Sunday, August 14, 2016

Visa headaches

It's taken a bit of time to get onto this next post, not a lot of great travel pics to share....just a lot of stress and time obtaining visa's, well trying to obtain that is. I'd been considering sending the passport back home to get the Russian visa but had decided it to be a bit risky and not a good idea but when the people at the Chinese consulate in both Bratislava and Vienna said it was not possible to obtain a visa with out residency also the better solution once again seemed to be to send the passport.

It took a bit of time to track down DHL shipping but eventually got the passport and applications nervously sent off to NZ, 5 days to get there and a couple of weeks for the processing had me guessing it should be back in 3, maybe 4 weeks. I can live with that but it's going to put me behind a bit and just have to careful and not travel about too much with out the passport. You don't usually get asked for a passport at the European (Schengen Area) borders but you MIGHT.

During the first few days of tracking the package looks good.....BUT then it's being held by customs for an "inspection". Another day goes bye and still it's being held. I ring DHL and they say to wait, it's out of their control. I try to ring customs in Frankfurt and they have no record of it! I ring DHL again and say that they need to provide an explanation as to why it's being held, I don't get anything and so it goes on.

At least while all this is happening I am lucky to have the help of Daniel who lives in Bratislava and is giving me a place to sleep on his couch. He takes a few days off work and we head to the mountains in the North of Slovakia. It's great to get out of the city and do some good hikes but I struggle to stop worrying about the passport. Have I lost this passport? am I going to get deported? All sorts of bad outcomes are rolling about in my mind.

After the hiking I decide to head over to Vienna which is very close to Bratislava, when I was there last at the Chinese Consulate I also visited the New Zealand Embassy just around the corner to ask for some advice about acquiring these visa's. Mark who works their was very helpful at the time but had no solution and advised against sending the passport, So it was with great reluctance that I went back and told him about my problem but I figured it was the best thing to do and I was probably going to have to report it lost and try and get a new passport anyway. Mark was really helpful again and understood the situation I was in, made a few phone calls to London and also Frankfurt and within a couple of days the passport had been released and returned to the senders address as instructed by me.

So I did get the passport back in a total of 3 weeks but was back to square one with no more visas!! And there was no explanation to why it was held. What a screw up, but at least I had my passport back and there was a chance that the trip could still be completed. The stupid thing is if I had of just stayed in NZ for an extra week and a half I would have obtained the Russian visa there! You know the saying a stitch in time saves's now constantly in my head.

With passport back in hand it's time to get going east and try and make up some lost time. While waiting I had received an email from the Chinese Consulate in Bucharest confirming that they would process a Visa for non residents, but I wasn't holding my breath. I enjoyed Romania last year and it would be a direct route through to Turkey so would help gain some time. I did a late night season with Daniel working on new tires and chain and sprockets for the big KTM 950, the plan being that we would ride together to Bucharest, get the visa application underway and then he would return to Bratislava. And the Transalpina and Transfargarason roads just happen to be on the way, last year I did these but some sections were in near zero visibility so great to have a second chance.

After completing the Transalpina the previous day we're making good progress and looking like making the Chinese Consulate well before they close at 11;30 am. But we did not count on what would be some of the worst traffic jams' I've ever seen and the last 10km taking over an hour to complete in horrible mid 30 degree heat. We round the last corner with some time to spare to find a big line up of people down the street.....I guess this is the right place then!! The guards inform us that I'm not likely to make it through the door before the shut off at 11:30 and recommends coming back an hour before they open tomorrow at 8 am.....oh well, another day lost.

But the good news was the application was accepted and processed in 3 days and was good to pick up after one last ride with Daniel over the Transfargarason road to Sibiu. The only downside was dealing with the horrendous traffic getting back in to the city to collect! Now all I need is the Azerbaijan  E visa which was being processed with out the passport, so things were at last looking more promising!

The ride continued SE across the border to Bulgaria and out to the sea side city of Varno on the Black Sea coast South of the Danhue river delta. Then south onto the border crossing to Turkey which was going well, a bit slow with a lagre line up of cars but I was progressing through ok up until the very last part where I had to provide some green card insurance (3rd party). I was expecting this, my insurance for Europe did not cover Turkey but I new it was possible to buy at the border.....I wasn't expecting the 90 euro bill though for 15 days, I only intended to be in turkey for a week.

A guy who I talked to back on the Bulgarian side said it would be cheap. I'm not too happy about this, shit I only paid 140 euro for 3 months in all of Europe. So I decide to ride back through the border controls and no mans land to Bulgaria to try and obtain some cheaper insurance, a decision that proved fruitless and cost another 3 hours or so of being processed back into Turkey, and I had to pay the 90 euro!

My first impressions of turkey were good, a nice winding road through tree clad hills made a good change from the flat land of southern Romania and Bulgaria. The first people I meet were very helpful, the ride through Istanbul was uneventful...If I had of been right on schedule with my initial planning I would have ridden into the recent military coup...sometimes things work out for the best I guess.

