On the road of the worlds – Motorcycle tour in Mongolia – Stages 3 and 4: From Istanbul (Turkey) to the Caspian Sea via Tbilisi (Georgia) – Used HONDA

Motorcycle tour in Mongolia – Stages 3 and 4: From Istanbul (Turkey) to the Caspian Sea via Tbilisi (Georgia)

On the road of the worlds - Motorcycle tour in Mongolia - Stages 3 and 4: From Istanbul (Turkey) to the Caspian Sea via Tbilisi (Georgia) - Used HONDA

Third and fourth episodes of Enzo’s motorcycle trip to Mongolia to be seen on Le Journal moto du Net. Today, aboard the Professor Gul boat on the Caspian Sea, return to Istanbul, Tbilisi, Baku and the road to hell…

From Istanbul to Tbilisi: hospitality, a way of life

Istanbul, impressive city … The city of a thousand mosques! Calls to prayer punctuate the day of this constantly buzzing city. Life everywhere, everywhere, everywhere! The most surprising thing, when we arrived, was the multitude of mosques. There are some in every neighborhood, from the most modest to the grandest. All call the faithful to come and pray. The streets therefore begin to resonate: it is masterful !

  • Motorcycle road trip in Mongolia (2018) :
  • Motorcycle road trip in Mongolia (2012) :

One day, while wandering around and straying from the beaten track, I unwittingly stumbled into a small cafe with a view of the entire city. Hidden at the end of a dark corridor, this place has become my little secret corner which, at prayer time, became the perfect observatory of a crazy scene: all the mosques start singing at the same time. The city seems to be crying and that leaves no one really indifferent. Simply incredible !

Before leaving, I decide to go and change my tires to anticipate the bad roads that I might cross in the future. Why now ? Because I got wind of a garage that did its job wonderfully and took care of big cars like mine. I’m happy, because I know the result will be perfect. It was when I went to checkout that I understood why the work had to be nickel … Almost 300 euros for two new tires and an oil change, it was a bit expensive but I made myself a reason: the work is perfect and the mechanic ultra competent. I now have very versatile tires, 60% road and 40% offroad.

After visiting Istanbul, I set off for new horizons: towards the Turkish coast of the Black Sea. I will go along this sea which, from what I have heard, is not that crowded. But before I can go into ecstasies at the coastal beauties, I have to get out of town in one piece…

On the road of the worlds - Motorcycle tour in Mongolia - Stages 3 and 4: From Istanbul (Turkey) to the Caspian Sea via Tbilisi (Georgia) - Used HONDA

For this, I have to take a ferry that goes from Istanbul Europe to Istanbul Asia. I should have taken a bridge to be able to make the crossing, but the Pierre Richard in me still decided to play tricks on me and so I lost the card that allowed me to cross that bridge without problem. So I decide to take the ferry, which will prove to be the most fun because it was a first for me.

After this micro-adventure, I have to take a section of the highway to head to Asmara, my first destination on the Black Sea. The road went smoothly: nothing foolish or out of the ordinary, except for having changed continent and getting even closer to the final destination.

Do not end 30 meters lower !

Arrived practically at night in Asmara, I was able to see a superb and very nice sunset. Arrived in a huge aparthotel for me alone, I realize that there are not crowds. So, a few errands later and a quick bought sandwich, I sit on my sofa to watch the Belgium-Japan match. Like every evening, after long days on the motorbike, I fall asleep in less than ten sheep and wake up around 9 am. Time to get ready and load the bike, it’s 11 a.m. when I head for Sinop, a town 200 kilometers away.

The distance may seem ridiculous, but the road being quite cramped and sometimes non-existent, you have to take precautions not to end up 30 meters lower! However, I am not sulking my pleasure. What madness, this axis of road! The sea is a turquoise blue and the winding road traced right through the cliffs gives both vertigo and an immense panorama of what awaits me. It’s absolutely awesome! As since my departure from Paris, my days on the motorbike are accompanied by an endless blue sky. The thermometer temperature rises above 35 degrees, but it’s still better than rain all day long! So if you have to do the sun dance to keep having this time throughout, I’m ready to give it a try..

