Part 2 …
On my first day there, I organised to go paragliding over Oludeniz, which remains one of the most awe-inspiring experiences of my life. We drove to the top of a mountain in a rickety old truck, I was strapped to man whose name I didn’t even know (flashbacks to the night before – nah jokes), but he was wearing wings, so that was a good sign. We ran off the side of the mountain and glided into the air like a giant pterodactyl. The clear blue sea and pure white sands below were indescribably beautiful, and I took a lot of photos. When we got closer to the ground, the guide said he would do a trick for me. He pulled a lever and we dipped and spun around in the air. In a mere moment, what had been a lovely, calm and reflective experience had turned into an urgent need to get my feet on the ground before I threw up in mid-air all over myself and the man whose lap I was sitting on. I was horrendously nauseated.
When we came into land, I did what I’d been taught and ran along the ground until we lost momentum. I then collapsed under a nearby tree and used every ounce of my strength not to throw up in front of the throngs of people enjoying their day at the beach. The guide came over a few minutes later and tried to sell me a video of myself coming in to land, which the company must record and try to sell to people as part of their service. I refused on the grounds that I didn’t need to pay for a video of myself desperately trying to avoid vomiting. The man was pissed off about this – he made some gesture to me and said something in Turkish and stormed off. I’ve never regretted not buying the video.
When I got back to my hostel, I had a message from a friend back home telling me that one our friends had passed away. I had met Matt at work a couple of years earlier and a group of us had spent a lot of time together before I moved to the UK. He’d been in a motorcycle accident years earlier and it had left him with a lot of complicated health issues and the need for regular brain surgeries; this time he had not made it through. This was my lowest point on the trip, and I would have given anything to just go home. An Aussie girl at the hostel saw that I was down and asked if I wanted to go for a drink with her. She was really kind and we bonded, and I felt a little better. On the way home, I was conned by a street vendor into buying a Tommy Hilfiger perfume that he insisted was real. I knew it wasn’t, but I didn’t have the energy to argue so I bought it anyway.
The next day I boarded a sailboat with a group of about 15 other people. Over the course of 3 days it would travel from Oludeniz to Fethiye, at which point I would get a bus back to Istanbul and fly back to London. Most of the troop were young people, a group of 3 drop dead gorgeous New Zealander girls, a few other New Zealanders, a couple of Aussies, the crew and a young Irish family of a Mum, Dad and a little girl and boy. The boat had both a sail and motor, and for the first part of the trip we were motoring along to make it to our first anchor point. I started the journey by laying in the sun on a platform at the front of the boat, looking out over the horizon and breathing in the fresh air of the stunning Mediterranean. It was about an hour into the trip where I started to feel a little green. It took all of 2 minutes to go from “feeling a little queasy” to “being the absolute sickest I have ever been in my entire life” (which is still true today).
I spent literal hours retching over the side of that boat. I have never experienced anything like it before or since. The crew gave me water and even some potato to try to calm my stomach, but nothing worked. I was convinced I was going to die and, by this point, I wanted to. When we stopped to anchor, I got out into the water for a short time to try to “move with the current,” but it didn’t help. When back on the boat, I continued to retch over the side. I was trying to do this in the most
considerate fashion possible, but at one point a snorkeler approached from another boat. She was almost beneath me before finally hearing my cries not to come any closer. Thankfully my stomach was well and truly empty by this point. We were anchored in a cove at the bottom of a hill which to me looked like a township. I asked one of the crew if I could get off the boat and find alternative transport. His reply was, “You get off the boat. You climb the mountain – 3 days. When you get to the top, maybe taxi, maybe no.” Seasick or not, I was staying on that boat. The agony of death fortunately subsided not too long after that realisation set it.
