Night Bus Adventures [Part Two]

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Today I return to last Wednesday topic of the deadly and feared ‘night bus journey’. Honestly, I’d really rather not but sometimes you have to take one. It seems like in so many parts of the world it’s preferable to take the bus at night for everyone as compared to using daylight hours on travelling. In Japan I took a few. They weren’t so bad as they weren’t too full, but still I would arrive at my destination and then I’d want to sleep for half the day.

If you are the sort of person who can sleep ANYWHERE, well the night bus might just be perfect for you. Unlike an overnight train, buses will move about and jolt to a halt frequently. Then there are the frequent stops, especially I found in the first portion of the trip before it gets really late. Then buses arrive at 5.30am or some silly time, usually around half an hour after I have finally managed to fall asleep.

If you can sleep on the night bus, then it’s a great bonus. You save on accommodation of course, which is great, and if you’ve slept enough you have that full day to explore the place you’re at. However, if you don’t sleep you’ve possibly written that day off completely. Here’s the story of the most epic bus journey I have ever taken.

Tabriz (Iran) to Istanbul (Turkey)

Park in Tabriz, Iran.

Park in Tabriz, Iran.

If an overnight bus isn’t a daunting enough thought, this journey was TWO nights. Tabriz is in the north-west of Iran. It’s a few hours from the Turkish border. The bus was pretty nice, better than your standard ‘V.I.P’ bus say in India and the most important thing, only around half full or even slightly under.

That meant I had my own seat for the two night-one day journey. The bus left in the evening, night had fallen so it was at least around 8pm from memory, and it was a well after midnight that we reached the border. The internet is guestimating that distance at around 283km. It must have been around 4am I guess.

It was a couple of hours  before we’d all been through customs, had a break and re-boarded the bus. I had to stand in line to get a Turkish visa, available at the border for $US20, I’m not sure Iranians needed a visa as I think I was the only one from our bus lining up.

At the Turkish border with Iran.

At the Turkish border with Iran.

Whatever the time was, and in the middle of the night when you’re crossing borders and time zones it’s hard to tell (remember the east of Turkey, a wide country, is the same time as Istanbul too) but the sun began to come up just before the bus left. It had been bitterly cold there, and now I could see why. We were high but surrounded by higher mountains to each side, all snow-capped. It was quite a beautiful sight.

The rest of the day was long, and I would sleep for an hour, wake for one, sleep for one, wake for one. Not good quality sleep, but the body clock had no idea what was going on so what could I expect? Through mountains and villages, little rest stops and interesting stands, it was quite the journey. Epic is the word – if only I’d taken more photos. I had 8mm footage of this journey, but sadly I lost all my 8mm films a few years ago now.

map tabriz to istanbul

Then the second night hit and it’s all a blur. We arrived at Istanbul at about 6am after two nights of travel. We were parked near a bridge. I had to navigate trams to my hostel. The most epic bus journey I have ever taken was complete. As Istanbul began work, I collapsed on a bed and slept for a few hours before sight-seeing followed by 16 hours in bed.

Have you ever been on a similar sort of bus journey? Next week I will continue with the story of a bus journey in Vietnam. Thanks for reading, please comment, and May the Journey Never End!

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