It was an ordinary evening, we had been to dinnner after an exhausting day with full of meetings. We came back to home, recent days' popular idea, round the world trip was being spoken at Libadiye. Again it seemed as just an idea and speech. Would this life continue from house to work and back to house as this always? All days were just the same. Whereas how nice would it be to fulfil Mevlana's quote. "How nice to move everyday from one place to another, how pleasant to flow clearly without getting muddy." And that evening a decision was made...
- Dude let's do it. - Man, we always talk about it but there are plenty of obstacles. For instance how to solve the money issue? - Worst case, we can sell our cars. The real problem is how to explain it to families. - It might be difficult for them but we can convince. - Off...My mom will be sad. They expect us to marry, and what we try to do is ... - ... - Will we need to quit the job ? - Sure, is there another option ? If you would like we can try to do it on annual vacation, we can just have a walk around and come back. What are we gonna do when we are back ?
- We are not supposed to think about it now, we can find something to continue our life. Visas will be also problem. Many countries, are we gonna travel with visa application documents? - We can get some of them from here and some on the road. - All these can be solved, if not now then when ? - Definitely! Let's start making a list. - Yes. You get a pen and a piece of paper, I will prepare tea. - OK. -... - Let's start, 1 - ? - ... - ... - We should prepare a web site. - That's crucial, what can be the name ? - ... - Bull's eye, Başka Türlü Bir Şey...
This adventure started in such an evening and that evening none of us were aware what was waiting for us. Because;
We would find ourselves in a train that is moving through the taiga forest of Siberia for days continually. Buryatians that we hadn't heard their names before and whom we became so close immediately, would got off from the train in the middle of night and embrace us just to say good bye.
We would swim in the turquoise waters of Pacific ocean with many sharks and giant turtles.
We would hitch-hike on the desolated South America roads for hours, we could travel sometimes 15 km and sometimes for all day.
We didn't know much about Far East. We would admire the courtesy of Koreans and Japanese. Lights of Seoul, Tokyo, Singapur and Hong Kong would dazzle us.
In India's biggest city, in a chaotic train station we would stay without passport, money. We would be friends with homeless people, eat only bread for 2 days and sleep in the train station with rats.
We would make our first steps in China on a foggy Beijing day, would be shocked by its culture. We would enjoy the happiness of talking with our roots who are Uyghurs. We would get lost inside the hazy rice terraces in south China, in a village where there are even no foreigners nor Chinese, we would be guest in Hani people's dinner.
We would enjoy tens of border passing over land, each time we pass our Turkish passports we would see bewildered looks of officers. In every identification check on the roads we would be the only people interrogated, and asked for getting off from the vehicle.
We would admire to the beauty of world's biggest salt flat Salar de Uyuni, we would see fireflies the first time in our life on the way to Machu Picchu which took days to reach.
Traveling wouldn't be easy, we would change place avaragely every 4 days, we would sleep in 100 different floors approximately. Sometimes a hammock, sometimes a train or bus seat, sometimes an internet cafe cabine even sometimes a train station waiting hall where plenty of rats run around would be our bed.
We would travel dusty and crimson roads of Laos on motorbike, we would swim with children in the rivers of the villages on the way, we would play water fight with whole country people. We would have an accident by motorbike at midnight, as we arrived in Luang Prabang with blood, oil, dirt and water on our bodies, we wouldn't forget the sandwich we ate that we could fortuantely find it in the middle of night.
We would see many world wonders such as Angkor Wat, Tac Mahal, Borobudur, Great China Wall and temples and shrines of Kyoto with our eyes.
Being on the road would be our basic purpose that approximately we would spend 1324 hours on the road. We would use almost any vehicles for this. Train, bus, minibus, truck, ship, tuk tuk, riksha, bicycle, motorbike, scooter, car, 4WD, speed boat, bamboo boat, cessna plane, canoe even police car would be among vehicles we used.
We would listen music on the road and would not be able to prevent 2 drops of tears from eyes, we would hide the heart breaks somewhere deep inside.
