Auto-stop to Izmir

August 21, 2014

I woke up early. Hmmm… for a moment completely lost as to where, when, what, how… then I remembered: Go. It’s a Go day. I get out of bed, quickly reeling from the lack of sleeping hours, that groggy dizzyness I lay back down. It’s 9:35. relax… then I get into action.

I have gotten so good at packing and leaving. Everything in its place. I have to return my bed sheets and towel and keys to Aleph first. I do that. The day is hot. The cikadas or whatever bugs they are are going mad in their sawing noise, I scratch my eyes… it’s early… for me, I walk along the river, I am not mad at the place anymore. Tourists, tourists… I will not miss that. I get to Aleph, of course no one is up. I put the key under the rock in the flowerpot as instructed, the sheets on one of the benches, Thank you… This thing now officially over. I go back to get my bags and instruments. Up the marble stairs, the off-white dirty walls, my heart is pounding just from the stairs, it’s already very hot. I am slightly wary of the load I have to carry in this heat, but I forget the thought, it is useless. I have the big pack on my back, the regular knapsack on my chest, the guitar slung over my shoulder and baglama in my right hand.

Out I go. Another destination, unknown future. But somehow today all the stress is gone. I read this thing two days ago about Tao. About the sameness of opposites. Pain-joy, happy-sad, winter-summer all existing because one cannot be without the other, all is encompassed into all. Once you accept that, there is much less fight. No it’s not always easy to achieve especially when something that you feel is fundamental to you gets shaken to the roots. Your mind starts running and imagining and twisting… I read this Tao stuff for, yes again, Alan Watts. One of those “open the book to that page and see if an answer is to be found”. I was thinking “sounds good but right now I just cannot let go… let alone breathe. It didn’t quite “take” until this morning. This morning, I am. I am free. All just is. There is nothing to avoid or reach for.

I go for a last cafe at the Limon Cafe, I met these guys, the owners at Aleph one night. He is Greek, she is Turkish and they have this new business and just like Aleph, they are struggling to get off the ground and running. I have been going there because as opposed to other cafes where they just treat me like a tourist to gouge, they gave me a break and were being friends. That short walk from my flat to the cafe, about 800 meters leave me drenched, my shirt is soaked through with sweat.

We talk, laugh, discuss. I learn more things about the job I had at Aleph. I have been grossly underpaid, but at this point it’s all OK. I don’t care. I feel that on a cosmic level I had to go through what I went through to re-organize the particles and continue the journey. When it’s time to leave, they don’t want me to hitch hike. “It’s Turkey!! it’s dangerous!!” I’ve heard this too much… but I’ve also heard that it’s totally fine especially to Izmir, I heard the story of this Russian girl who hitch hiked for 2 months all through Turkey. I have good instincts. They even try to get a deal from a friend who works at a bus company… 63 lira to Istanbul she offers… but I refuse. I cannot spend the money. That 63 lira is a big chunk right now. I will need it in Istanbul. They offer me breakfast, extra coffee, hugs and I am on my way.

I walk down Ataturk boulevard, soon the sweat streams. I experience the feel of my body weight augmented by my load in the sandals, ah yes, I remember my walking in Greece… these are good sandals though. I find a stride, relax under the weight. For a bit I am on the same pace as the local garbage truck, we say hi the first stop. I pass them, then they pass me. Second stop. They ask me where I’m going. They are curious, gentle. I continue. As I get close to the end of the village a trucks stops by. One of those mid-size work trucks. I try to run but it’s too heavy on my back, I hop to the door”

Nereye gidiyorsun?

Izmir’e gidiyorum.

He invites me in. Looks at the baglama, asks me if that is in fact a baglama. Yes, it is, an appreciative smile follows.

We chat sparsely. Where are you from, where are you going. What are you doing. I find myself answering everything in an approximately correct Turkish, he does understand me. that’s cool. Been talking more since Selda didn’t really speak English. I got a bit better with my suffixes. He is going to the next town, I remember going there with Selda and Neco and I know that there is another road I must take.

“Izmir’e hangi yoldan gidilir” I suddenly remembered my Turkish tape lessons…


I will take you there he says. We get to the intersection. I grab the stuff and thank him profusely. I feel incredibly grateful… peaceful. Aligned. I start walking. Maybe 50 meters, a taxi honks and pulls over… I’m thinking : he’s gonna want money…. I slowly approach and say : Param yok! I don’t have money, but he insists, and I do too. My instinct is all against taxi drivers… after Istanbul that becomes second nature. But I get a good vibe. it’s OK, don’t want money… Uh?? I think. I get in the back seat. There is another man in the front. We go fast. And again I get this incredible feeling of gratefulness, so far I didn’t even had to lift my thumb… They all stopped out of goodness… We get to Gokova, where I was last week. End of the ride. Again, profusive thanks. I start walking. I don’t stop and wait. So far, in Greece it was the same, if I walk someone stops when the timing is right. Don’t ask anything. The right things appear, happen. I’m OK with walking.

Soon the road gets steep. I must slow down. It is close to 40 degrees, but when I was cycling I learned this “mental toughness” skill. The ability to ignore your body’s whining. The road has two lanes up, it is very narrow so I walk in the cement gully for a bit. It gets steeper and steeper, I get slower. But I’m fine. I see a sign for 8% grade ahead. I walked maybe 2 km. A car slows down, the driver says: “you need a ride somewhere?” in English. I said yes… going to Izmir… He pulls over. A father and a son. They are from Istanbul, we manage to fit all my stuff in the small car, there is already a bicycle in there. We chat all the way to Izmir. The man is an EE Engineer (electronic and electric) and he has studied physics. We talk bicycles, since I used to ride seriously, then we get into pretty esoteric stuff. Cool conversation. The son is bright, they are beautiful the both of them together. I feel incredibly grateful again.


We joke as the road that was ahead of me when they picked me up was incredibly steep. He told me the Tour of Turkey (cycling race) goes here… it’s upwards going for miles and miles. I said something to the fact that I trust my fate in the Gods hands and today he was their envoy for me.

We stop at a restaurant where they wash your car while you eat. New concept! We eat some sort of meat… ah yeah, çöp köfte, something I had seen advertised in Istanbul but that I didn’t understand as çöp means also garbage… I was explained that in this case çöp is the little stick on which the meat is skewered.

We get to Izmir, Kahve Dunyasi, we share a double espresso, laugh. They leave. I now wait for my friend Anıl who will meet me here. He says we’ll go have a beer then he’ll take me to the airport where I’ll sleep tonight. Then tomorrow I”m back on the road… I might stop to Iznik, a friend of mine, Volga the darbuka player is there now. He called me this afternoon. I was thinking of stopping in Yalova, the last days of the whirling dervishes are taking place this week end.

Motion. I always do well in motion.

The job was a bust, everything fell apart in Istanbul but now my heart is light, in a sort of calm wide space. I take one step then the other trusting my Fate to the Gods. Always seems to be the best thing for me.


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