As my days in Thessaloniki were coming to an end, I was becoming more and more restless, because the ax of Christmas, clenched inexorably into the days of the upcoming week, insisted on me doing someting with it. Every single night I laid on the bed, with my eyes staring into the Void, searching for a sign that could solve the unknowns in an equation of my next days. I had the possibility to go volunteering in a hostel for a month (actually, I had two options: one in Thessaloniki and the other one at the foot of Mt. Olympus) and I was also considering getting a permission to visit Orthodox Monastic State of the Holy Mountain of Athos (where only males are allowed to enter – that could really clear my head). The days passed by and then there was the last one, which found me no wiser than I was before and so, still having to choose from those three options, I decided for the fourth one: bury the carcass of this horrible year (2014) at the city gates of Ankara. In the morning of Friday, December 19, I packed my stuff (finally at rest), trimmed my moustache, brushed my teeth and set off for a two-week, thousand kilometer journey into the hearth of Turkey – the longest and the hardest leg of my voyage so far.
And so I was on the road again – just me, my back hunched over the handlebars and a new pair of boots, fiercely shortening that thousands kilometers to Ankara. The first night, barely twenty kilometers behind Thessaloniki’s city limits, was still rainy, cold and misty, but in the morning I already woke up to a different world and I rode through magical, fairy-tale forests with names like Forest of Eliathos (or something similar), which, as I believe, are therefore full of fairies, gnomes and elves and millions of other glowing, happy, supernatural beings, jumping between trunks and stones in the fog of oblivion into which the treetops dip their bushy branches with the same joy as you would let your feet sink into a refreshing tide, while walking along the beach in the morning.
The hills are getting more and more rocky and then you begin to see yellow islands among all those trees, large yellow rocks that spring from the forest into the fog – it’s like to be in the mouth of a smoker – those huge yellow teeth continue to devour the beautiful forest, until it’s all gone, but their appetite’s not – they bite deeper and deeper into the Aegean Sea coast, the road tries to escape in panic and for a few tens of kilometers, it desperately crouches at the feet of silent, deserted beaches, illuminated by naive guileless winter Sun.
A magical night in Kavala
I know that today I just have to sleep somewhere at sea – and for that I need to buy a bottle of wine somewhere – and a packet of cigarettes, too – I imagine the wonderful, enviable night, struggling with the tide, the night from a movie poster, the night which is a poet’s passionate lover.
The evening already kindly wraps the darkness around my shoulders and it seems that I am not going to find my dream place, but then, in the last curve just before I enter Kavala, I see a small path, disappearing in a small pine forest on the rocky seacoast and I know that this is it: it’s a small patch of ground amid the trees, just for the length of my tent, with three large stone steps, through which Goliath could descend into the sea. The bay over the bend pours out a bit of city lights onto my reef and thanks to that essence of street lamps spilled around and the warm weather, I do not have to rush with the tent, so I just pull it out of the bag and let it dry. Then I just take a deep breath and enjoy the spectacle:
Kavala is mirroring itself in tranquil, dark sea surface, jazz in my ears, big bottle of red wine by my side, even bigger smile on my face and yes.. Christmas in my hearth – but not the sad, lonely type I have imagined – a deep moment of contemplation, feeling complete once again, harmony with nature and a realisation that I am becoming a part of what is surrounding me. After a long long time, I feel happiness again. In fact only thing which I feel sorry for right now is that so many blind, deaf people will never experience such a beautiful moment from their golden cages of civilization.
a rendez-vous with Casiopea
by the whispering ancient sea
in the darkness of calm
clear Christmas night…
a cigarette smoke vanishing lazily
towards the island of Thasos..
those are the things
to live (and die) for.
