Date: Tue, 30 May 2000 02:50:43
From: Martin Rooiman
Subject: Finally on the road!!
To: Annelies Rooiman
finally I left home on sunday 14 may 2000, just one day after the fireworks explosion in our town (20 people died). Fortunately not in our area, but it had definately an impact on my departure.
Via Germany, Czech republik and Slovakia, I'm in the Ukraine at the moment and planned to arrive in Odessa today when I discovered this Internet access.
I really love the Ukraine, the weather is great so there's really nothing to complain about. After a couple of days rest, I'm heading on to the Crimea and into Russia.
I'm really sorry, I haven't informed you all, about my departure but we had to keep the telephone lines free for use by the officials in the rescue after the explosion.
I'll write more the next time.
Date: Tue, 4 Jul 2000 06:20:28
From: Martin Rooiman
Subject: Travelreport 2 & 3
To: Annelies Rooiman
first of all i want to appologise for keeping you all informed quite badly, but for obvious reasons my priorities are on the dutch version of my travelreports.
Report 2: Pavlograd - Sochi
My intentions were to pay a brief visit to Vlad Turayev whose address i got through internet as he was willing to help me in obtaining a visa for the Ukraine. His intensions were actually completely different. His hospitality was overwhelming and he insisted on staying for at least three days. He immediately started to arrange all kind of things. Starting with a huge diner in his garage, a TV-interview for a local station (only a couple of minutes where broadcasted, which i missed to see) and a sightseeing tour through Pavlograd. Also a lot of his friends were visiting his garage to meet me as the word spread quickly.
On the local college i was able to use the internet access (to write my first report). Before i left he gave me a huge list of all his friends in the Crimea which he had called to let them know i was coming. i wasn't unable to visit them all, but actually visited some of them.
in the Crimea i started in the northwest part, which was very much as i expect Siberia to be: all farmland with huge castles and farms. And... hardly any (high octane) petrol! So i had to made a shortcut to be able to reach Saky at the Black Sea shore and visit some of his friends (also bikers). They were living on a former army base which was abonded completely, only the local people were left over. There was no water and electrical power for three days already. A little inconvenient but certainly no big problem.
Vlad (another biker living in Saky) offered me to drive to the former naval city Sevastopol together to pay a visit to his friend Oleg. We drove over marvellous winding rounds up into the Crimea mountains and i was stunned by the view on the shoreline deep down below. The mountain ridge ended steeply just about 1 km. off the shoreline and the city of Jalta was perfectly visible.
After a swim in the Black Sea we continued to Sevastopol and visited Oleg who was trying to import secondhand "western" motorbikes into the Ukraine but they are very expensive for the locals. That night we visited a local rock concert in the theatre with some of his friends.
The next day we had a stroll through the city and I wanted to leave today for the cavecity of Manhup Kale and Vlad spontaneously offered to come with me. Driving up the mountain over a small unpaved path was really a test for my off-road driving capabilities and i really loved it! Reaching the top we walked around and explored the caves (about 20) and spend the night in one of them. it's really amazing how easy it is to get access to those cultural sights. No entrance fee, and even no control at all. For this reason some of those caves where full of rubbish and many writing carved into the walls.
The next day Vlad returned home and i spend 2 days in (and around) Jalta. Not the most beautiful city. The genuese fortress in Sudak was very nice to walk around and i continued to Feodosia to meet Vlads (the Pavlograd one) best friend Sergey. Also their hospitality was overwhelming and we strolled through the city during the night hours with some of their (Sergey and his wife Elana) friends.
The next day we had to do some welding on my steer and after it was fixed the motor refused any service. Despite all the precaution (removing fuses and disconnect the battery) probably the motormanagement computer was blown. I was looking through the electrical drawings and testing switches etc. Finally I found the problem: the gearbox wasn't in its neutral!!! And i had the motor completely stripped. i was feeling like a fool but relieved at the same time there was no damage.
That afternoon we had a boattrip to some cliffs which were steeply rising out of the sea. Very impressive to see and also very relaxing.
