This post is part of the series Overland ’18. The aim is to drive a scooter from Iran to Switzerland.
An overview of the articles can be found here.
We already had a long road behind us. We had taken our Scooters from Dubai to Iran by ferry, driven through Iran under the blazing summer sun, visited the Caucasus and crossed the notorious Kurdish areas of Turkey. But there were still many kilometers to go.
This article sums up the rest of the trip through Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and back home to Switzerland. I will be writing detailed articles on some of the destinations we visited as separate posts.
After leaving the Kurdish areas of Turkey we headed to Cappadocia, a region well known for amazing rock formations known as fairy chimneys and for beautiful hot air balloons rising at sunrise .
As an amazing surprise Martina’s Grandmother gifted us a ride on one of these balloons. And I must say, seeing the sun rise over the landscape in Cappadocia was one of the most amazing sights in my life so far. Thank you so much Grosi!
I will be writing a post on the best spots to see the hot air Balloons in the morning (Many beautiful pictures promised).
A few days later we had made it to Tuz Gölü. A pristine Salt Lake that easily rivals the more famous Uyuni Salt Flat in Bolivia.
I will also be writing a post on where to go to see water in the Lake that is mostly dried out. Most people do not make it to this part of the lake, as all the tourist buses seem to stop at the dried out parts, which really are not half as pretty.
But one fair warning: It is brutally hot! And the Salt crystals will ruin your feet if you do not wear shoes into the water!
Don’t forget and your tripod, so you don’t have to build one made of tent poles like me.
As we continued to drive Westwards through Turkey things gradually became more and more familiar. It was easy to tell that we were slowly arriving in Europe. We spent a few nights in Istanbul before heading to Bulgaria and got to enjoy our last cardboard police car just before the border.
Just after having crossed the border to Bulgaria we found our first group of shirtless beer bellied old men sitting on plastic chairs in front of a house made of stone brick. We had made it. Back to good-old-Europe …I’m kidding of course, but anybody who has been to Southern Europe knows what I mean 🙂
Bulgaria was a little gem for me on this trip. We hadn’t done much research on the countries after Turkey, because we knew it would be a more or less straight shot home because time would be running out – University would be starting again in a few weeks 🙁
But there was a simply amazing atmosphere to this country that made us visit just one or two more places than expected. One of them was an impressive Soviet monument, which was a detour worth while on our way to Sofia.
I will also be writing a post on this amazing monument, but two important things are worth mentioning here, that are heavily debated on the internet. Yes, you may fly drones there. And no, you cannot go in the building anymore. It is locked and there is police presence up there all day. They have even set up a little cabin for the police.
Because of all the detours we did not have much time to spend in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Which is really a shame. But we did still manage to see the Cathedral Saint Alexsandar Nevski.
After the unexpected gem that was Bulgaria, we pretty much stayed on the highways for a direct shot back home visiting some cities like Belgrad and Ljublijana.
The steaming engine
So far, the Scooters had been performing perfectly. Almost a bit too perfectly. It seems to me that every overland biker has at least on post about his motorbike breaking down. Basically, it’s a rite of passage. Our little 15-year-old scooters had made 10’000km (6500 miles) with only a chain needing to be replaced.
…but then it happened.
Since the middle of Turkey I had been needing to refill motor oil quite often. I assumed that the piston ring was causing some leakage. We did try to get it fixed in Turkey, but the shops were always closed when we pulled up. It happened so often that it seemed to feel like a little dark magic was playing against us. But a leaking piston ring is not a big problem, as long as you can get your hands on motor oil. So we continued our route.
The last time I had been assured this was no problem was in Croatia. A mechanic there told me he did not have the parts I would need for repairs. Nonetheless he checked my oil, told me that I needed some more, and offered me a refill. I let him do this without questioning his work or watching him. But shortly after this my scooter lost a lot of power on the middle of the highway in Slovenia and would only drive about 70km/h instead of the usual 90km/h. It also got burning hot.
We spent a whole day going from shop to shop trying to find a mechanic with the parts I would need to fix the problem. But nobody had them. We had just driven through Iran and Turkey where there are millions of these scooters, but the breakdown had to happen back in a rich country with nothing but big sporty bikes – brilliant! It looked as if we weren’t going to make the challenge Iran to Switzerland after all. At least not before the beginning of University.
We were about to fail so close to home.
But then one mechanic saved us. He said it did not necessarily have to be a busted piston ring. He listed a whole collection of possible problems. One of them being “too much motor oil”. And he was right. The mechanic in Croatia had put in more than twice the motor oil necessary.
So after having emptied most of the oil from the engine my bike drove normally and we were back on the road.
After having driven through Austria, where our biggest problem was finding an affordable place to sleep every night, we made it back to Switzerland.
When we drove down the driveway back to our apartment it felt completely surreal. We had made it. We had driven all the way from Dubai through Iran back home to Switzerland!