Travel Journal Overview: Fresh with hope after speaking to the Iranian embassy in Ankara, I began the midnight trips to the capital. Arriving back in Goreme 23 hours later. It was long and tiring. But it saved money, and it was working.
And so my trips to Ankara started.
The Midnight bus was on time, and it was quite comfortable, complete with chocolate cake and drinks. Really honestly Eurolines I hate you. Take lessons from Turkish buses, they are the best buses I have ever taken, better than some airlines.
My first 5am arrival into Ankara’s giant multi-layered bus station was quite good. I had an ultra cheap breakfast of cheese, juice, bread, potatoes and soup at the station for a meager 3 Euro. A good start as I headed off to my embassy to the Iranian Embassy.
I bought a 10 trip ticket for the took the Ankaray, the direct metro/train to the center of Ankara, Kızılay. And naturally upon exiting I followed the LP’s map and ended up heading for 45 minutes in the wrong direction. I have a compass Lonely Planet!!! And still your map points in the wrong direction??!!! Having said that a little Turkish man also sent me in the wrong way. Finally a simple street vendor or two pointed me the right way and soon I was walking along a long boulevard, still lost, but at least noticing plenty of plush embassies indicating I was at least in the right area.
I stopped once more to ask a local looking chap if I was indeed heading in the right direction, and it not only turned out that I was, but also he happened to be Iranian! Inshalla!!
By 8am I was outside the Axis of Evil’s embassy, just as it started to rain. Thankfully Allah was watching and as I pushed the big red button to get in, a big smiling man slide open a mirrored hatch.
greeted him with a big “Salam”, and he returned the gesture.
“How are you today?” he beamed.
I shrugged my shoulders as the rain began heavier, “Well, I am getting wet, and could do with a tourist visa?!!”
He nodded with a bigger smile “so, you better come in then.”
Well I was in and that was the main thing. The main room was white, quite bland, bar the huge wall sized one way mirror infront of me. Very KGB!!
I waited my the equally huge, and high, glass protected reception area. Pressing the buzzer did little, so I remained subdued and innocently smiled at the one way mirror. Finally a skinny youthful Iranian arrived, and scowled at me. I requested a tourist Visa, and he continued scowling, I said please, and the scowl continues. Step 2, I mentioned my phone call to Sadi. The skinny Iranians eyes changed to suspicion now, so I told him Sadi had asked me to come in today. He submitted and shuffled off.
5 mins later Sadi appeared, as large pot bellied Iranian with a similar scowl, perhaps they have lessons for the scowl at Iranian Embassy school. A few formalities and passport checks later and he handed me a piece of paper with a local banks name and an account number on it. 55 dollars, it seemed needed to be deposited into it. So off I went. The police in Turkey are quite nice, and always pointed me in the right direction. I deposited the money into the Supreme Leaders personal account, got my receipt and headed back. Sadi took another hour, but finally appeared with my passport, inside a yellowish sticker with my 30 day visa written on it.
I gleamed at him in that stupid way one does when you just got something you know is not easy to do. “Yeah, I am going to Iran!!” I spluttered.
For the first time Sadi smiled, “Yes you are, well done.”
At this time I felt the courage to ask if I could use the Iranian embassies toilet too, before I left. I was also granted this privilege.
Next stop my embassy, this took an hour to find, all with the help of bus drivers and frantic looking flower salesmen. Upon arrival I was glad to see only a secretary. And 30 mins later I walked out with a Letter of Introduction for Pakistan and India. And also the knowledge that an Ankara Taxi would only charge about 2 Euro to take me anywhere.
The rain was seriously falling now, and I was quite wet as the Taxi let me off at the Pakistan Embassy. Here things changed and I was eyed suspiciously by all guards and even had a little Pakistani man chasing after me as I walked around the back of the embassy looking for the visa section, which I did find to my horror.
The tiny little room was overflowing with what I can only describe as Pakistani refugees. Tall skinny Asian men wrapped in thick brown blankets were all tightly packed together, with the seriously heavy warm smell of damn human enveloping all. My mind blindly flashed on the idea that this is what Pakistan might be like as I squeezed in. I was tanned after the Turkish sun, so aside from the lack of blanket or smell blended in quite well. Naturally People took no notice of me as they all bustled around the visa counter, so I did what any self respecting person would do. I put on my finest British Accent and announced my arrival and request for a visa.
It was like Moses at the red sea (hey its in the Koran too), the group by the counter parted in two. Bright eyes stared at me from behind scarf covered faces as I walked through the crowd towards the counter, rain water dripping from my coat. The visa man grunted as I greeted and requested a Visa. I barrage of questions followed, to which I had all the answers and pieces of paper.
Unfortunately I did not remember the person I had spoken to on the phone’s name, and was told to come back tomorrow. My plea’s of living 5 hours away fell on deaf ears, and I knew the argument would be fruitless. So I made a point in asking for who I should see the next time. It was an older gent in the background, so I gave him a big goofy wave so he would remember me.
I think I panicked security a the Bus terminal in my quest to find a bus back to Goreme, but again all were helpful though they did put me on the wrong bus at one stage. 5 hours later and I was back in Goreme by 11pm that evening. Very wet, very tired, but still buzzing over that sticker in my passport.
