We waved goodbye to Emre and family, and off they drove, to visit the family of a friend who’d recently died. We spent the evening on the campsite, and I managed a yoga practice under the stars, on the jetty over the ocean. While Joel cooked a deliciously simple dal and rice.
We treated ourselves to a breakfast, which fuelled us nicely for the days ride, around the coast to where we intended to get a ferry across to Lesbos. In order to make up some lost time, we thought we could island-hop down from Lesbos to Chios, and then back to Turkey to Izmir. Lesbos was beautiful, we only arrived in the evening, and stayed in a gorgeous hotel, run by an absolute greek goddess! (I think having spent a week or so in mainly muslim Turkey, I really enjoyed meeting some empowered, clearly liberated women in our short time in Greece.) We spent the evening by the docks in the port town, soaking up the ease of european cafe culture, dreaming of buying land on a greek island, Joel dreaming of having a little boat. The next morning we hopped down to Chios, not so stunning but still charming. We met a lovely couple on the beach, an American/Greek guy, who’d been brought up a few hundred metres away from where we sat, and his American wife. We had a good old chat with them, he told us about island politics, and sought out a sea urchin or two for us to try. Yuck, I was definitely not up for it, but Joel stoically gulped his down. The urchin’s black tentacles continued moving long after it was eaten. Poor little thing, a delicacy here; but now apparently illegal to take.
We slept on the beach that night, possibly the least comfortable night’s sleep on the trip yet, as the beach was in the town, and plenty of people were out partying. We cuddled up on some rocks, disconcertingly close to the breaking waves, and managed a few hours, before an early start to catch the ferry back to Turkey in the morning.
We got a bus to Izmir from the coast. From Izmir, we attempted to get a train to eastern Turkey somewhere, so that we could ride to the Iranian border. No chance at all, after a good hour being sent from desk to desk in the station, and me upsetting the lady at the information desk by telling her colleague that I couldn’t get information from her as she didn’t speak English well enough. – Oops, I didn’t realise he’d tell her! – we finally gave up, all the trains were fully booked, as the holiday was ending. Off we went to the coach agencies. A freelance tourist helper did a good job of hijcaking us and duly helping us to sort out an answer – bus to Diyarbakkir in Kurdistan, from where we’d be in a much better position to get a bus to Van, very close to the border. We bought a ticket, and gave him a few lira for sorting us out, and hotfooted, or -wheeled, it over to the enormous bus terminal. Ours were the last two tickets available, and we were the last to arrive, leaving the driver at a loss as to what to do with our bikes, with such an already jam-packed luggage compartment. The atmosphere was hostile, but I was determined to get them on, as we’d been told we’d be able to. Off came the wheels, and all panniers – and after some time, the door was slammed shut and we were free to get on and go, I thought. But one guy, of whose role we had no clue – did he even work for the bus company? – told us we needed to pay an extra 50 or so lira for the bikes. Pah! No chance mate, this was after he’d been calling us Nazis and imperialists, and repeating ‘Hitler’ under his breath. Ooh I was fuming! In the end, not knowing if he was official or not, we gave him 20€, which I retrospectively regret. I gave him a good talking to first, and made him agree that we were neither fascist nor imperialist, just because we were English! How rude! I was really het-up when we boarded the coach, and it took some time to relax and begin enjoying the spectacular scenery. The other passengers warmed to us, and we had some great non-verbal conversations once i’d calmed down a bit. Phew! It was 21 hours before we arrived at Diyarbakkir, but the sweet little attendant brought round drinks and refreshments every hour or two, and we all had individual tv screens to stare into for the duration. It wasn’t massively comfortable as the coach was full and we couldn’t stretch out much at all, but relatively pain-free.
In Diyarbakkir the next morning, we were told we couldn’t get a connection ’til the following day, so we’d have to find somewhere to stay. Whilst Joel was grabbing a kebab, I asked a guy in a van for directions to the centre of town, and he offered us a lift in the back of his van. Joel sat in the back with another guy, and I rode upfront, making conversation in the best sign language I could muster. Very entertaining! Unfortunately Joel was swelteringly hot in the back, and the heavy traffic meant progress was slow. When they dropped us at a hotel, he got out gasping for air, and looking like he’d just been for a swim! Luckily we found a hotel with air-con and he jumped in the shower toute -suite! The hotel had wifi, so we enjoyed a lengthy video chat with Loren, who told us of the immanent arrival of autumn at home. How far away from home we felt; but so grateful for the joys of Skype for bringing us so close together, for free!
The following day we caught a bus to Van, in the daytime; so we could enjoy the scenery whizzing past the window. So central Asian, sandy mountains, arid desert-land and dried up river-beds with trails of goats just visible. We arrived late to Van, and rode into the town to hunt out a hotel. It’s funny arriving by bus or train into a town, when you’re used to cycling; it’s easy to feel some apprehension, which most certainly wouldn’t be present if you’d have arrived by bike. You’re not sure of the people, as you haven’t been experiencing the local people and culture’s gradual change. So that’s how I felt when we arrived to Van, as I had with Diyabakkir, although that had been in the daylight, which always feels better. On the way into town I clipped my wheel on a ridge and fell off,
breaking off my bottle cage, and making me all the more tense. We spotted a UN car, and wondered about the reason for it’s presence. Not helping the situation, was the bluntness of the hotel-owners who turned us away without much explanation. We started to think it was because we were foreign. As we stood on one street discussing the options, an armoured police vehicle with what I thought was a big gun, but Joel assures me was a water cannon atop it, attempted to squeeze down the road, scraping the cars on both sides of the narrow street, and in one case dragging a car a few feet down the street! Finally one hotel owner, who spoke some English, explained that the hotel was full, but he spotted our bikes, and having hosted many a cycle-tourist in the past; and in fact one Czech guy in residence at the moment, offered us to sleep on the roof, for a few lira. Perfect, we hauled the bags up the five floors, and after popping out for some food, we were cosied up in our sleepybags with our ear-plugs in to block out the drums of next-door’s wedding party!