To say this trip has been an adventure could be an
understatement! I warn that this post is a bit graphic!
We returned to Turkey on June 7th and hooked up with a group of riders from the U.S. These riders (two couples, two men riding on their own, two guides and a driver who would be following us in a truck) had been following the path we had taken prior to heading to Syria and Jordan and we would now explore Southeastern, Eastern, Northeastern and Central Turkey together.
We left Antioch, the city where the term Christian was first coined, heading towards Mt. Nemrut. This mountain, famous for its large mountaintop statues and incredible sunset views, was high on my list of must-sees. I was so looking forward to this destination and to the spectacular photos possible at sunset! A scrapbooker's dream come true!
En route, through fertile farming valleys and smiling farmers who were only too happy to drop their tools to wave at the procession of 7 bikes weaving through their roads, we stopped at a lookout point high atop a hill adorned with massive columns honoring the dead who had been buried in the nearby mounds so many years before. The columns, each adorned with an animal, were quite impressive examples of engineering. I decided to 'jog' up the hill a bit to capture the group amidst this beautiful scenery - great spot for a group shot, right?
Well, I made it about 25 feet before BAM!, I was heading head first for the ground. It all happened so fast that I don't even recall looking to see where I was about to land, hands outstretched and trying, unsuccessfully, to regain my footing. I hit the ground quite hard and felt an immediate pain in my left hand. As I turned the hand over I could see a rather large gash, full of gravel. I quickly tried to flick the gravel loose in hopes of finding the object that had caused the gash. However, as I lifted the recently created flap of skin on my palm, blood began flowing, quickly. I panicked, pressing the skin down as hard as I could, and called for my husband, ''You better get something to stop bleeding! Hurry!''
Within minutes I was sitting on the ground surrounded by DH, one of the riders and one of our guides, all trying to get a glimpse of the wound as they collectively cleaned my hand. I was getting quite sick to my stomach. They did what they could to stop the bleeding and clean the wound, and called for our truck to take me to the nearby (thankfully!) hospital. I sat, trying to recall the events of the last few minutes, and beating myself up for being so clumsy - how else could I have tripped so easily?! I needed to know what I had fallen on that could have caused such a deep wound. DH accompanied me back to where I had fallen and we found two large stones, a few inches apart from one another and perfect for cradling a large, jagged piece of a broken glass which sat sharp edges up. Apparently, I had tripped on a previous stone and had landed, palm open, on the glass, stopping my momentum with my thumb and hand bones against the rocks that cradled the glass. I would soon learn how much it could hurt to hit bone on rock.
Man, that explains the ever-increasing pain and swelling that was already happening!
I became lightheaded again and walked slowly toward our truck, which was just pulling up to take me to a doctor. Now I must admit that I was quite fearful of being attended to by a foreign doctor whom I would not understand and whose hospital's sanitary standards might not measure up to ours in the U.S. But, what choice did I have? None, I needed stitches.
Luckily for me, the hospital was only a few miles away and our Turkish guide was along to translate. As we entered a very simple building in search of anyone who could provide care, I noticed that the facility appeared to be clean, but had very little in the way of equipment. Man I was glad this was probably not life threatening and would only require cleaning and suturing, I hoped!
I was shown into a room open to the outside halls and containing little more than four 'gurneys' (I use the term loosely!) and a cabinet with a few supplies. Hmmm, did it really need stitching? The cute young nurse who approached me reached for my hand and asked what had happened. Our guide explained what had happened and showed her the piece of glass that I had retrieved (yes, I had planned to keep the only piece of upturned glass for miles on which I came to rest!). She immediately threw it into a nearby trashcan - how could she?! I looked into the can, in hopes that I could retrieve it (come on, you know you would have done the same!) after she had taken care of my hand, but decided that the contents of the can looked much more dangerous than assumed. There would be no recon mission of retrieval!
