It was time to set out again. For the past month I’d been working at a kid’s camp up on mount Uludağ, about four hours from Istanbul. The university doesn’t start up again until towards the end of September, and aside from another week of teaching at a kid’s camp at the end of August, my schedule is wide open.
I’ve done a fair amount of travel in the past year or so, but none of it really feels like the aimless stumbling about that I like to do so much. It had been weekend trips or I was traveling to go spend time with friends or something. What I really like, though, is getting on a bus to somewhere I’ve never been before, without much of an itinerary for when I’m coming back again. The best way for me to do things like this is when I go solo, because if you’re traveling with someone then there’s always some sort of tension about schedule or things going wrong or someone wanting to sleep in a hotel and not the bus station or things like that. When you’re solo without an itinerary you can essentially cast yourself to the winds.
After camp there were buses that took the kids and counselors back to Istanbul or to their other cities. I needed to drop off one bag and my guitar with one friend and exchange books I’d read with books that I’d stashed at another friend’s place but not read yet. I then crashed on the couch of a friend of another friend because I left my apartment before camp and am now homeless. I reflected all day as I was dropping things off or picking things up about how strange it was to be homeless in the city where you live.
I got a night bus to Izmir and then a bus to Çeşme, Izmir’s little beach town. One of the other teachers from camp lives there with her daughter and two other people from camp were going to spend a day with me there. Sea, sun, wine, laughs, it was a good time in Çeşme. I took a look at my friend’s daughter’s bike, even bringing it to the local “bike repair shop” where I borrowed tools and fixed it up. The concept of a bike shop is very different depending on where you are. This was basically a shack on the side of the road with a few tools hanging on the wall and scattered all over a bench (the disorder of the tools was like nothing I’ve seen before) and an air compressor.
We got out of the car and took the bike out, my friend explained that I wanted to work on the bike. The “mechanics” were watched in awe as I adjusted greased cables and adjusted cable tension, limit screws, brake pad alignment, etc. They said that I should stop by in my free time. So if teaching in Istanbul doesn’t work out I can always go to Çeşme and wrench on bikes in a dusty alley with a bunch of tools scattered about in a cupboard.
After two days in Çeşme I wanted to get going again, so myself, my teacher friend, her friend, and their children took the ferry to Chios, a Greek island an hour away from Çeşme. At some point, however, some combination of night travel and lack of sleep, wine and seawater had affected me poorly and I had been suffering with cold symptoms and a raging fever for a day or two. Walking around in the sun in 35 degree heat as an impartial observer with three screaming kids, two frustrated parents and myself with a raging fever and pounding headache isn’t the greatest time. I also realized that I had left my camera at the hostel in Çeşme and wouldn’t be going back for it but moving on. Chios wasn’t a lot of fun for me.
Now, were I a wiser traveler I would probably have stayed either in Chios or back in Çeşme to recover and let my fever abate before moving on. But I’m on the road! I only have three weeks until I have to be back in Istanbul to go to the other camp so I must press on, fever be damned!
My next fixed destination was Crete, where another friend of mine is spending the summer with his mom who lives there. Unfortunately, there is no route to Crete from Chios, so I had to go to Athens and then down to Crete. I would ride the 7 hour night ferry from Chios to Athens with the cheapest seating available – deck seating, and then find another 7 hour ferry with deck seating down to Crete.
I bade farewell to my friends in Chios as they headed back home to Çeşme. There’s not a lot of shade available on Chios and my temperature was pretty high, so I sat in the passport control area for a while until they tired of my presence and I moved to a cafe to send some emails. I had dinner in a seafood place that my friend recommended but also warned me that they didn’t speak a word of English. She recommended to start out with the Greek salad and calamari and move on from there. But the Greek salad was 7 euro and the calamari was 10 euro, and I didn’t want to spend 17 euro on starters. I opted for the “garluc” salad, thinking that what my system really needed was a nice salad with a lot of garlic, then I’d feel better. I ordered sea bass, but it was Finnish, so I got the mackerel instead.
I always feel self-conscious when I’m sitting in a restaurant by myself. I figure I look like a lonely weirdo eating by himself so I try to just get it over with and get out of there to wander around someplace. I was already feeling self-conscious, but since I had a fever I had drenched my bright orange bucket hat in cold water to try to keep my head cool. I felt like a very strange person. And then the food came. My “garluc salad” turned out to be a mound of mashed garlic spread. It basically looked like a pile of mashed potatoes, but it was garlic. Now I really felt strange, sitting there by myself in a dripping, bright orange hat in a feverish haze eating a pile of mashed up garlic spread. It was so much garlic I couldn’t finish it. I put it on the bread they gave me, mixed it with my mackerel, but it was too big a pile of garlic so I just molded it and stuck fish bones in it as spikes and felt pleased with myself.
The hour drew late and I boarded the night ferry to Athens. It turns out that “deck seating” on your ticket really does mean deck seating. Plastic chairs scattered were scattered about the deck and cafeteria. I found a bench to lie down on for the night, tried to keep hydrated and minimize my fever and emerged without much sleep, fatigued and a little delirious into the Athens port on a sunny morning.