It’s week two of the Mongol Rally mayhem! Just so you are not worried, I wanted to inform you that I’m still alive and have avoided any substantial injuries. At the time of this writing, we have just left Cappadocia, Turkey and are headed to the Georgia border. I’m also, at this time, eating a few slices of deli meat that have been sitting in the sun for a few hours all the while as I try to decide if they are still edible or not. I’ll let you know how I feel by the time I’m done writing.
Ok, when we last left off from week one of the rally, my team, the Drama of Llama, was sleeping on a beach in Romania. I was so tired that night that I couldn’t enjoy the Adventurist Organization party so I just went to bed. Luckily it was a two-day party.
Week two of the Mongol Rally.
Day 8: The beaches in Romania have a chilled vibe to them, so we chose to take a day and relax before the 12 hour drive to Istanbul. I drank a few beers and then picked out a warm cozy spot on the beach. However, in the middle of the night I woke up to find that my side and legs felt warmer than usual. Sitting up, I saw the cause of this warmth. Two stray dogs had cuddled beside me for heat. I theorize this simply because I hadn’t had a shower in a few days.
Honestly, my first reaction was to lay my head back on my exoffico jacket that rolls up into a neck pillow, which by the way is extremely bad ass! However, I couldn’t go to sleep. My imagination started running wild. All I could think of was a scenario in which I saw myself rolling over on one of the dogs in the middle of the night and in return, him biting my bum. I envisioned myself laying on a hospital bed, surrounded by Romainia doctors and nurses with ten needles sticking out of my arm or other places you don’t want needles sticking out of. I would never make it through the night. I stealthy got up and moved to a chair. Apparently, this pissed the dogs off because one of my shoes was nowhere to be found in the morning.
Day 9: After spending an hour looking for my shoe, we hit the road. Our target for the day was Istanbul. It would be a long hull, but Norbert and I were eager to get Alex to this most wonderful city for his first time.
The day went relativity smooth until the Bulgaria/Turkey border. Here we almost had to pay a small bride for not having a vinyet, a piece of paper that says you can drive in Turkey. The lady asked for Lira, Euros, or Bulgarian Lev. We didn’t have any. “U.S. dollars,” we said timidly. She shook her head no, handed us the vinyet while simultaneously making the SHHH sign with her finger, and waved us through. Excited that we didn’t have to pay the bribe, we rushed through Turkey immigration and started on the road to one of my all time favorite cities in the world, Istanbul!
Day 10: Istanbul is where the eastern and western worlds collides, making it a city unlike any other with both a heavy European and Middle Eastern influence. We spent the day exploring many sites including the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar, and Güllüoğlu which makes the best Baklava I’ve ever tasted. That night we caught up with some other ralliers for dinner and decided to form a convoy all the way to Georgia.
Day 11: After a late start, which is always the case for us, the convoy headed out. The landscape of Turkey is astonishing with rolling hills and yellow plains. It is one of the most beautiful drives I’ve been on and I highly recommend it, not to mention that both cities, Istanbul and Cappadocia, are worth a visit. It is a trip that deserves a few days of your life. However, due to our late start and getting lost in Ankara, we didn’t quite make it to Cappadocia that day. We camped the night in a windy, sunflower field.
Day 12: The following morning, we woke up surrounded by sunflowers, much better than stray dogs, and finished the drive to Cappadocia, an area of Turkey that is rich in history, underground cities, and rock settlements. We spent the day exploring before heading into Imagination valley, an area that is normally not assessed by motor vehicles. That evening, we sat in an ancient 4000 year old rock house, drank wine, and watched the glowing sunset through the window. It has been one of the most memorable highlights of the rally so far.
Day 13: One of the most memorable sunsets I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been to Turkey before but never strayed too far from Istanbul and until now had never seen the gorgeous yellow plains and brown hued mountains that cover the east side of this country. We drove on the highway until sunset when we turned left through a little village and advanced into the mountain range.
After driving up a dirt path on the mountains for a half hour, we pulled into a little valley and set up camp. We relaxed, watched the sunset, and when the sun was gone, we watched the stars. Later that night, we watched as a shepherd passed by our camp with his hundreds of sheep.
It was one of those surreal moments that comes when you travel, in which the moment you are experiencing is far more than just your own. It is a moment that crosses language and culture, a pure moment that leads you to reflect where you are and just how tiny you are in the grand scheme of things.
The next morning, out of curiosity, the Shepherd came back to our camp to show us directions, look at our gear, and (even though he didn’t speak English) have a laugh.
Stay tuned as we are starting our third week of the Mongol Rally! As you have just read, we are getting into more remote settings. We are just a couple days from Russia, and don’t forget, we still have Kazastian and the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.
P.s. The Deli meat was ok!