We can notch today up as one of the craziest days we’ve had yet on this trip. Everything was going more or less normally until late in the afternoon – early start from our campsite, plenty of friendly waves and honks from the passing trucks, lunch by the seaside. Perfect. Then we got to the last large town before Istanbul and decided it would be good to find a hotel and tackle the remaining distance tomorrow. The motorway was full of cars trying to overtake each other on the inside lane, including the shoulder we were riding on. And that was just one of the many foolish manoeuvers we saw.
But our quest for a hotel turned out to be easier said than done. After an extensive search we discovered there were only two hotels and both of them were quite expensive. Neither one would bargain with us on the price and so we took a bet that there would be more ahead and hopped on our bikes with a couple hours of light left in the sky.
This turned out to be the wrong bet.
The sun slipped below the horizon and we were left in a mess of tangled streets and motorways on the outskirts of Istanbul. Nearly everyone we asked about a hotel just shrugged their shoulders and the few who tried to help could only point us down the motorway; something we just weren’t willing to do in the dark. Lost and frustrated, we decided to try one last time with a local road we thought might hug the coastline. We passed a mosque with many people around its steps and they came out to talk to us, including one man with a trained falcon perched on his shoulder!
Thankfully we seemed to have landed in a fairly friendly neighbourhood and we were never concerned for our safety, just where we would sleep.
There was much pointing and yelling from the people around us, all trying to give us directions, but with no Turkish in our language arsenal it wasn’t of much use. We waved goodbye kept going down the dark roads, trying to avoid the various potholes and bumps. We hit yet another motorway. Having seen Turkish driving during the daylight, there was no way we were going to tackle it at night but that meant we were now really stuck. We turned around and stopped on a street corner to talk over our options, wishing for just a few minutes that we had the safety of a home once again like the people rushing about on the streets around us.
At times like this, it’s nice to look different and out of place. We’d just decided to go back to the mosque and sleep there, thinking that was probably the safest place to spread out our mats and sleeping bags, when a man approached us with those three magical words we’ve come to love lately: “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” Yes, German comes to the rescue again! Obviously he could see we didn’t belong in this very local neighbourhood of Turks going about their evening business.
Our helper turned out to be the local patisserie owner and friends with a man across the street who worked in an office. Both spoke German and after a long discussion – mostly about whether we needed anything to eat and did we want to stay one night or two – we were given a home for the night in the garage of the office, even complete with a shower. What luck!
We were very relieved to have been lifted out of our prediciment. Further proof that things always work out in the end.