When we started off in January to see parts of the world that would be new to us and go off the beaten track. Elddis had given us a brand-new Encore 250 and we were so pleased that they had improved the 2020 version on the already great one we had taken to Spain in 2016. As they say it is all the little things I will be doing a full review of the van later!
Our plan was to head for Turkey then tour around for 2 months move into Georgia and on to Azerbaijan returning through Armenia taking another 2 months or so to do this, and then head back to France for Karen’s brothers birthday at the end of August. What could possibly go wrong?
Well after a relatively simple journey through France, Switzerland, Italy, and Greece we made it here to Turkey on the 7th of March. Though we knew that the Coronavirus was an issue in Italy and Greece had a few cases we thought we had dodged a bullet as there were no cases in Turkey compared to Italy 5,883, Greece 66, UK 209. We spent the following week drifting down to Antalya where we had arranged to meet some friends and play golf on the 15th March and suddenly the world changed, chatting to them at the airport Gatwick as they were boarding the plane EasyJet said that they were no longer taking UK citizens to Turkey, so we were on our own. The Hotel and golf were paid for, so we stayed the week along with a small group of other guests. In that week Turkey started going into lockdown Bars and Shops closed on the 17th and Hotels had to close by the 22nd March.
Now we needed somewhere to stay and be safe fast. Luckily nearby there is a campsite called Sundance and it was still open. Friends of ours had arrived and booked us in. On the 21st March we arrived at what has become our home for the past 6 weeks and for the foreseeable future. By the Monday the borders had closed, and you needed a permit to drive around Turkey. Suddenly we were stranded, on this date Turkey had 947 cases still we felt not much to worry about, toady as I write this the latest published total is 124,375. So in six weeks a transformed world for all of us. We through the magic of the internet are in touch with our families and friends back home nand understand their and you our readers, lockdown is harsh and for you reading our blogs over the past weeks it will seem like we are having a great time. So, what is it like? Lockdown in Turkey? How do we social distance? What do we do all day? Is it just one great holiday in the sun?
What is it really like stranded in Turkey?
To get straight to the point I think not too different to you guys, but with a big household. When we arrived, there were only 6 of us, 2 Irish, 2 English, 1 French and 1 US. We knew the other English and Irish couple as we had meet on our 2016 trip and with the closing of Turkey, we agreed to stick this out together, and made friends with the other. Sundance is a rustic place set in a forest by the sea, idyllic does come to mind being honest, and there are approx. 12 locals living and working on the site. We were moved to the other end of the camp and had to stay away from the staff. After two weeks we were a family and had been on site with no symptoms. We shared three toilets and three showers. We had divided them up into one per couple. So we felt we had it nailed and we could move soon and continue our adventures soon.
Then Turkey increased the severity of their lockdown children must say at home 24 hours a day and there were to be curfews. Suddenly 6 more vans showed up and the site allowed them to stay, suddenly our social distancing was gone and we were nervous and slightly afraid. We had been joined by 11 Germans including 3 children, 2 Austrians and 2 Belgians, it took us a day or so to come to terms with it and realising that they were desperate as we were for somewhere safe to stay as we were, for the most part were wild camping with little interaction with others so the odds were very good they were not a danger to us our anyone else. We followed the best process of social distancing we could and got on with it. Now 4 weeks later the site is a single household! Like you we are in lockdown not quite as restrictive as what we see happening in the UK and Ireland. So what is it like?
Shopping is a weekly pastime and as to get fresh food it you must go to the market in the local town this was on a Saturday suddenly with 2 hours’ notice the Turkish government announce a 2-day curfew over the weekend. So not much food that weekend. But on the Monday, we could drive to the next town 20Km away and their market is much bigger now you must wear face masks which are provided free, and have your temperature taken before you enter. Social distancing is difficult and is your responsibility. The food available is fresh and plentiful, the fish has been wonderful. For meat we go to the butchers again good quality especially lamb, but what I would give for a bacon sandwich or a pork chop! There are supermarkets but they are small and do not have a large selection. But they do sell booze thank God, but it is highly taxed here in Turkey. So all in all the food situation is very good and there have been no shortages of loo roll!
