It’s June 2015, and we arrive in North Kurdistan (the part of Kurdistan within the Turkish borders) at election time. The Kurdish population is ecstatic, because for the first time in the history of the Republic of Turkey, the pro-Kurdish HDP party has won 80 seats in parliament. The HDP could only have any seats if it gained at least 10% of the total vote (a rule that was put into place in 1980 to stop Kurds from ever being represented), and it achieved this. Although I’m an anarchist, I can’t help but be a bit impressed by the HDP, with their promises of women’s and LGBT rights, and their attempt to represent all ethnicities and religions.
Day 8: Eski Datça to Pigs Hollow (15km)
I have started a new section of the Carian Trail – the Datça Peninsula. To my relief, the trail becomes unbelievably beautiful and, thank god, a lot more easy! The hike is much more similar to the Lycian Way (hurrah!), with massive limestone rockfaces, pine forest, sea views and a beach that is only accessible by boat or by hiking. No longer am I just surrounded by prickly bushes!
I hike to Pigs Hollow. The beach and valley at Pigs Hollow (Domuz Çukuru) used to be a backpackers’ camp, but it closed down two years ago. Now it’s inhabited by two men, a dog called Dırdır, some cats and some chickens. The only access here is by Carian Trail or by boat. The men welcome me and give me dinner, most of which is grown in their vegetable garden.
I am walking part of the Carian Trail, an 800km hiking route in south-west Turkey. Read part 1 here.
Day 4: Bahçeli to Cumhuriyet (Söğüt) (9km)
Today is a day of letting go. Letting go of the egotistical desire to complete a certain amount of kilometres each day. Letting go of my aversion to the bees and wasps. Letting go of cursing at the spikey bushes and the relentless sun. Today will be my lazy day, where I will walk just a handful of kilometres, and have time for meditation, reading and juggling. The day starts with a real test: a steep walk over the rocky mountain with no shade the whole way, 30 degree heat, and lots of prickly bushes scratching at my skin.
I notice how my relationship to the insects is changing. Locusts, grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, flies, wasps, bees, giant hornets, caterpillars, centipedes, mosquitoes, earwigs, and the thousands of spiders who cast webs at the height of my face, are no longer getting to me. Wasps fly around me and I don’t curse!
The Carian Trail (or the Karia Yolu in Turkish) is an 800km hiking trail along the south-west coast of Turkey. Having walked the Lycian Way in Turkey a few years before, I am certain that I know what I am getting into.
My intention is to walk 400km of the trail, and I want to do it alone. I’m sure that I will meet no other hikers, as this trail is pretty new. It will be an amazing journey of personal growth, and I will spend days walking, meditating, foraging for edible plants, and swimming on deserted beaches. It’s going to be paradise, I think to myself….
Day 1: İçmeler to a meadow close to Amos (8km)
I pack my rucksack in my guesthouse and lift it up. “SHIT! It’s so fucking heavy!” I say out loud to myself. On all of my recent hikes, I have shared the load with Chris. He would take the food and water and I would take the tent. But now I am alone and I have to carry it all: a few litres of water, food, tent, sleeping bag and mat, clothes, books, notepads for writing, compass, torch and other accessories. Immediately I ditch a book – my copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I hadn’t been enjoying it much, anyway.
It is 45 degrees celsius in south-eastern Turkey and the population is not eating or drinking anything, even water, during daylight hours. It is Ramadan – the month of fasting. Chris and I guiltily glug water all day long (it’s 45 degrees, for god’s sake!) and instead of scowling at us, people offer us iced water, even though they can’t drink it themselves.
Whilst sitting on beaches in Turkey, I have been known to mock English tourists, commenting on their bright red, burnt skin. So I get my comeuppance when Chris and I lay in the sun on Olympos beach, then both spend the next week with blistering, lobster-like skin.
Turkey is the country of good fortune: whenever you think you are in trouble, someone appears and saves the day. Every single time. And just when we are desperately standing at the side of the road at 1am in the pitch black, trying to hitch to Cappadocia, locals pull up and drive us far out of their way to our destination.
Kar means snow in Turkish, and the north-eastern Turkish city of Kars certainly lives up to its name. The residents here are super-friendly and the kindness of Turkish and Kurdish people can be compared to nowhere else. The Turkey-Georgia border close to Posof is very remote indeed!
I don’t like borders because of political reasons and also because when I travel alone I always have problems. For some reason, a lone female hitchhiker whose passport is almost full with stamps raises suspicion. The Georgian border is no exception, and I am made to wait whilst everyone else is ushered through. The border guard makes a phone call about me before finally letting me into the country.
I wrote this blog post when I was feeling very low after experiencing sexual harrassment whilst hitchhiking. This post is not meant to scare women, and I hope that you will find the comments section at the bottom useful, as a number of people have commented.
I have previously written a lot about Turkey, gushing about the people, the culture, the nature. And whilst I still love Turkey, it is certainly a country of deep contrasts. There is super-traditonal next to super-modern; hideous five-star hotels close to poor farmers´ houses; modern women walking alongside the traditional women who wear headscarves and baggy Turkish trousers; a generosity and kindness that I have known nowhere else, and yet a huge amount of racism towards Kurdish people.
And I have experienced contrasts with the men, too. I have hitchhiked hundreds of cars here, and I have always encouraged women who want to hitchhike alone, as most people think that we shouldn’t do it. However, I want to list my bad experiences here, because sadly they are starting to add up (BUT the good experiences far outweigh the bad).
I have left the Rainbow Gathering in Spain and I am in Barcelona, listening to Turkish music with my friend, Julien. I turn to him and say, “I miss Turkey. Let’s hitchhike to Turkey together!” A few days later, a spontaneous Julien has packed a (heavy) rucksack and said goodbye to his life in Toulouse.
We hitch through the French Alps and spend the night in a disused military base in Briançon.
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.