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    11,000 kilometers in 51 days. Riding from Friuli to Georgia, on road, off-road and among traces of the ancient world.

    By Francesca D'Alonzo | 01 December 2022 | 1 min
    Motorcycle: Yamaha Ténéré 700
    Mileage: 11,000 km
    Difficulty: easy riding on asphalt and medium challenging riding off-road
    Duration: 51 days
    Time of the year: August-September
    Weather: mixed weather – hot, rainy, cold
    Temperatures: 8°C - 40 °C
    Essential equipment: ventilated motorcycle suit, rainproof layer, off-road boots, warm layers for low temperatures, two pairs of gloves for different temperatures
    FDA bio

    Francesca D'Alonzo

    The author


    "My name is Francesca, I'm 33 years old and the first time I rode a motorcycle, in July 2020, I said to myself: I’ll go far on these two wheels – and since then any difficulty or uncertainty experienced, any new lesson learned, has become an adventure. I love challenging, scary situations, I often get out of my comfort zone, I hate prejudices and people telling me what I can and can’t do, I’m headstrong and in the end I always do things my way, even when I don’t know exactly how. In 2021, due to Covid restrictions, I couldn't make it to Central Asia; I'll try again as soon as I can, but, bearing in mind Kavafis' poem, though I haven’t actually reached my destination, I nonetheless reaped abundant happiness on the long journey toward Ithaca.
    "

    The dream  

    This is the story of my first motorcycle trip, which I took in the summer of 2021, though I’d already started dreaming about it and planning it in November 2020, when I obtained my learner's permit. At the time, I had great hopes that border restrictions would ease up, but unfortunately I soon had to face hard facts, as Central Asian countries were still hard hit by Covid.  

    I dreamed of crossing Iran and reaching the boundless mountains of Central Asia; I knew it was going to be a tough journey, but that’s precisely what really attracted me – I wanted to take on a new challenge, test my limits and discover some extraordinary corners of the world.  

    Riding puts you at the heart of your journey, and there have been times when I wondered whether it was me or the motorcycle choosing a particular path, trying to push the boundaries.   

    I chose to travel with a Yamaha Ténéré 700, which is extremely reliable, comfortable on long journeys and wild to ride off-road, its natural habitat.  

     

    The itinerary 

    The journey lasted 51 days, during which I covered 11,000 unforgettable kilometers, starting from Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (Italy) and continuing through Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia and back to Italy through Central Anatolia. 

     

    Equipment 

    The right luggage is essential, something I learned from previous mistakes when backpacking alone through Southeast Asia and hitchhiking through Europe – a lesson that now came in very handy. With a bar of solid Marseille soap I only needed to bring three changes of underwear, knowing that I’d have to wash them in a hotel sink every couple of days before going to bed, even if I was extremely tired.   

    I encountered all kinds of weather, from scorching climates to low temperatures and downpours at high altitudes, especially when nearing the Caucasus Mountains, in Central Anatolia, as well as along the Balkan route on my way back, in autumn.  

    I chose an outfit that included Dainese protectors: The Air Tourer Lady jacket and the Drake Super Air Lady pants, which made for an exceptionally ventilated outfit in hot climates that also gave me the great option of protecting myself from the cold by zippering them up and turning them into a one-piece suit and inserting a windproof membrane in the jacket. I wore TCX Lady Tourer boots, which became like a second skin during the journey and also turned out to be unexpectedly comfortable for walking. I had Women’s Yamaha summer gloves, though along the way I discovered I couldn’t do without a pair of padded winter motorcycle gloves, too, and the Dainese two-piece foldable rain suit made for a valuable layer that took up very little space when folded and stored in its bag.  

    To face cold climates, I brought along a thermal shirt, a neck warmer, a padded under jacket and a warm sweater, though I had to add some items and bought a fleece, thermal pants and socks, as well as a balaclava, in Doğubayazıt, the Turkish border post with Iran, the perfect place to buy these kinds of items at a very low price. 

     

    Choosing the AGV AX9 full-face helmet, rather than a modular one, proved to be a winner for two key reasons, the wide visor and its extreme lightness. In addition, its two openings allow for good ventilation when needed.  I equipped the helmet with a Sena 10C EVO, so I could listen to music, talk on the phone, take 4K photos and videos or record audio notes along the way. I also installed a GoPro 9 and an Insta 360 behind the saddle, using a homemade frame designed by my partner, who traveled with me on his 1953 Willys.   