On the road of the worlds - Motorcycle tour in Mongolia - Stages 3 and 4: From Istanbul (Turkey) to the Caspian Sea via Tbilisi (Georgia) - Used HONDA

On this road I met a Turkish biker who insisted on taking pictures of me and the motorcycle. His eyes shone when he saw this big engine. He was in his 50s and at the time it pained my heart to see that I, 22, already had one of his biggest lusts. The standard of living is clearly lower in Turkey, at around € 300 per month. So to get a motorcycle like mine, it takes several years of savings. This is the system we live in, it is also "thanks" to this that it is possible to travel for us in this kind of country without leaving fortunes there….

Arrived in Sinop, I decide to leave the next day to move forward and keep a good pace. I’m also looking for a bomb to grease my chain, as it’s been a while since I did and it might be dangerous if I don’t deal with it now. Naturally I stop at the first gas station which tells me that they don’t have one, but that in 2 kilometers the next there will be. Great, I’m lucky say so ! 

On the road of the worlds - Motorcycle tour in Mongolia - Stages 3 and 4: From Istanbul (Turkey) to the Caspian Sea via Tbilisi (Georgia) - Used HONDA

Two kilometers later there is no bomb, but the next 2 kilometers yes, they do! So I’m heading to the third and I’m going to surprise you … They didn’t have one and were telling me the same thing. I understood that no one knew who had what and that I would not find anything at the gas stations. Which is understandable: I have seen quite a few motorcycles on my route, so supply follows demand: very little infrastructure dedicated to motorcycles.

Direction Georgia

Luckily, in Samsun, a medium-sized town, I ran into a Mondial Moto dealer who went to see the mechanic next door and offered to use his. An old man watching the scene from the start comes to help me so that I properly grease the bike. He lifts it up on the kickstand and lets me grease it properly until I can buy one.

We start chatting, he stammers a little English and tells me he has a BMW R 1200 GS. In short, the Turkish welcome is clearly incredible: everywhere I go, I have either curious people or people looking to help me. I find that extraordinary. And I can’t help but think that if one day they come to France, they can only be disappointed with what they know … We have so much to learn from this natural generosity, it’s crazy . And indeed, as I was told, I was able to find a bomb. The rest of the road up to the Georgian border was quite disappointing, with a double lane that goes straight for 700 kilometers. Time for a break next to a monastery, but it is closed for renovation. Too bad, it’s time to change country: direction Georgia !

On the road of the worlds - Motorcycle tour in Mongolia - Stages 3 and 4: From Istanbul (Turkey) to the Caspian Sea via Tbilisi (Georgia) - Used HONDA

The border crossing promised to be very, very, very long, except that a Messenger of God came to give me his hand to help me in the form of a Turkish man who gave me countless words per second and mimed with his hands: the basting! He told me not to wait and to rush to the ticket office, passing everyone. Hesitant at first, the heat quickly convinced me and within 45 minutes I was on Georgian soil, insurance in my pocket. Pretty cool !

After a good week in Batumi editing and watching our French team win the World Cup, I set off again through the south of the country, that is to say along the Turkish border and then Armenian.

On the road of the worlds - Motorcycle tour in Mongolia - Stages 3 and 4: From Istanbul (Turkey) to the Caspian Sea via Tbilisi (Georgia) - Used HONDA

Georgian driving is also a pleasure thanks to the "civility" of the drivers: overtaking in the middle of a bend or even frontal … Better to be well alert and careful on the roads! However, the road conditions being chaotic on some axes, the cars drive more slowly and this limits the risks. For me, it was a real pleasure to take these kinds of roads. The bike responds so perfectly that I really enjoy it, even if it is tiring for the body and for the machine.

Poor road conditions are synonymous with dust … It settles in every corner, the chain is also put to the test but everything holds up and that is the main thing. The first part of this route is very mountainous, which, despite the heat, is bearable. There are many gray areas that regenerate me a bit! As the pavement is bad, it also happens that there are rivers that cross the arteries: road becomes river and river becomes road! But that’s what also makes the experience memorable !

On the road of the worlds - Motorcycle tour in Mongolia - Stages 3 and 4: From Istanbul (Turkey) to the Caspian Sea via Tbilisi (Georgia) - Used HONDA

I settled in about fifty terminals from a Georgian tourist point: Vardzia, a troglodyte city carved out of the cliff. It’s a very impressive place that feels a bit supernatural. You can visit it quickly and it is very accessible. After a beautiful day to visit, I leave the next day for Tbilisi. And the road to Vardzia is just crazy. In every sense of the term.

