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Flying the Friendly Roads
By Evelyn - 14 Nov, 1999

Page 2 of 2

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Gliding down the highway in these monters feels more like being on a cruise-liner. Sitting so high up, invariably looking down at surrounding traffic, and furthermore, being insulated from the horn-honking lane-jostling outside, gives you a false sense of security. For the most part the drivers are skilled and conservative; they are afterall responsible for such massive and expensive machinery. But as in every country, they share the roads with lunatic drivers who sit at the wheel with a death wish.

En route from Ankara to Istanbul in a METRO company bus, we skirted the edges of Izmit—the epicenter of Turkey's recent killer quake. Gregg and I were each looking out the window for evidence of the quake's impact. I barely looked away when a speeding truck two lanes to our left caught my eye. It was tailing the car in front of it, then decided to pull out and pass it on the right. I gasped because from above where I watched, it looked as though the truck driver was truly mad, but presumably, he lost control and came screaming into our lane, disappearing from my view as I heard him slam into the side of our bus. The truck then reemerged, still swerving wildly out and back to hit us again before finally slamming to a stop into the highway barrier.

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Through all this our driver held the wheel steady, safely easing us off onto the shoulder. Looking out the back window, I could see that the truck was still upright, the driver walking around his vehicle inspecting damages. A sturdy-looking middle-aged woman was just getting out of the passenger side. No other cars were involved—no injuries apparent. Lying in the middle of the road were two loose metal sheets, the panels to the doors of the cargo-hold torn from our METRO bus.

Eventually the bus driver retrieved the panels and his crew put out a small plastic warning sign to alert passing traffic, which had by then slowed. The driver was struggling with the damaged fuel tank, trying to prevent oil from leaking further onto the highway. Within 20 minutes, all passengers from our bus were picked up by another two METRO buses just behind. We arrived in Istanbul barely an hour late. I recalled a break-down in Egypt with the government bus company where we stranded passengers were at the mercy of concerned independent drivers who happened to have space in their vehicles.

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We'd orginially travelled west from Eastern Anatolia by overnight train. Turkey's smartly-designed, comfort-outfitted trains made that 24-hour journey nothing like our ride months before on the notoriously unsanitized Dakar-Bamako train in West Africa. We thought we might have occasion to ride back to Eastern Anatolia by bus in order to continue our land journey to Iran or Central Asia, but our departure from Turkey was destined to be by plane, from Istanbul to Delhi with Pakistan International Airlines. Our flight path was convoluted and involved long waits in the Karachi and Lahore airports.

We arrived to Istanbul airport early only to learn that our flight was delayed 4-1/2 hours, naturally. We finally got on the plane and located our seats; the cushions were uncomfortably lop-sided but adjustable as they were merely fastened to the metal frame by velcro strips. As the plane lifted from the runway, a stewardess' voice came on with an announcement in Pakistani, then English. What did she say? This plane is going first to 'Ehdens'—where's Ehdens? Just then, the video monitor blinked on showing the airline flight map, the saturated blues and greens were familiar. The nose of the little white plane was positioned over Istanbul, facing west... Sure enough the next screen detailed the first leg of our flight—Destination: Athens. Flying Time: 1 hour. Delhi, our final destination, was four stops away in the opposite direction, to say nothing of the connections we were sure to have missed with delays. Hmmm... perhaps we would use our Pakistani visas afterall.




Flying the Friendly Roads
  c/o Turkish Hospitality
  The Earthquake Dividend

  New York
    New York City
  West Africa
    The Gambia
  Middle East
    Palestinian Territories
    Eastern Anatolia
    Central Anatolia
    Pushkar Fair
    Madhya Pradesh
    Uttar Pradesh
    West Bengal
    Sikkim & the NE
    (Rep. of China - Taiwan)
  USA - San Francisco, CA

"The world is a traveler's inn."
-- Afghan folk saying
  © 1999/2000 ~ All Thoughts Concurred.