Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Lycian Way: Day 2

Of the four elements, wind is my least favourite. Principally since it reminds me of a bad childhood experience at the seaside in Port Broughton, The Moors (a place to conceal homicide victims), and conjures up a vision of Kate Bush on a stallion, bespoke in top hat and billowing chiffon, singing Wuthering Heights. The wind makes me shudder. It also tends to cause distress and unease to animals, namely my cat.

So in the first wee hour of the morning when the tempest blew up the valley and slammed into the side of the tent, there was general malaise all round. The tent seemed involved in some kind of synthetic, energetic and spasmodic Pilates session with Damon and I edging ever closer to the cliff face. At the point where I had to break loose from the tent in little more than my blue briefs to rescue a fugitive fly cover, it was clear we would have to move. Now.

Bleary-eyed and not in the best humour, the wind unleashed all its Zephyric force, currents of air violent and hostile worked against us as we hurriedly packed our belongings, took flight across a dirt field and sheltered in the shell of yet another unfinished residence that mars the landscape in these parts. However, this was not the moment to sound off about inevitable ugly cement progress but rather to huddle down in the among bricks and building material and so remain out of reach of the noreaster.

We awoke in a mass of thinly and widely spread goat excrement. Not an idyllic manner by which to begin the day. Damon was not smiling. A pear and apple each later we were determined to soldier on, left the turd, wind and cliff face behind us and head for the nearby village of Kozağaç. At the cistern we filled our canteen, cleaned our teeth, greeted an unfriendly canine with little-dog syndrome. Then along came Coşkan.

Without heading into territory of overused metaphors and images of the hospitable villager, Coşkan, his wife and two progeny, Yasin and Yasemin entreated us to the most onion-filled breakfast of gozleme I had ever known, coupled with the ubiquitous Turkish tea. I cooed over the baby, chatted with the young boy, talked endlessly wıth the man of the house and encouraged endlessly the woman of the house to bring more food.

Damon and I felt the need to move on as we hadn't really progressed very far and behind us gloomy clouds hung heavy over the formidably towering Baba Dağ. In recent memory an earthquake had triggered landslides that buried a row of houses and it was clear that the mountain seems fond of intermittently dropping several hundred tons of landmass, without warning, down its slopes and into the village.

Across scented pine forests, olive groves and pastures bursting with spring blossoms, it was difficult not to fall prey to the cliche of the pastoral. Had a knight dismounted his steed and practiced le droit de seigneur with some russet-haired buxom shepherdess, I don't think Damon and I would've considered it in poor taste. The views were arresting and it's always good to know that no matter how much city life can make you jaded, the country rejuvenates and restores your faith and enthusiasm.

Kirme was quite naturally the picture-perfect hamlet set amongst the flowering fields. Stone cottages with ramshackle fences, cows meandering. Everything was emerald green. Before I got sucked into some freaky Wizard of Oz type hallucination the mist enshrouded us once again and the heavens rained down upon us and our backpacks. We promptly took refuge under the conifers to realise half an hour too late that the rain had, as the Turks would say, 'soaked us like a sausage'. Go figure. As the steam rose from my dank and now reeking socks, our backpacks had collected enough water to be wrung out at some point in the future.

Unneighbourly bovines shot us furtive glances as they moved up the hill. I realised for the first time in a long time that I don't actually like cattle. Unless it's bleeding on a plate with my fork in it.

Soaked pas the point of return, we moved a little sluggishly to end our day entering Kelebek Valdisi, Butterfly Valley. We'd already exhausted our superlatives some time earlier and refusing to utter 'pretty' again, instead we stayed silent, mouths open and collecting rainwater. Kelebek Vadisi is freakin' gorgeous.

George House was owned by Rıdvan Bey and run by his son Hasan and other members of the extended family. Damon and I peeled off our wet suits and were inextricably drawn to the heat of the wood stove in the common room. Circulation returned to my toes and other, drier pension guests came through the doors. A few expatriates teaching English in Istanbul along with Brian, an Australian living in some remote village who spends his time planning and waymarking new treks.

As we lounged on Ottoman cushions scoffing a plethora of hot and cold meze, Brian volunteered his knowledge and gave us sound advice for the days ahead. A man of strong opinions, he warned us of shortcomings in our plans and suggested alternate routes.

We slept soundly with full stomach in a damp room, with the optimism that the sensational sunset was would bring more clement skies on the morrow and that our newfound information would ensure even better days to come.

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