Turkish driving is no surprise to me. I learned on my last jaunt to Istanbul that streets… well, and sidewalks… are no place for pedestrians when cars are nearby.
When a country is notorious for their driving skills – or lack thereof – it makes you put travel insurance at the top of the your to-do list before take-off.
Our first taxi driver from the airport to Bahaus Hostel shocked us, but in a good way. His care at every turn along with controlled speed made the trip on Easter Sunday morning — in completely desolate roads — something on par with sightseeing. Perhaps for a minute I thought Turkey had learned to drive in the few months since my departure in October.
Monday morning rolled around, and cold rain made us nervous we might need a bit more time to get to the bus station. So, we hauled ass to stumble downstairs at 6:45, bags in tow, in order to wake the napping front desk worker to call us a taxi. We got down to business.
In a matter of minutes, our driver arrived. The hostel owner told us it would take from 30 to 40 minutes to get to the bus station, so we knew we had enough time to get there and grab some much needed bus snacks.
Our driver said nothing as we bobbed and weaved between downtown streets. He got down to business.
The rain wasn’t letting one bit, but it didn’t worry me. It didn’t worry me until we hit the highway.
Rain, rain. Weave in, weave out. Speed accelerating.
I turn to Pat, trying to ignore the elements creating a rather scary drive. We look out at the passing buildings (the ones that remind me of Central Asia), smile, and go about our morning wake-up routine in silence.
The driver is full of urgency. He picks up his phone and uses it like a walkie-talkie to have a short conversation with someone in Turkish.
Speed was still accelerating.
I wondered why he had to drive like this, right now. Where was the fire? Our car began to weave in and out of other cars in rain — rain of a level where one should be concerned. And the damn speed, it was just so fast. I was sitting in the right side of the back seat and had a clear view of the speedometer. I saw the little pointer spike to numbers I wish it hadn’t.
I would never drive this fast in nice weather.
Playing it cool was no longer an option. I grabbed Pat’s hand with white knuckles and mouthed “Oh my God” to his sympathetic face. Each weave in between traffic brought visions of hydroplaning cars to my brain, and the sensation of turning… no spinning out… at high speeds to the pit of my stomach. It happens every time I’m in a car during rainy or snowy weather these days.
About five years ago, I was passenger in a vehicle that hit black ice on an overpass at over 50 miles per hour. We had no control as the back tires took off in one direction, causing us to spin across 3 lanes of traffic before lightly (thankfully!) crashing into the side wall (on my side!) and facing in the completely opposite direction.
I remember, in that second or two, thinking, “This is it,” as I braced myself for… whatever might happen next, whether that be nothing or a major crash.
We were extremely lucky, but the fact is that I’ve never felt the same in a car in poor weather conditions ever since that night.
The driver continued to speed, walkie-talkie phone his friends, and scare me to the point of not being able to speak. Pat knew we were going fast, but he couldn’t see the speedometer, so it might not have seemed very real to him. He played cool while facts and figures about road statistics, and how we could very well become one, made me feel ill.
And just as my brain couldn’t handle it any longer, we braked; we turned.
“So where are you from?” Our driver finally decided to make small talk.
“Australia,” Pat told him.
He laughed loudly. “Ah, Aussie! Kangaroo!”
* * * * *
When we reached the Metro bus terminal, relief was not even the right word for the feeling. We mosied on up to the cafeteria for breakfast since we had EXTRA time.
Pat looked at his phone. “Holy crap! He just did a 40 minute drive in 15 minutes. I wonder how fast we were going.”
“I saw.” I didn’t even look up at him.
“120, 140 kph.”
In the rain.