The Great Bella Coma Adventure

In army cadets; I was the biggest whiner when it came to weekend excursions that required strenuous expeditions in southwestern Ontario; often with freezing temperatures and long marches. I could not fathom the concept on why I had voluntarily signed up as we had to go into the ‘bush’ to learn survival techniques; with mediocre gear; hardly winter wear: combat boots and thin wool socks; a few pairs of longjohns under our combat pants and canvas jacket; did nothing to stop the cold of going into the very core of our bones. That’s where I got the idea, I guess to wear my pyjama pants under my walking pants. But I’m getting ahead of myself. So dramatic. But severe chill factor. Marching in unison; in our platoons, in Cedar Springs or Ipperwash; sometimes Borden Army Base Camps; our weapons; the .22; slinged behind; singing with spirits high; was a nice reprieve from the self imposed torturous activities. Young, and stubborn, unwittingly; unknowingly; weathered; persevered the conditions through a few years of this type of military exercise and experience.

Never guessing, ever that it would set the stage for adventure travel to foreign destinations.

Skip ahead; a few; ahem years ~ and I find myself; again; voluntarily; through severe winter conditions and long marches; thinking of days long gone; but how some things never change.

I decided long ago never to walk in anyone’s shadow;

(funny how it’s my own I walk in)

least I fail least I succeed; at least I’ll live as I believe are the anthem to the latest greatest hike ever.

Colorful Bilicik 

I’ll call this one The Great BellaComa Adventure.

By yours truly; and these are the Sufi Trail Travel Thoughts; the struggles; challenges; personal triumphs.

The strange but true ruminations, ramblings and wanderings of an illiterate and language deficient Romanian Canadian lone Christian woman in a Muslim country; exercising a 13th century rite of passage; which follows the footsteps of the founder of the Sufism Movement (religious leader; philosopher and poet Mevlana Rumi)

At times; this trail for me felt more like a Gonzo style trek; where I ran amok through villages and mountain peaks; valleys and forests, olive groves and abandoned apple orchards. Seemingly, lost daily…hourly; minutely..thinking; has Sedat EVER come this way … dammit; Iris; and her unreadable maps…

Or.

Was I lost …

Two months of hard conditioning on the North Shore Mountains brought me to the

800 km trail; that’s starts in Istanbul and finishes in Konya,Turkey. Complete now, and though I think I only walked around 750 kms of it; its a journey that will always continue. Here in the heart of me. That’s where it’ll always be.

I flew into Istanbul and my kids third cousin and I celebrated a reunion that was 15 years in the making. The last time we saw each was in Tehran, Iran. We spent a pleasant evening together. Time may pass, but true friendship continues.

The next day, after many attempts on leaving Istanbul; it was clear; I had to take a ferry; to get to my destination side. I met a young man on the ferry who thought my idea to walk from Istanbul to Konya was unfathomable. He didn’t understand why I didn’t just take the bus. Perhaps; I needed money for my travel? When I tried to explain it was a type of ‘Hajj’ (Ottoman pilgrimage) he was adamant that there was no such thing..in Turkey.

Perhaps; I had meant to go to Saudi Arabia..

The road to Mecca

Sigh. Many many types of this scenario repeated itself on my trip..

Regardless; the first day I walked till dark; on the highway; since I could not get a clear idea where the trail started.

Nine. People stopped to ask if I needed assistance; and insisted I get into their cars.

I guessed correctly that no one walks here; anymore. The greatest invention can bring you anywhere; fast.

Walking is a time lost tradition; a wasted luxury.

With no language skills, no map, sometimes, no water; no food ~ I’ll get to that later) I started trepidatiously to navigate my path. This is what you would call Turkish Immersion. Organic and without google maps; I grappled quite hard at the beginning, though I knew it would eventually come together; as I had a key component with me.

It was invisible; untouchable; but unshakable.

It was Faith.

That brought me here.

As I struggled and pessimistically wondered why I couldn’t just for once be a ‘normal’ turist; I started receiving guidance from a wonderful new friend; Iris, Sufi Trail Secretary Extraordinaire.

Thankfully and graciously she sent me a list of all villages I was to encounter on the path to the light; as the Sufi Trail is recognized.

That was a game changer; as I only had two screen shots from home saved to my photo roll of the largess of the whole Sufi Trail.