    I equipped my motorcycle with two original Yamaha aluminum top boxes, an engine guard and a tank guard. I fitted Scorpion Rally STR Pirelli tires, and only ended up replacing the rear one at the end of the trip. For my cell, I had a Quad Lock mount with wireless charging on the handlebar, as well as an anti-vibration module, to avoid loose cables and so that I could fasten and unfasten the phone quickly and use it as a navigator, and I also fitted a dust cap into the phone's jack socket.  

    To navigate, I opted for the maps.me app, preferable to Google Maps especially in Turkey and Georgia, and also useful for finding off-road tracks thanks to its bike option. Moreover, you can just download the map you need when you have a connection and then use it offline.  

    As I had it at home, I chose to bring a spare rear tire, in which I stored a Motea duffel bag with fold-away shoulder straps, covered and tied to the frame with a luggage net. The tire was strapped on the passenger seat and partially hung over the right top box, which held my purely emergency gear: Motorcycle spare parts, including two inner tubes, and warm/rain clothes that I replaced with the summer ones during the second half of the trip. I kept all my clothing, including a water bottle and video/photographic equipment, in the left backpack and top box, which I unloaded every night when arriving at a hotel.  

     

    Accommodation 

    I always stayed in hotels, at very cheap rates, and their breakfast buffet would also serve on the road as my lunch, which I stored in a Tupperware box that I washed every evening with my Marseille soap. 

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    Bureaucracy 

    None of the countries I visited required visas or Carnet de Passage the customs document issued by ACI (Italian Motorists Association) that allows you to import a vehicle into a country for a limited period, which I would have needed for Iran.  

    I had an international driver's license, my ID papers and those for the vehicle and, for the period in which I traveled, also a vaccine/swab test certificate (only Georgia had a double requirement, a vaccine certificate accompanied by a negative PCR test). In Macedonia, Turkey and Georgia (countries not covered by the Italian Green Card international insurance document) I had to take out insurance directly at the border, paying €50, €15 and €50 respectively.  

    Local SIM cards can be easily purchased by showing your passport at one of the many local phone company stores. Due to the many tourist sites available in Turkey, and especially in Asia Minor, purchasing a Museum Pass card, with different expiry dates, is worthwhile. 

     

    Experience level 

    I never rode a motorcycle before July 2020. I got my license in December 2020 and in early June 2021, when I had just started practicing riding the Ténéré and I would have liked to take some off-road courses, I fractured my left foot. Recovering became a race against time – by the end of July I still couldn't use the clutch pedal when driving the car, but I was back on the motorcycle and my initial terror simply turned into wild enthusiasm. It was time to go.  

    All the off-road tracks I took on the trip were the result of unplanned, spontaneous decisions – I knew none of them, though I looked them up when I got back.   

     

    Friuli Venezia Giulia - Slovenia - Županja (Croatia) - Monastery of Saint George, Staro Nagorichane (North Macedonia) - Rila (Bulgaria)  

    And so, on August 11, the journey begins, from Cervignano del Friuli and with a first refueling stop close to Miren Castle, in Slovenia. I start the motorcycle and set off on this long trip, feeling so excited that I have a tightness in my stomach and my heart pounds; the Ténéré devours the miles while I try to swallow a lump of fear and anxiety in my throat, but I just follow my instinct and let the road teach me as I go.   

    Leaving Slovenia and crossing the Croatian border happens very quickly. After 520 km along the highway, toward evening I reach the town of Županja, on the Sava river and on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina and with Serbia. Spending the night just a stone's throw from the Serbian border allows me to cross into Macedonia the very next day, thus complying with the 12-hour maximum limit of transit granted to those without a vaccination certificate recognized by the country or a swab test.  

    Crossing the Serbian and Macedonian borders also takes no time at all. Upon entry into Macedonia, I have to buy vehicle insurance, as the country is not covered by Italian Green card insurance – all paperwork is sorted out in an office off the border. You pay €50 in cash and get the document you need to collect your passport from the border official who holds it in the meantime. There's a big difference between reading about strict immigration rules on the various relevant government websites at home and actually crossing the border – while the online information was disheartening, in actual fact it’s all surprisingly quick and easy.   

