We awoke up in the Semay Hotel to the sight of glorious mountain ranges surrounding the city. This was the second-take for Erzincan; the 1939 earthquake they suffered destroyed the original settlement so severely, it was relocated 50km to the North. Asking the staff for some panoramic shots out of the top floor windows, Rhys was escorted up to the top floor of the hotel while Thomas and I prepped the car for departure. Unfortunately, a fully loaded Micra doesn’t make for good torque off the mark; Mickey wasn’t agreeable to exiting up a steep gradient out of the hotel parking. Ditching passengers and taking a short run up saw us up and into daylight one again, and off on the way to Dogubayazit.
Filling up early in the day to make up for a good run, we soldiered through the few cities on the E80 hghway until we were pulled over at a security checkpoint at Agri. Passports were requested and various details pulled; we were more than happily obliging – you don’t argue with plain-clothes security forces sporting MP5s, and 2 armoured anti-personnel vehicles. The atmosphere became more tense as we continued further East. Jandarmer bases were in almost every town or hillside, and one such base had poured forces out into the roadside to assist a jack-knifed lorry that spilt its load of energy drinks across the highway. Not every day that someone waves you through a highway accident with an automatic weapon holstered.
We crawled through endless plains around Saticilar – endless fields of crops and small villages dotting the landscape. While the scene was pretty and gave a sense of vastness to Eastern Turkey, after several hours of driving, you need to see something different. We got that, and more, when we eventually entered Dogubayazit after sunset. Dogubayazit (commonly known to the Ralliers as “Doggybiscuit” or some may argue more aptly, “Doggybigshit”). Spoken French jokes aside, the town was run down, almost war torn; Jandarmer and armoured police vehicles at every corner, and stares of suspicion from all the locals could not be ignored as we made our best efforts to drive through the town on its rubble filled, mud-covered road. For the first time in the rally we locked the doors and secured any potentially attractive electronic equipment. Straight faced and knowing exactly where we needed to be, we crawled through without route deviation, ending underneath the Ishak Pasa Palace, at the Murat Camping site.
The owner was pleased to receive our custom, and we set up the tent on the hillside, overlooking Dogubayazit, heading into the campsite main building for a quick evening meal and water supplies. It was early in the evening, and it was refreshing to have a few hours to relax, albeit in the dark with a few LED torches to illuminate the surrounding area.