We would witness the elephants enjoying their bath in Nepal, inside the river that we have been by chance. We would witness the roar of a tiger in its natural environment. We would walk 40 metres above in world's oldest rain forest Taman Negara and we would watch flowing of the Amazon and Negro rivers without mixing in wonders.
After the long and freezing bus journeys, we would enjoy the vicious waters of the Caribbeans. On the way to the sea we would taste the coconuts falling from the trees.
We would meet hundreds of interesting people on the road besides we would see them again and again in different parts of the world by chance. At Penang city of Malaysia, we would sell bracelets with another traveler. In South Korea, Busan, we would drink Mehmet Abi's tea and listen his homesickness for Turkey.
At the roof of the world Tibet, we would witness the pilgrimage of the villagers and how they come to holy city Lhasa on foot for days. We would watch their tears in the temples in wonders.
In the vast Gobi dessert where each Mongolian finds its own way we would sleep in yurts, we would see the stars so bright that we had never seen before and every 10 minutes we would see a shooting star. Silence of the dessert would echo in our ears, we would enjoy this real silence.
Many times we would not be able to take shower, many nights we would have to sleep hungry. Turkish foods would come to our dreams. We would struggle with diseases for long time, we would have to go to the emergency services of the hospitals at the countries such as Nepal and India.
We would meet with fellows Aycan, Koray and Dilek this time not in Üsküdar nor in Taksim but in Khaosan Road of Bangkok. Bangkok would be our second home. Kurtuluş, whom we always felt beside during our trip would company us in Indonesia and Singapore, we would sing wish you were here loudly in the middle of night together with him.
We would make thousands of shots with our cameras which was exposed to salt, mud, dessert sand, sea, rain, water fight and waterfall. Our third camera would be our most precious property which was gifted by our precious friends.
We would ski on sand instead of snow in Peru, after having some confidence we would tumble many times.
We would cycle at full speed at world's most dangerous road in Bolivia, just to reach to Angel Falls, we would have to travel for days wet.
Being a Turk would be so funny sometimes, those who learn that we are Turkish would crave to talk to us, an Indian guy who told us the result of Galatasaray match at our worst day would make us smile. Sometimes being a Turk would be difficult, those who learn that we are Turkish would turn back and run away in order not to communicate with us.
We would visit the peak of the world Everest at year's coldest time, the same night without any heating, in a freezing room we would try to sleep.
We would go to police offices at unexpected times. We would hope for help from the Mongolian police who met us with his undershirts or from Indian police who kept on eating his meal with his hand instead of answering our request.
In North of Thailand in a train journey, in the middle of night, we would wake up in flames, suddenly we would be in middle of a crowd. While people were jumping from the windows we would stare at each other with astonishment.
We would listen many unusual street musicians in every corner of the world, sometimes we would company them singing.
We would be hosted like kings in Shanghai by Dinçer and Müge, we would hang out with Evren at Shanghai nights. We would meet with Engin in Russia, Serhan in South Korea and India and Lora in South America and fulfill longing with them.
We would miss our families and friends ineffably, we would appreciate people who supported us with their messages particularly to Cuneyt360 and Barış who inspired us for this travel.
This adventure would last around 400 days, we would tread streets of 26 countries and 96 cities. We would travel around 90.000 kilometers over land.
And all these would be our world trip that we could never forget for all our life...
Başka Türlü Bir Şey
- We are not supposed to think about it now, we can find something to continue our life. Visas will be also problem. Many countries, are we gonna travel with visa application documents?
The rain went on all the night and stopped with the first daylight. It felt so difficult to get up from the hammock I was sleeping on in the open air but I managed it. As a matter of fact I was stepping on the wet leaves and branches after a few steps. The river Churum was flowing very strong below. I raised up my head slowly. The waterfall that was covered by the clouds yesterday was clear now. But the clouds were jealous again. It went all white soon. We had our breakfast, crossed the river and started to walk in the jungle. The ground was slippery because of the rain previous night and some parts were full of water and mud. We kept on moving by stepping on the tree roots and rocks. The voice of the waterfall was rising, we were probably getting closer, the walk continued. The group had a break to rest but I was so impatient to stop and I kept walking. In a few minutes, after nearly 50 hours of bus trip, 1 hours flight, 4 hours of canoe trip and 1 hour of walking in the jungle, I managed it; the longest waterfall in the world, Angel was shining brightly among the clouds...
