Travel Journal Overview: Solo overland travel can do a lot to a person. Of this I am a witness and a learner. Here I began to question a little more of what I was missing out on. But then again I was also experiencing something very unique.
During this period my Mendle (meindel) boots broke in two after only 6 months; shame on them. They never answered my emails either. Never again shall I buy from them.
What can be said about the Goreme Hostel Helper “Harum”, nice guy, shame about the brain?!! No, I nice guy, but really he needed a helping hand to do so much as have breakfast in the morning. So when I go to Ankara Mega bus complex to both collect my Indian Visa, and to get the 7pm bus to Dogubayazit I smiled in vex as the ticket counter man told me there was no 7pm bus from Ankara to Dogubayazit, but in fact there was one leaving from Neveshir, back next to Goreme… Grrr.
I took matters into my own hand and immediately but on the panicked tourist look and was soon rescued my a student speaking limited English. This then ended up with me having 7 tickets to Dogubayazit! 20 mins later and I left with only my requested 1 ticket leaving at 7pm, plus a kiss on both cheeks by the bearded student. Let me say at this time that I do not like the feeling of another mans beard on face!!
Clutching my 55 Lita 19 hour bus ticket I headed off to the Indian Embassy. And along the way to the tiny little outdoor store to purchase a new pair of hiking boots. I hate Mendiel Boots, (well actually I don’t, but they still broke so I do). The little man inside instantly saw dollars, and I parted ways with 148 Euro worth of new leather Italian boots. . . Yes a small fortune, but it was that or plastic flip flops. I really did not expect Iran to stock good quality boots, neither Pakistan, even India, so the next time I could buy a pair would be Nepal. Gut instinct told me the current boots would not make it that far. And so it was that outside the Indian Embassy I removed the Meindel’s for the last time, swapped insoles and put on the much lighter Italian pair and hoped for the best.
Getting my passport back was no hassle, it was sitting atop the reception desk as I entered. So I simply smiled, reached over and picked it up. Hmmm, maybe the Canadian Passport underneath would have been a better choice…
I hurried back to the Metro station, and began to feel the new boots tear into my feet in all sorts of places… here we go again. . .
The journey itself was up to the usual high Turkish standards, chocolate cake and coke all the way. And as usual I got giant fat person to sit next to me. And again my punishment was to have his fat slobbering mass slouch over to me as he nodded off. It wouldn’t have been too bad if the fat prick took off his oversized jumper. I final straw broke at about midnight when his head began falling onto my shoulder, earning him a very sharp elbow into his protruding stomach and a waving hand from me.
My morning time I felt the heat of the night bus had flared up my bloody friction burns again and as the bus pulled in for breakfast I hobbled off to the bathroom to do an emergency bandage job on my thighs. This truely was turning out to by the curse of my travels. Still as I stood eating a sandwich a local was busy throwing up in an empty oil drum beside me, so I think his morning was worse off.
As I also fended off a man behind me trying to read my map of Dogubayazit I looked up and saw a mass of white fluff blowing by the window. Snow. Lots of snow. In fact it was blowing at a near 90 degree angle. I looked at the altitude on my watch 7800ft. We were going through a mountain pass near Atiku and the bus was suffering nearly as much as my nerves as we tore around the mountain bends through the icy blizzard. It was here I got my only glimpse of Mount Aryat, well at least the bottom of it. Not an Ark in sight unfortunately. I was sensing my time in Dogubayazit was going to be short.
We pulled into the bus station and I headed off to locate Hotel Tarham in Dogubayazit which I found thanks to a tour guide wanting no money. And was mildly surprised to get a double en suite room for only 18lira. All the singles were booked out and they weren’t so busy. There was also a German and French male duo there, similarly heading into Iran, unfortunately they were not at all chatty. Still I was already well and truly in solo mode and headed out for some local kebabs.
Dogubayazit has the true feeling of a grungy border town, and I think that’s why I look back and enjoyed my brief time there. It was nearly like a preparation town for those heading to new uncharted waters by themselves. It rained for the day. The streets were dirty, the sky dark yet all the while shopkeepers and the like maintained a happy expression in this dreary looking town. I entered a kebab shop, and ate a giant meat shish, couscous, 3 flat bread and a salad for only 3 lira. The local chef seemed amazed to watch me continuously point at his meat counter and order heaps more. I mentioned Iran, and through our mis-communication we laughed about the need to eat well.
My attempts to locate the border bus failed on this my first day when I ended up on the main road my a gas station surrounded my excited children, all pointing me down the road to the east… I think they wanted to see the dumb tourist walk all the way!
Seeing all this mass confusion I was approached my a mustachioed man wielding a police badge, bollox I was going to be arrested for being to stupid to find the bus stop. But “Hemrit” must have taken pity, or curiosity on me and thankfully offered me a lift to the Bus stop in his little LPG car, passing all the smiling idiots along the way who had sent me in the wrong direction. The bus office was closed, but a little man outside old me the times and prices quite happily.
I then got more misinformation and actually found the post office to be opened and managed to post off my “Travels in Afghanistan” book to a silly person. I then headed into a Pharmacy to purchase more bandages and was politely accosted my Kurdish Pharmacists who I sat with for a while and drank tea. It was here I really realized how much I was missing of Turkey. The Kurdish/Iraq/Turkish tensions were really heating up, and the western Turkish hatred for the Kurds was flowing over to everyday life. Yet I truly enjoyed the company of these men, so friendly, warm and interested to know what the rest of the world though of them.
What could I say? So I told my opinion of the truth. Know one really understands what’s going on! I left my thanking them in Turkish, only to be dragged back in again and given a lesson in Kurdish, sometime later I left thanking them with a big “Spasmodica!!”
That night I lay on my big double bed and thought about Turkey… I had missed out on so much just to secure the visas for three countries. Yet at the same time this in itself was a unique experience. Yes I had missed out on Troy, Olympus and all the ancient sites. But I had accomplished what in todays political world was not so easy to do. And somehow, leaving a country with my passport full of visas, and no heavy Afghanistan, Tadzhikstan etc travel was an accomplishment. Then I realized what was bugging me.
I was not going to see central Asia on this trip. No wild jeep rides with Afgans, nor no real uncharted territory crossings. It was off the plan, and I liked the idea of this. Yet if I had gone down that road I would not have accomplished the Iran/Pakistan/India/Nepal route, no Axis of Evil… this was something I wanted to Experience… and what of Pakistan… I knew nothing of this place really. Should I pass through, or travel it. Again, I had no idea that it was about to explode into the chaos of emergency rule… yes in hindsight I was about to have a once in a lifetime experience…
Travel Resources: If your looking for information on how I was able to get Iranian, Pakistani and Indian visas in Turkey, you’ll find them in my Overland travel visa help section
Travel Resources: How to Travel from Turkey to Iran overland (my guide)