    After 560 km along the highway, I arrive in Vojnik in North Macedonia, where I spend the night. The following day I reach the small town of Staro Nagorichane, where I park the Ténéré and get lost down narrow country paths dotted with houses and vehicles that look as if they’ve been abandoned for a long time. I reach the garden that surrounds the beautiful monastery of St. George, of Byzantine origin. as I step over its threshold, my eyes fill with beauty. 

     

    I refill my water bottle with cool water from the public fountain, whose water springs from behind the monastery, but not before plunging my head into it, as it’s so hot. Here I also meet Susan, a local woman of unspecified age, her youthful attitude ill matching the wrinkles on her face. I find out that she speaks perfect English, just as if she had only come back the day before from her au-pair stay in England when she was 19. She really loved chatting and had such a sweet, open smile. She tells me that her name, Susan, sounds “like the Sun”. It is, in fact, a beautiful sunny day, and I jump back on my motorcycle, headed toward the Bulgarian border.  

    Some lovely round bends, interspersed with dusty roads, lead me over the small border crossing with Bulgaria along the E-871. Here, too, Italian soccer immediately sparks up conversation and laughter; I even manage to mention the small city where I grew up, Udine – the smiling officer greets me with “Forza Udinese!” (Go Udine!), followed by “Ciao Francesca!”  

    For the first time, I’m asked to show my vaccination certificate, as well as passport and motorcycle registration, as usual. I spend a cool night at 1,200 meters, in the valley of the Rilska River, below the Rila massif. I suspect I’ll miss the cool temperature on the road ahead, toward scorching Asia Minor.   

     

    Rila Monastery - Sofia - Veliko Tarnovo - Buzludzha (Bulgaria) - Edirne and Çanakkale (Turkey)  

    In Bulgaria, the local breakfast of fried rolls with jam, banitsa with crumbled cheese and excellent thick Bulgarian yogurt with honey is a staple. The day begins with a visit to the Rila Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the largest in the country, a place brimming with fascinating art and culture framed by a mountainous landscape full of forests and rivers.  

    Leaving Rila behind, we continue on road 107 toward Sofia. There are plenty of opportunities to stop and savor the local cuisine in any of the restaurants whose tables are placed right along one of the local rivers. Taking off your boots and dipping your feet into the cool water is pure bliss. Bulgaria is a journey to discover Orthodox monasteries. Some are very crowded, such as that of Rila, while other are semi-hidden gems, such as the Transfiguration Monastery and the Dryanovo Monastery. 

     

    The Tsarevets Fortress (largely reconstructed), in Veliko Tarnovo, is a must-see on this road (the E85, which then becomes the 5005), leading to the foot of Buzludzha, which looks like a flying saucer leaning against a tower at 1,141 meters on which a red star rises, all made of concrete and a perfect example of Brutalist architecture. In 1891, it was chosen as the site for the first congress of the Bulgarian Communist Party. It was then abandoned in 1989, when the party and the entire former Eastern Bloc began to collapse. Nowadays, it’s kept under surveillance 24/7, so that the restoration work of its interior, covered with mosaics from the 1970s, which started a few years ago, can continue. Standing below this immense and decayed piece of Brutalist architecture, I feel very small and it makes me think how temporary everything is, no matter how grand or solemn, or how strong its reinforced concrete foundations are. Ideals, powers, eras – sooner or later they all end up changing, turning into something else.   

    I put the key in the ignition and off I go, along the straight, sometimes hypnotic stretch that unfolds in front of me – my eyelids seem like they’re stuck from the heat and the fatigue of having ridden for over ten hours. The setting sun appears on my left side mirror like a flaming bullet, while on my right the first blue hues of Istanbul become visible – I'm an hour and a half away from the Turkish border. The landscape’s color, meanwhile, changes from intense green to intense yellow. Travelling on land, on a motorcycle, is an amazing thrill; my heart starts pounding as I think that I've already gone farther than I ever imagined, and I wonder what else I’ll have to let go to continue on this road trip with an even lighter heart.  

    I enter Turkey, and just as in Macedonia I have to buy insurance at the border. I spend the night in Edirne, which I reach late in the evening, accompanied by the muezzin’s call to prayer, a song that, from then onward, will mark the passing of my days in the country.  When in Edirne, a visit to the Selimiye Mosque, a symbol of the city with its four 71-meter high minarets, is a must.  