As the nurse attempted to clean the wound, I expressed through many sounds and gestures that it was not happening until she numbed my hand. She explained through our guide that she would do so as soon as she had cleaned it out and knew what needed to be done. She obviously wasn't getting the message and I returned with a demand that it be numbed...now!!! She reluctantly obliged and the relief from the intense pain I had been in for almost an hour was now gone. Thank goodness!
She set about lifting the flap of skin that had been created by the glass and I quickly decided it would be best if I became horizontal rather than faint! At that point my senses, no longer consumed by fending off pain, kicked in and I had the presence of mind to ask DH to take pictures! You Peas would have been so proud! DH gladly accepted his task, reminding me that 'my Peas would be expecting me to have pictures!' Man, he is well trained in the area of SBMs - scrapbook moments!
Although I could feel the pressure and pulling on my hand while she cleaned and then stitched, the absence of pain was wonderful and I laid quite peacefully, cool breeze blowing the curtains above my head. She seemed much happier to have me quiet and cooperative for a change! But, she did seem puzzled, and mildly irritated, with the flashes and clicks of the camera shutter! Who would want to take pictures of this?! LOL
A doctor stopped by to inspect and to give a few pointers on the sutures, which the nurse had been doing solo, and he commented, through our guide, that they looked quite wonderful. That's good, I thought! As I rose up to a bandaged hand and the still-absent sense of pain, I thanked
the nurse and doctor and asked what I owed them. Nothing, they replied. They were happy to help a tourist visiting their country!
Can you ever imagine that happening in the U.S., much less being taken care of within 3 minutes of entering an emergency room and not being asked for insurance or how you intended to settle your bill? Never!
So needless to say, the last few days have been quite uneventful as I have not been in much shape for sightseeing. We rode over 250 miles yesterday, my arm in a sling and hand bandaged (through hail and lightening!) - it was a long day, but nothing a good bottle of wine couldn't fix!
I will need to get the stitches out in 7 days (at another local hospital!), but am hoping the pain lessens before then...Ibuprofen is my best friend for now!
I do hope to have more 'travel' stories to share before we end our trip on the 24th, but this one-handed typing, on a Turkish-character keyboard, is quite challenging!
I hope you are all doing well.
Till next time, Güle Güle!
Thanks to all of you for your kind well wishes and appreciation of my sharing our adventures - it really gave me comfort and made me feel better at a time when I was feeling rather defeated.
The hand seemed to be doing well until yesterday when I noticed a swelling and redness, and extreme tenderness, around the stitches. This morning I cleaned it again, as I have been doing daily, and decided to open the end of the stitch line to see if I could find any infection. Well, Eureka...it was very infected! Yuk! Now you have to understand that I am great at doctoring other people and just love watching those gory medical shows where they show procedures in living color, but when it comes to my body, I get squeamish very easily. This morning's ''operation'' was no fun at all. And, hubby telling me that I could get gangrene (sp?) didn't help (he was trying to scare me into taking heavy duty antibiotics which make me very queasy!)! LOL So, I am now taking Cipro and am hoping to get some relief in the next 24 hours, important since the stitches were to come out tomorrow!
In spite of all this...
We have just arrived in Trabzon, a large city on the Black Sea Coast. Yesterday, a day we spent on our own, was one of the best days of the trip so far.
We started the day in Kars, an old town formerly occupied by Russia. The town, somewhat like the land that time forgot, is known for its butter, cheese and honey. Interesting place.
We then headed through verdant green valleys striped with rows of wildflowers in every color - pink, purple, cornflower blue and vibrant yellow. This was a photographer's dream, even if one could never do it justice!
As we made our way West, we encountered a beautiful lake that was the beginning of the area just south of the country of Georgia. The villages were so amazing: farmers out working their small plots of veggies; scarf wearing women washing and hanging their laundry and carpets (I am even more thankful for the washers and dryers unheard of here!), gaggles of geese protecting their territory; small kids playing games developed with nothing more than their imagination (no toys here!); rows of cow dung drying in the sun that would heat the homes at night and during the very cold winters; and mud brick homes with grass roofs that serve as a mounting plate for satellite dishes - Turkey is second only to the U.S. in number of hours of TV watched per day-sad! We could easily have spent hours just capturing these little moments of real life, but we had a lot of ground to cover and we wanted time to stop and picnic later in the day.
