Monday, 3 December
The next morning, I finally reached the the Goksu River. I knew from the satellite photos that just a few kilometers down the road it would start flowing through a dramatic canyon with steep rocky cliffs a thousand feet high, but here it looked more like an irrigation ditch, straight, calm, occupying only the space man had given it, its banks littered with trash and sunflower seed shells.
I stopped to look back at the hills I had just walked down, and I squinted to see if I could see the road I had walked. The descent had been fun, if not a little eerie, but I knew the I would reach the Mediterranean in a little over two days, and it was calling to me. So I turned and resumed walking.
The road along the river took me through a village too small for a name. As I entered the village I spotted a family working together in front of a tidy market rolling dough. I walked up to introduce myself. The man introduced himself as Yunus. I asked him if the nearby apricot, olive, and grape trees and vines were his. Yes, he said, and he held up his grandson, a toddler in his arms, also named Yunus. I briefly thought back to the turnip farmers weeks ago on the plateau, and how one of them had also held up a toddler grandson named after him.
He pointed to his wife, on the ground rolling dough, and mentioned proudly that they had been married 30 years. She looked up and smiled at me.
“Are you married?” she asked.
“No,” I replied, “but I used to be married to a Turkish woman.”
The entire group laughed knowingly.
“Would you marry another one?”
“Sure,” I said, “of course.”
They laughed even harder.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Rolling dough for oatmeal bread.”
My stomach rumbled.
At his wife’s suggestion, Yunus went inside to grab some cheese, which they then rolled up into two of these yulafli breads for me for breakfast.
I thanked them, and continued walking down the road, happily eating my bread and cheese roll.
About two hours later, I entered the village of Karadiken, population about 500. I was still basking in the social high of chatting with Yunus and his family, and was hoping for more of the same in Karadiken. But the sole group I met was a dour, unfriendly cluster of about 15 men, some sitting, some standing, in a large circle out in a dirt driveway, drinking cup after cup of tea and complaining about their lives and the government. It seemed as though they had been here for quite a while, commiserating, and that they had no plans to move on or do anything about the things they were complaining about. No one offered me a smile or a cup of tea, not even a place to sit. I stood with them for a short while, but after a few minutes felt like a clumsy interloper injecting unwanted optimism and friendliness into their litany of complaints, so I left.
By the end of the day I began to enter the narrow river valley, where the forest cover became much denser, and I easily spotted a tree to sleep under. I picked that tree just in time, too — moments before I climbed the embankment to get off the road, raindrops began to fall against my face — a storm was blowing in.
The storm quickly intensified, with a few stray drops becoming a torrential downpour in the 10 minutes it took me to set up my camp. Within seconds of getting the tent set up, I jumped into it to get out of the rain and lay on top of my sleeping bag listening to the rain beat against the tent’s nylon fabric walls. Tree branches above the tent protected the tent from the full force of the storm, and I knew that if I was hearing raindrops pounding against the protected tent, that meant this was a really big storm. I love a good storm, but like most people, am happiest when I can witness it from a dry place, so I thanked god for the shelter of my tent and of the tree above, and I drifted off to sleep.
About 11pm, I woke up suddenly to the crack of thunder, a cracking sound so intense I thought the tree above me had been hit, and I was sure to be crushed any second by a fiery branch falling from above. But it never came, so I exhaled and reveled in the fact that I was hearing one of the most dramatic storms of my life. My excitement at the storm drama competed with my tiredness from walking, and I drifted in and out of a shallow sleep as the storm raged above me.
About 2am, I woke up to an eerie calmness. I stepped out of my tent to investigate. The big storm had passed, leaving just a few silvery wisps of cloud to blow in front of the full moon. The storm had come from the Mediterranean, just 25 kilometers to the south, and the air was warm. I stood in a nearby clearing for 15 minutes, marveling at the peace the storm had left in its wake, loving the fact that I was probably the only person for miles around. If I hadn’t chosen to walk across the country, I would not be standing there, by myself, in a clearing, out in the middle of nowhere in a foreign land, looking up at those particular wisps of cloud passing in front of the moon.
The surrounding air was uncommonly warm, and I stood there drinking in the serenity for another 15 minutes, before I started to get cold and had to return to my sleeping bag.