Sunday, January 17, 2010

On the Road to Istanbul

By Claire
We’re total chickens. We decided to give ourselves 4 days to get to Istanbul, just in case, even though it is 860 km from Kaș and everyone says you can do it in 13 hours, including Google Earth. You just never know what might happen—bad roads, breakdown, all the unknowns. We didn’t sleep well the night before; we both admitted to some anxiety—we haven’t driven the beast, I mean Homer, in a month! What a waste of sleep time.

Meanwhile, back in Kaș on our last day, we went into town for lunch and said our goodbyes. Lunch was at Kaș’im again. This time we had a real meal: stuffed eggplant, pilaf and some potatoes with meat and vegetables. Naturally, they brought the usual starters and a salad. The food was fabulous and the entire bill came to 18 TL.

We walked over to see Mustafa the Hairdresser and shook his hand, went to the bakery with a prepared speech introducing ourselves and asking her name (finally!) and saying goodbye. Her name is Sevgi. She couldn’t quite understand Chuck and I handed her my pad to write her name down and she read our script and laughed. We bought some last minute things at the grocery store—we’ve been stocking up since things are so cheap here—then made our way back to Homer, stopping at Mehmet’s to say goodbye. He came out of his office, shook our hands and we thanked him for all his help.

Next morning we were up and out of there by 7:50 am. We drove 5 hours in the rain to the town of Keҫiborlu, parking across from the Jandarma and in front of a school.

Our street with the Jandarma

We walked back into town and bought some bread then talked to the Jandarma about camping for the night.

Another fabulous loaf of bread, fresh out of the oven

They brought out a young man who spoke perfect English and he made it quite clear that we were welcome to stay the night. He is from Istanbul and when we told him we were headed there he told us to bring his good wishes to the city. We spent the afternoon reading and relaxing.

Chuck bundled up reading his Kindle

Later that evening, a man knocked on the side of Homer then looked back and saw that we were inside and gestured his apologies. Even later, a knock came at the door, which we ignored. With the second knock, Chuck opened the door to a teenager who was looking for cigarettes. An uneventful night followed. The next morning while eating breakfast we watched the kids coming to school. I was touched by a little girl and her big brother; he had his arm around her and watched her walk into the school grounds. He walked away after saying goodbye then turned back to make sure she was OK. We drove out of town through a Friday market with anything and everything you could possibly need.

Filled up one of our 5 liter water bottles at one of the road side water stations and stopped once again for the night overlooking a lake but right off the road. The road noise was awful—we won’t make that mistake again. It just never stopped. Neither of us got much sleep. We got up and found it was 41° inside Homer, the coldest yet. I think we’ve found winter. But, our gas heater works so well and heating water on the stove for tea speeds up the process even more.

On day three we washed our hair in the kitchen sink. It was easier than I imagined—just a matter of heating water on the stove and mixing it with cold water. It helps to have a partner. We only drove for a couple of hours, pulling into another small town and parking on a residential street. We spent a couple of hours seriously packing for 7 days in Istanbul and a month in Egypt—completely different climates and one night out in the desert—quite a challenge. The temperatures will range from 40° to 90° and there will be rain in Istanbul.

Wild camping in Turkey has been an interesting experience. It is completely acceptable as stated in a Tourist Information brochure we picked up: “Caravan users and backpackers may consider the entire country as their campsite. Provisions can be purchased in any town and the locals are always happy to share their land with visitors.”

In our last little town, Pumakova, a man came to the window of Homer and held up two giant yellow things that looked kind of like oblong apples. He was quite insistent even though I kept shaking my head, smiling and saying no. Chuck finally opened the door and it turns out he wanted to give them to us. We found out later that they are ayvas, quince. Rather fibrous and mildly sweet.

Later, another knock on the window. Chuck opened the door and here was the old man with a tray and....our dinner!

It was delicious. Chuck decided that rather than wait for him to come back, he would take the tray and dishes back to the old man who we saw enter a gate across the street. While Chuck was there I saw some flashing red and blue lights drive by and then pull over in front of us. Bracing myself, I waited for them to come and knock. They did and wanted to know what I was doing—this mostly in Turkish and while talking to someone on a cell phone. There were two policemen and they were very polite and friendly but apparently we had to move! It was rather a scramble and of course, Chuck was still across the street! I tried to explain that, put on my shoes and started across the street. Chuck was engaged in conversation with the old man’s entire family who were trying to get him to come inside for dessert and tea. I called to him with the police at my side and he realized that something was up. They told us in the best English they could manage that they would lead us to a petrol station where we would have to park for the night. While I rushed to put everything back in place, Chuck jumped in, started up the engine and off we went to a Shell station where the police spoke with the manager of the huge on-site restaurant while several people got up from their tables and came outside to see what was going on. Great. A police escort! The sad thing was that we never got to say proper goodbyes; Chuck said that the old man, whose name is Baki and his sons, Abdulah and Emrulah and their wives were so sweet and friendly. It was really a shame to have to rush off without any real explanation. So much for “considering the entire country as our campsite!”

Another noisy night near the highway in a brilliantly lit parking lot with every bus to and from Istanbul stopping with hoards of people unloading into the restaurant and restrooms. I was lucky—I wore earplugs and didn’t hear a thing. Poor Chuck was up most of the night with all the noise. He’s pretty sure there was a police shakedown with some Russians who were parked right next to us. I have to admit, when I got back into bed this morning after turning the heat on, we were talking for a bit and the guy standing outside on his cell phone sounded like he was inside with us.

We did make it to Istanbul in one piece but spent a very long day searching for the Customs Warehouse. More on that in our next blog post.

A good companion shortens the longest road. ~ Turkish Proverb


Diane said...

Wow--let the games begin . . . again! You are off on yet another adventure and this one will prove to be very different! I am so thankful for the internet--otherwise, we wouldn't be sharing your experiences along the way. Thank you for making your traveling experience our traveling experience!

Natasha Yannacañedo said...

WOW! What an adventure yall are on!

Pat in Santa Cruz said...

I am struck by such kindness -- bringing you a meal...inviting you in for tea and can this be? Looking forward to hearing all about Istanbul.

Chuck and Claire said...

We'll just keep on truckin'.