Friday, 7 September 2007

Day 7 Leaving Istanbul and the drive East

We awoke at 9, apparently Osman was accustomed to sleeping in till 12 so was slightly puzzelled by our desire to get up so early but we explained that we had to get moving. There was a small balcony looking out into the street from the living room and John was out looking around at the street. We were all slightly surprised when Osman came in and instantly looked worried ordering John back in immediately. Apparently we shouldn't have been there and he didn't want the neighbours to see us because they would tell his Uncle. He was quite keen for us to leave and told us he couldn't go with us because we must not be seen together. So we said our thanks and left heading back into the centre making a quick stop to have breakfast and sort out some money.

We left Istanbul about 10 and drove out fo the city of the bridge separating Europe and Asia. It was a weird sensation to know you would never drive the SJ in Europe ever again and this was our first major milestone on the rally. We had a few issues gettin out of the sity, there was a toll to get through and everyone was using a specific card which you had to buy, we didn't have one and ended up stuck in front of a barrier with half of Turkey behind us beeping away. In the end someone got out their car, ran over and swiped their card for both of us. We waved our thanks while driving off rather hastily.

We were getting short on time, our impending 5 day visas for Turkmenistan were approaching fast and we still had to cover Georgia, Azerbaijan and get across the Caspian Sea which was several days drive away. Our car was still over heating and we had a few unscheduled stops due to steam occasionally billowing out the bonnet. We drove for several hours, the landscape getting much more mountainous until we found a collection of garages in the middle of no where. There was a row of about ten of them, no idea how they stayed in business with the competition. The AX's exhaust was getting very low and needed some emergency welding so we both pulled in for running repairs. We got our thermostat seal redone and our front and rear differentials and gearbox fluid levels filled up, something we had needed doing since buying the car. They also filled up our brake fluid extinguishing a warning light which had been on for the last 3000 miles. There seemed to be an army of people crowding round the car all very interested in the crazy driving foreigners. We were served several rounds of tea, which came in a small class and with lots of sugar. It was oddly refreshing despite the extremely hot sun beaming down on us. 2 hours later, and 20 dollars a piece for each of the cars and we were on our way.

We drove all day and again into the night stopping around 9, we pulled off the main road down a track which lead through a small village. As we drove through we saw peeping faces through net curtains and blinds obviously slightly puzzled by the sounds of our cars and headlights at this time of night. We drove a little bit further so to be out of sight and camped up on a flat area next to the river. We had just go tour tents up and begun boiling water for dinner when a vehicle appeared making its way don the track. As it approached blue and red lights began flashing form the roof. It pulled to a stop by the cars and four solders jumped out, one of them brandishing an AK47. They rounded us up and tried to talk to us but non of them spoke English. We tried to explain what we were doing without appearing too hostile. One of them was on his phone and obviously trying to find some English. He came back and said "Here, dangerous. You come with us."

We didn't know quite what he meant but we were going to do what they said either way. We packed the enitre camp site up in record time literally stuffing it in the car. We then jumped in, and set off following the solders. They kept their flashing lights on and lead back intot he small village. It turned out that they had two of the villagers in their car who must have called them down, they dropped them off here to join the rest of the village population who had come out to witness our removal.

We reached the main road and turned in the direction of the next town. It wasnt long before our convoy was causing a bit of a hold up with a line of cars behind us. Then to our amazement cars began overtaking 3 car long presession despite the army vehicle still having its flashing lights on. Soon car after car were streaming past us, it was pitch black on this winding road but that wasn't stopping them. And then inevitable happened, a car which was just passing the army vehicle was forced to swerve in to avoid an oncoming car, the army vehicle had nowhere to go but off the side of the road in the gravel, we watched in horror as the events unfolded before us. The soldier driving was quick to act and kept it on the road, immediately the sirens came on and he accelerated after the overtaking car. Slightly Bewidlered we knew what to do straight away and the SJ's accelerator peddle was slammed to the floor, unfortunately Suzuki hadn't designed the SJ410 with high speed pursuits in mind and it made absolutely no difference. The army vehicle was driving off and leaving us, luckily for us the overtaking car had no intention of stopping and was soon out sight. The army vehicle then dropped back and picked us up again.

We drove to the next town where the soldiers made a quick stop at a shop and then they took us to a camp site. It turned out that they had bought some Coke, nuts and mosquito spray for us so when we stopped we had a drink together over a chat about anything we could communicate with hand jestures. They all seemed really friendly and interested in the rally. They finished their drinks and left abruptly telling us that here was "No dangerous" and they would be back in the morning to check on us.
It still remained a mystery as to why we had been moved and the 'danger' that they spoke of. Either way we set up camp, had a few beers and went to bed.

No comments: