We rounded off our southern Turkey trip with a visit to the summer house in Akbük, where we were joined by Oli's parents. After a couple of days Oli and I were getting twitchy about all the things we need to get done before getting properly back on the road, so we headed back to İzmir to get on with it.
The main thing to sort was my Iran visa. Oli is lucky, as with a Turkish passport no visa is required, but sadly it is slightly more complex for me. We hadn't applied sooner as the timing can be difficult, with some consulates requiring you to pick up the visa within 30 days of approval. Co-ordinating this, trying to leave enough time for delays is difficult. There is a lot of conflicting advice on the process online, but from reading other travellers accounts it is actually pretty easy to get a visa... unless you are British, or even worse, American. I have gone through an agency that a few people have recommended, and basically they deal with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iran and (hopefully) get you an approval code. You can then (hopefully) use this code to pick up your visa at your chosen consulate. Fingers are now crossed, and my inbox is being paranoidly checked about twenty times a day for new messages.
We have also purchased our carnet, which is essentially an official piece of paper that lets us take the bike into certain countries, and provides insurance that you won't try to sell it whilst there. At £1700 (plus courier delivery) I am fairly sure it is the most expensive document ever printed, but all being well we should eventually get £900 of it back!
As well as getting some of our many jobs done, we have also managed some fun things. Oli and I headed into the centre on Thursday for a wander around the Kemaraltı market, and also to meet up with his friend Çağlar. Çağlar took us out for lunch at an esnaf lokantası, which is mainly the sort of place the shop keepers would eat at. It was a very casual affair, with food served quickly, and diners joining tables wherever there was a space. It hadn't been too long since Oli and I had eaten breakfast, so we shared a mixed plate of delicious veggie olive oil based dishes, rounded off with a Güllaç dessert.
After our lunch, we went to another place for Turkish coffees. Apparently the owner has a patent of sorts, and uses a different technique to the traditional brewing. It was actually delicious, so perhaps it makes a difference after all. After our coffees were finished, the owner brought us a herbal tea to try with a strong, almost peppery flavour. It is supposedly good for digestion, so we happily drank it down.
After the market, Oli and I headed to the fancy part of town to have ice cream at a little place we had spotted a few weeks earlier. It turned out the cafe is part of a chain, but the food was excellent and really good quality. Oli had some pistachio baklavas with ice cream, and I went for an extravagant waffle. The waffle was covered with a layer of melted white chocolate, and then topped with a delicious and generous portion of mixed fruits, with the added bonus of a scoop of ice cream. It was incredible, especially when coupled with the lovely setting and the shade of palm trees.
Trip wise, we will be leaving the comfort of İzmir on the 20th of August. From here, we will head to Cappadocia, then up to the Black Sea region, stopping off in Trabzon to (again, hopefully) pick up my visa. If we have any time left on my Turkish visa we will head down to Kars, and to see some ruins on the Armenian border that my Auntie Miche remembers from her travels back in the day. We will leave Turkey via the Georgian border, then enter Iran from Armenia.
With all the latest developments in Pakistan (including the new Taliban foreigner killing branch), we have sadly decided we will most likely give this a miss. We hadn't succeeded in getting our visas in the UK, but were going to try again in Iran. However, the previously safe area we had been hoping to go to is no longer so, which is a shame. Instead, we will probably cross from Iran to Dubai, explore Oman a bit, then back in to Dubai to fly to Nepal. Now, lets all cross our fingers and toes for the Iran visa!