Driving a motorbike over the Bosphorus Bridge connecting Asia with the cobblestoned streets of continental Europe and a dream come true…
Today, with helicopters buzzing overhead and cruise ships pushing out to sea below I drove over the main artery of Istanbul, a big city of the world and widely considered the cultural confluence of east and west. Pushing into a stiff breeze and looking out towards the Mediterranean I felt my knees go weak as I remembered and recaptured my love of the ocean. Later, walking through Takim Square, having only recently stumbled out of the dusty plains of the Pakistani and Irani deserts I must have looked slightly odd and resembling a life-size dashboard Elvis as my head bobbled around taking it all in like I had never before seen a big city. Either that or even more likely, I looked like a big Aussie kid that had in fact never before seen a major European City.
It should be said that I hated and loathed being the centre of attention on the sub continent, Pakistan and to a lesser extent Iran. I am looking forward to travelling in Europe where I should go unnoticed as simply another tourist. I always felt a stranger in the third world, uncomfortable with my apparent relative wealth and good fortune simply based on where I was born. I must not have come far enough on a journey of self discovery because I still curse at first world problems like inner city traffic and slow 3G internet access. Having like thoughts disgusts me after what I have seen and experienced up to date in my travels.
For the history buffs:
Today I visited Topkapi Palace, resided in by members of the Ottoman dynasty for 400 odd years until the 1920’s and now a museum recognised as home to one of the world’s greatest collections. The sights of, inside and from the building were simply jaw dropping. In fact sights for me like the Taj Mahal paled into insignificance in splendour and grandeur as I struggled to catch my breath before the stunning history laid out before my eyes. The remarkable views of both Istanbul City and out to the Sea of Marmara no doubt owe themselves to the commanding location of the sight right on the edge of the peninsular. More than being impressed, I eventually walked out of the building and into the surrounding palatial Gulhane Park gardens thinking that if I never saw another Museum I had probably seen enough. Truth is I have all the Euro majors, both sites and museums in front of me.
Tomorrow I will camp out at a small cove 365 kilometres by road southwest of the hustle and bustle. It is there that after travelling over 18,000 across two continents I will take my first swim in open ocean. It will be a monumental moment for me given my connection to the sea but no less coincidental in it being the very same beach that 97 years ago Australian and New Zealand men waded ashore Turkish soil for their fateful WW1 Gallipoli landing. I will of course be camped out at ANZAC Cove.
For the motorbike buffs:
Shahrin Shamsudin, Khairull Hafiz, Mohd Naim, Gregory Broux and Ramon Fadli
Tomorrow and thanks to the guys at Spormoto, Istanbul I will have new shoes fitted to Snow. Far outlasting a predicted 8,000km my current Metzeler Enduro’s fitted by the team at The Big Bike Shop, Kuala Lumpur, will have rolled over more than 18,000km of bitumen, rock, sand and ice on FromA2B. For her new tread my BMW F800GS, is being treated to a pair of Metzeler Tourance’s front and rear allowing me to pick up the pace, lean into a turn or two and enjoy the incredible tarmac based riding that Europe has to offer. From the Dalmatian Coast over the Dolomites and through the Swiss Alps I have some awesome road in front of me and I am looking forward to enjoying it on a tyre better suited to the application.
It would appear that Europe adores big bikes, particularly BMW’s. Indeed the Istanbul Traffic cops get around on new fully speced 1200GS’s. Driving around today I passed through toll gates, cruised along tram tracks, got waved into splitting lanes by cars and got motioned to park on the footpath directly outside major tourist landmarks like the Hagia Sophia. It seems that more than being welcomed it was actually encouraged. A rider can basically park anywhere around the city and as I write this monologue Snow currently takes pride amongst a flotilla of other big bike parked at the head of Taksim Square in the very centre of the city.
Now, amongst all the many other reasons I can list for why touring on a motorbike is awesome, it must be said that for sightseeing a big city the awesomeness cannot be overstated. Despite the traffic, seeing a new and unfamiliar city on a motorbike is a pleasurable treat. I simply punch in a couple of via points on my Motorrad Navigator IV, hit the start button on the handlebars and begin the tour. Get out there, DO IT!
For the romantics:
Donna Adair, I miss you more and more every day, a feeling I can shake no less than I can hide. However the thought of having you back in my arms soon makes my smile ever bigger and my heart beat even stronger. My only disappointment on this trip has been not being able to share some of my amazing moments and experiences with you. But then nothing excites me more than the thought of sharing many more memories when, in the words of Dizzee Rascal, you will “take me down to London city where the attitudes bad, and the weather is…”
I am endlessly proud of your achievements and milestones on your own continued travels and I very much look forward to seeing you again soon.
For my Mum:
Lea Pedersen, yes I am behind with my blog and have not yet written about Pakistan or Iran. Two of the least understood countries of not just the region yet truly remarkable experiences; I am still collecting my thoughts and will write home shortly, like in the next couple of days. I am also sorry that we haven’t spoken but I will do my best to make contact in the near future…hey I am safe, what more do you need to know!?
For everyone else:
Guys, I am falling well short of my fundraising target. Nothing would make me more happy than if you haven’t already done so, join the team and hand over a few quid to ActionAid Australia. This is a charity that is doing fundamental rights based development work in some of the most challenging areas of the world like India, Nepal and Pakistan. I urge you to consider helping out in a small way by hitting up my donations page which can be accessed from www.fromA2B.com.au
Well, that was my quick update.
Till next time, take care.