September 23: Goreme, Turkey
4:15. I’m up and have managed to get in and out of a ridiculously tiny shower without hitting my head on the doorway for a fourth time.
4:40. There doesn’t appear to be any wind this morning so I’m sure we’ll get up this time. There are several hundred people milling around this launch site… and there there are dozens of equally busy launch sites all over Cappadocia. There can be as many as 300 balloons in the sky on a good day at the height of the tourist season.
8:15. I’m not sure how I went 53 years without experiencing a sunrise from a balloon, especially with a nephew who piloted balloons while he was in university, but I can now cross another item off the bucket list. The Cappadocia scenery is pretty special from the ground but absolutely stunning from a few hundred meters at sunrise.
8:44. We’re on the truck for the final 730 km leg of the Silk Road. If we only make a few quick stops and bypass Ankara altogether we can be in Europe for dinner. Istanbul, here we come!
11:20. Rod, James, Jenny and I have each put together a 10 song playlist for the final time. Rod’s is the first to play and as expected, it’s a mix of classic rock and new country. I’m not sure about the significance of The Stones’ Wake Up Maggie, but I would have bet money that Randy Travis and Toby Keith would make an appearance and they do. I Love This Bar, It’s Five O’clock Somewhere, and A Thousand Miles From Nowhere were established as the trip’s duelling theme songs a long time ago. Lady Antebellum’s Highway Don’t Care is a new addition that seems fitting as well.
12:50. James has put together a playlist that’s heavily skewed towards 1990s British bands. The Proclaimers’ Sunshine On Leith and The Soup Dragons’ I’m Free are my favourites. But who knew that James would be a closet Madonna fan? Like A Prayer brings back fond memories of nights at Boots and Woodys and RPM.
14:20. Jenny’s list is the most eclectic yet – ranging from Foo Fighters Times Like These to Jag Vantar by Swedish artist Sofia Karlsson and We Are All Bourgeois Now by Manic Street Preachers.
15:10. We’ve just gone two hours without a single country song. This is a new record for the truck and cause for celebration by several passengers who shall remain nameless but who can be identified from photos as the ones always wearing their own ear buds and Beats headphones.
15:50. I finish up with my 10 song playlist. I didn’t go with my 10 all-time favourites but rather a selection of songs that speak to our epic road trip.
17:27. We spot the Sea of Marmara off to the left. If I didn’t know better I’d think I was approaching New Westminster, British Columbia. We cross a structure that is a dead ringer for the Patullo Bridge, and while there are more tile roofs than you’d see in BC, the heavily built up hillsides are strangely familiar. Rush hour traffic in the opposite direction is similar to what you’d see in BC as well. We’re still 70 km from Istanbul but its strictly stop-and-go for those headed to the suburbs.
18:30. We cross the Bosphorus and are officially in Europe just in time to catch a glorious sunset. First impressions of Istanbul are all positive. It certainly looks like a sophisticated city full of smartly dressed people who obviously own washing machines. I feel like such a slob in shorts and a threadbare t-shirt that I’ve worn for at least 70 of the last 120 days.
19:10. We have parked the truck near the water and will walk the last 300 meters through the old city to the Orient Hostel. The truck’s odometer shows that we have covered 15,450 km since leaving Beijing on June 21. I’ll have to spend some time thinking about a final Trip Note but for now let me say that the last 96 days (120 if you count Mongolia) have been the best of my life.
- Note: With the Silk Road behind me, I’ll revert to weekly blog posts starting with Saturday #65. I’ll need a few days to post the remainder of my photos in the appropriate galleries. Stay tuned, folks.