That day, as I had reached a very rocky, sandy, mountain pass, the rain broke out once again. I was worried Grettle and I would skid over, so I stopped to take shelter under a little tree, beside a house. In noticing a gaggle of girls laughing and peering out of their window at me, I scooted a little further down the road, and stopped again.
I was trying to lift Grettle onto her stand, but I was on such a steep slope, and she was so heavy with all my bags, that I was finding this extremely tough. The rack that my top box sits on was coming loose, so I could no longer use this to heave her onto the stand, instead trying to lift her from her side wings. Every time I did, they would come loose, and I would have to thump them back into place, before beginning the whole process again. It was one of those tasks that should in all normal circumstances be incredibly easy, which made the whole ordeal most frustrating.
A police car appeared behind me a few moments later, and looked at me curiously. 'Problem?' they asked. 'No no, no problem, thank you' I replied, flushed in the face, and still attempting to heave Grettle on to her bloody stand. I mimed rain, and pointed at Grettle's wheels, trying to explain I had stopped until he rain had finished. This only seemed to make matters worse, and they became even more curious as to what I was doing, as I struggled to heave her back and forth.
They asked me where I was from, and were I was going. Frustration mounting, I replied impatiently 'England to Kyrgyzstan'. A big mistake; this had clearly tipped the balance, and they were now convinced I had some kind of problem. I decided to forget about the rain, and move on swiftly, I waved good bye to the two officers, and hopped on Grettle to go. They got back in their car, and not wanting them following me down the steep hill at snails pace, I signalled for them to go first. Eventually, and rather reluctantly, they did so.
I arrived in a small village half an hour later, and to my horror, saw the same two officers standing outside the local police station, waving their hands for me to stop. I pulled into the station, where they then asked for my passport and driving license. I gave this to them, and decided the only way to get out of this situation unscathed, was to be overly jovial, happy, and generally act the over-excited tourist. I asked them many questions whilst they examined my papers, such as their names, and how far exactly it was to Abana; the next town on my map. They asked me if I was travelling alone, and considering it would be better to say I had friends waiting for me, I told them my friends were in Abana, and I was on my way there to meet them, still smiling goofily. Finally smiles began to replace their concentrated frowns, and tea offerings put a stop to their passport examinations. I thought it best to accept, before finally being released, after words of warning about 'dangerous roads', and bad drivers. I nodded, relieved to be free from the clutches of the Turkish authorities, and set off for Abana in high spirits.
Having polished off the chocolate spread, and packets of jam from the hostel breakfast buffet in Istanbul, I stocked up in Abana with cheese and bread for the evenings camping, before hopping back on Grettle, and continuing my journey East. The scenery became more spectacular as I headed back towards the coast line, and searching again for a place to
camp, I followed a small cobbled path down a steep hill, to find a beautiful little cove, with a small café on its shore line. Three men sat around a small table overlooking the cove, beneath a canopy of flowers and leaves. The first could not have been more than a few years my senior, and looked rather monkey-like and cheeky, his name was Serda. The next, I later learned was 93, and sat puffing on a cigarette, wearing a large turban, and was an extraordinarily fantastic victim. And the last, resembled a friendly and caring father figure, named Touran, who I approached to ask if I could camp beside
Post Sherrard performance, he understood what I was trying to say, and nodded, but pointed instead to the other side of the bar, where there was already one large chamber tent. Certainly an upgrade from my little shelter; it hosted two large beds, bed-side tables, and electricity. He warned me of rain in the night, and offered me one of the deluxe beds. I refused his offer, not entirely sure who I might be sharing this cosy cabin with, and keen to spend the night doing my scrap book, and reading in peace.
Touran kindly insisted on raking the long grass where I wanted to pitch the tent, after which I set up, pleased to have found such an idyllic little cove. I looked out to sea, to see a couple, a baby perched upon the Father's knee, paddling around the bay, in a little pink dolphin boat. There was mellow Turkish music playing in the back ground, and other than the three men, not a soul in sight; It was really very magical.
I spent three happy days in the cove, was taken for frequent morning and evening star lit paddles in the dolphin boat, cooked delicious grilled fish and veg on the house every evening, scrumptious eggs ,feta and olives every morning, listened to Touran play some kind of Turkish guitar until the sun rose, drank racki; a deadly Turkish spirit, with Serda, and idled away my hours reading up on the Middle East, and sketching the fabulous victim.One afternoon, when my pack of cigarettes had run dry, and beer was calling, Serda and I set off in the Audi, which was parked next to Grettle, to the near by village. After a brew had gone down, I pointed at myself, and acted out taking the wheel. Serda looked a little nervous, pointed at me, and asked 'Chauffeur?' Yes, yes, I said excitedly, 'Me , chauffeur!' Rather reluctantly it has to be said, Serda agreed I would be 'Chauffeur'. So we changed seats, and I took the wheel. For a long while, I couldn't find the clutch, and thought it most bizarre that the car only had two peddles. Serda began to look a little more nervous, but in locating all three peddles at last, and giggling at the look of terror that had appeared across Serda's face, we began zigzagging down the winding coastal road.I could not Seem to get used to driving on the right, and had not driven a car for some time, no doubt the beer and pumping tunes playing from the stereo were not helping matters. So the joy-turned-terror ride, ground to a halt rather sooner than I had hoped, and the two of us swapped seats once again, before stopping a little further down the road, at a small cove. We sat on a bench over looking the baron, fierce, but beautiful black sea, to drink a beer together before heading home. During the drive back, I realized I didn’t have my wallet with me, Shock and horror struck, as I began to remember what was in it; passport, emergency money, visas, insurance, Grettle's registration papers; pretty much everything that I needed!
