A hike across Turkey - An article by Julie Baudillon
The first day, we have to set off armed with our trekking poles and our backpacks tied to the body. We climb hills while awkwardly sliding on the mud and cross kilometers of forests by taking the side roads. We also sometimes stop to snack on a piece of bread, some cheese and some peanuts. I know that we are going to Istanbul but by where, how, that I don't know. As I walk, I forget the time and the miles that pass by. Each evening we also get the best comfort, the best reward: a campfire that warms our bodies and numb feet.
Two guides: Marie, impressive with determination, a warrior seasoned in two years of hiking, and Nil, brave soldier, staggering on the paths with a wounded foot and continuing at all costs his odyssey to the borders of Europe.
We are a weird crew, houses on their backs, we sleep where our feet stop, at the top of a hill, in the middle of a forest, along a path or squarely on the path itself, and also sometimes at people's place. In Kizilagac we are welcomed by Yusuf and Ayse who treat us and spoil us. I feel like a child on Christmas Eve. In front of us: an incredible banquet, I salivate and we gluttonize the feast by mixing sweet and salty, whatever, it's too good. We leave the next day, seasoned, sated and smiling. Thank you!
One foot after the other, on the paths and sometimes without paths, you plunge a saw in your hand as a machete to cut through the woods. The brambles cling, I am told that it is the hiker's worst enemy. What about stray dogs?
In Turkey there are these famous Anatolian shepherds, also called Kangals who scare most people by their gigantic size. And then there are also all these stray dogs who sometimes decide to follow us and go a few kilometers with us. These little quadrupeds accustomed to travel are great traveling companions. Friendly furballs who then decide to leave us for a better feast, or another adventure.
When we walk for hours, attention is focused on the material under our feet, on the ground that we use, which is the most practicable, too soft and the foot sinks, too hard, and the vertebrae collide underfoot. We cross the forests, we climb the hills, we cross rivers, we cross the villages, we cross endless beaches and say hi to the Black Sea.
The human presence is everywhere we go. The most remote forests are still used by hunters. We blow, we scream, we bark, we whistle so as not to be mistaken, like animals after all. We are trying to make our route while leaving as few traces as possible.
The other human trace that defies borders: the plastic that strewn all over the ground. One wonders how long it stayed there and how long it will stay. Brought by the seas or abandoned on the ground, plastic is everywhere in dizzying quantities. Nature does not assimilate it, or otherwise only after titanic efforts of tens and hundreds of years.
From defilement or pillage, we meet the working hands of humans wherever we go. They are always busy extracting, using, exhausting. A sand quarry here, a logging operation over there and those titanic roads that trucks trace through the forests, mud highways that smear the place, another human scar.
And then there are these men and women we meet. Those with whom we are always greeted with kindness and generosity. We don't speak the same language, but we always manage to speak to each other with a look or a gesture.
When we arrive near a small port, we get offered grilled anchovies and some delicious mushrooms. We enjoy with our fingertips. A little further still, four men are offering us tea by the side of a road. We are then thirteen walkers and happily share our few cookies by toasting our backs by the fireside. We laugh, we exchange a handshake, and we take one or two shots to keep these laughing faces in memory. Another evening, it is this beekeeper met in a village who offers us to pitch our tents at his place, we fall asleep surrounded by beehives and sleepy bees.
The last days are difficult for the body which tires and wonders what is happening. Our group: a few French, Americans and a Bulgarian, a united body that always helps each other when one of the members fails. The last day, we cross Istanbul in a hurry, drunk from our feat. We have twenty kilometers left and we are like UFOs out of the forest with our crazy faces and our fierce looks. We persevere, and we get there. Finally !