The next day i went to the east end of the Crimea to take the ferry to Russia. i arrived just after the ferry had left and the next one was leaving in 3 hours. Waiting and waiting. Finally we were able to go aboard and had the 20 minute trip. Because i was on my motorbike i was able to leave the ferry as first but it had no effect at all as my immigration was the most difficult one by far (because of my visa) and i was put aside and had to wait till all others had passed.
The next stage was to get an insurance for my bike and to get the temporary import declaration of the custom officials. The advantage of being the last one was that the customs officials were busy playing cards so they waved me through without any luggage inspection at all. They only asked if i had any weapons with me.
My first intention was to follow the Black Sea coastline and go directly into Georgia on to Turkey. But i had one complete week so I decided to spend some days in the Caucausus mountains. And i was really glad i made that decision because the scenery was beautiful. Rough mountains complete with glaciers between green areas of grass filled with all different colours of flowers. The most beautiful place was Dombaj. it was the futherst south i could get and getting no too close to Chechen.
Driving back a couple of hunderds km. to the Black Sea coast as the roads through the Caucausus mountains do not exist. At the bordepost below Sochi i was refused to pass. The border was only open to locals because of the tensions between Gerogia and its rebellious district Abghasia. i could take a ferry in Sochi to Batumi or use the Vladikavkaz - Treblisi border (which was a 1000 km. detour). Because of the overland nature of my trip i chose for the second option and i was able to made it to the bordepost just in time before expiring my Russian visa. And also carefully avoid to camp too close to the Chechen problem area (Although with exception of the frequent police roadblocks and checkings i haven't noticed any tension or what so ever.
At the borderpost the refused to let me pass again. Saying that ALL overland bordercrossings were closed to foreigners (there are only 2, and i tried both of them!). The Russians refused to let me leave the country, so the Georgians were not to blame. Their argument was: goverment rule from Moskou. But they said the situation in Georgia was too unsafe because of the many Chechens who left their homes after the Russian attack. Only crossings by sea or air were possible. So i had to go back to Sochi again, driving the same 1000 km. back. But... my visa was expired. The military guided me to the OViR office in Vladikavkaz for visa extrension but they were closed.
The next day they first said i was too late because my visa was already expired. i told them the whole story and also some super hot-shot was involved. Finally they agreed to give me 4 more days to reach Sochi again. The also expired temporary importform of my motorbike was not any problem at all.
In Sochi i was lucky to catch the next day ferry to Trabzon in Turkey as there were not any ferries to Georgia at all. From Trabzon it was possible to take the ferry to Georgia but that was useless to me and my Gorgian visa was almost expired as well.
Report 3: Sochi - Ankara
At the check-in at the ferry there was a huge problem about my expired temp. importform despite earlier sayings. My motorbike was illegally in Russia and they where able to convisgate the bike. The solution was found in me signing a paper saying i parked the bike on the customsdepot for four days. it costs me USD 48. But they also knew i had no choice at all.
After an overnighttrip in a very damped and hot cabin deep down in the ferry we arrived in Trabzon very early. There were only my bike and one russian car tocgo through the paperwork so they had plenty of time. But they offered me some tea as well. it finally costscme USD 20 to pay for all the "stamps" they had to put on all different kind of papers but then i was readycto go into Turkey.
First trying to find a campground which was a real pain as i got several addresses of the Tourist office but none was existing (at least i couldnit find it). Finally i ended up at a campgroundsign. it was a restaurant only and i was allowed to put my tent on the grass. i could use the toilet of the restaurant but no water and certainly no shower. Because of my last couple of hectic days in Russia i needed to do some laundry washing urgently. it ended up in doing the washing in the sink of the restaurants kitchen.
After a relaxing day visiting the beautiful monastry Sumela build on the mountains like a swallownest and the "nothing specail to see" city of Trabzon i found some wonderful roads unpaved roads through the mountains into the Anatolian plateau. Almost no vehicles on the road and passing through the most remote villages made it a wonderful trip and i decided to head through the mountains again to the Black Sea using a different unpaved road.
In Ordu i spend the night on a campground at the beach and was able to see Holland first EK soccermatch which they lost by missing 5 out of the 6 penalties; quite embarassing!