The next two days I just push myself towards Alexandroupoli, the last big Greek city before the Turkish border, where I plan to buy (I am afraid) the last toilet paper and a (also possible) last bottle of wine for Christmas, which I want to spend under the wooden Trojan horse. But I forget the basic commandments again – dry feet in warm and full stomach – when you don¨t have these sorted out, the journey is just suffering – and it is because of my unfulfilled desire to have a good lunch that the drive to Alexandroupoli was really long and boring – I was thinking about everything imaginable with my head rattling and zigzagging in endless thought processes, in my imagination I’ve been already four times to China and back, but then I look at my watch and it’s only three more kilometers – ten minutes – and Komotini is still so same distance. And as the evening comes and finds me riding through cold hills and descents, I once again get engaged in a firce fight with ruthless Romanian duke Finger Numbnič.
It’s dark already when I finally find a supermarket in Alexandroupoli and so I pitch a tent right in the city, just across the road, ignoring the curious stares of people who went for a walk along the beach, and dogs barking, circling around nearby bins, because during the time I travel, I became a prophet of don’t-give-a-fuckism (as would my roomate Andrej from college say) and I do not care all. When writing the diary, the date December 22 pops out on me – it’s two days before Christmas, but where are they? It’s actually just a number, an impersonal number on which we all tacitly agreed so we would know when we need to be kinder to each other and when to be stressed, when to open the gates of the factories and when to close the doors in the schools – it is an impersonal number that is has nothing to do with me, I am not concerned about Advent nor December – why do I need dates? I’m just going!
In my sleep I have this crazy dream (a nightmare) how I suddenly found myself back in Hodonín: it’s December 23, so even the date is right, in the evening I go to the pub and I am unable to get a beer for half an hour, which is driving me mad (that’s how real the dream was). Although I try really hard, I just can’t recall, how I got there and the next day I am gigantically angry at myself – what I did and why I gave it up, everyone’s asking me how come that I don’t travel anymore and so I feverishly think about how to get back to Alexandroupoli, where I left off, I wonder if it will be easier to take the bus or a plane (and where did I left my bike anyway?), but everything is just too expensive and unrealistic, so the only option left is to wake up – and yes, I open my eyes and through a two-inch hole in the sleeping bag I catch a glimpse of the gray interior of my cold tent on the sea shore in Alexandroupoli. It was all so real and genuine, especially the fear that I do that I watch, initially hardly believe it, but it looks like he’s really in the morning and I’m here. (Even though my head was still confused.)
so frantically wondering how to get back in Alexandroupoli, where I stopped, whether by boat or plane or bus (and where my bike?), but everything is too expensive and unrealistic, so the only option left to wake up – and yes, I open my eyes and through a two-inch hole in a sleeping bag on me again looks gray interior of my cold tent on the sea shore in Alexandroupoli. It was all so real and genuine, especially the fear, that I find it hard to believe that I am awake. However, it is the best choice I have, it looks like it’s really morning after all and I’m here, in the most real world of them all. (Even though my head is still confused.)
In the morning I prepare myself a wonderful sunny breakfast: German bread with Nutella, washed down with hot Ceylon tea. Even though I set off much later than I had planned, I actually feel great – for the last three days I have been cycling with really light head – I think I might have come to one of the first enlightenments, which I was expecting to find on the road. And with these new dreams and new feelings and new spiritual freedom, I am going to face new challenges and new adventures in a new country.
Via Egnatia, an ancient road I had been following all the way from Dürres in Albania, finally brought me to the delta of Evros river. The streets were becoming wider, more abandoned and more desolated and you could see that Greece is slowly but surely surrenders to sovereignly approaching Turkey. And then you cross a huge bridge over a majestic, broad, tranquil river, in the distance there are fluttering red flags with a five-pointed star and crescent and a bit farther, in the fading afternoon sun you see silhouettes the first minarets, standing upright as missiles on their invisible launch ramps, ready to spark muezzin’s song to summon prayers at any time.
