Return to Plan ‘A’

A Beach on the Black Sea

Georgia was fun and beautiful, and I bumped into a fellow biker chap called Jannick, who was on his first long ride-out after only recently getting his bike licence. After riding to Trabzon together, I’m now in a nearby town waiting for a boat that isn’t going to show. It’s time to form a new plan.

Riding with Jannick was fun, and a pleasant change from riding solo – none of the dynamics you get with a large group of blokes. Him being only 21 and an athlete did make me feel somewhat old and soft around the edges, but we rode through Georgia and on thorough to Trabzon with nothing to blight the trip save the monsoon-style rain they seem to get here in northern Turkey.

Hitting Trabzon, it was clear that Jannick needed a new chain for his bike (a Honda Africa Twin) and Trabzon is the kind of place that has bike shops. Rather luckily for us soaked riders, the bike shop we found was nestled amongst a plethora of cheap hotels. Result! Or so we thought.

The bike shop came up trumps for Jannick’s bike and one of he guys there, being able to speak English, arranged for us to stay at the hotel next to the shop, making sure we didn’t get ripped off (£8 for a bed for the night. Suspiciously cheap?)

Cheap, clean(ish) and no-frills. Perfect. Oh, apart from the fact that you have to keep your door locked because of all the prostitutes that bang on it throughout the night, asking if you want sex. After some next-day checking on the web, it turns out that all those hotels are really unofficial brothels. Oops. No problem with a looked bedroom door though.

Jannick rode on west as I headed slightly inland for Macka. The plan being that I would arrange passage across the Black Sea to Sochi and hang out in Macka until the boat sailed. Today, my plan fell apart. The chap in the booking office said that there may be a boat to Sochi and, if there is, then it might sail in about a week. He couldn’t say anything for sure and was erring on the negative.

The booking office was, needless to say, not a thriving centre of business.

Not being able to get into Russia via Georgia as an EU citizen (Russians and Georgians can cross), and needing a visa to cross via Azerbaijan (I don’t have one of those), I don’t see that I have any choice but to double-back and try Ukraine.

Looking at the map, I reckon I have 6 days to cover about 2,000 miles. I don’t actually have to be in Russia on the 1st of July, and it is slightly less than 2,000 miles, but it is still a bloody long way to get to a Ukraine/Russia border crossing that is far from the current troubles.

So… The bike is clean, in good condition and I’ve just changed the oil. There are sealed motorways all the way to at least the Romania/Ukraine border and I probably still have some Romanian and Bulgarian cash on me somewhere. Cue a week of hard riding.

I’m not worried about the Ukraine troubles, as I’ll be heading to the north and then the east to avoid all of that (I hope). It puts my bike maintenance schedule slightly out of kilter though, with my needing to squeeze every mile out of the tyres (safely) so I don’t have to mess about with ordering a new set in Irkutsk

Turkey has been a jewel – I shall take away fond memories from my time here and I will explore more of it in the future. It really is the gateway to The East. Great people, for whom sweet tea (cay, pronounced chai) is the social lubricant of choice, and great food (“Tavuk Sis” is a chicken kebab), but it is time for us to part.

Just one more kebab this evening, before I hit the road westwards tomorrow morning.

And a beer.

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