After seeing Lora off in Bogota Eldorado Airport, it was time to hit back on the road again. But before we had to solve the cash problems. The official dollar rate used in the Venezuelan banks were just the half of the one used in daily life. That's why we had to take as much cash as we can with us and that meant to look for an ATM, find one and exchanging the amount we could withdraw into dollars which took some time. After solving the problems particularly we proceeded to Bogota bus terminal but we were stuck in the traffic jam this time. Bogota was getting ready for the Friday night party and didn't want us to leave. Finally we arrived to the bus station and bought tickets for the first bus heading to Cucuta which is very close to Venezuelan border. All the backpackers we saw around till here were not around this time. It seems the safety problems were preventing travelers to visit the country despite its natural beauties. After our trip on the bendy roads of foggy Andes mountains took 16 hours, we arrived to Cucuta. It's possible to say that getting down from the Andes mountains felt good after complaining about the cold weather in the cities like Cusco, Quito, Otavalo and Bogota. Many taxi drivers surrounded us after getting off the bus in Cucuta bus terminal telling they could take us to Venezuela but our choice was to go by public transportation as usual. We ate something to eat in the terminal before getting on the minibus that took us to the border. An old man came by the table right before we leave but we didn't understand what he said and we left thinking that he wants to take the plates back. We got our backpacks, then saw the old guy again and understood what he wanted to tell this time. He sat on the chairs we left and he was trying to find something to eat, he was just hungry...
The driver of the old minibus heading to the biggest city around Venezuelan border forgot to stop in the border, that's why we noticed him immediately and left the minibus. Our passports were stamped in the Colombian immigration office and we started to walk slowly to other side of the bridge, Venezuela. There were huge American cars on the roads and they were giving an impression that is totally against to the political view of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. We had some safety concerns based on the things that we heard of travelers we met before, we crossed the border carefully and stressed. I was feeling myself like Frodo going into Mordor (In fact I more look like Aragorn but anyway...) The passport process was simple, afterwards we got on a minibus that would take us to san Cristobal but we had already noticed by the soldiers that were waiting further away. We got our backpacks and got off. We were asked questions while our backpacks were searched carefully. This was just the first of the several similar conditions that we would face in the following days. After a few hours we arrived to San Cristobal bus terminal, it was crowded. As a matter of fact the buses were mostly full. We were walking around to find seats but the soldiers stopped us, passports were checked, questions were asked again. The only possible way was to make a stopover in Valencia, north of Venezuela. We bought tickets for the overnight bus. Another option was to go to Caracas, the capital but we were avoidign to go there because the city was already famed with danger. 12 hours trip to Valencia was stopped by the soldiers a few times, passports were checked again, the bus was searched by dogs.
Here was the last point that we could reach by vehicle. From here we had to walk approximately 2 hours, on a muddy footpath in a humid and hot weather. The high trees around made the environment dark besides big coconuts falling from the trees were making big danger all the way. The weird animal voices coming from inside of the jungle made me feel like all these creatures were watching and making fun of us. I am sure they would be happy if one of the coconuts had fallen one of us head. My shoulder bag was getting more and more heavy that once I wanted to throw it away. Meanwhile we heard the sound of the waves, we must be so close to the sea and the waves must be huge. We passed through the trees and stand on a big rock. And there, Caribbean Sea appeared on the front. There were not any people even no living being on the long and wide beach. Besides there was not any motion in the horizon. I wondered if I looked more carefully would it be possible to see the pirates of the Caribbean?
