1/7 – the weather has gotten very cold all of a sudden! It’s time to move on, but, unfortunately for us, our next adventure is north of here, in the mountains, where it is bound to be even colder. Glad I got my winter jacket! Today we planned to take a six hour bus ride north to Konya, leaving at 11am. We arrived at the travel agent to catch the shuttle to the bus terminal at 9:45, but were told that the usual 6 buses to Konya had been reduced to 2 because of snow in the mountains. The bus we were supposed to be on had been canceled. The only morning bus would leave at 10, and the terminal was 30 minutes away. I wondered why only 4 of the buses were canceled. The snow mustn’t be too bad if some buses were still moving through.
When we expressed dismay (the travel agent had no English, and our Turkish really sucks, so all communication takes place by facial expressions, waving our hands about, pointing at clocks, and Google Translate) she indicated that we could take a taxi to a place on the outskirts of town where we could flag down the bus as it drove by at 10:15. Deal!
She sprinted with us to the taxi stand and hurriedly explained the situation to the driver. He jumped behind the wheel and peeled out into traffic, beeping his horn at every intersection to make the other cars go faster. He got us to the designated place and showed us where to stand. Jim tried to tip him for his outstanding service, but he refused extra money.
We flagged down the next bus that came by, which was not our bus. This caused a young man to emerge from the cafe and ask what we were trying to do. He waited with us until the right bus came by, and flagged it down. Now, that’s THREE Nice People of Turkey in 30 minutes – a new record!
We were happy to be out of the cold on a nice warm bus, and congratulated ourselves on our success. We were happier still when the bus assistant brought us hot coffee and a selection of snacks. We were on our way!
It was hard to believe that buses had been canceled due to snow on such a bright sunny day. Here’s what we saw out our window:
After 3 hours, the bus pulled in at a gas station / restaurant. This was an expected rest stop, where we could grab a snack and use the rest room. Usually, the driver announces how long the bus will be stopped – 10 or 15 minutes. This driver did not. As we got off the bus, we asked ‘how long?’ He just shrugged and replied, “Traffic problem”. Uh oh.
The temp had been dropping, and now registered at 0 / 32 degrees. As we trotted back to the WC, I slipped and recovered on the marble walkway covered with invisible ice. “Be careful…” I started to say, but too late. Down Jim went, smashing his knee. He limped back to the bus. Most of the passengers remained in their seats, so we sat back down too.
When the driver hadn’t returned in 20 minutes, we went into the restaurant and found him drinking tea and checking his cellphone. How long? we asked again. Another shrug. We sat inside for a while (the restaurant food did not look appetizing), bought some peanuts and a chocolate bar, and got back on the bus. I read for a while, then took a nap. After 2 and a half hours, the driver climbed back into the bus and started it up. The assistant gave everyone a cup of tea. Back in business!
After an hour’s ride, I began to get a sinking feeling. The thermometer display in the bus indicated that it was getting warmer, and things were starting to look familiar. Before too long, my suspicions were confirmed. There just could not be two identical roadside buildings called HOUSE OF LAMP. We were no longer heading north. The bus was returning to Antalya!
It was 6:30pm and pitch dark when we pulled into the otogar. Jim and I had discussed our options for the last hour, and decided to try returning to the same hotel we had checked out of this morning, even though that would entail another expensive taxi ride. We asked the bus assistant about getting a voucher or a refund on our tickets, and he said we could just use the ticket over again on another day. This didn’t sound right, but what could we do?
So, here we are back in our little room, exhausted after a long day of doing very little and getting nowhere. Our hotel proprietor said he thought we’d be returning, as he followed the weather report on the news. He was happy to see us. Although we had a non-refundable reservation in Konya, he called the Konya hotel and had them change the date on our reservation so there won’t be a penalty. Ah, the tribulations of travel! We’ll have to try again tomorrow.
1/8 – It turns out that the ongoing blizzard up north has stopped all traffic and canceled school in practically all of northern Turkey. All buses have been canceled, and even the trains got stuck on the tracks. It’s down in the 30s here in Antalya – extremely unusual. Most of the restaurants have only outdoor seating, and can’t be doing much business in this weather. The ice cream store was closed today.
We walked back to the travel agent to confirm that our tickets would still be usable. The buses are scheduled (right now) to run tomorrow, so we will try again.
On our way home we saw a display of winter hats outside a shop: I hope well-meaning Turkish parents don’t buy these hats for their children! (We’ve seen many tee shirts sporting English words that make no sense – evidently the cachet of a foreign word is enough to sell the items, no matter the meaning!)
We understand that it’s cold back home too – bundle up and stay warm!