The coastline of California and the rest of the western United States iare amazing. Specifically, California has Big Sur and the Redwoods coastal areas, and Oregon and Washington are pristine in their beauty.
After living in California for four decades, and seeing much of that coast, I can equal, and maybe exceed it, by the spectacular coastline of Turkey.
Turkey: the tag line for marketing it should maybe read: “NOT on everyone’s favorite destinations list, but should be.”
I fell into that, “HUH, why Turkey?” question that many have, before they get here, but after being a resident for half a year and seeing much of the western coast on two wheels, I believe that Turkey should be at the top of (motorcycle) travelers’ lists of places to go.
In brief, my wife and I are 68 and 69, and have been permanent travelers since leaving the US in 2019. Since then we’ve hit 26 countries and until living in Turkey, Croatia was at the top of our favorites list. And I still love Croatia, but Turkey has it beat.
We moved to the city of Antalya, on the southern coast, in December 2021, lived there until July 4, and are currently riding a motorcycle, our BMW GS 310 —Max— up the coast to Greece, and then westward, like Horace Greely, to the Adriatic Sea.
We had planned to visit Albania, but instead decided to hit North Macedonia, Bulgaria, and then take Max home—to Romania—for the winter. For now. (I’ll get back to that later…)
This entire journey is about four months, and you may wonder, “Can a 310cc bike handle that long trip? And with two people?”
The answer is, “yes.”
This is part one of that journey, so, saddle up, and get onboard, and we’ll continue the Greek tale and beyond in part II.
Here’s Part I of our 4 months long journey between Turkey and Greece.
Day one: Packing. It may sound simple (I know it really DOESN’T!), but packing up three backpacks and a gym bag with enough stuff for four months and having it all fit on the back of a motorcycle is not easy.
Kathleen, my wife, is an awesome packer, and I wish I could say it went smoothly at the beginning, but truly we butted heads over the BEST way to do it.
We fit two bags inside the box, one underneath, and one on TOP of the box, all nicely tied on with bike straps, and after 188 km/ 115 miles on day one, it all worked.
I intended to take my heavy duty and protective bike jacket—as we know we should on any bike trip—but there was no room.
We were already too high profile against any wind we might encounter, and to add the extra weight AND the extra few inches was bordering on dangerous.
The scenery along the way was beautiful, and it was familiar since I traveled this same road in April when I picked up the bike in Romania and rode it 1000 miles to Antalya.
However, the weather this time was much different; hotter than hell, in the mid-nineties (F), about 35°C, but the wind — that damn wind — was just as persistent.
We departed Antalya later than planned due to the packing process—which did get easier—and got to stop number one, the city of Kas, late afternoon, which we first visited a few months earlier and already knew just a bit.
It was just as beautiful the second time around, and we arrived beat up, and ready for a shower, some food, and a nap, in that order.
On our last visit there we stumbled upon this amazing pension (hostel) run by the nicest older Turkish couple, and even though they have four rooms, they make little effort to market or rent them.
They offered us a great price now, as we began our journey, and we talked about returning here for several months later this year. We will see.
Days 1-15 – Kas to Marmaris
Sometimes shit happens, and in this case the shit was COVID…which Kat got as we arrived in Kas. Between the turmoil of international travel the days before, the packing of our gear and bike, plus the excessive heat, it caught her the day we arrived.
What was supposed to be a three day stay we extended to six since we had the perfect environment to convalesce, so she mostly slept while I nursed her as best I could until she recovered.
Luck was with us and we had a comfortable and peaceful room, nice view, and AC which worked great, so she had it mostly licked in a few days. Our kindhearted hosts even brought us some food, tea, and a thermometer so we could monitor her recovery.
Over the years we have encountered many what we call “travel angels,” and our hosts, Rauf, and his wife, Evi, certainly qualify.
After almost a week we left that town, and went on to the next stop, Fethiye and Hisaronu, and now it was MY time to get sick! I got the cough, but not the high temperatures or extreme exhaustion, but I still quarantined as best as I could, spent time at the pool, sweating it out.
Our room was quite nice, very affordable, so pushed our second stay to six days before we moved on to stop number three, but unfortunately, we had our first accident here as I dropped the bike at a stop.
Timing was bad since we got to Hisaronu during the middle of Eid-al-Adha (Ramadan) holiday, and the town was a madhouse of activity, crowds, and traffic.
Between the turmoil of that, plus my weakened condition from COVID, and the extraordinary heat, I lost balance at a turn—right in front of a policeman, and on top of that, neither of us had helmets on.
That is a minor infraction in Turkey and the officer helped me right the bike, and in broken English asked, “if we needed an ambulance.”
We declined, and fortunately we had just slight bruises, both in skin, and in my ego, and my helmet was caught between the bike and the pavement so has a nice scratch to commemorate that event.
After almost a week we overstayed our welcome and our hotel was sold out with no available rooms, so we had to move on to our next town, Marmaris.
I was probably about 80 percent healthy, but fortunately this leg of the trip was short, 164 km, and when we got to town we parked the bike and started walking along the main road looking for a room, which we got for a good price.
Our intentions were to stay for just a few days, but started realizing that time was on our side and it was better for us to spend more time in fewer places, giving us time to recover.
