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Travel Diary - 2003
5 January | Senegal
22 January |Gambia
18 January |Guinea
9 February | Mali
22 February | Burkina Faso
3 March | Ghana
19 March | Togo
20 March | Benin
25 March | Niger
12 April | Chad
15 April | Cameroon
16 April | Nigeria
30 April | Congo
24 May | RDC
31 May | Angola
5 June | Namibia
27 June | South Africa
30 August | Lesotho
10 September | Swaziland
9 October | Botswana
17 October | Namibia
19 October |
Zambia
29 October | Malawi
4 November |Mozambique
16 November | Tanzania
12 December | Rwanda
16 December | RDC
18 December | Uganda
24 December | Kenya

Travel Diary - 2004
9 January | Ethiopia
6 February | Sudan
21 February | Saudi Arabia
23 February | Jordan
3 March | Syria
5 March | Turkey
12 March | Greece
21 March | ...And Home

 

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17 months, 43 countries, and 2 vehicles

Turkey

Border Crossing

It's now starting to get pretty cold - we arrive at the border in driving rain- the cold sort that you expect in Northern Europe. This is a shock to travellers who a couple of days ago were sweating it out in the desert. First of teh Syrian official mutters something about us having to pay for a carnet stamp - which of course we refuse. Then it's across to meet the Turkish Health Inspector and convince him that you're not dying of something infectious. After that it's immigration where you pay in the currency which offers the best arbitrage (,$ or ) - it's about 10 but I paid in USD as the rate was pretty good.

I had to pay about $20 for insurance - I hadn't had time to arrange a green card - Dirk had his faxed from Holland to save paying. We were questioned about fuel - in Turkey it's over $1 a litre so we'd filled up everything in Syria. They weren't too fussed about my 120 litres on the roof in jerricans, and Dirk didn't admit to his 825 litres in every conceivable can, bottle, and cooking pot, that he was carrying (I never realised you could fill a spare tyre with diesel) so we got through OK.

By now it was dark, so we drove to the next town and eventially found a great hotel where we could camp in the driving rain and use a room for a hot shower for nothing - another example of great hospitality.

The next morning, after a nightmare trying to get the car started with the flat battery (I'd always managed to park on a slope up to then) we continued in dropping temperatures and eventually snow, cutting North past Ankara to the little town of Gedere, where the thermometer said -11C, and the snow was about a foot deep.

My first task for the evening was to partially drain my radiator to get two litres of coolant in and circulated - I'd given up on my window washers which were competing with a student in their demands for Alcohol. After that I spent an hour thawing on a radiator until I could move again, and then had dinner.

In the morning I was amazed that my radiator block hadn't frozen solid, but completely blew my hill start as I was afraid of skidding on the ice. Dirk tow-started me (too much snow for pushing) and a couple of kilometres down the road the Toyota packed up - it was firing badly, the oil light was on, and it looked serious... I ran Dirk down to the local gas station, and the good news was that my car started doing the same - our Syrian diesel was freezing into sludge and not burning properly. I topped up my half-full tank with very expensive diesel, which solved my problem, and then took pleasure in towing the very heavy TLC to a garage - Dirk had to drain his tank to get the local diesel in to his system (apparently adding 10-12% petrol is a good (and easier) solution in the cold. The good news was that I managed to find a suitable battery for my car - no more push starts!

With all the delays it was night time before we arrive a the outskirt of Istanbul, where Dirk and Nanda met a friend, Sertac who kindly helped me find a hotel - almost impossible if you don't know your way around.

Left to my own devices (or al least vices) I reacquainted myself with consumer culture. Istanbul is an extremely sophisticated city; I'd imagined it would be more like Damascus, but everything seems either very new or very old. I spent a couple of days walking around the area of the Golden Horn and the Sultanahmet district, visiting the Aya Sofiya, the Blue Mosque, and the other great edifices of the old city. The touts were polite and not in the least invasive, though there were many about. I also met up with Andy who'd figured I'd eventually have to pass through Istanbul on my way home, who I last seen in Mozambique, and we did the tourist stuff.

Dirk and Nanda were set on going North through Macedonia, while my route was through Greece and Italy, so we met for a final lunch and said our goodbyes - they were great travelling companions, and it was a shame to see them go.

Andy and I drove West to the Turkish town from which the battle takes it's name - although the local version is spelt somewhat differently. It was a great little town - quiet in the off-season, but with an excellent fish restaurant where we did ourselves proud on the local catch. After overnighting at a rather too expensive hotel we spent the day driving from battle field to battlefield, each marked with memorial plaques and the inevitable lines of grave stones. It's remarkable that there are so few Turkish graves - perhaps they took their dead away afterwards.

Andy had to head back to Istanbul that evening - his flight to India left the next day, so I dropped him off at the bus station and drove Northwards to wards the border for an early morning crossing.