So yes, Turkey. That just happened. We are supposed to drive into Turkey in a week’s time. A quick quote from our conversation when we heard the first reports last night:
Luca: “This is not good”
Abel: “That’s quite an understatement”
At least we were able to laugh off our own situation, although the situation itself is obviously very serious.
Last night we got word of the (failed?) coup attempt in Turkey supposedly by the Gulen movement, if the news report can be believed. From what we understand so far, a fraction of the military has attempted to overthrow the Turkish government, closed off the bridges at Istanbul, closed off the airport and shut down all air traffic, among other things. We also read reports of several tanks spotted in Istanbul and other areas of Turkey, including significant clashes between pro-coup military forces and police forces and citizens which acted in support of Erdogan’s government. From what we understand now, the pro-coup military forces on the Bosphorus bridge have already surrendered, while they still hold (as of writing) the military HQ in Ankara. All we do know is that in the clashes between pro-coup forces and those against, there have already been tens of deaths (last number we heard is 90) and more than a thousand wounded.
Obviously, the situation is still developing at this very moment, and our information is likely very limited. It’s still very much a “he said she said” situation, although we have seen reports that Erdogan himself has already landed in Ataturk airfield Istanbul, and has already delivered a public speech/statement to supposedly express the attempt as a failed coup. How much popular support this coup attempt carried we really don’t know, especially because neither of us are experts in any way on Turkish politics/history, so we really don’t know if this coup attempt may spark further unrest and popular uprisings/protests/whatevers in Turkey or the region in the near future.
According to our initial schedule, we were to enter Turkey on the 23rd or 24th of July. Obviously, our entire route and planning for the Mongol Rally itself is up in the air right now, as the situation right now looks very serious. Just have a quick look at our route map and you’ll be able to see how vital of a “gate-way” country Turkey is for our trip by car. Although we’ve joked continuously about us losing our wits and taking quite a lot of risks by driving a second-hand car halfway across the globe, these kinds of situations is not something that we take lightly at all. Don’t be worried that we’ll do anything crazy or irresponsible; we will very closely monitor all news outlets we can possibly get a hand on the next couple of days, get in touch with our foreign ministries, and only then will we make a decision of where to go from here.
Now, us not being able to go through Turkey would be a major (and I mean major) blow to our route and to the countries we would like to visit. With the visas and paperwork we currently have, not being able to go through Turkey would very likely mean that we will have to miss out on Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Visiting these countries and these areas, to us, was one of the main reasons of signup for the Mongol Rally.
Let me quickly paint the scenarios if we were not be able to go through Turkey. For one, we currently have a “double-entry” visa for Russia, which means we can only enter Russia twice. Since we can only enter Mongolia from Russia, and as we will then have to cross back into Russia for the finish line, we can only enter Russia one other time. This would mean that if we were to cross into Russia somewhere in Europe (or the “northern route” of the Mongol Rally), we could not drop down into Kazakhstan/Uzbekistan/Turkmenistan, as it would require us to enter Russia three times (sorry for the math, not our favorite subject either). If we were to try to get in Russia more than two times, we would have to re-apply for a new visa, and this is obviously an option worth investigating, hard/costly those visas on short notice may though. This would still allow us to have access to Kazakhstan/Uzbekistan/Turkmenistan at the very least.
Supposedly there is also a boat between Bulgaria and Georgia, but we have no clue if this actually exists, what the price would be, and whether we would in fact be able to arrange one in short notice. This would allow us to go around Turkey and then keep the rest of our route, although we obviously don’t know right know whether this coup attempt may have any carry-over effects to nearby countries, such as Georgia/Armenia/Azerbaijan/Iran, and whatever popular responses this may incite.
We’ll keep you posted on our thought process and what we’re planning to do in the next couple of days. For now, we’re about to head into the Mongol Rally camping to celebrate the Day 0 festivities and hopefully get our worries out of the way for now with an alcoholic beverage or two, and our initial planning for the first week won’t change. We’ll be crossing the channel tomorrow, have a party Monday night in Heidelberg Germany, and we’ve got a beach party lined up in Romania on Friday the 22nd.
Let’s finish this blog on a funny note. Make sure to follow us on all our social media channels (just click click click the Instagram/Facebook/Twitter buttons at the bottom of the page), and if you want to watch our Snapchat feed, just make sure to add Abel on snapchat and he’ll add you back! His username is “abelspithost” ; just add that, he’ll add you back, and get live snaps/pictures/videos as long as we’re still in the EU (we’ve got 3G coverage there *knock on wood*).
We’ll keep you posted. Peace!
Luca & Abel