Time for another bike ride. We read in a bike magazine that Dave Milligan of Get Routed Motorcycle Shippers was not only sending bikes from Australia to the UK in 2011, but also to Turkey, allowing you to ride through Europe dropping off the bike in Felixstowe, England for the return shipment to Oz.
Hmmmm, sounds like a good idea. We’d previously shipped our
bike to NZ in 2003 with him, had a great time, nice riding in a
different country on your own bike.
Dave and Maggie were riding their bikes from Turkey to the UK
and were asking if anyone would like to join them, not an
organised trip, just a small group travelling together, sounded
like a good idea too.
So after discussing our finances Chris and I thought we’d do
it, taking 9 weeks off, allowing 4 or 5 days to recover when we
get home before starting work again.
Then the organising begins, flights, health/accident
insurances, re-entry permit for the bike, international drivers
licence, visas and insurance for the bike in the EU countries,
non EU countries would be bought at the border crossings etc.
We first had to transport the bike to Melbourne. Bob
Whittingstall (Cam Trans) was a great help here and together
with an ex-Harley crate from Mick at Great Southern Motorcycles
the bike was on its way.
It left Albany for Melbourne on January 17, we’d catch up with
it in Izmir, Turkey in two months time.
Once in Melbourne it is securely tied down on individual cradles in a shipping container with other bikes for the trip.
Dave emailed us to say that his mate - Dave Stanley (he used to race motorcycles in Australia) and who now lives in Turkey, owns a gulet - 2 masted wooden schooner, that he hires out and would we and six others be interested in a 4 night/5 day sailing trip off the Turkish coast. He would be working out a cheap deal for us all, which would include all meals, cheap wine etc, (BYO other drinks), it would have a crew of two - skipper and chef/deckhand. Sounds like a great way to start the trip. It turned out Dave Stanley also managed another 60 boats off the Turkish coast.
We left Albany on March 18 arriving in Istanbul a couple of
We’d packed the panniers and a bag that we carry on the back of
the bike earlier and that went in the crate to Melbourne, and
then into the container. In it was bike gear, tent, sleeping
Obviously you can’t carry much on the bike when you’re
travelling so all we had on the plane was our helmets/jackets,
tankbag and another small black bag for clothes etc that we
would need prior to picking up the bike.
We spent 3 nights in Istanbul, which is a fabulous place, seeing many of the sights, the Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, and the Topkapi Palace were highlights, but the whole place is fascinating being a city that is split in two by the Bosphorus Strait with one half in Europe and the other in Asia.
We then took a flight to Bodrum where the gulet was located.
Interesting flight with Atlas Airways, it was the first time
we’d flown in a plane where passengers took their dogs on board!
But it was a good flight, with no complaints.
Bodrum is a pretty place, even better off-season with not so
many tourists. There are lots of cafes and lots of yachts.
After breakfast sitting in lounge chairs on the beach we were
sailing down the Turkish coast. The weather was brilliant, but
chilly, the sea was calm, which made me very happy, and the
scenery in the many bays and inlets was great
There were 8 of us on the boat, we all got on well, heard some
great stories, especially from George who used to work for
Quantas as head steward - he was hilarious. We had cabins each,
sharing 2 showers/toilets, there was a lounge down below, but we
spent all our time on deck where we also had our fabulous meals.
On the fifth day we arrived back in Bodrum, there was a small
bus to take us up the coast to Selcuk and neighbouring Ephesus
which is famous for its many ruins, stayed in a very traditional
small hotel (Hotel Bella) where we dined in the open restaurant
on the roof, the food was fabulous. The ruins at Ephesus are
world-famous and were definitely worth a look. There seemed to
be a lot of German tourists there, and again we were thinking
about what it would be like in the middle of summer - horrendous
- too many people for us.
After another traditional lunch, we’re getting the feeling now
that there would be a lot of eating on this trip! We continued
onto Izmir where the bikes should be waiting for us.
All up it took 3 days to get the bikes through customs, although I think it would have taken longer if Dave Stanley and his Turkish speaking wife were not there to help us, as no-one in customs spoke English. This was also the first time Dave Milligan had shipped bikes to Turkey. So it was as new to him as it was to us.
There were 29 bikes altogether, we all helped unload them from the containers, and apart from a dead battery on a Triumph they all started.
Another mate of Dave Stanley owned a bike shop in Izmir and
came over with another battery, he was very helpful.
One of the riders had damaged his shoulder in Austria skiing
and couldn’t ride his bike, so the Turkish guy rode it to his
bike shop where he would store it until the rider was OK.
Taking a bike into the country meant you had to be there when it went through customs and the bike had to be with you when you left the country, so the guy with the shoulder injury had to be on the wharf and then he had to spend a month in Turkey before he was well enough to ride, but he had plenty of time.
Most of the other riders were taking 3 months to do their trip,
some even 6 months. I was talking to one bloke who was doing 6
weeks, and then his mate was flying over and riding for another
6 weeks, not a bad idea as they split a lot of the cost.
Even after unloading them and lining the bikes up on the dock
it still took all day to eventually ride out of the dock gates.
Ah, this is brilliant even though it was 5 pm and we rode
straight into a traffic jam! Izmir is a big city.
