Monday, November 29, 2010

Anamur, Turkey

Friends: I had such an isolated, quiet, worry-free campsite last night in a pine forest on a high bluff overlooking the Mediterranean that when I awoke near morning after the most solid sleep I've had in weeks, I momentarily forgot where I was, a not uncommon experience in my travels, but a first here in Turkey.

My subconscious may have at last gained full liberation from the assorted worries that have preoccupied it during these travels. I was beginning to feel the last of the tensions dissolve yesterday as I left behind the heavily built-up one hundred mile stretch that extended from Adana to beyond Silifke and began a series of long climbs through uninhabited terrain as the coastline turned into rugged cliffs and the traffic dwindled to a trickle.

I was still inflicted by an occasional less than welcome horn blast and the first kid to shout "money, money" at me in a while, but I was too occupied by the beauty about me and the near perfect 60 degree, sunny weather to be much bothered. I could instead dwell upon my gladness to be on my bicycle in such a setting, nearing the southernmost point of Turkey.

I was also feeling a freedom from having to scan the road side for cıgarette packs searching for a new unsettling photograph designed to shock smokers out of their habit that I didn't have in my collection, since learning from Zekeriya that there are only 14 and I have them all. (They can all be seen on my previous posting thanks to Zekeriya and Robert my trusty archivist.) Its hard still not to notice them as I bicycle along, but now I can quickly avert my eyes to more agreeable sights, happy to be done with that project.

I can also merrily pedal along happy to have my thought to myself, fully liberated from the near non-stop sound-track David provided, commentıng on all and sundry. He never seemed to be without something to say and the need to immediately share it. Even when I'd drop back to have some time to myself, he'd turn and wave me forward, as if he had something pressing to tell me.

"I just realized," he'd blurt, "Why the Middle Eastern languages sound so guttural. It's how the shepherds address their goats and sheep." Or, "Look at all those auto repair shops, each of them trustworthy and competent." Or, "I heard a show on the BBC last night on the 75th anniversary of Mao's Long March. It was by a journalist I occasionally hear on NPR, Michael Goldfarb. I knew he was a lefty, but I didn't realize he was a commie."

As entertaining as he could be, I welcome not having my thought ınterrupted by such stray bombardments and welcome letting it meander where it may, alternately reveling in the present and also being transported just about anywhere and letting those thoughts run their course. I don't regret David's gabby nature. I much prefer cycling with someone who has plenty to say, than with someone who has nothing to say. His ever fertile mind and the plentiful crop of thoughts that continually sprouted from it made hım a excellent subject for a documentary. And that eıght-minute short, "Woodsie," about hıs life living in a tent on Forest Service land in the woods of Telluride, just won an award at the Miami short film festival.

As far as cycling companions go, I also much prefer to cycle with someone who is a tad slower than I, rather than someone who is pushing the pace and wearing me out. David liked to dreamily drift along at nine to ten miles per hour, in contrast to my style of somewhat exertıng myself, maintainıng a steady pace just below an accelerated heart beat, usually of twelve to fourteen miles per hour depending upon the conditions. David could manage such a pace on the rare occasions when it was needed, but he didn't care to be concerned about such matters. Fortunately, we weren't trying to keep up with The Tour de France or any such thing, so our differing speeds wasn't an issue.

David and I were also a good fit concerning early starts, though he was an even earlier starter than I, happy to start breaking camp in the dark. He caught me by surprise after our second night in Turkey when he awoke me in the pitch dark an hour before sunrise taking down his tent. "What's going on," I called out.

"I couldn't sleep and I thought I heard you stirring, so I thought I'd get going."

We even needed our headlamps to guide us back to the road from our campsite by the time we were packed. After that we somewhat set a departure time each morning that didn't require headlamps for packing our gear. I'm always happy for early starts, especially when the daylight is short.  I am much more frustrated traveling with a morning dawdler than an early riser.

We weren't so compatible though on when and where to camp. My favorite time to be on the bike is during that final hour before sunset. It is almost like a victory lap, celebrating a full day on the bike. I don't want my day on the bike to end. I felt the same as a messenger. I reveled in that final hour and was always happy for one last delivery, not wanting to hear my dispatcher say there was no more work. The endorphins are surging and I want to keep them flowing.

David, however, began looking for a place to camp when our shadows were about our length, with well more than an hour of good cycling left. He was eager to plop down beside his tent with his pipe and his shortwave radio searching for the BBC, so he could learn the latest on the death toll from the cholera epidemic ın Haiti or the the latest soon-to-be-forgotten world "catastrophe."

I would have had no objections to early campsites if the days were longer or if we were in a safer place. But here the days were short and we needed the dusk to camouflage our exıt from the road. It was such an early campsıte that led us to being robbed and contributed to a few nervous nights when there was a distinct possibility that a shepherd might stumble upon us on his way home or have spotted us when we headed ınto the countryside well before dusk. Still, I always appreciate traveling with others. Its nice to share all its joys, and perhaps to learn a thing or two from another's way of doing things. But I am also happy to return to my tried and true solitary riding, just as David was.

Thus ıt was easy for us to go off on our own after we were turned away from Syria, especially since David had grown weary of Turkey and the cycling and was eager to go hang out on Rhodes, his favorıte Greek island. I never grow tired of being on the bike and had already begun lusting after Istanbul, over fifteen hundred miles away following the coast. I am certainly glad that I have, as ıt led to meeting Zekeriya and ıs giving me a much better impression of Turkey than if I had left immediately after our perilous time in the Kurdish east.

Later, George


joan136 said...

it's a pleasure to hear about your relaxing day- i sure hope you're right about the difficulties being over, but keep your guard up, particularly at night. joan

T.C. O'Rourke said...

George, I think this post singularly sums up your traveling preferences better than all others.