We both missed the sea and the hot weathers thus from Otavalo of Ecuador we wanted to head directly to the most northern cost of the continent and meet the Caribbean Sea. It means long distance bus journeys. It took 3 hours to get to Ecuador - Colombia border. From Ipiales, the closest city to border we got another bus journey to Cali which took 12 hours. Without any break we headed to Medellin city in 11 hours. Again we took another bus to Cartagena which took 13 hours. Anymore we could feel the smell of the sea. We were quite tired after these bus journeys which took 39 hours in total. Anyway it was nice to watch the coffee plantations on the way. I wanted to get off and run among them but we didn't have time for this. Not only the long journeys but we also struggled with the freezing air condition in the buses which is typical in Colombia. Although the climate is warm the bus companies turn on the AC and make the inside of the bus like a fridge. The reason was either they could turn it on or off there is no temperature adjustment. We had to wear our coats and winter clothes although outside of the was burning hot. Thats why we wanted to settle down in Cartagena for 2 days to have rest and to warm our bones!
As we got off the bus the hot weather stroke on our face which made us happy. Immediately we took off our winter clothes and headed to the center of the city which is inside the city walls. On the way to city centre the view of the streets reminded us India streets but as we got inside the city walls everything changed. Streets, shops and houses were so fancy and touristic. Which one is real Colombia? An African origined, big woman welcomed us with her strong funny voice and smily face. As I passed her my passport she started laughing loudly. The reason was her ex-boyfriend was Turkish and she was not expecting a Turkish in her hostel. She had more laugh as Özcan gave his passport. Because his ex's name was Özkan quite similar with Özcan. After these funny conversations we went out to eat something as we couldn't eat regular food on the road. But the prices were so expensive unlike other parts of South America. That's why I entered to the kitchen of the hostel. This time we had Turkish meat balls in the menu! As we had time after meals we didn't ignore visitng the city. The architecture of the city is very linda (means lovely in spanish, they always use this word). But it already turned into a typical touristic city. Although the city is by the Caribbean Sea there is not a good beach in the city. The beaches far from the city or Rosario islands are reasonable places to swim. We could go to only one beach so we looked for the best beach around and found out it was in Tayrona National Park near Santa Marta. After 2 days we left from Cartagena and took a bus to Santa Marta.
We spent a night in Santa Marta and early in the morning got to the gate of the national park in 1 hour by bus. A shuttle bus took upto a point and from there we had to start walking which would take 2 hours. On the way the coconuts falling from the trees were our gifts. We broke them and drink its juice and we ate its fruit after. I had never eaten coconuts from the tree before. We passed several beaches on the way but most of them were dangerous because of the big waves and the currents. Thus they were all empty, anyway it was nice to chill out at these beaches since there were nobody. Finally we reached to El Cabo beach which is known as the best beach around. This place does not have any buildings, it is just camping area with some tents and hammocks. We preferred to take a hammock to spend the night. And let our bodies to meet with the Caribbean Sea's salty water that we were dreaming for. The beach has a very nice panoramic view with its coconut trees and clear water. But it is still wavy comparing to Asian beaches. As said in the soundtrack of the famous movie Fight Club which is "Where is my mind?" I encouraged myself to put my feet in the air and head on the ground while I was swimming in the Caribbeans. It was a bad idea that all the water came into my face and mouth. Then I decided just to listen the song not to practice it. It would be nice to chill out here for a long time but we have long way to Sao Paulo of Brasil from the land. The second day we got back to Santa Marta and took a bus to Bogota, the capital of Colombia.
We are nearly coming to the end, hence our trip is getting faster. There are very few railways in South America, that's why faster trips means long bus journeys. During the university years I used to find the bus journeys that are 5-6 hours long boring, but now the journeys that are 20 to 30 hours long doesn't feel that bad. One of these long bus journeys brought us to the coastal city of Guayaquil in Ecuador after leaving the capital of Peru, Lima. After having a few hours of break here, we head on our way to Quito. After total of 35 hours bus trip, we reached to the second highest capital of the world Quito in a very early morning of a weekday that we again forgot which it was...
