The Black Sea Coast, inland, heading east
Due to a strong desire not to cycle after dark Nick usually calls a one hour light warning and we start looking for a place to eat and sleep. Having cycled into several European capital cities well after curfew and having been caught out by nightfall a couple of times, on this occasion we made a big effort to set up camp nice and early. We stopped in the small town of Hanönü for lunch. Less than half way through our regular order of chicken shish we were approached by a local man. Thinking nothing of it we exchanged greetings. As we started to eat again he pulled out a large camera and took photos of us. He then sat down opposite us, withdrew a notepad from his jacket pocket and started interviewing us in Turkish. We’d been in Turkey a few weeks, we knew how to order food and drink, a full blown interview was another thing! We assumed he wanted our story. Using the numbers we knew and the word for months we explained our trip and the countries we had passed through, where we were going, that it was for charity, Prostate Cancer UK, and so on. We did a little photo shoot in the road and he left. We’ll never see that article we thought! Well, here it is!
If you go to the link and put the article into google translate you can have a little laugh.
Despite doing most of the explanation, much of which was with a pen and paper napkin, Nick is credited with all of the detail, something was lost in translation and it claims we will make a brochure for our chosen charity, and my contribution to the interview is shown as “Gribble is much like the Turkish food, especially love baklava”. Which is true… but doesn’t exactly paint me as a cultural tourist! More a gastrophile. I was so busy with the interview that I didn’t even get tea! (Possibly a crime in Turkey)
That night we pitched our tent out of sight of the road, sheltered from the mountain winds and near a corn field. Still light (something we are unaccustomed to when camping as we usually find a way of setting up camp as it is getting dark) we sat down to cook dinner from our provisions. The night before we had camped on a hill opposite a petrol station and in the morning were asked by the garage attendants whether we’d had any problems with dogs (they made snarling noises). We said no, there were no dogs. The conversation progressed, the snarling impersonations increased, we checked the dictionary – bear (not dog). No… We hadn’t encountered any bears. We were now a little worried about wild camping in the hills! A night on we were still attempting to camp in the wild. There probably wouldn’t be any bears… We hoped!
As the sun set slowly we cooked our dinner surrounded by beautiful scenery. As we added the eggs a strange noise came from the corn field which now had a few lights on around the perimeter. It sounded like some strange, terrible animals scurrying, flapping? We couldn’t tell. It stopped, we turned off our music and continued to cook. The noise suddenly started up once more and then again cut off abruptly. We realised that it was a recording, possibly to scare off bears? At least we would be safe! The light faded slowly. It grew dark. BANG! A shot ripped through the silence, ricocheting in the darkness. We turned to face the black field, slightly lowering ourselves to the ground in anticipation. BANG! Another shot cracked from somewhere else in the field. Hunters? Was the recording played to scare animals that the hunters would then shoot? All kinds of possibilities flashed through our minds. Another bang. Two men with shotguns were now very close and more worryingly were using said guns. We scuttled away from our cooking spot and ducked down behind our tent (a tent outer of course being bulletproof). As shots continued to ring out only tens of metres away we planned out what to do. They probably wouldn’t aim to shoot us. But what if they mistook us for an animal? A wayward shot? Hearts beat fast. We grabbed our bike lights and put the red backlight on our tent, flashing to show we were there. The shots continued, we decided to grab our food, retreat to the road and sit it out. We left a trail of lights to the road and sat and ate, and waited.
After what seemed like hours the guns still rang out. We decided to head to the village a couple of kilometres away in search of people who might know the hunters. Trudging along the hard shoulder in the pouring rain we spotted a lonely light. Like a scene from a horror film we approached the farm. A man stepped down from a tractor as others gathered grain into piles. We signed where we had come from, what we were doing and the issue with the guns. His face was in shadow, we could see no emotion, no hint of benevolence or malevolence. He stared back at our dishevelled apparel and only one word escaped from his lips. “Çay?” Relief spread across our faces. We were ushered inside and flooded with endless cups of tea. After several cups, conversation turned to the issue of the gunmen. “No guns” they said. “Yes, guns!” We insisted. “Bang! Bang!” We acted it out. They reiterated that they were not guns but in fact “tüps”. What is a tüp??? The dictionary said it was a “tube”. No “tube” makes the sound of a hunting rifle! They maintained that it was in fact a tüp. He went and got a so-called tüp. It was a large gas canister. We couldn’t grasp how that was meant to make such a noise. He mimed a long tube. He grunted, fingers pointed down by the sides of his mouth like tusks. A pig? They were hunting pigs? No, they were scaring them off with timed gas explosions! Well, we didn’t know about the pigs, but it had worked on us! The tea was finished off and we were told it was safe to return to our tent.
Unconvinced we headed back to find no bullet holes in our tent. Only a single blinking red light, reminiscent of the port side of a boat or aeroplane wing. The shots continued unabated. The recorded noises recurrently came and went. With a clear head it became obvious that all of the noises were too evenly spaced to be gunshots, too frequent and unmoving. This was our fate for the night, we were safe, apparently, but the noises would continue through the night until 8am. As we attempted to sleep, thoughts of trench warfare played in our minds. How could soldiers sleep when such noises were real, fatal? Dreams of hunters, shooting, war loomed.