Being locked inside a toilet isn’t fun. All of a sudden the tiny confined space you are so familiar with becomes a claustrophobic prison, where no one can hear your cries for escape and no one knows where you are. We had 5 minutes until we had to jump in the cab to get to our bus, and Pete had no idea I’d run up two flights of stairs to use the bathroom. Luckily for me after about 10 minutes of banging the door down, the lady from next door finally heard my cries of ‘help’ and let me out. With my knuckled red raw from banging, I frantically ran downstairs to Pete, waiting next to the ready Taxi and wondering what was taking me so long.
This is how my last day in Turkey begun, and it didn't get much better from there on. Not helping the situation was the fact that Pete was barely able to walk. The previous day he had taken a fall from an ancient wall that crumbled beneath him (he figured if it’d been standing that long it much be sturdy, right?) and had badly sprained his foot. Swollen and bruised, walking was a challenge and carrying his pack was out of the question, so I was the pack horse for the both of us.
Click on 'read more' below to see the rest of the story.
With the toilet situation all but forgotten, we made it to the ‘Ottogar’ with time to spare before our bus. We weren’t quite sure how this border crossing to Georgia was going to turn out, as we’d read about 5 different versions of the bus routes to take. Luckily though we were told we could take a dolmus (mini bus) to the next town of Ardahan, and then another bus would take us all the way across the border to Akhaltsikhe, where busses regular depart for Tbilisi.
The first bus ride was great. We had seats up the front and views over the amazing landscape. Only a short journey, we arrived at Ardahan one hour later. Our bus from here never arrived, so another mini bus ride it was, this time taking us to the border town of Posof where we would change again.
Squeezed into the back of a bus that had sold seat numbers that didn't exist, we had an overly chatty deaf man next to us who enjoyed pointing out obvious sights in the passing landscape over and over again. We were happy to interpret his charades for a while, but the incessant repetition eventially wore us down. That’s when we learnt the ancient Chinese proverb:
“Even headphone can not mute deaf man chatter.”
Three hours later we arrived at our next destination, Posof to find our much larger bus ready and waiting for us. Awesome! Lets load out luggage on and be off! Nope.
Along the way we’d been taken under the wing of a friendly Kurdish man who spoke no English, but who was also headed to Tbilisi. When we arrived in Posof, he began negations with the bus driver, arms waving and pointing, and many looks in our direction. Conversation soon turned to heated discussion. From what we could work out, the bus driver didn’t want to drive because he didn’t have enough passengers. It seems our Turkish friend was arguing our case for us, as we had already paid for our ticket across the border. After about half an hour of waiting, our Turkish friend won the battle, and we were motioned to climb aboard. We were off on our huge bus, transporting all of 4 passengers.
When we reached the border, it was the usual 'hop off the bus and carry your luggage through border control, and the bus will meet you on the other side' situation. We went through with our Turkish friend and the other passengers, who puzzlingly said to us on our way out "Taxi, you two and me?"
"Huh?" we said. "No no, we go on the bus."
"No bus!" he said, and we never saw him again.
Now we were confused. We had definitely paid to be driven all the way through to Akhaltsikhe, but once we emerged from customs to the Georgian side of the border, there was no bus to be seen, nor any of the other passengers.
We did however, meet two very friendly dutch guys who had just come all the way from Tehran, and had decided they’d had enough of their 24 hour bus journey, and they were going to jump on their bikes and ride to Tbilisi instead (how very Dutch of them). After explaining our own confusion with our missing bus, they kindly left us with their bus tickets from their ‘luxury’ bus, which was headed all the way to Tbilisi, and cycled off into the horizon.
We thought we’d wait and see, hopefully we would be able to score a seat on this luxurious bus, but what if we couldn’t?
After sitting and waiting for about two hours, our bus, which we were certain had turned around and abandoned us, finally made it through the border crossing. Yay! We thought. The other passengers were no where to be seen, but at least we would make it to the next town before the menacing storm clouds looming on the horizon broke.
We jumped on and set about making ourselves comfortable, Pete propping up his swollen foot and settling in for the ride. The storm clouds darkened, but at least we were safe and sound inside our giant empty bus.
We drove 300m onwards from the border crossing to the nearest service station, when the bus driver turned around and said "Bus, End!”
"What?! No!!" I shrieked.
The storm clouds were more than threatening now, turning more into a dust storm reminiscent of the Burning Man playa, and we had waited for over two hours for this to drive us 300m.
"You can’t just abandon us at the border”, we tried to communicate with conviction, but our bus driver and his little helper conveniently spoke virtually no English.
"Taxi." They said.
A few other men from the petrol station wandered over to see what the commotion was about, attempting to translate but with not much success. We had paid for our ticket, we weren’t going to pay more for a taxi. Seems they didn’t care, and at the first chance of distraction, our bus driver and his little helper conveniently disappeared. By now the dust storm had turned into huge claps of thunder and lightning, fat drops of rain started to crash down, Pete couldn’t walk and we were standing left alone with our packs in a service station 300m from the Border of Turkey. Welcome to Georgia, we thought.
We finally realised we weren’t going to get anywhere without paying for a Taxi, and managed to entice one from out of the storm. The driver first quoted us 100 Georgian Lari for the taxi ride and two bus tickets to Tbilisi. It was way too much, and we knew it, plus we only had 50 on us.
"How much you have?” he asked.
"We only have 50." We said
And just like that he dropped his initial price by half, for us to get a taxi and bus all the way to Tbilisi.
We finally arrived in Tbilisi after a stunning drive through the soaked misty valleys of southern Georgia, a welcome change after the searing heat of Turkey, and were ecstatic to reacquaint ourselves with two of the things we had missed in Turkey; Pork and Beer.
Considering how long we’ve been on the road for already its no surprise that we have a hard day now and again, but perhaps in the future the Travel Gods can make sure everything doesn’t happen on one day :)
EMMA & PETE
We're just two Aussie's who met in London, married in Prague and travelled overland back to Australia.