Wednesday, 26 September, 2012
The next morning after about forty-five minutes into my walk, I pulled off at a gas station for a morning break. I didn’t need to stock up on supplies, having eaten so much the night before, and I had plenty of water. I just took a seat at one of the picnic tables in the back of the gas station to rest awhile.
Some travelers from Ankara drove up in their car and stopped. They noticed my pack and came over to introduce themselves. As we made small talk, I felt a longing to go with them. I thought about how they would travel in an hour the distance I would travel in a week. Today they were driving to a town I would arrive at in maybe three months. They owned cars and worked in offices. Theirs was a world where iPhones, chargers, electricity, and hotels were common. They enjoyed staying overnight in Hyatt Regencies.
At the same time I longed to go with them I realized, No, I’m very happy to be here doing what I want to do. I was at peace with the reality that all I had was what the next kilometer was going to look like when I walked it.
As they loaded back into their car and sped off, I knew I had broken the spell of Denizli and Cardak. I stood up, swung on my backpack, and started a fairly difficult, steep descent into the town of Keciborlu.
The road was narrow and the shoulder almost nonexistent. As I walked down the grade I tried not to get hit by the oncoming trucks as they labored up the hill toward me. As long as I was willing to breathe their exhaust fumes, I was safe.
Early in the afternoon I got to the bottom of the grade and entered the village of Keciborlu. It would take another short day of walking to get to Isparta, the next major city. I double-checked the financial calculations that I made in Dinar and decided to stay at a cheap motel at the side of the road as I walked into Keciborlu.
Thursday, 27 September, 2012
The next morning I once again feasted on the traditional Turkish breakfast that came with the hotel room: the huge round platter with sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, olives, sausage, two kinds of cheese, a plate of bread, and this time, in the center of the tray was a fried egg rather than the usual boiled egg. I didn’t care that the yolk was broken. I took a picture of the breakfast plate for my website.
Before starting my day’s walk, I figured it was time to answer some questions from Denise’s students. Denise was a friend of mine from Seattle, and she taught a class of 4th grade students who had begun emailing me questions about the walk. I pulled out my iPhone to read their emailed questions and peck out my answers.
The first question was where did I get the hat I wore in so many of the photos they had seen. I wondered for a second, what hat, then realized they were asking about the dirty, crumpled-up, sweat-stained hat from Fowler Nursery in California I had been wearing since the first day of the walk. That hat had become as much a part of me as my boots.
The next question was about how I checked emails as I traveled. I used my old iPhone. That iPhone was my computer, my workhorse, and almost as much a part of me as the hat and the boots.
One of the students also wanted to know why I ate so much junk food along the way. I chuckled, thinking, Ah! When you’re an adult you, also, will be able to eat as much junk food as you want. But, desiring to be a responsible role-model, I told her that many places along the walk were sparsely populated and I didn’t have room in my pack to carry much food. I had to get what I could along the way at the gas stations. If I couldn’t eat a nutritious non-junk food meal, I told her, I would drink a carton of juice or just water and eat a roll of cookies that I could pick up at the gas stations. Whatever I could find to get me through to the next meal, that’s what I ate. I told her that I made sure I ate at least 1.5 healthy meals a day. I had learned that this was what I needed to keep up my energy for the walk. If some days I would just eat one, then the next day I would make sure I ate two.
After finishing my breakfast and my emails to the kids, I pulled on my pack and went out to the road to start the walk for the day.
I traveled that whole day through mile after mile of parched, dry terrain where the mountains had been carved away by strip-mining. I was hoping to make it into Isparta but it was taking a little longer than I had planned, and by the time sunset was nearing I was still about 10 kilometers north of the city. I hadn’t seen a gas station or restaurant all day where I might find food or water, and, since I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, I was quite hungry and thirsty. As daylight dimmed, I trudged on through the barrenness looking for a place to at least shelter down for the night but was finding nothing but dry open land. And then, suddenly, up ahead at the top of a hill, I spied an oasis. Perched at the top of a hill was an OPET gas station that sat on a huge green lawn surrounded by large, well-irrigated trees. Happily, I walked up the hill to the station.
The gas station attendants were very hospitable and welcoming and told me I could of course camp there on the lawn. They even turned off their automatic lawn sprinklers for the night so I wouldn’t get wet. As I drank my carton of juice and ate my roll of cookies before dark, I sat next to my tent on the hill and gazed across the valley. Beyond one of the hills I could see Lake Egirdir, where I would be in a couple of days.