Day 5: What a day! Bulgarian road signage leaves something to be desired. Big sign to Istanbul leads to a potholed country road going nowhere. Unmarked road leads to major motorway. We spent 90 minutes going backwards and forwards in Bulgaria heading for a motorway indicated on all maps that did not exist. Later by accident, our Tom Tom GPS led us to it. Checking out of Bulgaria at the border was easy. The Turkish authorities however had never seen an Australian car registration before. Their computer systems said “no!”. Despite that, they were very cheerful about it and we think they eventually thought “these two Aussies look harmless, let them through”. The customs guys had us go into their inspection shed, they took one look into the back of our van canopy and said, “Nothing dangerous in there?”, we said “No”, and smiled. They said OK, and we were off! Lovely people the Turks!
However, Istanbul traffic is something to behold. 23 kms out from our hotel we hit THE traffic jam. Over the next 2 hours we covered 19 kms. Cars are constantly changing lanes. We weave across multiple spaghetti interchanges with cars going in all directions at snail pace, mixed with huge trucks! And yet, no road rage! Everyone composed and accepting of the situation! Come on Perth drivers! How are you so impatient?
The last 4 kms only took an hour. Despite the Tom Tom trying to route us down blocked off streets, we eventually wound our way to Sultanahmet in central Istanbul at the foot of the Blue Mosque.
The street to our hotel was 1 inch wider than our car because it was lined with alfresco restaurants. We pulled in the wing mirrors and entered the fray. Part of the way along, an Aussie family at a restaurant called out in amazement when the saw the WA licence plate. The last thing they expected to see in an alley in Sultanahmet! We chatted for a while, all the turks were cool about it and smiling. They love Aussies here!
Finally NIRVANA. The hotel. With secure off-street parking! Believe me, that sort of thing is rare here! Well done Jeff for sourcing that out.
After a quick stroll to see the Blue mosque and Sophia Hagia, we settled in with a beer and a meal to await the arrival of Team Quokkastan that we had not seen since Brussels.
Two and a half hours later, after major traffic jams and multiple diversions, they arrived in front of us!
They then joined us to eat, and several beers, a couple of bottles of wine, and some sambucas, as well as other unknown alcoholic drinks later, all was well with the world!
Definitely a sleep-in tomorrow morning, and some R&R in Istanbul!
Andrew and Jeff
Mongolia Charity Rally 2015