Thursday, April 30, 2009


I'm in Dogubayazit, which is pronounced something like"doggy-biscuit", on the doorstep of Iran. Tomorrow I cross the border and say farewell to Turkey. I'm just gone 2 months here and I have to admit it didn't run completly smoothly. The neck cracking antics of the "wannabe physio" in Istanbul and the loss of the bulk of my stuff in Bergama had the trip on its knees. But the neck cracking incident were more a stupid, (but dangerous) prank, rather than an assault. Thankfully the pain has completely eased now, and it no longer affects me. And as for losing my stuff. Well, everyday I go into a supermarket or use a toilet in a cafe or petrol station, I turn my back on my stuff. I can lock my bags to my bike and the bike to a pole, but all someone needs is 30 seconds and a sharp knife and the bags are gone. Its a problem. A solo cyclist, with all their stuff attached to the bike is very vurnable. But the day I lost my stuff in Bergama, I was making it just too easy for a thief. But these 2 bad days in 2 months are not my overridng memory of Turkey.Apart from east of Erzurum, I found Turkey to be a far more modern country than I expected it to be. But once you go east of Erzurum, its like you are entering a different country. The Turkish flag flys everywhere throughout the country, but I barely saw one in the east. Roads detiorate. People live in more basic housing and mud huts are used for storage at the side of the homes. One bizarre thing I noticed was that throughout all of Turkey, it was generally the women who were working in the fields, but in the east everyone seemed to be working the land. Its also a country with a huge military pressence, again espically in the east. El Salvador is about the only place I've been where I've seen more guns. I mean there was even a soldier with a machine gun at the entrance to the church at Meryemana (the home of the Virgin Mary) But Turkey for me, has been about visiting the impressive city of Istanbul with the best of company. Its been Ephesus, the ancient wonder of the world. The 1000km road that follows the black sea and the long hard climb up the mountains to the Iranian border. The daily examples of the goodness of the Turkish people are just too many to mention. The old man who saw me putting up my tent in the rain near a beach and invited me into his home, a truck driver who stopped and pulled a load of notes from his pocket and asked if I was OK for money. He handed me a fiver and just would not accept my refusal. Clare and Receps invitation to their home with food and lodging and a long chat into all hours that helped give me a better understanding of Turkey and its people. There were other invites to peoples homes,but it was either too early in the day or else their english was so bad, its just more comfort to have some time to yourself in the tent. I've often asked people on the street for directions to an internet cafe or restaurant or whatever and people stop what they are doing and actually walk with me to the place I'm looking for. One day on the road, a guy stops his car in front of me ,- asks if I'm having any problems in Turkey. I say "none whatsoever". He says, "well,here's my card. I speak good english. If you ever need any help, you can contact me" And then he continued on about his business. I have been invited into a few of the tea-houses and offered endless amounts of tea. In fact I would say I have only paid for about 1 in every 5 glasses of tea here. Its almost always on the house or someone else offers to pay for it. Literally thousands of friendly hoots of the horn from friendly passing vehicles. Its just a constant positive vibe from the people of Turkey.But this time tomorrow I should be Iran. I'm excited and nervous in equal measures. But at this stage I notice I always seem to get nervous when I cross a border into another country. I'll probably be nervous when I eventually cross back over into my final country, Ireland.

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