The road beyond the border climbs into the hills, where you will meet shepherds of sheep and goats whose bells herald the coming Christmas, nobody cares about. You realize that Christmas is Christmas just because the society is attuned to them, with all those colorful lights and decorated trees everywhere, but here in Turkey Christmas just passes through the calendar unnoticed and I am unable to forge it just by myself. However, in the evening, when I finally found a little bit of a suitable place for the tent in total darkness, I find myself thinking about what I will do on Christmas Eve – is it really worth it to do all that detour to Troy to celebrate the feast of the world I have already left, especially when there is no Helen waiting for me?
Failures I got for Christmas
All night I had to drive away the dogs, so I did not get much sleep – there were two, one was actually quite a friendly – it patrolled a camp nearby and his barking repelled the other one that was still crawling around. However, the first one did not really love me either and it was two or maybe three times the night, that I woke up and saw its shadow, as it sniffed around tent. In addition, in the morning I have learned that it was some sort of a military camp I have been sleeping in and that I have been very lucky that it was just dogs, that raised objections about me being there.
In the evening I got to that place by crawling through dark and muddy beach where there was no fence, so I could not know – anyway, for this security breach I was chastened more than enough as the whole bike is disgustingly muddy and wheels rotate only with the greatest reluctance.
It could be quite a nice day – sixteen degrees, sunny and my pace is also very promising, but during a descend just after passing Galipoli, I hear the desperate sad metallic twang of a crackling spoke, the rim gets distorted, muddy tire starts bumping into the uncompromising metal of rear fork and before I can stop, there is a huge, terminal, irreversible pufff! For the first time after three thousand forty-four kilometers my bike offers me a sad sight of lifeless, empty rear wheel. The balance of the tragedy is even worse than it seems at first glance: Of course that I expected that I will have a flat tire in some point and this would not be a problem, but then this is not just a common puncture: the tire is torn as well, the inner tube has a huge hole in it with almost an inch in length – that is how fiercely its six atmospheres were rushing through the hole in tire to see the sun shining – then another one, ordinary puncture and a broken spoke – for the twelfth time already.
As an emergency way out of this, I patch the hole with an inner tube repair kit, but the wheel can not be inflated to more than one atmosphere and even like that the inner tube peeps out, so I don’t dare to get on and ride the bike as pushing it with at least a little inflated wheel is still better than carrying it all the way. I try to hitch somebody to be able to make it to Dardannelles and to cross them before the dark, but if I see an any reaction, the drivers think that I am just waving at them, saying hi. It’s fifty kilometers to Çanakkale and ninety to Troy, meaning that my plan is gone. As dangerous and as risky it can be to ride, I have no other option than to sit on the bike again. I cycle very slowly and it is already twilight, when I reach Eceabat, after four hours and forty kilometers, and so I decide to spend the Christmas Eve in Kilitbahir, in the narrowest point of Hellespont.
To sum the Christmas Eve up, I would say that after the torn tyre incident, my good mood vanished like morning mist – all the isles of positivism I have been building in my head in the last few days are gone and my demons, for whom I have escaped on the road, began again to haunt the dark basements of my skull.
And I’m only in Turkey! Yeah, if I had a spare tire, which I thought I won’t need (never happened to me, and I never really wore out the tires – not even after five thousand kilometers), that would be different, but now I wonder what will I do if on the other side of the strait, in Çanakkale, they won’t have a spare – on the top of all this sadness I spent too much money in the store in Eceabat and I even haven’t bought the candies and fish as I wanted (just a sweet bread and tinned tuna)- instead, I have awful olives stuffed with red pepper and olive oil, which does not even remotely compare to the Italian one – I have a feeling of total despair: it’s all because I made plans, because I attributed this one day so great credit, because nothing came out the way I have planned it – so, hopefully at least a place to sleep will be merciful to my wishes …
And the place is really nice, right on the easternmost outpost of a fort protecting the narrowest point of the strait (1.2 km), just below the lighthouse, contending in brightness with the shining crescent, that is just like it was cut out of the red cloth of a Turkish flag, just half a meter from a sheer drop down to the restless sea surface. Air, imbued with salt, carries blowing of huge cargo ships, miserable crawling through those dangerous waters, day and night, among dozens of small fishing boats, trying to keep on the turbulent waves of darkness.
