I am scratching all over, where I was eaten by the mosquitoes. I smother the bites with antishistamine cream and resolve to use insect repellent tonight – despite it being horrible, I think the scratching is worse – I count 33 swollen and itchy lumps on my right arm and hand alone. One of the buggars got me on the end of my nose too.
Apart from this, I have a lovely day: swimming (not much sea life – only saw one solitary flounder), completely up to date with diary, listening to music, drinking beer, watching windsurfers bounce off the waves in time – hypnotic. The hazy hills of Turkey are visible on the opposite side of the strait. Warm sun, gusty breeze – occasional aeroplane coming in to land overhead – there’s a rhythm to it all that feels like holiday.
I’ve booked my ferry ticket for Wednesday – to Fethiye. Very expensive it was too –for a 90 minute ride – and the Port will demand €10 tax, so my fare will have cost me €62. I’ve also got my Turkish visa, so all set.
Off to find somewhere to eat/sleep now as the sun begins its fall towards the horizon. I’ve booked a massage (I find them so therapeutic) in Kalithea Mare Palace – and there appears to be a knitting shop near by in Faliraki, according to the Facebook map. I point Rowenna in an easterly direction.
I realise I’ve taken a wrong direction when, after climbing a hill, I reach a hairpin bend. On the map I’ve downloaded, the only road with a hairpin bend doesn’t go anywhere! I spot a small road turning off and taking me in the right direction so I carry on – which is good, because I hate turning back. The road is a serendipitous delight. As I climb higher an incredible view of the West coast opens up below me – lights twinkling all around – stunning. The spur I’m looking for is tucked behind one of those ubiquitous Greek churches – this one lit up outside and in – I guess (from the view) it can be seen for miles around. I take a quick peek at the painted icons before I head down: they all look very stern and a bit scary.
The small road is washed away into deep ruts by rain, and obviously unused by any vehicles. My shoes slither in the dust as I hold Rowenna, holding the brakes in a white knuckled death grip – it’s very steep. About half way down, I realise I’m on the wrong side of a deep crevasse. There’s no way back so I gingerly try to part lift, part push the front wheel over – disaster! The wheel turns sideways and disappears down the hole. There are bared tree roots in the hole which prevent her from disappearing completely, but my struggle to right her only makes it worse as the back wheel joins the front and she’s completely wedged and not budging. Realising I’m not going to have any hope of getting Rowenna out of this pickle without taking her baggage off, I start to remove stuff from the luggage rack. Fortunately, with just the tent, knitting and painting stuff off, I can haul her up. Both she and I are covered with dust. I carry on down into the dark, hoping there’ll be no more holes like that one, waiting to swallow me up. I’m relieved when I finally emerge onto a tarmacked road and head off in the right direction.
10miles or so later, I’m looking for water – as I’m completely out and gasping for a drink. I spot a small kiosk with three men sat outside and the glow of a fridge full of cans inside. I gesture to the fridge and get a nod from the largest man sat outside, so I grab a large bottle of water and a small bottle of ice lemon tea. “That’ll be €2 and have a seat” said the shop owner.
For the next half an hour we chat amiably, and I watch the man next to us knot fish hooks onto a long, long line. It’s taken him 10 hours to tie hundreds of hooks and I don’t know how they won’t get tangled once they’ve been used. At the moment, each hook is pressed into foam wedged neatly around the edge of a big plastic bowl with the nylon line coiled in the bowl itself.
I make a move to go, when the shop owner invites me to stay at his place – and I say yes with hardly any hesitation, merely relieved that that’s one thing I don’t have to think about – as it’s getting late. Alex tells me that I can leave my bicycle in the kiosk and we can pick it up again in the morning. He puts out cut up watermelon and the four of us share it and exchange stories. Alex tells me that his wife died two years ago but doesn’t seem to want to say anything more about how or even how long they were together. His English is very basic.
At around 10pm, Alex starts to shut up shop whilst I put the bags I’ll need into his car. As we’re driving along, he tells me he lives 5km from the shop, in the middle of nowhere. I suddenly realise I’ve made a HUGE mistake – a stupid mistake – a rookie error and really ought to know better. I am on my way to some remote place with a man I hardly know, with no family at home waiting for him. What was I thinking? Well, I obviously wasn’t thinking at all. It’s like all those groomed kids on the internet going off to meet a stranger – or the child who gets into the stranger’s car to get sweeties. Dear oh dearie me.
We turn off the tarmac onto a gravel road then off THAT road onto a dirt track and eventually arrive at a large, half finished, cement house on a hill overlooking the twinkling lights of two distant towns. There are indeed no neighbours. There are also dogs, all but one tied up to zip lines or chained or in kennels, barking fiercely (albeit wagging their tails too).
I’m outwardly calm but I can feel myself getting tense and my thoughts battering inside my head – running around like a hamster in a wheel.
Alex gets out of the car and shouts at the dogs in Turkish. They flinch away from me. As he’s unlocking the door, he says he lives downstairs and opens up to reveal most of the ground floor filled with boxes or a few bits of furniture pushed into a corner, covered in dust blankets. I realise, as he turns on those dim battery lights you can get to light up cupboards and garages, that he has no electricity. My alarm grows as he locks the door behind us – and I realise there’s no handle to open it again. I HATE being locked in.
We get downstairs – cement stairs with no rail and open sided - and there are two sofas with a coffee table – a shower room and loo with no door – and only one bedroom with one double bed in it.
“Oh” says I, “where am I going to sleep?”
“In with me, of course”, he replies.
“I don’t think so” I says and turn to go upstairs again – at which point, belying his huge bulk, he moves rapidly across the room and grabs my foot just as I’m about to turn the bend, and yanks it. I lose my balance, banging my head and scraping my arms and legs on the concrete as I fall forwards and slip back down.
OK I made that last bit up. But it was where my head was at. After he suggested we should sleep in the same bed and I’d made it clear that this really wasn’t on the agenda he opened the door so I could bring my bags in (then locked it again). I said I would sleep on the ground floor with my camping gear and he didn’t argue and went off to his bedroom after a shower. He gave me a big, clean fluffy towel and offered me the shower room, but there was no way I was going to have a shower with no door on the bathroom. I hardly dared go to the loo – though I did brush my teeth. I prowled around upstairs checking the large French doors that had no curtains and let in the full moon light. They were locked and again had no handles. Upstairs on the first floor were more unfinished bedrooms with French doors – and I was relieved to find one window slid open onto a balcony. I made a mental note of my escape route, should I need it, and resolved to keep my valuables with me if I had to run.