The snow came thick and fast, hitting the windscreen with relentless ferocity. My wipers churned, desperately trying to clear the way as I sped up the icy roads, snow-capped mountains steaming away from me on either side.
Five hundred miles.
From the bustling streets of Istanbul to the ancient ruins of Olympos, this was the plan.
The traffic had started off fierce; we had jostled for space amongst trucks and cars, horns beeping, wheels spinning on the icy roads, passing mosques and bazaars, silver clouds gliding above us as we crossed the bridge from Europe to Asia…
Istanbul is the only city in the world which straddles two continents and, for centuries, has been the gateway to Asia. Silks and spices, trinkets and traditions, soldiers and merchants, spies and princes, all had flowed along this historical route.
Leaving the city behind, the traffic had quickly died down, it appeared many Turks had opted to stay inside and I couldn’t say I blamed them; the snow was turning the roads into a minefield.
My driving experiences in The Balkans had prepared me for roads such as this, the conditions may be crazy but this was nothing compared to the sheer insanity I had faced upon the potholed roads of Albania.
My brother Alex, a fierce driving companion with many epic tunes at his disposal, helped keep me awake as I sunk numerous Red Bull’s and attempted to soak in the dazzling scenes passing us by whilst keeping the car under control.
Scenes of rock and snow, of trees laden heavy, limbs groaning, under the weight of snow, a cake decorator gone mad, greeted me at every turn.
Mighty rivers, frozen in time, reduced to gurgling streams fighting for air, ploughed a course through the landscape, patches of green, islands amidst a sea of white, poking their heads inquisitively through the snow, periscopes of farmland.
This was the real Turkey; raw, untamed, empty.
We stopped to soak it in.
We drove for hours, swapping to keep ourselves awake, chatting about our plans, designing in our heads The Broke Backpacker Hostel, plotting our course for world domination of the music scene with our soon to be world-famous band, The Bearded Baby Brothers.
Acres of Christmas trees stretched away from us, disappearing into the distance.
The conditions improved a little and we paused to pick up a hitcher, keen to give back to a community of which I am a proud member.
Hitching has always been a passion of mine; I enjoy taking to the road, my pack upon my back, sticking out my thumb and not really knowing where I shall end up or whom I shall meet upon the way.
We kept on driving, the sun sinking below the horizon, our quarry still three more hours away.
We were on a mission.
The very next day, it was to be New Years Eve.
We were destined to party.
The snow, finally, after much praying, began to ease up.
We watched the landscape, frozen and tantalising, beautiful and intriguing, slip away slowly as the light began to fade.
In the distance, the ruins of Olympos inched ever closer but that, my friends, is a tale for another day.
An absolutely massive thank you to my sponsor Auto Europe for providing me with my wheels for the Turkish leg of my four year adventure – if you are after cheap car hire in Europe, these are the folks you want to talk to!
Peace, love and happy trails.