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July 29, 2007

'Ello Turkey!

LOCATION: Ulukisla, Turkey
Longitude: N:37deg.40'34.
Latitude: E:034deg.19'41s.
Kms from Djibouti: 6,116 kms

Today was an uphill struggle, literally. Climbing 1,400 metres from the coast at Adana up to the Anatolia plateau, the vast central area of Turkey that makes up 97% of the land area, was a shock to the system after having to deal only with low grades since Ethiopia. But if the legs were complaining, the rest of me was relieved to be elevated out of the stifling humidity of the Mediterranean coastline and into insect-free, brisk mountain air with stupendous views of the Bolkar Daglari range to the southwest. From here the road slips away effortlessly towards Ankara in the north where I should be in 2-days. Skirting the city to save on time I'll push onto Istanbul and rendezvous with the Turkish Rowing Association on the 7th August on the eastern shores of the Bosphorus. Following an initial introduction from Erden from Around n Over they are very kindly organizing a traditional Turkish 'kayik' for me to row across to the west bank. It will a very symbolic moment: the expedition crossing over from Asia into Europe for the last of 16 legs in total that comprise Expedition 360.


Miles and countries are beginning to pass a little quicker under the wheels that I would otherwise like. This circumnavigation has never been about speed, but with a completion date now set in stone much rests upon getting to European shores in time to secure a decent weather window to complete the final channel crossing before the winter storms arrive. So Syria got short thrift, which is a shame as the people are as friendly as the Nubians in north Sudan and the history and antiquities that the region has to offer is little appreciated by outsiders. Definitely on the shortlist for a return visit.


Turkey is another world to the Arabian Middle East. The people are friendly enough, even though many of the men look like WWF fighers (World Wrestling Federation). The main gripe is cost. Turkey is incredibly expensive - as much as 3-4 x what I've been used to since leaving Djibouti. I suppose this means the start of the harsh reality of being back in Europe with its ridiculous prices. So no more hotels (actually not a problem as there aren't too many of them anyway). It's back to sleeping in the flood tunnels under the road at night and setting aside enough time to cook my own food. A meal at a roadside restaurant will otherwise put one back around 10 Turkish Lira ($8 USD) which blows my $15-20 a day budget out of the water very quickly.


One problem that I hadn't anticipated, or at least to the degree that it has ended up being, is language. Turks in this part of the country speak virtually no English (Erden, where are you?!). I know the onus is on the outsider to learn enough of the local lingo to get by, but I was rather hoping to get a little helping hand from the locals, at least in the first week of being here, to provide for the basic needs. But perhaps Turkey is rather like China in terms of its isolation historically? In any case, there's been a lot of jabbing at things for sale by the roadside followed by me moronically holding out a palm full of money for the seller to pick out the amount due. Of course this is a recipe for getting well and truly ripped off and on more than one occasion the guy has just shoveled most of the contents of my hand into his own, resulting in the money being snatched back and a fierce exchange of insults that neither can understand.

Another issue is the road, which is very narrow in places and often lacking a hard-shoulder to ride in out of the traffic. Trucks often pass a little too close for comfort and my trailer has been clipped twice now - fortunately no damage done. Now more than ever I miss the little handlebar mirror I had on the Asia leg, (but which was stolen on arrival in Mumbai). It was a real life-saver, allowing me to judge traffic coming from the rear and move over if need be. A replacement should be waiting for me in Istanbul. I just need to be extra careful until then. A much needed pit-stop is also in order for a bunch of other gear that has either been lost, stolen or just worn out: my gloves fell to bits in Egypt; the welds on the frame of the trailer broke in Sudan (so the whole thing is now held together with string), and my tires have worn well past the tread mark. But for now, the whole contraption still moves.


Posted on July 29, 2007 8:52 PM