Friday, 12 October
The next day I woke up early, packed up my stuff, and took a look around the room. Eight hours ago I hadn’t wanted to touch the floor or sit on the couch, but that dark, dingy place had become a safe home to me in a very short time. I recognized the feeling, sighed, and pulled on my pack anyway.
The muhtar was not yet up. The administrative building was deserted, as was the teahouse I’d been in the night before. Across the street, however, was another teahouse filled with the village’s retired farmers who now worked at solving world problems over countless early morning cups of tea. I walked over to them to say goodbye and they wouldn’t let me go without sitting down and joining them for tea and simit.
After I had breakfast and chatted with them a bit I took a picture of myself with them and walked back out to the main road.
East of Bahtiyar, the terrain was much different from that of the previous days. The hilly apple growing region that reminded me of eastern Washington had given way to sparsely populated, wide-open land better for sheep grazing.
After a few kilometers I felt my mood begin to plummet for no reason I could come up with. I thought back to previous weeks when I’d walked through barren, wide-open lands similar to this and remembered the mood swings I’d experienced then, as well. I’d start feeling depressed, exposed, isolated, and vulnerable.
Then my mind started to play games with me. I began to second-guess myself, asking myself inanely if there really was a pattern of mood-swing in the barrens, or if my brain was playing tricks on me, seeing a pattern where one didn’t really exist.
I finally forced myself to give up on that debate, telling myself, You’ll never be able to figure that out. Just shut up and walk.
A few hours later I began going through an even drier, more deserted area. I’d long since run out of food and water. I hadn’t seen a car for miles, and there wasn’t a building or person in sight. Suddenly a cyclist on a mountain bike sped up behind me. I hadn’t seen or heard him coming even though the terrain was wide open and all was silent. He was pedaling strangely fast for an uphill grade, using one of his lowest gears. I could see at once from my years in the Far East that he was Korean. He carried no baggage on his bicycle, so he had no tent or sleeping bag, and I had seen no tourists or cycling groups around, so there would be no nearby sag wagon carrying his equipment. No, this was just a lone Korean traveler out here in the barrens carrying nothing. He didn’t say hello or acknowledge me in any way. We made no eye contact. I’d looked over when I felt someone behind me, was surprised to see him, and boom he was gone a few seconds later.
Recognizing that I might be in one of my hypoglycemic fogs and not completely coherent, I told myself that maybe the Korean bicyclist hadn’t been real, maybe I had hallucinated him. But then I remembered the Polish guys from the second day, and how shocked I had been to realize there were others out there, and I thought, Well, maybe he was real.
But then I told myself, again, You won’t be able to figure that out, either. Just shut up and walk.
I finally saw a gas station ahead and went straight for the market, trying not to look too desperately crazed as I eyeballed the shelves filled with crackers and cookies. I wanted to dive in and devour everything in sight. After buying the snacks I went outside to a little gazebo to sit in the shade and drink my water and eat my crackers.
I eagerly made small talk with a couple of attendants while I ate, the only people I’d seen all day except for the retired farmers in Bahtiyar that morning, and possibly a Korean on a bicycle later on.
The attendants invited me to stay at the station for the night, but it was only 3:30 in the afternoon, a little too early. I finished my snacks, pulled my pack back on, and walked back out to the main road.
I briefly thought back to the beginning of the walk, when I wondered what secret handshake the Poles were using to get invitations to sleep at gas stations. Now I was turning down invitations. There was no secret handshake after all.
When I got to Sarkikaraagac I walked straight to the city center and hopped a bus back to Lake Egirdir. After the strangeness of the previous days, I needed a weekend of relaxing by the lake, listening to the waves lap against the rocks, feeling the breeze from the lake blow across my face. I wanted to hear the noise of the tourists traipsing in and out. I wanted to hear the soldiers’ coarse laughter as they joked with the women. Most of all I wanted to bask in the warm hospitality of Ibrahim and Carla.