I pulled up to the wrong lane at the barrier to the F.S.M bridge over the Bosphorus, looked forlornly at the ticket machine that needed a prepaid card, and within minutes someone had stopped, got out of their car, and used their card to allow me through the barrier. I offered to pay, but no this was a gesture of generosity and kindliness that refused to be recompensed.
The day before a restaurant owner had brought us more kofte portions as we were guests in Turkey, the car park attendant had refused payment, and a school teacher dragged one of the kids out of class to show us the way we needed to go.
In fact the only time the Turks aren’t falling over themselves to help is when they are behind the wheel of a car, and then they have no patience for lumbering foreign buses, and no holds are barred when it comes to overtaking.
There’s a raft of comparisons to be made between Morocco and Turkey; not just the obvious ones – A Muslim country on the edge of Europe, a gateway to another continent. The landscapes are also similar as I drive the great distance down to Fethiye in the south. The truckstops serving little but the national staples, Tagine in Morocco, Kofte here. It’s flat and dry and the farmland is irrigated with the same elevated concrete channels.
Economically Turkey is a step ahead, and perhaps that affords people the luxury of their generous spirit, which is also visible in Morocco, but obscured by their comparative poverty.
On the out of Istanbul I visit Biyoner who make Bio for waste vegetable. Nejat tells me that the government has tightened the screws on biodiesel producers and as a result they can no longer sell to the public. If he could he would give me 300 litres but it’s not allowed. (Strangely the bus feels heavier when I leave, almost as though the tank is full). Nejat has a license to sell to oil companies so they can blend it, but the economics of that license has driven smaller producers out of business.
He gives me some stats:
1.6m tonnes of cooking oil used each year of which 600k tonnes is thought to be recoverable. At the moment most goes to animal feed, which is banned here in Europe.
Turkey has 12m km2 of unused arable land on which he says rape seed could be grown. It’s indigenous to Turkey, they gave it to the world. That could produce 2/3rds of Turkeys fuel needs.
I’m left with unanswered questions about the environmental impact of irrigating such a large area.
Rape seed oil is carcinogenic if used for cooking, and that’s what holds the authorities back from allowing it to be grown, for fear it gets into the food supply at the hands of unscrupulous suppliers.
I explain that in the UK most Bio-from-waste co’s supply and collect the oil. Nejat is shocked. It would never work in Turkey. The restaurants could never be sure they weren’t buying back their waste oil here he tells me.
I’m invited to Ankara on Tuesday, to be part of a conference of producers. Hopefully the expedition can add some publicity to their lobbying.
In the meantime I’ve headed to Olu Deniz to fly. Its a 1000km detour and takes 12 hours solid driving.