Spending some days driving through the Anatolian plateau heading for Ankara i visited the Hittiet ruines of Bogazkale where i spend the day with Ian, a brit who was working for an american company which runned a powerstation in istanbul. A nice bloke tomeet, but not for too long as he had to drive the 700 km. back to Istanbul.
At the moment i'm staying in a campground close to Ankara an busy in applying for visas. i already have the Jordanian visa, hope to get the Syrian tomorrow and can pick up my iranian and indian visa next Monday. in the meantime i'm able to update my travelreports and respond on the many emails I received. The access to internet is so much easier here than in the Ukraine or Russia, so i hope to report more frequently in the future. Also my motorbike has already drove me more than 10.000 km and desperately needed some attention from me.
The near route will be: Turkey, Syria, Jordan (Red Sea), Syria, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, india.
Having a good time and i hope you enjoy the days as much as i do!
Best wishes, Martin
Date: Tue, 8 Aug 2000 00:48:45
From: Martin Rooiman
Subject: Very brief report
To: Annelies Rooiman
Here just a quick note from me in Amman at the moment.
I still haven't got my palmtop back so can't send you more detail reports but very brief from Ankara onwards:
- While waiting for my visas to processed I visited Capadocia and saw the cave city in Gorome and some underground cities.
- After collecting my visas in Ankara I headed down to the Mediterranean shore at Fethye and followed the shoreline eastwards to Adana, driving along marvellous winding roads and visiting the most beautiful coastal sceneries.
- After Adana I headed southwards towards Syria and drove along the shore almost down to Lebanon and on to Damascus, meanwhile visiting the beautiful castle "Crac de chaveliers" the castle which looks as a castle is supposed to look like.
- In Damascus I met some of my former collegues which where working on a project there and visited the old city
- Down into Jordan I visited Jerash, drove along the Jordan river to the Dead sea and had a float there.
- Amman was a boring place but I needed to go there to get my new (second) Syrian visa.
- Following the mavellous Kings highway down south I spend to day in Petra and tried to do some biking in the desert at Wadi Rum in which I hopelesly failed.
- In Aqaba I spend a whole week at the Red sea doing a course to get my Open Water Diving license and had a free dive afterwards. A really nice sea to swim in and there's a lot to see there. Especially for me as there's just opened a complete new world to me.
- Back in Amman I'm heading straight of to Damascus and drive slowly back to Turkey visiting Homs, Hama and Allepo.
- Then on to Iran
Sorry it's been a short report but I will write a more extended version next time.
Everything is OK, the bike is doing a very good job so far and hardly no problems at all (keep fingers crossed).
Date: Tue, 15 Aug 2000 03:18:58
From: Martin Rooiman
Subject: A travel update
To: Annelies Rooiman
So finally as promised is here the more extended version of my travels after Ankara.
Obtaining a visa for Iran was a slow process which took a week. First I had to get a letter of recommendation from the Dutch embassy. Getting this paper was no problem it cost me USD 12. Together with the applicationform and some photoґs I handed them in and to come back in one week. Speeding up the process was impossible. The Jordian visa was no problem at all, and I got it within a couple of hours (and also found out that France had won the European Championship Soccer). The next day I applied for the Syrian visa which was no problem but quite expensive. In the afternoon waiting in front of the embassy to pickup my passport I met two Dutch bikers planning to follow the same route as I was to India. However they were in much greater hurry as one of them had to finish in India by the end of August.
Because I had to wait for a week I informed how long it took to reply for an Indian visa. When I applied directly it would we ready on the same day as my Iranian visa and valid for 6 month so I applied for it as well. (You donґt have to handover your passport when applying for a visa. When the visa is issued you just handover yourt passport and can pick it up a couple of hours later). I also use do these days to do some service on the bike myself at the local BMW dealer.
Staying for 3 more days in Ankara wasnґt really worth while so I drove to Cappadocia to spend those couple of days down there. I visited Gorome and drove around through a really amazing landscape and visited also some underground cities which where nicely cool as there was a heatwave down there and my motorclothing wasnґt really the best outfit to wear during sightseeing.
