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Post 59: Leaving Turkey


It had taken us much longer than anticipated to reach the port city of Trabzon in Turkey, though with hindsight probably no longer than it would take us to fulfil the procedures involved in leaving the country itself.

‘Police check, 10am, .. maybe 11am’, the ticket agent seemed unsure of the precise time but this seemed to matter little, ‘then Customs, …. Maybe 3pm’.
I asked why payment for the ticket had to be in US$ and not Turkish YTL and received no reply. I knew that we were probably being stung for money that we could afford to part with but we were already a couple of days behind schedule and this ‘Agent’ was our only hope of early exit to Russia. I asked for an official receipt in the hope that this would reduce the price but was met with the same smiling silence. It seems that when you have a monopoly on the only means of exit from a port, you charge whatever you feel your market can bear and manipulate your own currency conversion rates, …. But sadly not in Poor Circulations favour.

We waited, ….. and then waited some more. Our passports were taken to a man with a striking resemblance to Patrick Stewart who was having his shoes shined in the street outside. A heated debate took place before a rubber stamp was produced and the two passports duly stamped, … Exit Turkey, …... and then we waited some more.

Another fixer arrived, a colleague of the agent, beckoning us to follow him to destination unknown, but he was insistent and in a great hurry. The ‘Agent’ had suddenly decided that he spoke neither English nor Arabic and so we followed his lackey into the bonded area of the port. We were past from office to office and finally allowed to take both bikes and ourselves onto the dock for out rendezvous with the ‘Princess Victoria’. This ship was once an Algerian registered vessel but was now sailing under the flag of Cambodia, ….. and I’m sure this wasn’t for additional safety reasons, ….. P&O this ferry was not.

We waited some more, …. Crate after crate of oranges and tomatoes were loaded onto the ancient vessel until just enough space remained to ride the two Tigers on and to close the sea door behind us. There were no other vehicles on this car ferry, … what did others know that we didn’t?

After nine hours of pointless waiting and bureaucracy, on board the ferry we first met a group of about twenty Iranian tourists who took to us immediately and adopted us into their extended family. The women were fascinated by Alan’s amazing height and their men folk by the fact that an infidel could speak Arabic, ….. the greetings and questions were endless but the feeling of warmth and friendship was unmistakeable.

We then met Giya Balkvadze who is the five times national chess champion of Georgia, master of twenty languages and currently travelling back to Moscow where he lives with his family. Giya was fascinated by Poor Circulation and the causes that we were raising money for. Before leaving he presented us with $100 for the two charities and enough money to pay for our first two nights accommodation in Russia, …. Fantastic.

On a daily basis we are still amazed by the random generosity of total strangers and the fact that people everywhere have amazing attitudes towards the people of other nations. If only the politicians could adopt such attitudes then perhaps countries such as Iran might also have been on the Poor Circulation menu.

www.justgiving.com/geoffgthomas

1 comment:

Russia Travel said...

good luck!