I wrote out a list for each day; and presented it to anyone; and everyone who happened to cross my path. Cars, tractors, motorcycles; too. I gestured for them to stop. And stop they did. Mostly to offer me a ride; after I hailed them; but always so pleasant to help. Though they wouldn’t roll the windows down, they would open the car door to speak with me (how Romanian; I mused. The switch must be broken.)

Locals; upon reading the google map; I had received; graciously walked me for two hours out of one of the bigger cities.

They thought they knew the way; but since there were 2 universities; unfortunately for me; upon reading the map incorrectly; it was the wrong university ..

If I happened to find myself lost, or completely doubting my dubious choice in roads, or really just re-affirming what the previous persons had told me; ranging from 15-20 people a day; sometimes more sometimes less; I would point to my new village destination on my handwritten list; trying to get them to understand; that yes; I was in this one; and yes I want to go to that one; and no you don’t need to read the rest of the paper; on both sides..

And yes; I do intend to walk, pat thighs and say loud and brightly ‘sport.’

Cause once I did that; patted my thighs and a lovely farmer instructed his helper to give me money for the bus. (I didn’t accept it) And I tried not to pat my thighs in mock trial of language deficiency.

Quite; to their obvious astonishment that I meant to get to the next village; not by car; and not by otobus, hitting my thighs and saying “sport” they would use whatever measure to help me. “Direct” became a favourite word; can’t go wrong with that one; though “chok” would be a limited view for them; since they didn’t know how long I intended to walk each day.

Sometimes they thought I was riding my ‘bisiklet’ when I said sport.

Though if I was, I would have it with me, non?!

It was just so inconceivable that I intended to walk to the next village. If only they knew..

It fascinated them; the most interesting of factors: that no one walks here; and that I was a WOMAN..

As one can imagine; I was quite the attraction/spectacle myself.

Kit is key! For any trail but interestingly enough now it consists pretty much of what I had back in those army cadet days; though all modern day hiking lightweight/wear gear.

My trekking shoes; also the greatest invention and investment ever; are now named Bourdan; after the first Turkish word I learned.

Light washable canvas pants; pen in right pocket; for copious village updated notes; camera there too; left pocket for soap and loose change; back pocket for bigger bills; light windbreaker; with various pockets for various fruit; small backpack. Etc.

OMG! Finally a people noisier than me! I would ask one person for directions; and before you knew it; it was a village affair.

Of which I had to coax, coerce, convince that there was another way to the next village, town, city with out the use of the highway. ~ in English~ Pulling teeth, man. Um. If they had them! Kids (and adults!) don’t forget to brush.. Crest didn’t do ad campaigns here (😬)

Turist. I understood that’s what they called me; this walk is certainly not what that image invokes, recalls for the most of us; it was severely inadequate statement; one that had to work for the environment I was in.

Tea House. If there was ever a boys club; this was it. Their eyes would bug out when I would walk in; and then all eyes would be on me. Quickly; I noticed there was never any women present; or working.

I would quietly say hello and nod to all, cool as a cucumber; I think they say; and order a drink. One man started sneaking pictures of me. Sigh. So I obligingly stood up to let him take selfies with me.

“You know your the most beautiful woman in the room;

when

You’re the only woman in the room.” Natalia Mevlana

I started my days just before sunrise 7am and end around 630pm each day ~ factor in I don’t know the language; nothing to do but sleep when you get to the remote villages; and yes factor in lost moments) ..sometimes walking 40kms or more a day.

Upon asking for directions; after I bought toothpaste myself, a shopkeeper decided to draw a map for me. I walked and walked, about an hour, looking for a bridge. When I came across the bridge; I crossed it but that gave me no indication of which way to turn for the next village.

When out of the fields I spied a man walking towards me with a bushel. I kindly asked him for directions; and watched him put peppers into his tractor cart; as he carefully, covertly, lifted all the crates, and placing the peppers on the bottom. Replacing the previous crates. Ahaha. Bootleg peppers, mon ami? He proceeded to motion for me to get on his tractor. I did; prompting my first trail tractor ride; and he rode on into the village I had unknowingly passed. He kept checking to make sure I don’t fall off; it was so endearing. I wondered if this is how he had brought his new bride home; yesteryear. He also smelled ever so slightly of a particular ladies perfume..

