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Joel Stewart’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 07 Apr 2009

Location: Turkey

Map4/7/09 - first hurdle over and on the ground in Istanbul!!

I had forgotten that I am pretty good at doing the travel thing. It doesn’t take much to pack a pack - in fact the more that I forget the better because it is lighter and it gives me a reason to shop with the locals. Getting to the airport and knowing how to find a seat (this 1/2 worked out for me) and negotiating lines, searches, and seating. The flight from Seattle to Heathrow was only about 40% full so I quickly shifted to a center isle that I had it all to myself with no one in the seat in front of me nor behind - probably not as good as 1st class but heaven compared to most cattle car flights. A 7 hour layover in London - I was able to find a great English logic magazine (now that sadoku has taken over the world these are hard to find) and a Ken Folliet book about as long as War and Peace. You can’t carry water past security so a 500 ml bottle of water is 2 dollars (the dollar sign is not on the Turkish keyboard).

But the next flight was from hell. Every seat was full, I was jammed next to a window, and the 2 seats next to me were filled with a mother and her new baby and her 4 year old son. The seats in front of me was a woman and her 2 - 3 and 4 year old daughters that stood most of the time and looked over the seat and screamed at the baby next to me - than god for a mp3 player and noise canceling earphones. Twenty dollar visa fee to get into Turkey and then a breeze through customs, getting my pack (with my full face motorcycle helmet, motorcycle jacket with protective armor, and riding jeans with Kevlar at knees and butt, a special foam butt riding pad, and a small kit of motorcycle tools) out to waiting and a driver from my hotel waiting for me. After about 30 hours of being up I stripped, showered, pulled every pack apart looking for my alarm clock, had a beer out of the mini bar, and crashed. I got 6 hours sleep and was up in time for buffet breakfast.

One question that I have to figure out is that there is an electric kettle in the room with fixings for coffee and tea but the water out of the taps is not drinkable (this is an interpretation for the sticker on the mirror above the tap that was of a glass of water in a circle with a red slash through it – that is “don’t drink the water” symbol) - where does the water for the electric kettle come from? It was about midnight and I went down to the front desk and asked for water for the kettle. The girl who was there was answering 2 phone calls and checking someone in and could barely speak English. Finally after she understood the question she made a call and the answer was to use the little bottles of water in the mini bar for 6 lira per bottle. So I went up to my room and got the kettle and came down to her with it (as though I did not understand) and handed it to her, she sort of groaned and then went off toward the kitchen and came back with a full kettle (she probably just filled it from the tap).

So here is the comic irony - it has been raining and snowing in Seattle for the last 3 months - I leave on a day when it is sunny and in the 70s and feeling like summer, as I land in Turkey it is raining cats and dogs and still raining as I got up this morning - I hope it stops before I get on a motorcycle.

So off into Istanbul. Adjust a bit to time zone and sleep deprivation.

The next big hurdle - learning to ride and shift a motorcycle as I ride from the center of Istanbul off 120 miles to Gallipoli (my scooter has no shifting - it is an automatic).