5am, the usual waking time, one hour after the loud wailing summoning us to pray. I risk sliding my nose out from the torn bed sheets to sample the day. That tells me 2 things. Firstly the hole-in-the-ground toilet does not have an S-bend so all the fragrance of the last 100 years of ablutioning is unrestricted and floats to meet me. Secondly the chill air tells me of a noticeable drop in temperature. My nose warns the rest of my body it is not safe to venture forth.
Despite the two warnings I go about the usual routine that I have established and prepare for another day riding into the sun, east in the footsteps of Marco Polo. Except today there is no sun.
I go out to the row of bikes in front of our accommodation. A light snowfall begins. I go back in and put on a further layer of Icebreaker – today will be cool. My nose had predicted the furore accurately.
The snow becomes a heavy fall and soon 2cm covers all parts of my bike. I think of two things. My bum will be cold and that my high susceptibility to gravity could be tested as 2 wheels and ice are not a good mix.
The sun breaks through after a delay of some hours-giving me time to apply another layer. I have no intention of freezing my valuable appendages.
The sun shines on the snow covered green hills that grow to dramatic mountains.
Traffic is something we need to watch especially carefully. Like in any country it is important to get the feel of how the traffic behaves and adapt to it. Trying to re-educate all Turkeys drivers to my style is probably futile in the time I have available.
Special things to watch are:
- There are no fences as the opportunity value of labour to watch the flock is less than the capital cost of fencing
- Potholes appear around corners, leap out from the side of the road and catch the inattentive rider-offering them a shortcut to China-our destination.
- Trucks are often severely overloaded and demand both sides of the road at times.
The roads we take are not the main routes for they are far less likely to show us the real Turkey, also after 2 years of research we have developed the hypothesis that Mr Polo did not get to China on an Autobahn.
We stop at Agri, a town clearly proud of its reputation of being the most drab place on earth. It obviously does everything in its power to ensure it does not loose its title. I try hard to find some redeeming features of this place. The thieving little Kurdish children, the spitting at us, and the fact that they pushed one of our bikes over results in me failing. It is a crap town.
Being a person quick to read that I am not welcome and fed up with money being demanded of me by everyone I decide to leave this place to the Kurds.
We head to the border with Iran down straight roads and from the end of one of these slowly emerges Mt Ararat, famous for having ensnared the anchor of an Ark.
My mind wanders as to the probable size of the vessel and as to why Mr. Noah determined that it would be in the interests of mankind to save blowflies. Stupid man.
The mountain surrounds itself with a nuclear cloud but otherwise acts as a beacon as we approach the border to leave one race of people and meet with a new one. I leave Turkey with very positive memories, slightly diluted by the days experiences in its North East corner.