And it was here, on the concrete foot of the lighthouse, where I settled down for my Christmas Eve feast:
- chicken soup from bouillon cubes
- farfalle with olive oil and tuna
- bread from the bakery
- three kinds of sweets (pastries)
- olives stuffed with peppers
- and two liters of red wine, of course
I light up a few candles and I look to the east, on the other side of the strait – to Asia, feverishly thinking what awaits me there. Before I eat, I sing a Christmas carol and feel a bit sad – of course, who would have expected that, on Christmas Eve … – only I thought I could handle it, but now that I’m here all alone, in an abandoned fort, without the possibility to let someone know at least, to call somebody, or at least tweet about how I am, what I have for the dinner, or how I am afraid that I won’t be able to get a new tyre, or where I am … it just gets in your head – but I reassure myself that (and I know that it’s true) at the end I emerge from all this stronger than ever.
But now, now I’m really lonely and so much, so much! I’d like to talk with someone (so I’m writing at least tens of lines in my diary at incredibly frenetic pace), but there’s nobody here. Around eight, when the first dew begins to fall and Hellespont veils its ships into discrete fog robe, a dog appears on the slope above my tent and I don’t shout at it, as usual, but instead I frantically search for something to give to him, for he would remain with me for a while, but I don’t have any meat and he didn’t appreciate the bread a had offered to him. And for the image of my despair to be perfect, I realize that I do not even want to drink – I’m just so blue that I don’t even believe that the bottle could mend it.
I wonder what it is like to be at home, in the warmth, to receive gifts and fore-mostly eat as a beast … I think of today’s pub with friends, how everyone comes home completely wasted, how somebody will traditionally get into fight with someone, how somebody might get punched in the face,… Christmas Eve, oh …
And when the bottle is almost empty, I stare into the flames of a candle trying to catch a glimpse of the future – tomorrow I sail across Dardanelles to get lost in Asia for quite some time … how long will it take before I see Europe again? And it is possible that I’ll never return? I stopped taking the medication (long ago) and it is not so much better, as I thought it would be – maybe someday my bowel will just crack and it will be over. Everything in the world has its purpose, its beginning and end – we all kneel before the altar of causality with its causes and consequences – and so it is with me – let the future be damned and the plans as well – however I’m not worried, because this is not the end, even if I’d be okay with it – I think at the end of my trip there is really something big waiting for me, I think it’s the life in revelation of which I have been waiting all the time, yearning to know who I really am.
Christmas morning is beautiful, the sun is shining and I have noted a great wisdom into my diary, which came to my mind at night:
“Expectations kill the reality.”
That’s just how it is. Yesterday’s evening could be one of the nicest evenings, if hadn’t expected anything from it – which is why the most beautiful evening so far is that wonderful, magical, spontaneous night in Kavala – but calendar spoke otherwise and I was so desperate to do something special for Christmas Eve… Christmas is a strange period when everything culminates for some time to just one moment, that we all praise and expect miracles from it (that are to be made by ourselves, no one else, so why speak of salvation?), but then the moment comes, and it’s just another the day at the end of which there is just another night and all that remains is emptiness – decayed, eaten away carrion of exaggerated expectations – and we go on. At least that emptiness is same here as in Prague, Hodonin or New York, as everywhere else – gone are those yesterday’s glooms, gone is Christmas, gone are the plans – I just want to know where to buy new tires.
Sometime around ten in the morning I embark on Alinteri 9, to get to the other side, to Asia (for as low as seventy cents). I hardly noticed any change. But getting the tyre was quite an adventure – first I asked in the Tourist Office, they sent me to a workshop where scooters and motorbikes were repaired, from there I am referred to some bicycle store I cannot find, but along the way I bump into other one, with children’s tricycles hanging in the street – it’s just a decoration, but I get pretty straightforward instructions from here (straight ahead and to the left) and really, it’s a big, just-as-European-bike-shop, where I leave 60$ for a new tire. So the only one here getting gifts and celebrating Christmas is actually just the bike.
