We woke up Wednesday morning in the same hot box we fell asleep in, realizing that no, the previous day was not a nightmare, but real life: we still didn’t have our car registration, our car was nearly undriveable due to a shot clutch, and we were all outrageously groggy from the worst night sleep in modern Bulgarian history.
No matter, we had to remind ourselves what it meant to be a Global Goulet and what mission we had set before us. For if we cannot prevail past some trivial unfortunate tribulations, how on earth would we make it to Mongolia? We each took a spoonful of our honey medicine and set out to conquer the day – but first! Some coffee… While enjoying a fresh cup o’ joe, we asked the gentleman next to us if he knew a mechanic and what luck! He happened to own the best auto shop in town. So, his employee met us nearby on a motor bike and directed us to the shop. We were quickly given a quote hundreds of dollars cheaper than we expected and were told it would take only a few hours to replace our clutch kit.
In the meantime, why don’t we go enjoy the sunshine on a beach nearby? We did just that – had ourselves a nice day on the beach, chatted with some lovely Bulgarian locals, and drowned our car frustrations in the national drink of Bulgaria, rakia. Just when we were really having a blast- ring, ring! Alex’s phone rang to the news that our car was ready for pick up. As tough as it was to leave, Mongolia awaits.
Off we were again, with a fresh clutch kit that made driving Auto Goulet feel like sitting behind the wheel of a brand new Bentley. We weaved our way along the coast, into the sunset and under the unadulterated starlit sky towards the Turkish border. Again without our car registration, with plans to receive it in Istanbul, a border rejection would be crushing… We held our collective breath as we unnervingly handed over the crap registration copy to the border guard. Without flinching, he stamped us and welcomed us to Turkey! The land of stuffing and cranberry sauce.
We drove towards Istanbul until we could drive no more… Again relegated to the car, we took an Ausfahrt onto a roadside barn, parked and toughed it through 3 brutal hours of sleep, until a rooster’s cock-a-doodle-doo coupled with the call to morning prayer from the nearby mosque (Fajar ki namaz) shook us awake at dawn. We pulled into Istanbul on Thursday morning for about 36 hours of good times in ye old Constantinople, the literal bridge between East and West, Asia and Europe, Chinese food and pizza. While we thoroughly immersed ourselves in the major tourist sites of the Turkish epicenter, the highlight of the day came when news arrived that our friend Seyda had received our package with our car registration from London!! Overjoyed, we planned to rendezvous for dinner, where we confirmed that yes, it was the registration this time and not another damned traffic ticket! Goulet!! We hip hip harray’d the marvelous moment with some kebabs, water pipe, Turkish malt beer, and a night cap of baklava, hosted by Seyda and her boyfriend Mehrt. With 2 straight nights of car sleep in our rear view mirror, we passed out in our narrow hostel mattresses that night as if they were President Erdogan’s own luxurious King bed.
Morning came and so did the hope of a new day. Childish laughter filled our lungs and excitement tingled through our bodies as we knew that finally we could cross the Bosphorus into Asia and make some headway across this massively wide country. But, that would be too easy, wouldn’t it? We were rounding the ramp onto the Bosphorus bridge, literally moments away from crossing into the Asian continent when… Smoke!! Smoke from inside the AG! In a fit of panic, we realized our inverter had popped and the threat of a fire from inside our car was real. We stopped right in the middle of regular midday traffic to evacuate the car. Just as we opened the door to escape the smoke rising from under the seat- boom! A public bus came and smashed into the opened passenger door. The driver stopped the bus, momentarily halting all traffic behind to scream at us in Turkish. Brian retorted, “Our car is on fire!!” The driver babbled some more in his foreign tongue and returned to his bus, fleeing the scene and leaving us to discover our door would not close- it was too badly busted.
In heaps of boiling rage at our sudden loss of momentum, we pulled into a car lot and spent a half hour attempting fruitless remedies to seal the passenger door closed to the car – bungies, ratchet straps, duct tape – no luck. We then desperately asked for help from a group of mustachio’d Turkish fellows enjoying a midday coffee. “Do any of you speak English? Can you help us find an auto shop?” Again resorting to a round of charades and awkward confused conversation through google translate one of the men stepped up and told us to drive our car to some busses parked nearby; he will “fix” the car himself. Ready to try anything, we pulled the car around and our newest friend, and the #1 hero of our trip thus far, Burak, got to work. It turned out he was an actual super hero, a Turkish Clark Kent. A well-dressed bus driver by day, savior of endangered pedestrians by night, Burak took out some heavy duty equipment and started bashing, yanking, pulling on our car door to get it to close. As if helpless parents awaiting word of their child’s open heart surgery, all we could do was watch, wait and pray. After an hour or so under the knife, Dr. Burak turned some magic tricks and found a way to seal our little baby shut. The door would close!!! The Auto Goulet was no longer a beauty, but she was ours and she had a badass rally scar to carry with her the rest of the way. We thanked Burak, who refused any form of payment for his unmatchable act of kindness, and carried on.
The good news kept pouring in. On the next check of wifi, Brian discovered his Azerbaijan visa, which he’d been waiting months for, had been sent via email! There was now nothing in our way of moving forward except our own shadows. Survive and advance! We finally, for real this time, took off over the Bosphorus, into Asia, under the bleeding orange sun.