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Goodbye Turkey…Hello Iraq!

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January 2014

We left Peggy parked in Gocek with Sebnem as her carer and flew back to the UK on an epic visa securing mission. We continued to push and push for help with our visa’s for Iran and even popped into the Indian Embassy in the UK being forward thinking, but no luck.

Peggy and 'carer' Sebnem!

Gocek!January was like wading through syrup, we were getting nowhere fast, but it did mean we could catch up with friends and family in between the mayhem of visa appointments, fit in a few TV interviews….and take a little ‘holiday’ in Tenerife too, it seemed rude not to! I also got really lucky and went for a wedding dress fitting with my sister!! I know we have said it before, but everything for a reason…right?!

Family silly fun

Finally we were summoned into the top office at the Pakistani Embassy (after waiting for what seemed like weeks) and seated in front of a huge desk. The embassy building was nothing like I expected it. A former home barely turned into offices. Wallpaper hung off the walls and makeshift desks were filled to overflowing with paperwork. The waiting room was filled with a jumble of mismatched chairs and people in traditional Pakistani dress. We were the only people in there that weren’t from a Pakistani family and drew lots of smiling questioning stares.

TV rocks, paid TV even more!

The top office was much like a bedroom, but with a desk in place of a bed and we sat in front of a kind but tough looking man. He looked at us and asked why we wanted to visit Pakistan. We told him about our adventure, emphasising that we had been travelling extensively over the last 3 years and understood what travelling overland was like. He seemed happy with our explanation yet concerned for our safety. He explained to us that there was a difficult situation in his country and that it would be dangerous for us to travel there. He had called us into the office (little did he know, all the way from Turkey) to tell us that we would have an armed escort from the border where we would enter across the region of Baluchistan. He told us that the guards would be there to protect us and ensure our safe passage as much as they could do.

It was a daunting prospect but one that we felt prepared for, plus what choice did we have. The only way we could circumnavigate the globe overland was via Pakistan! We thanked the officer and left our passports with him for when he had made the decision if we would be allowed to enter the country.

Luckily, we were accepted and in a week our passports arrived with our new visa’s inside, now we just needed to convince the Iranian authorities to do the same and we would be on our way and only 3 weeks behind schedule.Whoop Pakistani visas

Celebrating visas

We celebrated with friends, said more goodbyes to our families, which never gets any easier, and flew back to Gocek in Turkey (via Tenerife) and to Peggy. We stocked up with fruit and vegetables, waved to Sebnem and Huseyin and hit the road to Northern Turkey where we had discovered a place that we could get our visa’s the same day for our entry into Iraq.


Turkey is such a huge vast country and there was still so much exploring to do. We plotted our route through Cappadocia, past the Ancient colossal heads on Mount Nemrut and on to Van lake before venturing into the unknown territory of Iraq.

Cappadocia was incredible, a mysterious land of shapes and colours carved with love, seemingly by fantasy creatures. Surely this could not be the work of mother nature alone. We took a balloon ride with ‘Turkey hot air balloonsover the bizarre landscape and marveled at its unique beauty.

We took to the skies in search of the colossal heads on top of Mount Nemrut only to be stopped in our tracks by waist deep snow blocking the road only several miles from our destination. Too far to walk in such treacherous conditions and at 7001 feet altitude, we had to suffice with the beauty of the scenery around us. It was jaw dropping and we had to stop at every opportunity to gawp at it and to relish the feeling of being so insignificant in its incredible vastness.

Mt NemrutSnow

Lost and tired we slept in the crater of a dormant volcano and dreamed of dinosaurs and things that we will never see, we visited homes under ground from thousands of years ago and caught a barn owl snoozing in plain sight in the middle of the day. Turkey truly is the land of possibilities, so huge and untouched in some places and bursting at its seems in others. It never stops changing, morphing before your eyes. From beach to forest, mountains to snowscapes, desert to tropical to magical. It will get under your skin and stay there, forever pulling you back.

The scenery changed once more as we approached the border with Iraq but we were so nervous about getting in that it began to fade into insignificance. It had gotten too late to try to cross that evening so we stopped at one of the hundreds of filthy run down shacks that lined the border road. Mechanics, tyre shops and general stores fill the shacks, their proprietors hoping to snag some of the passing trade. We asked a man who approached us if we could park there for the night and he shrugged and nodded. He didn’t speak any English but it seemed like a bit of a free-for-all there anyway. Trucks parked haphazardly all over the space and cars weaved in and out of them to find a spot.

We dozed uncomfortably knowing we had a big day ahead of us and set off around 10 to cross the border. We had an easy escape from Turkey and just in time, we had only 6 days left on our 90 day visa’s and managed a seemingly easy pass into Iraq. We were on the home straight when we were collared and sent back to Square 1. We thought that they had just decided not to let us in. Back at the first offices Alex found a helper and after two hours of following him around and being shown to everyone in his path (“this guy is a tourist”), we were both taken inside to meet the boss man. Our helper explained that as we wanted to enter from Turkey and exit into Iran we needed special permission to do so, hence the meeting.
The special permission took mere minutes, everything stamped and agreed, fee’s waived as we were tourists and without really being ready for it, we were in Iraq.

It was nothing like we had envisioned, we sailed through green fields and small towns and watched kids in the larger shanty towns flying kites. There were friendly faces everywhere and amazing roads…though the drivers were a little erratic! We found our way to the first city to sleep after a long day. The worry of a border crossing is often more exhausting than the actual crossing and it always takes its toll.

We wanted to be fresh and rested to meet our new friends in Erbil the next day, we had some serious adventures ahead of us in this already surprising, rarely travelled country.

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