Life here is very rarely dull. The simplest of trips can turn into adventures and the most boring of drives can be brightly lit by the strange and unusual things you encounter along the way.
On Wednesday, I had to go to Izmir, a journey that takes around 2 hours from here. It is always a pleasant drive I find, especially on a Motorway that is bordered by miles and miles of lush countryside, quite Tuscan in its appearance.
I would happily go on my own but this does not agree with Murat. Quite what he thinks will happen to me I’ve no idea and no matter how many times I’ve told him about my solo road journeys, he takes no notice. To keep the peace I agree to take a friend, although, at such short notice, I’m not sure who. If I can’t find anyone he says, I can take Ilknur, his secretary.
I know that one of my good friends has a day off. I also know she had a mega night out the night before and may well be sleeping off the effects, but I call her anyway. Roused from her slumber she mumbles, only half awake and I cunningly plant the seed in her head of a day out in Izmir by mentioning the shopping. Shopping does not seem to interest her but the thought of a Big Mac stop at Soke has her salivating and out of bed.
After the pit stop, we cruise along until we hit the motorway. At speeds of around 120km we chat away in a car about her night out and things in general. As we chat I am checking the mirrors and the road and my eye is caught by a car up ahead in the right hand lane. There is something not quite right with the picture and I squint and frown. I look at Shell and she too has that ‘WTF’ look on her face.
We inch closer and as we approach we realise those strange black objects attached to the car are not in fact attached. They are the foot of the driver resting on his wing mirror and the feet of his passenger resting on the other side. Remember we are up to speeds or around 120km on the motorway! Not wanting to waste such a quality opportunity, Shell gets the camera out of my bag and performs contortions trying to get a decent shot out of the window. Off with her seat belt and bum in my face she hangs out the passenger side window and tries her best David Bailey position. Sadly, we don’t get the shot and have probably become just as dangerous as those two jokers.
The camera goes back into the bag. Mistake.
We continue along the road, laughing and chatting and around 20 minutes later, the chat ceases as we have both caught sight of something not quite right with the van ahead. It’s an open backed van filled with large blue plastic bags, each full and round. This gives the appearance of a large blue square that doesn’t quite connect at the bottom left corner. What is that??? Edging closer it becomes clear; there, poking out of the bottom of the pile is a pair of legs swinging in the wind. On closer inspection, attached to the legs and underneath the rest of the bags is a man playing with his mobile phone. Well, we think, at least it was his mobile phone!
The rest of the motorway journey is uneventful. We take the Konak exit and head into the depth of madness (for anyone that has driven around Izmir, you will understand). Ahead in the distance is the sprawling town of houses and apartment buildings, so close together you can see no relief from the block Lego shapes. The roads become a free for all, fighting to keep your position and avoiding jaywalkers, cutter inners, cutter uppers and all kinds of non-licenced idiots. Pah, I used to conquer the Hammersmith roundabout every morning; Izmir holds no fear for me. Shell on the other hand comes from Derbyshire and has her hands over her eyes more often than not.
In, out, up, round, squeeze past, manoeuvre, beep, shout, shake fist and then we are at our destination. This little street is crammed full of cars not only on each side, but doubled up on each side horizontally, vertically and along the pavements. I look for my usual little entrepreneur who has ‘acquired’ a section of pavement that was once an entry to a now closed hospital and turned it into a tiny car park. I spy him and raise my eyebrows, he raises his eyebrows, shoulders and hands in return. No room at the inn.
A little further down, on the corner of a road behind a line of vertically parked cars and in-between a blue dustbin and a no parking sign, I find another ‘parkci’. He waves me in so that I can squeeze my 4 wheeled drive into a space more suited to a mini (a skill we Londoners acquire out of necessity). I ask him if he needs my keys as I am now blocking 3 parked cars. No need he says, they are going to be there until late in the evening. I do hope he is right!
We grab a cup of coffee at one of the pavement cafes. No one calls me ‘J Lo’, no one stares at Shells blonde hair, no one bats an eyelid when we speak to them in Turkish, in fact, no one takes a blind bit of notice of us at all…..it’s great
I would like to say the journey home was non-eventful, but that would be a lie.
It is cotton picking time here in Turkey and you will notice, if you drive along the Soke Road, that everything is covered in fluffy balls of white cotton that have escaped from the wire cages used to contain them. It’s normal to see the large containers trundle up and down the Soke road all day long carrying freshly plucked balls but today, we hit the traffic lights behind a truck full of pluckers.
It’s a beautiful sight. The truck is ram packed full of young Turkish girls wearing a multitude of colours on their heads. It’s like a truck full of vibrant flowers. Shell tries to sneak a photo but we are right behind the truck so it doesn’t take a second for some of the girls to notice what we are doing. They smile and wave at us, happy to be the centre of attention.
We think that’s the end of the road adventure but we are wrong. We leave the whitewashed village of Akkoy behind us and are on the home stretch. It’s a long road that leads right down through Tasburun, Mavisehir and then into Altinkum and it regularly attracts speeding numpties.
Fortunately, it’s a stretch of road that I love as it’s bordered by beautiful countryside, olive groves, the occasional traditional house, roadside olive oil sellers, fisherman huts and a rugged coastline that shelves into the blue. I take my time, which is just as well as approximately one hundred yards in the distance, out trots a little donkey calmly cruising across the road, his rope leash trailing behind him. Even though I am not speeding, he is close enough that I still have to brake to slow right down. Out of the bush comes a little flat capped, barefoot old man, hitching his trousers up as he pursues his escaped donkey. Both myself and Shell are laughing our heads off and of course, the camera is all the way down at the bottom of the suitcase that has been cleverly disguised as a woman’s handbag.
Sadly, we have no decent photographic evidence of the adventure so I am leaving the visuals up to your imagination