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Ankara to Bogazkale

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Having never used the Metro whilst in Istanbul it had proved a necessary and useful tool in Ankara. It took me straight to the Otogar without hassle this morning. Unfortunately I just missed the bus to Sungurlu and so had 90 minutes to kill, I wouldnt get much done that day. I found a net cafe at the station too late and chastised myself that I was losing too many days like this for the sake of an extra hour in bed. The Ankara Otogar must be a candidate for one of the biggest bus stations in the world, a constant stream of coaches cruised by searching for their assigned bay, clearly not enough bays to have dedicated ones. In such a big country transport was clearly big business.

Off to Sungurlu, the bus concierge was a friendly soul who wanted to show off his wee bit of English. We had another fantastic display of driving Turkish style when an articulated lorry decided to abruptly do a U turn right in front of us, our driver had to go hard on the brakes and only just managed to pass behind him. 10 seconds earlier and I would have had hot coffee in my lap. And for once I think I would have given the boy more than just the short cursory peep he got. They normally dont even need half an excuse in this country.

Now is perhaps the time to note the local driving standards, though it must be said standards dont really come into it. If a driving test exists at all in Turkey then it would seem that the only prerequisite is to be able to operate the throttle and horn simultaneously and if you dont hit anything going round the block then you pass. Brakes seemingly are a last resort. They peep their horn on the slightest whim, usually if theyre just not happy with the pace of the traffic. They weave in and out of lanes, seem to make a point of overtaking just as they pass a Do Not Overtake sign and have scant respect for road markings. Its clearly the survival of the fittest in this game and generally the biggest bullies get their way. Not a good place to be a pedestrian then. Taxi drivers swerve into the kerbside towards you and slam on the brakes at the last minute, likewise traffic stopping at pedestrian crossings pulls up abruptly half way over it until almost touching the pedestrians, and zebra crossings without lights might as well not be there. So far I've been nudged in the shins by a guy in a car on his mobile phone in a pedestrian zone and reversed into and shoved out the way twice. One day I saw a really nasty accident on the front page of a newspaper between two coaches and a lorry. The front half of one of the coaches was completely obliterated. But of course its all just Allah's will, the universal cop out.

The rolling Anatolian plain alternated between rocky ranges reminiscent of Morocco to more pastural lands which reminded me of East Fife (the region not the fitba team). Although I did see some headscarved peasant women manually loading a trailer with what I took to be piles of sugar beet, their aim was certainly more accurate than the boys fae Leven. We had a good view of Kirikkale as we bypassed it, an uninspiring town known only for its state gun factories which could be visited if you were that way inclined. In this country though you only had to turn a corner to find a guy in one of many uniforms brandishing a weapon, and they sold them in shops as freely as mobile phones. It made me wonder what was the country's most common vocation. I reckoned the sentries came pretty close to outnumbering the kebab boys. Frequent roadside stalls proferred melons and pumpkins, backed by eroded red rock formations similar to Cappadocia.

In Sengurlu the bus dropped me into the nothing if not expected taxi shark melee at the bus station but fortunately I had the resolve that only came with experience to stick to my guns and fight them off. The secret was not to be intimidated, easier said than done! I was obviously just the latest slice of tourist commodity in a long line of victims, burning the same predictable path. One boy even phoned ahead to the pension he'd presumed I would be staying at to let the hotelier arbitrate, as if I was going to change my mind and jump in a rip off taxi on the basis of what he said. Now it could have just been coincidence, but the minute he gave up and drove away, hey presto the allegedly non-existant dolmus minibus materialised and ran me into the town centre free gratis. A boy led me to the dolmus stand where other minibuses for Bogazkale waited to fill up and another tout with good English here tried his luck. He tried every angle in the book he could think of, he was going anyway, he had just been leaving, but I was the epitome of stubbornness and he always had to stop short of saying it was a free lift. It was almost laughable. On the other hand the minibus driver even bought me tea and wouldnt let me pay, which was fair enough, he was getting my money anyhow. From what little I saw of Sengurlu it was obviously a farming service town. Numerous shops selling and hiring tractors lined its main street and many more of them were on the road. People like me on the well worn trail to Hattusha were probably the main source of excitement in such a place. But you had to be careful how you dealt with such situations, there was a network which was there to catch you out if you let it. Far from being in competition with each other the transport workers doubtless knew each other and were perhaps even related. But he who has the dollar is king and right now that was me. I was going to do what I had first intended, their efforts were futile.

I arrived in Bogazkale to find the village a bit larger than expected, not that it was large, with 4 teashops, 4 small stores, one lit street and umpteen stray dogs. After securing myself a bed in the deserted hotel, talk about off season, I took a short wander round to confirm that I must have been the only tourist in town. An apple and crisps was all the place could offer for dinner and then I hit the worlds dodgiest internet cafe. It had early generation PCs and must have been dial-up but I was just glad it was there. The single unexpected ATM in the square shone like a beacon of civilisation in the dark. It was already dark by 5 and very cold here so I had an early night for an early start in the morning.

Posted by andyhay 23:00 Archived in Turkey

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