I am also about to buy a Turkish SIM card, but nobody at Vodafone shop is able to tell me how it works, how much will it cost and such, so I want to give it up, but then the shop manager appears and leads me across the street to the pharmacy, where the pharmacist (just slightly older than me) translates with a perfect English that just the number itself is worth almost twenty dollars and so I continue my journey offline. After all, today I spent a monthly budget for the new tire.
On Boxing Day I camp on a hill in a muddy olive grove. When it gets dark, I hear some strange sounds from the adjacent hill (I hope that it’s from the adjacent hill) – it’s a crazy mournful howl, heartbreaking dark, sad song from which you get the willies, maybe it’s a croaker and someone dies tonight (and maybe someone is born, but that’s not what a croaker foretells). But it is the December twenty-sixth and in the Czech Republic we say something like “On a Boxing Day there are no gentlemen” (meaning you that everybody is wasted – there are actually lots of sayings with the same meaning – I wonder why?), so I think that I should open the wine, I have been dragging around with me for four days now – I don’t have to put much effort in persuading myself into it, I did very few kilometers today and I don’t feel like sleeping yet – so I listen to Armstrong’s Someday watching the walls of my tent decorated by flickering shadows casted by my muddy bags in the warm light of burning candles. In the bottom right corner there are clothes to dry out, next to that there is a book to read (it Kerouac Desolation Angels) and diary deposed on the pots, a bread (that is soon to be mistaken with a stone) and an open jar of olives, which I just cannot get rid of – that’s how bad they taste – my bag with the important stuff and behind it a pocket, which became the lighter pocket (on the other side there is a clock pocket and a headlamp pocket) – yeah and the machete pocket – I have already set up a precise system for all this – to be able to get anything quickly in the darkness when needed – fortunately, machete is needed very rarely – the dogs don’t bother me anymore. On the right side near my head there are bottles with water, gloves, hat and usually also the flag, but tonight it’s all muddy, so it’s left to sleep outside along with a bag for tent and the food bag (as always). Outside there is one brave lone candle burning in the darkness, my stove prepared for heating up the tent and also, of course, my muddy, smelly shoes, relaxing after another long day. The structure above the entrance holds hanged socks to disperse the stink a bit overnight bit before I wear them again the next day (for eighth-time already …?). And now we are back in the tent: on the left there is my cutlery handing down from a ventilation zipper on a plastic carbine (many times I searched for it after dark), I have a towel and a winter jacket under my head, and an inflatable mattress stretched diagonally from left to right, with muddy bags with clothes and other (books, maps, computer, hygiene, …) opened for easy access lying on the empty sleeping bag cover in the feet area.
Whenever I’m in the tent – I already feel so comfortable here – it’s really my home. The world out there, with all his howling and barking, the hum of the road and the weather just cease to exist – there can be anything and I am all cool and calm in my wonderful spacious tent with jazz in my ears wishing for the old world to return – and it may well be there because my tent is the only possible universe and there could be year 1920 or a herd of unicorns out there – and it is there, until you open the zipper…
Schrödinger’s cat is laughing in the glow of candles at the stars that do not exist.
A little black dot
I should have stayed in the olive grove! I could just lie in dry, comfortable, warmth of the tent, stare at the ceiling, smoke and write poems about devouring perfections of dark emerald of my love, but instead I went to chase an uncertain possibility of sleeping in Bursa and therefore I packed my wet tent, waded through mud and rode in an insane rain and cold, while the overtaking trucks were bathing me in muddy water from puddles on the roadside. In addition, I noticed that the rear wheel, which have lost twelve spokes so far, is no longer a circle, but an ellipse, so I bump up and down, getting my ass kicked every two meters.
