Thursday, 10 January
The next morning, after staying out with my new friends relatively late the night before, I got up early, shouldered my backpack, and said goodbye to Osmaniye. It was time to move on. I was to meet Joy Anna on the road for that day’s walk. She had joined me for my very first day four months ago. Now, here I was, more than halfway across the country, and she was joining me again. I was happy to be seeing her. It was a reminder that I was making progress across the country, and I suspected that if we knew each other better, she would recognize that I was a different person from the one who started the walk.
That day we would begin our walk by climbing out of the Çukurova plain into the Nurdağları mountain range (Mountains of Heavenly Radiance). We would end the day half way between Osmaniye and Gaziantep. Like we did on that first day, Joyanna would flag a bus back to the city, while I stayed behind and set up my tent for the night.
The air was cold, but the sky was clear and sunny. It had snowed a bit the night before, just enough to leave a light dusting in the shaded areas. I put my sweater on under my coat and donned my wool hat and gloves. I had foolishly left my scarf in Osmaniye in an attempt to lighten my pack, not thinking about needing it as I headed into higher elevations. I dug some clean long johns out of my pack and tied them around my neck instead.
Joy Anna and I began the day’s walk with a climb. I labored under the weight of my pack, cursing myself for not having lightened it more before I left Osmaniye. I tried to breathe normally enough to not interrupt the conversation with Joyanna. Joyanna pulled out her camera mid-conversation, crossed the road, and took a photo of me climbing the hill. She ran back across the road smiling and held up her camera to show the photo to me. In the photo a tall, fit, angular man was confidently carrying a large pack up a steep hill. The man in the photo did not look like he was breathing hard and trying not to fall over.
Gradually the terrain smoothed into a plain where we walked for most of the rest of the day.
After we had been on the road for a couple of hours, Joyanna and I stopped for breakfast at the Öz-Al Petrol station and restaurant. The station had been recommended to me by Mustafa, an on-line follower from Gaziantep whom I would be staying with, but hadn’t yet met. Mustafa had commented on Facebook that we should stop by and say hello to his uncle and cousin at that particular station. His uncle owned the station, Mustafa told me. I marvelled at how many people’s uncles owned gas stations.
Mustafa’s uncle treated us to a delicious breakfast. The sucuklu yumurta (sausage cooked with eggs) was some of the best I’d ever tasted. I noticed Joyanna seemed mildly uncomfortable at the station, for reasons I didn’t understand, so I ate quickly and politely declined Mustafa’s uncle’s offer of tea. I grunted as I pulled my pack back on, muttering to myself that this Couchsurfing was fun, I was meeting some great people, but it was making me soft and weak.
A couple kilometers down the road, Joyanna and I came upon a brand new bridge to and from nowhere; it was simply sitting on the dirt at the side of the road, parallel to the main bridge. Joyanna and I looked at each other puzzled. Why was this extra bridge here?
“Oh well,” I shrugged, “it never hurts to have an extra bridge.”
“That’s right, you never know when you’ll need it,” Joyanna responded.
We walked on.
I was enjoying having a friend to walk with during the day. For a couple of weeks I’d been very comfortable—sleeping in people’s houses, having dinner with friends, shopping for pepper spray. Tonight when Joy Anna got on the bus I would be alone again. My mood began to sink.
I thought of a Doors lyric:
People are strange, when you’re a stranger.
Faces look ugly, when you’re alone.
Snow crunched under my foot as if I needed reminding that the weather was freezing and the terrain inhospitable.
The hills began to pinch themselves into a narrow canyon. The climb steepened. Two highways squeezed through the narrow pass: the intercity freeway, and the local road I was on. Usually the two were at least a few kilometers apart.
I knew we would not clear the pass before the day ended, and that I would need to bed down for the night soon. I turned to Joyanna and told her I needed to look for a place to stay that night. I scanned the surroundings, and noted that the presence of two highways was going to limit my options since I wanted to find a spot away from the prying eyes of passing drivers. I looked at the few gullies nestled into the rocky slopes. They were covered with thorny raspberry bushes. There would be no soft beds of pine needles that night.
I spotted a small area that was out of the direct line of sight of passing drivers on both highways, and was almost large enough to accommodate my tent.
I pointed to the area and said to Joyanna, “There you go, I’m going to camp there tonight.”
Joyanna looked at the site and then back at me. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I think I’ll be able to make it work just fine.”
“Okay,” she said. We said our goodbyes and waited by the side of the road a few minutes to flag down a bus. One slowed down for Joyanna, she hopped on board, and I scrambled down the slope and began gingerly tamping down prickly berry vines to make a place large enough for my tent.