November 07, 2009 GMT
Land Of Contrasts



Turkey certainly is when it comes to its people.



We recently heard from John, our Australian aquaintance on his way home on his 250cc Honda.
He was robbed at gunpoint in central Turkey a couple of days after leaving us outside of Izmir.
We don't know what sort of robber it was, but it took place close to a police barracks. The villain was immediately apprehended, but it delayed John by a few days for all the legal processes.
What a difference to our time in Edremit!


We wuz almost robbed too. Then a day later one of us actually was robbed..... more later.


After departing Dalyan about twelve days ago we ended up in a campsite in the holiday resort of Kas. It had a most welcoming owner, and a full complement of most welcoming Turkish campers, who were there for Turkey's National Holiday weekend. They offered us various ingredients for our dinner as soon as Beau started cooking in the camp kitchen. Then they insisted we join them for dessert at one of their tables.
We learned they were a group of professional-types (university lecturers, engineers etc) from a hiking club in Aydin, near were John had actually left us for the road to Iran. They were walking sections of the Lycian Way and invited us to join them the next day.
There were two problems with that, they would be leaving to start their trek at 7am (an impossible task for us), and we wanted to continue our journey the next day anyway - Turkey is a big country to get across.
However, the next day was the start of a week of pretty awful weather right across Turkey - but not before a few of the Aydin Hiking Club, who were not walking that day, insisted we sit at their table for a full Turkish breakfast. After that the heavens opened, we abandoned thoughts of going further that day and were quietly relieved that we hadn't joined the hikers - our waterproof gear is meant for riding motorcycles, not walking, it's heavy!


At a break in the rain later in the day we set off, and found over the following week a series of very nice campsites all right at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. And some pretty wet weather that delayed us here and there.



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The Greek island of Megisti, photographed from the road rising out of Kas climbing up the coastal mountains.


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Tent and bikes a couple of feet from the waves of the Med, at the next campsite.



We met a Belgian couple on a BMW travelling the opposite direction to us who told us stories of floods and deluge up ahead, and the news on the TV in a campsite bar showed pictures of serious flooding and collapsed buildings in Istanbul.


A few more days of dodging the rain found us in Anamur, with tents pitched again right at the edge of the Med and the intention to take another photo to make you all envious. But the deluge restarted that night and well into the next day, not a chance of taking the camera out of its case. Battening down the hatches was the order of the day. It abated quite suddenly in the early afternoon but was followed immediately by a terrific gale of a wind blowing directly from the sea. The waves grew in size, rapidly pounding up the gently-shelving beach, heading for the tents. From the other direction a worried-looking campsite owner hurried towards us, and mainly in German exclaimed that, blown by this wind, the waves will indeed soon be tearing through our tents and we should move.
But by then the campsite was pretty well entirely water-logged, so at his suggestion we placed our tents in the bar area, being a large raised circular concrete floor with a substantial roof and no walls, open all the way round. Everything here, tables, chairs and other bar paraphenalia had been packed up and covered with plastic sheeting for the winter, so there was plenty of room for our tents under the roof.


Later as darkness fell the owner showed us the switch to turn on a flourescent tube above the tents, but electricity was not constant during this Mediterranean storm. The rain had returned, the wind stiffened, and the light flickered on and off like those in the nearby pancake cafe we had eaten in earlier.
The storm also seemed to control the mood of the owner. He was well into his 60s we think and since our arrival he had swung between being helpful to us, and bouts of cursing and shouting, at the rain, the water-logged ground, his dogs and sometimes, I think, his wife.
I don't think either of them were Turkish. He seemed to prefer talking in German even though he knew we understood neither that nor much Turkish. His wife looked like she was from somewhere quite a bit further south and east, maybe Iran or Georgia


Anyway, we had a sheltered night, the morning was sunny, so we prepared to leave. Funnily enough, the owner was in a foul mood, cursing the rain that had been blown into the bar area by the wind overnight, cursing his dogs again, and muttering in German about wanting extra money from us for the use of the light. But we didn't really understand.


With everything packed and ready to go we offered to pay, and discovered he did indeed want an extra ten lira for an evening's use of the flourescent light. That was 30% extra on the bill.
We checked our understanding of his German.
He shouted louder - an extra ten lira.
We checked to confirm it was for the light.
He shouted louder still - yes for the light.
He had the upper hand here, as he had our passports, but we checked and rechecked our understanding of his German, each time his blood pressure rising. So eventually we paid and received back our passports.


Then I invited him to the far side of the covered bar area where stood a full-blown engineering rotary saw table complete with all imaginable attachments.
The morning of the previous day this had been standing in a muddy patch of grass in the rain, and at a break in the downpour Mr. Elderly-Owner had asked, or rather in a most un-Turkish manner demanded, that the three of us help him drag it off the mud, lever it up onto a couple of planks of wood and thence onto the floor of the bar under the cover of its roof. It probably weighed a few hundredweight, over a hundred kilos in new-fangled measurements, requiring the use of six-foot long wooden posts by all four of us to lever it up. Nearby was a full-blown engineering pillar drill, under its own little shelter. The owner seemed to have a serious hobby of mechanics.


