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Silk Road 2007 Live!Journal

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Week Two Chapter - 08 ~ 14 May 2007 - Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan

National Flag of Turkmenistan National Flag of Turkmenistan National Flag of Turkmenistan

Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb. - Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)

Be open to your dreams, people. Embrace that distant shore. Because our mortal journey is over all too soon. - David Assael, Northern Exposure, It Happened in Juneau, 1992

Starting location for this week: Urgup, Turkey
Ending location for this week: Tblisi, Geogia
Planned mileage for this week: 1,071 miles (1,713 kilometers)

Merhaba - "Hello" in Turkish
Selam - "Hello" in Turkish
Iyi gunler - "Hello" in Turkish

Gamardjobat - "Hello" in Georgian

Gamardjobah - "Hello" in Georgian

Salam - "Hello" in Azerbaijani

Salam ælæyküm - "Hello" Azerbaijani

Welcome to Week Two of the Silk Road!

Mike, Your Webmeister

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The many forms of "Hello" in over 800 languages and other useful words and phrases are courtesy of Jennifer's Language Page.

To find out what time it is there (or anywhere!), visit The World Clock.

To see where they are now, visit the Navigation Technology Chapter.

For more information about Turkey in this week's leg of the Silk Road, please visit the resources listed below:

- The World Factbook, maintained by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States:

- The Consular Information Sheets, provided by the Department of State of the United States:

- The web-based, free-content encyclopedia entries at Wikipedia, maintained by "GlobeWriters" everywhere":

Day 13 - 13 May 2007 - Tblisi, Georgia
Subject: Thoughts on the Journey Thus Far

We're 13 days into our 53 day ride to Xian. In the USA, it's Mother's Day. As I compose this, the group is relaxing with an unusual 3-day layover here in Tblisi, the capital of Georgia.

In terms of minds and bodies, the group is functioning well. The dinner conversations are lively, the morning prep and packing sessions totally cordial, everyone seems to be getting along just fine.

Although there have been numerous tip-overs due to the "variable traction" roads we're riding on, damage and injury has been minor (other than the blow to one's pride when these heavily laden beasts answer the call of gravity).  We've had one bike fail to start due to an engine immobilizer module failure (an anti-theft feature that works all to well when the system itself "goes south"), and another break the mounting bolts for its main stand along with a somewhat related loss of servo-assist in its braking systems after taking a good rock hit to the underside.

Turkey was a truly a fascinating country, with landscapes and roads as varied as its history and the cultures that have influenced the region over time. It's a land that can almost make you believe in genies and flying carpets The cell phone coverage has been so good we're beginning to suspect that the spires on the numerous mosques which dominate any cityscape or village are also cleverly camouflaged cell towers.

However, after the initial strangeness of it all segues into normalcy, a weird sort of disquiet sets in, at least for me. Outside of the larger cities, other than the heavily garbed women working in the fields, one sees few women on the streets or in the crowds of people clustered in town centers. The service people we interact with, gas station attendants, wait staff, toll booths, the police, the border guard and customs people, they're almost exclusively men.

For this reason, our first border crossing into Georgia literally felt like a heavy veil had been lifted.  The rest of the human race has reappeared on the streets and in the shops and hotels. Although the ready smiles of bystanders as we ride past seemed more common and open in Turkey, Georgia feels like freedom. Certainly, the Georgian border and customs people were more friendly and helpful than those in the land of Ataturk. The mosques have been replaced with churches, and pork is on the menus once again (probably for the last time until China).

According to the World Factbook, the per capita GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of Georgia is under USD$4,000.00, less than 1/10th that of the USA. The official unemployment rate is listed at around 13%, but the people here claim that is some areas, it's as high a 60% t0 70%. A teacher here makes around USD$100.00 a month.  At our base in the capital city of Tblisi, the Courtyard Marriot, WiFi internet access for 3 days is almost USD$70.00 - the economic disparity is extreme.  Around 5 million people live in Georgia, another 2 million work in other countries where wages are higher, and send their money home.

