I couldn't believe my ears when I was told the day after the crash, that Grettle would be ready to roll the following morning for £125. I was told that if I wanted her many missing parts replaced, then I would have to wait a great deal longer, and pay a considerable amount more. Budget being what it is presently, a shocking £8 per day, I eagerly accepted the first option, and began to wonder what on earth she would look like. The hostel manager who had translated the conversation with the menders for me, informed me that 'She would not look pretty' and furthermore, she would 'Have no Torpedo'. Having been oblivious to the fact that Grettle ever had a 'Torpedo' in the first place, and never quite getting to the bottom of what exactly this was, I decided it was not something to worry about; as long as her little wheels turned, and her engine purred, I was good to go.
I arrived at the garage to see Grettle parked outside, ready as promised by 2pm. She did look rather retro it has to be said! Her front appeared to have been hammered back into shape, the exposed wires wound in electric tape, and by some stroke of genius, the same tire that had been under the van, had been straightened out, and was alive and kicking! There was no glass over the lights but they flashed fine, no front guard, very little foot rest, and a key so bent, it was miraculous that it worked at all.
'Full test' the man demanded. I inspected Grettle closely, not entirely sure what I was suppose to be looking for, since I know very little about mechanics, and all of her parts were fairly smashed up as it was. I then hopped on board, and cautious of all the traffic whizzing by on the adjacent motorway, began to drive in small figures of eight on the pavement we were perched upon. The crowd of men watched this performance curiously, as I wobbled about, and attempted to maneuver through the many parked cars around us.
Eventually the man stood up, waved his hand at me impatiently, and repeated 'Full test'. Wondering what on earth else I could do on this tiny pavement, I followed his gaze to a near by motorbike. The young man on top of it, beckoned me to follow him. Before I knew what was happening, and with neither of us wearing helmets, we zoomed into the fast moving flow of traffic. I tried to keep up with his machine, which was now doing wheelies amidst the the chaotic rush of cars, hooting furiously and zigzagging over the road. Fully aware I was neither allowed on the motorway, nor wearing a helmet, and on top of it all, driving a bike which I had last seen crushed under a van, I have to admit I was rather relieved to make it back to the garage in one piece. On the up side, we had at least tested all that could possibly be tested it seemed; bends, brakes, acceleration, indicators and the lot.
'Super!' I exclaimed, smiling broadly, and hoping he was now satisfied with my 'Full test'. He shook my hand and I gave him the 500 lira. The man had truly worked wonders, and we sat and had a coffee together whilst my bags, clothes, and general bits and pieces, that I had left with him after the crash, were retrieved from the garage.
Driving in Turkey was both an amusing, and a terrifying experience; the people were so curious and friendly, that it was impossible to drive down the motorway without entering into a conversation with almost anyone that drew up beside us. One full car-load of chaps began passing me their business cards through the window, and another, driving a bike piled high with boxes, kept attempting to stop the other traffic to allow room for Grettle and I to drive by the side of his delivery bike, in order to continue our nonsensical conversation.
I finally arrived at the hostel, and settled down on the roof top terrace sofa, to finish off some sketches for mum's exhibition in June, which I planned to send home in a parcel the following day. I was soon retrieved from my snug spot, to be told that my friend had arrived. Curious as to who my friend was, I followed the manager down stairs to find Chris; the other mad Brit, driving by a motorbike from England to India, We had arranged to meet at some point in Istanbul, sort out a few visas together, and possibly join up for a leg of the trip. He was very jolly and we exchanged some amusing stories from our separate adventures over a brew or two on the roof top. The sight of The Yellow Peril, next to Grettle was most amusing, a fabulous colour combination of lemon yellow, and pistachio green, the two bikes looked quite ridiculous; one could have fit at least 4 of Grettle's wheels into his one
We managed to sort out the Tajikistan visa in one day, and in applying for the Uzbekistan visa, were told it would take 10 days to process, at which point we decided it would best best to pick it up in Baku, Azerbaijan, which was apparently a possibility. Estimating it would probably take at least 10 days to get to Baku, this in every way was ideal, and so with two visas pretty much under the belt, we aimed to leave Istanbul a couple of days later. Chris, myself, and a great German girl named Isobel, spent a happy few days in and around the hostel, puffing on shisha pipes, and transforming small cafe's into low lit disco rooms, waving fire sparklers about and and generally having a merry time.
I had refrained so far from visiting some of the main sights in Istanbul until the last day I was there. On finding out, it was not 30 pounds but 30 lira to see the Cistern, I immediately went to have a look around it. It was an absolutely splendid space under ground , and as I was weaving my way in and around the grand pillars that held the ancient building up, I was stopped by a guard who told me in hushed whispers that there was a documentary of some sort being shot behind him, so I couldn't go any further. The old English man behind me clearly misunderstood this reference to shooting, and replied furiously 'Shooting who?' The poor guard, who was trying desperately to keep voices to a minimum, began to explain no one was being shot, for his response only to fall on deaf ears, as the stubborn old man began to bellow louder still 'What? I said Shooting who?' I got a bad attack of the giggles at this point, and had to exit the scene, not wanting to disrupt the documentary any longer, the sounds of the old man still audible from where I now stood, echoing loudly off the the walls of the cistern.
I went on to have a look at the Aglia Sophia; again, an absolutely incredible work of craftsman ship; every inch painted in saturated colour, and marked with beautiful engravings. It had been a huge Christian Chuch, now transformed into a magnificent Mosque, and I spent long while walking around this fabulous building, enjoying the peace and quiet of it, after the hustle and bustle of outside.
