Friendliest Place in the World

by achuggabug

25 July, 2012; 18:21

Right now, we’re about 250km shot of Sinoc, our goal for today’s driving. We’ve found what looks to be an open storage area for rock, and we plan to use the mounds at the far end to conceal us a bit for tonight’s camping. The others are playing down in the ocean, but I’m in the car watching; the water’s cold this afternoon, and I’m enjoying the time to myself to collect my thoughts. It’s amazing how quickly a strong desire to be alone can come upon you after spending all your time with the same people. It’s not that we’re fighting, just that it’s nice to spend a little time inside your own head.

Today was possibly the best of the Rally so far. We woke just before the sun rose and had a simple breakfast of oatmeal and instant coffee; I’d hoped once we hit Turkey, I could start drinking real coffee, but the offerings at the gas stations are sparse, and the instant is there in the mornings. After breakfast, we set off down the coast.

I initially had no idea how mountainous today’s route would be, and it was a pleasant surprise when the highway slowly narrowed to a one and a half lane road winding between the less than humble peaks of central Turkey. As we made our way through quaint little villages, I remembered the reasons I might be willing to leave the convenience and comfort of home behind someday; while Eastern Europe could only be called impoverished, the village Turks live in simplicity. The villages are not without electricity, though they seem to use it sparingly, and the road wasn’t abandoned so communication with the outside world is present; most of the houses even had satelite dishes, I assume for both internet and television.

Eventually, we stumbled upon a market day, not unlike a farmer’s market, in the small village of Armuthreuma (I’ll have to confirm the spelling of that). We decided to stop so that Alyx could buy a skirt and be more socially acceptable in conservative Islamic areas, and we needed to restock our food supplies since rice and beans is becoming monotonous. Almost as soon as we stopped we were greeted by a half dozen people, all with varying degrees of proficiency in English. We browsed the market stalls a bit and picked up some onions, potatoes, beans, and bananas. Eventually, one man whose English was the most familiar invited us on a tour of the town.

I break here, because everyone came out of the water to make camp and cook dinner.

Anyway, the man’s name was Kemar, and he was a former Turkish commando. At his first offer of a tour, I was hesitant and stayed with Alyx by the car in the market. Eventually, she went to find the others, and they evidently toured the little village, including a trip to the fields and the local mosque. When they returned, much to my relief, we all sat down in a local cafe to have tea and continue talking with our welcoming hosts.

After tea, confident now in their hospitable intentions, we went with Kemar and his brother to visit their parents. The two brothers didn’t live in the small village; instead, they were visiting their family. Their parents had lived in Germany for 37 years and spend a great deal of time talking with Chase in German. He was very excited to get a chance to use what he’d learnt in school in a practical setting. After we visited the brothers’ grandmother and cousin, we left the town with a free bag of figs, peppers, and hazlenuts. Turkish hospitality, known worldwide, is everything we were told it would be.

About two miles down the road, Chase realized he couldn’t find his phone, and we made a trip back to the town to search the places it could have fallen from his pocket. Ultimately, Kemar and his brother helped us find it in our car, under a backpack and several bottles of water. Happy to be able to help, they signed our car in three different places.

After our stop in rural Turkey, we were back on the road. We stopped in Batin for lunch where a local helped us decipher the menu; we ate sausage sandwiches and were full for the first time in a day and a half. From there, it was senic driving to our campsite tonight, where we cooked up some of our potatoes and onions into a tasty hash. Today, we have been welcomed as guests and eaten like kings; truly this is the point of being on the Mongol Rally.