"Not all those who wander are lost"

Turkey, Part 1

This is the time for small paychecks and big memories. This is the time for travel. We are about as attached to one location as we are to our favorite Chinese take-out place. We know what we like about it, and we take comfort in the familiarity, but that’s about it.

-Jessy Trapper

 

The van chugged up the hill and finally crested.  The land stretched out from us into rugged, rocky grasslands and jagged limestone hills.  We began the downhill and the maroon 83 VW high top van picked up speed.  We careened down the hill passing several cars that had cruised by only a few moments before.  I was bound for Istanbul.

Three months of intended to be spent climbing in Geyikbayiri had already flown by.  My perception of time has always fascinated me.  I remember when I was young and Christmas, my birthday, or summer felt like an eternity away.  They were an eternity away when a year is a quarter of your memorable life.  Now I blink and I find that I’m no longer in highschool or college, jesus, I’ve been out of college for nearly four years.  Four years that have also flown by in a blur of climbing, travel, breakdowns, and working just enough to get by.  Now I realize that my time here has slipped form my fingers as well.  My current guess is that time in fact increases proportionally to age.  By that measure, my 26 years are already well over half my life.  This is really all just a way of saying: “wow, I can’t believe it’s over already.”

My trip to Geyikbayiri was the routine nuisance: bus to NY, turn around and fly right back over Maine, layover in random European city with almost enough time to leave the airport but not quite, arrive in destination without a clue where to go.  I got lucky and found a place to stay in Antalya through CouchSurfing while I was in the airport in Oslo; I just had to get myself there.  I got a bus into town and never getting off; the driver dropped me at the right shopping mall to meet up with Burak.  I didn’t wake up until 1pm, so I only had a few hours of daylight by the time I was ready to find the bus to Geyikbayiri.  Armed with a general direction of where the ottogar (bus station) was and the hope that people spoke enough English to get by I headed off.  I asked several people where to get the bus to the ottogar.  Only one person spoke English enough to understand me and say 500m up the road.  I walked.  I asked more, received no more directions, and eventually found a bus that said “Ottogar” on the sign.  I jumped on.  When the bus hadn’t reached the ottogar in 10 minutes I knew something was wrong.  I decided to not doubt it, and stayed on for another 20 minutes.  Then I knew I was not where I needed to be.  But it was raining.  I stayed on the bus for another half hour until it stopped raining.  By that point I had seen most of Antalya and knew I was headed out of the city on the opposite side as Geyikbayiri.  I got off the bus, crossed the street, and waited for the same number bus to come by.  I knew my plan (could I even really call it a plan? More like a hope that things would magically work out) was shot so I borrowed a phone and talked to Burak.  I would have to wait an hour or two, but he’d meet me at the mall again at 6pm.

I made it to Starbucks only to discover that my haven of dirtbagdom did not have open internet.  It was a travesty.  I listened to podcasts and lounged on their patio.  6pm came and went.  Then 7, 8, and 9 followed as they do.  Still no sign.  I asked everyone around if I could use their phone, but all had one reason or another to say no.  Eventually a Starbucks employee believed me enough to use his log in for the internet so I could contact Burak.  No word.  At 10 Starbucks closed.  I was the only person at the mall.  I finished off the last of my Cliff bars and dried mango that had sustained me since I left Maine and I decided to try to navigate my way to his apartment to see if he was there.  For the next three hours I trudged the streets of Antalya with 75lbs of backpacks trying to find my way from memory to an address that didn’t seem to exist.  By midnight I was scouting abandon buildings that I could sleep in.  I decided I would go to the driest and most hopeful of them after one more attempt.  I started all the way back from the beginning and by a combination of subconscious navigation and pure luck I walked straight to Buraks apartment where I saw him through the kitchen window.  My first day in Turkey was not a success on any level.  Turkey 1, Dylan 0.

The next morning I woke early, got better directions to the ottogar (I needed to walk 2km down the road to it), and after a long wait for the bus, made it to Geyikbayiri.  I was psyched to finally set up camp and relax knowing I wouldn’t have to move for the next 3 months.  Or so I thought, but Mother Nature had different plans.

I snapped awake from the blast of a cannon inches from my eardrum.  Rain pummeled my tent.  My watch said “1:04 AM.”  I smiled and marveled at the raw power of nature then tried to go back to sleep.  The rain kept hamming my tent.  I never realized how loud that could be; it sounded like a sheet metal roof.  At some point I rolled over on to my side.  The ground rippled beneath my tent.  I looked out my tent door to see water rushing by just an inch below the line were my tent turned from waterproof  nylon to mesh.  I was sitting, mostly floating actually, in the middle of a river that stretched from the woods on one side of my tent to 40 feet on the other side.  I thought it was incredibly cool for about 20 seconds until my brain put a few simple facts together: there was already a 6in deep river around my tent and it was still pouring rain.  Gears in my brain spun and a new future clicked into view.  I was screwed.  I quickly decided on a bathingsuit and rain coat and began stuffing electronics into my backpacks.  I filled one load and made a break for the covered picnic tables without bothering to put anything on my feet.  By the time I made it back for a second load my tent had an inch of water and was filling quickly.  I stuffed what clothes I could into my pack, grabbed my sleeping pad and ran for the shelter.  The combination of hail and sharp rocks on the ground made for quite painful running.  My semi-dry things safely piled on a table I finally sat in a shower and spent the next 15 minutes getting feeling back in my throbbing feet.  When I emerged from the showers the rain and hail had both stopped.  Tired and wet, I walked to the porch of the restaurant where I lay on the swing for the rest of the night trying to sleep between crashes of thunder.  Turkey 2, Dylan 0.

 

More of this to come…

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