Since the systems here go down often, and are not loaded with Word where I could paste the text periodically, I will add more in the next post...
We soon made our way around the lake, toward the first of two mountain passes we would need to traverse to reach our hotel in Hopa, the last town on the Black Sea before entering Georgia.
As we climbed the green hills we noticed banks of snow, remnants of last winter's snow which had begun falling last September! We decided to stop to take a few pictures and I soon realized that we were sitting right next to a beautiful and diverse field of wildflowers, more incredible than any I had seen (and that's saying a lot considering that I shoot them everywhere we go!). As I started shooting, I noticed a small brook babbling from a pond made of melting snow water. It was such a relaxing sound that we decided to take a break here - the cookies I had stashed in my camera bag would have to suffice for our picnic as we had not yet picked up our food and we were miles from any stores or fruit stands!
DH took a nap on a hill next to the brook and I proceeded to snap away...two 256k cards later, I was getting my fill! While I was shooting I had noticed small critters, unrecognizable due to their speed, dashing under foot. What were they? Then, as I focused on another clump of tiny cornflower blue blooms, I got my answer: frogs! They were frogs! Man did this bring back memories of catching frogs in my backyard after a heavy rain - yes, I was a real tomboy! Of course I had to catch one and show DH! I am sure I was quite a site, trying to balance my camera and zig and zag in time with a very fast little guy! Finally, I grabbed him, but only because he was tuckered out. DH laughed when he saw my find, knowing how much I love frogs. He gladly snapped a few shots for me to commemorate my 'hunt!'
I placed the frog into the brook where he happily hopped upstream, back toward the pond which I would discover to be the source of the local frog community. The pond was teaming with pollywogs and large toads, all very sensitive to any movement above the surface of the water. This worked in my favor in terms of getting shots as they swam across the very clear water so fluidly, allowing me to focus and shoot. Man, this was heaven on earth for me - two of my favorite things: frogs and flowers! All that were missing were butterflies, and I'm sure they frequented these fields as the weather warmed.
While I was getting my fill of shooting, DH had been befriended by two local cow herders, young men from a nearby village who were spending the next two days grazing their cattle in this area. The three of them chatted, using our Turkish phrase book, a few words of language and lots of gestures. It was fun to watch and DH really enjoyed the experience, almost as much as the young men seemed to! We shared our cookies and took a few shots which we will send to the address they provided. After suiting up again, we said our goodbyes, but not before they shared their homemade bread with us...yum! Off we go!
As we rounded the next corner we came upon old wooden Yaylas, summer homes for the folks who live on the very humid Black Sea below. The homes, in various stages of disrepair, were collectively reminiscent of an old California gold mining town's abodes...abandoned!
Then, the moment of the day: we looked up to see the most incredible view of high mountain peaks covered in green, green grass and spotted with very tall pines, all grabbing the very steep slopes that shadowed each other - like the Austrian Alps, only even more intense! Amazing place! We stopped at the first opportunity to grab a few shots and as we pulled out a young woman yelled for us to stop - she handed me a bunch of daisies she had just picked and offered a welcome. Wow, what an amazing gesture of kindness!
As we wove our way down the hill, through several herds of cattle grazing along the roads, we spotted a cute little place right on the rushing river. Hey, let's eat! We were warmly greeted and enjoyed a lunch of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, fresh goat's milk cheese, home baked bread, and fresh trout caught in the river roaring behind us. Yum! As I sat waiting for Doug to request our bill, a young boy approached with his parents. When he spotted my helmet on the table, he whipped his head around in search of the bike that must be nearby. Hah, there it is, his eyes shouted! He immediately dragged his dad over to get a closer look and was quite taken with it. When Doug returned he offered to let the boy sit on the bike. His offer was met with extreme excitement that only increased as he tried on DH's helmet and made vrrooooommmm noises while gripping the hand grips! DH later told me that he was sure this young man was putting in a request for a bike as he sat there! It was great fun to watch from afar...such genuine joy in that little face. Soon we were off again...
