Bucharest is not far at all from the Bulgarian border, took me no time at all to cross and despite being told you had to pay a toll to get over the river that marks the border, the guard at the toll booth lifted the barrier and waved me through without so much as a Moldovan Lei in exchange.
The roads in Bulgaria were much akin to Romanian roads (ie; 1,000,000,000,000,000 times better than the average Moldovan/Ukrainian road) and I was bombing down the weird style of wide single lane roads that characterises this part of the world.
Oddly enough when I leapt onto the first motorway on my route I was slowed to a crawl by a rolling traffic jam going at 20-30mph.
Being a slim fit vehicle (if somewhat more rotund than the average motorcycle) I flitted my way daintily through the traffic, sliding determinedly between cars like a skinny guy in a mosh pit full of dykes.
I eventually got to the front of the queue and found three police cars driving across all lanes of the motorway with their lights flashing, and beyond them in the distance I could see the Bulgarian equivilent of the Tour De France.
Urgh… 2 hours at 30mph in the blazing sun, could have done that stretch of road at 90, c’est la vie, I was stopping in Bulgaria for the night anyway.
I eventually found a campsite near Bulgas and settled down for the night.
In the morning I found the German owner of the site (known to the world as German Willie) who turned out to be walking to Japan (through Kazahkstan and China) on his own.
Though.. Being as he was 70 and had spent the last 6 years in Bulgaria apparently I do wonder slightly whether he’ll get to the end of his trip.
Still, it’s not about getting there is it?
Though judging by some of the tales he was telling me, he’s a very experienced traveller to say the least!
We said our goodbyes (he gave me some insanely thin towel I’ve yet to try out) and I motored off into the distance.
The road to the Turkish border was very very small, and I more than a few times I questioned whether it was in fact the right road.
Still, the roads were beautiful so I kept going.
My accident prone nature was bound to catch up with me again however and not long after I took the above photograph, I took a corner relatively quickly (though perfectly manageably), leaned over and heard a grinding metallic sound and suddenly I was on the tarmac.
Turned out the side stand had got trapped below the centre stand and when I leant over to take the corner it had scaped the tarmac and sent me tumbling.
Thank god for ‘All the gear, all the time’, I just stood up, dusted myself off, picked up the bike and carried on unharmed.
Close to the Turkish border there are some quite spectacular hills, and if the roads were a bit better surfaced they’d be good fun!
Woo! I made it to the Turkish border! And my last sign in Cyrillic!
The border was pretty easy, took a fair amoung of time to get all the paperwork as I had to go through umpteen different offices, but the motor insurance was a piffling $10 and the visa only $20.
Once I got through the border, oh my god, a whole new world of tarmac.
I think the Turks dream of paving the entire world, on the Bulgarian side I was riding single lane roads which hadn’t seen a construction crew this side of the millenium and on the Turkish side…
Good god, thank you Jesus, I can keep to my schedule and get to Istanbul today without a worry!
I bombed along the E80, a 3 lane super motorway, at 90mph and got to Istanbul in no time at all, though the 90mph wind speed did result in 3 days of excruciating muscular pain… Maybe I’ll keep the speed down next time…
And then the houses started.
Istanbul is home to more than 13,000,000 people and good god it is huge.
A quick consultation with my map and I arrived in the area of my benefactor.
Taksim being a complete maze I did the traditional thing of giving the address to a taxi driver and following him through the death defying driving of Istanbul.
I was greeted by Sharron, a friend of my father, who’s staying in Istanbul teaching English and graciously agreed to put up with my smelly self and provide me with a place to sleep (and subsequently some rather delicious meals!).
I’ve been in Istanbul a few days now, so there is much to relate.
But, that will have to wait for another blog post!
In the meantime, here are some samples