    It's time to cross the Dardanelles Strait by ferry (soon to be replaced by a bridge connecting the two shores), first fighting against strong gusts of wind and then picking my way through a wild traffic jam made of cars, mopeds and buses – shouts in Turkish all around me – that builds up in the narrow street toward the ferry boarding point. I’m the last to park the motorcycle, holding it steadfastly all the way, as the ferry slowly turns around and reaches Çanakkale, on the opposite coast of Turkey. The salty scent of the sea is in my nostrils. I’m the last one to get off after a line of cars, and my motorcycle’s wheels are spinning, for the first time, on a new continent: Asia.   

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    The Aegean coast: Troy - Biga Peninsula - Assos - Pergamon - Ephesus - Manisa - Miletus - Didim - Bodrum  

    After visiting Troy, I continue along dirt roads that cut through the countryside across the beautiful peninsula of Biga. I stop at the site of Alexandria Troas and, after cooling myself down with a swim along the coast, I visit the Apollon Smintheion, and finally reach the columns of the Temple of Athena on top of Assos mountain, letting myself be guided, along the paved road, by the blue sea on the horizon, as if it were the North Star.   

    The following day, I visit the site of Pergamon, which stands on a hill, where parchment was made for the first time, an alternative writing medium to papyrus manufactured from scraped and dried animal hides.   

    With the beauty of Pergamon still in my eyes, I take the highway and get sucked into the rush hour traffic jam, tens of kilometers long, outside Izmir, through tunnels that look like the gates of hell, enveloped by whiffs of scorching air from the trucks that slowly pass each other. My advice is to allow some time for this, and take the external ring road instead.  I reach the hotel in Selçuk and take a shower to wash away all the black smog and dust of the day. I like to see the dirty water running down the drain; it feels like I’m shedding a skin I no longer need.   

    Having visited Ephesus, the magnificent capital of ancient Asia Minor, I take the D550 and then the D525 and come to a little known, yet exceptionally beautiful, site: Magnesia, home to one of the best-preserved stadiums of the classical world. It held up to 30,000 people and is reached via a dirt road running through fig and olive trees.  I arrive in Miletus in the evening, taking the paved road that passes through Priene. The site’s ticket office is closed by then, but as there are no gates I nonetheless enter and enjoy a magical free visit, with the moon shining down on the great expanse of ruins.   

     

    The following morning, I walk among the immense columns of the temple of Apollo at Didim, and then I’m off along the D525 and the D330 toward Bodrum – the impeccably paved multi-lane road offers unforgettable views of the sea and the green hills.  All that remains of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, are the ruins of the foundation. In the 15th century, the Knights Hospitaller used part of its stones to build the Castle of Bodrum, which can also be visited and is located near the port. Bodrum is a very touristy destination and prices are high. 

     

    The Mediterranean Coast: Knidos (Datça Peninsula) - Kaunos (Dalyan) - Fethiye - Kekova - Chimaera - Antalya - Perge - Aspendos - Anamur  

    From Bodrum, there are two ways to reach the Datça peninsula. The best and fastest way is taking a ferry, though it needs to be booked in advance; or you can travel by land following the D330, the D550 and finally the D400, wide and well paved, which, leading toward the Datça peninsula among beautiful views and many winding curves, makes for a thrilling ride.   

    To reach Knidos, on the tip of the peninsula, where you can visit this beautiful archeological site situated on the coast, you take a winding, scenic paved road whose last stretch narrows overlooking the sea. A stop in one of the almost deserted coves, with their clear green water, is a must 

    The next destination is Kaunos, a well-preserved archeological site in Dalyan, where I spent the previous night. I take a river boat with my motorcycle – it’s just a short crossing to the opposite shore – and then continue along a road with lots of hairpin bends. The Tombs of the Kings, in the nearby cliffs, are also worth a visit.  

