Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Istanbul without a map ..... or a clue

Border crossing into Turkey requires a visa and insurance. They are fairly inexpensive so all good. I also buy a prepaid card for toll roads. Takes an hour and I'm through the border. Simple dual carriageway all the way to Istanbul where the fun begins.

Welcome to Turkey

I've been trying to put together the best description of traffic here in Istanbul. I've been pondering, 'Delhi on steroids' or 'Roller coaster where you have to keep your eyes open', Istanbul traffic, the place to kill yourself'.

I've got it now though, I know how to squeeze my overloaded bike through every narrow gap at high speed on whatever road, in whatever lane and with a sick grin on my face. I'm not sure if I'm doing it correctly as I don't hear any horns beeping at me. Is it because they think I'm a friggin nutter let out for the week on my overloaded touring bike. They've seen Midnight Express and reckon I'm on drugs too?

This was not the case the other day when I first arrived here;

The story so far..
I book a hotel that looks pretty good on the Asian side (East) of Istanbul. I get free wifi at a coffee stop and book a room and yup, there's a ring road that can take me there according to my phone map thing. Easy.
I put street details into GPS but it fails. OK, I head there anyway and will use my stored map on my phone. Great idea. I'll be in my room showered, at the roof top bar before 6pm and feeling good with the world.

Here's what happened....
As you approach Istanbul on the motorway the cars, buses, vans, scooters and everything else except donkeys speed up. Its like someone shouted 'GO'! and I missed it. Fine, I can handle that. Then comes my first hickup. The Garmin GPS does not have Istanbul maps at all. a road stops at the sea an thats it. So now I'm following signs, no problem I'm thinking, this is the old way to do it, easy. No its not. I manage to follow wrong sign to wrong entry to wrong road going wrong way to wrong bridge. Magic. Then the traffic stops. Im stuck in hot traffic, fumes, bike fan cuts in to add extra hot air to the already hot air. It sends me some more fumes. So eventually I get fed up with lark and get impatient, dodging lanes, finding small gaps to squeeze through to get to where ever I think I should be going. I filled up with petrol about 100kms ago so dont need to worry about fuel. or do I?

I break free from the jam and turn onto a road I believe is taking me across to the area I'm heading for, great! Then the ramp starts to turn and I realise this on/off ramp is turning back 180 degrees and will need me to fight the jam all over again. Arrgghh ! I repeat this manoeuvre several times, but I'm better at this, I can cut through traffic like a local but still being stuck in queues. Its now starting to get dark and I'm getting more stressed. Then the fuckin petrol light comes on with no way to get to petrol stations on these roads, or none I can see.

After another hour of this going up an on/off ramp only to turn around again, I accept that I may well have to sleep by the side of the road somewhere tonight. Ah! a petrol station on my road. Fill up and that's one stress gone. I look at my phone map, no internet but its still storing location. Battery has less than 3% left. More swearing, followed by some swearing. The petrol station guy steps back as he thinks I've lost it. The phone goes blank and switches off now because I've shouted at it in public.

I try to ask for directions. Stupid idea, anther waste of turning down a road to a loop back. I look for taxi to hire to lead me there, I ask one guy with window open in queue, he ignores me, he's keen to go home and couldn't give a shit about this lost biker. He winds his window up. All we need now is rain I depress myself with this wee gem for a bit.

I know what, I'll load up my laptop and look for map to load. This works, although interesting looks from cafe crowd as I turn all 21st century in the street with lcd screen aglow and cables to bike and GPS.

This finally solves my problem although I still manage to take a wrong turn and head across a bridge I know will take me another 20 mins to turn around. I don't have any swear words left, or perhaps I've come to terms with knowing my fate.

Welcome to Istanbul
I arrive at hotel around 9:20, 3 hours after I was supposed to. A taxi tries to take the space I'm about to park in. The abuse he gets from me makes the taxi reverse all by itself, I'm in no mood for anything other than comfy slippers, a pipe and a rocking chair, or a beer.

It didn't rain.

I'm now qualified to drive anywhere at any time.

Beautiful City Istanbul

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