I let 2 days pass before heading back to Ankara. The Pakistani Embassy was less crowed now, and took all my documents and I did another bank deposit for General Musharf’s pension fund. The same fat bloke said I could come back at 4pm. It was a chance as the bus left at 5pm. I nodded and headed out for a day in Ankara. I searched for a bookstore, and found only English teaching stores. But did enjoy Burger King Turkish style and then the sunshine as it beat down on the large westernized city. Walking, and window shopping in the heat.., I was not prepared… Friction burns returned…. not good.
By 3.30pm I was back at the Embassy, this time having a chat with the Soldiers outside as by now they wee curious about the westerner who keeps showing up at their embassy. Nice chaps who offered me tea and chocolate. Inside I was greeted by fat Pakistani removing two Koreans with visa denials. I nodded to him and sat obediently in the corner until I was summoned… bollox, if I get denied it means Afganistan here i come…
“No visa,” he spluttered, I cringed and began to think of who else to ask for as he continued “come back tomorrow.”
Hope! Apparently the Ambassador was away until then. I smiled politely and headed out. What to do now? Stay in Anakara was the best option. But by now the pain on my thighs was agonizing. It was rush hour and the traffic was heavy. No option to walk to find a cheap hotel.
I can say now this was one of the most painful things I have had to do for years. My thighs were burning like they were being rubbed raw by razors with each step, I was truly in agony. So much so, I stopped at a chemist for bandages and then a clothing store on the way to a hotel to buy new combats and to stay still for a while. The soft new fabric worked a trick with the bandages. I found a hotel for 17 Euro, and settled in for a night of TV and giant take away kebab, but was soon asleep.
I spent most of the day sitting in the park reading. But did head off to the Indian Embassy to get all the necessary paper work. I was hoping they would also take an application today, but it seemed bureaucratic bullshit reigned here too and I would have to come back after the weekend as Friday was a holy day… utter bullshit. India = Hindu majority = Friday holiday: Pakistan = Muslim majority = work on Friday… my first taste of Indian logic.
I sat with the soldiers again, and was asked the usual questions on how much everything cost in Europe, and ate more chocolate with them. By 4pm I was inside, and much like yesterday fat Pakistan visa man was removing a Japanese lady from his office, this time telling her to come back tomorrow. And again I sat like an obedient school boy in the corner, only this time he glared and did a slight head wobble at me as I nodded to him. Was this a good sign, the head wobble?
I was soon beckoned to come to the desk where upon he handed me my passport with a green and dark black visa for Pakistan stuck into it. I grinned, and said. ” I guess I am going to Pakistan, Inshalla!”
Visa man actually smiled, “Inshalla”.
I headed back to Goreme on the night bus, and again I was put on the wrong bus. But this time I had the double pleasure of randomly taking out my passport to look at the two illusive visas sitting in them. Only India remained, and that should have been he easiest to obtain. Only now Turkey had just declared war on the Kurds in Iraq…
The weekend was quiet in Goreme. Most of us simply watched the Turkish news as it was set up with better special effects than most war movies. Guns blazed and soldiers marched to music similar to Rambo or Commando as tanks and airships sent rockets blasting into Kurdish mountains. The Turkish media certainly knows how to put on a show.
I was in Ankara again, this time to deliver my passport to the Indian Embassy, a nice place, with lots of security regulations, and no security personnel. Only the happy Visa man was far too worried about me being in Turkey without a passport for 5 days. Apparently he felt Islamabad would be a better place to get the Indian visa as Turkey was going to war. . . Why?!! Why?? Would Islamabad be safer??
I mumbled a lie about not liking Pakistan and not wanting to stay there as I was told it was dangerous there. His headed started to wobble… ( I have to figure this head wobble thing out). He phoned the deputy commissioner for advice. Then wobbled at me again saying something about security in Turkey, I lied again and said I stayed at a 5 start hotel with much security, and then tried a head wobble back at him. He wobbled back at me, and I felt a connection. Two minutes and 55 dollars later I was walking out of the embassy with a promise of a visa in 5 days that kept me content on my bus trip back that night.
During this time Turkey was of course on full scale military alert it seemed and I was soon helping out at the hostel as the final Fez bus drove in. Only this time there was one small ray of hope. Wendy, a western Japanese girl had hitched a ride with the bus at some stage. And we spent a few days going around Goreme with her. She reminded me of the Silly and it was quite difficult sometimes. We watched the Hot air balloons one evening as they gracefully hovered above the Goreme Valley during a sunset from one of the surrounding hills. It was here I also saw my first “Moon Rise”. I never thought there was such a thing, but as we were joined by a couple of local dogs and Carl and American from our hostel I sat and enjoyed the wonderful spectacle. We then pledged the next morning to do the sunrise too.
And so it was at a dark cold 6am Wendy, Carl, our two dog friends and I climbed up to watch the sunrise. In the mountain blackness we saw yellow lights flicker, and the distant coarse bellowing of flames in the valley. Golden colors gently peaked the mountains and caressed us with the tantalizing sights of 21 hot air balloons slowly rising from rest to the line the wide canyon they disembarked from.
I headed up to Ankara for the final visa trip and collected my Indian Visa without incident, though they did only give me a two month multiple entry. Still That was it, I had done it. I had scored all three visas in a matter of 2 weeks. I had met others during my 3 weeks in Goreme and en route, all of whom had either failed or been refused one of the Visas. Call it, divine help, craftiness, timing, planning or sheer luck, but I had done it. I was going to India for sure, that is if I made it through Pakistan. But next what awaited me was George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil”. . . Iran here I come…
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