If I were to rename this region, I would call it "Little Mongolia" on an axis of about 100 terminals. I thought I was in Mongolia! There are steppes, this distant vision on these hills. There is this special light and there is also this feeling of being alone in the world. The chaos of the roadway and the difficulty of access at this point, when you are not driving, greatly preserve the discovery of this place. Until the gates of Tbilisi, the road will be incredible with, as always, a sunset which draws shadows on the mountains.

I realize then that I am far from France, just by the force of my wrist, and I appreciate the moment even more.

On the road of the worlds - Motorcycle tour in Mongolia - Stages 3 and 4: From Istanbul (Turkey) to the Caspian Sea via Tbilisi (Georgia) - Used HONDA

I don’t know where all of this will take me, but what is certain is that I will be that talkative old man with so many stories to tell. The beauty of the landscapes seen through the prism of the motorcycle is simply incredible, at 22 years old is the opportunity to do great things !

On board Professor Gul…

After leaving Tbilisi, I am now writing these to you from the middle of the Caspian Sea, aboard "Professor Gul". A boat carrying a lot of adventurers on motorbikes or cars, but let’s start from the beginning: Tbilisi.

I arrived at this gigantic guesthouse which does not suit me, there are more than 600 of us and I can’t really make friends, it’s too big, apart from the breakfast which was delicious I have no want to stay? So I change places and find myself in a small guesthouse, a house on two floors that allows me to exchange more easily.

On the road of the worlds - Motorcycle tour in Mongolia - Stages 3 and 4: From Istanbul (Turkey) to the Caspian Sea via Tbilisi (Georgia) - Used HONDA

I meet these two boys, Chris and Lawrence. They are doing the "Mongolian Race", a seven-week race from London to Ulan Bator (Mongolia). Most of them return by train with the car or go the other way around. So it’s a gigantic hike to do in a few weeks, which looks extremely grueling but which allows everyone to take a crazy trip during the summer period and be back to normal by the time of school. school.

These two Englishmen with a strong accent therefore informed me quite a bit about my next destination: Azerbaijan. This is the only country that really worries me, the only one that I have only heard negative things about.

My only problem every time is to pass my drone without saying it and to hide it effectively. But Chris tells me that some participants (they have a Facebook group or they communicate about what happened to them or not) had their drone confiscated … Some were even sealed in a box. Others have had their cars scanned. In short, they look very, very sharp…

On the road of the worlds - Motorcycle tour in Mongolia - Stages 3 and 4: From Istanbul (Turkey) to the Caspian Sea via Tbilisi (Georgia) - Used HONDA

This is a point that worries me, because I don’t want the drone taken away from me. Suddenly I put all the chances on my side: I hide my drone in the middle of my dirty things. I put the controller in socks, then put the dirty business bag away in my clothes bag. If they want the drone, they’ll have to look for it even in my dirty underpants and t-shirts…

So I head the next morning to the border where I am about to wait a very long time, because it is known to be quite long precisely because of the checks. I arrive at the Georgian border: no one! I am fined for exceeding the date of the insurance I took out, and after paying I leave for the Azeri border.

A few cars, and once again a grandpa urges me to pass in front of everyone. I show my papers, everything is going well, the soldier makes a joke on my boots and asks me how it is that we have the same ones, it relaxes me and I joke with him a little. Then I go to the crucial step: passport checking + luggage checking.

Likewise, I nibble everyone, I quietly skip the paperwork and then a guy asks me to open my two side boxes. He takes a peek, tells me to shut it up and tells me to go and present my assurance. At this moment in my head I think to myself that it is very strange, I was not entitled to anything that I had heard previously. I’m sure there is still the x-ray scanner step or something like that…

So I take out insurance and I’m told to head out. I give my papers one last time and there … The bar code does not open the doors! They tell me to go back to where I came from. That’s it, my luck has changed, I’m sure … I’m good for a full review of the bike, that’s clear. I will return. The guy who checked my luggage takes my paper with this famous bar code, puts it in front of a scanner and tells me to go back to the exit doors. I give my papers back, the door opens: I am free !

The pressure comes down very quickly, I am as euphoric as ever despite the 38 ° C. I stop in front of a supermarket to buy water and I take advantage: I am in Azerbaijan and I have my drone! YES !!! A man walks up to me, he loves my bike. I put the gas to make him happy and he is super happy, he pushes the engine of his Mercedes and we both laugh! Azeris look really nice to me !

