overland-underwater.com - A charity drive from the UK to New Zealand
Pic of the week: (previous - fav video clip)
Pic of the week
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

Our 97,000,000 TL kebab...!

Written by Alex Towns. Uploaded 9 January 2006.

Turkey, Country 9 (revisited), Diary entry 28th Oct - 1st Nov 2005, Total distance in Turkey (heading east): 1284 KM

With the ferry docking we said our farewells to the audience we’d entertained during the crossing and got back in the cars to push on for Diyarbakir. I settled down to make best use of the travel time on decent roads and catch up on some of the dairy writing whilst Maz followed Martin. Before very long we were flagged down by a police man in the road, another laborious check of some description I assumed. However it transpired that we were actually being pulled over for speeding.

Not being 100% sure on the precise limit on this type of road in this bit of the country (remember that in seven days this was the forth country we’d entered, all with their own flavour of roads & traffic ‘laws’) we enquired as to what the limit should be. That’d be 100 km/h, no jeep 90 km/h chipped in another policeman… but car 100 km/h, it’s 90 no 100… whatever we’d been clocked at 110 and Martin 108, so they both agreed that telling us the actual legal limit was pointless and insisted on seeing our paperwork instead.

Not happy with the lack of police knowledge we insisted that we should be told the correct limit before handing over any documents so that at least we’d know if there was a next time. Meanwhile Maz was sat in one of the police cars watching Martin’s car on video to show he was speeding, whilst we were arguing the why’s and where fore’s, but getting nowhere fast. No one likes a speeding ticket and with our confidence bolstered from Egypt we tried our luck as best we could to wangle out of it. Surprisingly the fine itself was pretty expensive at 97,000,000 TL (about 45ukp) per car, so we thought we’d try as hard as possible to persuade them that we were simply ignorant tourists.

Another queue of trucks that we drive straight to the front

By this time the camera car had moved on, so Martin tried the “I didn’t see any proof of my car speeding” tack and insisted on seeing the video for himself. Another car had been stopped just before us and the son of the other naughty motorist was helping translate the finer points of our argument to the cops. We eventually handed over our Turkish car papers which were taken into the back of a small police van for our fine to be recorded in the ticket book and our paperwork written on to ensure that we couldn’t leave the country without paying at the border.

Well you know how time flies when you’re having fun… Maz & Martin were in full flow by now and appearing to love every minute..! Needless to say the camera car wasn’t about to put in a return appearance and so the conversation continued in circles and time ticked on by. At this stage I was well involved with negotiations and noticed another car being flagged down. The driver was obviously more rehearsed in the process of speeding tickets as he simply accompanied the policeman to the van where our paperwork had gone and in clear view out popped a 10,000,000 TL note (about 4ukp) to be offered to the cop.

I kept a beady eye on the proceedings as the cop hadn’t noticed I was seeing all that was going on. At the last minute I challenged the police as to why money was changing hands under the table…. Caught red handed. My, did that cause a kafuffle as they denied any bride was being paid. This of cause added fuel to our fire and actually made us pretty dam angry. Whilst the west of the country is proud of their steps towards joining the EU, the east seems to be left far behind in the conversation.

From here it was simple, “We want to talk to the chief of police”. Almost instantly any English that they had previously disappear entirely… strange that! And so the argument continued with the hours flying by. This was all taking place next to a military base and before long we had a couple of helpful soldiers acting as translators for the newly non-English speaking cops. One of the guys was back in Turkey from England, doing his military service.

We appeared to be getting nowhere fast, however by now the sun was slowly setting and being ramadam that means brekkie was fast approaching for the cops, who were starting to show signs of agitation as they realised they couldn’t leave to eat whilst the argument continued. Realising the chink in their armour, we persisted. They therefore agreed to take us to ‘Chef’, but first via some food. It was progress at least.

We followed them towards town speeding through signs for 50 km/h at more like 80 km/h, but apparently that doesn’t apply when hungry! With a quick stop for food at a roadside truckers café, where we politely declined their offers to join them, we continued to town and ended up in a lay-by outside a large building that appeared to have police milling in and out. Surprisingly there too was the camera car and Martin finally managed to see the footage of himself doing 108 km/h!

