Border shenanigans

Posted by Krista
Sarpi – border of Turkey and Georgia

We exited Turkey in a rush, with our second three-month visa just about to expire. The pace that we set along the last section of the Black Sea coast was one that we had not done before – and it was exhilarating. And although days were long, they were not so difficult, with a flat, wide and smooth road. And although this coastline is reputedly rainy most of the year round, our days were crowned with cold winds, blue skies, sunshine and wide, open views of the snow-peaked Kaçkar mountains.

But would I be let through the border at Sarpi? As the Georgian official studied my passport, he shook his head and threw my document down with a firm shake of his head. “Problem?” I asked innocently, making use (not for the first time) of that invaluable and universal word. “Problem”, he confirmed, tapping the keys on his mobile to summon the big boss.

After that, our common language was Turkish, and both parties “çatpat” (speaking like the sound of a stuttering gun). After some pidgin Turkish, a few gestures and dictionary searches, we discovered the reason for their consternation. My Turkish visa, inked with entry and exit stamps, was in my old passport, which had expired whilst I was in Istanbul. My new passport didn’t contain any Turkish visa, and because of this, I was not allowed into Georgia.

Danny looked dismayed, but I was confident of the affable nature of the Turkish people. Grabbing back both new and expired passports, I scrambled back over the border to Turkey – past the long line of smoke-spewing Turkish TIR trucks, past the moustachioed, cigarette-smoking men leaning lazily out of their windows, past the hordes of Georgian women dressed all in black, who were dragging huge plastic sacks of Turkish textiles and tacky household goods over the border to sell back home, and past three sets of border police, answering their questions as to why I had returned.

And then I waited patiently in the long, bustling line to see the Turkish border guard who had given me the exit stamp. Would he please put an exit stamp in my new passport too?

He scratched his head, looked confused, turned to his colleague, muttering, “I don’t understand what our sister here is saying.” But after another mobile conversation, a visit from the big boss and a thorough look at both passports, the big boss gave the go-ahead and my new passport was duly inked with my date of exit!

Georgia here we come!

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