A 22-year-old recent college grad recounts her hike through Turkey with her 62-year-old father.



Hello hello!

Day 6 of walking and we are certainly rolling along! Two days ahead of schedule, we've spent the midday shmoozing about Sütcüler. Though our guide book warned us that we may be among the only tourists these towns have ever seen, I don't think anything could have prepared me for the reception we've recieved from the Turkish people. When we walked into town this morning to the town center and sat down for a chai, it seemed every person in the place was staring at these to grubby foreigners. Soon we had cups of chai and ten new friends that came over to shake our hands, one even taking a cell phone picture. Two of them turned out to have lived in the US for twenty years and chatted with us for a while.

Perhaps part of the warm greeting in this particular town could have been enhanced by the fact that I had an enormous rip right up the back of my pants...woops. Hellloooo Turkey!

But really, the reception we've receieved from locals throughout our trek has been unbelievable. We've trekked through some extremely mountainous, rural country where the only access seems to be through rough forest roads. Even while hiking on these apparent main roads, we'll go for hours without seeing a soul. So when we finally do get to a village or goat herders' hut, it seems everyone is ready with a warm "merhaba!", a warm cup of chai and a stilted "conversation" of hand gestures and smiles.

A couple days ago we became horribly lost as we made our way to Ören...mostly due to both my dad and my stubborn refusal to backtrack. We were both certain that if we just kept walking we would find ourselves a shortcut back to the trail...two hours later we discovered we were a mountain range over from where we were supposed to be and two hours after that we finally met back up with the trail...about forty minutes ahead of where we had lost our way.

Luckily we made it to a little town called Ören about 7:30 and met a girl who had been climbing about on the roof of her house (mom will understand why we felt a kindred bond). We were nearly out of food so we asked for bread and she came back not only with a pile of yufka--or local, yeastless bread--but four ripe tomatos. After twelve hours of walking, this seemed absolutely decadent. She then led us down a winding trail to the dısused village school house to camp for the night. We got to share the spot with a mule and the discharges of her cow...as a result the first ten minutes was spent searching for a cow pie free spot to sleep. As we set up camp she was happy to just sit back and watch us. Her father kept calling for her from across the little valley, and finally she had to leave. Soon after we heard the call to prayer from the mosque and realized why her exit had been so rushed.

The children are especially excited to follow us around. When we sit down for a break they hunker down and watch our every move. I give them pieces of chocolate and smile and try to piece words together from our Turkish dictionary to speak with them; but it seems they could care less if I spoke to them at all. They're content just to stare. I feel the same way about them.

They are truly a beautiful people and their smiles are so genuine and warm. They lead a life I barely knew still existed in our world. Tending farms and herds of goats, they grow their own food and wear the same garb their people have worn for centuries. True some of the houses now have satellites and the people cell phones, but a spring still flows at the center of town and they gather wheat from the fields to feed the livestock and make their bread. And despite what they may lack in monetary resources, they are quick to offer what they have to two silly, stinky Americans. And though our ability to converse is almost nonexistent, they sit patiently with us as we eat their food and drink their tea and smile like idiots. Seems I'm learning quite a bit about the meaning of hospitality.

Many more adventures have occurred along the way, including a stop at a Bates-like Motel the other night in Çandir, but that'll have to wait for another time. Dad and İ are hungry and need to get walking. Hope you enjoy the pics!