Welcome to Lach Fergusson's

DATE: October 10, 2005
CURRENT LOCATION: Ankara, Turkey - Kale Hotel
GPS COORDINATES: oh hell, the battery just died…

Wowee, it's been a few days since I last reported in, but I'm on the move move move baby.

After my imprisonment on Samos, I broke out into the near-asian heartland of Turkey and finally escape 'safe' Europe. Samos wasn't entirely wasted. Got a little sun in, read the Economist, visited secluded beaches, and worked out the kinks of my low-speed-hairpin-cornering (which proved to be a very important skill to posses). Samos isn't exactly the epicentre of Greek island tourist hedonism - come on, the island's claim to fame is the home of Pythagoras. Geometry theorems don't sell vodka-red bulls and beach parties. But even the local tourist trade folk commented that it was a quiet end to a very slow season.

I was also able to track a few contacts and make some phone enquiries about my impending need for a Syrian visa. As it turns out, I'm not able to get one on arrival at the land border and must go to apply in person at the Syrian Embassy in Ankara (i.e. the reason why I'm here at the moment). Arrrrrg!!! Good lord, more lost days… But I wasn't going to let that get me down. No. I was going forth, across the Aegean to enjoy the fruits of Kusadasi - a quaint seaside town with panache for meeting backpacker needs!

Maybe I got that wrong?

First of all, they broke my left wing mirror off during the ferry crossing. Despite the bruises, Mario (the bike, remember) cleared his first customs exercise without any great exertion. I got practically robbed blind in fees!! First, cash 20 Euros for port tax (me and the bike) - no receipt, just right into the 'harbour master's' fist bulging with Euros. Then 45 Euros entry visa - this after the travel guide (not naming names) said Canadians don't need to pay for a visa. What could Canada have done in the interim period from publication to earn such great Turkish disfavour??!! Fine. Paid. I'm starting to fear looking at my online banking as surprise expenses like this start to pile up.

Ok, off to “Sammy's Backpacker Palace”!! Looking forward to some fun, a few drinks, some laughs with other traveling folk. Only really connected with a few folks in Rome and the in-between time had been my greased lightning run to Turkey, so I was looking forward to some socializing. The “Palace” turns out to be a bit of a crummy hotel that is primarily full of busloads of Romanian families. Hrmmm. Maybe I got it wrong? The big sign outside does have different name, but the agent from Sammy's office assures me this is the place - and he points to a wee little sign staked in the front garden patch reading “Sammy's Palace”. Ok.

The town itself perhaps could have been quaint at one point… alas, that point has long since passed. It's not horrible, but it is just row after row of shops selling the same awful touristy bits and pieces, and carpets and fezzes, and bad plastic toys and jewelry. There are nice cobbled pedestrian street and you can see the ghost lines of a neat old crumbly, rambley charm. Now there's a KFC and internet cafes. Then there's Barlar Socak, which (as the name implies) is a street dedication solely to bars bars bars. After passing by in the afternoon during my midday recce, I then start to notice the packs of white (and sometimes lobster-pink) northern English families, complete with prams, shaved heads (Dad and sons), big gold hoop earrings (Mum and daughters), and bad fading army tattoos (all of the above). Oh dear. This is not exactly what I expected. Really, there's nothing wrong with the right place and context -I've had many a great evening drinking with northerners and their tattoos- but not my bunch of bananas today.

Oh yeah, I know what you're saying, “why doesn't he strike up a nice conversation with some of, you know, a local person? Isn't that the best way to travel and learn and experience the world?” Yeah, yeah. I know. There are days for that, and there are days for drinking beer in the sun with the familiar. That day just struck me for more of the latter.

After my recce, I head on back a bit deflated to the hotel for a bit of a shower and a shave. The beach wasn't even that nice. But I scrub up nonetheless, drop in my contacts and sharpen up the mohawk.

(oh yeah, a going away present from Mandy - from the few photos you can probably tell she was really happy that I was going away for 6 months)

Lo and behold at dinner I was able to make a traveling friend - an Aussie from Melbourne, let's call him 'Bruce' (wha..? hey, we're just Friday night traveling buddies, you can't really expect me to remember everybody's name!?). A bit of food and some half-litre Efeses we stroll on out to I guess… the street of bars. Yes, my head is hung low now. I admonish it and then I join in. I am a bad, bad person. But not as bad as the parent's who let their 16ish old daughters drink and dance on bar tops!!! Good God, and it's not like the girls snuck out. Some of those very parents were out hooting and hollering it up WITH the kids. Memory is truthfully a little patchy about the evening. Very very loud music: europopFiftyCentGirlsAloudBeonce'ish. Beer: lots, especially in that half-litre format. The street itself was just awash with drinking stumbling dancing snogging vomiting screaming people crossing uninhibited from bar to bar as if they were free and open EU borders.

