jari and I arrived in Fethiye at ten fifty in the morning. we were immediately approached by a wrinkled sack of a man who offered us a paragliding trip. “a group of korean girls are going,” he said, swiping back a long hank of black hair. jari and I looked at each other. “all right,” we said. we felt that the spirits of yolo were telling us to follow this greasy pimp to wherever he would take us. not that we particularly wanted to go, having just sat on a bus for thirteen hours, but I know when to follow the signs. “it leaves in ten minutes.”
“we need like half an hour,” I said. “we’ve just been on a bus and we really need a break from sitting down.” the pimp frowned and made some calls, and took us to his office. we paid three hundred lira, all in blue ataturk hundreds, and set off for a bathroom/breakfast. “be back at 11:30,” he called after us.
in the horrible bus station bathroom (and trust me, i use “horrible” with full knowledge of what a normal bus station bathroom is like) we discussed the microclimates–when the sun rose, we went through three different biozones. there was a coastal thing, a mountain thing, a desert thing with strange perky trees. each valley had its own protected universe. we went to find breakfast, and some short legged street dogs began following us. unlike the hulky brown mastiffs of istanbul, these dogs were perky earned, long haired, and squat.
“are those corgis?”
“that is the funniest fucking thing,” jari said. we watched some russian tourists feeding them handfuls of bread. we walked around to the grocery store and bought some apples, cheese, and bread. we came back to the small row of tourist offices right on time. we then began to wait.
at 11:45, I approached the counter. “are we still going with that group of girls?” I asked.
“of course,” said the underpimp, flipping through a stack of papers on a clipboard. the sub-pimp gave us a side eye from behind the desk.
“how long is it to the paragliding place?”
“it’s about two hours all the way. an hour and a half to the top of the mountain, and then a half hour down.” jari and I looked at the clock and did calculations.
“I know, jari,” I said, “but we should be back on the road by like one and then we can start hiking.” we didn’t even have a map. we sat and we began to wait.
the trip had been concocted as a jailbreak from a bad job (for me) and as a vacation from real grad-school life (for jari)–I took the remnants of december’s salary and ran. mom didn’t really approve of the plan, and both jari and eyetouch and I had to talk her into believing it was a good idea. we wanted to hike the lycian way, a 500ish kilometer trail that runs along the southern coast of a nub of mediterranean turkey. we’d looked at some pictures, saw that the trail ran through a bunch of abandoned roman cities, rural turk villages, and resort-quality beaches and thought, damn! this could be a really great impromptu bro trip! so on january 2nd, we hopped on a midnight bus and found ourselves in the city closest to the trailhead’s beginning, without a map, a compass, or a guide, or really any idea of how to get anywhere at all, and now we were waiting for paragliding. and waiting. and waiting. we took a walk through a horrible industrial area to pass the time. we saw three more corgi street dogs. one followed us from a rain gully back to the station. the sub-pimp hissed at it to scare it off.
“how much longer?” we asked the underpimp.
“mmmmmmmmm, twenty minutes.” he said. in turkey, “twenty minutes” is limbo. you are always in the state of waiting for twenty minutes.
come noon, the pimp finally returned and waved us across the street. he sat us at an outdoor cafe on a busy street, and greeted the table next to us.
“wait here,” he said. “they have problem. fifteen minutes, maximum.”
“alright,” I said, and set a timer on my phone.
“what’s that?” jari asked.
“insurance. if they go later than fifteen minutes, i don’t feel bad for walking away, and I don’t have to feel like my time is not a priority to them.” He nodded. Both of us were antsy and eager to start the trip. after about five minutes, another dude approached us.
“I AM DRIVER!” he shouted. “I HAVE! PROBLEM! TIRE!” he mimed steering and blowing a tire out. “I FIX, I COME HERE! I TAKE YOU! FIVE OR TEN MINUTES!”
“alright,” we said. we ordered nescafe, drank it quickly, and waited for the time to run down. the timer clicked. we went back to the office.
“get ready,” I said to jari. “this is my best yelling-in-turkish.” I don’t remember exactly what I said, but the head pimp himself said, ok, ok, fine, ok, it is no problem, here take your money back. we asked for the center of town, and opted to walk the two ks from the otogar. as we walked away, I heard the underpimp cursing at us in turkish.
“cok ayip, ya!” I shouted. Shame on you. they smoked and watched us leave. about ten minutes later, we heard a beep from behind us on the sidewalk. it was the driver, on a moped, frantic.
“YOU COMING! YOU COMING!” he said.
“no,” jari said. the driver left.
“these people are monsters,” jari said.
we made our way to the center of town. it got tropical and warm, and vines and palm trees overhung the streets. it reminded me of a scene out of colonial mexico. it was odd. the sea breeze was warm. we sat amongst some yachts and ate breakfast sandwiches of cucumber, tomato, and cheese.
we wandered around until we found a place that might sell maps. I asked in turkish, “do you sell voyages here?” i did not know the word for maps.
“Oh,” the man replied, in heavy english accent, “yeah, we have some maps you mean? yeah, come around to the back. I’m Stephen then,” he said. it was nice to speak english. Stephen and Elaine had moved to Fethiye seven years ago to similarly escape real life. they sold us a guidebook and a map, and then gave us directions to the bus station, the trailhead, and the nearby abandoned greek village. we stopped and bought the official lycian way guidebook at the bookstore around the corner. suddenly, we were well-equipped. Stephen took us up to the meydan’s white marble ataturk monument.
“just climb up there, you should be able to see the tombs,” he said. We saw green mountains ringing the town, a ruined castle on an outcropping of rock. A giant wireframe ataturk head topped the castle, like a broken neon sign, like an henri matisse sketch.
