Istanbul

Gateway to Asia and a city I really enjoy visiting. Once more I faced the challenge of its cobbled streets in the old town where we were staying, luckily this time it remained dry and so it was a bit more straightforward. The bikes were all parked up in the hotel's basement garage and then the smart guests stared in disbelief as we came stomping in wearing dust stained clothing and clomping (or squeaking) boots, not to mention the various items of luggage we have, some hauling in aluminium panniers and others with backpacks.

Turkish Toll Booths

I rode up to the booth but the info on the machine was all in Turkish, the only part I could understand was the bit that said card – I looked around, unsure what to do, perhaps I need to put my credit card in…but then a van pulled up and the helpful guy showed me his pre-paid card, he popped it into the machine and drove off.  I was still stuck as I didn’t have a card and there was nowhere to get one and so when you’re sat on your bike looking at the toll booth machine without a clue about what to do, and there’s a queue of beeping cars building up behind you, the easiest and most obvious thing to do is to just ride around the barrier and carry on (their barriers don’t seem to take into account that motorbikes are very narrow compared to cars and trucks).

There was no high speed police chase following me, so I continued along the highway. That was fine until I reached the exit booths for the toll highway on the outskirts of Istanbul, where there was ten-fold the amount of traffic and they seemed to be bad-tempered before I’d even arrived on the scene. To make matters worse, there were a couple of police cars parked up nearby. Luckily a guardian angel arrived in the form of a Turkish Wide Boy who was hanging around the booths in the hope of catching someone like me. He sidled up to me and from within his jacket produced a card and demanded payment of 20 Euros to let me through. Naturally I refused to pay such an outlandish price. With a queue of furious motorists building up behind me I proceeded to haggle, getting him down to 10 Euros before he’d let me through.