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November 30th, 2010 | Cyprus

Crossing the Green Line, and the Big 5-0…!!

Early morning in Oroklini, on the road again...!! To Pyla and beyond...!!

Anybody who thinks that the Northern Cypriots do not consider themselves as a separate country, should spend a pleasant hour or two crossing the Green Line…!!

After riding through the small town of Pyla, where by the way, Greeks and Turks have lived side by side in relative harmony, and ignored most of the politics that separate them, I came to the border crossing at Pergamos…

Chaos would be an apt description…!! On the Greek side, the guys didn’t even get up off their chairs… Just waved me through with a tired look on their faces, even though the big hand was on the 12 and the little hand was only on the 9…!!

The Turkish guys were much more businesslike…!!

“First go get Insurance, then come back to Passport Control, then go to Customs and show the yellow paper that you got when you entered…!!”

“And my Birth Certificate…?? Where do I show that…??”, I asked with a smile…

“Not needed today…!! Maybe tomorrow…!!” he replied with a straight face…!! I liked the guy immediately…!!

Rules and regulations abound, just like any other international border post...!! And "woe betide" they catch you taking photos...!! This is after all, a "secret" border post, known only to a few hundred thousand people...!!

A group of British tourists were being shunted from pillar to post as well, and were getting all hot and bothered… I just smiled and let the good folk do their “work”…

The lady making out the insurance papers was extremely apologetic at the time it was taking… She explained that the computer program was a new one, and she wasn’t quite sure how it all worked… Some people were actually going into her little office and typing out their particulars on her PC for her…!!

I was the first motorbike that she had ever encountered at this border, and it took her three telephone calls to her “boss”, before she had figured out what to do… In the mean time, the queue behind me grew longer…!!

Chaos reigns...!! The lady on the right was entering the Insurance kiosk to type her details into the computer herself...!! She had waited long enough for the hapless official to do her job...!!...

It took an hour for me to finally get all my stamps and have my luggage checked by the customs guys… I diverted their attention with talk about football, and the thrashing my team Real Madrid had taken at the hands of Barcelona the night before…

They had seen my Portuguese Passport and “Ronnie” became “Ronaldo” and things went on from there…!!

Two flags fly proudly over a hill outside Iskele... The Turkish Republic flag in the inverted colours of that of the mainland...

The map I was working with had been printed in South Cyprus, and did not have too much detail on the towns and roads linking them on the northern side of the island… That and the fact that the names on my map did not match any of the road signs I was encountering, soon had me believing that I was “Doing a Romos”… Back in Limassol, that is a euphemism for “getting lost”…!!

When the Turks invaded northern Cyprus, they changed all the Greek names to Turkish ones, or changed the spelling to match their own language… Massive confusion for the unwitting tourist…!!!

I stopped at a service station to check if I was going the right way, and the attendant took one look at my map and said,

“This is no good…!! I get you a Turkish map…!!”

He went into a tiny office and came out with a map that suddenly made everything clear to me…!! He pointed out where we were, and how to get to where I wanted to go, and after that, it was all plain sailing…!!

I had been told that many Greek properties had been left to “go to seed” when the Greek Cypriots were sent across the “border” into what is today Southern Cyprus… This was in retaliation for all the Turkish people which the Greeks had sent packing after the 1974 invasion…

I passed a beautiful old home, set close to the road, every window frame and door was missing, and the house was now used as a barn… Bales of hay had been stacked in every room, and what once was a garden, had been ploughed to plant crops on… I was amazed at the transformation that took place once I crossed the “Line”… This part of eastern Cyprus was clearly less developed than the area just a few miles behind me… I passed many abandoned farmhouses and outbuildings, most of them in ruin, but now and again, came across modern homes, that had been built in the last few years… Progress was being made, albeit at a snails pace…!!

Some of the broken down and neglected buildings I had been told to expect...

I rode through Dörtyol and Alaniçi before reaching Geçitkule, and then turning east towards Akova and Boğaziçi…

Just before the town of Iskele, the Big Fella and I crossed another milestone on our ride…

As the speedo ticked onto 90 175 km, it heralded the fact that we had just covered the magical 50 000 km mark on our ride around the world…!! A fair distance in any man’s language…!!

I pulled over and sat the bike near a small grove of Olive Trees, thinking about how far I’d come and how much I had already experienced…

A "Spaced-out man" went traveling...

I had been on the road for exactly nine months, 275 days to be precise…!! Ridden in 60 countries and crossed far more borders than that, having been in and out of certain countries on more than one occasion…!!

But before I got too carried away with my “achievements” to date, I reminded myself and the machine sitting under me, that we still had a long, long way to go…!! By my latest estimate, another 70 000 km at least…!! And the little matter of another two years on the road…!!

The size of my undertaking hit me then…

Like a sledgehammer…!!

I should have been celebrating in some way I suppose, but instead I felt a strange sense of sadness, thinking about all the special people, friends and family alike, who meant so much to me, and whom I hadn’t, and wouldn’t be seeing for years to come… I thought of the three birthdays I would have on the road, hoping that the next two wouldn’t be anything like the last one I had in the wilds of Tanzania, nursing a battered and bruised Big Fella…!!

I also thought about my estranged family… Wondered where they were exactly, and what they were doing at that moment…

Strange how reaching a special time, or place, or even moment in your life makes you look back on your past, more than on the future and what lies ahead of you… Or is it just me, and the way I am “wired”…?

I shook off the melancholy that was threatening to overwhelm me, and concentrated instead on the two old ladies harvesting olives across the road from where I sat… I thought about the simple life they must lead, and yet how difficult it must be for them…

The one that was up on the ladder was well past her 60th birthday, and when she turned and saw me watching them, she gave me a gap-toothed smile and waved, shouting something in Turkish…

Just in case it meant, “Get off that bike and come and help us, you lazy bastard…!!”, I pressed the starter button and felt the Big Fella roar back to life underneath me…

Life in the country isn't all its cracked up to be... Not for these two old dears, anyway...!!

And just like that, the spell was broken, and we went forward, towards the Kapasian Peninsula, the tail of my “Flying Squirrel”, riding on to the next 50 000 km mark, which, by all accounts, we will achieve somewhere between Mexico and Panama…

©GBWT 2010

4 comments to Crossing the Green Line, and the Big 5-0…!!

  • Keep riding Ronnie … keep going as there a lot of things to see since what you all ready know is …. nothing compared to what is out there 😉

  • Charmz

    Congrats on that 50 000km milestone. We are all so proud of you for what you have achieved so far. Please pass our gratitude on to Big Fella, for keeping you safe and sound….give him a big hug from all of us. Love and miss you.
    Dad, Mom and me

  • Margie Gush

    congrats on passing this new milestone – yes I am still out here reading your updates – all so very very interesting.
    All the best for the next leg of your journey.

    Margie

  • Mark Behr

    Great stuff – enjoy the ride !

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