Crossing the Bosphorus!

With only 100km to go to Istanbul, I had decided that I would sleep in and have a leisurely breakfast. That was until I discovered that the U/15 boys soccer team from Greece had decided to resume hostilities with their ancient foes and were using the hotel’s foyer and corridors for their training ground. Fortunately their coaches quickly rounded them up and the adolescent army was eventually shovelled onto a troop transporter and headed off to do battle on some distant football field.

Old meets new, East meets West.

The outskirts of Istanbul: old meets new, East meets West.

With sanity and serenity restored I enjoyed my delayed breakfast and mused on the day ahead.

When I was in Lahore, Omar from the Pakistan Bikers Club had  recommended that I get in contact with the “Istanbul Bisiklet ve Motosiklet Ihtisas Kulubu” – the Istanbul Cycling and Biking Specialty Club. Coincidentally, several times throughout my travels I had met fellow overland motorcyclists who had stayed in Istanbul during their eastward wanderings. All had been glowing in their praise of the hospitality of the friendly folk at IBMIK.

All I had was a street address and an email address of somebody going by the name of “mrcolonel50”. After sending a few emails I established that “mrcolonel50” was indeed somebody called Mehmet and arrangements were made to meet at an address in Zeytinburnu – a district in old Istanbul not far from the Golden Horn.

With a workable plan for the day in place I saddled up for the last time in Asia and headed for the big smoke of Istanbul. The entire ride from Izmit was an anti-climax – massive traffic jams, suicidal truck and taxi drivers, and the scenery was just like any other huge city.

As I neared Istanbul I caught my first glimpse of the Sea of Marmara – the large body of water that links the Black Sea and the Aegean Sea. The Sea of Marmara has been the scene of some of the greatest naval battles in the entire history of human civilisation; Greeks against Persians, European crusaders against Byzantines, Ottoman Turks against anybody that came close for 500 years. It is a living textbook of history.

At the north-eastern end of the Sea of Marmara is the Bosphorus Strait that divides the old European part of Istanbul from the modern Asian part. The two parts were only linked for the first time in 1973 by the original Bogazici (Bosphorus) Bridge and then again in 1988 by the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge.

Bogazici Bridge over the Bosphorus - Europe on the left, Asia on the right!

Bogazici Bridge over the Bosphorus – Europe on the left, Asia on the right!

In an email my contact at IBMIK, Mehmet, had advised me against taking either bridge due to the nightmare traffic and suggested that I take one of the many ferries plying the crossing. But I decided against taking Mehmet’s advice for a couple of reasons. Firstly, ferries involve timetables (which I dislike) and waiting around (which I dislike even more). Secondly, but more importantly, this would be a defining moment in my trip – leaving Asia and entering Europe. And I was determined to do it on two wheels NOT on a ferry.

How hard could it be?

Bogazici Bridge: the end of Asia and the start of Europe.

The last 500m of Asia – next stop, Europe.

I continued up the motorway until I was within sight of the Bogazici Bridge where I pulled over to take a photo as a memento. As I was about to take the shot, the Turkish police arrived to advise me, very politely, that I could not stop on the motorway. I told them I just wanted to take a photo and they were happy if I got moving immediately. Hurriedly, I snapped away with the friendly wallopers standing over my shoulder.

After three and a half months, over 10,000km and ten different countries, my trip across Asia had come to an end. On the other side of the bridge was Europe. A tinge of sadness came over me as I realised my adventures in Asia were over. Soon I would be back in the more familiar world of the West.

But the East was not about to give up its grip on me without a struggle.

Following a roughly drawn map I set out in search of Mehmet and the IBMIK. I made my way through Galata, across the Golden Horn into the maze of narrow lanes and alleys that make up the old leatherworking district of Zeytinburnu. After quite a few fascinating, but ultimately fruitless, detours around the district I gave up and dropped into a scooter shop to ask for directions. With great pride and pleasure a couple of the likeable lads were only too keen to pilot me through the mayhem to my meeting with Mehmet. It turned out to be only 100m away in a small street accessible only by even smaller laneways.