Halfway to Bursa, in eighty-thousand city of Karacabey, my second tire explodes, no matter how improbable that could seem. I’m walk a mile in excruciating rain to a petrol station and the flat tire painfully cries under all that load. For the huge layer of mud I’m not even able to disassemble and repair the bike, so I am cleaning the bike, but then a Turkish man comes, who is convinced that he is better in it and takes the nozzle from me, rinses the bike a few times (and he misses the most important parts such as the cassette and the hub ) and then he continues to clean his own truck, while the time I have payed for still runs. When I want to protest, and get the nozzle back his two-hundred-fifty-pound fella’ climbs down from the truck and with a rather scary gaze he convinces me that my bike is already sufficiently clean.
I leave the bike at the petrol station and an older gentleman offers me a ride into town so I could buy a replacement tire. I emphasize that I am looking for a bisiklet market, for not to end in some workshop like in Çanakkale, but he says that there is nothing like a bike store, so we roam the city, visiting scooter and motorcycle services and it is already dark when we finally find something – and they’ve got just a single 28″ tire:
–“Káč lira?,” I ask.
The owner writes down the amount and I look at the number fifty for a while and then at the tire which looks like it can be pierced even by a piece of old bread (leaving aside the fact that it’s more yellow than black – meaning that it had been there for ages!) I try to explain that I am about to cycle all the way to China and that this tire seems it cannot make it even to Ankara:
–“Ben…,” I point towards myself and pretending to pedal with my hands, “…China…“.
–“Yok, yok, nou China,” he gesticulates rapidly with the tire in his hand “Mejd in Turkai!,” says with the proudest voice he’s capable of.
I look rather skeptically at the tire and after a long long contemplation I offer: “On lira,… maximum” (10)
–“Yirmi béš, minimum!” (25)
Again, I grab the tire, I inspect it from all angles imaginable, all that while making a disgusted face, shaking my head: “Yok, güzel…,” (Not good…) and I slowly make my way towards the exit.
–“On béš, on béš!,” (15) shouts the seller, when I am at the door. – And when he’s giving me back the change from my twenty lira note, he mumbles something about the food for his children.
Back at the petrol station I try to put the bike back together, but I’m really cold, I have wet shoes from riding through the puddles, my toes are freezing and I just think of a warm stove, so I’m all clumsy, the inner tube is like a sieve and when I put on fifth patch already and the air is still leaking from somewhere, I just don’t care anymore – I light my last cigarette, and angrily throw the rubber strainer in the garbage and I just smoke gazing stupidly into the blank. I try to center the wheel, but the rim is distorted into an ellipse, hence I just pray me to get a new somewhere – provided that this one will hold till that somewhere. The new tire, moreover, does not fit very well onto the rim and as I put it on and off, I scratch my desperate, cold hands so much that my fingers are all bloody at the end. My contact in Bursa dumped me (and it’s still another seventy kilometers, that are nearly impossible to do in that clutching winter and dark night), so I have to topple into a ditch somewhere – I didn’t count on that – I pull out the wet, mud cloth, which used to be my tent in the morning, it’s raining heavily and pitching the tent up takes awfully long time.
And when the tent is finally erected, it doesn’t bring me much comfort either – although it doesn’t rain on me directly, the walls are soaked with water, there is mud all over the floor and the inside of the tent smells like a drained pond. I ignite the stove and with disgust I take off all the wet-, mud-, rain- and sweat-soaked rags I had on me. I look sadly at my grazed, dirty hands, which I don’t recognize myself. I’d rather eat from the ground than with these hands! – But I have to cook dinner somehow. – I don’t put too much effort in it, moreover, I have run out of spices; The result corresponds with all that (I’d say that it was the worst dinner so far) – I eat just because I know I should.
