Today, the trip begins.

We have been on the road for 3 weeks.

But today, the trip begins.

Today, we sit ten feet from the sea, in a remote bay, under the shade of the olive trees. I have a fishing rod in the water, the fridge is well stocked with beer, the Zac Brown band is playing on the van stereo. The breeze is mild enough as to not be intrusive, but strong enough to offset the strong Turkish sun.

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It has taken us this long to reach our primary destination and resolve all of the issues that have befallen us so far. It has taken us this long to be able to properly relax.

As you may already know, we had a new engine put in, in Serbia. Due to the nature of the problem and our lack of a bargaining position with the mechanics, we had to let them get on with it, pay and hope for the best.

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My 50,000Km 1.9 AAZ TDI exploded in a ball of flames. I now have a god knows what mileage 1.9 AAZ TDI. But it looked good. It drove well. There were no leaks. Visually, everything seemed good. So we paid up and drove on. Hoping to finally distance ourselves from the drab chills of Eastern Europe and hit the sunny shores of the Mediterranean.

We had noticed a Bulgarian lake, about halfway between and not too much of a detour from our Serbia – Istanbul route, and decided that it would make a great stopover place. Pulling off the motorway and pushing up winding roads toward our resting point, the gears started to become decidedly stiff. By the top, they were almost impossible to engage. By the time we found a worthy spot by the lake shore, first and reverse were a no-go.

I decided that in all likelihood it was just air in the hydraulics. That I would be able to carry on to Turkey as planned, and bleed it there. Worst case scenario, it was a faulty slave or even master cylinder, either way, I had spares. No problem.

The following morning, I juddered the van to life in second gear and onwards to the border.

Upon reaching the border, and going back and forth to different offices to secure Border Insurance, we were handed a list and told to report to “hangar four”. Upon the list, there were several things scribbled in Turkish, the only decipherable one; “X-ray”. At hangar four, the guard at the door redirected us to hangar three. At hangar three, a guard met us and told us to drive through for the X-ray, (bearing in mind I still only have second gear). At the entrance to the x-ray, we were told to drive back and empty the van of liquids and electronics. We did so, and were met by a guard who told us that we could leave it. He left, and another guard came over and told us to empty EVERYTHING. We disputed this, he told us to empty everything. We emptied everything. The van was x rayed. The stuff that was emptied was not glanced at. As we were re-packing the van, we were approached again by a border guard who showed me Dinia’s Facebook Profile on his phone. After three hours, we were cleared through the border and after three days, Dinia received a friend request from the border guard.

But, despite the trials and tribulations and the fact that the first two weeks had seemed like nothing more than a blur of long drives, bad weather and mechanical issues, but the sun was shining and we just had to work through our list, fix the clutch and it would all be fine.

We stayed the first night in the grounds of a hotel on the Galipolli peninsula, and woke in the morning to tour the war memorials. Unfortunately the hills of Gallipoli proved too much for my second gear, and, perhaps befitting of the British on that peninsula, were forced a begrudging retreat.

We wanted nothing more than to sit on a beach, cast out a fishing rod and hammer out a few days work, to top up the travel fund for the weeks to come. We found a quiet spot, and were treated to a beautiful sunset for our troubles.

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After limping onto a ferry, bound for Cannakale, and pushing on down the coast, we stumbled across a little campsite just outside of the city of Troy. Here we met Uran, the owner and welcoming host of our new accommodation. After sharing a few glasses of Raki with him, we had stumbled into a mutually beneficial set of favours. I was to take a new set of photos and renew the ones on his site, he was to discount our stay and sort the majority of our issues for us.

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We spent the first day touring the Ancient City of Troy itself, under Uran’s expert guidance. A place steeped in legend and history, it was a spectacular place to visit. The photos speak for themselves:

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We had our clutch fixed by Uran’s friend (another £200 as it took a full day to remove gearbox and source parts). We had bought a local data sim from the nearby town. We had taken our last dose of rabies vaccine. We had spent a productive four days holed up working and finally we could leave, with all issues sorted and nothing left to do but begin to properly enjoy our trip.

Frank had begun to get bored watching us work:

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We spent the first half of the day, exploring with no real end point in mind, simply being awe struck by the winding Turkish costal roads and vibrant colours that they present. English grass. Oak and Sycamore. Palm trees and Gorse bushes, all set against the calming blue of the Mediterranean. It may be the perfect climate and it is little wonder that this country was the cradle of civilisation.

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Turkey (36 of 44)

As a side, and something that people regularly ask; where do we sleep? We try to camp wild for 2 nights, then spend a third in a campsite where available, to wash, use WiFi etc. when wild camping, we usually try to get to a remote spot, or at least away from main roads, somewhere that we feel safe, and are sure that we are not trespassing. As we push further from Europe, we are beginning to realise that this line is often blurred and that there are becoming fewer campsites to fall back on if we do not manage to find somewhere. As we move East to Georgia, we have decided that we need to begin asking more permission from people, so that we can be secure in the knowledge at least that we are allowed to be where we are.

As darkness began to fall, we had still not found anywhere, when we managed to spot a family having a meal in a beach bar that appeared shut. Next to the bar was a piece of scrub land, that looked like it would make a great spot for the night. We approached and through pigeon english and hand gesturing, ascertained that it would be fine. No sooner had we set up our camp chairs, then one of the women appeared, carrying a platter of food from their table. We tried to refuse through politeness and guilt, but ended up thanking her profusely, as she wouldn’t take no for an answer. A day in the life of a traveller is often a series of small reminders of how wonderful and kind the people of this world can be.

Leaving the next morning, we found a dirt track that seemed to head out into a string of tidal islands and hidden coves. We spent the days, stretching the van’s suspension and reminding ourselves why we had picked (and spent so much money on) this vehicle.

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Turkey (43 of 44)

By midday, we had found a spot so utterly secluded and beautiful that it prompted me to write:

Today, the trip begins.

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