29th October 2018
As we set off from Gallipoli, on the coast of Turkey, it was a beautifully sunny day. However, having got off to such a great start, little did we know what awaited us as we headed into Istanbul.
It was a great start to the day, the main roads in Turkey are fine, and much like the roads you would find in the UK and traffic was fairly light.
It was interesting to see how driving in rural Turkey was to driving in Istanbul and as we made our way through the rural part of the country, the Skoda Kodiaq
tow vehicles, as they had throughout the trip, performed superbly.
With both cars good matches to the caravans
, we ensured they were loaded correctly and in line with best practice. Fundamentally, we had no issues with the two outfits and the motorhome, powered by the Peugeot Boxer Cab was a very solid performer throughout.
Initially as we headed into Istanbul
, driving was straightforward and the only issue was that we were advised that the Avtex satellite navigation
system would present mapping issues in Turkey. So, with that in mind, it was a case of using the sat nav, when available, and Google Maps. If anything, driving through the Turkish capital was showing us that we’ve become too dependent on the internet rather than looking at a good old-fashioned map. It had all started dangerously well!
The traffic was evident as we made our way into the city but the majority was on the dual carriageways and the ring road. We got occasionally lost but that seemed to tie in with the photography and video team, as they too got lost. As we approached the main centre of Istanbul, it was all going too well as it seemed we were only ten minutes away from the Galata Bridge
. But, as we missed one vital turn, it all went pear-shaped.
Little did we know that with a wrong turn ahead in a heavily congested part of Europe, we were about to experience the toughest tow of our lives. There were three of us driving; myself in the Skoda Octavia, Lee Davey
, the Bailey brand ambassador, in the Skoda Kodiaq and Nick Lomas, the Caravan and Motorhome Club
Director General was in the Advance 76-4 motorhome
Once we got off the dual carriageway and on to the single-track road, it was becoming clear how congested Istanbul could be. Towing a caravan in an alien environment takes a lot of getting used to and as we headed down a road with no traffic, we thought ‘hey, this is the way to go’. Sadly as we headed through the underpass and into a lane of traffic blocked by a man pulling some fabric on a trolley we were greeted by someone saying ‘road ahead, very narrow, big problem’, and he wasn’t wrong.
As our surroundings got narrower and narrower, we proceeded up a road that you could barely fit a caravan through with vehicles parked either side and people crossing left-to-right, right-to-left. If this wasn’t enough, we were in the midst of a market, with traders stopping to load and unload goods. As difficult as it was the locals were fantastic, and we doubt they would have seen many caravans in Istanbul, let alone in the middle of an old market.
Stuck in the middle of the market for around 90 minutes, we somehow managed to squeeze our way out and back onto the main coastal road of the Bosphorus.
As we reached the Galata Bridge, there was a feeling of complete and utter relief. From the start of entering Istanbul to when we reached the bridge, it had taken us 5 hours of towing, when really it should have been done and dusted in 30 minutes, all thanks to traffic, tight roads and of course getting hopelessly lost.
Arriving at the bridge that spans the Goldern Horn
was a fantastic achievement, not only had we experienced moments we will never forget but we somehow managed to arrive in convoy, all together, and the poor old photography team (that had waited for three hours in a restaurant) finally got that shot they had been waiting for. The iconic image of two Bailey caravans, two Skoda tow vehicles and a Bailey motorhome crossing the Bosphorus was always meant to be part of our Bristol to the Bosphorus trip, and finally we had that shot.
From here, things didn’t get much better as we headed off and hit Istanbul rush hour as we took another wrong turn. Completing a circuit of the Besikitas football stadium, we finally arrived at the campsite on the Asian side of the Bosphorus Bridge
3 hours later.
After 5 hours lost in an old market, 3 hours in Istanbul rush hour and a total of 11 hours towing from Gallipoli
, what advice could we offer… Never drive in Istanbul! Park outside and let one of the locals drive you in.
Istanbul is an amazing city, and we had a wonderful time, but it’s best seen by foot, which goes someway to explaining why some we were met by such amazement and the local people saying: “I wouldn’t drive a car down some of those roads, let alone tow a caravan".