Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Lycian Way: Day 6

I knew this would happen. I return to Istanbul and an entire week runs out before I've finished my holiday memoirs. Rather crap at time management, I never seem to improve what has evidently become the bane of my life. It all just slips away so fast and compounds the feeling that I never complete the task at hand.

Anyway, my favourite day on the trip.

Not the most beautiful scenery and certainly not the best weather we experienced on our journey, however, our penultimate day on the trail was the most varied and interesting. And close to twelve hours of walking. I was feeling fit.

We arose at the crack of dawn, ate something for breakfast that must have been instantly forgettable because I can't remember what is was. Undoubtedly fruit. I know I drank only water because it was to be the first challenge of the day. to find some more of the stuff. Until this point, we had merely glanced at markings on the map that showed the locations of various cisterns and natural springs, however today we were certainly going to need to find some as we intended to make it hydrated and headache-free to a small village, Kılıçlı, by sundown.

We set off and up a hill where we found a large signpost showing the way forward. A large white house with makeshift garage was our first sing of life and within moment Damon located the cistern. we were then at odds whether to knock on the door and request water. In these parts we doubted the inhabitants rose early. Why get out of bed at all when you don't have to deal with incessant traffic and your obligations are limited to watching peacefully over some languid livestock. Of course, I'm wrong. These people had quite likely arisen hours previous and by now were many furlongs away tending to goats high up on the ridge.

Extracting water from the cistern require the kind of lateral thinking of which I remain in short supply. However, given the urgency of our situation it was indeed amazing at what we achieved using a small two handled pot, some old string and elbow grease. Ten minutes and a few failed attempts behind us, we managed to fill at capture at least three litres and I felt rather proud the event had gone so well.

The nest few hours were spent collecting another dog, idling among the usual olive groves, scrambling over rocky outcrops and travelling through gentle pine. Bracken and small scratchy bushes were a feature of the day and on several occasions we needed to stop to check we were indeed headed in the right direction.

Eventually we came into a almond orchard and met with Bayram Bey. Who I thought initially was going to shoot one of us dead for meat and keep the other as a sexual plaything. Unlike most Turks, Bayram was not garrulous. He liked to stare at us a lot. A lot. I felt the taste of fear and an impromptu and imperfect rendition of Deliverance involuntarily played in my head. I wasn't ready to squeal like a pig.

Like all Turks, Bayram was hospitable to a fault and invited us in for tea. His house was as ramshackle as you could possible imagine but had a particular to it even though I couldn't imagine what exactly life would be like in such an abode. We drank a few cups of tea and Bayram offered us water from his tank, which he needs to collect from the nearest village every now and then since rainfall has presumably dropped in the parts in the recent past. Bayram had a puppy called Aslan, Lion, that could have killed damon or I with a single jump to the throat. Deliverance involuntarily re-played in my head.

We were accompanied to the tractor path that crossed one of Bayram's fields and pointed in the direction of the nearest village, Boğazcık. We greeted a few builders and refused the offer of lodgings from a woman who appeared from nowhere and then disappeared equally mysteriously, as we set our bearings to Appollonia.

Appollonia. At the foot of a hill we unyoked our burdens and climbed backpack free to a view and ruined Hellenistic city atop a scree-covered hill. The ancient sure loved to build a) on steep slopes, and b) way above sea-level. I have really good calf muscles to prove it.

We found a theatre amidst the undergrowth and Damon performed a sparkling RADA-inspired version on Aristophanes. I took photos and cheered him on until finding my own niche among the collapsed Byzantine church where I delivered a fire-and-brimstone sermon from a tree-cum-pulpit. It was all very thespian but I suddenly remembered that I necessarily hate all actors for the pretentious jerks they are and more importantly the suns rays were no longer warming my aching cadaverous body.

We slid down the slopes, got back into the yoke and took off towards a village that time and perhaps even Turkey, forgot.

Backtracking a kilometre or more, we came upon a large bull emitting a large sound that gave a largely uncomfortable feeling in my pants. An grumpy 900kg bovine is not to be tampered with, especially when it clearly does not want that green piece of string around its horn to be tied to a lamp post. It looked irascible and sounded damn well annoyed. Damon and I spent approximately three minutes wondering whether the big scary bull was going to flee, mount the cow, or worse, mount us. A completely calm couple sat there gently coaxing the animal that was going to kill us into its leash. Jesus, have you seen the hooves on a bull? I choose to sat afar.

Animal chained, we moved on into the village proper, except there wasn't one. Man, this place was small. I loved the stone houses but hated the feeling that this was the sort of town people think are full of gentle welcoming village folk but in fact one of the barns contain acid bath holding the remains of previous intruders. Don't blame me, I do originate from a scary town. I come from a very spooky place indeed. Still, not that it left any psychological damage.

Provisions had diminished rapidly after a day's energetic use of muscles, and I called out to a man who was staring at his wife who was staring at us. Luckily for us he turned out to be the owner of the town store. Of course, if can can call a room covered in dust and stacked high with only fifteen different flavoured varieties of Pop-Cakes and Cola a shop, then were in for a rather large spree.

Being American, I assumed for Damon this was virtually a health food store because he promptly stashed a lot of things in individual single serve sized packets into a medium-sized plastic bag. When I started to cry the owner went back into his house next door and brought two loaves of bread. I stopped weeping. Damon was grinning about his new diet of Pop-Cakes. Turks loves this kind of crap. It's cheap. It's completely void of nutrition. None of this can ever be good for you. It was all cheap and let's face it, we had no other choice.

On the shopkeepers advice, we could pitch our tent and sleep anywhere we wanted. I wanted to stay out of range of both aminals and people who might like to eat other people. We effortlessly avoided more big fat and scary things making loud noises and made our way out of town. Spotting a great, wide and green field that might give us shelter and offer at least a 400m unobstructed view in every direction, I felt safer that we weren't going to be eaten.

Murat Bey kindly allowed us to rest in his field, and his obese, food-munching son waddled his way in front, signalling us to follow. Mustafa was about 24 years and 24 stone. The kind of man who spends his whole life ogling woman who never want to marry him. Still, we were males and so his only interest was to help us clear the field of the 857 rocks that might cause discomfort while sleeping. Mustafa gave up after the third stone but we carried out while he proffered all manner of information about the area.

Very helpful he was too, when, after unpacking the tent he informed us public transport didn't make it far. Without explaining the entire thing which would take too long... Damon I ended up riding in Mustafa's mate's car to the next town of Üçağız later that evening for the tidy amount of too much cash. In fact, Mustafa was wily and had, by exaggerating the distance and difficulty of the journey between his town and our next destination, organised him and his buddy enough beer money to ensure he'd be hassling poor, unsuspecting females for a long time to come. God, how can any young man allow himself to get a belly so big that he looks pregnant? Disgusting.

So, we were in Üçağız and our tent still needed to be pitched. I'm fairly sure we ended up sleeping in someone's extended garden, though in these parts they don't seem to worry about that kind of thing so much.

I will say, however, that at this point in the journey, Damon and I were no longer smelling very nice.

It might even be fair to say Mustafa just didn't want us reeking in his fields.

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