It wasn’t a bridge I was supposed to pass; it was a fork in the road. Huh? Sigh.

My 80ish year old new friend; had rheumy eyes, see what I did there; twice; roll my eyes; three times ..wanted me to come in for a bite to eat. I declined, and found someone else to ask what new direction I was heading in. I left him the grapes I had picked earlier. Seemed fitting; though I was saddened since I just knew there would be no more. I was right. Grapes, that is.

Another time, quite faint with hunger; I had to pass a very large group of male construction workers. They all saw me walking, on an empty long stretch of road. I couldn’t go around them. One made the open arm gesture and said something; and I in the humour and weirdness of the whole moment; did a light jog by them all; and using my come follow me motion said ‘let’s go’ as I fervently prayed, please God, please God, don’t let me faint in front of all these guys! The watched me till they couldn’t see me any longer..shaking their heads; scratching their heads..

The poor villagers were besides themselves sometimes.

“Thank you kind; sir. I may have noticed a dog or two.” Natalia Mevlana

They would dutifully inform me of the dangers of the ‘kopek’ roaming the countryside. It was true. There were a LOT of dogs. They looked like a cross between wild wolf and a freakishly large hellhound; and the nightmarish barking; coupled with spiked collars around their necks used to send shivers of terror throughout my body. It starts in the mouth; chin area; then the cold slivers of fear would move to my forearms; and then I would feel the dread of fear on my thighs.

I tried, unsuccessfully to masquerade the fear; mind over matter, mind over matter; and although I mastered a technique (thanks Ali!) the body continued to start the fear tingles anew each time. A few times a day.

Can’t share the technique, though. You’ll have to feel the terror first; and then I’ll let you in on my own secret defence.

I studied the situation; and realized the stray dogs were not a problem; it was the sheep guard dogs that came up on you 5 or 6 at a time; and the ones that were chained up. It got to the point; that while they still sent frightened me; I had to have a different approach: I started joking with people about them.

I would twist my two fists together; one on top of another; and then make the popping in my mouth gesture; while slowly saying; ‘I will kill them ‘

pause for effect

‘and eat them.’

Sufi Trail dogs ‘köpek’

Some people were quite amused by this gesture; others quite alarmed (maybe I looked wild and hungry!) I mean; I was..

Did they really think the dogs would tear me apart? Perhaps that would be blessing; so I could stop walking..

They fear them; and the dark; and strangers that walk amongst them in the dark. Insert mental eye roll here.

Listen. Or Read.

Polis stations. Try and limit these to two a trail please; though I must say; they were quite accommodating; see certain picture for delightful dinner; and no dear commander I’m not shivering in fear; I’m frozen and soaked from walking in the sleet and mist and rain all day, in my spring jacket in your miserable winter.

But a sincere; and slightly sarcastic thank you for liking all my photos on my phone and declaring I’m not a spy.

The polis commander also wanted to know if I was afraid to walk alone.

I looked him straight in the eye and replied calmly; no. Again, thank you, for allowing me to declare my complete faith in God to you; and all the people present in your office that evening.

I walk knowing people have fears about my being in this country; in this predicament. Not my fears. I have other pressing matters that occupied my thoughts.

And of course, a heartfelt thank you for driving me to my evening accommodations at the pansionne for the evening.

“Salaam-Alaikum”

I didn’t learn more than 20 words; tough language; but that one phrase is a keeper.

That and putting my right hand over my heart; bowing slightly; and saying thank you; had great responses to all things natural and positive.

I started speaking pigeon Farsi, rudimentary; since most people speak zero English; and I got more understanding from a few phrases. Shrug. Whatever works.

My favourite language moment came when someone gave me a ride (I always caved in after dark) and he literally shouted the whole time; I think to try and to get me to hear his point; never mind understanding him..

When I walked on the Camino in Spain, a man; stopped his nightly walk; to question me. He hesitated and then asked in broken English, ‘don’t you think there are too many churches here.’ Imagine how it weighed on his mind to ask me; a complete stranger but obvious pilgrim.

Well. At that time, I had to agree with him. Per capita, there were a lot of churches.

Until I saw the vast numbers of mosque and various buildings dedicated to the worship of Allah. In all my nomadic wanderings, have I witnessed such a wealth of the faithful multitudes. Every hamlet. And I mean EVERY one of them had a place of worship. Some grander; some older; but all functional and all serving the communities attached to them. I couldn’t put a number to them; the cost and workmanship and timelessness it evokes as the praises are sung.