On the road of the worlds - Motorcycle tour in Mongolia - Stages 3 and 4: From Istanbul (Turkey) to the Caspian Sea via Tbilisi (Georgia) - Used HONDA

I shake his hand, he leaves and so do I: direction Gabala, a small town in the mountains to spend the night there, then I will go to Baku where another huge ordeal awaits me: to go to Aktau in Kazakhstan from Baku by ferry. Problem: There are about 50 Mongolian Rallye crews taking the same ferry and it’s not going to be a piece of cake. But we’ll see later, for now I’m enjoying the present moment.

The road to hell…

Part of my route to Gabala is nicknamed The Road to Hell, it is one of the hottest spots in Azerbaijan. The big Azeri roads allow me to drive fast enough to get air, but I clearly have the feeling that a hairdryer is pointed at me. It’s almost 42 ° C in the shade and in the sun I hit 48 ° C. Strangely, I loved the feeling of walking through places with extreme temperatures. It was hard, exhausting, but I found the experience interesting.

After spending the night in Gabala under an air conditioning at 22 °, I get back to safety for Baku and the road goes wonderfully. 70 km from Baku, I enter a sort of rocky arid zone. It looks like a desert in every way, without the sand dunes. I am amazed by the dry landscape of this place. I find it magnificent. Mountains of raw rock, nothing else. Pebbles everywhere. Impressive !

Baku is not without remains. This city looks like … Paris! There are Haussmann buildings in a lot of places. I’m impressed. My brain can’t figure it out: I feel like I’m back in Las Vegas, in the middle of a fake city, when some of these buildings are 200 years old. I find it magnificent, this city strangely pleases me a lot. There is a lot of diversity and for an Islamic Republic I am extremely amazed at what I see in the streets and in the shops. The women are beautiful, wear skirts that do not even cover the knees and necklines are also in order..

On the road of the worlds - Motorcycle tour in Mongolia - Stages 3 and 4: From Istanbul (Turkey) to the Caspian Sea via Tbilisi (Georgia) - Used HONDA

After these light airs from Baku, we have to start planning to take the boat to Aktau (Kazaksthan port on the other side of the Caspian Sea). You have to stay focused, because living is already pulling your hair out, so to explain it is just as complicated. Let’s start at the beginning: how this whole plot works…

Hellish machination

To get your tickets, you have to go to the port of Alat, which is 60 kilometers from the capital Baku. From this port bordered by a tiny village inhabited by diehard Azeris, there is nothing but oil wells and sand – and water, of course. This port replaces the old port of Baku for crossings to Kazakhstan. Boats disembark train cars, trailers, semi-trailers, vans, buses, cars, vans, motorcycles and pedestrians.

But boat tickets are not the same depending on the vehicle: a truck pays $ 1,200 to get on a boat, while I pay $ 110. This ticket does not include the price of a cabin bed ($ 80) and the "bridge tax" of approximately $ 13, mandatory for all passengers.

The boats are run by private companies and so you can see me coming: they run on yield. Priority to those who bring in the most money: trucks. Motorcycles are therefore almost at the bottom of the priority scale of these shipping companies….

On the road of the worlds - Motorcycle tour in Mongolia - Stages 3 and 4: From Istanbul (Turkey) to the Caspian Sea via Tbilisi (Georgia) - Used HONDA

About 98% of car travelers are part of the Mongolian Race and more than 50 want to pass. There is not enough room for everyone in general at this time of year as it is summer and all the adventurers on wheels are out on the roads and the Mongolian Race takes up quite a bit of space..

Nobody fights, but the tension to finish all the stages is felt. It must be admitted that at this time of year, one person to do all these papers is clearly insufficient. Some argue against this gentleman who still has a lot to do. Others wait more calmly. Some people get downright hysterical and personally I congratulate myself on traveling on my own so as not to have to deal with a friend who goes crazy because you just have to wait long hours.

What is frustrating about this wait is that this gentleman locks himself in long hours in his prefab to do other aspects of his job and you don’t really know what he is doing. This door that opens is the only opportunity to get your receipt…

On the road of the worlds - Motorcycle tour in Mongolia - Stages 3 and 4: From Istanbul (Turkey) to the Caspian Sea via Tbilisi (Georgia) - Used HONDA

Once in this port, you have to get a payment note made by an Azeri who – seen from the outside – does everything randomly. To get this first sesame, you have to stay in front of the door of this gentleman’s office. This office is in a prefabricated cube placed next to the vehicle boarding parking lot. So we wait under the sun. Me, other bikers, people in cars, truckers … Anyone who doesn’t have their ticket or their invoice is waiting for the door to open to try to infiltrate and for this man to make up his mind to do the formalities to go to the next step, which is for me the payment of this note to a teller in another prefabricated.

