Frıends: David has been saying that our trip would not be complete until we had been stoned.  Many of the accounts we have read of other travelers to Turkey describe such an experience.  David feels deprived that we haven't been pelted by stones, as if that will authenticate our travels.  I have no such need, having being stoned while biking in Guatamala and Morocco and Lesotho.  It is not a pleasant experience and now David agrees after three such incidents in the past 24 hours. We are having second thoughts of how much longer we wish to spend in this part of Turkey. We're not quite ready to abandon our plan of riding around Lake Van and getting a look at Mount Ararat, but we are studying the map for an early escape route out of Eastern Turkey. David is actually contemplating taking a train if the stonings persist.

Our first stoning occurred late yesterday afternoon as we entered Mus. We were halted at a cross walk as hoards of school children crossed. The well-dressed teen-aged boys in their blazers and ties seemed excited to see a couple of Westerners on bicycles and unleashed a barrage of exuberant "hellos" on us. Then one stepped forward and offered his hand for a shake. Others followed and I suddenly had a mini-mob pressing close to my right side, nearest to the sidewalk.  Some began clutching and grabbing at my bike and its gear. This was no longer pleasant. The walk cleared none too soon and I had to push off to break from their grasp.  A stone or two followed. David had been to my left and hadn't experienced the crush.  The whizzing stones came as a complete surprise to him, having not detected the underlying hostility that had been vented on me.

As we entered the heart of the city and encountered more children they taunted us with a not friendly at all chorus of "tourist, tourist," though no stones. The next batch of those didn't come until the next morning when we passed through a small town on the shores of Lake Van. A cluster of a dozen boys just leaving school raced across the road as we were half way up a hill to have a closer look at us. Once again their initial response was a medley of "hellos," before turning belligerent and throwıng stones after we passed them. Their aim was low, as if they didn't really mean harm. Still, it was not a welcome response.

David justified their behaviour as a tribal instinct to outsiders, and also the lack of much love in their upbringing, at least compared to what Westerners receive. My stonings in travels past had all been isolated, one-time, incidents, not as pervasive as it has become here in Kurdish Turkey, where it seems to be culturally ingrained. When a lone boy an hour later tossed a stone at us, David had had enough and circled back to chase after the boy.  He fled into a shop. David found him hiding behind his mother. David had picked up a stone as he entered and pantomimed what happened and the mother gave the boy a tongue-lashing.

We were on edge today anyway after a somewhat harrowing night in our tents, forced to sleep behind a gas station ten miles past Mus when we were caught by dark before we'd gotten back out into rural Turkey. We were in the middle of a rare fıfty mile flat agricultural stretch, so had no canyons or quarries or groves of trees to slip into. We asked permission to camp there. The two young attendants said it was okay and later the owner came by with a flashlight to check us out.The attendants spent the night at the statıon and had windows looking out upon us, but we were still vulnerable to anyone who wanted to pounce on us. I slept fıne, though I was startled awake several tımes by a noise, sending a piercing jolt of panic straight to my heart.

David didn't sleep as well, and was beset by gaping yawns all the next day. We were fully prepared to stop early if a campground presented itself along the lake. We did come upon one at two this afternoon in Ahlat.  We couldn't tell if it was open, as no one was about, nor was their any indication that it had been in use lately what with the swimming season well past. While we took advantage of its bathroom after wandering the premises, a gentleman found us and informed us the campground was open, though there was no hot water. The fee was a nominal four liras for the two of us. We weren't overly confident about the secuirty of the campground, as it wasn't enclosed and was easily accessible to anyone walking the beach or the walkway along it.  It wasn't likely we'd be joined by any other campers, providing us safety in numbers.  But we were in need of a short day, so elected to risk it, just as we had the night before behind the gas station.

We had been feeling a sense of calm  and triumph when we first laid eyes on the magnifıcant turquoise waters of Lake Van earlier in the day, achieving one of the goals of this trip, but that happiness quickly dissolved after our second and third stonings. We reached Lake Van at the large city of Tatvan. A ferry was just pulling in, crossıng from Van on the other side of this high deep mountain lake.  It had been formed millions of years ago by a volcano damning a river that passed through a canyon, allowing this huge basin to fill. The lake has no outlet.  It maintains its level through evaporation, creating waters with a high alkaline content. One can wash clothes in it without soap.  Those with boats can hang dirty laundry into the water in a mesh bag and have them thoroughly cleaned from the movement of the boat through the water.

We had a pleasant afternoon gazing upon the lake from benches at the campground while we read and ate and patched tires. We were joined by a Turkish couple visiting relatives, though not staying at the campground. The husband spoke a little English. We pulled out our map to show him our route.  He pointed out his home town to the north on the Black Sea and gave us advice on what roads to take. He warned us about the dangers of this part of Turkey and told us to specifically avoid the large cities that we had contemplated visiting--Hakkarı, Diyarbakir and Batman.

David is now focused on getting to Mersin several hundred miles away on the Meditarranean, where he can take a ferry to Cyprus. I am still intent on Syria, even though I will have to get a visa at the border, not a sure thing. I'm also contemplatıng slipping into Iraqi Kurdistan to visit friends of a friend who has spent months doing volunteer work there.  She actually gave me a letter to deliver.  She assures me Americans are well received there having helped establish the country and protecting them from Saddam Hussein. We won't make our fınal decision until we reach Van, a city of 500,000, on the opposite side of the lake.  We're hoping we'll encounter travelers with first hand information on the lands ahead.

Later, George