It’s one thing to step through the departure gates for a holiday with a finite length, but a completely different beast altogether to do it with nought but a backpack and a one-way ticket to your name. Of course, a pair of rapidly deteriorating parents doesn’t help the situation and we were all a mess by the time I took my first fateful steps through the security screen.
It was relieving to pass the customs check without trouble – my new haircut (lovingly nicknamed “The Crim-Cut” by my caring younger brother) would surely give the officers some pause? But no problems (not even an explosive residues check) – perhaps they were simply glad to see the back of me and have me out of the country?
And so it was that I wound up alone, a single traveler on the cusp of an adventure on the high seas, highlands and beyond. A few people have asked how all this came about and have been confused about my recent global movements, so I’ll attempt to explain everything with a simple flow chart:
Hopefully that makes things a little clearer – basically I’ve been the luckiest man alive for the past few months and I should either buy a lotto ticket or it’ll run out and I’ll somehow manage to fall out of the plane on the way over to Turkey. In any case, there’s no doubting the feeling of trepidation – particularly after hearing a good friend’s story just before I left. His attempt at a similar sojourn lasted 4 days before he bee-lined back home to Perth after suffering extreme homesickness. I’ll be trapped aboard a ship, so no chance of escape for at least 7 weeks.
I’ve heard stories that people dressed well on airplanes occasionally get upgraded to the pointy end of the craft. Sadly, this hasn’t been the case for any flights so far – once again my sartorial efforts were wasted and I gazed longingly at the acreage afforded to the better classes as I shuffled past with the rest of the cattle. I must say that Qatar airways provided an excellent service and the leg room wasn’t half bad on the long haul to Doha. 10 minutes after settling in my chair, the jovial Scottish lady to my left was already trying to set me up with the attractive young Romanian on my right. Could be an interesting and eventful 11 hours…
Packing for this sort of expedition was always going to be difficult – I wish I could be more fancy free and be content with a smaller, lighter bag. But I have a tendency to pack for all seasons and therefore I’m sitting up around 15.5kg for the big pack and 7.5 for the small. Let me tell you, that’s not light sitting on one’s shoulders – will have to get this waist belt well and truly adjusted for any longer hikes. One of the fatso items is my sleeping bag – necessary for the trip on the Endeavour. It adds 4-5kg and takes up as much room as a small maltese shihitsu – certainly a pain that the Endeavour couldn’t just provide some bedding for the crew. Perhaps I’ll be able to jettison some unused cargo along the way.
One absolute necessity for any trip (Doyle’s Travel Tip #1) is earplugs and I was glad to have them when our little friend the 18-month-old in the row in front started wailing away. He was a noisy little nipper – although it didn’t bother me too much, I felt sorry for mum and dad who must’ve been losing sleep over the disturbance to other passengers (let alone having to rouse themselves to calm little Johnny every so often). I reckon I managed to sleep through about 70% of the flight, which was a great blessing and in between enjoyed some very acceptable plane food.
Doyle’s Travel Tip #2 concerns the plane food and is alliterated for ease of memorisation: Veggies Are For Veteran Voyagers. Plane food has enjoyed significant improvements over the past 10 years or so, but the safest option is still the Vegetarian dish, closely followed by anything that’s not chicken or fish.
At the end of the day, an airport is an airport, but Qatar Airways gets another tick in the box for its impressive home at Doha Hamad. When you have a cavernous arrivals corridor with wood paneling the whole way along the 800m ceiling, it’s certainly a “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Perth anymore” moment. In fact, the arrival and departure gates are so numerous they have an indoor monorail to service some of the outliers. It makes a lot of sense for a country such as Qatar or UAE to set themselves up as an international airline hub because they have two things in abundance: money and empty, non-arable land (although some might say it’s very arab-le, hyuk hyuk hyuk…). But good on ‘em for making a smart strategic economic decision – now there’s a phrase you don’t hear too often in Australian politics. Likewise, the availability of free WiFi in the airport is such a blessing and it’s become ubiquitous enough that it’s a darn nuisance when airports fail in this area (I’m looking at you, Sabiha Gokcen).
My luck held true over two legs of a four-stage journey out to Cappadocia, but it was the internal domestic flight to Kayseri and subsequent bus ride that I was most concerned about. Thankfully, the transfer from international arrival to domestic departure was as easy as falling off a log and I spent much of my 5 hour layover learning some basic Turkish phrases (Merhaba, tesikkür ederim). Which brings me along to Doyle’s Travel Tip #3: Learn The Language!
I can’t recommend learning some language highly enough – it goes such a long way to endearing yourself to the locals, makes you look and feel like less of a tourist and helps with charming people (particularly people of the fairer gender). Here’s a list of the most useful phrases that I’ve found for several languages (French, Korean, German and Turkish):
- Thank you
- Can I please have this?
- How much?
- Numbers (for counting money)
- Do you have….?
It’s really pretty simple – 11 phrases for traveling success, there’s really no excuse. I don’t tend to recommend things unless they are truly exceptional, so if you need help with the learning, I’ve found Survival Phrases to be an excellent resource. The best part is that the podcasts have native speakers delivering the lessons, so it’s perfect for nailing a natural accent (and they’re not even paying me to say all this)!
After an enormous day of travel, it was a welcome relief to see my man Osman waiting out the front of Kayseri airport with a transfer shuttle ready to go. Night had descended upon the valley and the 2 hour bus ride to Göreme was uneventful and probably less spectacular than it would have been during the day. Arriving into the tiny tourist town and checking into my cave hostel was mercifully easy. With its bizarre mix of old-world/otherworldly scenery, the temptation for a short nighttime stroll proved too much and I wandered the pockmarked streets with wide eyes before the allure of food dragged me into the Hidden Cave Hotel Restaurant for a small meal (8TL for spinach pastry with salad).
Sensibility and preparation for a 5am start got the better of my adventurous spirit and the rough sheets of the Dorm Cave put an end to a 31 hour, 4-leg travel day.