As expected, Explore once again came up with the goods. If you’re not familiar with the name, they’re a travel company that specialise in group adventure holidays and we’ve just returned from our fifth trip with them, the ‘Asia Minor Explorer’ tour of Turkey.
The tour was a pretty intensive two-week circuit by coach (accurately described in the brochure as ‘busy’) beginning and ending in Istanbul and taking in the capital Ankara, the incredible volcanic rock landscapes of Cappadocia, the much-photographed travertine terraces at Pamukkale, numerous Roman sites including Ephesus, Aphrodisias and Troy, some quite stunning stretches of coast (boating and swimming paradise) and the moving memorials at WW1 killing-ground Gallipoli. That list barely scratches the surface but you get the idea.
There were eighteen of us in the group, plus charismatic tour leader Zafer and his chuntering, basso-profundo sidekick, the white-line-straddling driver Cha-cha. Inevitably, there was a lot of travel involved; Turkey is a big country and this tour covered a sizeable chunk of it. All the usual weapons of mass distraction required to deal with such epic longueurs were in evidence from the start: books, magazines, crosswords, iPods, iPads, mobile phone apps plus, in my case, a nice new sketchbook. It ended up getting far more use than I expected.
By far the majority of the drawings were made during these bus journeys. Our fellow travellers were an extremely agreeable and obliging bunch and seemed happy (if not always fidget-free) being closely scrutinised and drawn from (usually) just across the aisle. Everyone in the party is represented here somewhere, with likenesses ranging from ‘instantly recognisable’ to ‘who the hell…?’. The main artistic obstacle, without doubt, was the movement of the bus. Constant low-level vibration, occasional bumps from an uneven road-surface and Cha-cha’s idiosyncratic, swerving approach to lane discipline has given pretty much all the sketches here a distinctly wobbly and rough-hewn look that will always evoke the ambience of these drives more vividly than any photograph ever could.
Right, here they are, all 26 of ’em – yikes! (do I need to remind you that individual images can be enlarged by clicking on them? No, I thought not.) :