“All you need to know is that it’s possible.”
Appalachian Trail Quote
My journey started, as most journeys seem to do these days, with a great many warnings…. which seemed to be confirmed by the large placard which was sitting in the departure lounge!!
Nearly everyone who heard about my imminent departure, warned me of the dangers that could, and probably would occur to me in such a risky place; as they have been doing, if I remember rightly, since I first went to Turkey nearly 25 years ago!
Although I have heard bombs explode there, (only once) slept through earthquakes (a few) , lived on starvation rations, been involved in car accidents (several) and endured marriage with a muslim (only once), this particular foray into the near east, was, by comparison, plain sailing.
A road trip of more than two and a half thousand kilometres over three weeks in the spring of 2018, I started small, from the tiny airport closest to me, in County Kerry, Ireland.
My present home is a small country, flung out on the western coasts of Europe, next stop America, and from the picture above, it seems that my local airport is still under construction!
All proceeds smoothly however, and the next stop is Stansted, London… a comfortless stopover of 7 hours, waiting for my connection, and then on to Istanbul, a packed night flight with the lights on full blast and no air con.
In the stifling plane, I dose fitfully and dream of “air-rage” as I imagine that I am suffocating beneath layers of people. On arrival, there is another interminable wait, with half the world apparently trying to get through passport control at Sabiha Gokcen , and then its on to Ankara.
Ataturk‘s landlocked capitol hosts a tidy provincial airport, where I encounter that moment we all dread, the luggage carousel stops, and your bag has not appeared!. Luckily however, I am not alone in this, and I make a new friend, a Swedish Turk, who guides me to the other side of the airport in search of our “Transit” bags; he too has come on a multiple flight.
Eventually, all is recovered, I say goodbye to my brief friend, and board a bus, as I have been instructed, that I trust will take me to the center of Ankara, where Sam will be waiting for me….. who I had better introduce before I set off!….. here is Sam.
Sam and I go back a very long way…. pre-birth in fact . We don’t get together that often… but when we do, good things generally seem to happen. .
We share a similar quirky humour that may come from the fact that we grew up in the same village, (Rock, North Cornwall) with hard working mothers and confusing fathers, so we have a lifetime of highs and lows that we can refer to at any given time.
Sam also speaks fluent Turkish, which on this particular journey makes her the lynchpin that holds it all together, and although I know enough of the language to “scrape by”, I rely on Sam to lead the way.
Having arrived safely in Ankara, I am embraced, in true Turkish style like a long lost relative, by Sam’s “in-laws”, Metin & Hilmiya who I have not seen for nearly 25 years.
They are still the same; sound, hard working and eager to share what they have with me…. a foreigner who they actually barely know.
I am overwhelmed by their open smiling faces, and the generosity of their welcome…. as they remember me fondly from times past, and tell me that I haven’t changed a bit.
In truth, they themselves have not changed that much…. and I marvel at the speed with which a quarter of a century seems to have sped by, and I show them pictures of my children, tell them about my family and discuss, in my halting Turkish, what has happened since we last met.
I drink Ayran, which, after 24 hours of traveling, has never tasted so good, and the next morning I sit down with the family to a beautiful home cooked breakfast that features the most delicious fried peppers.
I sit there amongst old friends, and know that there is no place else that I would rather be right now.
The road is ahead of me and its good to be back.