We drove out of Göreme early in the morning, it was going to take us all day to get back to Istanbul. We had shed a few more players, leaving Morgs and Jesse in Göreme. This made more room in the car for sleeping, which suited just about everyone but the drivers well :)
Some beautiful early morning driving, the sun peeking out over hillsides, golden light, burning off banks of fog by the riversides, and the road to ourselves. Really quite pleasant driving. Before too long though we were back into industrial land, rough roads and lots of trucks.
Then the great big blob of Ankara, which we skirted around freeways to the north. A sea of red tiles and smoke and haze, surrounded by glowing green fields. Even got to see some Turkish fighter jets playing around.
Had some adventures going up the freeway trying to get petrol, but all problems were solved in the end. Stopped for lunch at a mountain resort north west of Ankara, which had quite a pleasant deck, looking out over a lake, pine forests, and some snowy peaks. Food was rather interesting. We all had big green peppers on our plates, and despite them all looking the same, two of them were excruciatingly hot, and two were as mild as run of the mill capsicum. Made for some laughs (and tears) when the mild ones were discovered first.
A bit of a detour (along with everyone else) down the pass near Bolu. The tunnel, expected to be completed in 2001 on our map is still not ready.
Then it was just more driving and driving and driving into thicker and thicker traffic until we got back to Istanbul. Where we promptly missed the correct turns to get back over to the right side, and after much mayhem in peak hour traffic we managed to find a map in a service station and got ourselves back on track. Thanks go to Jared for stoically driving through the morass in a big van while I did my best to read street maps and give directions.
Thanks also to the vans of school girls who kept waving at us!
Eventually we made it home again, and checked back into the Big Apple. Grotty as it was before, but it saved us finding anywhere else. Jared and Nerida got a hotel room across the street and relaxed a bit for a change. They'd been cooped up with the rest of us for a while now, and weren't roughing it nearly so much as some of our other guests.
Of course, back in Istanbul, meant we had to visit all the things we'd missed on our way out. The grand bazzaar, the spice market, the palace, and more walking around town. And of course, a trip back to the Kurdish restaraunt up the street where the grand adventure had begun the week before.
The grand bazzaar was one of those things that was lovely to see, but surprisingly little that I wanted to buy. Almost made me want to take up smoking though. Some of the most beautiful things for sale were old meerschaum pipes, ornately carved. Some nice old silver jewellery and ornaments, but nothing really must have. At least, certainly not at the prices being demanded. I picked up a few trinkets here and there for gifts, but that was about it.
Seeing prayer time in the bazzaar was an experience though. The majority of the storekeeps close up and line up out in the alleyways for prayer, but some stay open, and there's still people squeezing by down the alleyways, not very churchlike at all.
The spice market was much more fun. I picked up a bunch of dried guava, pineapple, and a big bag of pistachios, which they kindly vacuum sealed on the spot for me to take home.
The palace was neat, but we were a bit late and a bit rushed. The weapon collection and treasure rooms were the best. Relics too, always a strange experience. Crowds of people gathered around vials containing Mohammed's hair, or a tooth, or a footprint. And also for the christians, in the treasure room was the skull and right forearm of John the Baptist. Not the usual sorts of things piled up in the treasure chest.
Pretty much just home from there. Dropped off the car, uneventfully, or so it seemed, and then just the long sequence of flights home, parting ways in Amsterdam. A really amazing trip. Going hiking or mountaineering a little more off the backroads would have been lovely, and also going later in summer to sit on their beaches all sounds lovely. A with such a diverse crowd too, really great.
(so it seemed, in that we left a borrowed tent in the back of the car. It was eventually reunited with it's owner, but not before being lost by an airline, and travelling to a few more countries)