    Late in the morning, I go back to the scenic coastal road D400, whose steepest section seems to plunge into the Gulf of Fethiye, one of the most charming seaside resorts on the Aegean coast. Long beaches with a picture-perfect turquoise sea, framed by the mountains of the peninsula, including Babadağ, from the top of which you can literally take flight and enjoy one of the most spectacular and unique paragliding experiences in the world. The summit can be reached via a paved road with sheer stretches overlooking the gulf, wide enough for two vehicles to pass. At the top there is a restaurant and you can admire an extraordinary view of the gulf, brightened up by the many paragliding sails. 

     

    I continue along the Mediterranean coast of Turkey along the D400, paved and easy to ride. Corners and hairpin bends cut through the high rocky cliffs that plunge steeply into the turquoise sea. I recommend keeping your swimsuit on hand and indulging in a refreshing pitstop along the way, where long white beaches are interspersed with hidden, semi-deserted coves.   

    On the way to Antalya I visit Kekova – a real gem – as well as Chimaera, Perge the next day, then Aspendos, one of the best-preserved ancient theaters, and finally I stop at the seaside site of Anemurium in Anamur (here, you can swim in the sea with the ruins of the ancient town behind you). I get there via the D400, overlooking the sea, with sharp corners and very trafficked in some places due to the many heavy vehicles, as this is currently the only link road.   

     

    Eastern Turkey: Adana - Anavarza - Gaziantep - Zeugma Museum and Zeugma Antik Kenti (Gaziantep) - Şanlıurfa - Dara - Tur Abdin - Akhdamar Adasi - Van - Doğubayazıt - Ani - Kars - Sarpi  

    The following day, I set off from Adana to reach the site of Anavarza, as remote as it is fascinating. After zigzagging through a small road that runs through a village comprising low houses, flocks, pulled carts, tractors and fence walls from which Roman relics can be glimpsed, its Roman arch suddenly appears. Anavarza is still almost entirely underground; you walk between columns whose capitals protrude from the ground. The most suggestive view is from the top of the salient, the site of a medieval fortress built where the ancient acropolis once stood.   

    At sunset, I go back on the motorcycle and, the headlights my only light, I ride along a road that goes through villages and endless fields, crossed only by a few flocks here and there. At Osmaniye, I take the Otyol-52 highway toward Gaziantep; here I could alternatively have taken the D400, but as it was late I chose to take the highway.  

    I visit the splendid Zeugma Museum, the largest mosaic museum in the world, where mosaics from the Roman villas of the town of Zeugma, on the bank of the Euphrates River, are preserved, and which I will admire later. The feeling experienced when looking into the intense eyes of the mosaic Gypsy Girl, over 2,000 years old, will stay with me for a long time; she could tell me so much about the past, when the city linked the Western and Eastern worlds.   

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    Riding along the D400, I reach the city of Şanlıurfa, magical and charming, whose atmosphere is very different from the one experienced so far in Turkey, and then I go on to Dara, carved into the rock walls.  

    For many kilometers, the E90 runs parallel to the wall that divides Turkey from Syria, dotted with small forts, watchtowers and barbed wire as far as the eye can see. And finally I reach Nisibi, where I spend the night, and arrive in Tur Abdin the next day, a mountainous region on the southeastern plateau of Turkey. A small, steadfast community of Syriac Christians still lives here and, with them, ancient monasteries that have survived destruction and neglect. Here, the roads are made of dirt and crumbling stone, with mostly uneven paved stretches. Zigzagging through the potholes on my motorcycle it’s actually a pleasure.  

    After an overnight stay in the city of Batman, I continue the journey along the D300, also perfectly paved and offering wonderful and extraordinarily varied views, toward the largest lake in Turkey, the salt lake of Van. I can't stop myself from admiring it while riding along the scenic paved road that winds alongside it, leading me to the ferry that will take me to the beautiful island of Akdamar, on which lie the remains of an Armenian monastery.  

    I take the D975 and then the E99, which from Van leads to Doğubayazıt, an impeccably paved multi-lane road offering breathtaking views; this is how I imagine some parts of Iran might be, and in fact I’m not far from it, as the many yellow road signs remind me.  

    The road reaches an altitude of 2,800 meters, cold and wind increase, and I arrive at the foot of Mount Ararat in Doğubayazıt. I'm just in time to see the sun set, suffusing with warm hues the beautiful palace of Ishak Pasa that overlooks the valley.  

    The next day, I set ‘Ani’ as my destination on the Maps.me app and discover that the only way to get there is via a cycling route; so, I load the motorcycle and set off into the unknown.  

