I’ve spent a few days in Antalya, couchsurfing with a guy I have little in common with, but who was very pleasant and left me mostly to myself with my own door key and use of his bicycle.
Now I’m heading to the Rainbow Gathering. It’s the 5th Peace in the Middle-East Rainbow Gathering to be exact. Previous experiences have put me off Rainbows, but after the time I spent with Erik and the others in Trahila, I’ve decided to re-open my mind and heart to these people and gatherings. I wipe my mind clean of expectations and set off alone with my thumb to reverse back through all the places I’ve spent the last couple of months hitching and hiking through – back, back, back, all the way to Fethiye…
This is my first time hitch-hiking alone in Turkey. I take it easy, a little at a time. Lisa, Brice and the Swedes have made it to Olympos, so first I go to meet them in the pension where they’re staying. Olympos is one of the most famous tourist sites in Turkey. I stayed there just under twenty-four hours and I didn’t see a thing. I didn’t go to the beach, I didn’t look at the ruins. I’ve seen nothing but beaches and ruins for two months. What can I say? I wasn’t in the mood.
Back we go through Kumluca where I met the Kurdish family with Evan; back, back, back to Kaş, where we decide we’ve earned a beer. My first thought is of the barman I was flirting with when I was here before…
I’ve never been on a date like this before. Not only does he not speak English, he doesn’t speak Turkish either. In fact, he doesn’t speak at all. This is my first lesson in Turkish Sign Language, and it’s going pretty well. We’re also making ample use of my notepad, drawing and writing simple words in Turkish and English. Also gesturing of course – every hitch-hiker can relay any information she needs to in gestures. Through these mediums I learn a little of his life – how he was born deaf and the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong; how he could hear a little as a child, but it steadily decreased until now he can hear nothing at all. Still they don’t know why. He can speak, but when he speaks people make faces at him and turn away. He mimes stitching up his mouth, a metaphor.
Can and Ali are pleased to see me. I told them I’d be back. Ali takes me out for dinner and I have a drink with Can, who still seems tired. Back on the camp-site they’ve been working hard. The new bar is almost ready and the kitchen is now in use.
Brice stays in Kaş and I hitch on alone – rewinding back to Kalkan where I stop for lunch and visit Maggi in her shop. It’s a nice feeling hitching through all of these familiar places, visiting friends along the way. Also strange, reversing through these experiences. Returning always feels strange to a traveller – at least to me it does.
My final rewind – not quite to Fethiye. I have my first dodgy ride, entering the car after determining where he’s going, as usual. “Memnun oldum” – pleased to meet you, I tell him. “Ben de” – me also, he says – then smiles and plonks his hand onto my knee with a sigh of satisfaction. “STOP THE CAR NOW!!!” He brakes immediately and I get out, furious.
The next car is another lone man. After we’ve been driving a good ten minutes I try explaining in Turkish what happened in the last car. The man seems to think this is normal behaviour for a Turkish man and anyway, what am I to expect? “Me, no problem” – he reassures me. And he isn’t, though he does offer a marriage proposal a few minutes later. I politely decline with a frown, which seems to confuse him. I just told him I’m a traveller, without any home. Why on earth would I be turning down a marriage proposal from a perfectly nice man like this? Some people will never understand.
We stop at the crossroads just outside Kemer. According to my instructions, the Rainbow is 7km outside Dereköy, a small village 14km away. A little far to walk, but certainly possible. Anyway, I’ve hitched quieter roads than this before.
Due to a hangover-inspired late start from Kaş, the sun is low. I manage a couple of very short lifts, the second of which is with three older Turkish men. They’re a bit strange, but mostly harmless. The one in the back is really annoying, telling me over and over that it will be impossible for me to get there tonight – “where will you sleep? What will you eat?” I don’t have the words in Turkish so revert to English – “It’s none of your business. Please stop talking to me. You are a very annoying man.” They stop near a water spring and he walks up to it with me, constantly babbling away. I stop another car, but the woman seems a bit freaked by the man and refuses me a lift, even though they’re going all the way to Dereköy. I watch in dismay as the car drives off.
