We might be sitting in our sixth or seventh car who allowed us to cover todays distance, a decent hundred miles. At the foot of a cliff above the water, the immediate surroundings are beautiful. It is about to get dark on the meandering road, perfect timing to enjoy the last ray of the burning sun bouncing his flaming color on the Aegean See. I jump off the car and wave goodbye. I drop out my bag Penance for the night, take off the additional part of my body, aka hiking shoes, go snoop around for a way to reach the cooling water and call it a day.
Well, I guess things do not always turn the way you want them to… and after 32 days of an unpredictable journey I was probably getting a bit too used to the providential side of the unexpected, and not so much to the downside of it. All the people I had the chance to meet so far brought some good and always helped going forward, but not today. Today was a turning point and before I could even dip a toe I was back on track, fully harnessed, walking on a dark road right along the cliffs leading my empty stomach to nowhere. Dammit.
What the heck just happened? We established as a rule a long time ago to never, ever take the road at night and here we are, walking behind the flickering beam of a too weak headlamp, seeking for some help. Heading north means following the fenced field of an endless military zone but I know there is not a soul for miles if we go back south. Weird feeling than to be trapped in such a wild place right in between sea and mountain. No way out, no side roads, no one around; our salvation will have to come from our legs, walking, walking despite the hunger, walking despite the exhaustion, walking away from the stalker.
When you decide to travel the way we do – hitchhiking, camping, hiking – you make the well aware choice to rely on the good will of others and to spend ninety percent of your time with people you don’t know. But at the end of the day, they are the ones who do decide to reach out and offer some help even when you are not asking for anything. This is the kind of generosity I have been amazed to witness so far, the free one, unsolicited and spontaneous. But now things are getting a bit hedgy, at night, on the road, alone, we have to SEEK for help, and that’s a whole different story when you do need people in these remote area. That night I am experiencing vulnerability and potential threat for the first time of the trip. Knowing there is someone out there, spying on us for some unknown reason with no one else around is simply freaking me out. It could be for our little money, it could be by obvious curiosity, no risk is willing to be taken, he is the one person we don’t want to deal with right now.
We reach a door. It is a closed campground but there is some light coming out from the house: Hurrah! A place to finally stop and seek refuge. At the door stands a wide middle-aged Turkish patriarch with a gold tooth, strong jaw, sunken-looking eyes and an apparent repellent personality. After looking at us from top to bottom in a very skeptic almost disgusted manner in an intense moment for thought, he shakes his head, turn his back and leave. His wife seems a bit concerned about my apparent insistence for help, but she keeps looking back and forth at him going away and me standing here shaking her arm. I take the opportunity of apparent confusion in her mind to perform an over enlivened imitation of the hidden stalker who forced us to run away, and it works. Her expression goes from anxious to amused and she finally screech to the boss she is setting us up on the campground. Relief. Tent. Food. Sleep.
It is cowardly by a bright day that I realize that maybe; the potential danger was not too real. But whatever, in those unknown sensitive situations of large exposition, you do listen to your guts. After all we are some kind of animal wandering in the jungle of the world, so what a better place for our instinct to actually improve and express themselves? None that I know of. Also, I get to observe the high level of correlation existing between my behavior and the one of the people we met that night. It is very obvious and full of good sense: If you are scared, you scare people. They don’t want you to spread your fear, may it be rational or not and they have no interest either for your troubles to become theirs. It is nothing about being generous or not anymore, it is about being safe and instinctive, so don’t freak out so they won’t.