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
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 -11°C,
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
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.