It's grim up East... of Turkey

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Another shithole

Flag of Turkey  , Agri,
Sunday, October 30, 2011

Another amazing day on the road but this time the amazing thing is that we survived it. We're officially in a war zone now. We stopped off in a little town called Doğubeyazıt which probably translates to the toilet of Turkey. We checked into a highly questionable hotel in this highly questionable town and all the lights in the town went out completely. Then the generator kicked in. Then the protests started, cars drove up and down the main street honking horns and flashing lights. We were warned in the restaurant there were political problems and might be closing the town tomorrow. So this was the perfect end to the perfect day...

It all started in Erzican. Erzican is a nice little town, modern and friendly, people can’t do enough to help you out. As it turned out we got a hotel for 40 Turkish lira, that equates in real money to less than 20 and it came with breakfast. Breakfast was decent, a nice spread of things to choose from, or there would have been if Marcin hadn’t got there first. Just kidding, Marcin! (not really). I went to the shop locally and was relieved to see two females so this wasn’t some science fiction town where the women had been replaced with robots who had to be recharged at night. I bought some bread and some toilet roll, or as we now call it, Turkish survival kit. I was short of some cash so was told to drop it by later. I shamefully admit I forgot and now owe a guy 4tl which is bad because he was only doing me a favour. We dragged the bikes out of the hotel, well i walked mine out, Marcin had to heave the mighty bulk of the KTM out with some fair degree of difficulty. We enjoyed instant celebrity status, adults stood watching our every move, children came and stood in awe to gaze in amazement as I checked my oil level and lubed my chain. Even more exciting, Marcin put a new screw in his handlebars. All this seemed beyond fascinating to our audience. I chased the kids with a camera and in the end got them to sit on the bike for pictures which they were itching nervously to do. They chased us down the street waving as we made our way out of town. I was wearing the same gear and now I was worried I was massively over-dressed as the temperature was reading 22 degrees and i was beginning to sweat inside my gear. We made it out of town, cars pulled up next to us, the drivers waving and wearing pink shirts for some unknown reason. In Turkey the Fiat Tofas is the weapon of choice for the hopeless boy racer. I’ve seen them before in other countries but not called that. In any case it seems to be a car built to make other cars look good. It’s a poorly designed box with a wheel in each corner but here it suffers the indignity of being modified in every way imaginable unless you can imagine a way which actually uses good taste. Most commonly it’s seen lowered to the ground, massive chrome wheels which batter the standard wheel-arches and things hanging from the mirrors. Also they’re generally brown and try to race you from the lights. We saw many, many of these today and not one beat two heavy loaded bikes on a fun ride through Turkey.

As we made our way out of town it became quickly apparent that I was not over-dressed but was in fact probably not wearing enough clothes. The temperature dropped to 13 degrees in a few minutes and kept sinking. 13 to us was very comfortable after yesterday and we carried on. The roads had moments of spectacular, awe-inspiring scenic impact interspersed with hours of staring at rocks.

Today along the sides of the road I noticed a good many people selling fruit and vegetables on the sides of the road from ramshackle wooden frames with a plastic cover. The first was a tired looking old man, broken into a folding chair in worse shape than his frame, smoking his life away, watching us pass without interest, his eyes dead to the world that had long since passed him by taking his hopes and dreams right along with it. Soon after we passed a man in a suit jacket and mismatched trousers, fat and balding, his white hair trying to cover what he seemed to believe was a shortcoming as if anyone who noticed such a thing and judge a person in it has an opinion worthy of note. Next we passed a young man, maybe mid teens. He watched us keenly, his eyes fixated on the unusual spectacle of two motorcycles passing along the battered road in front of his produce stand. All of these people were the same, just separated by the illusion of time. One would invariably become the other. The young man full of hopes, still fascinated by the world, the man who has learnt who he is and where he fits in, his dreams put to the side so he can usher in the next generation to the life he knows and the old man, broken by the passing of time in a role he now knows served nobody less than it served him.

