Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Black Sea

From all appearances and a little Google Earth reconnaissance it sure looked like Plovdiv was on the edge of the Bulgarian equivalent of Northern Indiana. So I did what any right minded person does when faced with crossing Northern Indiana, I got in the motorway and got across as quickly and as efficiently as possible.  100 or so miles later I reconvened with the fabulous route provided by Adriatic Motorcycle Tours which was to take my up into the mountains and what was reputed to be the best preserved wooden structure village in the Balkans.  Heading up the thirsty mountain road there were a series of signs warning of something imminent and bad up ahead, but as I don't understand Bulgarian nor can read the Cyrillic alphabet I kept on going.  Sure enough the road was washed out and nobody was in any hurry to repair it any time soon.  After pulling out the map and plugging some place names into the GPS I was able to see a way around that was not too much of a diversion and equally if not more twisty - which is important when riding a motorcycle, wouldn't want the rider to get all board just riding along in an endless straight line.  The reroute was indeed very twisty and very tight and very enjoyable.  At one point it had been paved along its entire length, but that time was along time ago for some of the sections.  Eventually I rounded a corner to find Zheravna which was everything promised.

After an extended lunch of a local homemade sausage grilled over a fire on the front patio of an extremely busy restaurant in the village I continued east to my final destination of this phase of the trip, Nessebar.

During the extended lunch storm clouds had built up and I spent an hour or so on the edge of some large thunderstorm cells in and out of heavy rain and hail. The roads at times were torrential rivers and the temperature had dropped quickly and significantly.  But as the route seemed to skirt along the edge of the weather I carried on.   Closer to the coast the sky cleared and it got warmer.  Arrive at the charming hotel that had more staff than clients and got settled in time for a quick walk around town before sitting down on a terrace overlooking the Black Sea as the sun was going down.

With beer in hand a small toast for completing the crossing of a continent other than my own.

A late start on this last day of Phase 2 on the journey.  There was a light fog over the water first thing that quickly dissipated and I rode off towards Istanbul with the sun shining.  I had been warned about a few things regarding the crossing into Turkey.  The first was that as gas was cheaper in Bulgaria make sure to fill up before crossing over as there was a dearth of gas stations on the other side.  The other is that a great deal of patience was required with the Turkish border bureaucracy.  With a full tank of gas I approached the border.  First order of business was exiting Bulgaria, a simple process as passport and the documents for the bike were reviewed.  A wave through and I was at the first Turkish border station where I was asked for and showed the motorcycle documents.  Upon review the gate was opened and I headed off to the second Turkish inspection station.  I found the Passport Inspection officer who reviewed my passport and the entry visa I had previously secured online which he then professionally stamped and wave my on.  As I approached the third Turkish border gate I was thinking “Well that wasn’t too bad” shortly after which I was asked by the friendly guard at the third Turkish border gate “Where are your other stamps?”.   So back to the second Turkish boarder inspection station I went to get the official entry stamp for the motorcycle as apparently the first inspection of the motorcycle documents wasn’t the official inspection of the motorcycle documents.   This time after being handed back my completed documents instead of feeling all proud of myself for successfully navigating the vagaries of the Turkish border bureaucracy I asked the second Turkish border inspection station officer “Finished?”.  The second Turkish border inspection officer directed to the actual third Turkish border inspection station where the officer quickly scanned my passport and found a page to professionally place his stamp.  Upon agreeing that I was finished when asked “Finished?"I headed back to what was the third but now the fourth Turkish border inspection station where the guard there too agreed I was indeed finished and opened the gate through which I rode through into Turkey.

The ride through Turkey was sublime alternating between pastoral country side and heavily urban areas.  Saturday must be picnic day as the parks where filled with families and other small groups each gathered around their around grill.  The smells were glorious riding through all this cooking food with the exception of the odd fire of tires or some other noxious mix of combustible material made its presence strongly known.  Eventually I arrived on the outskirts of Istanbul which started a long way away from the hotel which was located close to the water in the old town part of the city.  The ride of the last 2-weeks quickly turned into something similar to an NBA basketball game where the last 10-minutes took an hour.  Where the traffic was all out high speed anarchy in Tirana Albania, the Istanbul experience was closer to a slow speed entropy where everything slowly and gradually came to a halt.  I got the the hotel and met up with the bits and pieces of the Globe Riders group, most of whom had already arrived over the preceding week.

Now the adventure really begins...

1 comment:

  1. Ian, just caught up with your adventure tonight. I missed the start of it by 30 days! We met in Pahrump NV at JL's school in February. Lovin' the pictures and the narration. Will continue to follow along. Take care and keep the greasy side down.

    White KTM 990 Adventure