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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Turkish undelight

One weekend late last
September the Financial
Times travel section was
devoted to tales of
mishaps and disasters, entitled ‘Gone
wrong’. This reflected my feelings
exactly in respect of a holiday earlier
that month, which ended up with my
spending £1,000 for a night on a hard
sofa in a locked room in Istanbul
Climb every mountain
It had started promisingly enough. I had
a week’s leave booked for September,
and was toying with somewhere in
south-eastern Europe, when an email
arrived: ‘Would you, or anyone you
know, be interested in climbing Mount
Ararat?’ This is not an offer you get
every day, and was one that I was
unable to refuse.
Departure day, which happened to be
my birthday, came in due course. I got
up before 5am to try to finish some
work (this is not my usual hour of
clocking in) and then duly proceeded
to lose my house keys. This necessitated
the use of a cab to make the airport on
time, which I just did. But at the airport
there was a mix-up over whether I
could take hiking poles as hand luggage,
and I had to queue for security
twice. The flight was then delayed, and
we sat on the ground for the best part
of an hour awaiting a take-off slot. Not
a great birthday so far, I thought, little
knowing that things were about to get
Passport control
I had arranged to meet friends in Istanbul
before flying to Mount Ararat. So I
arrived at Istanbul Ataturk airport just
before midnight, bought my visa (£10)
and presented myself at immigration.
This took a long time, with the official
in the booth calling over colleagues for
consultation. Had I ever reported my
passport as lost or stolen, asked one
senior official. No, I replied. Well, the
passport was listed as stolen on the
Turkish immigration computer systems,
he said, as he moved me into a suite of
offices behind the immigration booths.
I, and another passenger with passport
problems, sat for a couple of hours in a
room while little happened. I rang the
UK consular service, who asked the
Turkish authorities to double-check, but
with the same result. I was moved into
a locked room, in which a number of
sofas were occupied by the recumbent
forms of yet more travellers lost in the
immigration/security system.
After five hours I was extracted and
put on the next flight back to Heathrow.
Officials all the while held my passport
and ticket at least I got to jump the
security and boarding queues. On landing
I was worried that I might not be readmitted
to the UK. But, somewhat to
my chagrin, I was told that there was no
record of my passport having been
stolen, and I was free to go. My hiking
poles appeared on the baggage carousel,
having got further into Turkey than I
A few days later I got a message that
the group had reached the top of Ararat
And the moral is...
°? Try to keep calm, however frustrating
and Kafkaesque the situation you
find yourself in it probably won’t
help you get out any more quickly or
more satisfactorily, but not keeping
calm can only make things worse.
°? Use the time gained as a result of any
cancellation as a little bonus all
those days reading, visiting friends...
°? Insurance may help in some cases,
but didn’t in these has anyone seen
a policy that pays out on holiday
curtailment on such grounds?
°? Dine out on the story afterwards.