Here I am, riding through Turkey on my way to the Middle East. I’m incredibly fortunate and I know it. Even among my friends and family who live in a rich country I’m privileged to have this opportunity to ride my dreams but amongst people with nothing, the realisation of how lucky I am is never keener.

This is the failing of the system we live in. Capitalism, consumerism has turned the world into a resource. If there’s no incentive to profit from a thing then the thing is deemed to have no value. Here education is not guaranteed, people work because they have to. There’s no money in helping them find their potential. How many scientist have we lost because they were born to impoverished nations, how many artists. Has the next Einstein died after a lifetime of selling giant cabbages by the side of a road instead of moving the entire Human race forward in its understanding of the Universe? How much talent is wasted because there’s no profit in harvesting it? Every day we’re losing the Human quality that might manifest as the next artist to create a world-changing perspective, the cure for cancer could be lost because someone with the ability to find it is wasting their life in a tin hut, the next political system that leads mankind out of the shackles of slavery under the machinations of the bankers.

Einstein was a genius. His IQ was far higher than the other members of his race and family so the next person to exhibit these abilities could come from anywhere. They could even come from a cabbage patch in northern Turkey, although I admit it does seem unlikely. In any case these people seem hopeless, they just sit there knowing their aspirations will go unmatched by their actions. Nobody is out here helping them achieve their potential because there’s no profit in it. We need to start growing up as a race and see that things don’t necessarily have to profit us, they are worth doing if they profit all of us. This will never happen while money is the blood of our society, pumping around a bloated, decaying body with a hopelessly unused brain.

Even those with something in these parts of society really have less than nothing. There are some modern cars here, usually being driven beyond excess like weapons to be used against everyone moving slower or safer than they are. These days nobody owns their cars, they’re bought on credit. If you work at a job that supports society then you can get credit. Considering that the work of over 70% of us work at doing nothing but moving money from one place to another then the other 30% are productive. Builders, dustmen, nurses, the men who unblock your toilet. They are the real foundation of society and invariably they don’t get credit as easily as bankers, and middle management personnel who provide nothing of use. But those useless people get to drive these cars. In reward for putting the shackles of slavery around their necks they have the options to give some of the money they’ve sold their soul for to a bank each month so they can drive a shiny new car.

I was careful not to fall into this trap when I chose my bike. Of course it’s a consumer product so there’s no point in my claiming I have a totally elevated point of view but I chose a way to limit my entry into the abyss of humanity-swallowing consumerism. I’m using a BMW G650x. This bike is a rare breed in the motor industry because it wasn’t built to make a profit. Most bikes, along with anything else are designed to be built as cheap as possible, create the maximum amount of desire in the consumers and then be sold for as much as they can get. The X-range was built with a slightly different end-result, ie to give BMW something to race in enduro competitions that year, including the Dakar. It was based on their previous singles with uprated engines and better electronics but it came with a high price and people didn’t want it. Now, it can be found relatively cheaply on the second hand market which is where I found mine. The manufacturer earned nothing from me, I bought the bike for around 35% if the new price and it’s been built to a higher standard than you’d normally expect. In fact is things were built to accommodate needs instead of to accommodate the incentive for profit then this is what bikes would generally be like. BMW certainly cut some corners but I stuck those corners back on and now the bike is just as good as it can be within the considerations of the value and resources available which is precisely how everything should be.

Young men at the side of the road have no value and are not considered a useful resource and we, as a race need to change that. People’s lives are the only thing of value and the hopeless, endless waste of the most precious and, in the end, only thing of value on the planet has to be addressed. It only can be if we see how useless money really is as a way to measure someone’s worth.

