this border and expected issues. But: nothing. No bribes, no missing papers, nothing. It took an age, but it worked.
Sochi itself is pretty overwhelming. Once a leafy sea town and slow paced resort it has been hit by a massive wave of construction in preparation for the 2014 Olympics. Still loads of old worldly charm with pre-war Mann-ish sanatoriums, Lenin statues and red stars galore and elderly figures playing folk tunes on accordions at night, but this is destined to disappear. Cranes by the dozen, chic Sushi bars, cavalcades of German luxury cars and plenty of “gentleman” bars showcase the “new” Russia.
Took care of the paperwork, shaved and washed clothes, and then hit the nightlife.
We opted for the home of debauchery in Sochi, a no sign video-controlled and bodyguard protected hidden copy of a Parisian brothel early 30′s and enjoyed some bizarre drag queen shows… and one too many whiskeys.
Living the high life:
Now we are planning the next stages of the trip, and as we do so I am hit by the sense of the land mass ahead, and I am beginning to feel (at times) slightly nervous. Off via Krasnodar and Rostov on Don to Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, tomorrow. One of the too many places where going as a German does not feel comfortable at all.
Long stretches of Tarmac ahead…