overland-underwater.com - A charity drive from the UK to New Zealand
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Final Statistics: Alex & Maz Total distance: 93,550km
Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ Now settled in Sydney, Australia
Final Statistics: Martin Total distance: 79,698km
Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia Now settled in Bristol, UK

Heads Gonna Roll

Written by Martin Pitwood. Uploaded 7 January 2006.

Turkey, Country 9 (second pass), Diary entry 26-28 Oct 2005, Total distance in Turkey (second pass): ~1200km

Arriving at our third border crossing in a week we thought we were really getting into the swing of the customs procedures but no. Escaping Syria was straightforward and we crossed the no-man's-land to cross back into Turkey, where there was a tiny booth with a computer terminal which I didn't notice and sailed straight past. I thought I heard a shout so I stopped the car and looked back but nobody was beckoning me back so onwards I went.

Mount NemrutThis being the same border crossing we'd used on our way south, we knew roughly what to expect - one single police office with two windows, one for incoming travellers and one for outgoing, manned by three police officers, one for each window plus one sitting there supervising, presumably. It seemed to us he was doing nothing at all. More stamps added to the passport, our visas from the previous pass through were still valid, and out to customs control who wanted to examine our cars in some detail. Strangely while this was happening there was some commotion by one of the other cars - there was a mass of customs officials crowding round a pile of bags of white powder which had been removed from the car, and one of which had burst open all over the ground. Was this a training exercise or a real drugs bust? I couldn't work it out for sure, but I did see one of the officials surreptitiously stuff one of the bags inside the waistband of his trousers. Perhaps he just liked a lot of sugar in his tea?

Mount NemrutAnyway the fuss died down and our car details were entered into our passports so that we couldn't leave the country without them, and strangely a rubber stamp with some words in Turkish that we had to sign... we hadn't had to do this on our first entry to Turkey so I was a little apprehensive; we're told they say "nothing to declare" but since really it could have said anything at all, I scribbled something to the effect of "no English translation available" before signing. Nice mess made of my passport, which by this time was starting to look quite impressive with all the stamps and visas!

We drove on to the final gate before leaving the secure area where I was told there was a "big problem"... after much Turkish was heatedly spoken, of which of course I didn't understand a word, a helpful chap explained I'd missed out a stage of the process and I had to go all the way back to the very first little hut I'd driven straight past. The procedure there consisted of typing my registration number into the computer and checking the name came up the same as in my passport, nothing more. An essential step and fool of me to miss it I suppose. I drove back past customs without stopping (so I can now see a little loophole in their security, nobody gave me a second glance), back to the exit gate, thank yous to the helpful chap and through the gate into Turkey.

Mount NemrutSo finally through the border we made our way to Kilis, where we had found internet on our previous way through, and more importantly we'd found the baklava shops - we're still thinking of you Nejdet! Unfortunately we discovered a bit of a problem with the main course before the baklava dessert... because of the avian flu epidemic making its way round the region, the "elephant's leg on a stick" type of kebab was temporarily prohibited so we had to content ourselves with some small skewer type kebabs which had had most of the juices cooked out of them. Still, we managed to make amends by finding a shop selling particularly gooey baklava (they even ladled an extra load of honey onto the top just to fill the gaps in the box!) and made our way to the internet cafe to catch up on our work.

After a bush camp in the fields nearby, very close to what in the morning looked very much like a big pile of manure, we made our way to Gaziantep and being the first place where we weren't in a mad panic to get somewhere, I decided to get the tyre fixed that had let me down a few days before by the Dead Sea in Jordan. The failure was one of the valves, and since I'd already had one fail before I decided to replace all the others - a good idea to remove the weak point an all went well until the mechanic was tightening up the nuts on the final wheel and sheared off one of the studs! You can imagine I wasn't too impressed by this, especially when he protested that it's not a problem, I still had 5 left so why was I worried? Eventually after much protestation from myself and from Alex he reluctantly went off on his scooter and found someone to take a look, we rolled the car round the corner to the other chap's workshop and wasted a couple of hours while he took the car to bits and replaced the stud (thankfully we were carrying spares!).

Mount NemrutThe morning wasted, and after a lengthy exploration of the town looking for an ATM to replace the cash I'd just had to shell out, we headed on for one of the highlights of eastern Turkey - Mount Nemrut. Following the map in the Lonely Planet guide took us to a dead end - there was a big lake blocking our way - but fortunately we discovered there was a ferry service, it was running and it was big enough to take our cars.

The ferry journey was very pleasant, and once again we and our cars were the centre of attention, for the start of the trip only though - the trip turned into a sunset cruise and still being Ramadan, the moment the sun disappeared, so did all the passengers disappear into the depths of the boat for their sunset breakfast. We think the captain stayed at his post but we're not sure, and certainly nobody was in a hurry to get their lorries out of our way to let us get our cars off the boat!

Another hour drive after the ferry and we climbed a long way up into the mountains looking for somewhere to camp. We found what looked like a perfect spot about 1km before the entrance to the site, down a rough abandoned looking dirt track. We could see the occasional car go past on the road if we stood on the roof and looked, so in the morning our tents would be visible to anyone with a good eye for a green canvas tent in the woods, but we thought it was unlikely we'd be disturbed. Unfortunately the police did find us, and more annoyingly they found us just about 10 minutes after we'd turned in for the night! None of us were impressed but it was soon obvious they weren't going to let us stay there but they did let us camp in their car park. Once again we had a bit of a bemused looking audience (armed) as we dragged ourselves out of our tents, brushed our teeth etc. as we got up early the next morning to see Mount Nemrut.

Mount NemrutThe road from the entrance gate where we'd camped up to the top of the mountain seemed to go on forever as it climbed around 1000m altitude, so we had to take it nice and slowly otherwise the transmission overheats with all that weight, and the road surface was very poor as well, but we arrived at the top to find we were the only people there except for a chap wrapped up against the cold, taking the tickets and running the cafe.

Mount NemrutWe decided to hike the rest of the way up to the summit before sitting down for a cup of tea. On arriving at the top we were faced with one of the more bizarre monuments we've found. King Antiochos I of Kommagene, who ruled from 69 to 36 B.C., decided that the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere was a great place to build a load of statues, and subsequently an earthquake knocked them all down again. Subsequent restoration was unable to match the fallen heads to the remaining bodies so the end result is a mountain with many disembodied stone heads and some headless bodies. It only takes a few minutes to walk the path around the summit (the summit itself is loose gravel so cannot be climbed) but we stayed up there for well over an hour, trying to work out which goes with what.

Women washing carpetsConsidering that only two weeks previously we'd been in the heat of Egypt, we found it very cold at the top, especially as we were there so early in the morning, but I felt better when I found a patch of snow in the shaded side of the mountain and decided that it'd be worth freezing my hands a little more to make a snowball and chuck it at Alex. Unfortunately the Turkish snow must have been a different type to what I'm used to because its trajectory was not as expected and missed by a mile. We decided a better use of the snow would be to make a snowman. There wasn't much snow so it was a mini-snowman, but it was quite cute.

Alex had cleverly taken a photo of the ferry timetable so we knew we had time to spare to sit down for a nice warming cup of tea at the cafe before slowly rolling back down the mountain, and we made it back to the jetty with around ten minutes to spare, so we could watch the local women doing what they do: washing their carpets in the muddy water right next to the jetty, as the other Turkish drivers watched us do what we do: taking photos and videos of things that to them were pretty boring. A pleasant cruise back across the lake and we were on our way east again...

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