The roads carried on endlessly just growing colder and colder and colder. We stopped for fuel first in a place that worryingly didn’t give us any free tea. It gave us a chance to get some nice pictures. In fact today we stopped a few times. We were on a looser schedule today and had a bit more time to play with so we had a chance to play a bit. I’m glad we did, there was just too much we would have missed otherwise. Eventually we made it to the next big city but the satnav took us at least 10 miles out. There was nothing there in any case we wanted to see. We stopped for a quick drink in a truck stop but then realised we had no money. Luckily they accepted whatever we had and we paid them with a Euro coin. They seemed more than happy with that. I think here the Tea is actually free everywhere and they just rip off the foreigners.

After that we plodded on into snow-capped mountains reaching to a recorded height of 2200metres. We probably made it higher but I had other things on my mind. Temperature dropped to 4 degrees and we stopped at some roadside things to snap some pics and warm up for a bit. The landmark object turned out to be a shaped mountain of farmyard poo. As we were suiting up another pair of bikers passed the other way on BMW singles. They stopped and we met up. They were a German couple, Mark and Esther who had to sort out paperwork to enter Iran so we chatted very briefly. They told us it was cold where we were going. We told them the same thing. There is another English couple a day ahead so we’re going to try to find them tomorrow if our border crossing goes as well as we hope.

We carried on to the next petrol station and my bike managed 170 miles before reserve, not too bad and a sign the dodgy Hungarian fuel is now out of her system. It’s still not her normal form though but I can easily put this down to keeping up with Marcin on his mad quest to go faster. So far our bikes are doing well. It’s a tough job we’re putting them through. The roads toward the end of Turkey range from very good to hardly being roads at all. We’re shaking and pushing them pretty hard but they seem ok for now. After our final fuel stop the weather got darker. Night doesn’t fall here so much as collapse on top of you in an instant. We had only 45 minutes ride but the darkness hit us like a blanket had dropped on top of us. We went on as best I could. Marcin seemed happy to just ride flat out but I slowed down a bit as the road conditions were crap and in the dark i could barely see in front of me. We made it into the town and went around looking for the hotel. We found one and got a room for 50 turkish lira which was a respectable price until we saw the room. Another shithole in a shithole town. There are no roads, just brickwork laid unevenly over sand, the people stare at us like we’re aliens and the bikes have attracted a great deal of attention which this time felt very unwelcome. We found some food but got ripped off. We asked for a kebab, some salad and some beans. We got served half the restaurant and charged 110lt, way above the normal price. I took it on th chin but Karma struck and they only charged me 11tl so I paid and laughed. The news is reporting terrorist attacks up and down the border and I can well believe it. There’s a tension here, an ugly atmosphere of a people ill at ease. I’m glad we took this route, we’ve challenged ourselves and seen some amazing sights. We’ve had a good time but we’ve seen enough. I want to move on. Turkey is not a place I want to stick around in. I have the vibe and it’s not a good one. This is a country of clashes, not compromises. People, styles, religions, politics and philosophies grind against one another, Istanbul is a western, European city based on a totally different culture and as you move on poverty clashes hard on the outskirts. Further on the capital is a dive and you dive harder as you press on. People are friendly and want to meet you but they are more interested in showing you how nice they are, there wasn’t much genuine interaction here. The driving is a great example. They drive to kill. They don’t care if other people are hurt of killed, they put on blinkers when they take the wheel, there’s no interest in the welfare of others or the outcomes of their own actions. Never overtake a slow Turk. They behave like you stepped on their dick. They have to come back and overtake you twice as hard which invariably means they have to push their clapped out car far too hard and fall back later, hovering just behind you armed with poor reactions and worse brakes. I’d rather have them in front where I can keep my eye on them. So tomorrow we cross the border. I’m keen to get out of Turkey. In 8 days we’ve come this far and who knows what will happen in the next 8. I can’t wait to find out.
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thunderstick on

Superb! What a test...once you hit further east I hope you'll be experiencing some vastly differing culture rather than just a mish mash born out of cinema and advertising. I can only imagine the exhilarating freedom you two are feeling right now, and you haven't even had a bad case of the trots. Good going! No updates on the hubb?

Norm on

Go Weas!
Good to see you got out of Lewisham and into a civilized part of the world.

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