One day, a few years ago, I sat on the ground of a tea plantation in the mountains of Burma and refused to move. I cried and cried. My ex-boyfriend, Tom, reasonably tried to tell me that I was acting unreasonably. I sat there like a stroppy teenager. I was burnt out. I was exhausted from travelling, tired of meeting new people every day, tired of constantly packing my rucksack.
I sense that this same feeling of burnout is creeping back again in my last week in Iran, and during my time in Iraq. I am tired of hitchhiking, tired of making an effort with new people every day, tired of constantly being surrounded by men. So I am excited to be back in Turkey. Surely I can’t feel tired of travelling in Turkey…? I hitchhike towards Hatay, close to the Syria border. My first driver is a Man Who Knows Best. I have encountered many of these men in Iran and Iraq. They give advice and don’t listen to my opinion. They think they are imparting words of wisdom and that I am wrong. The Man Who Knows Best tells me that he will take me to the police. I tell him “no, thanks”. He ignores me and drives me to the Jandarma (Turkish military police) base. A barbed wire compound and armed men greet me. They tell me to step inside. I tell them, “no thanks, I am hitchhiking”. They tell me again to enter the compound. I refuse. The chief Jandarma guy comes out. He demands, “PASSPORT!” He has a chip on his shoulder. I am not breaking the law – I just want to be left alone and this man has no right to dictate what I can and can not do, no matter what his job is. He tells me, “you will not hitchhike! You will take a bus!” It is at this moment, in this military compound, that I have a Burnout moment, Burma style. I cry. I get angry. I argue and shout. The man shouts back, “YOU WILL NOT HITCHHIKE! YOU ARE A WOMAN!” This makes me more annoyed and more tearful. Five minutes of arguing and a lot of shouting later, he has had enough. He shouts at me, “GIT!” (“GO!”) and stands Hitler-style, with one arm in the air (pointing to the road). I know that if Mats and Robert (my travel companions from Iraq) had been with me, we would have been smiling and drinking tea with the armed men.
I hitchhike to my destination, Samandağ, in Hatay. Humans have ruined the would-be beautiful beach with litter and delapidated hotels. The locals are friendly to me, but unfriendly to my new friends, the local street dogs. I shout at a man as he throws a rock at a dog. And as I walk with two dogs at my side, a woman yells at them. I tell her, “NO! Dogs are my friends!” She looks surprised. Further along the street, a man runs at the dogs.
Beautiful, beautiful Geyikbayırı
It is clear that I am not going to recover from my burnout in Hatay, so I hurry along to my favourite part of Turkey, the southern Mediterranean coast, where the people are super-generous and super-friendly, where bus drivers pick up hitchhikers for free, and where car drivers insist on buying me fizzy drinks. I head to the village of Geyikbayırı, a famous place for rock climbers. This area is one of the most beautiful places I have seen, and is perfect for recovering from travel-exhaustion. I spend two weeks here, making friends, climbing rocks, lazing in the sunshine (whilst Europe is apparently suffering from a minus 15 winter!) and sleeping in a wooden hut. The typical Turkish hospitality is shown at the Peak Guesthouse, where I am cared for like a member of their family. I am really sad to leave this wonderful place.
It is hard to drag myself away from Geyikbayırı, but I head along the coast with some friends, showing them some of my favourite spots. We even swim in the sea in February!
I then head up to Istanbul, the city of seagulls, ferries, cool bars and beautiful mosques. I am reunited with my wonderful friend Sara, who I travelled around Iran with. We spend a very lazy week together, enjoying each other’s company and eating good food. I catch up with Turkish friends. Turkey has been home to me on-and-off for roughly a year, and being here has changed me as a person. It feels strange when I finally pack my rucksack and say goodbye for good. I will miss the people, the nature, the culture…what an amazing year of travelling it’s been!
And a quick word on Iran…
The latest report by the website Medialens points out blatant UK media propaganda, targeting Iran:
“on the BBC’s News at Ten, Huw Edwards presented the headlines:
‘The Iranians delight in the latest advances in their nuclear programme.’
Little wrong with that. But moments later, when the actual news report was introduced, ‘nuclear programme’ had mysteriously morphed into ‘nuclear weapons programme’. Edwards told the watching millions:
‘Iran has announced new developments in its nuclear weapons programme. State television reported that for the first time Iranian-made nuclear fuel rods have been loaded into a research reactor in Tehran. The event was attended by President Ahmadinejad.’”
After receiving complaints about the inaccuracy of the news report, the BBC Editor replied to one viewer:
‘We work to very high standards and mistakes are rare. It is unfortunate a slip occurred on this occasion. We will make sure this does not happen again in the future.’
This ‘slip’ could be complicit in costing many, many lives.
(Read more on Media Lens)