It used to annoy me, the sounds of the prayers. I used to think there were obtrusive and couldn’t, wouldn’t hear the beauty..

But, of course. Small satisfied smile on my lips. I had a moment. Alone with God. On a small hilltop. The first call went up, and the second echoed in the valley and the third and so on; from the town centres I just walked through. I was mesmerized by the sheer magnitude of the moment; was witness to my own personal relationship with the daily prayers.

Time and space had stood still for ME; and I appreciated the beauty of the prayers like never heard before.

I’m alive; I thought. I’m well. And by some crazy miracle. I’m. In. Turkey.

Silent Awe.

Humbled. I continued on feeling content and blessed, and connected.

Time. Stock. Still. All but has stopped. Shepards still walk with the flock; with their crazy hellhounds; making their own recognizable sounds; to the flock; though I doubt shepard’s had stylish Remington shotguns back in the day; farming methods from yesteryear all but forgotten by the cosmopolitan; live and continue on here; in timeless tradition. Passed through generations; the land; the work.

Land cultivation, if you ask, me; the spy, and mining and forestry are the big key to the success of these forgotten lands.

The tractor is king; and I realized it in a tea house; when I saw the stereotypical calendar – of tractors lovingly displayed on an otherwise bare wall; and as dozens would pass me on any given day.

I walked; trudged; through completely empty,decaying, crumbling towns and villages; deserted; since most of the townspeople and village people were out in the fields; and young people flee to bigger cities; no doubt. The houses left in disrepair; whilst others are built on or in the old; while completely other villages are so modern and new, you doubt you walk in the same provincial area.

Even in the seemingly rubble; there is life. I walked in the ugliest of all villages; and wondered why on earth I had chosen this particular route. I could have skipped it to walk on the highway. Then, just as I had in Israel, in that ugliest of villages I found art; to say; I’d found life: I saw two little twin girls; the cutest cleanest prettiest ever. Oblivious to all; they played in the manure of the streets giggling to themselves..

Feeling like the last gunslinger; fingers tingling and swollen as they are open and closed; just to get the blood flowing; stiff and grossly expanded from altitude and heat; from the days walk; dust, dirt and grim; seemingly whirling around you; wind blisters on hands and lips alerting senses that attention is needed eventually; legs feeling mechanical yet wooden; you can almost hear the saloon doors creak open; and the moment stands still for all to witness this strange apparition; as I walked through the center of town; feeling 110 years old but strangely alert and on guard; eyes squinting in the meanness of the wind.

Tumbleweed and the rattle noise all but missing ..

(Frantically; frantically as my eyes roved roamed; trying to place a trail sticker) nonchalantly..

Whilst pretending everything is alright.

Insert whistling moment..

Yes. I didn’t mention. The trail is marked by:

Stickers.

Perhaps Rumi would be amused. I was not so inclined to be.

As I sometimes wanted to weep; as I did.

Oh and sometimes; arrows?! Sometimes just sometimes red and white painted trail marks.

Or.

Another trails’ markers. A completely different trail.

Insert wry grin.

Unless of course there are none.

Insert asking townspeople. Then after you ask townspeople for directions and you walk away from said town you get to a road. A unmarked road with two forks in it. You stop. You ruminate. You choose one.

Fingers crossed!

Until you get to another unmarked road with three forks in it.

People with anxiety and no maps should not attempt this!

A scene comes to mind. I tried to walk through a certain town; without arising the entire population curiosity. I centred in on one man away from the crowd and asked for directions. Lots of exaggerated straight arm gestures found me on a path out of town. As I reached a ridge; I heard multiple shouts. By now, the entire town was standing on the edge of the town and they were shouted simultaneously on which way to go. Just to make sure; I turned left. They all shouted some more. Well. I thought to myself. That sounded negative. So I turned right instead. A collective cheer went up. Talk about a village!

I waved and continued on feeling happy and sure I was going the right way. For once🙄.

~ Stock still. And then the scene quietly resumes back to regularly activity.

