Day 232 – 235 | Winter has come

Day 232 | Tuesday November 1

When I looked out the window of my hotelroom in the morning I was very surprised. The whole city had turned white, since the morning it had been snowing heavily. I thought it was very ironically as I had been in a rush the last 2 months to make it before the first of November into Iran because I was afraid of snow and exactly today it started snowing.

I opened my laptop and received some very good news. The company of which I thought had scammed me delivered the authorization code for the Iran visa! Strange but great experience. This means I could now pick up the visa in Erzurum, thats about 300km back. While it’s freezing though the car’s range will drop with 20-30% and while driving through the mountains it will get even less.

I headed back to Cafe Pera were the car was charging. I wanted to pick it up and drive to Agri were  I found a couchsurfing host. At the cafe they disconnected the cable during the night so it was not fully charged yet. Around 3pm the electricity in the entire city went out. I had 93% so I wanted to tame my chances, it was just a 100km drive.

It was hard to get out of the city with all that snow but once on the highway it was allright. Things changes when it got dark, it started snowing heavy. I couldn’t see much and it got so cold. I didn’t turn on the heater as that takes to much energy and I would get even less range, the windows got blurred and with a wiper I tried to keep visibility. The range dropped quickly and the next petrol station was 50km away. I have to say this drive was one of the scariest things in my life, not exaggerating. I had no winter tires and sometimes I slipped a bit. I was lucky to reach the petrol station and I could recharge there. At that moment it stopped snowing and after and one hour later I jumped back into the car and reached my host around 9pm. My host was Bora, a 22 year old PHD student. Nice guy with a nice clean house. A vlog about this day will come in the following days. 

Day 233 | Wednesday November 2

Bora needed to drive from Agri to Erzurum today. I thought this was perfect as I didnt need to drive to the snow and ice. It could also safe me a day as I could hitchhike back to Agri, pick up te car and drive straight to Dogubeyazit.

We reached Erzurum in the afternoon and the Iranian consulate just closed, so needed to come back in the morning. I contacted a guy on Couchsurfing, he couldn’t host me myself but contacted Ali, a friend of his and he was happy to welcome me. Ali was a English student and lived in an student apartment with 2 other guys, Ferhat and Mehmet. All really nice guys who made some Turkish food and played some traditional music on the guitar.

Day 234 | Thursday November 3

In the morning Ferhat and Mehmet helped me getting around in the city. We went to the consul and I showed them my papers, payed the visa and walked out the consulate happy. I told the guys that I wanted to hitchhike back to Agri but they wouldn’t let me. They were afraid something would happen and especially with the cold it was not the best timing. So they booked me a busticket. Around 6pm I got back to Agri and wanted to take the car. There was still snow next to the road but the roads self were ice-free and safe to drive.

Unfortunately the car didn’t start, probably because of the low temperatures, it was -13 (!!!). This was the first time it happened and didn’t know what to do. At a nearby hotel I asked if I could use wifi to contact Wim, the car-specialist from Custom Cars. When I explained the problem to the owner of the hotel he immediately offered me a room. I told him I really wanted to reach Dogubeyazit but he insisted and gave me a small tour, the hotel had a hamman, swimming pool fitness room and more so it started to get tempting. I couldn’t reach Wim at that moment so decided to take the offer.

A few hours later I went back to the car and it started somehow. Wim told me it was wise to connect it to the grid so the batteries would warm up.

I went for a dive in the Grand Cenas Hotel and relaxed a bit in the Haman. Deniz, the owner of the hotel invited me for dinner, introduced me to his friends and gave me a short tour through town.

Day 235 | Friday November 4

After a delicious breakfast and morning swim it was hard to leave, and it got very hard as I found out the temperature was still -14, by day! Deniz advised me to leave around 2pm, which I did. It was interesting to see how fast it got warmer, every 10km about 1 u, degree more. Today I wanted to reach Maku, just 15km after the Iranian border were Ali found me a place to stay. Still it was exciting if I could reach that. I need one recharge to get to Dogubeyazit were I met the guys from the cafe again and after a short stop I reached the Iranian border. I expected a thorough search through the car but they only opened the rear door and it was oke. It took some time to handle the documents needed to get into the country and in total the border crossing took one hour.

So now I am in Iran. The country has a strict policy when it comes to blogging and as I respect that I won’t write anything about the country. I do will post regular pictures and stories on all my social media pages so be sure to follow!

PICTURES

Day 229 – 230 | To Kurdistan

Day 229 | Saturday October 29

As I had arranged most things it was time to leave Erzurum. Some days I already found a place to stay with CouchSurfing in Dogubeyazit, which is the last town before the border with Iran. Now this is 270km from Erzurum. There have been days that I would make a distance like this with recharging on the way but on Google Maps I saw that I had to pass mountains and the temperatures were very low. With my experience on the way to Erzurum I learned it would be a tough challenge. On the way to Dogubeyazit were 3 cities. The first one Horasan, just 80km away, the second one Eleskirt 150km away, which was already a risk and the last one Agri 180km.

