Only 3 weeks ago did 2 novice hitch hikers step onto a Hungarian motorway with a slight apprehension and blissful ignorance about what their first journey might entail. Yet, we have become so accustomed to getting into stranger’s cars that we now use ‘the cheeky thumb’ to get us out of sticky situations. This worked on a couple of occasions in Turkey, and we would once gain rely on others to get us across the border, and into Georgia.
Yet, this was not quite the semi-adventurous hitch hiking we had done in Eastern Europe, but a last ditch attempt to cross the border without additional expense.
Our journey from Erzurum was due to start at 2:30pm. For once we had not chosen to get an overnight bus. It turned out that the bus had been delayed by almost 2 hours. This made a serious dent in our ambition to get to Georgia that evening as our bus was already scheduled to take 8 hours due to a detour via Trapzon. That said, we had the chance to ease political relations between Britain and Iran by humouring a Persian man.
As we turned out of the bus station and onto the road we witnessed a horrific crash. A man sat on his cart was being pulled along by his horse. In a sudden misjudgement a taxi driver drove straight into them, forcing the horse to bolt into a field and the man onto the road. The man had clearly seriously injured himself and had left the road bloodstained from a gash to his head. We had to break sharply to avoid making it worse.
As we passed the incident, which could easily have been in a film, the driver of the taxi fell gingerly out of his beaten car and prayed on the floor. His car was written off and the other man’s livelihood destroyed. I guess we will never know how it concluded.
Once we were properly on the road it was clear that something wasn’t right. The air con was not working which made for a lot of sweaty passengers. One man decided to make fans from newspaper for the people around him (quite rudely excluding the woman sat beside him). The driver decided the coach needed servicing and pulled into a garage. At this point we thought it would have been easier to hitch hike.
We stayed in the garage for a while and one man went to pray in the prayer room. He never returned to the coach. I guess we will never know what happened to him either.
From this point onwards the journey was a mixture of a struggle to sleep and admiration of the stunning views eastern Turkey blesses us with. We both tried to get some sleep before we stopped for dinner where we had more soup and relied once more on our GCSE German to pay for it.
We both fell asleep before reaching Trapzon and were surprised to see that we were the only 2 left on the coach as we pulled into the small town of Hopa.
We had been dropped off at 1am by the side of the road. We had nowhere to stay and no desire to look. This is where our habitual ‘get your thumb out’ routine kicked in. We stood by the side of the road until 2am and noticed a drop in traffic flow and a reluctance to acknowledge us in the dead of the night. We decided to pitch our tent on a grassy patch beside the highway and try again at dawn.
Despite overhearing the stray dog and the regular lorry driver ‘banter’ we both managed to recharge for about 3 hours before quickly dismantling the tent and getting back on the road.
The drivers could now see us, but they weren’t taking to us, and the traffic hadn’t picked up. As it turned out, we managed to ‘hitch’ a public bus taking us to the border town of Sarpi. At this point we were able to exit Turkey, just as we entered it: on foot.
The sight of the Georgian border was fantastic. It certainly made me realise how much land we had covered since we arrived in Budapest.
Once officially on the Georgian side we were once again invited onto a public bus towards the city of Batumi. This meant that, despite our efforts in the morning, we had not officially hitch hiked into Georgia at all. Instead, the public transport systems in Turkey and Georgia had created their own adventures for us.