After these three days I was able to pickup my Iranian visa but after checking I found out that the visa was only valid for 1 month which was useless for me as I was planning to visit Syria and Jordan first. Also it wasnґt what I applied for. After some discussion they extended my visa for one more month which was enough. The next day I got my Indian visa as well and now I had all the visas I needed to India. The only thing was that the Syrian embassy wasnґt prepared to issue me a double-entry visa to I had to apply for a new Syrian visa in Amman.
The next day I left Ankara to head down south to reach the Mediteranean shore at Fethye and drove the coastal route eastwards along marvellous winding roads to Antalya. Because the headwave was giving me a headache when driving too long I had to stop quite often which wasnґt any problem at all as there were a lot of ruines to see (although not all that nice and interesting). Another good thing was that most of these ruine were on the shoreline so you could have a swim there as well. After Antalya the road was straight and boring but some parts where very winding, so interesting. On a road into the mountains to Arlanskoy I spend the night sleeping under the stars next to the bike on a deserted unpaved road as I like to do frequently. In Mersin I checked my email before entering into Syria and donґt really know what to expect there. The last night in Turkey I spend on some hills with a marvellous view over a little city (Cevlik). I ended up at the parking of a local springwater bottling company and they had no problem when I spend the night there.
The next day there was only 10 km to the Syrian border but after some unmarked crossings I wasn't sure I was on the right road but a military guard was assuring me I was on the right road. I questioned that when suddenly the pavement ended at a holidaypark and a small unpaved road went steep up the hill. I managed to get up the hill and when I was passing a minibus I knew I was on the right route. It definitely wasn't the planned road on the map but it was a fabulous road.
The border wasn't that difficult. The only thing was that the forgot me to give me a Turkish visa and the officer wouldn't stamp out my passport when I didn't buy one, even if I was leaving the country. But because it was a multiple entry visa valid for 3 months I had to buy it anyhow once I was returning from Syria I bought the visa. On the Syrian site of the border there were no real problems as I had my "Carnet de passage" (a temporary import document) it was just a couple of minutes. Of course they want to get money from you as well. E.g. it's only possible to get a 2 week visa for Syria but for the insurrance of the bike it's only possible to get it for 1 month minimal. At least I can use it for the returntrip as well.
In Syria I mainly followed the Mediteranean shore with little trips into the mountains to ride along the several castles build by the Crusaders. The most important one was "Crac des Chaveliers" which was a really well preserved castle and a real joy to stroll around.
>From there I went on to Damascus to visit some (former) collegue's who where working on a project there. I spend a couple of days with them and visited the company the machine was standing as well to make some minor adjustments. Because they rented a house it was no problem to stay with them for a couple of days.
After 4 days however I wasnted to continue down south to Suweida mainly riding across small and quiet roads. The next day (22-07) I crossed the border with Jordan and visited the historical site in Jerash which was very touristic but nice to see. I spend the night along a small unpaved road and had a good night. In the morning a old man passed me asking where I was coming from. I told him I was from Holland and that I was making a worldtrip and we had a little chat. After he returned from the village with his groceries I was almost ready to go when he invited me to have some tea in his garden. It turned out in a complete breakfast together with his wife. They were living the whole summer in this garden. They hadn't any house there but were living outside and sleeping under a tree and enjoying their retirement. In the winter they went back to their house in the city. He planned to build a house here someday and was then living here permanently. I spend a couple of hours there and had a really nice time with them.
Around noon I headed westbound towards the Jordan river and drove along the river up north until I was stopped by the military because I was getting to the Syrian border, so I turned around and drove all the way down to the Dead Sea. The Jordan valley is a very fertile area and so there living many people as well. The Dead Sea was great to have a float in (you can't really swim in it and be careful not to get any "water" in your eyes, because of the salt it hurts like hell).
I spend the night at the shore of the Dead Sea and saw a perfect sunset and at night I saw the glare of Jericho over the mountains. In the morning however things changed. The grass I was sleeping on was oily because of the high salt contents which attracked water during the night so I packed the bike and drove away. But as soon as it was getting onto sand my bike slipped away and fell over because also the sand got the oily feeling and everything what was touching the sand had "mud" sticking on it immediately. By the time I had my bike upright again I was looking like a pig as well. I drove on to Amman to apply for my new Syrian visa but was arriving there too late so I had to come back tomorrow. In the hotel I asked if they had some water to clean my bags. They hadn't, because of the lack of water they couldn't allow ne to use it for cleaning bags. No problem to me so I took the bags inside the room and immediately the came to me saying that it was possible to clean the bags on the roof, but try to use as less water as possible.