When I reached Horasan I used just 30% (which is less than average) and the conditions were ok. I could have the risk that I needed to climb a lot in the next stage but wanted to take my chances.

In my previous blog I wrote that the route to Erzurum was the most beautiful route I had taken so far, today I can say that again. The sights here are unbelievable. While I had to climd some mountains I was surprised that I arrived in Eleskirt with 30% left, while I did 160km. I regained energy when going down the hills. I could reach Agri but this city was smaller and thought I would have more chance of finding something here.

Now the challenge was to find a place to stay and some food, I didn’t eat anything since breakfast yesterday morning. Eleskirt is tiny, around 10.000 citizens and when I stopped the car immediately some guys welcomed me and offered me some Chai (traditional Turkish tea). They didn’t speak English but with some sign language they understood I was looking for a place to stay and charge. They showed me where I could find hotels but I couldn’t make them clear that I was hoping to find a local. I walked around the town and started peaking to people and every time I made the sleeping sign they pointed at the hotel. For the next time I need to find another approach. It was getting late and as I had some money from my mother left I decided to check what the hotel would cost me. It was 60 Lire and that was exactly the amount I had left. As I didn’t expect to make other expenses I thought it was a good way to spend it. Dinner was not included but I was not really hungry. I have been taken some Flinndal supplements lately, maybe that’s the reason.

Day 230 | Sunday October 30

From Eleskirt it was 30km to Agri, the last city before Iran and I wanted to go there to withdraw the other 300 euro. I went looking for an ATM which offered euro’s but couldn’t find any. In Erzurum it was possible at Tep Bank and on Google I already saw that they had one here but they told me it had been closed permanently. After an hour searching I decided I would withdraw the amount in Lire and exchange it to Rial in Dogubeyazit tomorrow as today (Sunday) the banks were closed.

Than I drove to Dogubeyazit. My CouchSurfing host Murat told me I had to come to Isha Pasha Place, I had no idea where or what this was and when I arrived in the city I asked a local. He was pointing at a hill and signed me he would drive with me to take me there, so nice the people here. We drove outside  the city and climbed some mountains. After some minutes we stopped at a castle/ mosque/ church. The sights from there were unbelievable pretty again but I had the feeling I was in the wrong place as I expected a square in the city were he woud live.

I showed the guy who was with me the picture of Murat on whatsapp and he laughed, he told me to come with me and at the entrance Murat was there. Apparently he was a guide here and this place was called Ishak Pasha Palace, a typo.

The Ishak Pasha palace is an Ottoman-period palace whose construction was started in 1685 by Colak Abdi Pasha, the bey of Beyazit province, continued by his son İshak Pasha and completed by his grandson Mehmet Pasha. According to the inscription on its door, the Harem Section of the palace was completed by his grandson Ishak (Isaac) Pasha in 1784. The Ishak Pasha Palace is a rare example of the historical Turkish palaces and was depicted on the 100 Turkish Lire Note from 2005-2009.

When it got dark Murat’s job was finished and we had some dinner at the security center. First meal since breakfast yesterday morning. We drove to house, a room on the 5th floor and I was afraid we couldn’t charge the car. Luckily my extension cables reached my car and this was the longest distance every to cover!

Since Erzurum I am in the Kurdistan region. Kurd’s are people with their own culture and traditions and they would rather be independent from Turkey. Many people warned me as their could be trouble in this region but so far I noticed no problems at all, only friendliness, like always.

PICTURES

Day 228 | Erzurum Pt. II

Day 228 | Friday October 28

When I woke up I was surprised that I was the only one in the room, while we were with 5 when we went to bed. I thought I was alone in the house but later I would find out that Merih went to her sisters rooms as the floor was to hard for her. Fatma & Okan went to work, I was sleeping so tight that I didn’t hear them leave.

During this journey I really learn about all the cultures in different countries as I stay with locals all the time. Some things like interests and hobbies are similar in all countries but breakfast is something typical everywhere. In Turkey they start the day with a lot of Ekmek (bread), commonly mixed with french fries, yoghurt and some vegetables. They say that the breakfast is the most important meal of the day and apparently the consider french fries and bread as healthy & nutritious.

My host Merih and friend Fatma would fly to their hometown near Antalya today so we went looking for a ticket for them. I started looking for another place to stay in Erzurum. I still needed to arrange some things for the entry to Iran.

Costs

The coming period I’m going to have some expensive costs.  A visa for Iran which costs between 75 and 105 euro (on every blog I read different amounts), a temporary cas insurance as my own insurance only covers the countries on the green card and Turkey is the last one for the countries to follow, price is unknown. Than I would need to take a ferry from Bandar Abbas to the Emirates, which costs around 400 USD and get a visa for this country which could be free or costs around 30 USD, I will find out at the border I guess. From the UAE I wold need to ship the car to India and this is the most expensive post: 2350 USD.

