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The lovely Mr Jack Scott of Perking the Pansies fame, invited me to guest write on his blog while he was away on a little jaunt. I sent him an article about my first ever trip to Sanliurfa in 2008. You can read it on Jacks site www.perkingthepansies.com

Dredging up fond memories, I have added to this blog, the details of the road trip that precluded the event 🙂

What started out as a plan for a leisurely road trip to Urfa turned into a nightmare journey with me and Mu in the front, a family of five in the back, a boot full of their luggage, a child prone to car sickness and a baby with a talent for high pitched screaming.  As if this wasn’t bad enough, the Amca in the lead car of our two vehicle convoy cruised along at 80km an hour, turning a 14 hour journey into 20 hours of torture agggghhhhhhh!

With such a large family, I should have guessed there would be no such thing as an empty seat when you are making a trip to their birth town. And so it was that we trotted off to the village on Saturday evening to pick up Hasan Amca, his wife Islim and three of their children, including baby Yusuf.

The boot contained only the laptop and a solitary bag as I had packed light with the intention of just buying what I needed when I got to Urfa. That didn’t last though and soon the boot was fit to burst with their suitcases, flasks of cay, food packages, blankets and babies nappies.

Under normal circumstances, I would forego my front passenger seat to Amca Hassan out of respect but, as Islim is short and stout with more than enough to fill two seats I threw respect out of the window and strapped myself into the front seat, feeling ever so slightly guilty as I looked through the rear view mirror and saw them all squashed together. I took baby Yusuf and belted him in with me where he promptly fell asleep. So far so good.

We wave goodbye to Dursun and the rest of the family and as Murat drives out of the road Ramsey throws a large jug of water over the back of the car. It’s for luck and a safe journey.  At Orman Kampi, we hook up with Yilmaz who is waiting for us in a hired red punto with his wife and four children and we begin our journey. Its 8pm.

Yusuf sleeps for around an hour or so before waking hungrily so I pass him back to Islim and try to get comfy. Feet go up on the dash, in the glove compartment, on the floor, one on the floor, one in the glove compartment and so it continues. Long legs are a curse!

We have a few rest room stops before I nod off at around11pm waking an hour or so later bloody freezing. I knew the temperature in Urfa would be similar to that of Didim but what I didn’t account for was the bits in the middle and I’m wearing a flimsy summer dress and flip flops. At the next pit stop I rummage in the boot for my bag which is of course right at the back. Out come my grey elephant pajamas and a beige pashmina which look fab with my green and orange summer dress…..NOT.  Do I care? Nah, its warmth I need, now where’s that baby!

5am, it’s a driver’s call to sleep. We park in a service station and try to get comfy…as if! 6am and we are on the road again and still in Konya? “How is that possible” I ask Murat. Turns out Konya is a very large town.10am is looking more and more unlikely.

9am ish we find an “Aile Salon” (Family room) attached to a lokanta (restaurant). We are of course in a mixed party and have moved into a region where it’s normal to segregate the men from the women. To facilitate this there are plenty of “Aile Salons” along the way.

Everyone wants soup, to be more precise they want “Kelepaca coba” yeeooooww my stomach turns at the thought. Murat, feeling guilty I presume, joins me in a Turkish breakfast which is pretty much standard apart from the tahini with uzumsu (sesame paste with grape syrup) which is a nice touch, very sweet of course but hey, Iv’e not actually started my diet yet…..

Things improve slightly when we hit the autobahn but all in all it still takes 20 hours before we arrive in the outskirts of Urfa. By this time my eyes are dry and red and out on stalks like a cartoon rabbit, my neck has a large crick, my legs ache, not just from being cramped, but also the baby bouncing on my thighs and all I want is a hot shower and a bed. Its dusk and everyone is excited. I fail to see why as I gaze out the window at barren landscapes and mountains in the distance. Getting closer I can see the houses like ancient Lego, sun-bleached and littered on the mountainside forming untidy clumps. Night has fallen as we enter the city…….in the middle of a power cut!

Before I can go comatose, we need to drop our passengers off. Up concrete hills with disappearing edges we go avoiding the plague of children swarming the streets. Ive never seen so many kids in one place and if ever there was call for the pied piper it’s here. Eventually, we “gule gule” the rellies and go in search of our hotel. Through the main thoroughfare and into pitch black alleyways with the occasional battery lit shop to guide us. It’s surreal. Where is the Urfa I have seen on the internet? Where are the beautiful tea gardens, the ancient mosques and the sacred fish? It’s certainly not here, oh no; my husband has brought me to Beirut.

Murat is trying to call his cousin Mehmet but there is no signal on the mobiles. We carry on driving through Beirut and by some miracle he spies Mehmet walking down the street and hollers to him. Mehmet jumps in the back seat and guides us down another alley with groups of men standing around at various points. We stop outside a flat iron gate and I realise with horror that this is the “hotel’. Its ok, I think, I know I saw signs for the havalamini (airport) on the way in. I have a new plan now, one that involves me, a taxi and a plane ticket to Izmir in the morning!

Still, we all know how the last plan turned out don’t we; better stay put and see what happens!