However in the forefront of our minds now was the bribing we’d seen rather than the speeding ticket. So where was ‘Chef’. Asking the question the only reply we got from the group of cops was that they were now all off duty. Quicker than we could prevent it they all jumped into respective cars and disappeared. Trying the guard at the gate to the building, we realised that this actually wasn’t the police station that we’d asked to be taken to… they’d basically left us in the middle of nowhere and done a runner!

Far from impressed and with none of the uniformed police willing to assist, this was basically the final straw and caused for drastic measures. There was a constant flow of traffic driving along the dual carriageway through town, so in protest we moved the Land Cruisers side by side onto the road and stopped… chaos prevailed. Within seconds we had a crowd spilling out of the stopped traffic threatening to call the police (which we wanted), rocking the Land Cruiser, videoing our protest and one chap getting quite aggressive – talk about an instant reaction..!

Of course now the police had to do something and we were assured ‘Chef’ was on his way. Not wanting to find ourselves lynched we agreed to pull the cars to the side of the road again and waited for his arrival. Soon we had a growing collection of officials along with a collection of kids who were keen to practice their English. We’d been given some pens from a family friend of Maz’s to hand out as he runs a children’s website www.timeforcitizenship.org, with competitions and question forums for children from all around the world, so Maz entertained herself by handing these out and talking to the kids.

Children happy with their new Time For Citizenship pens

Eventually ‘Chef’ turned up with a translator and we started recognising some of the cops in civvies that had stopped us in the first place, arriving and looking quite sheepish. We apologised for calling him out at this late hour and explained our predicament. The camera car arrived for the third time and we all watched our videos again (I thought asking for a copy for the website might be inappropriate at the time). We agreed that we had been speeding, but the matter now was the question of corruption.

This took a little longer to explain. We apparently had miss-understood the situation and the guy had indeed been given a ticket. Realising the roadside was no place for such conversations we were asked to follow them to the police station (which was actually about 500m down the road!). If a ticket had been issued then of course there should be the copy in the ticket book as there was for ours. We were then shown a copy of the ticket as proof, but we’d already seen this one and the time of issue and ticket number both preceded ours!

We highlighted this fact to the officials, but as if to prove they were right they’d already called up the chap to report to the police station! No surprises the chap with the son that helped translate, turned up looking quite worried. We extended our apologies to the poor chap and re-told the truth to ‘Chef’ and another superintendent that had joined us. This was the man stopped before us, the one afterwards of course had not been ticketed and when we’d rumbled them, he’d just been shooed away pronto.

With the lack of any actual proof it came down to our word against theirs. All agreed that another car had been stopped, but they persisted with showing us the preceding ticket. ‘Chef’ did however agree to investigate thoroughly and we believed that something was going to be done by just looking at the faces of the cops involved, you could tell they knew they were in for a b@ll@king one way or another.

They then bought up the issue of the protest road blocking and said that they’d received complaints from one of the motorists. We’d actually already explained and shook hands with said motorists before the officials turned up, but it made it easier to agree not to register a formal complaint about the alleged bribery and nothing further would come of the road block protest.

Dinner on the police

With the formalities now out of the way, conversation soon turned to why we were in Turkey. Interested in our expedition they asked where we were staying and if we’d eaten. Not originally expecting to stay so long in the area, we obviously had no plans. Dinner was to be taken care of and for safety they said we could camp in a police station just the other side of town. Yet again we followed a police car with lights flashing as they escorted us to dinner, strangely enough back to the same greasy spoon truckers café 12 km back out of town where we’d waited for the cops to eat their breakfast..!

With stomachs full to the brim with chicken and lamb kebabs (even we couldn’t eat 97,000,000 TL of kebabs each) it was definitely time for some sleep. Back into town and out the other side to our camp for the night. A bewildered guard with a very big dog, couldn’t quite grasp why we were there, but we managed to squeeze the two cars in next to each other and to a gathering audience erected the tents and climbed in for bed, the end of a very long day…zzz

Tucking into 97,000,000 TL of kebabs

Now that we were in Diyarbakir, we thought we may as well spend the morning having a look at the sights on offer. Firstly however, I needed to pop into Toyota to try and get a replacement power steering fluid reservoir as mine had been leaking since leaving the UK and getting gradually worse, making a mess under the bonnet. Toyota had kindly been pointed out by the police the night before so we soon arrived and I left Maz typing up a diary entry on the laptop whilst Martin and I went in to find spares.

