The journey continues from part one……..
Ankara to Adana Depart 20.05 Scheduled Arrival 07.25, 674KM
Feeling a bit peckish we perused the menu. There is something really special about eating in the restaurant car of a train. I automatically think of Alan Whicker and Murder on the Orient Express, tuxedos & pianists & champagne whenever I frequent one at night.
This wasn’t as salubrious as that, but at least we had (fairly clean) white tablecloths and matching napkins. The not so smartly dressed waiter took our orders – lamb stew for me, rice with cheese for Hamish.
His choice was not an official menu item, but in the absence of veggie options he negotiated a meal of the rice from the stew dish and the cheese from the cheeseburgers.
My meal was delicious, but Hamish’s was pretty unexciting – bland rice with a processed cheese square plonked on top. Beer munchies were suitably assuaged however, so it was time for bed.
We had gone for the deluxe cabin, the one with the tiny sink with a lid that folds down on top to create a storage space.
Turkish Rail had kindly provided us with free disposable toothbrush and miniature tube of toothpaste, a tiny bar of soap, a plastic comb and bottle of water.
There was not too much space to manoeuvre in, especially with our luggage, but by pre-communicating our every move we managed to avoid bashing into each other. A great feat for clumsy me especially!
We soon drifted off to the soothing sound of wheels on tracks. No loco changes or passport controls to worry about, so a good night’s sleep was there for the taking.
I stirred around six, feeling that we were moving really slowly. Something compelled me to look out of the window. We were high up in the mountains in a snowy landscape.
The excited kid took hold of me and without thinking I bellowed, “Hamish, SNOW!”
This now rates as Hamish’s best wake up call ever. We dressed hurriedly, grabbed our cameras and went off to record the scene through the windows. Most were iced up, but we found sufficient gaps for some decent pictures.
As I listened to Grieg’s Peer Gynt once more in a winter wonderland, my mind drifted as it usually did listening to this piece. My audio delight was augmented with the visual so I was soon imagining trolls warming themselves by a fire in their caves and mischievous sprites having snowball fights in the forest.
Since then I only have to listen to the opening bars of ‘Morning’ to be instantly transported back to that snowy mountain scene viewed on my magical train ride.
We were in the Toros Mountains, which we should have traversed through about four when it would have been pitch black. We were running late, but this was definitely to our advantage for once.
A quick wash in the lidded sink and it was off to the restaurant car again for breakfast. Here we remained for a good couple of hours.
We both went for ‘special breakfast’ of hard (and I mean hard) boiled egg, bread roll, gherkin, olives, tomato, soft cheese, apricot jam “portion, butter, watery orange juice and unlimited coffee. I also benefitted from an extra portion of spam courtesy of Hamish!
We ate the lot, despite both snapping our plastic knife trying to spread the rock solid butter on the roll.
As we drank our coffee, we recalled the dramas from the previous evening and contemplated what might have been. We could now be waking up in a grotty hotel in Ankara with a feeling of foreboding about what events would unfurl that day or we could still have been blissfully unaware of the traumas that lay ahead as we tucked into our fodder.
Perhaps worst of all, we could now be tearing up the train compartment desperately trying to locate the wallet or even imploring the train guard to conduct a search of all passengers and their belongings.
Maybe the policeman in Ankara would also have been contemplating what to spend his windfall on whilst laughing at the picture of my big-eared mate.
We thanked our lucky stars once more and vowed to have a fantastic time in Syria to celebrate our good fortune. It was now time to sit back, enjoy the ride and take in the views.
Wayne joined us with a cheery good morning and for once at that normally grumpy time of day, we reciprocated. None of us was 100% sure where to catch the bus and how to get there from Adana train station. We agreed to stick together and then share a taxi into Aleppo from Antakya.
That’s where the conversation stopped. Seemed I never could get rapport with mathematics teachers. We had drunk more coffee than was good for us so made our excuses and returned to our compartment via the not be dallied in facilities, before arriving in Adana about an hour later, two and a half hours behind schedule.
The bus station was a twenty-minute walk away. Upon arrival there, tickets were procured for the journey thirty-minutes hence. This was just enough time for a quick falafel and a plate of hummus (to which I am addicted of course). With our fill of chickpeas, we were off.
The journey to Antakya took an hour or so. Hamish tried to teach me how to tell in which direction we were travelling by the position of the sun. He quickly lost me, but eastwards was good enough for me!
The city was built out of the ruins of ancient Antioch famed in biblical times as the base for Paul’s missionary journeys, where Jesus’ followers were first called “Christians” and where the Gospel of Matthew was reputedly written.
Not much from that time survives in modern day Antakya, but we had no time for that anyway as it was high time to find a taxi and negotiate the fee for a ride through border control about twelve miles away, and on to Aleppo.
This is where Wayne came into his own. Without the need to revert to calculator, logarithms or abacus, he negotiated the taxi fee down from $80 to $45, just $15 each.
Syria here we come……………
This is an excerpt taken from my book ‘On The Beaten Track’ recounting over 15,000 track kilometres in the east of the European continent. It is available from Amazon via this LINK.
I will be continuing the journey through Syria over on Wilbur’s Travels.