I can pay for the Iranian visa with the money I received from donations. I want to thank everyone who made a donation and I am surprised that even people who I don’t know sponsored me. At the moment I received €350,- Which is a lot of money. So far I spend €19 on the visa for Turkey, €57 to deliver the Carnet de Passage with DHL to Trabzon and 40 pound for the authorization code for the Iranian visa, which was a scam unfortunately. There is still a chance that I would get this money back as I payed with PayPal and they have a protection program.

New sponsor

Now because I knew about the costs of the shipping of the car and other costs I started looking for a sponsor already a few months ago. I am happy to announce that I found one: Detroit Electric. They are sponsoring me financials and get a logo on the car. With the money of the donations and new sponsor I would be able to reach UAE and have a bit left for the shipment to India, but not enough. That’s a headache for later though, I can stay up to 3 months in Dubai so I hope to find a nice oil sheik or fix another solution.

The deal with Detroit Electric became definitive today and that was a blessing. In Iran it’s not possible to withdraw money from ATM’s or to use a credit card. This is because of international sanctions. So today in Erzurum I withdrew €500 (which is my banks daily max) and would need to take another 300 tomorrow. This is more as I expect to expend but because of the regulations here it’s better to have some extra.

I am sharing this information as I want to be transparant about the money you (my followers) are donating me and about the costs I need to make occasionally.

Today
Back to today. I needed to find a new place to stay and my host Refik from last Thursday told me that I could come back anytime. I contacted him and he told me he would be back home around 20.30. When I got there he took me the house in the apartment, the one of the owner of the place. He (I forgot his name) used to live with his girlfriend in France but because he needed to join the Turkish army they were ripped apart and never saw each other again. His room is filled with paintings of their time together. Apparently they recently got in touch and in two months they are going to meet each other again, after 40 years! What a touching story.

Day 226 & 227 | Erzurum

Day 226 | Wednesday October 26

The road from Bayburt to Erzurum was probably one of the most scenic routes I have taken so far. Mountain passes took me through small typical Turkish villages, I wish I had a drone to capture the beauty of it. Around 2pm I arrived at the address my CouchSurfing host gave me. As there were no houses on this street I assumed I probably was not in the right place. In the city center I found a wifi spot and checked the location Refik gave me, it was on the totally other side of the city. Refik didn’t let me know from what time I could arrive or how I would contact him when I got there. As I expected he lived in an apartment so I didn’t know which bell to ring. I went back to the center and contacted him, did a little walk through the city and logged back in. No reply. I spoke to some locals and they told me the internet connection had been blocked by the government.

It was getting late and I got a bit desperate as I thought I might have not a place to stay tonight, normally sleeping in the car is a solution but with temperatures around 0, not so convenient. Finally around 9pm he responded. Indeed he couldn’t contact me because of a problem with internet. He went to a friend which had internet so he could contact me and that is where we met.

We had some coffee and talks and than went to his house. He lived on the 4th floor on the backside of the building but luckily with some extension cables we could reach the car to charge.

Day 227 | Thursday October 27

Today was a lot of arranging stuff for Iran. In a previous blog I mentioned that you need to obtain a visa authorization code to be able to pick up the visa at the consul. Now I had doubts that this company were I requested the code was a scam, today my doubts became true. I would not receive this code. To request another code would take me at least 10 days and this would be a problem as “winter is coming” in Iran. I did some research and found out it’s possible to get a visa at the border, in contrary to what almost all blogs and websites about Iran told me. I went to the consul in Erzurum to gain more information and also here they told me its not possible to get a visa at the border. Now in the blog I found there are 2 guys mentioning it was no problem, the last note came from yesterday actually so it’s very recent. It’s my only possibility so I try to reach the border soon and find out. If it’s not possible I don’t know what to do.

For today I had another CouchSurfing host, Merih. There was still a problem with internet and as we didn’t arrange where and when to meet that was a problem again. After 3pm the internet went back online and we got in touch. A friend of Merih, Okan, picked me up in the city and together we drove to Merih’s house just outside of the city. Okan laughed very hard when I told them Turks are “crazy people” when they drive car.

With Merih we drove back to the city for some food and drinks. Merih is a 24 year old English student at the Uni and has been living here for 6 years, she is from Antalya originally. I was the first CouchSurfing guest for her this year and she accepted me because English was my second language. Later we would meet with Okan’s girlfriend Fatma who is also a classmate of Merih. Okan is a doctor and drives pretty normal compared to the other people here. We all slept together in the same room at Fatma’s house, where her sister also lives. Very funny and interesting experience to sleep in a tiny room with so many people.

PICTURES