My travels off the beaten paths or the roads less traveled have made many lasting memories for me. Some of them were novel experiences although disconcerting at the time. I am sharing a couple of them with you, but don’t be alarmed by these experiences, because they are not common occurrences. You should merely use them as a guidebook to keep you alert on your travels.
Stranded in the Desert
Possibly my most alarming experience was being stranded in the Saudi desert. I was part of a small group that paid a local guide to transport us across the desert to an airport. At a rest stop in a remote part of the desert, the guide disappeared and “forgot” to pay the driver. The driver refused to take us further, drove off leaving us stranded, then returned later with the local law enforcement. Since the group only spoke English and the driver and police only spoke Arabic, we had a major communication problem. Eventually we had to pay the driver to continue our journey. I always carry extra cash in a money belt or in a wallet in my socks for such emergencies. If you are interested in finding out about, or trekking in the Saudi Arabia desert, here is a link to a good site with detailed information. Deserts of Saudi Arabia
Trapped in the Walled City
On a trip to Istanbul in the late eighties, I visited a section of the Old City that is enclosed by a huge wall. Entry was through a narrow gate leading into a small deserted street, and I ventured inside to explore the area. On my way out I found the gate blocked by an official looking person, who refused to let me out. He wore a red and yellow sash across his jacket and had a rifle slung over his shoulder. This made me very nervous but I tried to communicate with him in a friendly manner. Of course there were language problems also, since I don’t speak either Turkish or Arabic. After an exchange of signs, gestures, etc., I finally assumed that he was some sort of local gatekeeper and I had to pay him a toll to pass through. I paid him $5 USD and was greatly relieved when he let me out.
Frankly, I had never ever heard of this before, and always wondered if it was a local custom or a tourist con. I would be grateful to know if any reader had a similar experience. I did go through other gates in this wall without any problems.
One of the gates is called the Yedikule Kapisi that leads to the Fortress of Seven Towers. This is an interesting place to visit, but be careful you don’t fall off the wall or into the deep dungeons.
The walls and towers are high but broken in some parts with no railings.