Diary - Turkey

Monday 18th February 2002 - DAY 19

Starting point: Edirne
Ending point: Istanbul
Distanced travelled: 217 miles

Robin's birthday today - so was dragged out of bed at some ungodly hour for a börek (pasty filled with meat/cheese which all the Turks seem to eat for breakfast) and then off on the road to Istanbul. The roads in Turkey all seem to be in much better condition so we made it to Istanbul in good time. However, it took us a further 3 hours to negotiate the city itself and to get ourselves to a hostel - the road signs seemed to contradict what our map was saying, or point to places that weren't marked on the map at all. This was our first real experience of the crazy driving that we would encounter in all large cities from now on! We found some 'tourist police' who were all too happy to jump into the car with us to help us find some secure parking where we could leave our landie for a couple of days while we enjoyed 'city break'. It was quite a novelty to actually have a room for more than one night and be able to do some well-needed washing. Went out to explore the city from our very central hostel location and to try out some of the local food. Realised later that our hostel had a much better and cheaper restaurant and bar than most in the street (and that for an extra $2 you get breakfast, dinner and unlimited free beer from 8-9pm), so spent the rest of the night there chatting to some backpackers.

Tuesday 19th February 2002 - DAY 20

mosque in Istanbul

Staying in a hostel surrounded by mosques does have its disadvantages - namely at 6am when they all start calling to prayer. But we did manage to get back to sleep and have our much needed lie-in. Spent the morning casually seeing some of the sights - the Aya Sophia church opposite the hostel and the Blue Mosque, which were beautiful. Fortunately neither of us was remotely interested in buying a carpet so we didn't need to get into any conversations with carpet salesmen. We decided to go for a hamam in the afternoon - a slightly strange experience, but a very authentic one as we were the only tourists in sight. We were feeling slightly light-headed when we came out and instantly got lost in one of the bazaars, before finding a tea shop where we spent some time drinking apple tea and puffing on a 'nargilah' - (Turkish water pipe). We'd decided to go for the 'all-inclusive' option with the hostel so headed back for our kebab and rice, followed by free, unlimited beer in the hostel bar.

Wednesday 20th February 2002 - DAY 21

Spent a miserable morning trying to find the Pakistani Embassy in Istanbul in order to try and get some sense out of them about the paperwork that we need to take our car into their country. Having negotiated Turkish public transport and then walked around lost in the pouring rain (our first rain since we left home - serves us right for gloating just the night before about how lucky we'd been) for hours, naturally by the time we found the Embassy it was shut. We managed to phone through and speak to someone who wasn't able to tell us anything that we didn't already know, so headed back to the hostel, via the Egyptian Bazaar, feeling a bit miserable and dejected. It wasn't a particularly inspiring day for sightseeing so we spent the afternoon at the hostel. The evening was spent playing poole and chatting with our fellow youth hostellers + taking advantage of the free/cheap hostel beer until quite late.

Thiursday 21st February 2002 - Day 22

Starting point: Istanbul
Ending point: Guzelyali near Cannakale
Distanced travelled: 404 miles

Not the best day to have a hangover, but we managed to navigate ourselves out of Istanbul and across the Bosphorus bridge into Asia without getting lost too many times (having a map of Istanbul from the tourist office that was bigger than the 2 inch square map we'd been using probably helped quite a bit) - it was quite a dramatic feeling to be crossing from one continent to another. We had thought about taking the car to a garage to get the oil leak checked, but it was apparently the start of a national holiday so the chances were that everything would be shut. Shamefully we stopped off at the first Burger King we came to which provided some much needed energy for the journey ahead. Then, having missed the turning south ot the coast, ended up taking the slightly longer, but equally scenic route through the mountains to Bursa and on to the coast just past Cannakale. All the horses and carts of Eastern Europe have now been replaced with very slow tractors, donkeys and olive trees. It was dark when we arrived so we followed signs from the main road to some campsites. The first was completely flooded, the second was part of a hotel complex but it was getting late so we decided to settle there for the night. We were a bit freaked out by the rather large ram that appeared out of nowhere as a dark, looming shadow next to the tent.

