Istanbul - Ankara - Sivas
16.07.1966 - 17.07.1966
Looking back to Istanbul from the Bosphorus, with the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace Museum prominent
Today began as a reasonable sort of day. We got to the bus on time, crossed the Bosphorous on the vehicular ferry - a very short ride - and were soon tearing down a fairly good road on our way to Ankara - our first day in Asia. The bus was modern enough, but crowded, and we were stuck down the back, right next to one of the biggest men I have ever seen. He was a Turkish wrestler and seemed a bit intimidating to start with, but turned out to be a really nice chap - a gentle giant. There was some interesting countryside on the way, especially up in the pine forests, where you get these peculiar little log cabin villages. There was nothing outside the the cabins at all - no litter, no people, nothing - just a haphazard collection of perhaps 50 cabins on a cleared slope. As Ade said, they looked like frontier towns. I am sure there are parts of Russia which look just like that. Further on the countryside became very stark and bare, but with those beautiful far horizons, yellow fields, and gently curving waves of hills. Beautiful country.
We reached Ankara about 5 pm and our problems started. Where our bus stopped was not the central bus terminus, so we had to take a taxi to get there. Having reached the bus station we found that there was no bus to Erzerum tonight and in fact there was no direct bus to Erzerum at all. We would have to take a bus to Sivas in the morning and then get a connecting bus from there. Where were we to sleep? We went into the police station and tried to explain in sign language that we wanted to sleep on the floor. They understood, but sent us along with a policeman to the bus office and said we could sleep there in the waiting room. The young official who was in charge appeared very pleased, and seemed to take us under his protection, for anyone who came over to annoy us was sharply shoved off. After Ade went off to sleep I had to sit there for about an hour trying to understand what was being said to me, but not doing very well.
We were woken up at 4.30am to make room for other passengers who were arriving and wanted a seat. The bus left for Sivas at 6.30 and because of the roads it was soon evident that it was going to be a long, long journey. Once more we were seated over the rear wheels. The countryside along the way was again very stark and bare, but at times very beautiful. Turkey’s scenery is on the grand sweeping scale. After many stops, some scheduled, but often because of flocks of sheep, goats or other obstructions on the road, and once for a puncture, we finally reached Sivas about 4 pm.
Unofficial roadblock, Central Turkey
Meeting the locals during a puncture stop
Sivas looked a pleasant enough town as Turkish towns go; at least they seemed to be trying to do something with it. When the bus arrived at the terminus, we immediately rushed into the office to see if we could get another one on to Erzerum. No bus until tomorrow morning! It was the same story everywhere; so we prepared ourselves for another night in a bus station. However, just as we had resigned ourselves, one of the Turks came running up, pointing to a coach which had just arrived, and saying excitedly “Erzerum, Erzerum”.
There followed ten minutes of rushing to and fro to get bags, change tickets and what not - all most unnecessary, as it was to be another hour before we left. So we had our bus to Erzerum. And lo and behold, it turned out to be a Mihan Tours coach - Iranian, as I could see as soon as I got a close look, and it was heading home toTehran. One of the drivers spoke French, so we were able to make ourselves understood, and we decided to go all the way to Tehran with them, agreeing to fix up the details later. It seemed a great stroke of good fortune; there would be no need to wait untold hours for another bus in Erzerum and the coach was practically empty, so we could stretch out on the seats and go to sleep. We set off finally after various stops at garages to get petrol and to have the bus greased etc. and it looked as though it was going to be really grand. It reminded me of the similar way we journeyed across the Libyan Desert eighteen months ago. As soon as it got dark I stretched out, got into my sleeping bag and that was it.
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