It snowed in Tatvan last night, so today I rode a bus the 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Tatvan to Van, and then back to Tatvan, to inspect the road I’ll be walking this week.
The road’s elevation ranges from the lake level of 5500 feet (1700 meters) to 7200 feet (2200 meters). The snow on the shoulders is melting fast. The road between Tatvan and Van is clear and ready for me to walk. Knock on wood, inşallah, kırk bir kere maşallah.
I’ve walked all the way to Tatvan now. 88% of the walk is done. 1,848 kilometers (1,148 miles).
What’s left: one week to walk from Tatvan to Van, and then a week to walk from Van to the border (or at least, to within a few kilometers of the border — I’ll walk the final few kilometers a week after that, so some friends can join me for the last section).
Now for a hot shower and a nap. I’ve got tomorrow off.
[Up to date, as of 9 April, 2013]
This is the planning page for the walk’s final day. If you would like to take part on that final day, this is the page to keep checking. I’ll be posting updates as the day draws closer.
The walk’s final day is Saturday, 13 April, 2013.
IMPORTANT: BRING IDENTIFICATION (passport, nüfüs cüzdanı, whatever you have); the Jandarma have multiple security checkpoints along the road.
IMPORTANT: MAKE SURE I HAVE YOUR CELL PHONE NUMBER. If there are any last-minute changes Friday evening or Saturday morning, or if our group gets split up on the road, I need a way to get in touch with you.
I already walked to 5 kilometers before the border. Therefore we will only have to walk for one or two hours on Saturday the 13th.
I will be staying in Van Friday night, the night before the final day. Van is about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the border.
Saturday morning we’ll have breakfast and then leave Van by bus around 8:30am or 9:00am. We will ride the bus until the day’s starting point (a bridge over a river 5 km from the border).
Finding a bus between Van and Özalp (a town 40 km from the border) is easy. However, finding rides between Özalp and the border, especially for 8 people, is pretty unpredictable. So we’ve already called the local minibüs kooperatıf (thank you, Yonca), and they are ready to help transport us to and from the border.
On Saturday, when we’re in sight of the border I’d like to break a bottle of champagne on the road. We will also have a few photos that need to be taken during the day. So it’ll be kind of a festive atmosphere.
After we reach the border, we’ll just ride back to Van and celebrate by stopping somewhere in Van for a beer.
Who is planning on coming:
This is an open invitation to whoever wants to come. You don’t have to notify me in advance. You don’t even have to walk the final 5 km if you don’t want to. You could just meet us at the border.
So far, though, it looks like there will be 5-8 of us: two of my friends from Istanbul, two from Ankara, one from Tarsus, me, and a couple other people from the Van area.
Road conditions and weather:
We’ll walk whatever the weather conditions are, since A. I’ve been on the road for 7 months, and I want to get this walk over with, and B. there are people coming from a long ways away.
I’ve been walking in the Van area for two weeks, and it’s been warm enough so that I’ve never had to wear a jacket while walking. I wear wool underwear (top and bottom), thin polyester sports pants, a thin cotton undershirt, and a thin polyester long-sleeve shirt. I also wear a hat and sunglasses, and I put on sunblock, because the sun is bright at this altitude.
The roads are nice and clear. There is snow on the mountain peaks, but not at the elevation we’ll be walking at. Hopefully we’ll have a nice sunny day.
It’ll probably be a pretty small group of people who join me for the final day, so direct contact will be more useful than updates to this webpage. To contact me directly, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at +90-535-680-9680.
I like the Van-Sisli Ogretmen Evi. I stayed there for a few nights while I was walking the last few days between Van and the border. I paid 40 TL per night (40 TL per person for a two-bed room, but they didn’t put anyone else in the room, so I had the whole room to myself). Breakfast is included. It is a nice, new, clean place — it was built last year, after the earthquake destroyed the school building that was there before it. Reservations are not necessary.
The Van-Sisli Ogretmen Evi is centrally located, in a part of the center of town called Maraş. There is a city bus that passes right in front of the Ogretmen Evi and goes between Maraş and Kampüs, passing right in front of the otogar, where we’ll probably be meeting Saturday morning.
FYI, there are two Ogretmen Evi’s in Van — the Sisli Ogretmen Evi, and the older Iskele Ogretmen Evi.
Istanbul flight information and local lodging (thanks Alper!):
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Matt Krause
Date: Mon, Mar 25, 2013 at 3:47 PM
Subject: Re: [istanbultoastmasters] Joining Matt on April 13-14
OR you can cut expenses big time with CouchSurfing.org. I highly recommend that site. Stay in someone’s home. It’s more homey than a hotel, and you make some great friends. I don’t think I’ve stayed at a hotel in three months. If you aren’t familiar with CouchSurfing.org, let me know, I’ll help you get set up and find a place.
On Mon, Mar 25, 2013 at 2:23 PM, Alper wrote:
As I mentioned in our meeting last week, one of our founding members, Matt, has been on a journey on foot from the west end to the east end of Turkey.
On April 13th, he will be finishing this voyage on the Iranian border in Van, and has invited us to join him for the last 5 KM of the walk and then to celebrate the finish. I will be going there with a few friends who have confirmed.
We have two options of arriving late Friday evening or early Saturday morning. We can then return on Sunday evening. Matt told me that we would have to gather around 9:30am Saturday, so we can either take a very early morning flight that day or arrive one day before.
