Friday, April 26, 2013

Turkey: RIP backpack

Possibly one of the most important things whilst you are travelling is your backpack. It’s your house on your back and quite often one of the only things that remains consistent throughout your travels as your wardrobe changes due to different climates, or because you loose things. And, well, it was time to say goodbye to my horrible, yet loyal backpack for almost one year, and upgrade it for a better version. 

This backpack had done me a good tens of thousands of kilometres withstanding all sorts of treatments. It all started for us in Nepal, that cold winters day. I saw her hanging from the roof of a small trekking store in Pokhara and when I found out she was only $20AUD, I knew I had to have her.

She was an 80 litre beauty with a 10 litre backpack you could attach and detach- handy feature. Had straps and a zip, she seemed good enough for me. So I gave my old backpack to my sister, who later joined me in Cambodia, and wore my new beauty with all the pride that a $20AUD backpack can bring you.

She joined me as I trudged up huge flights of stairs in hostels, on planes, on and off little ferry boats, on the backs of motorbikes, on the tops of vans I hitch hiked with, on horses, bicycles, trekking up mountains, sitting on top of bags of onions hitch hiking, using it as a seat all those hours waiting to get a ride somewhere, using it as a bed when I had to wait too long (uncomfortable, but better than the ground), cuddling it for support on long rides to get little bits of sleep. Long hours, good and bad memories with this backpack.

But, later I discovered that $20 backpack has cost me more in massage bills than what it was worth (I have only had one massage since). It had no back support and was just a big bag, sewn cheaply and was worth no more than the $20 I paid for it. Soon the “back brace” that it had, which was just two sharp metal poles sewn loosing into the backpack had come out, leaving two really sharp ends protruding up from the top as I wore it walking along. This made me look like I was either a mobile antenna, or that I was concealing some very large weapon in the lining of my backpack.

RIP backpack
But our nice honeymoon relationship was short lived and I quickly got very sick of her, as I’m sure my travel buddies did as well! It slowed me down, ruined my back and accidentally hurt those around me who were unfortunate enough to get in the way of the sharp metal poles. Time for an upgrade.

I was in the capital city of Turkey; Ankara and the best place to search out a new beauty than I would find in a long time. Ankara is in the centre of Turkey so is a perfect place to “govern the country” from, but that, for me was the only appeal. The city itself I found lacked anything to draw me back there in a hurry. It was an urban sprawl with huge high rise buildings surrounded by main highways leading to different parts of the country. But our couch surfing hosts soon changed my initial opinion, showing us the back roads, the castle and the best places to get some delicious Turkish tea. After spending a couple of days there and half a week’s budget on a brand new backpack I was ready to test it out.

Ataturk's mausoleum

Top of the castle in Ankara, just in time for sunset
Satisfied with the capital Ankara, but sad to leave our new friends we set off ready to hitch a ride to Cappadocia. Leaving my old backpack used and abandoned in my couch surfing hosts’ house I set off feeling pretty good with my new backpack, almost like “I could walk around for hours with this thing!” I spoke too soon, because that is exactly what we did.

Looking at a map we thought it might be easy to get a ride there, but as usual exciting big cities are always a difficult place to start hitching from. We walked from the house to the highway thinking we could find someone heading our way from there, but it was all internal traffic- people commuting to and from work not travelling further than the city itself.

Finally after waiting a while someone pulled over and offered us a lift. When we told him our destination he simply laughed and said there was no chance we could get there, so dropped us around the corner. It was getting later into the day and we were getting sick of highways and were becoming quite a source of entertainment for the onlooking locals. We however didn’t share their same amusement.

As the rain clouds were starting to gather overhead and the sun was starting to disappear, feeling defeated we made our way to the bus station. Buses in Turkey are fantastic though, possibly the best value transport I have paid for. They are comfortable, everyone is assigned a seat (this was a luxury after coming from Asian transport), a “hostess” comes around and offers you complimentary snacks and tea, you have a large range of entertainment movies, games etc on the screen in front of you, but best of all they have wifi! This made the long bus trips rather enjoyable and never long enough!

Before I could skype everyone on my contact list and download all that music I wanted, we had arrived in Cappadocia.

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