We’re still heading east today, out towards Iran. I’m not sure what to expect. Today’s destination is Van, and we’ll be riding along the huge lake that bares its name. Looking at pictures it seems quite remote and isolated but the roads out here are mostly pretty good and as journey times shrink, then more people make them so we’ll see.
Try as I might I can’t recall any memories from the morning, I even looked in the recycle bin, so it must have been pretty flat and dull. Lots of stop/start and waiting at traffic lights in the heat. The caffeine gauge is reading just above the red.. loads of time yet .. but sooo many times have I driven past something that looks like it won the ‘best cake and coffee in the country’ award 3 years running and then found nothing except places selling reheated camel pats and brown water for the next 100 miles.. so this time I stop. I always feel a lot of responsibility when I do this. The place could be absolutely shit and they nicked the award sign from somewhere 50 miles down the road. But before I know it there are 4 other bikes stopped and dismounting. Luckily for me this place is a cake Mecca and looks like it will extend its award run to 4 years no problem .. and it does a mean menemen. Fuck i love this stuff
And the locals are beginning to look a lot more Arabic.. to my untrained eye anyway.. I get the impression that the women round here are maybe not equal to the men. This young lady was being bossed about left right and centre when the men sat and talked.. and she was so surprised when I asked to take her picture. You could read her face like a book and it was at least chapter 20 by the time I pressed the button. There are people I absolutely cannot make any eye contact with.. and there are people like this lady when I just want to lock on to it.. to have a silent conversation.. read and write through my eyes and come to an understanding. It all happens in a few seconds. I nod goodbye, she flashes smile and I’m gone..
More petrol .. more pumps .. more men sat around talking .. same same but different
By the time we get to lake Van the road and the scenery changes, greenery all around fed by the water and lovely sweeping roads to keep your eyes awake and your tyres warm.
Stop at a place for lunch .. it must be good because all the flies come here.. and skinny cats with one eye. I go in to look at the kitchen and there is a bloke chopping loads of meat with a big fuck off knife. It sticks like a school changing room after a football match..
It tastes good though. Eating anything at places like this is always a game of chance. Anyway .. I go to the loo .. wash my feet and pray that it comes out in lumps and not Bisto fashion
Then ask this bloke if I can count the lines on his face
Get to the hotel and its always the same apprehension as when I choose a stop anywhere. I’ve not been to any of these places before and the selection is made by looking at tiny photos on a small piece of glass that don’t always translate well into reality when you arrive. Personally I’m happy enough with the place.. but then I’d be happy if there were 4 posts in the ground, a corrugated iron roof and a dubious mattress on the floor .. The staff look like they’ve been freshly minted out of a tottie machine and the rooms are clean .. what more do you need
This place is out of town and its too far by foot unless you’re doing a sponsored charity walk so I take a wander down to the nearest scrappy beach to watch kids riding a white horse on the sand, and the locals doing what families the world over do .. chat.. eat .. and entertain the kids.
We’re headed for Kars.. skirting up the border with Iran. There is an old church that we just want to take a look at in Doğubeyazıt.. which for some reason has become known amongst the group as dogbiscuit..
We’re on our way, and we’re running pretty close to the border when we stop for the usual. The place looks good but the town looks a bit of a war zone, and it definitely has quite a fizzy atmosphere about it. Lots of ferral kids running wild and people staring from under heavy black eyebrows. We park the bikes on the pavement right outside the place. We would take them inside if we could.. thats the way it feels. I like these places, and my Mojo loves them.. a slightly unstable atmosphere and a tiny bit of tension.. you just feel it.
I go in and sure enough there is cake and proper coffee machines
So I order and wait. We’re like animals in the zoo. Kids faces pressed against the glass.. swapping all the time.. moving about for a better view. There is one in particular child that catches my eye..
10 minutes and nothing. There are people coming in and getting served but we’re still waiting. I go and give the waiter another prod.. yep.. in a minute.. but that minute never ends. Another 10 minutes and they clearly don’t want our custom so we pop sticks and join the throng outside.
I turn my head and look down and for just a fraction of a second I lock eyes with possibly the most beautiful face I have ever seen in my life.. the girl that kept going in and out of focus through the dirty glass.. she’s filthy and her hair is all dull with dirt but she has eyes just like the famous National Geographic lady. She has eyes like two huge wet green raindrops that have landed in the dust of her face. They are just incredible and pierce right through you. And just like that they are gone and disappearing down an alleyway. Fate has given her everything.. yet fate has given her nothing.
Head up towards Dogbiscuit. Its an inhospitable area for all forms of life out here
Get to the town. Jesus .. we were thinking about staying here but I think there are 5 brains in 5 helmets thinking exactly the same things as we pick our way through the tight busy streets. All the GPSs stop working as we get inside. Maybe some jamming coming from the Iranian side. But the church is visible on the hill behind.
Maybe I’m not tuned in today, maybe my sixth sense is asleep, or maybe this place has been completely abandoned by people and souls alike but I get no feeling from it whatsoever. It just feels dead, abandoned, and completely empty.
One thing that isn’t dead is my appetite. The meal I shared with the flies the other day has passed though and taken every single ounce of nourishment out of me on its way. We noticed a carpet factory just down the road with a cafe on the side .. ‘Ararat View’ .. yep .. seems a fair description
And once again .. the eyes have it ..
You tend to forget just where you are sometimes. You forget that the view just the other side of your sunglasses is in fact reality, not just a program on a TV screen .. actual reality.. and that this is where Noah had to put his shoes on and finally set foot on dry land.
We’re chasing the day today and the weather is coming in as we get closer to Kars. It’s getting dark, it’s cold, its raining and I’m counting down the clicks one by one.
Get close to the hotel and my satnav again puts itself in ’embarrassment’ mode. Sometimes it will show a little path through what looks like a park or a pedestrian area and I’ll happily follow it .. its usually only a few 100m max before it relocates onto a road but this evening its on a mission and its taken me to a fountain in the middle of a park.. and there is a policeman there .. with a finger pointing in the other direction. Far play mate .. my next turn looks like it was going to be through the flower bed anyway. Back across the park and onto a road and round the back to an out of the way hotel on the river.