It was interesting talking to the other riders seeing what
their plans were, one guy was doing the old Paris Dakar course,
although we found out later he came unstuck in Libya which was
Others were riding south through Syria and Jordan - I thought
this could be a little dangerous. Most had the idea of going to
a few Moto GP’s, Superbike races, the Isle of Man TT and Irish
That night we packed our panniers and bag for an early start in the morning heading up the Turkish coast towards Bulgaria.
We started off with 7 bikes and 10 people, 4 couples and 2
single blokes. We left Izmir before the early morning rush
heading up the coast. Getting used to riding on the right wasn’t
the problem I thought it might be, even roundabouts etc were
easy as you just went with the flow.
Eventually we ended up in Eceabat which is a small town over
the Canakkale Straits, and a short ferry trip. We had now left
Asia and were in Europe. The hotel we stayed in “Crowded House”,
good name, was brilliant and the food in the local restaurant
Eceabat is the nearest town to Gallipoli and we decided to make
the most of it by hiring a guide to show us over the place.
The owner of the hotel, another mate of Dave Stanley organised
it for us, again we got a great deal, we had our own private
tour of Gallipoli by a man who had written 4 books on the
subject. He really made it, with his stories and facts of the
place. He was very well respected and in the past had taken
prominent politicians etc from Australia, USA and Europe on
tours - it was very enlightening.
We were invited the next day to have lunch with his family who
were originally nomadic Turks. This we did having a look at Troy
at the same time, his parents were great, inviting us into their
home, no strings either.
We also stopped at a local Turkish cafe. I think it was the
first time women had entered the place.
This was a very old part of Turkey where the people were very poor, but looked great in their traditional dress, they were always cheerful and friendly though.
When we left Eceabat it was the first of the roads that had
deep zig-zaggy lines cut into the surface, I think it was to
give more grip if it got slippery, but the wheels of the bike
kept following them, making for an interesting ride - scenery
was again superb though.
Chris is very good at sitting still on the back when the roads
were a bit hairy. Later that morning, the roads were wet and we
were riding up a long hill, which unbeknown to us had a massive
As we were riding along I saw a car shoot across the road into
the ditch, then Dave was off, I didn’t see it but Chris saw
George and Lyndy have a huge tank slapper and was amazed they
were still upright. Andrew and Sue had also come off on the top
of the hill.
Our bike didn’t even twitch, maybe its the narrower tyres.
Anyway everyone was OK if not a little shook up and the bikes
only had minor damage.
Our next challenge was crossing the border into Bulgaria. There
was a huge line of trucks, we guessed around 350, they would
take days or weeks to get through. We would pass them cooking
next to the trucks, many with Russian or Polish plates.
We rode straight past and into the much smaller line of cars. We were a novelty, 7 Australian bikes. At all borders you have to get checked out twice, in this case by the Turkish border officials and then the Bulgarian border officials. The officials are always official, although generally helpful and pleasant, all you do is keep smiling.
It was raining quite hard now and we pulled over at a disused
petrol station with adjoining cafe that was still working. Chris
and I spied some chips in one of those heater displays on the
counter and ordered a plate of these and coffee, that’ll warm us
up - except the chips were stone cold, I think the display was
broken, it took them 25 minutes to reheat them, but they tasted
The rain had eased by now and we headed off to a small village in Sakar Hills where we had pre-booked rooms for a couple of nights, thinking we could do with time to plan where our trip would take us from here.
This was another out of the way place, just a small village with tiny corner shop and cafe.
The cafe was interesting, on the menu was chicken lungs and pigs lungs. We did come across pigs head, ears and nose at different places. But in this place we think the chicken lungs was chicken breast.
All this is forgotten when you order a litre bottle of Becks
beer for 50c. Local transport included donkey or horse and
We decided to head for Macedonia and Lake Ohrid as we were told
it was stunning. Looking at the map it was quite mountainous
between Bulgaria and Macedonia and the way we were thinking of
going over mountain passes could be snowed in.
The weather was great: blue skies, but still cool 18C - perfect
riding weather, but up in the mountains it would be a lot
We figured out the best way would be to head north to Sofia
(the capital) and then cut our way through the valleys, missing
the highest mountains, although we’d still have to cross some.
What we found invaluable was the Garmin Motorcycle GPS. I made
a bar and mounted it in the BMW’s screen, so I didn’t have to
take my eyes off the road to look at it.
The group would decide which direction we’d head to the next
day, once decided, we’d put our preferred route in the GPS. The
beauty of it was you could put in no motorways, traffic etc and
have smaller places as way points to keep off the main
And in the cities we would have been completely lost without
it. I know you can do it with just maps, but this is heaps
easier. It also shows the speed limits, petrol, hotels etc along
There were now six bikes as George and Lyndy had decided to
return to Greece and then catch the ferry to Italy.
So the eight of us would ride together: Andrew and Sue (BMW
R1200GS) out in front, followed by Maggie (BMW F650GS) and Dave
(BMW F650GS), Chris and I (BMW R100RS) Ray (Harley Electra
Glide) Pete (Honda Deauville). So Andrew and I had GPS’s, Maggie
and Dave had them too. Pete and Dave didn’t have them. So the
idea was if we got split up Pete and Dave would come with Chris
and I and we’d all meet up that night - hopefully.
Away we went heading to Sophia, capital of Bulgaria... to be continued in part two next issue.