Day 9 – Istanbul to Dzuche, Turkey

After our experience at Taksim Square, we approached the following day with a need of refreshment, both in culture and in cleanliness. With a late breakfast satisfying appetites – procured from the hotel’s dining area, we cleared the room and requested the hotel front desk to hold our bags and documentation until we returned from the second day of touring Istanbul. This time we headed straight for the Turkish Baths made famous in publications and the Guardian newspaper – the Calaglogu Hamam. We were welcomed into the baths with open arms smiles and handshakes – something we had become accustomed to in Turkey – a friendly approach to customers will bring in the money. If half the tactics employed by these businessmen from their market stalls and shops were exported to the UK, there’d be something of a gold rush to businesses.

Losing all clothes with replacement of a robe, we were escorted to the hot room to sweat out and open the skin pores. This gave us an opportunity to see the baths on our own -the split marble panelling, the large massage and bathing platform central to the room and the acoustics the allowed for a seemingly endless echo. Then came the sound of water rushing through the bathing area and marble sinks being filled. We were escorted through and given the full works – massage, bone socket realignment in legs and arms, an exfoliating scrub down then soap up, finally a series of buckets of cold water to wash us down. We had never felt so clean – after thanks and heading out towards the Grand Bazaar, we felt far more acclimatised to the hot city air – our skin could breathe far easier without the layer of dead cells, dirt and oil.

Feeling cleaner that a bleached kitchen worktop, we headed for the Grand Bazaar for curiosities and a small shopping list for Ucci – a small display dagger, a trinket or novelty gift and a small shisha pipe. With hallways and stands in a seemingly endless maze, factories for goods physically underneath the hop that sold them, it was something completely different to any high street or shopping centre. Businesses worked closely with each other – if one shop owner couldn’t provide, you were ushered through the bazaar to a shop that could. So it was with the shisha pipe – the shopkeeper managed to take Ucci from an 8-10” tall configuration – something perfectly mobile for Micra transportation, to a 2-foot-tall custom setup costing much more. Oli bought himself a Spirit Eye – a blue glass pebble – meant to keep evil spirits away; an essential addition to Mickey the Micra for mechanical well-being.

Shopping completed, we returned to the hotel to pack up Mickey and make for Zonguldak. This was to be Ucci’s first driving for the rally – having failed to satisfy the rigorous requirements of UK car insurance (some quoting well and above £1000), he was now able to drive the open roads of Turkey. We say open; Istanbul’s rush hour was in full force. Thus began a 2 hour stretch of shuffling down to the Turkish city roads towards the highway and the Europe-Asia bridges. With our patience gone, and the traffic now dispersing, we pulled over to find food and have a break from the high pressure driving. By sheer chance – our great friends, Team Back to Yak, pulled in and were a welcome sight for sore eyes. They were heading for a campsite somewhere nearby and were awaiting the arrival of another team for a rendezvous. We had a second dinner at the next service, and then made for the campsite – a well rated countryside retreat, roughly 40km south of the town of Dzuche. We arrived to a still scene – an almost Swiss style farmhouse, outbuildings, and a dim nightlight illumining one of the upper floor windows. The owner appeared a few moments later, and was at first very reluctant to offer us the land to set up camp – the police had apparently been extremely hesitant to support camping or strangers travelling due to the recent coup attempt. With some ice breaking, getting to know him and his 3 dogs, we offered a small bottle of single malt whiskey to try and convince him all was fine, and we’d cause no trouble at all. He accepted on the condition we move further away from the house.

With a pleasant night wished to each other in broken languages, setup camp in moonlight and made the most of the fresh air, peaceful surroundings and relaxing sound of the nearby rushing water.

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