Tonight I’m in Sultanhisar, a small town of 5,000-10,000 in the eastern half of the Menderes river valley.
Earlier this afternoon I was having a hard time finding a place to camp – the first village I rolled into actually told me to move on (I must be smelling pretty ripe, even with now-clean shirts. It’s time to take a genuine shower).
I walked on to the next town, Sultanhisar, and rested in the mosque garden for a bit before resuming my search. A handful of people at the mosque told me that there was really nice camping at a set of ruins a couple kilometers up the hill. I had heard about this before – in fact, a number of people had recommended these ruins to me in the past.
I climbed up the hill with my 45-pound pack. It was only 4 additional kilometers (about 2.5 miles), but it was the end of the day and I had hoped to be done walking.
I had read about this site in various places, that it was bucolic and ancient and silent and with a great view looking out over the valley. As I climbed up the hill I thought about how I had made good progress in the last few days, and if the campground was nice, I might stay at it an extra day. I had visions of peacefully hanging my laundry out to dry against a backdrop of ancient ruins, looking out over the valley below, sipping tea and feeling content.
When I got to the gate however, the guards told me camping was forbidden. There wasn’t even a hotel there. Tired and frustrated, I told the guards the people in Sultanhisar below had told me there was plenty of camping up here. The guards just said, “They don’t know what they’re talking about.”
Dejected, I hiked back down the hill and back into town. I returned to the mosque’s garden and sat for a moment wondering what to do. Daylight was burning.
Across the street I saw the city headquarters and thought, “I should steal a page from my old China play book,” which was basically to crash an official office and essentially say, “I’m your problem now, what are you going to do with me?” (executed more politely and respectfully, of course).
I was quickly escorted into the mayor’s office, and after a handful of phone calls, most of which were not related to me (he’s a very busy man), the mayor had arranged for me to stay in the city’s vehicle maintenance yard.
I was happy to be assigned any place with a horizontal surface I could sleep on, so a vehicle maintenance yard was just fine with me. But this place rocks in ways that a campsite never would have. I am sleeping on a couch, which makes the first time in a week I’m not on a hard surface (even at the imam’s house I was on the floor). It’s quiet, there’s running water, three of my shirts are freshly-washed and hung out to dry, there’s electricity to charge my devices, and my belly is full of pide and ayran eaten while discussing Syrian politics with the bus barn staff.
Things weren’t looking too good there for a while, but the universe in general, and Turkey in particular, came through in a big way!
Thanks Sultanhisar Mayor Ertegun bey and all the staff members at the bus barn.