Sundance camp is approx. 10 acres and next door to it is a beach and a forest of about 200 acres so plenty of room, we are not allowed on the beach or forest on the curfew days these are essentially any holiday days and the weekends. So we have had one 4 day curfew and this weekend is a three day. The local village has moved their market day to Tuesday so we can cycle to it.
We are now a very extended family and have barbeques and arrange joint activities.
Some of which are,
Putting Boules (using a putter to see who can get golf balls closest to a stone), Boules, Hoop the Wine Bottle, Pilates, Ballet classes, Yoga, Cards (lots of variations), Table Tennis and so on.
Then some of us myself included have taken up running, with the encouragement of others can now run 5km with a PB of 34 minutes and over 6 kilos lighter than when we departed the UK.
Another activity available is working on the site farm which only one or two of us have taken to, I find it quite therapeutic.
The pace is slow and for many of us the wildlife and the change of season has been enthralling to witness. Wildflowers with bees seemingly touching each one every moment is amazing to see. Seeing tortoises, dolphins, all sorts of birds, not to mention the snakes is all new. Being on a farm with lots of Chickens and being woken at 5.30 by the cock crowing is new, believe it or not after 6 weeks you can sleep through it.
Then there are the 6 camp dogs and 5 dogs owned by the other campers.
Yesterday for the first time in my life a saw a full swarm of bees arrive 1000’s of these creatures arriving all at once and setting up home in one of the trees the noise was amazing.
As you can see life here is different to being back home but also the same, as we can’t leave and we are 3600 Km away from friends and family.
Looking at some Facebook motorhome groups I see people being criticised for still being abroad. I find this harsh as though many people travel for short periods, some of us go for longer on this adventure we were looking at a year. Our home is rented out and so if we were to return, we would still need to live in our motorhome. Also, to get back to Britain would require us to cross many land borders with lots of restrictions and quarantining as we move. This not practical and as some Embassies don’t understand that some people didn’t fly here, so getting information on how to cross back into let us say Greece, and what would be required is still unavailable to us. But we watch the news and follow what is happening in each country and as each one loosens it restrictions, we plan our next move. We hope that we can go to Greece and stay there for while and slowly as this terrible pandemic eases head back home. Karen normally writes the blogs but this week and next you get me. Hope it is not too dull but sometimes it is my turn and this is mood I am in! Please forgive me.
But we are so grateful to many people for being so supportive and want to give shout outs to them for their helpfulness and support.
Elddis: Yes, you know we would say that, but they have been incredibly supportive and not panicking that their van is stuck in Turkey. But also, for building it so well, when we travel, we eat out a lot but having an oven, grill large fridge really works when you are stationary. Plus, the quality of the build is exemplary.
Big Cat Travel Insurance: Some of the people we are travelling with have had their policies cancelled as the FCO advice is not to travel anywhere. When we contacted Big Cat, Christopher came back virtually instantly to confirm the policy would still cover us and as we had bought it and left before the virus struck, we were covered for it as well. So top marks to them as well.
Vodafone: Now we are stranded in Turkey to have the means to speak with your family and friends is vital. Our tariff includes voice and data here in Turkey, but after an amount of time Vodafone could cut us off. Upon contacting them they assured that one they would not cut us off and they would give us unlimited data as well to ensure we could keep in touch with home.
Sundance Campsite: These guys have taken in a host of lost motorhome people and given them a home without question at a fair price. The location is as I have said before idyllic, beach, forest but well serviced. When we can make the journey as originally planned we will be back and if visiting Turkey this is a lovely spot. Facebook
The Irish Embassy in Turkey: When we were most under pressure to find answers on what we could and should do. These guys were great they have kept us informed and will call you back to make sure that you are OK. Plus, if you ask a question you will get a clear answer, thanks guys. Also on Facebook
The people of Turkey: While stranded here many many people have walked up to us, given us their phone numbers and said ‘If you have any problems call, I will help’ Local people here have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome and feel protected. Thank you all.
For those that Phone, WhatsApp, text, and email. For the happy messages and sad, keeping us in the loop sharing your stories and making us laugh. Thanks, keep them coming. Love you all and miss you.