Turkey is notorious for being hilly so it wasn’t a surprise when we saw plenty of peaks looming in our path as we approached the border. We’d hoped to reach the crossing point well before sunset but it turned out to be a last-minute dash because we took so long working our way through the rolling mountain roads. It was nearly dusk when the Syrian border guards tried to win the prize for intense questioning:
Q. Where are you going? A. Uhhhh, Turkey.
Q. Where is your stamp for your bicycle? A. We don’t need one.
Q. You need to buy one. A. No we don’t.
Q. What is your name? (asked while looking at passport) A. Fatima Falafel and Mohammed Shwarma
Q. Where are you from? (also while looking at EU passports) A. Canada.
That was the first checkpoint. At the second one we joined the queue for our exit stamps and laughed while three Turks tried to push in front of us by stuffing their passports with money in quite an obvious way and shoving the documents towards the guard serving us. The guard chuckled and ignored them so it looks like all that bribery cash was for nothing. At the final checkpoint all the questions were repeated again by three guards before we were allowed to pass through no-man’s land and into Turkey.
At the Turkish border post we were hoping for some swift stamping of papers so we could get on our way but just as we thought we were free a customs guard came to inspect our baggage. “Can we sleep in there?” we asked, pointing to an enclosed shelter with a stove and benches. “Because if not it’s going to be dark by the time you’re done looking at all our bags and we won’t be going anywhere.”
The threat of sleeping with two cyclists seemed to work. “Any cigarettes, alcohol or tea?” our man asked. We pulled out a jar of camomile tea bags but apparently this wasn’t the tea he had in mind. “Get going then,” he said, waving us onward. We were rather disappointed. The shelter looked a fair bit warmer than our tent was going to be. Luckily for us it wasn’t far to the next olive grove and we set up our tent in record time. The stove wasn’t such a success. We’d replaced our gas and cleaned the line but it’s still burning horribly and we only just managed to cook supper on it. It looks like getting the stove working again will be our New Year’s challenge.