Turkey and the loss of Tanja

10th of September, 2015

Turkey the loss of Tanja

Europe is disappearing as Turkey approaches, roads seem lost and forgotten as do towns. Broken buildings, curious faces and gypsies as the road climbs to Europe's end. The Bulgarian boarder was to be expected big grey building, manky dogs and soldiers in funny hats. We passed through with out a problem ready to venture towards our first Muslim country. The pride of Turkey was a welcome greeting as the flag, star and crest floated in the mountain air. Behind a fort stood soldiers protecting their rights as Atta Turk statue reminded them why.
A little apprehensive on our boarder luck, it was all flowing easy. A little premature excitement was soon dashed as our unprecedented lack of organising takes its next turn. No cash for vignette and insurance, no ATM. One car disappeared back into the valley of Bulgaria in search of cash to get us through, whilst we chilled with the local taxi driver Mustafa, definitely in Turkey. A good three hours later, even with nearly correct paperwork (one car still in my sister Sarah's name) we are released on the race track roads of Turkey, no cars four lane highway. Istanbul before dark was our plan, but the only constant is change, three hours late, we see the city's glow well before the lights. Ninth largest city on earth, population 17,000,000 how fun can it be to find our contact. In the Asian sector of the city, tea, food, shisha pipe and a room was waiting for our arrival. Our navigator Tanja and her trusty mobile directs us through the maze of traffic, towering buildings and back roads. The city is immense as towering structures disappear to the horizon, so much more than I remember from my last visit 15 years prior. Also very modern, weirdly I imagine that these ancient cities poor and old, naive of me.
Arriving late tired and hungry, our contact Gigi was a welcome site, at her partners Shisha House Narj. Food, Chi and Shisha was enjoyed till the early hours. That evening sleeping in a small Mui Thai gym the heat and stale air didn't redeem our energy to much, but Istanbul was waiting to be discovered, Mosques and the ancient grand bazaar kept the team active, playing tourists for the day. But tiredness was hitting, now with two wheelchair riders and one less set of hands and driver, it was time to have an early night, tomorrow is going to be an epic drive. Just to make sure we would be lively for the morning it took us two, nearly three hours to drive back to Gigi's that took fifteen minutes in the morning from the ferry terminal, it helps to have a map, or phone at least. But hey it's all one big adventure. Rain was a welcome finish to the evening, our team enjoyed a decent sleep, a great idea to leave the doors of our stale room open.
Tanja the angel who has been helping me stay alive and well since Germany stays behind in Istanbul. Her studies are calling, as a medical student and early next week has an interview for a well earned scholarship. It was really weird leaving Tanja behind now with only two of us in one of the cars, it feels a little empty. Thanks Tanja you are a true friend, through everything you've made this trip possible right from the word go till seeing you disappear from my view. No words can describe my gratitude.
Now only Nicky as my carer, I know it's going to be a big job ahead. It's important to understand how much work these girls do for me. As a tetraplegic I am very dependent on help with being able to survive, from the basics that an able body takes totally for granted. Not even considering undertaking a trip of this proportion. These ladies are hardcore, on top of that they have to put up with being around me 24/7.
I am as disabled as my team, with this bunch of legends behind me I feel anything is possible, big love to you all!!!
Back on the road now with our heads down and our tails up we boosted across Turkey, such a proud country with such diversity in culture and landscape. But we were on a mission, to play catchup as our time was restricted with visas in far eastern countries awaiting our arrival. All our visas are in our passports, with arrival and departure dates set as limited time is given for some countries. All organised two months before our departure from New Zealand, an epic mission and cost. Due to our stolen paperwork we were a little behind schedule, there was no way this was going to stop us.
So boost we did, awesome highways built by the President as was elections approaching and it also takes minds of other parliamentary goings on that I couldn't mention. But sweet highways means miles under our belts, and that is what we did, about a quarter across the northern part of Turkey before hitting the coast of the Black Sea it was time to look for a place to set camp. 
It's always fun looking for places to camp on our journey as its when we can interact properly with the locals, have time to enjoy and learn about their culture. This night was exactly that. We turned into a small farming village, after a quick chat in very basic Turlish with some sweet kids we found ourselves in a courtyard of a beautiful Turkish family, Mellon was shared and the older kids called. We camped above the village with an amazing meal of Kofta and beautifully steamed rice. Awaking to the farmer and his cows and the call to prayer echoing through the valley.
Back on the highway after dealing with my body functions and packing the vehicles, we're getting this dialled. Today's mission to get as close to the boarder with Georgia as possible, so even more miles to cover today. The most beautiful part of of the journey to date was here for me, sharp mountainous landscape with paddy fields, ancient villages and mosques painted sky blue.
Definitely have to mention our incredible lunch, Menemen! I like eggs but these are the bomb. It's one thing that sticks in your memory, amazing food, at the age of 39 still discovering food like a child.
The coast of the Black Sea had a different feel entirely, high rises as far as the eyes can see. Finding a camp seems impossible, but did I mention that mission impossible was rewritten by us on this adventure and soon as we think of calling it a day, we are escorted to our personal campsite and restaurant on a magical sand beach, two minutes from the main road and chaotic city above. We are in another world, treated like royalty, cheesy fish, an insult to pay and a spread for breakfast that would make any traveler stop for an extra hour, even the hare.
That evening we got a glimpse of the news, as logs flow through the city, landslides plumbing onto the road and eight drown all in the boarder town we are heading to tomorrow. We hear of disaster everyday around the world, we come desensitised. I feel guilty as we head for the boarder, seeing the destruction and local communities suffering. 
Lucky for us the roads are clear enough for a clear passage through, just one day out we again count out lucky stars. The trucks line the sides of the road six kilometres from the boarder and as we approach vehicles line the roads like children at Disney Land. One day off cars backing up makes a great boarder to meet locals and cross without issues. Even without paying the highways we roll through like we were born there. As the rain hits, Welcome to Georgia...........