We then wove our way through the river valley below. The river, class five rapids all the way, was incredible, winding its way through narrow crevices of solid rock. The sad thing is that the Turkish government is in process of building a damn for hydroelectric power that will turn the area into a lake, thus flooding the area, including the riverside homes, many of which had been there for ages. Sad for the occupants and for all who will never get the opportunity to see this amazing site.
We made only two stops before arriving at our hotel that night - one for fresh fruit from a roadside stand and one for gas and oil...and a bottle of red wine! What a perfect day!
On to more adventures...
I must start by saying what a comfort it has been to me to hear from the gals back home. I so appreciate your praise and words of comfort.
I spent the day yesterday working on the hand-draining it thoroughly and then cleaning it every 15 minutes. It was quite huge and inflamed, but I could not tell how badly because the only cleansing solution I had was Betadine, which is also red and masked the issue...until now. I went through 3 bottles of hydrogen peroxide yesterday, and have consumed 4 Cipro tablets. I think it's on the mend now, which is a real blessing as I need to have the stitches removed and really didn't want to have it cut open and re-stitched, starting the whole process of healing all over again.
We have a day off today in Trabzon and I am finally feeling well enough to visit the bazaar to do some shopping...yeah! Now you know a gal was down and out when she didn't have the energy to shop!
Tomorrow we are heading to Amasya, reported to be one of the prettiest cities in Turkey, and home of the old Ottoman half-timber houses. I am looking forward to walking the riverside area and doing a little more shooting.
The next day we head to Ankara, the capitol of Turkey and home to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, which we plan to visit (our museum going on this trip has been very low due to the vast number of sites to see and a rather full schedule of traveling).
Then we will head to Safranbolu, known for Helva, a Turkish sweet similar to the Italian nougat (with nuts) candy I so love! You can bet I'll satisfy my sweet tooth in this town! They are also known for wooden items, metal works and textiles-ooh, more shopping! I am really hoping to find some cool embellishments for my scrapbook here.
We then make our final stop before Istanbul in Bursa, a town known for the ancient art of shadow puppetry. Each year they are host to puppeteers from all over the world who provide shows and compete - unfortunately not while we are there. There is, however, a theatre that hosts shows several times per week and, if we can make it there in time on Saturday, we will attend - a real treat for a gal who, as a child, used to hold puppet shows for the neighborhood! I am also planning to visit the store of the man who makes and sells the specially made puppets used i the theatre - I would love to have one for my office!
Safranbolu is also well known for its silk trade and the place where up to 14,000 villagers participate in selling the cocoons produced by the silk worms they raise. The trading area is housed in an old caravanserai, which you might remember from a previous post as the place where the camel caravans traversing the old Silk Road would rest and spend the night, under protection from raiders and thieves. Since the locals and travelers from all over trade in both June and September, we are hoping to witness a session of this unique trading experience.
Finally, on June 21st we will arrive back in Istanbul, where we will have only two and a half days to get our bike to the shipper; visit both Hagia Sophia and the Museum of Islamic Art, which houses a great collection; and to visit the Grand Bazaar, the last opportunity to load up on Turkish goods and presents for family and friends. And of course, then we have to pack it all up for our trip home. It's gonna be a busy few days!
I have to admit that I am ready to come home, but that does not negate the fact that this has been an amazing experience and we feel so very fortunate to have had the time and resources to make it happen. We are truly blessed.
I will try to share a few more stories before heading home, but imagine that the days will be quite packed with riding, seeing a few more Turkish sites, experiencing more local traditions, and making connections with local people-the best part of the trips by far!