Winding down, winding up

After nearly three weeks in our fantastic, affordable sea-view hotel room, the management informed us that as of April 1 the rate goes up almost 50%, putting it right out of our budget. I found us a cute little boutique pension for a reasonable price right smack in the middle of Kaleici Old Town. The hosts are very nice, the place is spotless, and breakfast is good but the room is so tiny that I barely have room for my yoga mat, and we not only don’t have a sea view, we barely have any daylight at all from our tiny little window. No matter, we have work to do.

My days are filled with planning our journey back to Scotland and sorting the logistics of picking up our campervan, stored in a rural area south of Glasgow with no direct path to get there via public transportation. When we left last fall we paid the storage boss a pretty penny to drive us to Edinburgh airport and we don’t want to incur that expense going back.

We work in the mornings, writing and planning, and the afternoons are spend exploring more of the labyrinthine streets of Old Town and eating our fill of local foods. Jack eats döner kebab nearly every day, and we found a popular little café that serves the best baba ghanouj I’ve ever had, even better than my own which, if I do say so myself, is better than most.

The shopkeepers in our new neighborhood see us so often they even stopped launching into their spiel when they see us coming because they know by now we’re not going to buy anything.

Every day we pass a shop with a pile of large gourds outside. Inside a craftsman is drilling holes in elaborate patterns to make beautiful lamps.

We love these lamps, and if we hadn’t dragged a vacuum cleaner through five countries we might have room for one. I tried making one years ago with a Dremel and a calabash gourd from Grenada but mine was definitely not as beautiful as these.

About that vacuum cleaner. You may remember that in Penang we stayed in an Airbnb that had a terrific stick/hand vacuum that we fell in love with, both because it was effective and because it charged via USB-C. We thought this is perfect for us because our campervan doesn’t have an inverter and USB charging we can do offgrid. We bought one. That meant we also had to buy another rolling duffle to carry it. In retrospect we should have bought a smaller rolling duffle, because with all this extra room we acquired more stuff than we usually do when traveling. We’re not really souvenir people but we do sometimes buy textiles or decorative items, or useful things like a water bottle or can opener or, say, a vacuum cleaner. There’s also Jack’s growing t-shirt collection.

In olden days Jack chose one t-shirt from each country we visited. Lately, though, his allotment has increased to three, sometimes more. I don’t know the final count of acquisitions on this trip but it’s a lot, maybe a dozen. Frankly, I don’t really want to know.

I’m not entirely without guilt. I bought pajamas and a bag for my yoga mat from a women’s collective in Kathmandu, and a distinctive blue batik tablecloth and matching napkins made by the Hmong in Northern Thailand. We both picked up various non-souvenir clothing items here and there by necessity, either because of unexpected cold weather, or because something just wore out. Travel is hard on clothing.

The new “Brown Rolling Duffle,” as it’s identified on its AirTag, was cheap and not very well made but all it has to do is survive until we get back to the camper. From the beginning we had our doubts. Back in Penang we had our beloved 30-year-old tech backpack expertly repaired and reinforced, so when one of the handles pulled out of the new duffle as we got off the train in Bangkok, we assumed a repair would be easy. In the end it was easy — one of the housekeepers at our hotel took it to a shoemaker and had it restitched for next to nothing. But looking at how little reinforcement the handles have we worried it would happen again. And it did.

The new brown duffle (left) hours before one of the main handles ripped out. The black one on the right has survived many years of airline baggage brutes. Both cost less than $20.

By the time Mr. Brown Rolling Duffle rolled onto the baggage carousel in Antalya he was missing one handle completely, and the other one dangled uselessly, barely attached. The one remaining handle on the short end has started to split the seam. We’re going to have to figure this out. We have one more flight and possibly two trains to go before we can retire Mr. BRD.

A few days before departure we left the tourist area of Antalya to find a hardware store where we bought five meters of thin rope for the duffle. We did a final load of laundry, topped up our transit card, packed up the last six months as efficiently as possible and tweaked the plan for getting back to the van.

Departure day was cold, windy and wet, and we said goodbye to our pension at 6 AM and dragged our baggage up the steep cobbled lanes of Old Town and through the deserted streets of Antalya to the tram station in a freezing drizzle.

Mr. BRD is hogtied and I’m confident we won’t lose our belongings to rough handling by the airline. I’m just hoping UK Customs doesn’t want to search us.

Our crowded flight was uncomfortable but uneventful and we were welcomed to Scotland with unexpected sunshine.

We stayed one night in an airport hotel, then took a taxi to the train station, a train to the town closest to the storage place where we were collected by the boss man and returned to Escape Velocity. She started right up.

Our six month Asian odyssey has ended with another successful knee replacement for Jack and a big bucketful of great memories. Now a new adventure in the campervan begins.

The brown rolling duffle did his job but with missing handles, open seams, and zippers missing teeth, he’s headed for the skip.

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