Retire Mechanical engineer. Student at California State university Channel Island studiyingAbout Me

July 26, 2015

Visit to My Village - Part Four

It had been six days since I arrived the village. Each day was sunshiny in the morning and rainy in the afternoon. Every morning I went walking by myself, covering all the fields to the north of the village.

I kept saying to myself that I was going to do my climb, but I became more nervous that the rain would never stop, and I would not be able to fulfill my dream of hiking the two summits.

The more I talked about it, the more worried Mother became. It was her belief that I should not go hiking in the mountains by myself because she knew there were bears everywhere.

Without my knowing, Mother called my elder half-brother, Nevzat, telling him of her concerns. He, in turn, called a good friend, who is also a distant relative, and asked him to accompany me into the mountains. Hakan is the name I have always called him, but his real name is Hasan.

One afternoon he came to visit, and, as usual, brought his wife, who took over the little chores, making cay and preparing whatever Mother had scheduled for meals that day.

Hakan is nearing seventy now, skinny, and has a long white beard. He is an expert in mountain hiking, knows the areas where the wild animals are, and also carries firearms. He is a man who can live in the wilderness for days without any convenience, not because he was trained, but because he loves the mountains.

He is known to be very honest, never involves himself any kind of village gossip, has a good sense of humor, and is happy by himself exploring the wilderness. Everything about him is very positive, and he helps anyone who is in need. But, I knew that if someone crosses him, he would not be too kind, either.

We talked of how I wanted to hike the mountains and Hakan gave his promise to go with me.

"But I want to hike all the way to both summits," I said.

"How do you plan go there?" he asked.

"I will walk. I do not want any vehicle or horse."

"Yes, but show me how you plan to walk, there are many ways to get there."

"I will leave in the morning through Kizilbas, then through Yampugari and then climb upwards in a zig-zag manner."

He laughed. "But there is a thick forest, almost as thick as a jungle and you have to clear that jungle before it is barren land again. Once you get in the jungle, you will lose your orientation and you will not come out of that jungle by the end of the day. Are you planning to camp overnight?"

"You are trying to scare me and my mother is scaring me enough with her talk of bears. Now you are telling me I will not be able to find my own way. I am grown man."

"Grown, yes. Experienced climber, no."

"I am going to try it anyway."

He smiled and looked at my mother. They exchanged a nonverbal agreement.

"I will take you there." Hakan said.

"Thank you, but I do not want to impose on you."

"Now! Mountains are my world, so to speak. As soon as the weather permits, we will be on our way to the mountains."

I turned on the weather channel to see what the weather would be for the coming week. Luckily, the forecast indicated it would be clear by Saturday, and we set our plans.

I had my back pack ready with all my essentials, including toilet paper and plenty of water.  I borrowed my younger brother’s survival knife, which, inside the handle, included a fire-starting gadget and a compass.

Mother made sandwiches, and packed sweet candies, which I took out, as I do not eat sweets.

Hakan arrived with another relative, Ali, who, upon hearing we were going camping, asked to join us.

Hakan came fully equipped, including a seven-pound rifle, which he wanted me to carry.

I did not protest, but Ali, who is about the same height and weight as me, suggested that the rifle would be too much to carry along with our other packs.

Hakan did not protest, left the shotgun, and instead, took his axe and his cane. It seemed to me that cane was a little heavier than usual cane.

We left early on that chilly June day. The morning mist was about to clear and the sun's rays pierced over the mountains into our valley. The three of us were on our way to Gufara. Ali lived in the village during the summers and was as clueless as I was as to where we were heading.

Hakan led the way and we followed the dirt road wide enough for four-wheeled vehicles with thick forests on both sides of the road.  Hakan was always ahead of us and Ali and I soon found we could hardly keep with him.

It took us three-and-a-half hours before our expert guide said we could stop for break; a very nice spot, with a large volume of crystal-clear ice-cold water coming out of the ground.

All around was a grassy area and big boulders, interspersed with tall spruce and pine trees, and wild plum trees with plums ready to pick if you like to eat them.

I could see in Hakan's face the acknowledgment that, I know this place, and I am the caretaker.

We sat on the slopes of the very mountain we were about to climb. In this spot there was a sufficient level area to sit down but the remaining of the area sloped downwards.

I could see the silvery stream of water as it followed its natural way on to its home. Looking up, were much larger boulders, aspen trees intermingled with the dense jungle and overgrown grass that Hakan had talked about. I could see nothing beyond the thick mist still covering the upper areas of the mountain.

Hakan got up, ready for us to be on our way. Ali and I followed him as we trudged through the increasingly dense area. Hakan knew this place from his memory, but I did not know how, as everything was covered with tall bushes and tall grasses.

Hakan occasionally stopped and whistled. At one point we all stopped and Hakan fired his cane. Ali and I looked at each other, surprised to know that Hakan's cane was a shotgun. He reloaded and we continued on.

Hakan explained that wild boars and black bears might be close by. He stopped and inspected a pile of fresh dung from a bear, the dung filled with berries and plum seeds. As we continued, I practiced whistling without my fingers in my mouth. I was rusty, but after a few tries, I got it.

"Ahoooyyyy!" I shouted. Hakan had his own shout, but Ali did not participate in yelling.

It took another hour and a half before we cleared the thick forest. Just when I thought we were safe, Hakan explained that coming face to face with bears was even more likely in this high open area. We were cautious to avoid any danger, keeping a safe distance between myself and Hakan, with Ali behind me.

We came to a very rocky area, filled with ancient boulders. Hakan cautioned both of us to watch where we were stepping.

"I do not want to carry either of you home, if you slip and break a leg."

We stopped twice more before we finally reached the summit where it was quite windy. From this vantage point we looked across to the other summit and down the side of the mountain to our valley far below.

I was surprised to see at this elevation there was a long man-made wall along the ridge.

Hakan explained that these were the trenches that the soldiers had dug during the Turco-Russian war. As I stood there, mesmerized, I wondered how they carried their weapons all the way up here.

And here we were, sitting, resting and eating one of the shelters built by soldiers over 120 years ago.

Part Five