OK, where was I…?

January 17th, 2019

…waiting on the shore for our rescue boat, the Samsun, to take Nelson and I on up the Black Sea to the Turkish port of Trabzon and the continuation of our trip eastward. Our one day adventure as ‘shipwreck’ survivors was over and after a rather comical interlude of competing ships officers, local authorities, tug boat captains, the occasional passerby and at least one broken mooring rope, we boarded the tug and were ferried out to the Samsun, a mile offshore, next to the still smoldering Ordu that had gotten us here from Istanbul.

The Samsun did not have deck class, and much to the consternation of one of its officers, he was forced to provide us with a small cabin, at no extra cost. We didn’t argue.

The remainder of the trip passed uneventfully and we docked the next morning in Trabzon to search out the bus that would get us over the mountains and off toward Iran.

But this is a little aside into the minds of penny-pinching travelers such as ourselves. If the Ordu had not suffered its fate and brought us that little adventure, we would have arrived in Trabzon the previous evening and we would have need to pay for a hotel room before heading out on the same bus we now were getting on. So, besides our wonderful experience, we also saved probably a dollar each on hotel charges! Win-win!

The bus ride over the 6000′ ridge was one of the bumpiest I’d ever been on (up to that point.) Burgeoning dysentery did not improve my attitude. But the scenery was beautiful, even in winter. Snowy mountains, creeks and roadside streams and picturesque villages all made it into my diary, if not onto my limited camera film. We spent the night in Erzurum and I felt better the next morning and continued our journey, first to Agri, then Dogu Beyazit, before reaching the border crossing to Iran. Another rough ride, lots of arguing over transportation fares with bus drivers, all of which led us to a little ditty we recited from then on, whenever bogged down in the more mundane details of international travel on the cheap, “Yes, we all Agri, Dogu Beyazit!”

Maybe you had to have been there.

Dogu Beyazit, a dusty village on the side of the road, was in some ways ahead of its time. Although here in Berkeley, now, I can walk into my local dope store and have my selection of fine herbs and herb extractions, the stuff grew in front yards here, and also at the local tea house, where I joined these locals in the proffered glass of sweet Turkish tea as we nodded incomprehensibly to one another while Nelson and I awaited transpo to the border. Alas, I did not get a chance to sample those plants that so caught my eye.

Once at the border, more haggling over exit visas for our passports (the Customs official almost burning down his office trying to light a gas lantern, since there was no electricity.) And then haggling over prices for a bus ride into Tabriz, the first large city in Iran. We came to a deal, got to sleep on the bus and in the morning, had a new country to explore…

And lest you think it was all glamor and exotic locales with one adventure after another, here are Nelson and I and a bunch of other travelers standing around on a cold gloomy morning at that border, a reality far more normal than going ashore in lifeboats from a burning ship!

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