Intruders in the dark – 25th Sept

No photos in this one unfortunately, as the name suggests it wasn’t the first thing on our minds at the time!! Approximate location as below:

Kastamonu_in_Turkey.svg

The beam of the tractor’s headlights shone powerfully against our tent. A question shouted in the dark. “Ingleterra!” I bellowed back from my sleeping bag, hoping that would solve the issue and the thing would go away. It didn’t. The same question, but this time barked out practically as an order. The beam did not waver. I gave the same answer. Realising this particular farmer wasn’t going to be shrugged off, I began putting on my fleece and shoes to go out and investigate, just as the voice repeated its question for third time. The mosque down the hill had just finished its sixth and final call to prayer for the day, indicating that the last light of day had fully faded from the sky. It was quite cold. 

I unzipped the tent and was immediately dazzled by the machine’s headlights, which were trained at our camping spot with the two bicycles alongside it. Hands up to protect my face, I walked forwards slowly and repeated “Ingleterra!” for the third time. I still hadn’t a clue what the Turkish voice was asking but I figured this was the sensible answer to most questions at this point. The voice barked out something which sounded very much like “Halt!”, so I did, and shielding my eyes against the glare of the beam I squinted ahead at our intruder.

There’s nothing quite like having a rifle pointed at you to make you think on your feet. I found myself looking up at two men on either side of their blinding tractor, each with hunting rifles aimed at my chest. They didn’t seem hugely amused to be finding a foreigner in nothing but a dirty fleece and boxers in their field. Shit, I remember thinking. The thought of ending my days in a Turkish ditch in fleece and boxers was enough to get my tired brain cogs whirring again. I gulped and waited for it to come up with ideas, and sure enough it did, producing the word “Arcadash” which I promptly blurted out, hands in the air lit up by the tractor like a scene in some bad spy film. “Arcadash” is the Turkish word for “Add Friend” on Facebook, something we’ve been doing a lot of recently as we’ve met keen and friendly Turkish hosts. Thank you Facebook, I had time to think to myself. Who said you were a waste of time. Then I stood still again, hoping these particular two would catch my gist.

The leader lowered his weapon but the other bloke didn’t, so I decided to stay put, and waited. The problem with having your hands in the air is that you can’t mime very well, which had been a key part of our communication in Turkey thus far. I repeated the word for friend more confidently, then jumbled some Turkish together which included the word for bicycle, charity, student and ‘no problem’. I even tentatively threw in the joker – Manchester United – as it had had so much success recently. This string of words was enough for the second bloke to stop training his gun at me, and I danced a little victory dance in my head at the prospect of not getting shot this evening. Still, things could be going better. We muddled through some conversation (now much easier since my hands were free), at which point they worked out that there was a second person (odd as our two bikes had been lit up by the tractor throughout – maybe they thought I was a crazy single Englishman with two bikes?!). They demanded to see Lobby too.

I figured that if they’d wanted to shoot me they would have done so already, so there was no harm now in throwing Lobby into the mix. In my head everyone would shake hands, we might have to move the tent, but we would end up safely in bed and probably not in a ditch. I shouted for Lobby, and heard something grunt from the tent and then the sound of someone rolling over. Lobby and I usually talk a lot of rubbish when we’re both on the bikes, to the point when (if you can’t see each other’s face) it’s difficult to tell if the other person is joking or not. Clearly sometimes this isn’t a great idea on a bike (“Overtake! Woops, only kidding!!”), so we had discussed having a codeword to use to mean that you’re absolutely serious. A “Boy Who Cried Wolf” word if that makes more sense. I shouted the word out for the first time ever into the night. There was the sound of the tent unzipping, and soon Lobby appeared bleary-eyed.

We stood there for a second or two, each party equally bewildered at the other’s presence in this dark field. But with the help of a proper dictionary we started talking and it soon became clear that two Englishmen in boxers in the dark weren’t a threat. Lobby’s appearance had further decreased tensions and now guns were swapped for handshakes and both men lit up cigarettes. They seemed pretty relieved that we weren’t going to be any trouble! The little victory jig in my head was now a full marching fanfare as we were invited in for tea by the two men who had thought about shooting me minutes before. We declined this particular tea invitation however (it seemed a bit too much too soon) – shaking hands again, we went back to bed and the tractor pulled away towards the main road from where it had come.

This episode and the previous incident with exploding ‘tüps’ (which Lobby has written about, check out the previous post!) has prompted us to change how we go about camping in central Turkey. To be honest we hardly need to camp anymore as we are invited in and hosted so often – but on the occasions when we are forced to, we won’t be doing it unannounced anymore. It would be a shame to be mistaken for a wild boar and end up in a ditch at this early stage!

Nick

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