My old leather panniers had been ripped in two during the crash, and one side of the bags had torn down the seam. I had no extra space anywhere on Grettle, who had now lost a lot of weight, and no longer had a glove box, so I set out to find either needle and thick thread, or someone who could do the job for me,. I came across an old man who polished shoes just outside the Blue Mosque, and he agreed kindly to take on the challenge, pulling out some thick thread from his golden set of brass drawers, and half an hour later, the panniers were ready to rumble. I spent the rest of the day trawling around the fabulous grand bizarre, where I tried to haggle for a particularly brilliant lighter. It took the form of a Lavatory, that when flushed, would spark a flame that lifted the loo seat and lit the cigarette; really rather marvellous I thought! After this, I picked up a few watercolour paints and pencils that I was running low on, had a wonder through the sensational spice markets, and generally got organised to hit the road once again.
The following day, I was to set off for the Black Sea coast line, and head for Georgia. I had little idea of the roads or the landscape in this part of the world, and little idea of the people. Chris was eager to head inland, and potentially had to travel back to Istanbul again a few days later, to sort out his visa for India, With itchy feet, having spent a long 10 days in the city by this point, and a desire to follow the back see coast line, we parted ways and agreed to try to meet later in the trip. This was not something I was planning on telling my mother, who was very worried about me travelling alone; being a blond haired and blue eyed English girl, travelling and camping through Eastern turkey alone, atop a beaten up green vespa, was not something many people advised, so I left the hostel a little anxious of what was to come.
The hostel owner advised against the route I had planned down the coast line, explaining that often 'there is not road' and that when there is road, they were so small, windy, and mountainous, that it would be better for me to follow the motorway in land towards Georgia. After my last horrific experience on the motorway, and dying to reach small, scenic, country paths, his warnings fell on deaf ears; for I could not think of anything worse than three days on Turkish motorways.
I reached the coast line and had a marvellous time scooting through lush landscape over high mountain passes. The weather was not quite so fabulous however, and as black clouds and wind began to mass and gather, I decided to find somewhere to camp. Although relieved that I was no longer passing warning signs for bears, I was still a little cautious of wild dogs, which were becoming more and more frequent. It appeared almost every house, and most fields with livestock, had a guard dog, so camping rough was getting a little more difficult. I decided I would ask a family If I could camp in their garden, and on arriving at a farm house, I hopped off Grettle, and carried out the usual sherrards act, pointing at the chicken paddock next door. I began barking, and then shaking my head, trying to decipher whether or not there were any dogs around. They looked at me as though I was a little mad, but got the gist about the camping, and led me to the family who's chicken paddock it belonged.
The father, mother, grandmother, and son, followed me out into the paddock where I got out my tent. They watched me curiously as I was setting it up, and it seemed, had never witnessed before, such a strange and amusing process, periodically pointing and giggling, as I fumbled around with the fabric. I drew out the final set of poles, only to find that the elastic cord had snapped in the crash. I tried to signal this to the family, who did not seem to understand that the pole was broken, and must have assumed that my efforts to thread the elastic back through the poles was simply part of the process of building my shelter. Instead, they continued to point at new patches of ground that I could put the tent, smiling happily. When they finally caught on that there was a problem however, they leapt into action.
The following hour was spent with the entire family trying different methods of fixing the tent. For a long while, we attempted to thread the cord back through the poles using wire, and tying knots where it had snapped. This failed dismally however, and so following a phone call made by the Father, the son ran off down the farm, to return five minutes later with a new elastic cord. It was exactly the correct width and length to fit the poles, and so we successfully completed our challenge, and put up the shelter at long last. At this point, the mother of the family insisted I must sleep in the guest room. Exhausted after the tent saga and rather longing for the peace and quiet of my shelter, but feeling too rude to decline her kind offer, I accepted, and was lead into the house.
There followed a huge feast of olives, cheese, egg, bread, delicious home cooked potato wedges, and a lot of Turkish tea to wash it all down with. We used the son's English-Turkish translation app on his phone to translate our conversations, since none of them spoke a word of English. One of the first things they asked was' Why are you doing this?' I replied 'Because I am a little mad'. They then asked 'Why does your family let you go?' I replied 'They are also a little mad'. I explained my mother was an artist, who sculpted 8 foot high hare-men doing gymnastics on hoops, my father was driving back from Scilly with many pots, and my brother was living and working in Sierra Leone. They found this all most amusing, and clearly had never heard anything like it before. They lead very different lives, and I imagine had never left their farm. The grandparents, parents, and children all lived in this one farm house, and it was rather lovely to observe their way of life. Everything was very clean, one always took off their shoes before entering the house, and each family member had their different roles around the farm They farmed cows and chickens as far as I could see, and had the sweetest little chicks, which were waddling around my deserted tent in the paddock.
I went to bed early, but was soon awoken by the entire family coming into my bed room and offering me chai (tea). They then noticed I was not wearing the pajamas they had left out for me, having collapsed into bed, still wearing my clothes. The big mumma of the family kept prodding me in my sleepy slumber, repeating 'pajama, pijama' rather manically, before feeling my forehead and patting my cheeks, perhaps worried I had a cold. After this ordeal had finally finished, the five family members departed my room and left me to sleep. I was very thank full about this as I was keen to wake early in the morning, having made little progress the day before.
They woke early especially, and insisted on cooking me breakfast before I left. Despite my attempts to offer help in the kitchen, the son directed me to the sitting room where we were to sit and watch television until the feast was ready, at which point it was wheeled in on a trolly, and the rest of the family came to join us, to sit down, and dig in. There were many photos and hugs before I left, and they told me how happy they were to have met me, and to make sure I came to visit them again,I assured them I would try, thanked them enormously for everything they had done, and bid them all farewell.