The city of Istanbul looked like an interesting place as I travelled through the center and across the Bosphorus Strait, it's the largest city in Europe and 7th in the world with 14 million people and a part of me wanted to stop and check it out. Even making good progress on the motorway it seemed to take a couple of hours to traverse the city limits, thank god they don't have the traffic jams like Bucharest!!

You often see plenty of disintegrated truck tires that have peeled off the wheel lying about on the road sides and I always thought that it would not be a good thing to be along side one of these trucks when they let go. Well approaching Istanbul I had a close call,  a truck just in font and along side in the slow lane didn't loose a tire but all of a sudden tried to slow and swerve to miss a tire that had just come off a truck ahead of it. The truck was not able to avoid the tire and clipped it, flinging this massive piece of rubber straight across into my lane. Luckily I was able to slow and swerve to avoid hitting it.

Very happy to see this after the failed courier attempt!!

You don't really realize just how dependent you are on your bike when you are in unfamiliar territory until it stops going like it should. Just recently I've been noticing a random miss fire or two but haven't been able to pin point just what might be causing the issue. It's a bit of a concern, it shouldn't do it at all and if it gets worse, well you might have a major problem.

So I decide to drop the tank off and change the jetting, I've been meaning to do this anyway and maybe find out what's going on. With the DR you don't usually need to remove the carburettor to do this, just loosing the boot clamps and tilting gives enough access and getting the boots back on is a little fiddly and not so easy.

In doing this I see that the adapter ring to allow the aftermarket carb to fit is loose....maybe there is air sneaking in through there, that would put the fuel mix out. After finding out that an epoxy glue is the best way to refix I head down to a auto repair area on the out skirts of the small Turkish town that I staying at. I already have some good JB weld two pot epoxy that I've been carrying around in case of cracked engine cases, I just need some brake cleaner, a little sand paper and Ideally a workshop to do the repair in.

There's not a lot of English spoken in these parts and I have trouble explaining what the issue is and the local mechanic that I'm dealing with wants to go ahead and find the problem himself by starting the bike and revving the shit out of it. He tries communicating and I can't understand and then I realise he is asking if it is a two stroke or 4 stroke....shit, shit, any decent mechanic would easily determine from just a glance that it's a 4 stroke, but I guess they don't see too many bikes like these here. Really, all I want to do is remove the carb myself so start removing the tank, he wants to help which is's his workshop after all but he's all rip shit and bust and I have to try and tell him to back off and let me do it. At that moment I just want to pack up and go somewhere quiet and do the job myself!!!

I feel really bad about telling him to get his hands off my bike, he just wants to help. I am a bit particular and fussy when it comes to my bike, and for good reason too. Guess I'm thinking that it's absolutely critical to get this work done carefully, when you work on things if you don't get it right you can make things worse real quick...and a problem here, at this point of the trip could be disastrous....and I know this bike a hell of a lot better than he does!

I head back down to the workshop the following morning after allowing the glue to set overnight and not quite knowing what to expect...I just hope that the mechanic has not tried to be super helpful and put everything back together, I get shivers down my spine at the thought! But it's all good, everything is as I left it and I go about reassembling the bike. It's tricky getting these carbs back in and the mechanic sees me struggling a bit and can't help himself but insist that he puts it in.....reluctantly I let him have ago and he too has difficulty but with the both of us and the extra pair of hands we get it in and it's a happy ending.

With the bike back up and running I've had enough of the flat roads and head for the hills and find my first dirt road in a while, it's nice to be back on some interesting roads. It takes a couple of hours to traverse the ranges and by the time I find a place to stay in Terme out on the coast of the Black Sea it's getting late. The owner of the Hotel is hanging about with some friends and offers to buy my dinner, then he manages to say "you're coming with us" in his limited English! He just brought me dinner so although a tad tired it would be rude to decline so I jump in the Panel van with him and a few mates, these guys have a bit of a "gangster" feel about them and I wonder where we are heading, maybe off on a drug run? maybe off to a brothel?

We cruise through the broken streets of the city, past a rally about the recent coup and after a while I get asked " do you like ice cream" We pull up outside an ice-cream shop and have ice cream and lemonade and then return to the hotel and I hit the hay after a long day.

Enjoying some great hiking in the Tatra mountains of Slovakia with great friend Daniel


celebrating in Bratislava with the world's best rated Gin and tonic!

Chainsaw man in Austria

A nice day up on the top of the Transalpina, Romania

....and the Transfargarason was great also despite a few showers

The Turks were a very friendly and welcoming people

A crappy photo but a significant spot here, just crossed the Bosporus straight and officially exiting Europe and into Asia. The view from the bridge was spectacular with a massive Turkish flag flying beneath after the recent coup attempt. 

The carb repair crew

lots of roadside tea supplies which were actually really good in the mid 30 degree heat

The best Turkish kebab I've ever had!! 

A curious local came out to say hi when I stopped here for a photo

more help from some locals....getting directions to a hotel

The D915 road was a great end to my time in Turkey. It was at one point rated the worlds most dangerous road but as I unexpectedly found out the best bit is currently closed and looks to me as if it will not be reopened. The good news is that you can still negotiate your way through the rocks and boulders on a motorbike!! And I think there was plenty more great roads in this area, could have spent another week exploring!!