Friday 22nd February 2002 - DAY 23

our campsite

Starting point: Guzelyali
Ending point: Alibey Adasi - Ayvalik
Distanced travelled: 125 miles

It was a novelty to wake up a) not cold (a balmy 15 degrees) and b) camped next to the sea - a definite holiday feel. Rather than head back to the main road, we decided to take the 'off-road' option along a little mud truck next to the coast. It was pretty slippery and deteriorated to the point that we were about to turn back for fear of getting stuck in the middle of nowhere with no winch (and no sign of civilisation), when we hit a slightly more solid dirt track, which in fact turned out to be a short cut to Troy. We explored the ruins which, sure enough, were not much more than 'a series of small walls', but it was fun to climb up inside the tacky wooden replica horse of The Iliad fame. We drove along next to the stunning Aegean coastline for a couple of hours, stopping off en-route at an internet cafe (which actually had a fast connection, so we finally uploaded our diary to date - contrary to popular belief, we haven't been stuck in a coffee shop in Amsterdam for the past 3 weeks), and to buy some of the local olives and olive oil. We drove out onto the Alibey Adasi peninsula from Ayvalik to look for a campsite which inevitably was closed, but we found a beautiful spot for a late mediterranean-style lunch. After a very quick swim (but still, not bad for February), we decided that the place was discrete enough to camp up for the night.

Saturday 23rd February 2002 - DAY 24


Starting point: Ayvalik
Ending point: Bodrum
Distanced travelled: 295 miles

It rained and rained and rained all day today and turned the previously very dry roads into a skid pan of oil and water - surprisingly we only saw one accident. We stopped off at Ephesus nonetheless for a rainy walk round the impressive ruins (at least the place was almost tourist-free) and then drove on down the coast to Bodrum. It was dark by the time we arrived and we were pretty tired after the long drive. We looked in vain for somewhere to camp, and then found ourselves lost trying to find a cheap 'pensiyon' to spend the night - our predicament was not helped when all the lights in the town suddenly went out in a power cut, including all the traffic lights - causing a fair amount of chaos. Many of the hotels were full as there was some kind of festival going on, but we managed to find a very friendly place that had a room we could stay in for £2.50 each. We headed out for some food and instantly liked the streets and people of Bodrum. We found a lovely little cafe where we were able to sit around on cushions (reminiscent of Dahab) while the owner taught us to speak Turkish and play backgammon.

Sunday 24th February 2002 - DAY 25

Starting point: Bodrum
Ending point: Olu Deniz
Distanced travelled: 168 miles

Fortunately the rain subsided today and after having breakfast on the beach in Bodrum (at a cafe with whose waiters had obviously learnt English from the tourists 'alright mate - don't worry it's all asda-price here') we were able to continue our journey round the 'turquoise coast' and enjoy the stunning views. Decided we wouldn't make it all the way to Olimpos today so stopped off at Olu Deniz, which is really beautiful without all the summer crowds. We found a campsite right next to the lagoon that looked pretty shut but had no gate so we went in. We found some German hippies who were living in an old coach and had been there for over a week without having to pay, no questions asked, so we camped up too.

Monday 25th February 2002 - DAY 26

Starting point: Olu Deniz
Ending point: Olimpos
Distanced travelled: 199 miles

treehouse accommodation 'the penthouse'

Woke up to the sound of rain, but fortunately this cleared as we got up. We drove on round the bendy coastal road (literally just next to the sea) and down into the valley of Olimpos. We came across a very cool place to stay, in some treehouses (apparently in summer with over 250 people crammed in the place becomes a bit like a hippy Butlins). We wandered down to the beach and explored the ruins which are all hidden amongst the trees, then late in the afternoon we drove round the mountain to walk up to the Chimaera for sunset. According to legend, the Chimaera is the hot breath of a subterranean monster killed by Bellerophon riding the winged horse Pegasus; as well as being the inspiration for the olympic flame. In reality, the Chimaera are naturally occuring flames escaping from the rock due to a source of natural gas igniting when it meets the air. It's a beautiful setting and makes the perfect campfire - eternal flames with no smoke and no need to collect wood. We stayed for some time wishing we'd brought the marshmallows then found our way back down the rocky path by the light of the full moon and headed back to the treehouse for some food. We spent the evening sitting round a fire playing a strange version of Turkish charades with the other 6 people staying there.

Tuesday 26th Febraury 2002 - DAY 27

Starting point: Olimpos
Ending point: Konya
Distanced travelled: 319 miles

Reluctantly we said goodbye to our treehouse and to the coast as we climbed up high into the mountains towards central Turkey. If all goes to plan this is the last time we'll see the sea again until Thailand. We climbed over 5000 ft (not good for our miles per gallon!) up through the snow-covered peaks to a beautiful lake (Igirdir) where we stopped for lunch. It would have made a good place to spend the night, but we figured it would be better to cover some ground as the last couple of day shave been fairly relaxed. We arrived at Konya (famous for its whirling Dervishes) just after dark and found a cheap hotel for the night. We are becoming a bit confused by the Turks - nobody will accept our baksheesh. The man from the hotel carried our heavy bags from the car all the way to our rooms with some difficulty and wouldn't take a tip. He then spent the evening voluntarily bringing tea to our room, then a book on Turkey, then a TV (so we could watch the Liverpool-Galatasaray match). We are coming to the conclusion that Turkish people are just overwhelmingly friendly and hospitable.