After 10,000 trouble-free kilometres across Asian, my 20 year old BMW had earned a rest.

After 10,000 trouble-free kilometres across Asia, my 20 year old BMW had earned a rest also.

After the scooter boys delivered me to the IBMIK clubhouse, Mehmet welcomed me like a long-lost brother and introduced me to Adil, the President of the IBMIK. Within minutes I was made to feel completely at home. It is hard to imagine meeting two nicer guys anywhere – and it was particularly appreciated and heart-warming after three long months on the road.

Mehmet was to become my guide, translator and friend for the next week as I looked forward to having a decent break – the longest in any one place since my extended  layover in Dushanbe chasing visas.

But for now I was just happy to put my feet up, have an ice-cold Efes and celebrate arriving safely in Istanbul!

Categories: 10. Turkey | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Crossing the Bosphorus!

  1. Jochen

    Great to have another update Brian
    The only downside is that the ride is slowly nearing it’s conclusion 😦

  2. Hi Brian,

    I’ve just found this record of your travels and read the whole thing. I found it through ADV Rider on a current R65 build post you are following. Your carefully considered descriptions of and insights on the Asian countries were excellent and very amusing. I like that you remain honest about all the experiences, as we all know it is not always comfort, glamour and excitement. The history lessons are always welcome and actually I gained a lot of information about the state of things in the Stans as well.

    We are just about to embark on a similar journey and if you have the chance, I’d like to know a couple of things, if you can remember!

    Firstly I notice you rarely mention doing work on the bike which either meant you truly had a well-running machine, or you didn’t want to dwell on what was involved in keeping it running. My question is about high-altitude running and you often went over passes over 4000m. Did you adjust the carbs at all to do this (I am assuming you have/had Bings)? We will be heading onto the Tibetan plateau which is 5000m ish, so I will adjust for that, but then it’ll be all downs and ups. I wondered if you just left the needle position/mains as normal and your bike coped, or did you tweak them regularly?

    I’d also be interested to know something about the carnet you mentioned. You didn’t stamp it between leaving Pakistan and entering Iran. I’ve never really got clear guidance from the AAA about which countries you need to get it stamped in and out of. I always thought the list on the back page was more about which countries had organisations to backup the customs value of the transient vehicle, not necessarily which countries ‘recognised’ it as a customs document. As you know, many borders don’t even know what it is, so don’t ask for it even if it needs to be stamped at that border! So did you just follow the list on the back page? Did you get any stamps in it at all in Europe?

    I’m sad the story ended at the Bosphorus…I was quite looking forward to the final journey to Dublin and seeing how quickly you shot across Europe. I can say we have shared many of the experiences you have already had…it is amazing how many things don’t change!

    Thanks for taking the time to document your journey so consistently for many of us to enjoy.

    Matt in Kathmandu

    • Hi Matt,

      Thanks for your message. Bit of a blast from the past! It’s been nearly six years since I left for that trip. And you are the first to respond in about 2-3 years. I’m glad you enjoyed reading the blog and I am happy to help in any way I can.

      However, everything I say is based on my experience which is now at least 5 years out of date. Things can and do change very rapidly in Asia

      To answer your questions:


      I assume you have an old BMW. Can you tell me which model and year? Also are you travelling with a pillion?

      Although I have done most of the work on my bikes for years, you may have read that I had the bike thoroughly checked and set-up before I left Australia by a friend and local BMW mechanic. The only problems in the entire 15,000km/6month trip were.

      a) horn stopped working in Lahore (in blog)
      b) battery died in Tajikistan (in blog)
      c) rear paralever universal joint shit itself completely – right at the Serbian/Croatian border crossing!