There are planes both from Ataturk and Sabiha Gokçen airports with the following times:
4/13 Leave Atatürk 06:45am – Arrive in Van 08:50am (direct)
4/14 Leave Van 15:40 – Arrive in Atatürk 19:05 (Stopover in Ankara)
This ticket is currently 490 TL
4/12 Leave Sabiha Gökçen 10:00am – Arrive in Van 12:05pm (direct)
4/14 Leave Van 12:35pm – Arrive in SG 14:45 (direct)
This ticket is currently 270 TL
Matt mentioned an Öğretmenevi in Van. There are also other alternatives on booking.com, and a decent hotel seems to cost 59TL per person per night including breakfast (double occupancy) http://www.hotelmirva.com/
So here are the rough estimated totals excluding activities:
Arrive Friday by Pegasus, stay 2 nights : 390 TL (double occupancy)
Arrive Saturday by THY, stay 1 night: 550 TL (double occupancy)
If you have any questions, Matt will try his best to answer them via this mail group. Hope to see you all, and have a great week!
My host in Tatvan is Veli Deniz, appearing in this photo to my left. I visited a handful of classes today, but with this one I got to spend three class periods, since it is an intensive language class that stays in the same room for most of the day.
The exercise Veli prepared ahead of time was for the students to ask questions of me, me to answer, and then the students, later, to repeat my answers in their own words.
That exercise lasted only 1-1/2 class periods, though, and we spent the rest of the time with the students just asking me unscripted questions of their own. I was amazed at how wise and thoughtful their questions were, requiring me to dig deep and find creative ways to discuss complex philosophical issues clearly with a small vocabulary.
I absolutely love it when someone asks me to do that, and then is patient enough to listen to my answer. Everything else in the world falls away, and the only things that exist are me and the people in front of me.
Yesterday on the bus to Tatvan there was a young man sitting next to me. I asked him what he was doing. He told me he was a soldier stationed in Mardin. I asked him what Mardin was like. He said the scenery was nice, but the people are bad.
“Did he just say what I think he did?” I thought to myself. “You’ve got to be a major moron to make a statement like that on a bus like this.” I shut up, knowing full well that the people around us were about to come out swinging…
Sure enough, within moments the other passengers began ripping him a new one. One man in particular, an older man I had chatted with at a rest stop 15 minutes earlier, went on for a full ten minutes, saying Erdoğan this, Erdoğan that, Turkish soldiers this, Turkish soldiers that, and I kept hearing him repeat one phrase over and over: “We are not a question, we are a people.” The passengers around him chanted like a choir in a church, probably saying the Kurdish equivalent of, “Amen, brother, you tell him!”
The young soldier just slouched down into his seat and tucked his chin into his jacket, the expression on his face saying, “Oh why did I have to open my big fat mouth?”
“Sorry, boy,” I thought, “but someone’s gotta teach you some manners.”
Today I walked 26 kilometers (16 miles) in reverse, from Tatvan to Bitlis. I came up here to Tatvan-Bitlis yesterday. I have another 4 days of walking at a lower elevation to “catch up” to myself, but I came up here because I wanted to scout out the roads at the higher elevation. I want these roads to be nice and clear one and two weeks from now, so I can finish up the walk without walking through too much snow.
The weather was a little rainy this morning. Rain melts snow really fast though, so when there’s snow rain is fine with me. I get a little bit wet, but the roads get clear.
I’m not really fond of hail however, and for the first couple hours of the walk today a stiff headwind was blowing hail into my face. Hail stings.
After a couple hours the sun came out, and I spent the second half of the walk enjoying the scenery and walking along the Bitlis River, swollen with the recent snowmelt and the morning’s rain.
The snow up here around Tatvan and Bitlis is melting really fast, and much of the melt drains into the Bitlis River.
The Bitlis River runs through the town of Bitlis, a narrow town built into the steep hills surrounding the river. Walking through the town is a great pleasure because you get to walk along a river that is quickly swelling with water in a hurry to get to the Persian Gulf.
The Bitlis River is a tributary to the Tigris, by the way.
İslam is a new friend of mine from Silvan.
İslam, I suspect your name is going to be in the book’s title, but only people who read the book are going to know it is a reference to you. Everyone else will think it’s a reference to something else.
By the way everyone, notice the third name on that street sign. I had a huge smile on my face when I took this photo, because a road sign to Iran means I’m getting close to the end of the walk.
…but not the Malabadi Bridge I was intending to cross.
This is a new one that doesn’t show up on Google Maps yet, and there was no road signage yet. The one I intended to cross is 2 kilometers upstream, and was built in 1147 AD.
As I realized I was about to cross the wrong bridge I laughed and thought I’ve walked almost all the way across the country, and this is the first time Google Maps has failed me. That’s a pretty smoking record, way to go Google Maps!
There was a squirrel. He was out hunting for nuts. He saw a nice big one down in the well of a tree. He grabbed the nut. He tried to pull it out, but the nut was too big. It, plus his hand, wouldn’t come out together. So he had to make a choice — let go of the nut, or hold onto it and starve.
Today I am leaving Diyarbakır. I have been here for over a week — three days to walk towards the city, one day to visit a school, two days to rest, and then three days to walk away from it.
I will be moving on to Silvan, and then Tatvan. People are waiting for me in those places. I know from experience now that some of them will become great friends, but in order to meet them, I have to say goodbye, at least for now, to my old friends.
It is like breaking up with people every day, day after day, and I don’t like it a whole lot. In fact, it is the single most emotionally exhausting aspect of this trip.
But the soon-to-be-new-friends are waiting for me, and so I’ve got to say goodbye, at least for now, to the old ones. Thank you Diyarbakır, it’s been real.
One of my favorite ways to take a break during the day is to stop at villages I pass through and have a cup of çay.
Here in southeast Turkey the small talk during those breaks is often some variation of “tell us about federalism.”
So on many days now “break time” means sitting around drinking tea and, in my Tarzan Turkish, fielding questions like, “In America, are the state governors appointed by the President, or are they elected by the people?”
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I have spent 50% of my adult life abroad, with stints living and working in China and in Turkey.
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