Home for the night - the police station carpark

After talking with the customer service representative, she was most interested in the expedition and arranged a technician to look over the car. Chi was offered whilst they investigated the problem and they also offered us the use of their internet, making us feel most welcome. Land Cruisers of our elk aren’t that common in this area so any part we needed would need to come from Istanbul and obviously not be quick. The problem wasn’t terminal – I’d been living with it this long, so it was a just in case opportunity to fix it.

Once Chi was finished and we’d shown Toyota our website, we said our farewells and returned to the car. “Oh NO” exclaimed Maz, who I thought was referring to the fact that the clouds for the first time in a long while were closing in. But no, she was referring to the glass everywhere from the passenger window which had been smashed in - BUGGER…! A quick look in showed the laptop was thankfully still in the foot well. Fortunately we strictly adhere to tethering the laptop with a wire cable to a secure point whenever it is out of the safe and on this occasion it had definitely paid off – how gutted would we have been if that had been nicked.

Unfortunately the oik did managed to get into the glove compartment and made off with enough stuff to give them a good haul. Toyota were surprised to see us again so soon and once we told them what had happened they were extremely embarrassed that something like that could happen quite literally on their forecourt where they have guards watching out! They then swung into action to sort things out and Tinfish was moved around the back to be hovered out – needless to say the glass was everywhere.

The experts get started on the window

Having already been told that spares for this car come from Istanbul, I didn’t hold out much luck of them having a window in stock, but they did have a piece of Perspex which could be made to fit. That would at least make the car secure. After the car had been cleaned, I was then taken around to the ‘autoglass’ shop, whilst Maz and Martin were left drinking chi and nibbling on biscuits.

The arrival of Tinfish at the autoglass shop caused quite a commotion with people appearing from everywhere to find out what was happening. They were horrified that something like this could happen in their town and they were all most apologetic – all of this conveyed with a mixture of sign language and minimal English. One chap even offered the window from his own Land Cruiser, but apart from the fact it was a slightly different model, I politely declined his extremely kind offer.

I felt like we were in safe hands and they soon set about fashioning a new window from the Perspex. The Turkish flyer that we’d had translated proved extremely useful in explaining why we were driving through Turkey to the assembled spectators. Before too long the craftsmen stood back to admire their work and I must say what a fine job they’d done too. Then it transpired that they’d also managed to track down the correct replacement window – but with a green tint rather than grey as are the other windows. Well of course beggars can’t be choosers and with it due to arrive first thing in the morning, along with the additional offer that they’d come in on their day off to fit it, I couldn’t ask for anymore.

The new glass window arrives..!

With hands shaken and re-shaken we headed back to Toyota to pick up the others, then after a spot of shopping and a bite of food we headed out of town to find camp for the night with rain threatening. This proved far harder than we had expected with very limited opportunities available. Almost when we thought nothing would materialise we eventually found a perfect spot – excellent, time for a beer before setting up camp.

It was starting to get a bit nippy in the evenings as we’d been heading north, so we thought tonight would be an excellent opportunity to try out our side awning which attached to the side of the car. Once camp was set up we poured ourselves a glass of champagne each that we’d been carry since leaving and started on dinner. With our entry into Iran imminent we had to do our best to polish off our alcohol supplies before crossing the border and thankfully we were up for the task.

Tonight was going to be a change from our regular pasta-chicken-veg dish and Martin donned the apron to prepare an excellent beef curry – yum. We’d also nearly perfected the art of cooking rice in the pressure cooker (quicker to save limited gas supplies), although depressurising it on the tail gate always makes a mess as the starchy steam covers everything! Clearing up after cooking is an obvious chore that we insist on doing almost as soon as we’ve eaten rather than leaving till later, so we can all sit down and relax afterwards. With the night air chilling considerably, washing up in luke warm water can be quite arduous with hands going numb by the time the dishes are all washed, dried and put away.

