Saturday, 8 September 2012
About 3 hours out of Horsunlu, I started the climb out of the Menderes River Valley. The predictable pattern of farm after farm began to end, and the mile after mile of flat road began to give way to gently-rolling hills.
About 3 p.m. I was climbing up one of those rollers. There were no villages nearby, so I thought I was alone, and I was surprised when a boy about 12 years old suddenly appeared alongside me.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
“California,” I responded.
“Can I have your sunglasses?”
“No, I need them.”
He spotted the sandals dangling from the back of my pack, and pointed at them.
“Can I have those?”
“No, sorry, I need those too.”
He started grabbing at my sandals, trying to pull them off the pack. They were attached to the pack with a climber’s carabiners, so I didn’t worry too much about losing them.
But I said anyway, “Sorry man, I need those. They’re mine, you can’t have them.”
I sped up, walking faster and then faster, hoping to leave him behind. However, he walked fast and wasn’t going to take no for an answer.
I briefly considered trying to break into a run to leave him behind, but I knew that because I was walking uphill with a heavy pack, I was at a disadvantage and trying to run would only highlight how vulnerable I was.
Finally, after a few minutes of this, the boy gave up, drifted off to the side, and disappeared into the trees.
I was alone once again, but now feeling nervous, realizing how vulnerable the hills and solitude made me. I knew the population was going to be getting sparser and sparser the further I went, and my vulnerability wasn’t going to decrease. In fact, as I went further, I would depend more and more on an increasingly[ I’m unclear about what you mean here about depending on an increasingly thin population. Above it you say you are more vulnerable in it.] thin population.
About 30 minutes later, shortly after my nervousness had subsided and I had settled back into the calming rhythms of walking up and down the rolling hills, I realized I was getting hungry and that it was about time to eat my evening meal.
Fortunately, about that time I spied a small restaurant and decided I would eat my evening meal there. Coming closer to the restaurant, I saw that it looked nearly deserted, with only one other customer, and nothing seemed to be happening in the kitchen.
I poked my head in the door and called out to the one employee I saw inside.
“Are you open?”
“Not really. I guess we could make some toast though, how about that?”
“Toast would be good, I’ll take it,” I said as I found a chair, pulled off my pack, and took a seat. The restaurant overlooked a valley below, in which there were two or three small villages of probably a couple thousand people each.
“Can I get some cay too?” I called out to the employee who was now busy making my toast.
“Sure, of course.”
While I waited for my toast, the one other patron in the restaurant walked over to me. His gait looked a little uneven and his eyes a little crazed.
“Hello, how are you?” I opened.
“I am fine, thanks, and you?”
“Where are you from?” he asked.
“California. And you?”
He pointed at one of the villages in the valley below, and looked at me with his crazy eyes and a leer. I wondered why small talk about village roots was worthy of a leer, and noted to myself that yes, I must be talking to a crazy person.
I asked myself what kinds of people I had met in the past couple hours. A preteen boy who wanted to steal my sandals, a reluctant fry cook, and a crazy man. Not a rich community on which to rely for the evening. Better move on, daylight’s burning, I thought to myself.
I hurriedly ate my toast, shouldered my pack, paid the fry cook, and scurried towards the door.
“Aren’t you going to drink your tea?” the fry cook called out behind me.
“No, I’ve got to go. Thanks for everything,” I said as I darted out of the restaurant towards the open road outside. I noticed that the crazy man had seated himself at my table. I gratefully breathed in the fresh air outside the restaurant. I felt more relieved with every additional meter I put between myself and the restaurant.
The restaurant had been perched at the top of one of the rollers, so now I was walking downhill. My speed increased, in part from the panic that had come to the surface in the final moments in that restaurant, and in part because my unnecessarily heavy pack was pulling me down the grade as I hurried.
About 10 minutes later I spotted a small hotel on the other side of the road. The signs outside highlighted that hot thermal spring water was pumped into the bathrooms for travel-weary customers to soak in at the end of the day. After my run-ins with the 12-year-old “sandal-stealing boy from nowhere” and the crazy man at the deserted restaurant, I was too skittish to camp outside that night. A bath in hot thermal spring water sounded great, so I pulled up to the hotel and asked them how much for a night.