I was convinced that this must have happened whilst we had changed seats, and so referring to'Chauffeur', 'First change' and 'Second change', we retraced our drive, searching in the bushes for the small wallet. Serda made me promise I would give him a kiss on the cheek if the wallet was found, and considering this highly unlikely, I agreed. Hearts sinking as we continued to find no sign of it, Serda sensibly took into account the alcohol that had been drunk, considered perhaps my memory was failing me, and that it might have been left where we had sat for our brew.
As we rolled into the spot, a man shouted out something in Turkish. Serda pointed cheekily at his cheek, and I knew the wallet had been found. Overjoyed, I leapt over the gear stick, gave him a big kiss on the cheek, and we sped on to the police station, where it had been handed in. I walked into the office to see the entire contents of my purse spread over the officer's table. Not a dime had been taken, and we returned back to the cove in high spirits.
This little hiccup seemed to announce the beginning a little romance between Serda and I, which we had to keep rather hush-hush in returning to the cove, since father -figure, Touran, would certainly not approve (Serda mimed this by wagging his finger and wrinkling his nose). I nodded and we kept things on the low.
The next day, I announced my departure. It was so sad saying good bye, that Serda decided to join me for the next leg of my journey, following Grettle and I in the Audi, a couple of hundred kilometres up the coast line. We had a super road trip, played three fantastic games of ping-pong, and went out for a delicious supper, before Serda sadly had to return to work at the cove, and explain his absence, and the absence of the Audi no doubt, to the disapproving father-figure.
So on I went alone, eventually drawing to halt in a small village named Fatsa, about half way down the black sea coat line. I stopped at a small market and asked a man walking by if there was anywhere near to camp. He shook his head, but after a moments deliberation, told me in cobbled together Tenglish, that his big sister had a large garden, and I could camp there for the night.
Delighted, I followed him in his car to his sisters house. The sister poked her head out of the window as we arrived and welcomed me with open arms, insisting once again, that I must sleep in the house. I followed her inside and bid goodbye to the kind man, who told me to be ready outside the house in two hours. For what, I was not entirely sure, but agreed happily all the same.
I was cooked up some sumptuous food by the sister, and introduced to her mother, who was ancient, and sat watching television in the sitting room. I went to join her after the meal, and we watched some kind o
f Turkish island 'Survival Of The Fittest' show, before the brother arrived as promised, two hours later.It turned out he had come to take me sight-seeing, and we drove for miles, in and around small sea side villages, looking at different sights, and taking photographs of one and other, until finally we had turned full circle and arrived back at the house. Here, we set up in front of the ends of the 'Survival' show, popped open a brew or two, and dug in to a bowl, full of assorted nuts, until tiredness not it's toll, and bed beckoned. I slept very well on an extendible sofa bed in the spare room, where I was given many gifts by the sister, including a lovely leather notebook and pen, a set of two fountain pens in a pouch, a yellow banana pen, (I think she had gathered that art was my thing, and therefore I must need many pens), a white strap top, a pair of tracksuit bottoms, a towel, a yellow T-shit about six sizes too large, with a face on the front saying 'hallooo' and a beautiful shawl.I felt so fond of the family by the time I left the following morning at 6am, that, once again, I was very sad to say goodbye. The brother cooked a huge breakfast, most of which I could not manage, and so the remaining boiled eggs, he handed out of the window to me before I set off for the final leg of my journey through Turkey.
I feasted on these for lunch, and arrived in Georgia at about 4pm. It turned from Burkas and Minarets, to Broad smiles, and Mini skirts in a flash, as I crossed the border that afternoon. With the exception of Istanbul, I had barely come across any alcoholic beverages being sold in cafe's, or any girls with out head scarves, and so it was a surprising and refreshing change, to be greeted with a brew, and many friendly faces on the Georgian side of the border.
I stayed in a city called Batum, where I found a lovely hotel, which I stayed in for a haggled down price of about ten pounds. I spent the evening drinking Georgian spirits, and filling up on a delicious mixture of cheese and potato, offered to me by the two girls and bunch of men that sat at the table outside. I later realized they were both prostitutes, as they informed me most casually, that if I wanted sex, these men would pay! At this point, I decided to hit the sack, and lock the door rather firmly!I am currently sitting on a roof top terrace in Waltzing Matilda hostel in Tbilisi, not far from the Azerbaijan border. I am hoping to pick up my Azeri visa today at 4 pm, before heading for Baku, where I will be boarding a cargo ship across the Caspian Sea, to Kazakhstan.
I spent my first two nights here, in a place called Budget Hostel. It only cost me £2.80 per night, but I have to admit, left much to be desired. I was sharing a dormitory with four other Georgian and Indian men, all with extremely large bellies, stares that followed me around every corner, snores that could shatter any pain of glass, and smells that were so overwhelming, one felt faint from noon till night! There were also two Georgian women, one with a child, who had taken a liking to me, or rather to my collection of bracelets and wrist bands, that she demanded I give to her continuously. I gave her one yesterday which she was over joyed with, until she saw another that she preferred, threatening to snap the first unless I gave her the second.. I had just been invited to drink, by the big bellies, at 9.15 am, when I decided it was time to move on, packing up my things, and following a taxi driver to Waltzing Matilda Hostel. I am staying in a 24 bed dorm, and since there is not another tourist in sight, have the entire dorm and roof top terrace to my self!
If I succeed in obtaining my Azeri visa today, I will head for Azerbaijan tomorrow, where I am happy to say, I will be meeting my cousin, William, who is living and working in Baku...