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Delhi belly on the Dogu Express

Doner joints are everywhere in Turkey. We’d been turning up our noses at them since we arrived but finally succumbed to the dirty doner’s siren call. On the day of the big train journey. What could possibly go wrong?

Actually, it was delicious & somehow not as dirty as the ones back at home. I mean, there was a knife & fork...unseen in the kebab houses of England at pub kick out time.

So, with a full belly, we headed for the Dogu express - a 24hr train journey through 1310km of scenic landscapes, passing through ravines and craggy mountains, along the Euphrates river.

The tourist train takes 12hrs longer, has sleeper cabins but is 6x more expensive and arrives at 12am rather than 6pm. We went for the cheaper & more 'authentic' experience...

So we paid the equivalent of £8 for a seat on the non-touristic train & climbed aboard at Ankara, positive and excited for the prospect of the adventure ahead.

The first few hours were fun - we played some games, had some snacks. Went & investigated the food carriage - actually quite nice - comfy seats with tables. No head rests - I guess they don’t want people sleeping there. Awful food.

We didn’t understand the Turkish menu so just ordered another doner to share from the super friendly guy who spoke no English but was happy to indulge our attempts at international charades.

Not nearly as appealing as the first doner... maybe should have quit while we were ahead.

Back to our seats to attempt sleep. No chance. I was woefully unprepared for the unheated carriage with glaringly bright lighting on ALL NIGHT. Oh how I would have bitten your hand off for a berth on the touristic train, at this point.

It got worse. After a couple of hours of shivering, hopeless attempts at sleep, my stomach began to rumble. At first I suspected one of the doners (and haven’t touched one since) but now aim my accusing glances toward the salad served up at our hotel breakfast buffet. Why oh why did I take those lettuce leaves, washed & waiting in local water, swimming in the bacteria that my stomach can’t handle?

Oh dear. Oh deary deary dear. To the bathroom, a hole-in-the-floor style eastern toilet... well used 🤢.

A picture from earlier. It looked much worse when I needed it most

Oh dear. Nothing to do. Delhi belly must take its course. Not pleasant, not fun, but get it over with & get out of there. Worse things have happened at sea - I’ve heard rumours. Unverified!

Back to my seat. Shivering, unwell, unsleeping... nauseous! So very nauseous! Oh no...

Back to the loo. A different one this time - maybe I was hoping I’d made a mistake with the one I went to & this one would be luxurious. It wasn’t.

Wondering if I’ll have to put my fingers down my throat. Needn’t have concerned myself. One breath inside that room. One inhalation of that putrid, noxious, intense smell of urine and whatever else... just one, and I was emptying the content of my stomach - everything I’d eaten for the past 12 hours (felt like since the beginning of time) that hadn’t been blended and expelled half an hour earlier (too much info?), into the sink (not the toilet... even in this weakened state I knew I would have to incinerate everything I was wearing on the spot if it touched anything in this bathroom).

Looking and feeling like death. The first few rows of the carriage must have heard me conjuring the devil/doing spells that surely meant the train would lift off the tracks & fly through the air at any minute.

Anyway. Back to my seat. Raid my backpack for drugs & everything warm I can find. Batten down the hatches & sleep fitfully for the next 12 hours.

Occasionally stirring to glance out of the window at the remarkable scenery & wonder how many photos I might have taken if I wasn’t wishing my life away.

Finally we reached Kars. Girlfriend had the good sense to put us straight in a taxi rather than attempt the walk to find our hotel. There in 5 minutes. Relief. Horizontal. Sleep! Recover!

It was a pretty hellish few hours for me, but now that I’ve recovered I can say that the 24hr Dogu Express was a great experience.

The scenery is fantastic & the camaraderie of the passengers who do the whole stretch from Ankara to Kars is nice.

... but unless you’re really trying to save money, take the tourist train. Kars isn’t so big & so long as you know what hotel you’re aiming for - the taxi is cheap & will take you straight there, so no worries about arriving at midnight. I imagine it’s a much easier experience.

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About Me

I enjoy writing and love to travel. So I’ve convinced my lovely girlfriend to put our ‘sensible’ lives on hold while we enjoy one more year of what my dad may describe as slightly reckless abandon. I.e. no work and definitely no pension contribution. Sorry Dad: I’ll try again next year. 

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