What was that bang?
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The sun was shining, the coastal road empty, we’d even rescued a mother and her puppies from a busy road- the day really was that perfect. Bee-bee choked a little when we left Fethiye but our worries diminished as the coastal drive through fishing villages and alongside beaches was wonderful. She spluttered again when starting after a compulsory amphitheatre stop-off and by now anxiety was growing. She made it through Finike and was heading inland when there was a ‘BANG’ and steam blew up from under the bonnet. We pulled over and Andy looked in vain at a hot, very unhappy engine.
Stuck in Kumluca
Arriving in Kumluca it was now dark so rather than search for a mechanic, we needed a base; a hotel with wifi and safe parking for Bee-bee. We found a photocopy shop with a light on and after numerous gestures got directions for the town’s only hotel, the ‘Akbulut Otel’. In the meantime, word had got around and a crowd of locals had gathered around our lifted bonnet, one with tool box in hand and spanner aloft. We declined their kind fixing offers and dangerously limped the 800m to the hotel.
We had 48 hours to get us and a broken car 301.43 miles (485.10 km) to the Port of Tasucu where a non-refundable ferry was due to take us to Cyprus. As with every tragedy there are the heroes and villains; our hero was Alim the hotel manager’s son who spoke English, understood our predicament and arranged for some tow truck people to come in the morning. The unfortunate villain was the waiter in the restaurant who informed me they didn’t serve alcohol.
Tow Truck (Wheelin' and Dealin')
Several ominous guys arrived to the lobby at 9am and the negotiating began… clumsily through google translate. A cheap car transporter could take us in 5 days but we’d miss the ferry. Our car was heavy, we’d need a bigger (more expensive) truck… “paying cash?”… tax deducted ‘off the books’ and a cheaper price scribbled on the paper… We did the final haggling and depressing maths but we could leave today at least and be picked up in 6 hours and travel overnight.
Tow Truck 1 - Ugel the Rally Driver
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Cheerful Ugel arrived and loaded us onto his wagon at dusk. Squashed alongside him in the cabin, there were no seatbelts and Turkish pop blared from the stereo as he careered round the mountain bends up and out of the town. He chatted on his mobile then proudly scrolled through his phone and pointed out photos of him with a rally car- his hobby. His eyed diverted back to the road in time to swerve back to his lane and avoid the oncoming bus. We foolishly gave him a business card when talking about our trip- he turned the cab light on so he could read it properly and promptly added us on Facebook on his phone, still breaking the speed limit. Miraculously, we made it to Antalya.
Tow Truck 2 - Mustafa the Redbull Racer
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We were dropped in a pitch-dark breakers yard surrounded by smashed up vehicles- hopefully not an omen. By torchlight some exchange of plans and cash was carried out, we waited in the yard office/staffroom/bedroom then unceremoniously unloaded and re-loaded Bee-bee onto an even more decrepit tow-truck with our new cheerful driver Mustafa. The truck needed bump starting (us pushing) - not a good sign. Leaving the well-lit city, it became apparent that the truck’s headlights were fading fast until there was no illumination of the road at all. Agreeing with us that this probably wasn’t safe, Mustafa pulled over at a petrol station where the truck abruptly died with a knackered alternator.
We Drove All Night
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Looking at the map, we had covered decent mileage in the first few cramped hours. Mustafa stopped for a break just before midnight “otherwise police trouble… driving clock re-set”. Reassuring. From this point the smooth, dual carriageway deteriorated massively to a rough, twisting, single lane track; we careered round corners, overtaking crawling lorries uphill with occasional tea-stops at sleepy cafes. We stopped in a layby at 4am when I actually caught Mustafa nodding off- he had a kip in the truck, we waited in a surprisingly fancy service station opposite where Andy fell asleep on the table. We were relieved to see dawn over the Mediterranean and eventually arrived into Tasucu after a tense 11 and a half hours driving.
17 Hours in Tasucu Port
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We found the Port, but were told to collect our tickets from the office in town. We waited for the office to open and then began trying to explain that our car could not drive onto the ferry. There was fuss, confusion, finding the person who could speak English and all the time Mustafa (who now unbelievably had to drive the 11 hours back to Antalya) was starting to get a bit agitated on an energy drink come-down. Eventually, despite a resistant kerfuffle from guards and customs officials, a small, influential man with a clipboard and mobile phone ushered us through the gates and an exasperated Mustafa towed us to the ferry queue.
When it eventually went dark we bussed our way back to the Port but were stopped at the customs gate where we spent another hour dozing in chairs with bored customs officials in their office. Eventually they let us have access to Bee-bee (if we ran through the port and no one saw us). We popped the tent subtly, sandwiched between rows of lorries and lay down for an hour.
All Aboard The Lady Su
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Boarding procedures and paperwork began around 11pm. Our new hero was Mustafa mark 2, the same mobile and clipboard-wielding man of no more than 5 feet tall who seemed to run the entire show. He directed us from form to window, desk to documents, visas to customs and eventually we were stamped and official. With the kind assistance of several bemused port workers, we ushered Bee-bee down the ramp and into the ships hull, lashing her down ready for the crossing.
Crossing the Cilician Sea
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With Bee-bee safely stowed, we made our way up into the ferry saloon. The Lady Su had obviously seen better days in her native Sierra Leone; the canteen was open only for cockroaches and the bar just about managed tea in plastic cups served by a lone crew member. With only a handful of passengers, we were able to stretch out on the luxury seating and get some rest. Coming round as the sun rose, we ventured onto the deck to see the Cypriot coast on the horizon and a scruffy man having a cigarette on the deck above.
Docking in Girne
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One again humbled by the kindness of willing strangers to help, we were pushed off the deck by several pairs of sympathetic hands and onto the portside in Girne, Northern Cyprus. A small tractor towed us to the port buildings for obligatory queuing, form-filling, passport-stamping ensued then we were greeted by our Cypriot tow-truck driver, Adonis. Honestly.
Across Aphrodites' Island
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Nearing our hibernation destination in Southern Cyprus, we began to relax a little into our final few hours in a tow-truck cab. We passed through the border with more queueing, filling, stamping and signing then weaved our way along the Islands southern coast. We arrived into Paphos weary and filthy, and due to flying back to the UK for Christmas in 2 days, we set about finding a local garage to start our Bee-bee’s overhaul. She was set down for the final time in the workshop of Zambas mechanics to await her judgment.