Local children watch us pass by

We snuggled up into bed as the first drops of rain started to fall. The rain continued throughout the night and by morning the ideal campsite that we’d found in the dry now resembled a muddy field! We’d not put away the side awning before bed and it now lay collapsed in the mud. Camping in the rain is never great fun for a weekend, knowing we have to live with it is quite hard work and the spirits drop when you wonder how on earth you’re going to get everything dry again. We packed away the wet tents and awning after a quick sponge down with a tent sponge. By now it looked like we were all wearing platform shoes as at least 2 inches of thick mud clung to the soles – nice.

With no time to loose to get back to the autoglass shop, we scraped shoes off as best we could and headed back down the muddy track to the road. Accelerating once on tarmac, mud flew everywhere and it was pretty obvious where we’d sneaked off to spend the night! At that stage I wondered why everything was blurry and remembered my glasses were still in the tent packed away – bugger. Seeing as though the tent folds back over onto the roof rack and it takes both of us to jump up n down to get it flat enough for the cover to go on, I had visions of a twisted crunched mess – and I’d just had the lenses changed when Maz flew back from the UK whilst in Egypt. Tout suite the tent was opened again and remarkably an unscathed pair of glasses were recovered – phew!

Drying out the tent & awning

Once we’d relocated autoglass on our own (after a few attempts) there was little sign of activity. I needn’t have worried though as slowly familiar faces started to appear. Whilst we were going to be parked up for awhile and the rain had stopped, we took the opportunity to open up the tent and unpack the awning to let it dry out a bit. Maz also occupied herself bent over a bucket scrubbing shoes. With the car all opened up and kit out, there was renewed interest in all our accessories and gadgets with cameras and phones snapping pictures. I even got an offer to swap the car for a much newer Land Cruiser Prado!

Needing to report our break in to the Police, Maz and Martin went off to start those proceedings whilst I looked on drinking chi as they set about changing the window. In no time at all the Perspex was out and the new window in place – perfect. It’s amazing how helpful these guys were, which left us with a real ‘sweet n sour’ flavour for the town. Before too long Maz and Martin returned and after getting the run around at one police station they’d finally obtained the appropriate police report – sorted. Feeling as though it was now time to leave, we topped up our water supplies from the autoglass chaps and said a huge number of goodbyes, then set off to leave our colourful experiences in Diyarbakir behind.

Lake Van by day

With a deadline to enter Iran on the 1st November, we now had little time remaining to cover the distance and take in the sights, so unfortunately it was now a simple drive to the border. Simple that was until a gaggle of turkey’s tried crossing the road – right in front of Martin. We saw him swerve a few times to avoid most of them, but alas one poor turkey got hit by his rear wheel - with Christmas still a few months away we didn't stop - however we've already clipped Martin around the ear for his comment "I got a turkey in Turkey!" It was dark by the time we were driving along the shores of Lake Van, keeping eyes peeled for a place to camp to no avail. Soon we arrived in Van and decided to stop for a quick evening meal – easier said than done.

I never thought finding a kebab in Turkey would be such hard work! Although perfectly friendly, we were obviously an unusual sight in these parts and attracted the normal interest. After walking the streets with only two requirements – food then internet – we saw plenty of internet cafés but absolutely nowhere selling food! We resorted to asking a local and he led us through the streets, over ground trodden already, up some stairs then hey presto a restaurant! Chicken kebabs and beer all round, with only days before entering dry Iran we needed to up our daily intake!

We say goodbye to the sun

With internet all done we headed out of town and remarkably found ourselves a decent camp away from the road. It’s amazing how often we find a camp apparently in the midst of nowhere then stick up the tents, which signals every man and his dog (actually normally a pack of dogs all picking a scrap with one another and making themselves heard) to turn up. Sometimes I swear they even build a mosque during the night ready for the dawn call for prayers! On this occasion we saw a light and it was sometime before we convinced ourselves it was just a light from a house rather than a bike (or car with one headlight working) coming over to investigate.