Nonetheless, as an adventuring experience, it's a beautiful country.  The areas we've traveled through thus far are lush and green. At times, horse drawn conveyances are as common as petroleum-powered ones.  Gas in Turkey topped USD$9.00 a gallon, here, it's about the same as we pay in America.

Tomorrow, we make our 2nd border crossing into Azerbaijan. As our riders get better settled into "Road Mode", contributions to this Live!Journal are beginning to appear in my Inbox.

Rewinding to Turkey, there are different forms of "Goodbye", one for those who are leaving, one for those who are staying behind.  Translated, the one leaving says "May God be With You."  The one staying behind says "Go with laughter."  What a profound way to travel in lands from home, may we always go with laughter....

Be Well,


Day 7 - 07 May 2007 - Urgup, Turkey
Bagless Bill Here,

Signing in from Turkey. When I arrived in Istanbul on April 30th, Turkish Airlines decided to keep my panniers in Chicago. They held them for several days so that I could contemplate my 8,000 mile journey without any gear. Yet, at 11:00 p.m. on our last night in Istanbul, they arrived at the Blue House Hotel. Yea! Oh what a relief it was!

I want to start out by saying what a fantastic group of individuals we have who have come together for a trip of several lifetimes. I can already sense that our group will form a great team and will work together well to safely succeed in crossing Central Asia.

The land of Turkey is a wonder to behold. The Blue Mosque was a beautiful sight from our hotel’s terrace, especially at night.

We spent several days in Turkish customs trying to get our bikes released. The first day was raining heavily all day as we got our motorcycles out of the container, while the second day was clear and sunny. It was a good thing we couldn’t get them out the first day because we all had new tires and driving would have been more hazardous – particularly in congested Istanbul traffic and cobblestone roads.

From Istanbul we left for Bursa, where several members of our illustrious group, including myself, decided to have a Turkish bath. The only problem was not knowing the proper steps in taking such a bath. First, you shower before entering a heated pool. Our first problem was when we thought that we were back in our high school locker room days. We all stripped off our towels and started washing ourselves. It wasn’t 2 seconds when a man came in, visibly disturbed by our actions, and instructed us to quickly put our towels back on. Needless to say, I felt as if I had flunked my first PE exam.

From the wash-up room, we carefully made our way into the heated pool. In here we looked intently to anyone else for direction. Luckily there was one man there that assured us that we needed to keep our towels on. Okay, I think we got it now.

After awhile in the heated pool, we went into the massage room (or what I call the “smack down room”). Two Turkish men in their own different-colored towels sat us around the perimeter of the room. One by one they took a rough mitt and scrubbed our extremities to shed us of our dead skin (I call this the “smack method”). Every once in awhile, with a glee in his eyes, he would smack us pretty hard. I couldn't figure out what was triggering this strange behavior, but it did have quite the stinging sensation.

When he was through with us, we were then passed off onto the next Turk who proceeded to lay us out face down on what I call a “sacrificial” marble slab. From this position, he proceeded to soap down our backs and legs while smacking and massaging, all the while entertaining us by his mastery of soap balancing. Then the soap bar started flying across the room to each of us in an attempt to try and duplicate his magical feats.

However, we all started to be a little disturbed when we kept hearing the meowing of a cat, “meow, meow”. After trying to figure out where the cat sounds were coming from, we realized they were from the Turk giving us the massage. I’m not sure what this action was trying to convey, but by the end we were ready for a dry towel. From there we went into the lounge and relaxed prior to our departure.

From Bursa we went to Safranbolu, then onto Urgup, where we are staying in the most unique 5-star hotel yet. The hotel was converted from pigeon dwellings (where their feces was collected and used as fertilizer for the villagers’ crops). It is the neatest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. This morning we went on a contour balloon ride which ended in a champagne toast upon landing. It was fantastic and we all had a blast!

