Friday, 18 March 2011

Turkey (briefly)

We wake to a grey wet day – weather much more typical to this region that the cloudless skies of yesterday. We make the decision the today we will split – though this time it will be on a more permanent basis. I have just enough time to get out of Turkey (should Syria say no), and Stu needs a few days to sort his things before the flight back. We ride in to Hopa and treat ourselves to one last celebratory lentil soup. Our guts gurgle with satisfaction as we make our way toward the bus station. The usual carnage occurs while trying to frantically load our bikes onto the buses, a quick “see ya later”, and then we are on our way(s). As the bus points it's nose westward I realise it could be a while before I hear the familiar “Bwwwwaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrhhhhhhhh” of a eucalyptus didg' again.

On the minibus to Trabzon I meet Oguz Gokhan. We get chatting and very quickly find a common interest in religion - Jimi Hendrix is his God too. He invites me to stay at his place. Though I want to accept I hesitate – concerned about my need to get to Syria. He helps me out with the bus ticket (which it turns out leaves the following morning) and so we take the taxi back to his place. I meet his friends and we head out to a bar which had some local live music. I'm introduced to more friends and his girlfriend Serap. They treat me to dinner and even get me a belated birthday cake – which more than makes up for my solitary night in the woods. It's a really great night and beats the hell out of rolling out my sleeping bag in some windy bus station! These guys are a perfect example of the outrageous generosity shown to me on this trip. The odd situations when I have been ripped off are more than made up for (and completely outnumbered) by occasions such as this.

In the morning they take me out for breakfast and then escort me to the bus station. My friend Sara once said “Turkey seems to be your happy place” - I think she's right.

Fifteen hours later I arrive in Gaziantep. Dispite the fact that this city is home to some of the tastiest treats in all of Turkey I don't stick around and instead get myself on a minibus to the border town of Kilis. From there I ride to the border. As I see it appear in front of me my apprehension grows – having heard of some folks getting refused visas and others welcomed with open arms. I talk with the clerks for some time and am then instructed to wait. While doing just that I meet to Swiss cyclists who are heading to Turkey. Caught out by the Syrian exit fee they are stuck and unable to leave. I only have enough wedge on me to pay their fee but hand it over without a second thought – these days I find myself in a position of confidence that someone would do the same for me. While exchanging details I'm told that my application has been accepted. Small dance of joy, paperwork, pay the relevant people and jump on the bike. New country time!

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