In the morning there was a cool breeze blowing, but the sun was out and the hollow at the brow of a hill that we’d found made a pretty fine camp. Kind of exhausted from our previous few days experiences we decided to have a leisurely morning to get our heads back into it. We didn’t need reminding that it had been some four days since last having a shower and washing our hair, so even with the breeze blowing today would be wash day – yippee! It’s amazing how you adapt to life on the road, but even for us four days was a looong time to go between showers.

Wash day - at last :o)

Rummaging about in the back I extracted the shower curtain I’d picked up cheap in the states one visit, which would make an ideal wind break. With the engine running to heat up the water, it was time to take the plunge. Using the shower is somewhat of an art. You need to conserve the precious water supply so it needs to be continually turned off at the head between splashes, which in turn stops the water flowing and lets it super heat in the heater matrix. The next time you turn the water on for a splash you get a bit of luke warm followed by a burst of scalding hot until it settles back down to luke warm. Tricky, but to us it was like the best steaming hot power shower money can buy – lush..!

A beautiful little waterfall we stopped by

Suitably refreshed we plodded on for the border town of Dogubayazit and got excited as we hit the trips highest road so far at 2660m. Needless to say the outside temperatures reflected the altitude and we were fast realising that we definitely weren’t ready for the cold, as naively we hadn’t expected it this early on in the trip. Only about eleven days ago we’d been back in Egypt with temperatures in the high 30’s!

Dogubayazit has a definite ‘wild west’ (or east in this geography) feel to the town. With the snow topped Mt Ararat towering above the plains reaching 5165m it was the tallest mountain we’d seen so far. Many people come here (normally in the summer) hunting for Noah’s Arc, which according to legend Mt Ararat is the place they landed when the waters receded. Being late already we had no time to join in the hunt, but found a deserted guest house that was happy for us to camp outside. They offered us rooms, but after taking one look our own beds were infinitely preferable. We had use of the wash facilities though – a peg needed with every visit!

Rugged scenery of eastern Turkey

After an afternoon spent catching up on the internet and an evening meal of further chicken and lamb kebabs (we were starting to look forward to the change in cuisine that the Lonely P promised as we entered Iran) we made our way back up the hill to our lodgings. This was really the first introduction to how this part of the world deals with the cold. Basically they don’t! Any thoughts of a roaring log fire or even the simplest fan heater were dashed away, most of the time they don’t even close the door! With winter woollies and hats now dug out of the depths of the car, we huddled around a table in the dinning room of the guesthouse savouring our last few beers, as one of the locals who came up here to drink Arak, talked at us solidly for nearly 3 hours. Even Maz couldn’t do her normal trick of just getting up and walking away as there was no where to go!

I see no Ark

After an incredibly cold -3C night in the tents we were up and braving the washrooms and getting ready to cross into Iran, a mixture of nerves and excitement as we were now entering areas not often frequented by western travellers. With an interview for BBC Southern Counties finally arranged after countless emails and attempted calls on the Sat phone, we managed to link up and had a good chat with Ed Douglas the DJ from the Breakfast Show. We then drove the final few miles to the border, paid our speeding fines and were cleared out of Turkey.

And so onwards into the brave unknown with the Foreign Office advising against travel in Iran (but if you do come definitely avoid the Iran-Pakistan border for fear of bandits and kidnapping) and the newspapers talking of British involvement in car bombs, protests against the British in Tehran and the debate over Iran’s nuclear program escalating with the US sending strong signals, we crossed into Iran…

All content copyright © overland-underwater.com - please do not use without permission.

Comment from Pat Pitwood
All of us watching the news on BBC will be familiar with Dogubayazit as this is where the current outbreak of avian flu is and, sadly, children from there have died from it.

I hope you didn't handle the chicken before it was cooked!!

The Mother
09 Jan 2006 @ 18:01:15

Comment from Scooter
Guys, Maz, when whinging about the monotony of the daily travel and washing up in tepid water just remember us stay at home poor sods working our b-tts off in freezing temperatures and pouring rain, no sunlight, rotten pay, smelly nappies, blah, blah, blah - oh and a nice comfy warm bed every night ... well we could go on but anyhow keep it up we are with you, honest every step of the way. x M/H/E/W ;0)
09 Jan 2006 @ 21:42:38