Tonight we get to experience the “Whirling Dervishes Ceremony” and I’m sure it will be another fantastic part to our fabulous journey.

In closing, we’ve had a couple of bike problems that will hopefully be repaired by tonight in Ankara. Our thoughts to our fellow riders for a speedy repair.

Signing off now from Urgup, Turkey.,


Day 13 - 13 May 2007 - Tblisi, Georgia
"Life does not suck".

We are here in Tblisi, Georgia, after spending 10 days bombing around Turkey. The riding has been nothing less than spectacular, from the rolling plains to the massive mountain ranges, truly paradise for the dual sport rider.

A unscheduled visit to the BMW dealership in Ankara after my GS quit on me was also part of the adventure. Thanks to SM Cycle in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, for suggesting that I should have a spare "ring antenna" with me. Helge and Mark had ridden up from Cappadocia to escort me back to the group.

The past two days we have been in Tblisi where I have been laying low to try and finally shake this cold that has been with me since Istanbul. If the saying "feed a cold, starve a fever" holds truth I should have it beat by the time we leave here tomorrow because of the copious amounts of delicious food that has been put in front of us here.

Later from Georgia,


Day 13 - 13 May 2007 - Tblisi, Georgia

The treasures of Turkey are its people, landscapes, history, faith, and traditions – and yes, food. The people we met, particularly in rural areas, were very gracious and welcoming – offering us tea wherever we went. We attracted large crowds when stopped. They were curious and with the help of our Silk Road map on the pannier, Mike was able to convey what we’re up to and we loved seeing their eyes light up with amazement. When pointing to China, I wonder how many people have actually traveled out of their village, region or even Turkey.

Turkey’s landscapes are varied. We spent a few days in the congested streets of Istanbul, and then headed east to rural areas with great views of rolling plains, fertile farmlands, forests, snow-covered mountains, and the rocky beaches of the Black Sea. There’s an enormous amount of history to absorb as we “fly” through the country. Turkey is 98% Muslim, so I’ve learned much about Islam. Just like other religions, not all Muslims practice their faith the same, and of course, not all Muslims are terrorists. Morning prayer (around 5 a.m. on a loud speaker) and 4 more times during the day were definitely new experiences for most of us.

Traditions surrounding women were intriguing to me – in big cities women appear to have more freedoms, but in the villages we rarely saw women. I hesitate to pass judgement about their influence or role in Turkish society based solely on this observation. But as for food – the Turks have this one figured out - absolutely delicious with favorites such as kebap (founded by the godfather of kebap), rice pudding, spicy eggplant dishes, and fresh off-the-hive honey (served in edible cups).

Highlights in Turkey for Mike and I include - besides keeping the Tiger washed and cleaned: indulging in a Turkish bath, touring the Blue Mosque and church of Saint Sophia, taking an early morning hot-air balloon ride in magical Cappadocia (a geologic wonder), meditating during the Whirling Dervishes ceremony, getting lost in the Grand Bazaar, listening to carpet salesmen creatively try to seal a deal, and seeing/smelling spice bazaars.

We’ve visited the 4th century Sumela Monastery (perched high on an impossible hilltop) and two UNESCO World Heritage sites: Safranbolu with 18th-19th century Ottoman houses made of sun-dried mud bricks, wood and stucco; and Hattusas, the 1800 BC capital city of the Hittites (remember all that history I mentioned earlier).

It’s easy to say all good things about Turkey because we really didn’t have any negative experiences. In spite of a few “glitches” and “dings”, the bikes are running good, the riders are strong, everyone’s safe, the weather’s been fantastic with only 2 days of rain. We stay in very comfortable hotels every night (including the very unique 5-star cave dwelling in Cappadocia) – so no complaints!

