We left the war behind the Syrian border and hitchhiked West, into the sunshine. Our last memories of Kurdistan are our fantastically kind Kurdish truck driver, who tried to offer us almost everything inside his truck, and another Kurdish wedding on the way out of town, the music booming all the way to the highway.
The first stirrings of spring arrived when we reached the coast. We camped alongside the sea in Erdemli, a small town on Turkey’s South coast.
Even here, in this little-known place, there were signs of the war in Syria. We were served breakfast by a Syrian girl working in a local café. Two women passing by dressed conservatively in headscarves overheard H and the girl discussing Aleppo and stopped to join in. They too were from there, and the fact that they first assumed we were speaking negatively about Syrians showed me that despite the situation appearing a thousand times better than what we saw in Istanbul, there is always prejudice.
We hit the road again and headed West. In Turkey’s banana region, we caught a ride with a German family in their campervan: Eva, Klaus and their two kids, driving all the way back home from China. They seemed excited to have guests and invited us to join them on their sightseeing at some ruins nearby, and to camp by their van for the night before continuing onwards the following day.
They parked up earlier than we had intended and in a remote place, so we decided to continue on after all and reached Anatlya late that night. Here we were welcomed into the Hitchwiki Hackathon house and spent New Year with a few members of one of my tribes: the international hitchhiking community.
We continued West. More of our drivers spoke English. We ate English breakfast in Kalkan and stayed with my old friend Can (pronounced “Jan”) at his campsite in Kaş. We repeated many, many times that “Turkey is a beautiful country”, until I got sick of the nationalist sentiments behind the question and began to rebel by giving different answers.
In Fethiye, we used Trustroots for the first time to stay with our host, Saina, an Iranian girl with visiting friends from Turkey and Syria. Amazing how many people from Syria we have met throughout this journey, each of them very different and living a completely different life. One guy regaled us with the gripping tale of how he escaped Syria after fighting with the Free Syrian Army, and arrived in Fethiye with nothing after a kind Turkish girl found him and put him on the bus to that city.
We continued hitchhiking the West coast to Marmaris. There should have been a boat, but there were none. Storms arrived and engulfed the coast, forcing us to change plans quickly.
We found an affordable flight from Istanbul directly to Barcelona and a night bus to get us to the airport in time.
Our plane touched down in Barcelona a few days into January. The sun was bright, and I found myself feeling lighter and more energetic.
Now all we had to do was thumb across Spain—arguably the world’s biggest hitchhiking hell.