Wednesday 27th February 2002 - DAY 28

Starting point: Konya
Ending point: Goreme, Cappadocia
Distanced travelled: 166 miles

Cappadocian landscape

We made good progress today and despite fresh snow all around now, the roads are clear and in good condition. We arrived in Cappadocia just after lunch and had some time to go off and explore the bizarre landscape and rock formations in the area. Some of the caves are inhabited, others you can just climb up and down inside (if you're not afraid of heights, free-climbing and squeezing through small holes). We found a wonderful place to stay in Goreme - in a cave all of our own: we have a cave bathroom, our own cave lounge area filled with cushions and a cave bedroom with a duvet. We had a fine Turkish feed before settling down to play backgammon.

Thursday 28th February 2002 - DAY 29

Starting point: Goreme, Cappadocia
Ending point: A small road near Kayseri
Distanced travelled: 140 miles

After a lie-in and complimentary Turkish breakfast (eggs, cheese, olives, salad) we went to visit the underground city of Derinkuyu - a vast network of caves and small passages going 70m deep underground. It would have been great to live there if you were 2ft tall, but being 5ft10 and 6ft3 it was a bit tricky to get about - but we had the whole place to ourselves and happened to have a small torch with us so could explore the sections that weren't lit up. We then drove on through stunning scenery, past a salt lake surrounded by snowy mountains and straight through the city of Kayseri. We found a peaceful spot to camp (surrounded by snow) off a dirt track which didn't look as though it had been used very recently.

Friday 1st March 2002 - DAY 30

Starting point: Kayseri
Ending point: Some hills just outside Malatya
Distanced travelled: 223 miles

Surpringly it wasn't too cold during the night (well it is March now!) and upon opening the tent doors this morning we were dazzled by the sun reflecting off the snow all around. We spent the morning unloading the landie and writing an inventory of all our things, as we'll probably be needing this for border crossings in the future to save a full vehicle search. This took about 2 hours I guess. We then continued our journey through the mountains - the snow covering getting deeper all the time, a couple of metres in places - and then down into a dry valley full of apricot trees and dried apricot venders by the side of the road. We stopped and bought a bag from a very excited old man who generously threw an extra handful at us as we were walking away. Found a very scenic spot to camp up in some hills past Malatya.

Saturday 2nd March 2002 - DAY 31

Starting point: Malatya
Ending point: Tatvan
Distanced travelled: 313 miles

Woke early enough to see the sunrise from the tent - the water we could see below us turned out to be part of the Euphrates river. As we continued round the mountains took on a more rugged feel and the increase in military presence became very noticeable - we nearly over-ran our first road block as it wasn't particularly obvious, but after checking our passports we were waved through without any problem. We have now entered 'ex-PKK' (Kurdish rebellion group) territory - apparently the area has been much more relaxed in the last couple of years, but there were still a lot of soldiers with big guns walking around. We travelled across the Tigris river and down through the more fertile lands where ancient civilisations flourished - the people here still seem to live a very simple life, lots of shepherds with vast herds of sheep/goats and even the odd mud hut scattered about. We decided to take a detour through a place called 'Batman' ('no particular reason'... says Robin). The detour turned out to be a Very Bad Idea as we had to drive at 20mph down what must have been the worst road in Turkey - unpaved and full of potholes. Batman wasn't worth the effort and turned out to be a complete dive, surrounded by military bases (so we couldn't even take a photo), which we probably shouldn't have been in. Checkpoints became more frequent as we headed up into the mountains, but all were straightforward pasport checks. It had started to get very cold and snowy by the time we reached Tatvan, next to the great Lake Van Golu. Apparently the lake is very beautiful, but unfortunately due to the thick fog, we haven't been able to see it yet.

Sunday 3rd March 2002 - DAY 32

Starting point: Tatvan
Ending point: Dogubayazit - near Iranian border
Distanced travelled: 195 miles

We continued round the lake (still foggy) and up to the city of Dogubayazit about 35km from the Iranian border. We found our way to a campsite/hotel in a prime location: out of town, just beneath the dramatic fortress of Ishak Pasa Sarayi and with a view of Mount Ararat. The Manager was very welcoming and spoke excellent English. We ended up spending the evening with him and his 'family', including drinking copious amounts of Raki and seeing how Kurdish people like to enjoy themselves. Enough said.

Monday 4th March 2002 - DAY 33

Note: Beer then Raki makes you feel shaky. Decided it would be wise to stay another day before crossing into Iran to rest, use the internet and give the car a 6000 mile service. Found a crack in one of the turbo hoses so have tried to patch this up temporarily. Struggled up the hill to see the fortress which was very impressive then spent the rest of the day trying to avoid the Manager in case he tried to make us drink any more Raki.