Finally the guy leaves me alone and I continue walking up, up, up as the sun is setting. I walk a long, long way. I walk into the village, see a woman with scornful black eyes who ignores my cheerful greeting. Further on I meet a woman with a cow on a bit of string. There are children on bicycles who greet me – “He-llo! He-llo!” The woman smiles and welcomes me. She says her husband saw three others walking earlier and asks how many more will come? I tell her I don’t know and ask how far they went. “Cok uzak!” – very far! Bad news. I thank her and continue walking. Dogs bark at me – one almost goes for me and I collect a handful of rocks, even throwing one when teeth near ankles.
I’ve walked maybe 10km. As the sky darkens, so does the atmosphere of the place and I grow nervous. When I hear a car I think about hiding rather than hitching, but a glimmer of hope prompts me to stick out my thumb instead. A completely full, long burgundy red car comes and the man winds down the window. He gives me a funny look and I attempt to hide my pile of rocks behind my back. I must look a sight. I wearily ask how far it is to the end of this seemingly endless village. “Are you by any chance going to the Rainbow?” says an English voice in the back of the car. Oh the joy! The man gets out and literally posts my backpack through one of the back windows onto the piled up people and bags already in there. He squashes me into one of the two front passenger seats along with his wife and two children. I turn and take a look at my new, squashed friends. There are three Rainbow people in the back amongst more children and a bored looking Turkish woman – an English guy called Ben, a Spanish guy named Alvaro and a German girl, Christina. They’re Erasmus students living in Istanbul and I love them all instantly.
These guys also met the woman with the cow. She told them a lone girl came up the road before them and they were hoping to catch me up. I am so happy! Ben has better instructions than me and tells the man the name of a plateau where the Rainbow supposedly is. He says it’s only 2km from his house and we can stay there for the night, so of course we agree.
One annoying thing about sitting next to drivers is when they use the clutch, their hand can easily “accidentally” knock up against your thigh. Sometimes it’s hard to determine how “accidentally” this has happened. I feel a little knock and my head spins to look. Unfortunately, the wife on my other side sees me look and her head spins too. Now I have accidents on one side and suspicion on the other.
We reach the house, pile out of the car and into the lounge. The woman goes to the kitchen and prepares food and tea. The Rainbow people get out their instruments and begin teaching and entertaining the children. The man looks very pleased, occasionally ordering his wife to bring us something, occasionally just sitting, staring at me. I notice how he often finds little excuses to lightly touch my leg or arm. I mention this to Christina, who immediately becomes aware of it also. Later we mention it to Ben. He hasn’t noticed anything, but having been told he begins to see it himself. So the good news is I’m not crazy, the bad new is that we’re in this guy’s house and now he’s freaking us all out.
It’s time for bed and it seems the suggestion is a gender division between the two rooms. This is normal in Turkey, but me and Christina are having none of it and insist that we four all sleep together in one room. The woman looks very displeased about this, but she keeps quiet and we barricade the door with a chair.
We leave the house early and stop for breakfast by a river. The man pointed us down a faint path and told us the plateau is 2km away. After an hour of walking, we’re not so sure, but the few locals we pass – the man with the donkey and shotgun; the woman weeding her garden – tell us the plateau is this way. But eventually it becomes clear: we’re at the place, the Rainbow isn’t. Also, there’s no telephone reception. We stop to rest by a small wooden cabin at the side of the track-road and a car appears immediately from the other direction. Two men and a woman wearing communist party insignia baseball caps get out and begin setting up a barbecue. We sit with them and get out some of our own food, sharing it around.
They’ve driven all the way from Antalya and seen nobody else the whole way down this road. We’re clearly going the wrong way. We’ll have to backtrack, find where our path diverted from the piles of rocks that mark the way to the Rainbow. I’m sure we passed some last night in the car, but can’t remember exactly when. These guys have space for two more in their car, but they’re getting the Rakı out and putting more chicken on – clearly they’ll be here a while.
Alvaro and I decide to walk. We leave Ben and Christina with our backpacks and head back the way we came. Down, down, down in only an hour – a quarter what it took to walk up with backpacks and frequent breaks. Just past the house where we stayed last night – just maybe 50m past it – we see an enormous smiley face made out of rocks, a bit of fabric hanging from a tree and the infamous pile of stones. If only we’d gone the other way!
Partly relieved, partly kicking ourselves, we wait for the others, who appear half an hour later. Apparently after we left, the communists drank a whole bottle of rakı and started firing a shotgun!
It’s still a fair way to the Rainbow, but now we’re accompanied by occasional reassuring piles of rocks and the safe knowledge we’re going the right way…