    I ride on a dirt road, challenging in places, for hundreds of miles, with stretches of sand, stones, loose stones, asphalt, various gradients, through small villages with low houses, seemingly endless flocks and patient shepherds. I skirt Lake Balık gölü, reaching an altitude of over 2,000 meters, and finally arrive at what is left of the ancient and beautiful city of Ani, partly enclosed by the natural border separating Turkey from Armenia.   

     

    The next morning, with a negative PCR test in my backpack, I set off from Kars toward the nearest border crossing with Georgia, which, upon arrival, I discover is closed to people. These days, the rules at the borders change quickly and often without notice given online. The PCR test needed to cross the border is valid for 72 hours, so I have no alternative but to head toward the only open border, that of Sarpi on the Black Sea, almost 400 km away, mostly in the mountains. It's already 4 p.m. and clouds laden with rain are chasing me.  

    I dress up as much as possible and off I go, through increasingly cold gusts of wind, blinding fog, rain and breathtaking views along the D010, one of the highest-altitude paved roads in the country. I reach an altitude of 2,640 m on the Cam Geçidi mountain pass, where the thick fog almost prevents me from seeing anything. On the way down, a series of corners and hairpin bends framed by emerald green mountains make it one of the most scenic roads in Turkey.  

    I reach the border at 11 p.m. and discover that, in this period, it shuts at 9 p.m. All that's left for me to do is park the motorcycle at the hotel nearest the border, take a hot shower and try again the next day.  

     

    Georgia: Mestia - Ushguli - Tbilisi  

    After having my passport, PCR test, Green Pass, vehicle registration papers and international driving license checked and replying to all the questions about where I was going and how long I was staying for, I cross the Georgian border, an experience that becomes slightly more pleasant only when I’m warmly greeted in Italian by a Tuscan policeman, there on a European mission. I buy insurance for Georgia in an office just past the border, where I also purchase a SIM card with internet.  

    My destination is Mestia, at the foot of the Caucasus mountains. It can be reached via a road that first runs parallel to the Black Sea, weaving through the city traffic and herds of livestock, and then winds along curves and hairpin bends, first on asphalt and then on concrete. But don’t let yourself get too distracted by the surrounding beauty, as in several places nature has got the best of the mountain road, eroding and swallowing up the human-made path. Without warning, the two lanes suddenly become one, as the other has collapsed into the rushing stream that runs down the slopes of the majestic Caucasus mountains. 

     

    When I reach it, Mestia leaves me breathless – its valleys are beautiful, framed by the peaks of the Caucasus mountains and dotted with the many ancient defensive stone towers called Koshkebi. I wonder whether I really am in the Svaneti region, once a land of bloody feuds, or in our own San Gimignano area. Curiously, I discover that the two towns have been twinned since 1975.  

    From Mestia, I take a paved road, which turns into concrete and finally becomes unpaved, overhanging the stream, uneven in several points, and crossed by a waterfall, which leads to the upper part of the Enguri valley. Beneath the snowy massif of Mount Shkhara, the highest in Georgia, a view of Ushguli, the small town of a hundred towers, opens up before me. This last stretch isn’t for beginners, so I choose not to tackle it on my motorcycle. In fact, it also seems to me that reaching Tbilisi via the very rough, muddy road with various gradients that continues past Ushguli requires medium to high experience in off-road riding.  

     

    Central Anatolia and return to Italy: Zilkale Medieval Castle - Aydintepe - Erzincan - Kemaliye Tas Yolu - Arapkir - Darende - Pinarbaşi - Göreme (Cappadocia) - Istanbul - Edirne - Dragoman (Bulgaria) - Serbia - Croatia - Miren Pass (Slovenia) - Cervignano del Friuli  

    Back in Turkey, I set off from Hopa, in the Black Sea region, and I visit the medieval castle of Zilkale in the valley of Firtina, on the Pontus mountain range. I spend the night near the coast, in the Sandıktaş district, in one of the accommodations along the narrow streets that twist around the green tea growing hills, with a magnificent view of the Black Sea.  

