08.07.2017 - 08.07.2017 30 °C
Day 45 Saturday July 8 2017
Tatvan to Elazig 331km
- It seems there is a sleep conspiracy against us. Our room is cool and we hear no early morning call to prayer. But we are disturbed several times by rowdy guests along the corridor. Both of us on separate occasions get up to shout down the corridor. How does one get rowdy on Turkish tea? We also detect the tell tale effects of MSG food additive. Our supper did taste very salty.
- The breakfast spread is however a treat. We eat only the fresh and unprocessed foods on offer - then we can be sure of avoiding another MSG hangover. Cheese, olives, water melon, tomatoes and cucumber, yogurt and real honeycomb honey. We sit on the outdoor balcony and enjoy our breakfast all fresco.
- Today is significant on our journey because we are finally beginning to head west, back to our chilly and politically gloomy homeland. It's a drive that will take us 2.5 weeks. But our adventures are hopefully not yet over. Our route across Turkey has been chosen to avoid repetition and to bypass the south eastern areas that the Foreign Office has designated as 'no go' zones.
- The problem with today & the last 2 days is that we are travelling to reach places that have little to offer once we get there. Tonight's destination, Elazig is not mentioned at all in LP. We have no option, there is nothing else around. Western tourism avoids these places for good reason.
- The day starts with disappointment as we follow yet another LP red herring. We do a short 'voluntary' detour to Bitlis just SW of Tatvan. A place LP describes as having 'one of highest concentrations of restored historic buildings in Eastern Anatolia, many of them EU sponsored projects.'
- Do we, the citizens of EU realise how much of our money is being spent by the EU on vanity projects in countries that do not even belong within the EU, now or in the near future?
- On our travels we have seen many examples of EU generosity and often wondered why. Here in Bitlis we see little evidence of money being well spent. But then again we see no EU flag nor signage. So maybe LP got their facts wrong.
- LP encourages the traveller to go off the beaten track. Of course you must do your own research. But without wifi when you are actually on the move, hunting out their recommendations, & without even basic Turkish language (SG would suggest few westerners do ) LP is too vague in its references. There is not even a rough sketch to help orientation. The tourist office, which according to LP is very helpful and has maps, is closed on Saturdays. Our love hate relationship with the Lonely Planet publication team continues.
- If you happen to stay in Tatvan, go instead up Mt Nemrut and see the crater lakes. A similar length detour as to Bitlis but probably well worth your trouble.
- So a long hot drive across Central Turkey. The roads continue to impress greatly. Building infrastructure is clearly a major part of the Turkish economy. Good on them. Shame on us.
- Just outside Tavan and then again at a town called Mus, there are police road checks and our vehicle is searched. There are intimidating armoured police vehicles parked adjacent and a row of riot shields stand ready for use. Yes, there are definitely ongoing & unresolved issues in Turkish politics .
- During the afternoon we encounter several more random road checks and vehicle searches.
- We are passing through one of Turkey's grain belts - sadly not a wine belt. Judging by the burnt fields in places, and the tractors still in action in others, harvest time is nearly over.
- Roads may be good in Turkey, but roadside facilities in this part of the country are non existent. Choosing a lunchtime picnic spot in the shade is never easy. Today's choice happens to be near a war memorial of some kind. It is in the middle of nowhere. There are photos of fallen Turkish soldiers, all of them tragically young and all of them killed on May 24 1993. SG later googles the date ( no Wikipedia is allowed in Turkey ) - it transpires it was the date of a brutal attack on Turkish soldiers by the PKK. We are driving relatively close to one of their current strongholds in Diyarbakir. It is the reason why the Foreign Office classify SE Turkey as dangerous for British travellers. To the south of Diyarbakir lies Syria & Iraq. PKK problems can flare up at any time.
- We arrive in Elazig mid afternoon. It is baking. We retreat to our hotel room for a couple of hours of chilling. Except the room is not particularly cool - the aircon system is only turned on when we arrive.
- AG has a migraine and naturally is not in the best of moods. Good job there is no sightseeing on the agenda. Nurse SG analyses the situation: a long hot drive, insufficient use of aircon ( in order to protect the truck engine at altitude ) only intermittent wearing of sunglasses & obviously too little fluid intake. Rest is prescribed.
- Its a struggle to find somewhere to eat in Elazig. The hotel restaurant does not appeal - at all. In fact it looks as if it is being prepared for wedding celebrations. On Trip Advisor there are only a few places with reviews, mostly in Turkish. We opt for Garnish Brasserie, a 10 minute taxi ride away. Food is 'fusion ' Turkish & Western. Or maybe just confused. The chef has been poached from the Sheraton in Istanbul and it shows in the artistic display of his dishes but nothing else. But the Campari soda cocktail is refreshing and the fruit chocolate fondu for dessert delicious.
- Back to the hotel for an early and hopefully peaceful night. AG must recover from his migraine or else SG will have to drive. An incentive if ever there was one. Yes, driving across the middle of this vast country is indeed tough.