This time last year we were in southern Spain, swimming in a salt-water pool at a luxurious campsite. This was the memory we dwelled on as we tried to get up the energy to emerge from our cozy sleeping bags into the freezing early morning air. With our stove on the blink and no hot coffee for breakfast it was more of a struggle than usual. We packed our tent up in record time and headed from the olive grove where we spent the night into the town of Killis.
For breakfast we were craving a bowl of steaming hot çorba, the soup Turks specialise in, but first we had to get some money. We slid our card in the machine as we’ve done hundreds of times on this trip and waited hopefully for some shiny new bank notes. Unfortunately, just at this moment the machine was turned off for restocking and our card was swallowed into a black hole. We optimistically made our way into the bank to get our card back.
The bank teller insisted we must be mistaken. “There is no card in that machine,” he said, looking at us as if we’d imagined it all. We persisted. He insisted he was right. This went back and forth for several minutes until finally a woman working next to him went to check (what a novel idea!) and found our card instantly. We breathed a sigh of relief a little too quickly.
“We’ll mail this back to your bank in England,” the man said, prompting a huge scream of protest from us. We had no Turkish lira to see us through the day. With our Iranian visa expiring shortly we had no time to wait for a new card and we needed to withdraw money every day to amass enough cash for Iran. At any other time a small delay wouldn’t have been a problem but now it was unthinkable. The teller swore he could not return our card. “Turkish bank rules forbid it,” he said. We threatened to sleep on the bank floor. It wasn’t a joke. “We’re on a bike tour,” we said. “We won’t be home for three years and we need to be in Iran in five days. Please give us our card.”
Some frantic discussions ensued. Passport and driving license were examined. Sample signatures taken. One hour after disaster struck the card was pushed back towards us with a wink and a warning to be careful with it. Turkish banking regulations had kindly been overlooked in our case. Well thank goodness for that.
We quickly gulped down the çorba we’d been waiting all morning for and made a late start to Gaziantep. We were tired though and a headwind added to our fatigue so when a man stopped to offer us a lift we didn’t hesitate. How Cem fit everything into his small car we’ll never know but he did and drove us into the city in record time, treated us to tea and then sent us towards a cheap hotel. What a star. Now we just have to figure out how to get to Iran (a very long bus ride) and keep on draining our bank account in anticipation of three months without cash machines or any other access to the international banking system.