      I was supposed to change the oil and filter in Tehran but that didn’t happen. I did change it in Istanbul though. I also put two new Metzeler Tourance tyres on the bike there. There was still plenty of tread left on the original tyres after 10,000km but they were 50/50 road/dirt tyres and I wanted to put more bitumen-friendly tyres on the bike for the final leg across Europe to Dublin.

      Apart from that, no other maintenance was required.

      As for Bing carburettors and high altitude, there is a lot of waffle written on the internet about having to adjust them for high altitudes. This just shows that some people have little understanding about how Bings actually work. I don’t know how mechanically inclined you are or how much you know about Bings but they are CV (constant vacuum) or, more correctly CD (constant depression) carburettors.

      This means that the slide/diaphragm is lifted/lowered by the difference in pressure between the outside atmosphere and the vacuum created by the engine demand. For situations where the altitude is constantly changing from day to day 99% of riders (myself included) would not notice any change in performance. It is only if you were running at high altitudes (over 3-4000m) for many weeks or months that changing the needle position would be of any benefit.

      The only time there may be even the slightest of problems noticeable would be if you are running at ¾-throttle and above for extended periods. This will lead to the bike running slightly rich. If you do feel the need to play with the needle position make sure you are familiar with the task beforehand. If the bike is running rich at high altitude you need to DROP the needle one notch. This means LIFTING the C-clip one notch. The 4 notches are numbered from the top down. So for example you would lift the C-clip from Position 3 to Position 2, leading to the needle dropping further into the needle jet thus making it leaner.

      Under normal overlanding conditions (ie. fully loaded and poor roads) you are unlikely to be using much more than ½-throttle or even ¼-throttle on some of the worst roads in Central Asia. You will hardly ever get above 100km/h until you get to Iran’s motorways and most of the time you will be lucky to average 60km/h over a day. So, you are not looking for maximum horsepower at full-throttle but as much torque as possible in the low and midrange. If they are working correctly to begin with the Bings should be virtually unaffected by any changes in altitude as you will be using mainly part-throttle openings most of the time you are riding.

      I can assure you that you will have far more important things to worry about than fart-arsing around trying to change needle positions in the middle of nowhere and losing the little clip in the dirt. I did not touch mine from the day I left until the day that I started to strip it down to rebuild it after I got back.

      Sorry for the rant.


      Ah, the dreaded carnet! Can’t travel in Asia without one but the source of many troubles.

      The rules for the CDP (carnet de passage) differ depending on:

      a) which country the bike is originally registered in
      b) your nationality (are you Australian also?)
      c) which border you are trying to cross
      d) which border post you are using to cross said border
      e) which day of the week you are crossing
      f) what time of the day you are crossing
      g) whether the border guards are in good/bad mood
      h) what the border guards had for breakfast
      i) whether the aircon in their office is working
      j) a thousand other things beyond your control

      The simple rules are:

      If you get it stamped into a country you MUST get it stamped out.

      I only used the CDP in countries where I knew it was required: Nepal, India, Pakistan and Iran – I think. I was asked for it a couple of times in Central Asia but I simply showed them the list on the back and that their country did not appear so it was not required

      But even with all the correct paperwork you can still run into problem. My CDP was 100% accurate but when I tried to get my refund back in Australia, I was told there were two problems.

      a) I didn’t get it stamped out of South Africa – which was true because I didn’t go to South Africa.
      b) My bike was still in India and hadn’t left the country.

      Bear in mind that many border guards, particularly at the more remote and less-used border posts, are illiterate and have no idea what a CDP is or what they are supposed to do with it. There were a couple of times where I had to show them how to stamp it correctly.

      The CDP is not required anywhere in Europe.

      Apologies for the long-winded reply. Your query brought back memories that I had not thought about for years. Please feel free to ask for any info. More than happy to help if I can.

      Do you have a blog of your trip so far?

      Hope this has been of some use and hope you have a great trip!

      PS. You can email me directly at if it is easier than using the blog page.

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