Now, after yesterday's huffing and puffing in the mud, the saw table stood in the dry under the roof of the bar.
I explained to Mr. Owner, in English, that the fee for the three of us for that removal job was ten lira. He immediately went half berserk, confirming his understanding of English, and refusing any such bill.
Together we explained that on non-payment, we'd return the table back to the muddy grass.
He went another quarter berserk.
He raised his fists.
Then he threatened to call the police, which was a godsend. We simply stepped over to the entrance of his mobile home, invited him in and asked him to do exactly that.
Caught off balance he picked up one of the six-foot poles and levelled it at us, whereupon I said never mind, we'll call the police ourselves.
Eventually his blood pressure must have reached danger level as we started to push the saw table towards the grass. He grabbed a ten-lira note from his pocket, thrust it at us and turned to shout abuse at every inanimate object he could see.
We made a dignified departure on our little motorbikes.
What a difference to our time in Edremit!


Not a very nice start to the day, but it could only get worse. We were aiming for the campsite in Adana, and at a petrol stop Caroline and Beau checked tyre pressures. All ok.
A while after that, following Beau, I thought maybe his rear tyre looks a tiny bit soft. But no, he's just checked it, it must be ok.
Entering Mercin a moped rider points at the back of Beau's bike while we wait at a red light. I assume he's asking "What country?"
"Englise!"
No, that wasn't want he asked so he points more closely at the wheel.
The lights change, we all move off and I pull round to the same side as the moped rider for a better look.
-Gulp! - Beau's rear tyre is alarmingly flat!


By the time we reach the air line at the next petrol station it virtually is flat. And just our luck, the airline has a leaking swivel joint that lets more air out than in unless you grip it at exactly the right angle.
On Beau's rear wheel, the nut on the valve stem is tight, and the stem leans at a crazy angle when we loosen it. Lastly, just to complete the picture, the nut on the security bolt is loose. Must programme in those daily pre-ride checks!
But we inflate the tyre good and hard, and it seems to be holding pressure.
We're a long way east here, on winter time, and it's dark by 5pm, which is by now pretty soon. So our only option is to find a hotel pretty quickly - unlit roads are full of potholes, invisible after sunset.


After a little while we strike lucky with a remarkably roomy place, full of the usual Turkish welcome and well-lit parking right outside the windows of the all-night reception. And Beau's tyre is still inflated.
And still the next morning also.
But the valve stem is at a serious angle which must be corrected. So the wheel comes off, let all the air out, completely loosen the security bolt, dislodge tyre bead and we fight a few rounds on the pavement with rim and tyre until the valve is vertical once again.
Bingo, the whole thing holds air ok. We conclude that when Beau checked the tyre pressure the day before, the valve did not reseat properly - not an unknown occurrence.


Beau packs away tools and stuff into panniers, which involves placing a bag and a jacket on the pavement to make room.
There are a lot of children around here mostly well-educated who find glee in practising their English on us. It's a bit distracting, and in an unguarded moment an opportunistic child or adult, we know not which, surreptitiously makes of with bag and jacket. A disaster for Beau as one contains his camera and, most seriously, his PhD work on a couple of memory sticks. The jacket had some tools in the pockets.
The hotel staff help out, call the police, and the long process of statements and crime reports commences. For this, Beau and Caroline are escorted to the local police station and an English teacher from a local school is brought in as interpreter. Turkish police take crime involving tourists very seriously so Beau and Caroline are whisked off to the District HQ for a personal audience with the Chief of Police. He's profoundly apologetic and explains they have a good record of recovering belongings stolen from tourists. All this takes many hours, so darkness has fallen by the time they return to the hotel where I have had a pleasant interlude with the friendly hotel cleaner.


He was determined to explain something of great importance to me and had many attempts at making a start, none of which I could understand in the slightest. He refused to give up and it was hard work, for me anyway. Eventually we made progress beyond the topic of 'England', managing to convey that he wanted to know what town I lived in. Then, do people keep budgerigars there? Do I have a budgerigar? Do budgerigars in England speak English?
Now progress speeded up. He keeps budgies. Using the hotel's computer, here's a budgerigar website on the internet. He teaches his budgerigars to speak Turkish. Here's a video on the internet showing two of his budgies conversing in Turkish. He has many budgies that he's very proud of. Here's another video of them chatting.
Lets have some tea.
Police reports always take a long time.
And so on. All with sign language, a few oft-repeated Turkish words and a few spare hours.
He finished with "It's time for me to go home now. Hope those two aren't too much longer. See you in the morning." (All sign language).


The next morning we departed for what we hoped would be our last overnight stop before entering Syria, sadly without Beau's camera and university work but at least with air in his tyre.
We'd been in Turkey a long while and it was time for the next country.




Posted by Ken Thomas at November 07, 2009 07:37 PM GMT
 


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