| Plan C entailed flying to Xinjiang from Istanbul. We hit the pavement, going door-to-door inquiring with travel agents. Most agents wrinkled their brows when we asked about flights to Urumqi (capital city of Xinjiang Province) —they'd never heard of such a place. But Krygyzstan Airlines came up with a flight via Almaty. We were interested.
The night we settled on booking seats on the Krygyzstan flight, we checked our site and there was a posting by Rick, a friend from home, titled 'Cross off Pakistan?'. He thought we might want to reconsider our plans—had we heard the news? Army General Musarraf was sacked by PM Nawaz Sharif, a move which backfired in a military coup. Though we didn't know what this meant for travel to Pakistan, it didn't seem to bode well. We would have to forego the Karakoram too.
By the time we'd arrived at our final plan three whirling days later, all the booksellers in our neighborhood had undoubtedly become suspicious of us 'browsing' their LP rack for info. We had just enough time to email my sister, Carolyn, about the package to send. Dear Carolyn. Sorry again for the changes... Forget the Karakoram and China guides, but please include the India LP and map… She had barely enough time to get the other things we asked for and post off the box. The address I gave her I'd procured only an hour before sending the message. We would have it posted to the Mail Boxes Etc (MBE, the American mail services company) office that was down the street from our hotel. Though we had by then collected all kinds of addresses from Turks we'd met offering to help, none were in Istanbul. We figured MBE deals with this sort of stuff, were kind enough not to charge us anything, and spoke a little English were things to go awry.
Our time in Turkey was running out and though we vowed to be back, we were anxious to make it to Cappadocia to see the fantastic rock formations before leaving the country. In the meantime, we'd acquired some souvenir items, including a baglama for Gregg—a Turkish stringed instrument smaller but more fragile than a guitar. To get it home required scouring trash bins for discarded boxes. Eventually we scored a big sturdy box that once contained scooter parts from Italy, a smaller box which we would tack on for added length, and even some fast-food cardboard drink holders—good for padding! All this we hauled back to our room, marching up Istiklal—Istanbul's happening pedestrian way lined with live-music café/bars, shops and restaurants. By the time we were done constructing our box, it was slightly deformed but secure, standing about a head shorter than I. The hotel manager let us store it in the backroom free of charge—they would look after it while we were away. We looked forward to leaving Istanbul—no worries about visas, flights, packages... All that would wait for us upon return.
Our overnight bus back to Istanbul's Otogar (main bus station) pulled in at 9am. The first thing we did after dropping our bags at the hotel was to go pick up our box at MBE. I'd received email from Carolyn letting us know that the package went off and should arrive in a few days. Fortunately, the young Turkish girl at the counter was able to locate a package slip under my name; unfortunately, the package itself was not there, naturally. "Problem" was all the girl was able to say to me in English. The computerised slip detailed instructions in Turkish about the package—the problem was that it was a personal package and therefore had to clear customs at the central post office across town. They offered to pick it up for us, but then realized that the instructions required that I show up myself with identification. We set off with vague instructions and a few sketched maps in search for the central PO.