30 hours of our life

David Hielkema

22 October 2016

The music is blasting from the stereo, I am slouched back in the passenger’s seat and Josephine seems to have found the accelerator, this despite the sharp bends of the road. “Could you go any faster?” I say, just loud enough for her to hear, not trying to hide my bad mood. She stares at me. The tone is set. 

If you are wondering why I am being so cranky, I will get back to that later. First, I would like to take you to the beginning of that day, or actually to the night before.

 We have arrived at the town near Pamukkale. It is late in the afternoon and it will not be long before the sun sets. The arrival of the fresh Dutch tourists has not gone unnoticed by the locals, we are waved at and yelled after from every direction. One man even catches up on us on his scooter at the edge of the village to persuade us to come and sleep in his hotel. Our plans, however, do not involve hotels or swimming pools. We are planning to camp in the wild.

Just as the disappointed man turns around, we spot a side road. It is more of a path than a road and looks quite steep, but we are confident in the abilities of our car. On our first attempt we do not get further than the first few meters before our engine stops running. The road turns out to be a lot bumpier than expected and, more importantly, a lot steeper. Luckily, this was before we turned on the 4WD modus, so we still have a trick up our sleeves. With the 4WD on, we get to the top effortlessly (and who knew what kind of pleasure could come from driving a car with a little horsepower?). But we have to admit we did feel relieved when we reached the top. At one point, Josephine even thought the front wheels were going to come off from the ground.

 It was well worth driving there though. On top of the hill we have a good view of Pamukkale and while the sun start to set, we find the ideal spot for our night of wild camping. Together we enjoy the view, dine under the stars and evaluate the day.


Our view. Well, behind us.

We rise up early the next day. Pamukkale is our destination and the sooner we get there, the lesser tourists spoiling our view. Josephine makes breakfast and I take down our tent. I make us some coffee and like always it is way too strong. The caffeine spreads quickly.  Bursting with energy and fed with oatmeal, we get into to the car. Steadily I go down the steep descent and only a few minutes later we arrive at the “Cotton Castle”.

Pamukkale itself is beautiful. I will not bother you with the exact mechanics of it (mostly because I do not understand them fully myself), but due to natural processes that have something to do with the large amount of calcium in the water, layers of white “terraces” were formed. These white terraces, which can be spotted from far away, are what gave the place it’s name “Cotton Castle”. Personally, I feel it looks more like a frozen waterfall. Anyway, as the natural terraces no longer carry water and the world heritage site was being ruined by the many feet of the tourists, new (fake) terraces have been created for the visitors of the park. These terraces are filled with warm water and we enjoyed them to the fullest by bathing in them.

When our hands start wrinkling and the amount of tourists start increasing rapidly, we decide to move. A little further down, where little water flows, but where we have a nice view on the natural terraces, we find a spot clear of tourists. We sit down and dry up under the warmth of the sun, eat our lunch and get our books out. I wander through Colombia by reading ‘Love in times of cholera’, while Josephine travels through in India by reading ‘Shantaram’.

“Freedom is what we want, what we are looking for in some ways, but freedom too has it’s disadvantages.”

The day has gotten off to a good start. We rose early, enjoyed a nice warm bubble bath and we are reading our books in the sunshine. What more could we wish for?

Up to this point, we had a plan, but what comes next? There are some ruins we could visit, but do we feel like that? Visiting more ruins…? No, we don’t. There are also other baths we could go visit, but those require an additional entrance fee. We decide to skip those as well. I mean, we are not like regular tourists. Most certainly we would not want to bathe with those kind of tourist, right?

 It is one ‘o clock in the afternoon and we walk towards the exit of the park. We get into the car and Josephine takes place behind the wheel. But what exactly are we going to do?

 For your information: Pamukkale is, except for some nearby ruins, practically in the middle of nowhere (that is, if you believe the guide books and the internet). We have had our “shower” and our water jerry cans were filled, so we were going for another night of wild camping. We wanted to go back to the coast sooner or later, so we decided to go for that direction. That still left the question whether to go via the highway or to take one of the other roads. Decisions, time and again. Sometimes these prove to be difficult. Yes, dear readers, these are the matters that occupy our minds daily.

Somewhere, on a wrinkled piece of paper, we still had some tips from a Turkish-Australian guy we had met a while ago. Josephine found the note and our eyes fell on a place called “Akyaka”. Once we found it on the map, it turned out to be the ideal destination for the day as it was halfway on the route to the coast, and it allowed us to take minor roads instead of the highway.

 The route itself is stunning. Whilst driving through tiny villages, we were shot surprised looks from local inhabitants. We drive through forests, mountains and pastures. It’s quiet, the roads are bad and slowly we drive towards our destination. But, despite the beauty of the surroundings, I am becoming more and more grumpy. All the while I am wondering where we are going, as we are going to rather deserted places.

The effect of the coffee, this morning so strongly felt, is rapidly declining. It is warm inside the car, we are driving at the hottest time of the day and we have run out of food in the front of the car. The not knowing where you will end up, the uncertainty, is also stressful from time to time. Freedom is what we want, what we are looking for in some ways, but freedom too has it’s disadvantages.

We arrive at the village. Or village.. the place consists of no more than three houses. And, far below, we can see the lake. The water level is low and the surrounding area does not look fit for camping. It was not what we had in mind. We check our navigation to see whether we can find any campsites in the area, but we find none.  We go on towards the lake and stop as close to the water as we can get, to evaluate the situation.

Josephine leent een boekje bij de bilbiotheek in Efeze

I still do not know why I was in such a bad mood. We see so many beautiful things and we have all the freedom to decide what to do… Sometimes travelling is just exhausting. Especially when you are together, constantly in each other’s space, the other person can become the victim of your bad mood. Luckily, we are used to each others mood swings and often it is quickly resolved. This time as well, after we have stopped, eaten a bag of crisped and because all the while Josephine has stayed relaxed, my mood slowly turns around. And even as the area is clearly unfit for staying the night, the route towards it was phenomenal. I cannot deny that, even though I was grumpy.

Because we still have some shopping to do, we soon continue driving. I get behind the wheel and half an hour later we stop in one of the villages on the route, where again, all eyes turn to us. We buy what we need and sit down at a café for a cup of coffee. And, to clear our minds, we play a game of backgammon. Josephine, as usual the only woman amidst all the men on the terrace, beats me again. When I ask for the check, I am surprised to find out that we have to pay only thirty Euro cents for two cups of Turkish coffee.

We get into the car again, this time in a much better mood, and we decide to continue towards the coast. We are still planning on camping in the “wild”, but it is getting darker every minute. Finding something in the dark always makes us feel lees comfortable and safe. Once we get to the coast we see the name “Akyaka” appear again. That’s peculiar… two villages with the same name? Later we hear that villages and cities in Turkey are often named after their appearance, literally. Akyaka turns out to mean “White corner”. For all we know, there could be many other places called Akyaka. Coincidently it worked out very well for us. Coincidently or … ?

We look for a place to camp, but to no avail. Luckily we do find a campsite on the navigation this time. We decide that a bad settlement is better that a good lawsuit and head for the camp place. I pitch up the tent while Josephine makes dinner. It’s half pas seven and by half past eight we are reading our books. I suggest, after all it is Saturday night and there are a lot young people at the campsite, to go into town and have a few drinks. Josephine agrees. An hour and a half later, without us both having made even the slightest attempt to get up and go, Josephine get’s ready to go to bed. We do not exchange a lot of words and we both understand that we are too tired to go out. We can do all of that in Southeast Asia.

Special thanks to Josephine, for translating this story.