“kayakoy, the greek village, it’s just over that mountain there, it’s a bit of a walk, i did it maybe four years ago in 45 minutes, left me quite out of breath though” [pronounced /bref fo:/] Steph and Elaine’s charming northern british accent would shadow our banter for the next ten days. They finally gave us a phone number of a guest house in Patara, and we set off with renewed hopes.
we backtracked towards a whitewashed mosque and through some untrafficked streets. everyone we seemed to ask for the “dolmus otogar?” pointed us in the opposite direction. we passed the same guy selling halka (syrupy fried dough) about four times. we walked to a parking lot and they pointed us to the road. the road guys pointed us up the road. a dolmus pulled up, and another behind it. “kayakoy?” we asked to the first one, and he pointed to the dolmus behind. “kayakoy?” we asked to the dolmus behind, and he pointed to the one in front of him. we gave up. the call to prayer began to broadcast. I bought a halka and chewed it, thinking. it was alright sitting. we’d spent an hour with heavy packs walking along the streets of this strange new tropical town, and were sort of tired.
a half hour passed and we got on our bus, which had “White Man Restaurant” slip covers on the seats. It was by no means a short distance. We went up through some old timber roads for twenty minutes.
We arrived off the bus at a run-down geese parlor. Fallen-down stone houses ran up the hillsides. We saw a broken telephone booth. We came to the “entrance,” which was just a booth by the side of the road.
“You must pay, five lira” the woman in the booth said. There were at least four other paths leading into the village. But, we had already been spotted, and so we begrudgingly pulled out our wallets and gave her five lira each for those enormous colorful tickets you get everywhere in turkey. We followed the only other tourists, a korean couple, up onto main street.
the cobblestone road was bordered with low walls. the hills dipped and rose, and were studded with fallen-apart houses. all white and grey, all identical, all empty. almost every house was missing its roof. around wwi, the turks got very nationalist, and did “population trades” with neighboring countries. greece sent its turks back, and turks sent the greeks packing. the village was abandoned in 1913, and it was already in ruins. it looked ancient. trees and bushes grew through cracks in the stone walls. we climbed over things and peed in places we should not have. Jari kept commenting on what a cool place it would be to perform in. (the pipers: a single-track obsession-driven people). We climbed to a monastery on top of a hill and overlooked the entire village. I pooped in a dry well, for mountain-man points. We looked out over the sea. On the way down, we found a rock well full of floating pepsi bottles. We found a mythological grove. I can describe it no other way. It looked like Xena, Warrior Princess shot there for any epic confrontations. both jari and I, having no experience with abandoned rock cities or mythological groves, could only relate the place to videogames we’d played before the age of sixteen.
We came down and found ourselves in the inhabited part of the village. We found a cafe with a psychedelic wooden giant wrapping his arms around the door. We went in. It was empty, save for a young turkish woman wearing a black leather jacket and a handkerchief on her hair. (not a headscarf.) We sat down. She didn’t really speak english, but she smiled and brought us some beer.
“what is going on?” Jari asked. I didn’t really know either. He stood up to go retrieve the packs–we’d left them in an abandoned house. I talked to the woman and learned she’d been a reporter in Istanbul three years ago, until Erdogan had gotten suspicious of journalists and raided their office and shut them down. she moved here for a quieter life, and to avoid the authorities. I think. I asked her where we could stay tonight. She said, I have a friend, he has an art camp. maybe he can take you in. I think, I think that’s what she said. I wasn’t sure.
Jari returned with the packs, and a bunch of people showed up. A white-bearded trail man, a couple of kids who did not give a FFF about us, a younger dude in a motorcycle jacket. His name was “Happy.” He indeed owned an art camp, and we could stay there for five lira. Alright! we said. We began playing balloon-toss with the little girl, and it expanded to everyone in the bar, batting this balloon back and forth in the afternoon.
Ali, the grizzled trailman, told us he’d helped mark the Lycian way. “Where are you going tomorrow? Kabak?” Kabak, according to the guidebook, was a two-day hike. “Feralya?” (a seven-hour) “You can go to Feralya in four hours, it’s a good day hike. I worked for kate for 8 Euro a day,” he said, and winked. He was helpful. After an hour or so of beers and balloons, the children left and Happy said he’d take us back to camp. Happy got on his motorbike, and Ali offered to give us a ride in his truck. It was very Alaska, the truck. Old, full of outdoorsy stuff, a radio with broken knobs. It was orange. We drove for maybe four minutes across muddy village roads. It had begun to rain lightly. Ali dropped us off at a gate and waved farewell.
The camp was delirious, a fever dream. Giant painted mushrooms. A swimming pool. Bungalows. Gardens. Hammocks. A basketball court, covered in ropes. Oil drums. A smooth elliptical building like a space pod. It was a mess.
Happy showed us our rooms, a climate-controlled bungalow with lots of blankets. It was very cold outside, but toasty with the klima on. He was in the space pod. Jari offered to cook dinner for him, and Happy readily agreed. Also, we would have nothing to do, as it was only about four in the afternoon, and there were many long hours before morning, so a dinner party seemed appropriate.
We walked through the muddy streets and saw village things. We bought smoked edam (?!) and some potatoes and onions, some spinach, and returned to the vast mess hall to make a potato gratin. We stayed up drinking village wine with Happy and his turkish interior designer friend. It got dark and we lit a fire to stay warm. Happy smoked hand-rolled cigarettes and told us about his camp, his photography, his art festivals in the summer. It seemed an idyllic life. Hippyland is an okay place. The gratin was delicious.