Quito is 25 kilometres to the Equator line and this is the main reason of its name. Quito means "The center of the world" in local language. In the past Ecuador was a colony of Spain for a long time and it's possible to see this effect. There are many cathedrals and churches around old town which were built by the Spaniards. The graves shaped as shelves which are also known as catatombs that are in the basement of La Basilica are also a kind of inheritance. It is possible to see La Basilica nearly from everywhere in the old town. It seems, Spaniards didn't come to South America only for the mines, they also brought their religion and language which they spreaded all around the continent. An important part of Ecuadorian people are black and these population is also based on the African slaves which are brought here by Spaniards to work in the mines. On the other hand the currency is American Dollars and I don't have a single opinion about why it is.
We didn't lose much time in Quito and hit back on the road to the north. Of course before that we had to have vaccinations again. We need a certification that proves we had the yellow fever vaccine while passing through Venezuela-Brasil border pass. In fact we had this certificate before starting the round the world trip but after these certificates were also stolen besides our passports, we needed them again. We had the vaccines while many young Ecuadorian mothers and little kid were staring at us. Afterwards we loaded our backpacks again and got on the bus to Otavalo which is a few hours away.
Otavalo is little city covered by high mountains. We reached the city in the evening therefore we spent the night in the city. Next morning, the square which we had our dinner previous night was full of people selling handcrafts. What makes this little city special is this handcraft market which the locals sell the products. After noticing the old ladies with their yellow traditipnal necklaces and black headings, we tought that we could buy some stuff but it turned out that we were wrong, the prices were really high. It seems the fame of the market already off this little city's limits. We bought a few little stuff and decided to keep going. We arrived the Colomian border in the evening, passed the bridge and stepped into Colombia. Time is running out, there are still a lot to see, there will be more long bus journeys...
By the way, we celebrated another birthday on the dusty roads after celebrating previous ones in Puerto Madryn, Minsk and Tokio. The old ladies were staring at us while we were eating the birthday cake in the middle of Otavalo Market. The guy with an empty stomach, the nightmare of the cats, my beloved travel mate and dear friend. Happy birthday, to many happy years, new countries, new continents...
Firefiles! Yes, these are fireflies! It is the first time I see them. How bright they are, like a star. I was a child the first time I heard about these flies and I always wanted to see them. The idea of spreading light from a fly body was so interesting to me besides this story was not enough convincing at that time. The books used to told about them but I could never manage to see any single one. Then where were they, why I couldn't see? I used to look for them in the gardens and fields but each time I failed. I used to keep the ones in a jar that I thought they were fireflies and expected them to blink at night time. No way, even it was difficult to see the fly itself. Thus since those disappointing days I had given up looking for these flies. Fortunately after years, at the anniversary day of our world trip, in Peru in a dark night, while walking on a narrow railway towards Aguas Calientes, I met these amazing creatures. I stopped and watched them for a while, with some reproaching. Little flies, you were here huh, just on the way to Machu Picchu...
Cuzco became the first stop in Peru. The ancient capital of Inca Empire turn into a tourist city nowadays, hosting 1.5 million of people every year. We were together with our Indian origined British friend Kushal during our trip in Machu Picchu. Cuzco is the closest big city to Machu Picchu but somehow it is still difficult to reach there. In order to get to Inca's mysterious city there are several ways. We chose the most convenient way for us among them. The most famous way to go to Machu Picchu is trekking on the "Inca Trail" which takes 4 days. After Peru government's regulations the number of people who can take this road is limited and it has to be reserved 6 months in advance. Besides walking on this path is not cheap, approximately cost is 500$ and it is obligatory to attend a group. Apart from this there are alternative Inca paths but they also have similar regulations. Therefore we didn't choose them. Before getting to Machu Picchu there is a town that needs to be reached, Aguas Calientes that means hot waters in Spanish. People usually stop over in this town before Machu Picchu. But somehow there is only railway to this town. And the train companies request for 140$ for a round trip to Aguas Calientes from Cuzco which only takes 3 hours one way. We thought this is kind of robbery and rejected to take the train. The last alternative was much more cheaper but long at the same time. From the mountain roads it is possible to take a bus to Santa Maria for 7 hours and after taking another bus to Santa Tereza for 1 hour following another bus journey to Hydroelectric for 1 hour. From here there is 2 hours of trekking and at last you are at Aguas Calientes. We chose this itinerary. There is nothing worse than going somewhere by tour. However we noticed that one tour agency was taking care of transportation and lodging expenses more cheap than we could cover. That's why we got this tour, wish we didn't do...
