Thursday, 15 November
The next day I woke up, stuffed everything back into my pack, and caught a bus back to the main road through Icericumra to begin my day’s walk. As I stepped off the bus I bumped into four guys getting off another bus. They had worked the night shift at a nearby packaging factory. They apparently recognized me and greeted me enthusiastically.
The four guys and I walked shoulder to shoulder down the road a ways, and then they bid me goodbye and headed down a side street. I continued along the main road and finally reached the outskirts of town. Thank god, I thought to myself, Now maybe I’ll be able to make some distance.
A few kilometers out of town I stopped in at a gas station, Cevahir Petrol, to buy some water. I figured I had broken free of the orbit of Icericumra and could afford to be social again, so I introduced myself to the station owner, a friendly man named Ramazan.
Ramazan was in the middle of a business meeting with his District Manager, Mehmet, who had come down from Ankara. Ramazan invited me to take a seat with them in the office. We shared tea while Ramazan and Mehmet talked about things like who was going out of business, and how to get more minibus accounts.
When the business meeting was over, I asked Ramazan a few questions about his family. He eagerly volunteered that he had seven children, one of whom was working at the gas station at that very moment. On the wall behind Ramazan was a photo of Ataturk and three family photos, two of which were headshots of Ramazan. I smiled and thought to myself, “At least no one has to worry about Ramazan forgetting what he looks like.”
South of Cevahir Petrol was, well, nothing. Just vast expanses of desolate, flat, treeless rocky land with a few small rolling hills and no people. There were plenty of sugar beets, though, enough to give rise to an entire sugar processing company, Torku. I had seen the Torku name on sugar packets many times both on the walk and in Istanbul.
All that broke the desolate monotony of the land was the series of Torku billboards spaced about every 200 meters advertising the company and its products.
As I walked I began debating again about whether or not I could blow through this area in four days instead of five. Icericumra had been very social, and I had not made very good time. I wanted to walk further now, but in the end, my tired body won out and I began looking for a place to camp. There wasn’t a lot of tree cover though, so I was scraping the bottom of the barrel campsite-wise when I finally saw four or five poplars and a bush by the side of the road and figured that was probably the only place I would be able to camp.
I found a one meter space (about 3 ft.) that couldn’t be seen from the road and pitched my six foot tent in that three-foot space. It was the best I could do. I didn’t really need to worry about being seen, though, as there was no traffic on the road to speak of. I’d spent my first night in Konya province sleeping by the side of the road, and I would be spending my last night in Konya province sleeping by the side of the road. Konya had been good for practicing my hobo skills.
The night was clear. There were no lights, no traffic. I had just come from the clamor of Istanbul and Konya and the sociability of Icericumra and now, in this completely desolate and unpopulated area, I gazed up out of my tent at the panorama of stars gleaming across the sky and soaked up the quiet magic of the land as I fell asleep.
Friday, 16 November
I woke up the next morning to the surreal beauty of the sun rising above a 20-feet deep layer of wispy fog hovering over the flat landscape. The only sound I heard was a dog barking about ¼ mile away. I couldn’t see it at first through the fog, but after staring in its direction for a few minutes I could make out its shape enough to realize that it wasn’t looking my way and was barking at nothing in particular. I relaxed, comforted that I was not bothering anyone in my half-hidden campsite.
The wispy layer of fog burned off quickly in the sun, and within 10 minutes my campsite was no
longer hidden by the fog. I worried that a passing driver might wonder what this strange foreigner was doing camping next to a bush at the side of the road, so I hurriedly broke camp, stuffed everything into my pack, and began my walk for the day.
The fog came back, so thick this time that I was unable to see even 10 feet off the side of the road. The land around me was still board flat, but I knew from the day before that the tall, snow-capped peaks of the Torus mountain range were looming just a few kilometers to my right, and that I would be passing through those mountains within a few days.
As I walked I looked for the road sign marking the provincial border between Konya and Karaman. Those provincial border signs had become important milestones to me, appearing every week or two and reassuring me that forward progress was being made, but this one I couldn’t find in the fog. However, I knew from the map that I would be crossing into Karaman province within the first hour of the day’s walk, so after about an hour I pumped my fist in the air and hollered to celebrate moving into yet another province.
However, walking with a backpack in the fog that morning was starting to remind me of the 1981 British-American horror comedy film An American Werewolf In London, where David Naughton was attacked by a werewolf while backpacking on the moors. Scared that I might attract a werewolf out of the fog, I put my fist back down and tried to walk quietly. A few minutes later my courage returned and I started singing, at the top of my lungs, a jingle from a David Naughton advertisement from about the same time, “Be a Pepper, drink Dr. Pepper.”
The fog burned off later that morning, about 30 minutes before I reached a small town called Kazimkarabekir. As I entered the town I passed by a construction site. I heard shouts, and glanced around but couldn’t see what the ruckus was about or who was shouting. I stopped walking to look more carefully, but I still couldn’t see who was shouting at whom. Were they were shouting at me? I shook my head and continued walking. Within moments a young man ran out from the site waving his arms to greet me. He introduced himself as Abdullah and invited me to come back with him to the site for tea. I went back with Abdullah, shared a couple cups of tea with him and his coworkers, took a photo, and then walked back to the road to continue.
About an hour outside of Kazimkarabekir I passed a hotel advertising their all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. Other than a can of Pringles and some crackers, I hadn’t eaten since lunch with the cops in Icericumra, so, mouth watering, I happily strode into the hotel lobby and asked where the restaurant was.
After lunch, my stomach bursting from the onslaught of food, I waddled back out to the road and continued my walk.
But 30 minutes later, I passed another hotel advertising another all-you-can-eat buffet, and I figured I could find room in my stomach for that one, too, and again strode into the lobby and asked where the restaurant was. What a veritable orgy of food, I thought. When it rains it pours! This restaurant featured a heaping bowl of Nutella on its buffet line, and I piled my plate high with the chocolaty goodness. I ate it straight, no bread or anything to cut it. I made sure that by the time I walked back out to the road to resume my walk, my head was buzzing.