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Turkey - On the road to Erzurum
Tuesday, 22 August 2006
It’s been 6 years ago since we first travelled through Turkey overland. Crossing the landborder at Ipsala wasn’t a new experience, in 1,5 hour we were done and on the road to Bursa. We planned the shortest route through Turkey, pretty much a straight line from Bursa through Ankara to Erzurum. A trip of 2100 Km crossing the Anatolian high plateau. Along the route we stopped at Bursa for truck maintenance and in Ankara for visa info and an internet connection. The rest was just driving, however not completely uneventful. The road to  Bursa was our first encounter with a typical Turkish bad asphalt road – by default under construction – making the already bumpy road pretty dangerous. Deep tracks, potholes and sudden drops announcing the end of a new handmade asphalt layer. However when  looking back a good experience, a rigid defensive style of driving settled in real fast.

Bursa is a big city with real wide 4 lane roads into the city centre. We found the Mercedes Benz truck service centre by accident, taking our first dip into the dense Turkish city traffic. We came unannounced and nonetheless we were met with first class Mercedes service with the help of Mr Karadaş of Mengerler Otomotiv. 4 hours later we left with a revised rear torsion suspension including lunch and a more than reasonable bill.

We knew finding a good place to spend the night isn’t that easy in non tourist areas in Turkey. Just stop and park usually ends in leaving again because of a crowd building up, police asking questions or military dudes ordering us to leave. Not what one looks for after a full day of driving. However Bursa was pretty easy – we could park at a huge shopping centre with an overload of guards. Police, military and commercial guards made it a pretty safe parking.

Next was Ankara – an even bigger city. We hoped spending the night at a camp site on the east side of Turkey. With one stopover at Gordion, an interesting archaeological site and another stopover at Eskisehir at the air force museum we arrived at the 4 lane ring road of Ankara. A big wide highway but totally empty, it felt like there’s no-one living in Ankara – a very strange experience!

We found the campsite at the east side of Ankara, unfortunately closed for 2 years already. Luckily we had another address on the north-west side of Ankara. Hotel / Camping Murat making our loop round Ankara nearly complete. This time the campsite was open – indeed an Hotel with a few facilities for campers. Except for the noise from the highway a reasonable place to head out for Ankara city.

A call to the Indian embassy in Ankara made a trip to Ankara city centre obsolete. We can apply for the Indian visa in Iran and Pakistan – in Ankara the Indian visum only lasts 1 month. So that left us with finding a TTwinet WIFI HOTSPOT – of which many are littered among the city centre. The Armada shopping centre on the Eskisehir Jolu is outside the centre. We spend an hour finding it – with our truck in chaotic city traffic.

TTwinet is the WIFI internet service of Turkish Telecom. The one at Armada shopping worked ok, except for the powercuts that afternoon. TTwinet is based on a ADSL connection – however when shared among several users it’s just not enough for Skype calls. Somehow the wireless server resets when too much bandwidth is taken – dropping all connections during a Skype call. The same behaviour was seen at other TTWinet hotspots.

Staying for the night at the parking lot of Armada wasn’t possible. We had to leave, however when we just tried staying we probably could have parked there for the night anyway.

Hitting the road on a late afternoon isn’t a good idea. There’s only a few hours of day light left to find a reasonable spot for the night. The traffic from Ankara eastwards is mainly TIR trucks and busses with mainly petrol stations flooded by all this traffic.
We settled for a stop at the police station near Irmak – and inevitably we got invited and enjoyed a few hours of very generous Turkish hospitality with a friend of the station commander.

The days after that was mainly driving. Stopping at Bogazkale, Sivas, a mountain pass, Erzincan and finally Erzurum. Bogazkale was sure worth a longer stay – a few nice campsites in a quiet area near several archaeological digs. In Sivas we found a nice and quiet parking overlooking the valley just near the airport. Erzincan was something different.
We decided to try to use the airport TTwinet Hotspot and see whether we could spend the night there. Well in the end we managed to use the hotspot – but with approximately 15 security guards looking over the shoulder in a totally empty airport it’s not really what we were looking for. But we did manage to get us and our truck in and the hotspot worked ok!

A local airport in Turkey isn’t a public place by far – it’s patrolled by police, military and commercial guards with a lot of fence work. Next to that it’s usually empty with only a few flights a day. With this security overload we didn’t even think about asking to spend the night there. So after 1,5 hour we left – totally overwhelmed by the security crowd. Our night was spend quietly at the circuit of a driving school near the airport.

The road to Erzurum took us over a mountain pass, no asphalt, under construction and pretty steep for approximately 30 Km’s. It seemed the road was planned right up and down the mountain. No S-curves, just a straight line. A huge strain on transport material and a LOT of fine dust thrown up in the air by the many TIR trucks. We felt we were in a sandstorm.

Arriving at Erzurum we found the Mercedes truck dealer pretty easy. There we planned basic service and changed the pressure regulator for a new one. After 23 years the old one just managed to fill our pressure tanks with 7,5 bar iso the normal 8,1 bar. Luckily we could spend the night here – parked at the back for a quiet night.

Next was Erzurum city for the Iranian Visa and a fast internet connection. We stopped at the tourist information centre for possible campsites or similar. The answer was simple, no campsites in Erzurum, except for a picknik spot 17 Km’s east. Or we could stay at the parking of the Tourist Information Centre. Wow! A reasonable & quiet place just near the city centre!

We applied for the Iranian Visa on Monday – staying for the weekend at the tourist information centre. Just 1 hour inside, no hassles, a pretty smooth Visa application!
We were told : “come back in 10 days for the result”. That means R & R time for sure! A nice change after 2100 Km’s of Turkey behind us.

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