I doubted myself daily. Hourly. Minutely. Lost. Which way shall I go. Where did she point. Can I hear the cars on the asphalt from here. (Asphalt is one of two words we had in common.) If I found myself lost on a mountain ridge. I would stop to listen. The asphalt served a greater purpose. With it; I would judge; based on the noise of tire traction on it, how far anything or anyone would be. The people had already demonstrated that they were willing to give me a ride to anywhere at any time of day. I just had to get to a road. Of course. Sometimes. It was apparent I was very very far from any road.

No sound.

Just the wind and I.

Beautiful.

Utterly and completely desolate.

The complete freedom and sheer abandon.

You own the world.

Alone on a mountaintop.

Unless it was close; too close to dark.

Insert Faith.

And. Being lost got and found me into the most interesting situations; and since I had all day to walk and since it was MY Sufi walk anyway – it really did not matter I was lost. It seemed like there wasn’t just one old road. There are many.

The realization that many amazing experiences came from getting completely and inexplicably lost as I had markers just mere moments before; getting lost produced the best results; and allowed a certain freedom to be realized.

And I felt that all roads lead to Konya; eventually.

That this trail is mine to walk as I see fit. Just saying that cause I couldn’t figure it out for the life of me.

Giggle.

Also! Thank goodness for the multiple calls to prayers! Civilization is close! I can hear them!

I would stop and pause and know what direction they were coming from and where I had left; it was a good indication on where my next village may be.

More doubts; shall I read the map from left to right; or right to left; I asked Iris (my personal google for this trail)

When she said top to bottom; I knew no matter what; the map app would not have helped me anyway😂.

I walked alone; but I wasn’t alone. I felt that Sedat and Iris; two of my newest and dearest friends (not only because their help was so fundamental on this journey) but because they understand and love and have true appreciation for the trail, the land, the people that are here; Sedat and Iris; you were and are my own guardian angels.

I felt the presence of God on many levels; this is why I say I walked alone; but was not alone.

There was too much going on to feel lonely; and Good Lord; was it ever cold! If any one truly knows me; the thing I hate the most is: oh never mind I hate a lot of things (being cold; being hangry; being lost; wet feet; being cold; being hangry…)

Even though I walked alone in the day; when I got to my room in the evenings; I craved and felt so indulgent to have the room to myself: to get warm; to wash (socks, pants); for internet; to eat; to unwind; to plan for the next day. I can’t say enough how pleasing and how soothing it was; to be in my own solitude; that was fortified and calming and healing.

Even though I was alone all day; this was way way better.

Many times; it was so cold; so challenging; so frustrating; I thought of quitting the trail; and considering shopping and eating my way through Turkey. The one specific day comes to mind: I really thought: this is outrageous. I’m cold (haha!) I said that. But to give you you; dear reader; an idea of the temperatures ~ the night before I had slept in a cabin. I paid money for this cabin. Like a really nice hotel in Istanbul type of money.

Alas; I had to wear my pyjamas, my trail pants; my sweater and hoodie; two blankets my host had provided; AND two heaters simultaneously working (probs not to their full potential) and I was barely warm enough.

When I awoke it was dark; and since breakfast was not available till 10am; I call BS on his timing; nevertheless I started out for the day. No tea, no coffee. No idea that I would wait for over 5hours to receive my first cup of both (graciously served:) (one by a polis officer in a gas station that I had passed by 7 times in less than 10 hours; and another by the municipality token English speaker; in a 1200 year old mosque..:)

As I was trudging along; I thought; not for the first or millionth time; this is stupid this crazy; just quit.

Only.

I had no where to quit to.

There were no houses. There were no cars. If I did quit; there; in that moment; I’d have to get myself to well – – – somewhere.

Anyway; shortly after I found an abandoned apple tree in a mosque yard and picked enough to sustain me for the day. Don’t knock it till you try it! It’s the new caffeine apple diet; specifically formulated for trail walkers everywhere😛

Need to lose weight?

‘Pick’ a trail; any trail!

More on this topic. I’m a chronic IPick enthusiast; the world over. Nothing is safe from my roving eye and wild ever reaching arm. I’ll climb on a limb; slim and unsteady; backpack and all to reach a piece of fruit dangling on a branch in front of me. It’s a weakness. A sickness. No fruit bearing tree shall remain untouched on my watch. A lone hungry survivor on an obsolete trail.

What!!

If not for the late harvest and/or wild fruit; I would have had severe concerns over my nutrition (I don’t walk with food as a rule) unless it’s aforementioned fruit..