The ending of the day quickly perishes into sleep which is as shitty as the whole chain of recent events. I keep waking up, I’m cold but I don’t have any more clothes to put on, for I have already cycled through everything three times and furthermore, now it’s wet and muddy. I try to heat the tent up but the pump on the stove starts slipping and few pushes after it fails to deliver any compression at all, the stove fails to ignite and I know I am doomed…
I am ultimately desperate, a little black dot of myself is sinking deeper and deeper into the core of the universe in my own personal blacker-than-black-hole, I see my paltry body suffer on that enormous surface of planet Earth, somewhere in the middle of Anatolia and all of the sudden I see how fucking far China is, that bitter reality is slapping my face with the Globe, I am sad, cold, uncomfortable and I have heretical thoughts that this is maybe too much for me and that I might fail and have to return.
Keeping a stiff upper lip
When I wake up, the only thing I know and think of is that I have to go on. That this may be the purgatory I have to traverse, that this is the catalysis of my being and that I wouldn’t make any progress, that I wouldn’t discover anything about me, if I gave up so easily – Only I just don’t feel like going anywhere. – Tenth day without shower: to put on again the torn, sweaty underpants, to slip again into wet, cold shoes… – But then I hear steps, somebody’s circumventing the tent and I can sense how he inspects the bike, all of the sudden I am completely awake, I grab my machete and make some wannabe random noise, waiting for the steps to go away. And they, fortunately, did. On the bike, while it’s still at least a bit functional is still better than to go on foot, so I pack everything really quickly and head for Bursa, where I plan to get the bike repaired, but when I arrive it’s already four o’clock in the afternoon, hence I just storm through – it’s a big two-milion-city lying humbly at the foot of massive Uludağ mountain that stands over the city with its legs wide spread and when I focus on it’s cold face, I look in the eyes of real Turkish challenge with snow and steep rocky mountains.
I wonder if it isn’t a shame that I did not explore the city, but then I’m not doing this because of the sights and finally, the cities, according to me, are recognized and measured rather by their suburbs (and I’ve been passing those more than enough) – the centers of all major cities in the world are full of large, opulent buildings made of glass and steel, but suburbs … only there you learn that Bursa is already in Asia – the chaos, the garbage, heaps of stacked dilapidated houses and various crazily chaotic dwellings, pits on the road and around it, street dogs, street cats, mud, gray, dirt, laundry between trees, people on the road, people on the highway, people on strange moving machines, on motorbikes by three, four, …
And somewhere there, in the suburbs, I sleep. In the morning, when packing the tent (and the owner of the garden I’ve slept in catches me there – but neither of us really cares), I realize that what I’m do now is actually no longer “something else” for me – whatever a person does sooner or later becomes a victim of automation – and no matter how cool or eccentric (or perfectly normal) it is, it doesn’t matter if you’re a banker on the Wall Street or a movie star or dirty hobo like me – we all eventually end up shut in the coffins of our stereotypical rituals – so why do we move after all and try to change, plunging headlong against a wall of new beginnings, when it’s all the same, everything is void and we just cannot derail from the tracks? Or are we able to roam between all the amazing and interesting forever, dance our Brownian motion and always wince away before we realize how far we are stuck in our boring lives? Where are you enlightenment? I need you!
I pedal through another rainy day, mile after mile, and although everything is still as wet and cold, like so many days in before, I noticed that I had managed to develop a strangely strong degree of apathy towards that discomfort. The constant foul weather doesn’t bother me anymore. It would be really nice to have clean clothes, but besides that…pfff!
(New hope – I oiled the stove’s pump… and I’m pumping!)
Night came unexpectedly early and quickly. So fast that I did not have time to set up a camp. The sun had disappeared fearfully behind a leporelo of mountains, steam was rising from the forests as I drove through a deserted landscape with small, deserted mosques and even more deserted, decaying shacks and houses alongside the road. It was really late already and I badly wanted to go to sleep, but then when I almost chose a spot a pack of three wild dogs appeared out of nowhere, the most ferocious dogs that I’ve met so far – I measured thirty-seven kilometers per hour for the most persistent one, at which speed he was chasing me for at least four hundred meters. Hence the idea of sleeping in the mountains didn’t seem appealing to me anymore and I’m going away, I’m flying through the darkness, my front light shyly knocks through the guts of the night, I ride on empty, dark road to Bozüyük, the city which I’ve never seen and yet have a special obsessive feeling that I just have to be there tonight, I have to make it there no matter what, because … it’s just a feeling.