The road to Machu Picchu was not different than the death road in Bolivia. There are lots of sharp curves on the cliffs once I had to stop the bus because of my weak stomach. Thanks the women on the bus helped me. My son take these coca leaves you will be all right, I don't know if it was because of the leaves but after chewing them I felt better. Some tried to treat me with cologne but I like lemon flavoured cologne, that didn't work.
There is such a big demand by people to see this ancient city that people are forced to get what is served. The tour we bought showed this. The agency told us that they would pick us very early in the morning but they were so late. Therefore we had to walk at dark for 2 hours in the night time. The agency made people wait long time who were already tired and hungry all day. They made us lodge at the different hostels and with bad conditions. We already regretted that we came with this tour and our enthusiasm was getting less to see Machu Picchu. We told to the guide that we don't want to visit Machu Picchu by group and we arranged a meeting time and place for the next day. Due to organization failures it was already mid night. We had to get up at 4.30 am because it was necessary to get there early in order to see the city when there is less people. But around 5 am all people were awake at the town. Machu Picchu can be reached by 3 hours climbing from Aguas Calientes. But it has another alternative way if you pay 15$ for a round trip which takes 25 minutes. This is not the end, admission fee to the site costs 40$. If you wish to see the city from Waynapicchu hill extra 10$ needs to be paid in advance. The visits are limited by people per day. What a madness! After all of these obstacles we got a bus to Machu Picchu...
While waiting at the entrance gate I had forgotten what I was doing there. The gates opened at 6 am and the people dispersed in the old city. We first headed to Waynapicchu hill and climbed to the top in 1 hour from the steep old stairs. Machu Picchu city had to be somewhere down but there were only clouds. As the sun rised up the clouds moved around and the Inca's magic city appeared right there. I had already forgotten all negative things happened as soon as I saw this beauty. For me this was the best arheological site ever which integrated to the nature perfectly. The city has an altitude of 2430 meters and it was under our foots. Although the city which hosted around 750 elite Incas at those times is very old it was discovered at 1911s. We watched the scenery quite long time. The city was down and we wanted to see it from the inside. The beauty of the city becomes more obvious as you look at it from above, for me walking inside was not that impressive to be honest. As you get to the city's highest point and taking the Waynapicchu hill behind there appears the postcard views of Machu Picchu. Ok but who let these lamas walk around?
We were already tired. We got down to Aguas Calientes to meet the guide and the rest of the group. However there were only Chilean teachers waiting apart from us, there were no guide even. When he showed up after several hours he told that we had to spend one more night in Aguas Calientes because there were no train tickets available which would take us to Hydroelectric. The fun was going on. It was so annoying that some people from the group managed to take this train and we were supposed to spend one more night. The explanations of the guide was not satisfying. We slept one more night at the town. Our plan's were halted. We decided not to pay the rest of the amount that we had to pay which was around 100$. The next day as we came to Santa Tereza town the guide asked us to pay the amount. We wanted to talk with agency and not to pay this amount but they were so strict. Either pay and take the bus or stay here. We stayed there. And they didn't let our friends to get on the bus also, they were just traveling with us, they paid their money. The issue was between Başka Türlü Bir Şey and the agency. Anyway 4 of us were left at Santa Tereza! We were so pissed off. We had to get back to Cuzco by ourselves. The next day we have been to the agency to tell them we were not satisfied with the service we got. They didn't care this besides they asked us to pay the rest of the amount. How could we pay it, we were forced to stay one more night in another town and the previous they we were not taken to the bus. They insisted us to pay. Of course we didn't. They were uncomfortable from the situation because we were telling how bad the service was and other customers were hearing it. From this moment things got more complicated, they started shouting and they called the police, the fun restarted again...