J OUR­NEYS: THE S P I R I T OF DIS­COV­ERY Turk­ish road movie

Fast-talk­ing mav­er­icks ap­pear around ev­ery cor­ner on a trip through Ae­o­lia, writes Ian Robert Smith

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

HE boy has the lean and hun­gry look of a hustler. His eyes are hooded, his base­ball cap tilted. He couldn’t be a day over 15 but he car­ries him­self with the jaunty con­fi­dence of your lo­cal MP on polling day. My friend,’’ he says, where you want to go?’’ The ques­tion is like a mantra in Turkey, ut­tered by every­one from zeal­ous minibus driv­ers to young men on the make and in­vari­ably ac­com­pa­nied by In­shal­lah’’, or God will­ing’’, which is hardly re­as­sur­ing. As in God will­ing we’ll make it,’’ says my girl­friend Jo, a born un­be­liever.

Quite a few don’t. Make it, that is. There are reck­less driv­ers whom, some­times, not even Al­lah can save. Ini­tially, this jaunty ex­u­ber­ance fig­ures lit­tle in our ad­ven­tures on Ana­to­lia’s north Aegean coast, where we are moved by Gal­lipoli and, pos­si­bly be­cause of hav­ing re­cently seen the film with Eric Bana, mys­ti­fied by Troy.

But later, as we ven­ture south into the re­gion known in an­tiq­uity as Ae­o­lia, a his­tor­i­cally rich lo­cale of olive groves, grain fields and pine-cov­ered hills clutched be­tween sea and moun­tains and car­ry­ing a pleas­ant whiff of ly­ing off the beaten track, fast-talk­ing mav­er­icks ap­pear around ev­ery cor­ner, trans­form­ing our jour­ney.

In­deed, the great thing about trav­el­ling in Turkey is that when you seek ad­ven­ture, you usu­ally find it. In the mar­ket town of Ay­vacik, en route to As­sos, a missed con­nec­tion looks like strand­ing us for the night, un­til the boy ap­pears. Un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances I’d prob­a­bly send him pack­ing, but the truth is, we are a lit­tle des­per­ate. The boy wants ($34). I ask him if he’ll take No prob­lem. It’s like par­tic­i­pat­ing in a Turk­ish road movie. Turk­ish pop mu­sic, a bale­ful omen, war­bles on the ra­dio. Be­side me, I feel Jo tense up as a rick­ety flatbed, top-heavy with hay bales, ap­pears up ahead. I catch the boy’s eyes in the rear-vi­sion mir­ror as he steps on the pedal and the car leaps for­ward. We pass the flatbed in an er­ratic arc that car­ries us over the shoul­der of the road, rais­ing a hail of stones and cin­na­mon-coloured dust.

Soon af­ter­wards, on the as­cent to As­sos, the car dies, and de­spite the boy’s apolo­gies we are left to walk into town in swel­ter­ing af­ter­noon heat. Sweat pours down our faces. The ci­cadas in the olive groves are deaf­en­ing. But then, draw­ing level with the up­per town, we find our­selves high above the Aegean, gaz­ing out across the Gulf of Edremit. On its glis­ten­ing sur­face, co­cooned in haze, the Greek is­land of Les­bos ma­jes­ti­cally hov­ers.

It is one of those mo­ments when life seems won­der­ful, trans­formed, al­though, as Jo re­marks, We’ve still got to reach the bot­tom of the hill.’’

As­sos is di­vided be­tween an up­per town called Behramkale, which crouches against the land­ward side of the ridge, and a glitzy sea­side coun­ter­part. Be­tween them, a third As­sos, the an­cient one, cov­ers a burnt­look­ing hill­side: a sprawl­ing ne­crop­o­lis full of over­turned sar­cophagi, walls you would have to be Her­cules to scale, and a seaward-fac­ing the­atre.

We are still mar­vel­ling when we hit the lower town, which re­sem­bles a post­card. Caiques ride at an­chor on a

Il­lus­tra­tion: Tom Jel­lett

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.