Unfortunately my first experience in Turkey was definitely not a good one. Here’s a top tip for you. If you are going to lose your passport, Turkey is definitely not the place to do it! Ok, well losing your passport in any country is far from ideal, however for three solid days, I went to hell and back to sort out the biggest muff up of my life. I was certainly extremely fortunate to have the Australian Unigames crew to help, in particular Helen Bryson and Daniel Tackenberg.
So to clarify what actually happened, we are still unsure as to whether it was lost or stolen. I had it as I boarded the plane in Istanbul as I needed to show it along with my ticket. I am then almost certain that I put it in the pocket of the seat in front of me, however when I went to get it as I got off the plane, it was no-where to be seen. I can pretty much guarantee that it was not on the plane because I spent the next 15-20min searching every little gap and floor space where it could have fallen with a heart sinking lack of success. The only thing that was lucky about the situation was that it happened between a domestic flight meaning I had no trouble at the airport, but the thought that I could be stuck here for a very long time was extremely depressing.
The next two days were spent stressing and making many phone calls with a lot of help from Helen and Daniel. The most frustrating part of the whole process was the Turkish way of getting things done. This was overwhelmingly evident whilst trying to get the police report done. I left at 2.30pm to go to local police station and even this relatively simple task took until 6.00pm to finally get it done! Let’s just say they are extremely big fans of passing you off to the next person, who then follows suit. This meant after a ridiculous amount of referrals, which resulted in walking across a massive portion of the city, we finally met the right person, but unfortunately we seemed to be interrupting a ‘meeting’ which from our perspective looked a lot like a Turkish tea party and were told to come back 1 hour later. I won’t go to all details but essentially we dropped off Georgia and Phil back at the athlete’s village, and then I was convinced by the attaché that we had enough time to fix another issue involving team mobiles which turned into a huge shemozzle including losing our driver (who we finally found at a bar drinking tea) and only just made it back to the police office in time!
On Thursday, Helen and I then had to fly to Ankara (2 hours away) which was a 5.30am start, and right from the word go there was huge doses of drama resulting in the most stressful day of my life. So we had arranged for a driver to meet us and drive us to the airport at 6am, however he was a no-show. I then went to the organisers who didn’t have another car available, but managed a full sized coach to take the two of us. We were lucky to not have too many problems checking in without my passport and just made the flight. My first near death experience came when we got a taxi from the airport to the Australian Embassy. This was quite an old, worn out Fiat driven by a driver with a death wish! On the freeway with a speed limit of 120, we got up to 170, and I was genuinely convinced the car was going to rattle itself to pieces.
Once we got to the embassy, we were given the information that it would be unlikely that I would be able to continue travelling to Norway, Sweden and Finland on an emergency passport and that I would have to stay and extra week here in Turkey whilst a full passport is processed. This was a huge blow for me and I was having a lot of trouble dealing with this very unfortunate situation. After a few phone calls to consulates, it now appears I will be able to get to Norway, to where I should then be able to have a full passport processed which is obviously a huge relief.
The taxi ride home was still not very safe with lots of speeding, but the main problem came when we arrived at the airport to find that our 2pm flight had been cancelled. The next available flight was then apparently not until 6.45pm despite there being another one on the departure board at 4.00pm. After very unsuccessful nagging, we were told this flight was full. Still not convinced, we then rang Dan who managed to find out this was actually a chartered flight to World University Games for the VIP, and we managed to get onto the right people who allowed us to book a ticket. It did then take a lot of convincing to let us on the plane as we were the only ones not suited up, which meant we were very close to missing this flight as well.
Once on the flight we were proud that we had finally gotten through the day, but unfortunately that was not the case. 15min before landing, we were told that we were going to turn back to Ankara because the airport at Erzerum was closed and the conditions were too bad to land. This was the major disheartening event of the month as the following day I was meant to be racing the 10km classic. After circling around for quite some time we get another call that would be landing, but to expect a rough landing. Rough was a bit of an understatement! The turbulence was a lot worse than anything than I’ve ever experienced, and the run-way hadn’t been cleared so even with reverse thrust amped all the way up, we still had to use a lot of brakes making us slide quite a lot. This was the 2nd near death experience of the day.
So with this all as a lead up to the first two races of the championships, I have been feeling far from on top of my form. To add to this, the trails are right on, maybe even slightly over the FIS elevation limit of 1750m, and this can be felt by everyone. In addition, the athlete’s village is even higher at close to 2000m meaning recovery is very minimal and sleeping at night is extremely disturbed. Consequently, I haven’t been very content with my first two performances with the 10km classic being extremely difficult and just missing the finals in the Sprint yesterday. I was 36th in the Classic and 35th in the Sprint. Tomorrow is the 15km Pursuit so I really am hoping that I can ski to a similar standard to what I have been in the past few World Cups.
In terms of the atmosphere in the athlete’s village, it has all been very enjoyable so far. We have a great team here this year and it’s been great to meet athletes from such a wide range of nationalities.