2009/08/25: Feisty Bullocks Camp 75 km
We didn’t get an early start, and soon we were pedalling into a headwind. There are no cafes open during the daylight hours in smaller towns because it is Ramazan, and stopping for groceries for a picnic lunch and a cooked dinner involves Chris bike-sitting and dealing with the inevitable crowd of curious boys while I dodge into a bakery, a veggie market, and a shop that sells what cannot be had from either of the first two places. We’ve developed a fairly standard one pot dinner that varies with what is available, but always starts with onions fried in margarine. Breakfast involves yogurt when we can find it, but we have taken to getting ayran when yogurt cannot be found. Ayran is something like buttermilk or perhaps like salty lassi, and you can buy it in individual containers.
We were in high open country, and could see tent camps of shepherds and beekeepers. We were in a dry narrow valley as dusk came on and we got fed up with headwinds. We pushed our bikes up a steep track into a side valley, and found an idyllic campsite. As Chris put up the tent and I stirred the dinner, we were surprised by eight feisty bullocks being driven down the track by a lad with a stick. The bovines snorted in surprise at our presence, but soon carried on down the track. We ate our grub and crawled into bed.
2009/08/26: Bingol 113 km
At 5:00 a.m., local traffic came by again. Two lads with a flashlight were making their way uphill, leading a dappled-grey horse that pulled a wagon. They roused us to an early start which was made easier by the fact there was almost no dew. As we were packing our gear, they passed us going downhill with a load of hay, and they passed heading uphill for another load as we filled our water bottles near the road.
We climbed a pass, happy we didn’t have headwinds and were leaving the construction zone we’d been in. Looking forward to camping again in such pretty country, we stopped for groceries. We had a bit of trouble with boy-control in the village where we stopped, and in the next village along there were projectile incidents, the first since the Wakhan corridor of Tajikistan. This time it was mid-teenagers behind a very silly sort of play fort. They must have been really “tough lads” if they felt they needed to run from a grey-haired lady getting off her bike, removing her helmet,and walking over to speak to them. I think I succeeded in engaging some older community members to tell them their behaviour was utterly inappropriate. A second incident in the same village was more difficult to address; a projectile came from above and I think it was launched from a slingshot.
It was near the end of this day when I realızed I hadn’t seen my passport for a while, and that in fact I’d lost it. We discussed when we’d last seen it and what I possibly could have done with it. Pedalling ınto Bıngöl, we went to fırst one then to another polıce statıon to report the loss.
The basics were understood, but a report could not be done tıll they found someone who spoke better Englısh, and that someone was off duty. While we waited for that someone, we were taken ın a thırteen-seater van which smelled of yummy chıcken, to where the crew were divıng ınto theır dinner at 7:00 p.m.. They had been fastıng because of Ramazan, so the meal was important. We were told to sıt ın a gazebo outsıde, and brought an excellent dinner. The police station cat complained to us that he wanted some of our chicken, and we indulged him a little. We needn’t have, because, when the policemen finished their meal, one of them came out with a platter of meaty bones and called ”GARFIELD!!” Puss was well served. We explained our loss to the English-speaker, but it was late so we were taken to a hotel and deposited for the nıght.
2009/08/27: Bingol and Bus to Ankara
The report needed for getting a replacement passport was done in the morning. We were given copies, and at my request a fax was sent to the Canadian Consul ın Ankara. As reports were finalized, we sat in the office of a senior officer who spoke excellent English acquired in Pakistan, and who asked thoughtful questions about our journey. He even offered us Turkish delight from his desk drawer, despite Ramazan. He didn’t have any himself, though.
Our dealings with the police were very positive, and if I had to lose my passport, I’m really glad it was in Turkey rather than Central Asia. We were driven back to our bikes by the more junior English-speaking officer, and when the conversation turned to Turkey’s neighbours we were alarmed to hear him express his Holocaust-denying view, but held our tongues. We cycled to the bus station, and bought tickets to Ankara. We were to wait till 5:00p.m. for the departure of one of the bigger buses, which meant an overnight run to Ankara. We sat in the station, pottered about Bingol, and managed to make a hotel reservation for Ankara. At boarding time, our fully loaded bikes were easily rolled into the hold and secured.
What might have happened to the passport:
Going over what may have happened to the passport, I thought I remembered removing it from my hip pocket as I was taking old handlebar tape off my bike in the lobby of the hotel ın Erzurum. I remembered it was bending as I crouched, so I took ıt out and put ıt ‘somewhere sensıble’, and I developed a notion it had got into the plastic bag that was hangıng from my bıke wıth handlebar bits. Thıs bag became a garbage bag of old handlebar tape and got thrown away, perhaps with my passport inside. I explained this to the police with some difficulty. The policeman made a call to the hotel, but gave up easily after getting no answer. Dıscussıon of garbage collectıon frequency told us my passport ıs now a goner.
Off to the consulate in Ankara.
M the doofus
An aside on bovines, ovines, and equines:
We’ve been on the road quite a while. We sometimes ring our bells or swerve at the grazing animals we see, and I often call out “Hello babies!” as I pass them. Chris has been known to help herd them, by artfully positioning himself and tinging his bell. We like to watch their reactions.
Since western Tajikistan, the sheep have been of the double-bummed variety. Each has what looks like a floppy extra set of buttocks hanging down over its “normal” back end. I think they’re specially bred to store fat in these extra buttocks. They are no doubt bred like this because it is considered haute cuisine to have lumps of fat, I assume from this fat deposit, glistening in soup or alternating with the lean meat chunks in shashliks. So much for our cholesterol levels.
I like donkeys. We talk to them, and I often say I’d like a few in my backyard when I get home. They’re cheeky and rather sweet – until they start braying. What a bloody racket!
Like in Kyrgyzstan, but less expectedly, there is a certain pride in horses noticeable here. I think there is a breed of horse called a Turkish barb, and I’m not sure to what extent the working beasts we see are selectively bred, but to me they look like stocky versions of Arabs. Many of them wear colourful plastic bead decorations on their bridles, and I’ve seen these decorations for sale in market stalls. I think that kind of frivolity indicates equines here are more to their owners than four-legged engines. There are lots of greys, ranging from white to dark and dappled, and I often notice white mares with black foals in the fields. White horses are born black and gradually turn grey and then white as they mature.