It was silly, but sometimes you just have to go along no matter how bad it gets. What else did I have in my busy social calendar to do that night…? Oh yeah, NOTHING. It was quite interesting as a socio-anthropological experience if you look at it in a way. I found half the night I would just be sitting back and analyzing. Hierarchy and posture. Experiments in plumage. Acquired behaviours transmitted down the line. The cross-racial intercourse (well of a kind) between wobbly English lassies and Turkish lads. Young, old, older and really really way to young all together, just getting pished with loud music and cigarettes.

I shook some booty and drank too much. Ok for an evening, but I got the hell out of town as fast as I could the next morning. If Kusadasi wasn't the solace I expected then to hell with “backpacker” life. I would go in search of some natural wonderment in Pammekale, a mountain of brilliant white calcium compounds flowing down in waves and alien world-like pools of majestic greens and blues… Wowwwwwww… Honestly, I was pumped. My Dad gave me a number of very educational books when we were young, one being entitled something along the lines of “The World's Most Amazing Places”. And this was one of them! No dice I was going to miss out on this.

The days didn't start uneventfully. I had my first accident. It was only a matter of time given the road conditions I had entered and my still fragile riding confidence. Luckily it just involved me. Unluckily that means I'm the only one to blame. It had rained ever so slightly over the night and the roads were a wee damp when I left. I was rounding a corner on the big road outside of town and I noticed the back wheel slip and slide a little. Got my heart beating, so I slowed knowing it was going to be a tricky one. But no, didn't help. The back wheel first went out left; I countered left on the front. Nope - the back countered my counter and slid right. Aha! I snapped the front wheel right to counter right on back. I fought on, I wasn't going to let this ship sink!! A losing battle. After a few more wibble-wobble - Yatzee, the bike won and pulled me down into a slide across the road. Yay. Facedown with my left foot trapped under a running engine and spilling gasoline. Oncoming traffic? Hrmmmmm. Think I'd better drag myself up off the road now and switch off the engine (so that's what the emergency kill switch is for!).

Head's racing. I've killed my bike! It's only been 2 weeks!! I'm gonna get run over any moment!!! I'VE KILLED MY BIKE!!!!! I take a moment to compose myself, at which time a Turkish fellow has run across the road to check if I'm ok, “alles gut?? alles gut??” There's no traffic about and the fellow helps me turn the bike upright. I dust myself off and realize nothing's broken (on me that is!). Alles gut. My hands are shaking, but alles gut. I'd like to thank the fellow, but I've not been in the country for 24hours and haven't yet learned Turkish for thank you. “Danke shun!!” Wow, all that biking protection wear did its thing! The jacket and pants. Mario took a bit of a bite out of my combat boots, but they held. The bike was fine as well. Scratched up the hand guards (which is what they're built for) and the side case a bit, but these took the brunt and the main of the bike seems to be fine. After letting the spilt fuel evaporate after a few minutes, Mario fires up and is ready for riding.

I probably should have left it a few more hours and let the road dry out some more, but I just wanted to get out of there. The road was awful. Must not have rained in weeks. I could have scooped the diesel fuel up off the road with my finger it was that bad.

Lessons learned. #1: avoid riding on sloppy, oil slicked, sun-baked roads with just a pinch of rain. #2: if the bike wants to go down, do not go down with it or it will eat one of your feet.

I have to go to bed soon, so I'll save the remaining adventure of Pammekale to Ankara for the next chapter. But before do, I have good news!!! After endless searching since I lost my camera battery, fate collided and set me down at the feet of those who possessed just such the battery I needed. After asking in every camera and electronic shop from Samos to Ankara, here I was told sadly today that the only way would be from the Cannon distributor in Istanbul. For those who are unfamiliar with Turkey, that would take me 600km in the wrong direction. Resigned that I would be having to resort to disposable cameras for the rest of the trip (I bought one for the delights of Cappadocia!), I headed for the internet café that was supposed to be in the centre of town. It wasn't there. I went down a story, it wasn't there. I went up a story, it wasn't there. But what was there was the Ankara Cannon office. Aha!! In broken English hw drew me a map to the nearest shop that would have what I was looking for. And there it was, my holy grail. And I chose wisely.

So! That means I have photos! Well a few in any case. I didn't take any since Paris, being batteryless and I haven't gotten the instant camera ones developed yet. But…

Here's the bike gussed up like a war refugees' handcart - it ain't pretty, but it works:

The last supper at the Australian birthday golf extravaganza in Hastings:

These guys are actually planning to bicycle all the way around the Mediterranean in a big circle some time next year!!!

Now traveling - fare thee well cliffs of Dover, may we see each other again…

Paris! And my good friend and proud father Spencerama with his daughter Jane:

And his lovely wife, Sabine:

This is practically the view from their flat in beautiful Montmartre:

Spencer, a well-traveled 'circumnavigator', is jealous and wishes he was instead a hard as nails biker. I think the pretty little french cakes give you away my friend =)

I'm still working on the lonely- errrr, lone traveler's dilemma of the photo in front the monument/sight/panoramic view…

I'll get there…

Next stop is Syria, where the internet doesn't exist. The government wouldn't want its people to get silly little ideas into their heads now would they…? =)

Ciao! Ciao!!