The next morning there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Before packing up I sat and watched the sunrise. This had been one of my favorite campsites so far, mostly because it had been so quiet during the night, only about one car on the road every ten minutes, and I was able to sleep well.
I had seen on the map that I was headed for a lake called Altinapa that day. I figured I would end the day at the lake and camp there for the night, continuing into Konya the next day. But when I got there I found Altinapa was a work-only reservoir supplying water for the city of Konya (approx population 1 million). It was surrounded by a barbed wire fence.
Then I decided that I’d better try to get to Konya in one day rather than the two I had planned. To continue the descent into Konya I had to climb back out of Altinapa. The climb was on a traffic-friendly road—two-lanes in each direction. But it was very steep with no shoulder on the side where I walked. So I had a choice—1) either cross the road and walk up the hill on the other side with my back to the traffic, breathing the exhaust fumes of slow trucks as they labored past me up the hill, or 2) I could walk facing the traffic on the side with no shoulder. There was a guard rail on that side with a twelve inch ledge I could walk on but the ledge dropped off into a canyon. I chose to walk on the ledge. Then I climbed precariously uphill, one foot ahead of the other, holding desperately to the guard rail on the ledge while balancing with my backpack. On one side, the on-coming traffic screamed past me down toward the lake and on the other side a steep ravine threatened to swallow me. Also, I was tired and thirsty and hadn’t eaten real food for a couple of days. But there was no way I could stop.
While I balanced along that ledge, I thought of this one woman who was following my walk on Facebook, ecstatic for me that I had seven months of walking across this beautiful country that she, also, had “vacationed” in. Hers was the Turkey of Blue Tour Cruises, beautiful bays, crystal clear water, snorkling, beautiful mountains, Izmir, ancient churches and mosques. And here I was hot, sweaty, starved, and thirsty, trying not to lose my balance while treading on a precipice at the edge of a busy highway. I was very cranky about then and wanted to shout at her, Woman, you do not understand. I am not on vacation here. My experience of Turkey is completely different from anything you imagine!
But I did make it to the top of the ridge. The shoulder began to widen out a little, and I started to calm down as I crested the ridge and began a nice wide descent into Konya.
Toward the end of the descent I rounded a curve and a view of the city of Konya opened up. The sight of this city that contained a population of one million people overwhelmed me! I used to think a city of this size was just one small part of a larger city. Now a million is a sprawling megalopolis. I’ve become such a hick!
By the time I entered Konya I felt I could go no further until I found some water and hopefully some food. I also had an urgent need for a bathroom since it was no longer appropriate to pull off the road and use the nearest tree.
I stopped at the very first fountain I could find and filled up my water bottle. Then I rested a bit, sitting on my backpack and drinking my water. I thought, Thank God! I had reached Konya and the walk was one-third over. While I was sitting on my pack drinking my water, a car stopped by the side of the road and a family got out. One of them was holding a plastic bag, and they began routing through their trunk for some food, probably for me. Then they came over to where I sat, greeted me with smiles, and handed me the plastic bag now filled with semi-rotten fruit. It was the first food I’d seen in a while!
I rummaged through that bag and ate every morsel of whatever I could find that was least rotten. That fruit—God bless them!—got me far enough into the city where I could get some more substantial fare.
God knows what I must have looked like and smelled like to the family who stopped. I’m sure I was white and stiff-lipped like I get around the mouth from fatigue and hunger. Also, I had not showered for several days, was just coming out of the rain, and had been stuffing wet wool into my pack.
I made it into town and found a mosque where I could use the bathroom. Then I found a bakkal where I stocked up on some snacks and hopped a bus to the city center where I got myself a room at the Ogretmen Evi. I had a room to myself but a shared shower.
I stripped off my clothes, wrapped myself in a towel, and took a long, hot shower, my first shower since Beyhsehir. The hot water cascading down over me made me feel happy.
I didn’t know how really bad I’d smelled until I walked back into my room! It was horrible. It smelled like a wet yeti in there. I’d stuffed my sweat-soaked, rain-soaked wool clothes and underwear back into my backpack where they had been heating themselves up for a few days.
Konya, the home of Rumi and the whirling dervishes and many other famous spots, is both a religious and tourist center of the Middle East. I had planned to spend a couple of days touring around. But that is not what happened. As soon as I smelled that backpack and its contents I picked up my phone and called a friend in Istanbul.
“Hey,” I said to her. “I’m coming to Istanbul tomorrow. Are you there? I would like to come and visit.” I did need to go to Istanbul anyway to get paperwork started for my visa. I might as well go a little early and do some laundry.
She said she was there and that was fine.
I hung up the phone. Now I was clean and my city clothes were reasonably clean though my backpack smelled like hell. So I walked out into the town to finally get myself some real food at about 7:30 p.m. I was really going to feast! But I found every place closed for the religious holiday, not just the restaurants but the bakkals were closed too. I walked around for awhile and finally found one market that was open. They didn’t have much supply left but I found some salami, a carton of yogurt and a loaf of white bread and paid for it, feeling like I had food fit for a king. Then I walked back to the Ogretmen Evi, sat cross-legged on my bed, and stuffed myself with salami, using pieces of bread to scoop the yogurt out of the carton.