Amman wasn't really an interesting place at all, except for the ampitheater. There I met Stephen, a biker from New Zealand who bought a bike in England to travel around Europe (and beyond) he was getting himself orientated on the map trying to find the same hotel where I stayed so I could help him out easily. Back in the hotel I was sharing the room with him.
The next day I applied for the Syrian visa without any problems. Again I needed a letter of recommendation of the Dutch embassy. In Ankara these letters costed me USD 12 and here they were for free ????
Because there was no reason to stay in Amman any longer Stephen and I drove together south following the Kings highway. The name has probably nothing to do with the Jordan king but with the feeling you get when driving over this road. A good road with hardly any traffic on it and a lot of bends. When a river has to be crossed the road descends steeply for 500 metres, you cross a bridge with no water at all and the road climbs 500 metres back up. A real joy to ride on with your bike.
In Dana we wanted to stay in a hotel with a marvellous view over a valley but the price they asked was much to high. With a cup of tea we were negociating but still too expensive so we left (after refusing to pay for the tea) and spend the night along a narrow dirtroad and had an even better view for free.
The next day (28 July) we arrived Petra in the early mornig and payed a whopping JD 25 (USD 35!!) to visit Petra for two days so we could take it easy. This first day we spend seeing most of the central buildings which were really impressing from the outside, but once inside it wasn't anything more than a big square box. We had to rest quite often and long, not only because it was very hot but also because walking around in bike clothing wasn't really the best outfit to visit Petra. Late in the afternoon we found a hotel in Petra and had a triple room for just the two of us. When having diner in the town we met another (German) biker who just arrived coming from Tunesia, Libia and Egypt. Because Stephen wanted to go to Egypt as well Peewee (the German biker) was a source of information to him and finally it ended up with him staying on our room as well. The 3 of us together with Claudia, a Chilian girl Stephen had also met in Amman, we went the second day to Petra visiting the more remote buildings which was quite fun. The number of tourist you met dropped drasticly and with wearing a proper outfit it was much easier to stand the heat. In the late afternoon we climbed a hill and had a superb view from the top at Al Khazneh, the most famous building in Petra. Walking back along the ridge we waited for sunset and walked back to the gate afterwards. It still was quite a long walk so it was already dark when we reached the gate.
Stephen and I decided to go the next day to Wadi Rum, a small town in the middle of the desert. It's famous for its scenery which you can see by hiring a camel or a 4WD-drive. Our intention was to (try to) go into the desert on our bikes. We had received lot of practical information from Peewee, who had over 20 years motorcross experience and drove from Aqaba to Wadi Rum through the desert. So we put up our tents and put all our luggage into the tent so we were going into the desert as light as possible. But we got stuck completely after 500 metres already when the rear wheel digged itself into soft sand completely. And then we had a bloody hard time to get the bike out the sand again and we were sweating like crazy so the waterbottle I took was empty in notime. So we decided to turn around but that was easier said than done but finally we managed to get back to Wadi Rum. Nevertheless we had a great time and decided to have another try tomorrow morning because we later found out that it was only a small piece with soft sand. Once you were through it the ground was getting better. So we read some pages of a book Stephen had about riding on a bike in the desert.
Early next morning, after breakfast, we had another go. Keeping the throttle open and open it further when it was getting soft we got through the soft part without any problems. The trick was to keep up speed, but that made it very difficult to follow the track and we had to made split decisions ehich track to take when two tracks crossed. Finally I got stuck again but managed (in the end) to get out of the soft sand on my own again. We managed to get 5 km into the desert when I got stuck a second time but digged myself out again, but it was really exhausting me. Stephen in the meanwhile had different kind of problems: his bike had lost its headlight so he had to stop and find all the pieces back together. As I tried to stay on the tracks as much as possible Stephen rode in a straight line through the desert bumping over stones and small vegitation which probably was the reason why the front shockabsorber started to leak oil. So we decided to get back to Wadi Rum again.