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The apples; red, green, golden and all delicious and organic straight from the tree: the walnuts; cracked with my teeth; the oranges, pomegranates, grapes, pears, grapefruit; strawberries, tomatoes, figs, dried cherries; dried prune plums; all straight from the source; was a secret pleasure; and when I arrived in bigger cities; realized how fortunate I was to eat it all fresh – as it’s what was sold for public consumption!

Granted; mine were not as fine or store worthy… nevertheless the earth provided!

AND.

So did the Turkish People.

I was graciously courted; and I’m so blessed to have been given this moment in time to experience the extreme measures of kindness; that complete and utter strangers gave to and for me.

I had to allow people to help me. To give is a blessing; but so is to receive; with appreciation; with honesty with a pure heart.

It was sharing; caring on another level.

Awash in a human chain of kindness; it was homecoming over and over again.

I literally walked into someone’s home I had never met; as they were eating dinner. I washed my hands and joined them.

(No plates!) communal eating; just watched to see how everyone ate and slowly let the warmth of the hospitality wash over me.

A few times, an entire municipality took over accommodations; lodgings and dinner service, taxi services too. Ummm. Thanks Sedat!

Sedat worked tirelessly, overtly behind the scenes where he pulled contacts together and made my hike seamless. Imagine my surprise when walking into city hall, showing just a name typed into messenger; and then not knowing or understanding what is/will happen; allowing amazing hospitality to unfold under my incredulous eyes.

Another night; completely soaked from head to toe; a family took me in (regardless of that I carried the mud of the day on my clothes and shoes) forced me to take off all wet clothes while they dried them on the stove/heater; giving me pajama pants to wear (and refused to take them back) while tears of misery (I was so embarrassed, of their solicitude for my well being)and thankfulness; coarsed down my face.

One more – I decided that at five pm; I was going to allow the first person that asked if I wanted a ride; to accept it. I had walked 7 hours in a complete circle and felt utterly defeated. And then 20 kms more. Within minutes of this internal dialogue a man and his daughter stopped.

I showed them my two hands clasped together, in prayer fashion, under my head ; that I needed to get to otel. It was 40 kms away.

They spoke in Turkish, I answered in English, and God worked through it all.

Not only did I get to my otel later; I had dinner at their home first too. Which mother had waiting; as daughter called her and all her friends to let them know she had discovered a foreign turist!

God is good; what a wholesome gracious statement; in a situation like this does not even suffice; can’t come close to the feeling of being blessed and having faith that it will all come together.

As just mere minutes before, walking mile after mile after mile; close to dark; remember kopek; then sitting in a warm and brightly lit room; with people and food. It warmed the body; the heart; fed the belly; the spirit; fueling more than enough to continue on for the next day too.

No reservations required!

Old Natalia would be mortified!

In these moments; true tests of who you are comes to fruition. Truly allow to be what will be.

Ultimately, there is no control about any aspect; of your life; at this point.

People, kind strangers want to share their wealth; may it be food, drink, warmth, kindness; and you appreciate the hospitality and you live in the moment and as a weary traveller show your gratitude; by allowing and humbly thanking the host and the home.

We are individual. We may talk, walk; dress; eat in varying styles; and with different guiding beliefs but fundamentally; the world over; we all want to be accepted and loved; to allow our inner good to shine through; for all humanity to support and care for one another. One world.

The love, support, the friendship, hugs, dinners, gifts, lodging, all at a moments notice, coffee&tea (all the pictures of food and drinks on fb were hosted:)

I left little notes I had brought from home and little gifts; too; just to show my appreciation; although I know it was just a gesture. A show of goodwill. Since the real gifts are stored in our hearts.

Also of note; all the photos of people posted; I asked their permission first. They really liked it; and they would say “take” and then be really pleased to see themselves. They; too; knew they were going on an unseen; unchartered adventure; with me. My smile and theirs were such endearing hopeful moments for me; sometimes most times all times changing the entire mood of the I want to quit day. One of those I want to quit days – I impulsively looked behind me – and saw my only rainbow of the trip.

Onward, Christian soldier. Onward March.

It is all a part of our journey; and should be must be accepted with a joyous and open warm embrace of the spirit.

