Following one of the most amazing sunsets seen on the journey so far, .. we wake in the small hamlet of Kum to the sound of the Muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. We pack tents, brew coffee and head back to Gallipoli for the ferry.
On the ferry to Lapeski over the Dardanelles, I meet Osman. He practices his English with me from sheets of paper whilst holding tightly onto my knee, ... I practice my rusty Arabic on him, ... but avoiding his knee. It takes 30 minutes to cross, .. if feels like 5 minutes, ... Turkey is turning into an amazingly friendly place.
We ride east hugging the coast and for no particular reason, I decide to turn off the main coastal road and into the town of Biga. I hear the bike behind me as I pull over to find a functional ATM, .. we have no YTL, .. only Euro. A voice, .. I turn, .. cool dude on a Yamaha Virago, wrap around shades and no helmet, 'follow me, we drink tea'.
Around the corner we enter a cobbled street, 'pedestrians only', we park the Tigers in front of a row of shops. We're introduced to Teyfo, he owns the 'Converse' shop in Biga, ... his friend Ayhen sells handmade ethnic jewelery from his stall close by but passes the 'slack-time' by entertaining shoppers with rock ballads on his guitar. A Suzuki GS500 arrives, .. we've seen it before, twice, .. they've been following us from Lapeski and apparently trying to flag us down, .. we meet the rider, Volcan and the passenger, Ozzy.
We sit between the shops,.. hot refreshing Chai arrives glass after glass and interspersed with rounds of beautifully toasted panini with tomato, cheese and salami. Teyfo brings a 'Cura' and begins to accompany Ayhen on guitar, .. we have a rendition of Turkish folk songs followed by Bob Dylan, ..... the best improvised busking session I've ever attended, .. these guys are good.
Ozzy explains that he owns a Fish and Chip shop in Devon and is back in Turkey for a few months. He and Volcan were on their way to Istanbul to meet with friends when they saw us pass on the main road, .. they have chased us on and off for the last hour, ... 'welcome to Turkey'. We meet Savas from 'Ismet Oto', the local Michelin dealer, ... he will check the price of replacement tyres for the bikes, ... he shakes hands and leaves to do his research.
Ayhen presents us with bullet necklaces and invites me to ride his Jawa 250 'Chopper', .. it looks cool, .. I used to have one (unchopped), .. but a 350cc circa 1974. Ayhen looks puzzled, ... 'Korean, .. 1992, .. not Jawa', but it's still the coolest bike on the block. We follow Teyfo to Ismet Oto where Savas tells us the price of Michelin's in Turkey, .. we decline politely and hopefully we'll find affordable rubber replacements in Russia. Volcan needs to oil his chain before he sets off for Istanbul, we head for the Auto Souks. Teyfo has a secret, .. only I can be shown, but I must promise not to tell another living soul. I ride pillion around the Auto Souks as people wave and shout to us. We arrive at a small industrial unit where I'm introduced to an elderly and distinguished gentleman and I'm warned to speak openly but not to touch him, .... unless invited to do so. We smile, .... the elderly distinguished gentleman, comfortable with my ability to maintain the secret that is about to be revealed, invites me to follow him into his workshop. Three secrets are revealed to me, each a little more amazing then the one before, ..... but for the time being, ... secrets they shall remain.
Volcan and Ozzy decide that we should follow them to Erdek to swim and camp,.. it is on their way to Istanbul and they will say goodbye to us there. We follow, .. at great speed, .. it is some 70 miles, ... it takes little time. The water is the warmest yet, a local boy guards our bikes, ... the Albatros Cafe Bar provides free beer and Chai, ... Ayhen arrives with a notebook that I had accidentally left at Biga, ..... Ozzy takes us all to dinner. We still have no TYL, .. only Euro, .. we are not allowed to pay for anything.
After dinner, Ayhen gives guitar lessons to a local girl while we head away to find camping with Volcan and Ozzy who are still on their way to Istanbul. We head along the coast and as the sun sets and Volcan stops to pray, .. we request the assistant of two local brothers in their late sixties. Within seconds I am riding pillion on a scooter of unknown vintage and heading along the coast. At a small beach we pull in for a camp inspection. Two middle aged brothers are already camping there, .. a heated discussion takes place and one of the campers brandishes a rather lethal looking snake that has just been killed by his dog. The beach looks ideal, the brothers seem to live here in two tents with a small dog and boat .... after the discussion ends the rider of the scooter raises an eyebrow to me 'Quais Sidiqu?', .. I raise a thumb, .... 'Coola quais al humdililia', the deal is done.
Sadly we say goodbye to Ozzy and Volcan, it's already 9pm and dark, they were expected in Istanbul at 1pm. As we watch them ride off into the night, Ishmail, the elder of the beach brothers invites us to join them for 'chai' on the sand by the waters edge. We sit in silence, listening to a dolphin chuckle and vent just a few meters from the shore, drinking hot sweet tea with two strangers who are at this precise moment in time, the closest friends that we have in this world, Ishmail and Kalam. Welcome to Turkey