Turkey is a huge country and even with a 3 month standard tourist visa you can only scratch the surface of it. We needed to head on to Ankara to sort out visas for onward travel and meet up with some friends we had made through warm showers, who were now living in Ankara. We caught another coach to Ankara from Neveshir. This was once again painless, we turned the bike handlebars round dropped the saddles and took the pedals off and stowed the bikes standing. The coach was very comfortable with frequent stops and even a steward service serving tea and snacks.
We learnt in March that we could not cycle through Iran as they had changed the visa requirements for UK residents to needing to be accompanied by a guide. That left us with the route through Georgia, Azerbaijan crossing the Caspian sea and then on through Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. We needed to apply for Uzbek and Turkmen visas whilst in Ankara. We had already applied for our Azeri visa online through Stantours.
We had booked a room with airbnb not realising how hilly Ankara was. It was only a 8km ride to the apartment but it was all up hill and very steep in places. Unfortunately we were crossing Ankara in rush hour and every driver was on a mission. There was no room on the roads for a cyclist, you just had to keep out of the way.
Ankara is a modern bustling city with an excellent transport system and some nice parks. We caught up with our friends Sema and Ilker who showed us around. They recently had been touring from North America to South America but had to come home after reaching Mexico because of family illness.
Sorting visas out was relatively painless. We took a taxi to the Uzbek embassy armed with copies of their online visaa application form and colour copies of our passports and passport photos. They spoke some english and told us to come back in 6 working days. We managed to get them down to 5 and they took a phone number in case of problems. They phoned the following week and the only hassle was having someone with a Turkish ID number so that we could pay the 80 dollar visa fee in the bank across the road. Thus armed with the confirmation slip from the bank we picked up our 30 day visas. Time 1 week cost 80 US dollars per visa. Next was the Turkmen embassy, again english was spoken, we had to copy a letter stating why we wanted a transit visa with entry points and dates. We supplied them with colour copies of our passports and Azeri and Uzbek visas and passport photos. We were told it would take 10 days and we could pick the visas up in Baku.
We had a relaxing stay via airbnb with Mustafa who was an airline steward and an excellent cook. We enjoyed the sites in Ankara, particularly Ataturks Mausoleum the Anitkabir. This was set in lovely grounds and included a museum documenting the amazing work he had in building the modern secular Turkish state. Changing everything from the turkish language and alphabet to the judiciary and education system. Giving women equal status and voting rights and even changing the way people dressed.
After 10 days in Ankara it was time to head east. We booked tickets on a bus to Erzurum a 13 hour overnight ride. Once again this went off smoothly having told the bus company we had bikes. 13hrs later we arrived in Erzurum at 8.00 am ready to hit the road.