From the start I was accompanied by another rider, Spanish, named Carlos. A super nice 42 year old young man who arrived at the port at the same time as me with a superb BMW 850 GS. He is Youtubeur and promotes this new range from BMW by making the same trip as me: the round trip in Mongolia.

On the road of the worlds - Motorcycle tour in Mongolia - Stages 3 and 4: From Istanbul (Turkey) to the Caspian Sea via Tbilisi (Georgia) - Used HONDA

In short, we pay and we get a payment confirmation paper: second step validated! Then we have to go back to the first man with this same paper so that he can give us the tickets. Same process: wait before entering this air-conditioned prefab at the right time. After several waits, we still need the stamp by the same man who confirms everything. Once at this point, I give Carlos what remains to do, because I have to get my things in Baku….

The holy grail in your pocket

In fact, when I arrived in the morning, I came to get information, but it was only when I got there that I realized the length of the wait and all the procedures. So I make an express round trip to Baku and come back in less than 2 hours there. Carlos finished the procedures for me which no longer required my presence: recover the stamped tickets which confirm to us that we are on the list for the boat indicated on the ticket: "Professor Gul". We are one of the lucky ones who arrived on time in terms of timing to get a place on a boat in one day and we are going to embark on the same boat as some who have been waiting for 5 days, or even more (I spoke with the French who waited almost 9 days)…

Once the Holy Grail is in our pocket, we therefore await the arrival of the boat and in this port we can hear everything and its opposite … At 4:00 pm, I hear that the boat will arrive in the evening. At 8:00 p.m., he’ll be leaving in ten hours. We all sleep on the spot, on the floor. I inflate my mattress, hold myself next to my motorized sweetheart and fall asleep. And surprise: I sleep super well, all night it was 25 ° with a constant wind blowing on our tired bodies. Only the sun the next day calls us to order and we all wake up between 7am and 8:30 am.

On the road of the worlds - Motorcycle tour in Mongolia - Stages 3 and 4: From Istanbul (Turkey) to the Caspian Sea via Tbilisi (Georgia) - Used HONDA

I made some French friends who do the Mongolian Race. They are very funny, we pass the time as best we can, we eat whole watermelons which cost us 1.50 € each. We buy 5 liter water cans. And as with our younger parents, we go back to playing games to pass the time. We make small bins (I smoked them wide, the two little Lyonnais!), We discuss, we make jokes and we try to find some shady spots so as not to end up burned by this damn sun. Some settle between containers with their hammocks, others who do not have them sit underneath. In short, the atmosphere on this side is much more relaxed. We have all our tickets and we just have to queue to show our papers at the Azeri border for our vehicles, then we will wait for the boat to welcome us..

Finally boarding !

And that’s how around 5 p.m. we were informed of the boarding. Each vehicle is searched at the border, passport rechecked etc. Bikers go last. I am summarily searched when I suddenly hear one of the soldiers talking to his colleague talking about a drone, that is the only word I understand in the sentences. Indeed, it is prohibited in Azerbaijan. And the one who speaks English says to me:

– Can we see all your luggage, please? ?

I’m not panicking, my drone is in my dirty things as well as the remote control all wrapped up in those things that smell like sweat from 2 or 3 days. It takes what it takes to keep such expensive goods with either.

So it is without hesitation that I answer "but yes, of course", while directing myself turnkey to open everything. And here I am answered:

– OK, so go on board. thank you and good evening.

It was a bluff. I had felt it from the start. We were the last passengers and you could tell they were fed up, so they just tested my reaction to see if I was panicking. Good try !

On the road of the worlds - Motorcycle tour in Mongolia - Stages 3 and 4: From Istanbul (Turkey) to the Caspian Sea via Tbilisi (Georgia) - Used HONDA

Once in the boat, we start to settle down. One of the flight attendants is quite eccentric and very funny, there is a euphoria on board that makes you think of summer camps. It’s funny. The boat and the equipment are in quite acceptable condition, much better than I expected. The beds, cabins, showers and toilets are clean, it is still basic but it is perfect for our days on this boat.

And here I am finalizing these lines aboard this Professor Gul who sails quietly towards Kazakhstan so that I can take me on other adventures which I know in advance will be crazy, infuriating and incredible at the same time.

Another world opens up to me and the Silk Road is just a few knots away, but that’s for a little later folks !


Related articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *