Crossing a Minor Continent

This week has seen us cross Turkey from the West Coast to Iskenderun, probably completing our travels through Asia Minor. I say probably because nothing from here on is going to be as guaranteed as we’re used to back home. We intend to take the ferry to Egypt tomorrow, but (whilst there are lots of them running around on this little campsite) we are not counting our chickens. I’m leaving this week’s blog empty of photos for now as the photo gallery covers that. Actually, its late and we are tired and need sleep – I might add some later and also tag all the photos, but for now – here it is!

Looking back, we haven’t updated you on our travels since we left Athens so I’ll have a go at bring you up to date with the progress you can see on our map.

After Athens, we drove North towards Thessaloniki and camped in the hills South of Alexandria, where we were woken in the middle of the night by 2 uniformed officers of what they described as ‘Police for Hunters’, checking that we weren’t doing any illegal hunting…all very friendly and slightly amusing when they understood the Vegan Without Frontiers logo down the side of Troopy. All I got to shoot was some practice wildlife pics of some giant bugs that came wandering by in the morning! Check out our week 5 pics below.

Week 5
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After that we made good progress across northern Greece, stopping to look at Storks nesting on lamp posts and going for a swim in the sea, and then crossed into Turkey. As night fell we approached Istanbul with very basic maps and a little confusion, but Katana’s navigation once again came up trumps and we rolled up to the target camp site, where we were let through the gates and shown to a plot, shown around the facilities and wished goodnight. They turned on the lights just for us as again we were the only guests, but the contrast between this beautiful little site and the Athens creep-show could not have been greater. This was our base for visiting Istanbul and a happy refuge once we had endured the Ramadan traffic to get ‘home’ at the end of the day. Ramadan on top of a lack of available vegan food options did not make for happy stomachs, but was an interesting time to visit the Blue Mosque and see the city.

The evening’s entertainment was provided by an exuberant, friendly kitten we dubbed Zorro-Cat after his first appearance with a dynamic flourish at the rear window bounding onto the spare wheel.

After another day spent travelling mostly through Istanbul (we crossed out of Europe by ferry across the Bosphorus), we camped off road and off tracks on a hill with some goats. This set the pattern for much of our travels since, as we have tended to alternate a day on a camp site with a couple in the wilds. Katya seems good at finding the right sort of area, and we together have picked out some beautiful places to spend our evenings and wake up to. I am only half suspicious that she picks long winding dirt-tracks so she can get to practice driving, but its all good for me as I get to be a passenger and look at the scenery.

We visited Bursa, Çanakkale, the ruins of Troy and various ancient sites along the coast. We spent a day just vegging in the sun by the sea. We got on each others nerves, we got baked on the long road as we headed inland and stuck to our seats and were invaded by flies the minute we stopped anywhere. We camped by the roadside outside a mountain village and met lots of friendly locals – including Ufuk and Burhan who brought us watermelon and lemonade and joined us for a good conversation and some food, even though we didn’t speak the same language. We met some overfriendly locals, whose written note to Katana after 5 minutes of non-communication (translated by google as ‘you are so good – so beautiful’), blown kisses, and unrefusable wish to show us some remote springs in the mountains had us making excuses and running away to Pammukale.  There we walked barefoot in the ‘Cotton Palace’ calcite formations before heading further East, lunching by salt lakes and sunken volcano craters. We camped by mountain streams and took refreshingly freezing morning showers, got stuck in village traffic jams of motorised fully laden cherry carts – and now we are at the end of our Turkish adventure. Subject, of course, to tomorrow going to plan…

Katana here taking over for my additional impressions on the last few days. As far as veganism goes, I think the concept of not eating animals is understood here better than how most Westerners imagine. When we have communicated to various people that we do not consume animals, it was understood without any questions. One person even said “So? We have vegetables!” as if the suggestion that they might not have non-meat things was absurd. The other side of that is, people know exactly what consuming animals entails: it is impossible not to come in contact with animals alive, animal abuse, and animal carcasses and various bits of actual animal bodies lying around in shops. I think in a lot of ways Westernised culture has desensitised people to view meat as just a packaged “food” rather than once alive being. We saw cows and sheep grazing happily in fields, and then we saw a cow being driven to slaughter. I also accidentally saw three or four skinless sheep carcasses being hosed down right on the street.

As for the “female traveller” part that everybody always talks about when Middle East is the destination, I have mixed views. Unfortunately, I am viewed as a rarity, an easy target, I am constantly gawked at on the streets walking or when we are driving, and the incident with the note was also very upsetting. I do feel that a certain part of my freedom is restricted, but after a particularly low point I decided that I just don’t care. In some ways, it is what it is. On the other hand, I have found most Turkish people particularly friendly and welcoming, and also very polite and willing to chat even when there is no common language. The positive aspects of this huge and varied country far outweigh the negatives!

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