Gateway to the East

We started the morning with a traditional Bulgarian breakfast of bread, cheese, ham (which looked remarkably like spam!) olives and honey. Bit of a weird combination if you ask me. It was pouring with rain and so with the lack of sleep we were less than enthusiastic when leaving. The rain was confounded by the seriously bad road conditions. There were deep holes in the road every few metres and I banged the bottom of my bike off more than a few. The conditions and concentration required to constantly manoeuvre the bike around every obstacle made for a tiring morning‘s riding.

Thankfully a short time from the border with Turkey a lovely new motorway began and we both breathed a sigh of relief. It was also at this time that Neil stuck 2 fingers in the air. After briefly thinking he was being uncharacteristically rude he later informed me that at that point we had covered 2000 miles! A strange thought that such a relatively small distance could bring us so far from home.

We reached the border with Turkey around 5pm and so the bureaucracy began. After handing over our passports we were told that we required a visa stamp and more insurance.. My heart sank a little remembering our Serbian experience but we dutifully headed to the allocated booths. At the Visa booth we were greeted by Turkey‘s grumpiest man! Apparently it cost 30 euro for our visa but when Neil started to count out Euro in notes and coins he exclaimed ‘problem, problem!‘ and directed us to the ATM and showed us ‘70‘ on his calculator for Turkish Lira. So we turned on our heels to get the money completely bewildered. When we returned with his 70 Turkish Lira he stamped our passports and handed them back with a broad smile, counting the money like a child counting sweets. He blatantly ignored Neil when he asked for a receipt…hmm we both smelt something fishy. The insurance was much more straightforward and also cost 30 euro but when given in Lira was quoted as 49. We were furious but knew that there was little we could do. Feeling completely taken advantage of we went on only to be turned back one further time at the last gate for a missing stamp.

We headed on over a long stretch of motorway. Getting dark and running low on fuel we stopped to ask in a cafe about a hotel to be told there was one further up the road. We stopped for something to eat on the way in a motorway restaurant. We were met by a team of Turkish men who looked like something out of the Godfather and who were insistent upon serving us dinner. Cold,tired and hungry we gave in. A visit to the bathroom was what topped it for me. I was greeted for the first time with a hole in the ground. Having all my bike gear on and having had a long day I decided I could hold it!

We carried on, more than a little nervous having seen no hotel or petrol station in many miles and it was now pitch black.

Thankfully a hotel and gas station appeared and we settled in having learned many lessons; arrive early to a border crossing, know the visa price and exchange rate, don‘t run low on fuel and don‘t ride in the dark.

Thankfully we later found out that the exchange rate wasn’t that far off what we were given and it made us feel a little better but lesson learned!

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