That night I was sitting on the bow of the boat thinking about my friend Matt. The young Turkish crewman came out and sat beside me. We had a conversation about friends passing and I learned that he had lost some friends through War (though which war, I do not recall). We were sitting close and I put my head on his shoulder thinking we could share a moment of connectedness in honour of the loss we both felt. At this point he whispered to me, “Do you hear my heart… what does it say?” Was this person seriously making a pass at me? Probably responding to what he thought was a come on from me, but wasn’t intended to be – the beauty of my naiveite again. It must have been the hours of witnessing me vomit that had been such a turn-on. Or perhaps the gorgeous New Zealanders had already turned him down and he was investigating his other options. Or maybe he was just sad, and saw that I was sad too. Either way, it had turned from something I thought was innocent into wanting to run away and hide, which is pretty close to what I did. I extracted myself from the situation with a decent flurry of awkwardness and completely avoided him for the next 3 days; quite the art on a small boat, I might add.
The next morning some men came around on jet skiis. To me they were the water equivalent of a pack of boys on motorbikes thinking they’re cool while the majority of people look on rolling their eyes and wishing they’d shut up. It turned out that, for a fee, they offered rides on the back of the jet skis – but for the 3 gorgeous New Zealanders, the ride would be free. I stood there with the other untouchables and watched on as the physically desirable specimens among us jumped onto the back and revelled in their joy ride. Heads thrown back, laughing, water spraying all around; they looked like they were shooting a tampon ad. After this ended, I sat on the deck of the boat and coloured in with Uma, the 6 year old girl from the Irish family. Uma was a little champion – cute, fun, and unlikely to make a pass at me.
That night the young people in the group took a short dingy ride to a small island, turned bar. I hadn’t planned to go – frankly I’d run out of fucks to give about anything on this trip – but one of the girls on the boat convinced me to and I’m glad she did. I had a few drinks and was feeling pretty toasty. At one point, I walked over to a table of about 6 men, sat down and starting talking. When I finally stopped for air (which was after way more very-quickly-spoken words than were necessary), one of the men looked at me and said something in Turkish. I can only assume it was, “We don’t speak English.” They all stared at me blankly as I apologised, stood up, grabbed my drink and walked away with my special brand of awkwardness in tow.
One of the great things about this trip was being in the Mediterranean. I’ve never seen such beautiful, calm blue water. I spent a lot of time hanging off the side of the boat with bread my hand, feeding schools of hundreds of fish. When they bite the bread, they bite your hand too, but it’s so gentle and there are so many of them that it really tickles. You can dive under water and see clearly for what seems like miles. People there respect the sea and know that their livelihood comes from keeping it pristine. I also enjoyed sitting on the deck and reading, thinking, and letting the sun soak in. The food was also amazing. There was a cook on board and I could swear all he had on hand were some veges and some spices, but he produced some of the best food I have ever eaten in my life; truly delicious.
Getting off the boat made me seasick again. My initiation into sea legs had been so violent that by the time my feet touched proper dry land, I was completely discombobulated. I got on my bus back to Istanbul and managed to make it through without being sick – win! I met a man on the bus who offered to help me get to the airport once we made it into the city. I was apprehensive but I accepted. I figured that being accompanied by a stranger I’d spoken to for a few hours was a more desirable option than chancing it with another over eager cabbie. When we got the airport, he insisted we have coffee and a snack. I didn’t want anything so I said he should get something, and I sat with him; my flight was 9 hours away and he had brought me here safely, so I didn’t want to be rude. When he had finished, it became apparent that he wanted me to pay for what he’d had. I would have done, if I’d had a single dollar left on me, but I didn’t – one last awkward moment to top off the trip.
When I got inside the main part of the airport, I went to the airline desk to see if I could get on an earlier flight. I could!… but it would cost me $400… so I didn’t. Before boarding my plane for the 4-hour ride, and at least another 2 to get home after that, I sat on the hard plastic chairs of Istanbul Airport for over 8 hours. I listened to Tim Minchin’s ‘So Rock’ album on repeat and wondered what I was doing with my life, and why I was choosing to do it so painfully. This wonderful adventure had utterly wrung me out and I was relieved it was over…but still glad that I went. I felt a sense of triumph and survival. Among other things, I learned that I prefer to have at least one travel partner; it’s easier to laugh when shit goes wrong if you have a friend there to laugh with you, than it is if you’re alone and think you’re about to die. But that’s just me.
Fear not! My travel spirits were not dampened. 48 hours after touching down in England, I was back at the airport for a 4am flight to Rome… but that’s a story for another day.