Days 17-47: Datca, Selcuk, Cesme, Chios & Lesbos
Marmaris captured us with its charm, and we found a great restaurant with a covered patio deck—on the water—and we went back to our mini getaway every day for three days.
One goal of this Turkey coastal trip was to discover options of different places we might like to live for a few months, so Marmaris was added to that growing list, along with Kas.
The town was affordable at $33 USD per night for lodging, and even with the heat we loved it.
After half a dozen days we moved on from there and took a ferry further down the peninsula at Datca, across the bay to Bodrum, which was too hot, busy, and pricey to stay at, so rode on another few hours to Lake Bafa for one night, joined by gaggles of geese and other birds since it was a protected area.
This particular room (cabin) was only worth one night, and our next visit was the city of Selcuk, which is also the home of one of the most famous ruins in Turkey: Ephesus.
Ephesus blew me away when I visited the first time in March, and I promised Kat that we would return so she could experience the same. While it was freezing cold four months ago, this time it was sweltering hot. And MUCH more crowded.
This iconic landmark is amazingly well preserved, and is a valued and revered part of history with its own Bible chapter.
It was also a refuge for Jesus’ mother, Mary, and his Apostle, John, who penned his verses here in this town at the Basilica of St. John, just a mile away from the ruins of Ephesus. It was breathtaking and is believed to be his burial site.
Meanwhile…the heat…the wind, endured and complicated the next few weeks as we visited Cesme, the Greek islands of Chios and Lesbos, and returned to Turkey.
We also got our first, and hopefully last, taste of Turkish bureaucracy as our attempted ferry ride from Turkey to Greece was delayed 10 hours due to a tax we owed.
As we were clearing Customs from the Cesme ferry to go to Chios, all of 30 minutes away, we were informed that we did not notify them the last time we left Turkey for the US, and that we were leaving a motorcycle behind.
The short story: Kat and I went to the US in June for a month and Max was left behind stored in a motorcycle repair shop. It never moved, it was not ridden, but according to Customs, we needed to notify the Turkish government that a VEHICLE was still there.
Of course we had no idea and it became a $420 learning lesson. To add insult to injury, this happened on a Saturday morning and it took hours to find someone who could tell us the amount of the fine.
No one at the port had any idea. Instead of taking the 0900 ferry and enjoying the day on Chios, we took the 1900 ferry, so barely had enough time on Chios to eat and find a room.
The town was too busy for our tastes, so departing the next morning at 0820 was not a heartbreaker.
Ferry #2 took us to the Greek island of Lesbos, which was beautiful, and I was able to take a solo bike trip to the far side of the island. That was valuable “me” time, since riding with two is so much different than riding solo, and I needed to get my confidence back after the fall.
On top of that, due to the heat, the wind, our fall, and some very twisty roads, Kathleen’s “fear” indicator was ramped up. Bless her heart, at age 69, she truly IS brave enough to take a four month journey on the back of a small motorcycle, and give up control to the driver—me.
I don’t believe anyone reading this enjoys being a passenger and most of us want to be in charge. I give her huge props and love her for facing her fear.
The upside was that my solo time on Lesbos gave me and Max a chance to see how he handled and he impressed me more than I thought.
This is the smallest bike I’ve ridden on any trip, and Max handled corners, up and downshifts, and some offroad conditions pretty well. I was prepared to deliver Max back to the rental unit I got it from, but I am considering renting him again next year…
Ayavalik was our touchdown point as we returned to Turkey from Lesbos and had no complications. This was another town that also captured our hearts and we both put it on our list of “places to possibly live for a few months.”
We stayed in two different rooms as we extended our time there to five days and we are certain to return for further investigation.
The very small beach community of Kucukkuyu was next, and this unique fishing village was different than all our other stops. It felt very California-like, and had no real downtown, per se.
Our hotel room overlooked the peaceful harbor and friendly cats were everywhere! Everyone seemed to know each other and we saw it as a possible place to stay for maybe a month, just to enjoy that beach-y feeling.
Finally, as we approached Greece, ready to begin our second chapter, we arrived in Canakkale, a town I first discovered in March, and dug immediately.
Another city with a ferry port, it is on the Dardanelles Straight, and across the water we can see another part of Turkey. After several thousands of miles on these roads, I have an appreciation for the natural beauty of this country, and we have barely touched the surface or most of the inland areas.
We are approaching Greece, and a whole new world.
Our 47 day trip through Turkey has been everything we thought it would be: fun, adventurous, exciting, and inflicted with challenges, unexpected situations, and excessive heat and wind.
You are reading this because you are, or wish to be, a motorcycle tourer. I have certainly not traveled most or all of the globe on two wheels, but I do have thousands of miles behind me. I loved Croatia; I loved Ecuador.
They are both different than Turkey and if you can, try all three, but for now, put Turkey at the top of your list.
To be continued…
Soon we will start our Greece travelogue from Kavala to the city of Ioannina, traversing east to west and visiting about a dozen cities in between.
This part of Greece is not as popular or well known as the larger towns to the south, or the many iconic islands, so I am tasked with introducing you to this part of this amazing country.
After our month there we are taking Max home for the winter, via North Macedonia, Bulgaria, and finally, back to Bucharest.
Stay tuned, and ride safely.