    The next day, I point the motorcycle toward the Anatolian plateau, whose average altitude is of 2,000 m, south of the Pontus mountain range. The destination for the evening is Erzincan. I choose to get there via a road partly paved and partly unpaved, which starts on the famous D915. From this road, I turn off just before Zincirlitaş, taking a right in the direction of Aydintepe. The route, hairpin bend after hairpin bend, crosses a mountainous landscape covered by thick forests, and then continues toward a barren and endless plateau dotted with small villages.   

     

    Leaving Aydintepe behind, I continue in the direction of Erzincan, taking a chance and turning off, from the D052, onto one of the dirt roads that branch off from it, crossing various villages. It’s a succession of extraordinary colors – red, green, yellow earth. Just to give you an idea of the route, I went through Bayburt Demirözü Yolu, Güvercindere, Kalecik, Çömlecik, Güzyurdu and finally Erzincan.   

    The following day, I leave Erzincan. Today, too, I decide to improvise and reach my destination by simply looking at the map myself. I pass through Kemah, Bağıştaş Köyü Yolu, Adatepe, Gümüşçeşme Köyü Yolu, until I reach the beginning of the most spectacular, adrenaline-packed and challenging dirt stretch of the trip, the “Kemaliye Taş Yolu” road. A two-way dirt road overhanging the Euphrates River, with no barriers, it runs through 22 tunnels carved into the stone by locals, with sections where it gets so narrow that only one car can pass at a time, and running into a small van full of people is common. It's a challenging road, especially at a mental level, and I still don't know how I managed to ride it without a hitch.   

    New day, new discoveries. By zooming in on the map, you can find interesting alternative routes not suggested by the navigator, which allow you to cut through and avoid going the long way round. However, it’s impossible to know what kind of roads they are in advance, and I always find out once it’s too late to turn around. I just have to swallow the fear I might not make it, with a heavily loaded motorcycle and my poor off-road riding skills. 

     

    Parto da Arapgir, lungo la D260 devio per Günyüzü, e attraverso Boğazlı, Konakbaşı, Gökağaç, Arguvan Hekimhan Yolu, Güzelyurt. Mentre guido continuo a pensare che non mi sta tutta negli occhi la bellezza dei paesaggi che mi circondano. Arrivo infine per strade di terra e sassolini, neanche segnate sulla mappa, al villaggio di Akbaba nel distretto di Darende (Malatya).  Tra questo e il successivo villaggio di Nurkuyusu a 1650m di altitudine, si trova una gola dove scorre il torrente Ayvalıtohma a 1120m sul mare. Per attraversare l’alto dislivello in così poco spazio, percorro un’infilzata di tornanti ripidi e sterrati di terra battuta e ghiaia, prima a scendere poi a salire, che sembrano una giostra ferma da un po’ che mi aspetta, lanciandomi il guanto della sfida. 

    Il panorama, una volta risaliti, è mozzafiato. Lo sguardo scorre sullo sterminato altopiano anatolico, spettatore indifferente al passaggio dell’uomo. Le nuvole che si muovono veloci sembrano come vestire i suoi rilievi montuosi marrone chiaro con le loro ombre. 

    C’è qualcosa che accomuna tutti i bambini del mondo, loro corrono, corrono incontro al gioco, incontro alla vita e quando ti vedono passare per le vie strette dei loro villaggi, con la tua moto tutta carica, ti corrono incontro e con un dolcissimo “hello” ti salutano con la manina.  

    Per me questo viaggio è stato anche un correre con e più veloce delle mie paure, un moltiplicatore di esperienza e di bellezza al prezzo di una grande sfida, che non solo mi ha portata a superare confini fisici ma anche a valicare soglie interiori, divertendomi e scoprendo luoghi di una bellezza da togliere il fiato e persone di una generosità straordinaria. 

    Il sole che sorge alle mie spalle mentre le due ruote scorrono lungo l’autostrada è lì a ricordarmi che sto tornando a casa. Partendo da Göreme in Cappadocia, attraverso: Istanbul, Edirne, Dragoman (Bulgaria), Serbia, Croazia, valico di Miren (Slovenia), e infine Cervignano del Friuli, casa. 

    Essential equipment

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    Adventure helmet

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    Ventilated jacket

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    201614076_U36_F

    Ventilated pants

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    Waterproof boots

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    Back protector

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    Fabric gloves

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    Technical jersey

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    Winter gloves

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    201634293_14A_F

    Waterproof suit

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