It was really clear to us that it would be possible to go to Aqaba through the desert on our bikes but that we had way too less experience to this. We needed to practice more often in riding through the desert and it actually was a lot of fun as well.
So late in the afternoon I drove to Aqaba (on the tarmac road) and Stephen decided to spend another night in Wadi Rum before taking the ferry to Egypt. In Aqaba I spend the night at a campground at the shore of the Red Sea. On the campground were a lot of overlandtrucks parked. While visiting Egypt they left the trucks in Jordan as bringing your own vehicle into Egypt is very expensive thing to do (as Peewee could confirm) and the freedom of going where you like is very limited as you have to drive in convoys very regularly. This was the main reason why I had decided not to visit Egypt. (Another reason was that my company send me to Egypt last March and visiting Cairo I was also able to see the pyramids in Giza).
While the Red Sea is one of the most beautifil places to dive in the world I wanted to follow a dive course here. I ended up at Seastar diving centre were I could start the course immediately as 7 people just had started that morning. Another option was to by the books now and start tomorrow together with someone else, which I preferred. It wasn't the cheapest course but the one at the Royal Diving Centre only started in 3 weeks which was useless to me. I had to extend my visa for a week as the course took 4 to 5 days. So in the policestation they extended my visa for 3 month!!! for free. The rest of the afternoon I spend start reading through the theory on the campground.
The next morning we had 2 sessions in a swimmingpool to get used to the equipment and practising all kind of emergency procedures. Most of the things you learn are emergency procedures; what to do if... That afternoon we had a thrid session in the swimmingpool together with the group who started yesterday. After 3 sessions in the swimmingpool we were ready to have the first open water dive tomorrow, of course in the Red Sea. This dive wasn't really different to the ones in the swimming pool as we mainly repeated the same exercises. Of course you can go deeper down and there's much more to see (fish and reef) but youґre so busy with the exercises and trying to keep your buoyancy right that I hardla saw something. That afternoon we had other open water dive.
The next morning we had the last 2 sessions in the swimmingpool learning the more practical thing as how to enter the water in different ways, and how to remove your scuba unit on the surface and underwater. Because some of the other group wanted to finish their course today we had the last two open waterdives in the afternoon.
We however had had only practice and from the intention to read yourself through the theory at night was quite difficult as I was tired or met a Belgian couple in a Landcruiser who went through Iran as well and were a source of practical information to me. So I decided to skip the last open water dive today and spend some time reading through the theory, continuing that evening at the campground.
The fourth day we had our final dive and so finished our practical side of the course. I ended the theory as well and was ready to have the final test. I missed 3 of the 50 questions which was more than enough to pass and to get my PADI Open Water Diver certificate.
I asked if it was possible to have my first free dive the following afternoon which was no problem at all. I wanted to see how it was to dive without an intractor and doning all those exercises just enjoying the enviroment. And it really was great. Of course it wasn't a smooth dive as I bumped into some coral accidently but it was much easier as I had expected. Afterwards the group was analyzing what rare species of fish and coral had seen, but to me it all was new. A real new world was opened to me.
Wouldn't mind to do more dives but it was time to go up north again, back to Turkey. Just before I left I met another biker from Austria also named Martin and wearing the same jacket and together we drove up north. Because the Kings highway was such a nice road I decided to drive the same route back to Amman. At Petra we split up as I was continuing to Amman where I arriving late in the afternoon. I wanted to write a travelreport here before entering into Syria where I haven't seen any Internetcafe's. After typing for one hour they lost their electrical power and I lost all the typing I did. Without a backup made I was really pissed off but could blame anyone but myself. So the next morning I could newly type the (Dutch) travelreport into the computer and so I left Amman around noon.
I reached the Syrian border at 1.30pm. and went through the hussle to get out of Jordan and into Syria. I was ready for a battle as the first time I entered Syria I had to buy a one month insurrance for the bike (minimum) which was still valid for 10 days. But there was no battle at all as soon I showed the insurrance they accepted it directly.
I drove directly to Damascus where I visited my former collegues again as they were still there. But close to leaving as the machine was running almost without any problems now.
I only spend there one day now, before going to Hama.