Saturday, January 25, 2014

in four parts

Part One

I didn't wake up to just rain. It was a downpour! A steady pounding on roofs and parapets, a wind lashing out at the world, with thunder for dramatic effect!

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looking out

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beyond the balcony

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the mountains to the north, in clouds and fog

Well now, the weather predictors were right. How about that!

But as we go down to breakfast...

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...(a lovely buffet and yes, finally, plenty of oranges and fresh orange juice too  -- a nod to this regions numerous groves), our friendly hotel staff person is smiling. As if it weren't pouring buckets out there!
Oh, that's just for an hour or so. It will stop.
But the weather forecast said all day!
Maybe on the Datca Peninsula. Not here.

Now where is that confidence coming from? My has the Akyaka village in the system and their hour by hour says rain. Still, I look out and I see that there appears to be a crack in the gray sky...

Part Two

Where will you go today? -- the same supremely helpful staff person asks.
Not far! In case it rains. I'm still doubtful of his "one hour only" claim.
Maybe you want to go to the next village? Gokova. They have their bazaar today. It's just five or six kilometers up the road.

I tell Ed -- let's do it. With rain gear (meaning my hiking rain jacket and Ed's recent Walmart acquisition in my day pack). And quickly, while we seem to be in a rain pause. I mean, I'm okay with rain, but that downpour was something else!

We follow the road to Gokova. And we're fine, it's not raining, my camera hangs from my neck waiting for that scene that''ll make me click, yes, it's all good...

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...but when a mini-bus comes from behind and I see that it has the name of our destination on it, I say to Ed  -- let's go! I wave my hand, the driver stops, we run.
Ed asks between pants -- didn't you want to walk?
Yes, but it may rain and this was just such a godsend!

The mini bus is crowded and I ask, directing this to no one in particular, if this indeed is the bus to Gokova. Several people instantly offer help. One older woman tells us -- I speak little English. I say yes in Gokova.  Another man with a very full mustache takes out a coin and points to the driver, indicating to us what we should pay. They all are very aware of our odd presence and I am sure they are intensely curious how Ed can navigate the world being as tall as he is. (It's difficult for him to squeeze into a mini bus, for example.) But as always, every last one tries as best as he or she knows how to be of help.

And now we're at the bazaar. And it is as every bazaar should be -- full of people eager to buy, sellers shouting, calling to you, making claims, I'm sure, about the wonderfulness of their stuff. It's not a small market, even as Gokova is a very small village, so I have to think this serves a bigger region. The fruits, vegetables are neatly arranged. Presentation matters here!

We spend a good hour strolling between the stalls and I have to say it really feels like a slice of Turkey has fallen into our lap on this day.

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I do buy something: a coveted spice (I buy the Turkish version; I could have chosen the one from Iran -- both were being offered). But mainly, we just watch. Noting the differences in purchasing habits. Take the white cheeses: they're sold in packed bins. The vendor will scoop out whichever one you like. But which one? An older gentleman eyes all the options and then proceeds to reach in with his fingers (let's not even imagine where those fingers have been since their last washing) and scrape some out to try. First this one, then the next. If that doesn't cause you to cringe, you're made of tougher stuff than me. Though of course, I've worked in food preparation. I know how cooks skirt regulations behind the scenes. Still, eating crumbled feta may for a long while recall this scene to me.

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In general, I was surprised how accepting people are of me and my camera. In Istanbul, vendors are tough: if you buy, you can shoot all you want. Otherwise, you get a growl. But here, in this small village not too far from the sea, people are not as camera averse. Often times, I would, if caught in the act, get an extra smile or a nod.

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Okay. enough market photos. Time to walk back. The clouds are still hovering, but they are definitely receding for now and I'm thinking -- this is incredible! All travel days should be this grand!

We walk back past farms, and bee hives, and relics of ancient grave stones. We hug the river most of the time and we continue to be impressed with the utter clarity of this rushing stream. It is a brilliant walk -- one where photos are certainly inadequate, even as they surely help kindle one's imagination.

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a real sheep shed!

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We arrive finally at our hotel, but there is no rain in sight yet and so I throw down my jacket and we continue: we go up the hill toward what we think must be our village's heart. And it is! Some two kilometers away from the water's edge -- this is where the commercial hub lies. A few food shops, two bakeries, the mosque, an ATM -- all here!

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Part Three

We could have retreated then, but no. I want to keep going: to get to the beach up the coast that had been described to us yesterday. To walk, walk, walk -- because the sun is 50% there, the temperatures are surely near sixty, luck is very much with us (even as the dark clouds hang low over the mountains to the west, to east...).

We continue. And eventually, we get to the shore.

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In a sense, the walk is better than the destination. When we finally do reach the distant beach, we give it no time at all and turn right back.

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I am getting nervous about the clouds hovering basically everywhere but over our heads. So we hike back and we turn in toward the Akyaka beach, familiar from yesterday's river walk and it is such a terrific set of hours that I have to say, if it rains for the rest of the trip, I still will think of us as having lucked out with the weather here.

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Part Four

By late afternoon, we are back in the hotel and Ed promptly falls asleep. 

And so now I face the same dilemma: come dinnertime, should I wake him? I try. He's groggy. Not up for a meal. Go. He tells me. And then falls asleep again.

No, not a good solution. To go back to yesterday's place to eat a fish by myself? Seems like I would need to explain. "My partner has fallen asleep, so it's just me today." I could do this in Istanbul, I could do this in just about any place on the planet, but not here, in tiny Akyaka, where we already stand out like a sore thumb. So I ask instead at the hotel if the kitchen is still functional. It is! And so the lovely staff person fixes a supper that's more like a Turkish feast -- a grilled fish, salads, vegetables -- all delivered to our room on trays, while Ed sleeps, oblivious to it all.

I explain -- he just got tired. And so the respectful staff person sets up the meal and asks in hushed tones -- you want fire in the fire place? 
And I say -- no no, that's okay... 
But he decides to ignore my protests and lights one anyway and then tiptoes out, thinking for sure he has set the stage for a most romantic evening. Except that Ed just snores through it all and it is not until the very end that I nudge him to try some food and he does, sort of, reluctantly and then promptly goes back to his long and heavy nap.

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We leave tomorrow. There'll be one more brief stop on the Turkish coastline. It's supposed to rain heavily again. Or not.