But perhaps the reason everything has gone so well so far is because we are assisted by GlobeRiders staff , and in Turkey our local guide was Kaz from Kazoom Moto Adventures, and chase vehicle driver, Atilla. The local guides provide us with a ton of assistance, knowledge about their country, help with translation, and can more easily negotiate us through bureaucratic border crossings (for example, Kaz knew how to deal with brokers [i.e., “coyotes”] and the “unreceipted delivery fees” to get the motorcycles released from the containers). Mike and I really want to thank Kaz and Atilla for all their help!

In answer to the question "would we feel comfortable traveling together without guides in Turkey?" the answer is definitely "Yes". And we plan to return – at least to buy that carpet we couldn’t get on the motorcycle this time around.


Linda and Mike

Day 12 - 12 May 2007 - Border Post Turkey/Georgia
By any measure, the Silk Road Adventure is a grand undertaking. Although the traders who plied this ancient route did so with nothing more than a camel, a goatskin of water, bag of dates and their wits, few today venture along this route.  Certainly our group will have great stories to tell, but as is always the case, en route, we meet travelers who make even our journey pale by comparison.

After clearing customs and passport control in Georgia, we came across this well-worn vehicle in the holding area.  The car is a French-built Citroen Deux Cheveaux, or "2CV" to its loyal owners. I found this description on the web:

"For anyone not familiar with the Citroen Deux Cheveaux, let me explain.  Deux Cheveaux is French for “Two Horses.”  That is approximately four times the horsepower the car actually has.  It looks like someone built a Beetle out of corrugated tin, and squeezed the sides in. What’s the appeal?  It’s hard to say.  I guess it’s something so appallingly unattractive that it’s cute.  You know, like the Volkswagen Thing, the Pug, or Val Kilmer."

The 2CV was first introduced back in 1949.  It doesn't seemed to have changed all that much over the years.  This particular 2CV was the pride of two crazy Fenchmen, who had just completed a trek across Northern Africa, and were on their way to India. Unlike our hassle-free entry into Georgia, their rig and bodies were pretty much "stripped searched". What a wonderfully wacky way to travel.  May they also go laughing.



Day 13 - 13 May 2007 - Tblisi, Georgia
Subject: 15 minutes of Fame

Have you ever wanted to be a celebrity? Have people gather whenever you stop? Have everyone want to talk to you and ask questions? Be made to feel like a star? Then all you need to do is go on a GlobeRiders tour. I swear, since the moment we rode out of Istanbul, we have attracted crowds like that whenever our wheels stopped moving. Where are you from? Where are you going? How fast it it? (the motorcycle) How much does it cost? (I just shrug and don’t tell) There is an entire list of questions that come so often I’ve written the answers down on a piece of paper and just show it to them. 1150 cc (size of the engine) 24 liter (size of the tank) 270 kilo (weight of the bike) 14,000 kilometers (distance from Istanbul to Xi’an, China).

Invariably there is one person in the crowd who speaks some English and who will translate for the rest. Having someone like that is always great because the questions really come out then. Little kids (and grown-ups too) like to sit on the bikes, then the cell phones come out and pictures are being taken by everyone. Museum staff, waitresses, school kids, even other European tourists are all interested in the adventure. How can that not make you smile? It really makes you feel special, and liked, and amazed at how friendly and outgoing everyone is. It has proven true in both Turkey and Georgia so far, and I’m sure it will prove true for the rest of the trip. Heck, some of the riders were interviewed by a news crew from Georgia TV while were in Batumi. Look for that on the 6 O’clock news tonight!

Eventually though, we always have to finish what we stopped for and move on, be it for gas, food, or just directions. The circus has to get to the next town for the show…. But no worries for the riders because it will all start again the next time you stop, guaranteed. On a GlobeRiders tour, everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame.

Jeff Munn

GlobeRiders being interviewed by the local TV station in Batumi, Georgia

Mike Mathews showing an interested group on onlookers our route.

Dan T. Moore giving GPS lesons to a group of local students.

Helge Pedersen Images from the Silk Road

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