However, nothing awaits me in Bozüyük but waterlogged pitches along the road and giving up the fantasies of encountering something special, I sleep on a hill behind a shopping center. While building the tent the daylong rain cynically increases, it’s raining cats and dogs, but the more I try to speed the construction of the tent up, the more I fail in doing it, the cords tangle and knot with each other , the poles resist all my efforts, the tent flies in the wind, and then flips over, everything is wet, inside as well, I swear and curse like a sailor, but then I’m inside already, I ignite the stove, enjoy the heat and a delicious pasta with fresh vegetables and cheese for dinner..and a little box with juice! – the presents I got today at a petrol station, whose owner saw me pedaling uphill in the rain and invited me for a tea. – And it’s better, mainly thanks to a salvific idea that I’ve been cherishing in my head today: tomorrow I will go to Eskişehir, hop on the bus and in the evening I’ll be in Ankara where I’ll get back together, as I had been planning it during the way. And in the morning I’ll buy a good, crusty fresh bread.
But the night brought a blizzard. I wake up every two hours and light up the stove. An entire tank have burnt. At four in the morning there are ten centimeters of snow outside and also the tent slowly disappears under a thick layer of that white crap. The mercury drops to minus eleven and it’s not possible to sleep anymore – I might also freeze to death. I smoke to kill time till the morning, which I’m afraid of: will it be possible to pack the tent? Will I make it to Eskişehir?
And so the stove runs at full power until dawn and I read and smoke (and burn a second tank of petrol – it’s already more than half a liter tonight – while filling the tank up I also spilled some gasoline on the floor and now it’s impossible to breathe in the tent, but hell, it’s better than the murderous cold). I stretch on a third pair of socks and wonder if their stink lasts forever – if they will be displayed in some future archaeologic museum where the next generations could still feel how terribly it smells everywhere around here – so far it seems possible)
The warmth is really a pure joy, so it’s no wonder that I completely forgot that the snow on the tent does not fancy it the way I do (I had this idea that it will harden afterwards and will isolate like the walls of igloo – but for that I¨d have to have the courage to turn the stove off) and the tent is all of the sudden two times smaller, the poles have bent and the tent collapses on me, squeezing me like a grizzly would squeeze a can in his big strong paws that have a seal of blood and reawakening – or as Popeye does with his spinach elixir – the water is everywhere at once, with the inside of the tent having glued itself onto the coating – and so I have to quickly pack and leave, even though I don’t find the idea getting back on my stiff, frozen bike very appealing.
Being honest with myself, I have to admit that I just cannot cycle in such conditions – it’s so cold that the chain, both derailleurs and brakes have frozen overnight, therefore I’ve now become a proud owner of an overloaded scooter. By the time I pack up the tent, I don’t feel my toes anymore, therefore I just walk to the nearest gas station, where I defrost. Over a cup of coffee I manage to arrange a ride to the bus station in Eskisehir with a kind truck driver. It’s time to bow my head and admit that I’m finished here. That’s simply no-go, and even it hurt me badly and it will take a long time to forgive myself that fifty liras I’ve spent for bus to Ankara, I must admit that I’ve stumbled upon my limits.
I now plan to stay for a while in Ankara and think about what I’ll do next. Winter is getting tough and farther east temperatures drop below minus twenty quite often. I therefore have but two options – wait in Turkey until spring, or hop on a train to Iran and hope that the weather over there will be more pleasant…
I wish I could be like the Void, like a stone, a rock that doesn’t care, that doesn’t have wet socks and gloomy thoughts, sad memories and broken hearts – it just passes through all that is, has the patience to wait, knows that the snow will melt and the mud will dry and fall apart, doesn’t fight, has no need to waste words – it stands still, observes and remains silent, perhaps wiser than all of us …