Not to touch the earth,
Not to see the sun.
Nothing left to do but
Run, run, run.
– ‘Not to Touch the Earth’, Jim Morrison –
The dispersing of students after the PDC brought us to the steady conclusion that it was high time to make tracks. With our new recruit, Sam, we packed bags and gathered our strength. Let’s go! “To the East, to meet the Czar…”
The train tracks ate up the miles. Shades of KLF Chillout Album as ambient sounds, lights and the sporadic music of doors opening and closing rippled through the carriage. Lying prone on the grimy floor of the 2nd class carriage. Smudgy faces through compartment windows, cigarette smoke from the toilet. Night tasting like ash and Sal, or was it Dean Moriarty, whispering in my ear… “Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”
With inertia overcome the road became our only goal. East, ever east.
Train-bus-train-bus-bus. In 31 hours we unravelled the 1,200km from Malin to Istanbul. 2 borders in 12 hours.
4am Istanbul. Nothing to do. Dark. A mist of rain. Find bearings. Coffee. Wait for the train station to open. Train tracks under construction. Change of plan. A bus. Otogar. Ankara. Peak hour traffic. Miss our stop. Run. Sweat, sweat… the Dogŭ Express. Made it! “Let this be a lesson to us,” Richie warns, “you always need longer than you think!”
Our third night since leaving Malin, our first bed: 4-berth carriage aboard the Dogŭ Express. Clean sheets and a pillow. Luxury!
Wake the following morning alongside the Euphrates river. Sun shining. Whole mountainsides divested of vegetation. A cluster of dwellings. Cement factory. Seabuckthorn berries and a city. Erzurum. Night here. Feast. Sleep – not enough.
Bus ride to Hopa. What’s this? Mini-eden at the foot of a gorge? Quinces, pears, apples, plums, walnuts, persimmons, grapes, hazelnuts, olives…
Transition… dams. Superhighway.
Transition… Darjeeling on the Black Sea. Green mountains. Jungle. Exhalations of leaves. Green. Tea plantations. Bananas. Sea…
By the time we walk across the border from Turkey into Georgia we’re drenched with sweat, heady with the victory of another 1,200km. 4 countries in 4 days. Beer and pizza to celebrate. Minibus to Batumi. Arrive Batumi. Exhale. Rest up here for the night. Train to Tbilisi tomorrow. Yoga in the park, dip in the black sea, fortify the body with good food and wine. Georgia, the land of plenty.
Having averaged one country per month since leaving England in January, we’d blown our maxims, ‘slow and steady solutions’ & ‘less places for longer’ out the window. We had a a good leg of the journey behind us, and now, time to re-group and plan our way through central Asia to China.
Total length of journey: 2538km
Total cost of journey: AUD$112 p/person
Edges pushed: loads
Fun had: more than our fair share
Feeling: tired but exhilarated