After waking up on the beach and enjoying a morning dip in the black sea, we started to get some breakfast ready. Before the water had even started to boil, a local man turned up and without knowing barely any english, started talking to us. One of the words he did know was “problem” as he pointed at Berrys knees that were heavily covered in gnat bites. He then produced a bottle of home made mud that he forced Berry to rub on his knees to “solve” the problem. He also explained how Neil’s hair was “problem” due to the heat and how Romainian women how much nicer than Bulgarian. He also was very adament on us all having some of his beer, even though it was half eight in the morning. After an awkward breakfast, we set off into the heat for a long day of driving, planning to cross the entire Bulgarian Black Sea coast into Turkey.
The Bulgarian border force merely glanced at our passports before ushering us through. We then drove flat out the entire height of Bulgaria, hugging the coast. It was another very hot, sweaty journey for the SDOP team.
The Turkish boarder was a lot more strict and took more time as we had to get car insurance and Visas. After initially accidently trying to get enter Turkey illegally and without any of the required documents, we parked the ambulances and spent roughly an hour getting the Visas, Insurance and Customs documents. Due to the unusual nature of our vehicles we created quite a queue of people behind us whilst trying to sort out documents. The customs official wanted to search our vehicles, but a glance of the messy and smelly ambulances cut his search very short.
As soon as we passed the boarder we switched the drivers to Berry and Rich for their first stint of driving on the rally. Because they were not insured for europe, they had been navigating and passaging until now. The road into Istanbul was wide, flat and empty, so a perfect opportunity to ease them in……….until reaching Istanbul.
Insane, Chaotic, Anarachic. None of these words come close to descibing the Istanbul driving experience. It is every man for himself with few road markings, and even less drivers willing to obey them. Adding to this, for the first time on the rally, our Open Street Maps – a sort of wikipedia for maps, where all the mapping is done by volunteers – failed us, with Istanbul turning out to be poorly mapped. We spent about two hours in the city, first trying to find an inner city campsite that turned out to be a campus, and then fruitlessly trying to leave the city for some more camp friendly greenary to set up camp in.
We eventually found a lay-by, and managed to get some food on, but just before heading to bed, some Turkish locals turned up, demanding money to stay the night where we were. After deciding to move on, with some of the team already asleep in the ambulances and rolling around the ambulance floor in their sleeping bags during the drive, we headed further out, a found a more secluded spot to camp, and at 1am, we finally settled down to sleep.