This is a tale of two adventurers, both senior citizens, Derek and Shirley. Plus four others, including Dot, Derek’s wife, soon to celebrate her 70th birthday. The group of four, very sensibly, decided to fly to their holiday villa in Uzumlu, Turkey. However, Derek and Shirley went in Smarty, the Smart car, driving a distance of over 2,000 miles. Madness indeed. And with them went Dot’s birthday cake, a precious cargo, which needed continual attention, in case the icing melted! What a challenge.
Well, after a day’s driving Derek and Shirley found themselves in Germany, staying overnight in a hostel, where they were subjected to what felt like a bomb going off during the night, so the whole building shook. An interesting start to their journey and they never did find out what actually happened. With Shirley now driving, the intrepid pair set off through Belgium, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Bulgaria, finally making it into Asian Turkey on the ferry from Eceabat to Canakkale. And here there was a very friendly welcome, something Shirley experienced throughout Turkey. However, the star of the show was undoubtedly Smarty, who drew huge attention. Indeed at the border control, Shirley found herself surrounded by over seventy policemen who were fascinated by the car, with one or two keen to buy it at a highly inflated price!
The journey proceeded down the west coast of Turkey, with stays in hotels and a couple of campsites. A washing machine was sought and found, very useful given Smarty’s small boot space, full of birthday cake and tent. Nothing was pre-planned so every evening at about 5pm, Shirley and Derek started to hunt for accommodation, they were always lucky, often being treated to wonderful hospitality by the owners and their families, with sign language playing an important communication tool.
A detour took in the ‘Cotton Castle’ or Pamukkale, a natural wonder and World Heritage Site, consisting of hot springs and travertines, with the ancient city of Hierapolis above it. The place is extraordinary and looks like terraces of white, sculpted infinity pools. The hotel Shirley and Derek stayed in that night was in for a surprise, whilst in the shower, Shirley managed to press the emergency help button, causing the owner to come running. She got a serious shock as he bolted in through the bathroom door ready to aid an ailing guest, who was, in fact, in the rudest of health! Disaster averted, Shirley then had to extricate poor Derek from the somewhat unwelcome advances of a Turkish gentleman with less than honourable intentions. As they headed off for the final day of driving, Shirley reported that Turkish roads were certainly better than British ones, with no pot holes or traffic jams. And they’d both got used to the curiosity that Smarty caused in other drivers.
Once safely at the villa in Uzumlu, re-united with Dot and the others, the birthday cake appeared from Smarty’s boot intact and Dot’s special day was celebrated in a local café to a recording of ‘Happy Birthday’ in English played by the staff. Mountain hiking and even paragliding followed during the holiday, and all passed off peacefully. Despite Shirley’s fear of heights and belief in certain catastrophe, she walked off the edge of a mountain at 6,550 feet, strapped to a man she’d only met moments before! Dot and Derek did the same, the only slight bump being Dot’s ungainly bottom first landing. What an experience, and they loved it, floating down looking at the world below. This remarkable group of six 70 something travellers certainly took Turkey, adventures and the holiday in their stride. Dot and Derek drove Smarty home, via the south of France, whilst Shirley and the gang took the easy way back – on a ‘plane!