My kids dad is one of my greatest life cheerleaders; allows me the freedom; time; and space to take on such epic endeavours. Perhaps because in an ironic twist of real fate – Ali walked in the Turkish mountains 30 years ago to escape certain death in the army regimented requirement to all young Iranian men.

Here I was; reliving that; but with a different approach; as a spiritual sport.

My blood, sweat and tears, no doubt matched his own; as he forged his way to his new home; his freedom. Not the same, No. But yet; somehow the same. A lot of you don’t know my personal struggles; but I tend to think that this walk; for me too; forges a new path: to my new home: my future, my freedom.

Even after walking a few 25 kms mornings and realizing. Ahhh. I’ve been here before. Shit. Yup. Quite this morning actually.

Those deep grooves in this particular forest look like wild boar prints. Hmmm. Somehow; I’m really thinking this mountainside is not quite on my way..

Hmmmm. And Mmmm

When I actually had food on the trail (see above in picked fruit) I challenged myself to find the most delightful place to stop and eat it and take a break.

A few really stand out: the fig tree at the start of the trail had the sturdiest nicest branches. In it, I settled myself in for my lunch break and watched as cars and tractors rode by not knowing I was there.

The ridge that over looked the entire 360 valley with blue tinged tree trunks was spectacular, as traffic whizzed by below, never guessing someone on top was watching the procession.

Eating lunch (which was really breakfast served from the otels I stayed in the previous nights) at the edge of a cemetery one day; I watched a man wash himself head to toe, at a village communal water station. He never gave an indication that he saw me there.

A tunnel; one day. As it gave reprieve from the wind and rain.

Interestingly enough, I was driven through the same one a few days later.

My past and my future seem interchangeable. Lots about this statement. But I’ll leave it here for you to discover and ponder.

By far my favourite. The tomato field. Just reach over; pick; salt; eat. Repeat.

This was in the warm days, at the start; in the olive growing region. Ahhhh.

My most picturesque, was also the most torturous.

I had just received homemade cheese a couple hours beforehand and was intent on making a stunning lunch table.

I spied it.

Cacti. Flowering. A slew of a field overlooking mountains, a curving railroad; major highways intersecting; a gravel pit. Well. Without further ado, I sat down to a sumptuous lunch.

Upon leaving; I realized I had put my backpack on and into the cacti centre. My jacket and long sleeve shirt; that I had carelessly taken off – ALL had the tiniest tiny est slivers of prickles. My hoodie too. Murderously; torturously, I endured that irritation for several hours. Until I reached my otel room for the night to hand wash my entire kit…

“Salaam-Alaikum”

I’ve walked freely through history.

Rummaging through, Ruminating throughout.

What did I find; you may ask yourself, nosier than I. Nosier than the Turkish Countryside Wo Man.

Empires of legends all have their mark here.

Fundamentally. We are all from the farm. Ruminate on that. All of us.

Socks. Are key to the whole journey. Thin. Expensive. Washable merino wool.

Shoelaces CAN be belts.

By the Grace of God. I walked in my dream in Turkey and came home to sleep in my bed in Vancouver. BellaComa.

Some people called me brave for doing this trail alone. In winter, too.

I said stupid.

It just about amounts to the same thing.

A man wanted to tell me that it was 1.5 kms away. He held up one finger. And then made a slicing motion at the halfway mark. Point made. 1.5 kms away it is.

Pout. Don’t take my knife. I may need it.

Tough walnut skins, lack of toothpicks, makes me look tough..kopek skins..

Who can take a person wearing socks as gloves seriously; Yes. They’re clean.

Wow. Just Wow. Long distance buses serve drinks and snacks.

Don’t try and write trail thoughts as person next to you crunches on chips.

Just don’t. Lesson in patience. Suuuure.

What does the squirrel think of all the daily prayers, day after month after year.

The shadow of my pant leg, cast upon the earth. What/Who does the ant think I am.

I read; I am.

I hike; I am.

I am.

What’s the greatest of all? Patience to Be Kind. To Yourself. On the Trail. Life too.

Button down the hatches. Tighten the shoe lace. Just like in Japan. Tie on the plastic cape.

Mentally, emotionally, physically: The Trail challenges you to the core. The elements; too; sure. But.

It’s YOU in the end.

Hand over Heart.

Bow slightly.

A smile from my heart to yours.

“Salaam-Alaikum”

Natalia Mevlana

Nov 2018