The preparation ...
Early in December 2013 Manolis arrived in Chania (Crete) and together we began to study maps, check routes, landmarks etc with great persistence! We had dreamed for such a journey the last years but now seemed was the right time for us! Initially mapping was giving us a non feasible route but soon the basic plan of the route was slowly started to form. Available we had 3 weeks but we felt it was not enough. The plan was to ride via Turkey, a brief time in Georgia and then to Armenia as our main destination and then Georgia again towards Turkey, as borders of Turkey and Armenia are closed. In our return we could spend some more time in Georgia since we have available time before returning back. Approximately that was the plan.
We struggled a lot to gather information about Armenia. Armenia lacks of travel information, basically a few reports exist in the web.... usually travelers just used Armenia as a transit country. Fortunately was that with our Greek passport we didn’t need any entry visa for the intended visit countries besides Nagorno Karabakh, which we intended to visit as well but eventually it was not very difficult, as we will mention below. Decisive role for planning our route was Panagiotis Kanarelli with a Yamaha XT660R (magazine Moto, issues 386, 387, 388 and 389) who made a similar journey and also by Elias Vrochides through his book «27 Full Moons in the East».
Several reports of Georgia were in advrider.com and the Horizons Unlimited. These reports focused on the famous Military Road that connects Tbilisi to the Russian border. For Turkey, everything was simple and plentiful of information. Many of the places that we wanted to visit were under unrest especially inside cities. We were always checking in daily news for updates. We read so many reports, new flashes and general info about those places that we became experts.... Finally, an important role was played by Manolis contacts with the Armenian community in Athens, where Alice, who is Greek living many years in the Armenian capital. She gave us lots of useful information for our main destination.
All were ready when suddenly we saw in news that 9 people were killed by gunfire on the border of Nagorno-Karabakh, 20 days before our departure date ...We took a decision to start our trip and do according with the circumstances if we had to adjust routing or visits.
This year the crew were completely different! Two motorcycle clubs Moto Riders & Moto Adventures decided to ride together by the motorcycles wheels at an incredible journey..!
The Moto Riders:
• Manolis - Honda Varadero 1000 silver
• George - Honda Varadero 1000 silver
• Stratos - Honda Varadero 1000 silver
The Moto Adventures:
• Natasha and me - Triumph Tiger Explorer 1200
Friday, August 22
Chania - Piraeus (5 km and 157 nautical miles)
As every year, the last day was spent running like crazy to prepare and adjust everything as never and never managed to have enough time to be ready on time. This year was even more difficult as we had received many setbacks which nearly made us cancel the journey. Able to write these lines, we managed at 21:55 (22:00 the ferry was departing). We boarded on the ship quickly and we were looking for a niche to stretch out our sleeping bags. Luckily for us, we found one and soon came to fall asleep after two icy beer that we carried along from home...
Saturday, August 23
Piraeus - Chios - Cesme (10 miles and 168 nautical miles)
Early in the morning, we arrived at Piraeus and almost immediately, we found the ferry bound for Chios. There the rest of the team came, Manolis, Stratos and George and we started to board which was almost empty. We sat in an empty couch, since we had several hours, until our destination.
We had so much fun on the ferry and without noticing we arrived in Chios. There we met one of our well-traveled friend, Sideris, where we went together to get the tickets to Cesme. Before we head to the customs office we decided to taste our latest Greek souvlaki. From across the border our main menu will be kebabs, which is the traditional Turkish dish! We were having a great time chatting all together that we almost lost the ferry to cross Chios to Cesme.... We ran to the custom office, we passed control passport, registration certificates and green cards and we boarded. 45 minutes later, we were on the other side..!
On the custom office of Cesme, unfortunately for us, the staff did not speak English and after a long time we managed to complete the process. The procedure was as follows: first we went through passport control and then they checked our motorcycles. The officer checked some of our luggage (usually the panniers). Finally, we returned back to the first check, which they registered our vehicles. Note: if someone is as unlucky as me and has a Triumph motorcycle or some other less known brand, he will spend much more time to be registered as a new brand on their system. The truth is that, we were not sure who should blame, the officer who does not have any knowledge or those who, not too long ago, dismissed all old staff from this office because they passed large quantity of drugs in the country. So perhaps, things are definitely more normal now days...
The time was 8: 30 pm and we finished with the check in. We have to ride a few kilometers away to Hotel Akpinar. It is a cheap hotel, not so good but great advantage is its location, as it is located at the beginning of the coastal zone and on the central junction that leads to Smyrna.
We left our things and we went for a walk on the waterfront, temperature was high. The appearance of the people does not resemble a Muslim country. Most of the people are dressed in the latest fashion, while the women not only wear “Burka” but we could say that they were slightly provocatively dressed. It was a great impression to us, because some years ago, we were here again and everything was completely different. The city center was crowded. Everywhere there were tourist shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, sidewalks, street vendors, and ice cream makers and all these composed a beautiful and a warm picture to us, also made us feel that we didn’t left Greece, yet! We stopped at a restaurant and we ordered «kumpri». A sandwich which includes: cheese, meat (lamb or beef) and tomato. It was quite tasty and cheap. Hmmm ... the waiters by mistake they charged us two beers but we didn’t left this incident to spoil our day, instead we laughed...!!
We finished our dinner and on the way to the hotel, we stopped at a supermarket (open until 12: 00pm) to buy supplies for the next day. Tomorrow we decided to start very early in the morning, 700km of distance to cover.