Friday, June 27, 2014

Almost Dying (Again) In Turkey

I was trekking on the Lycian Way, a 500 km (313 m) hike along the Southwestern Turkish coast.  I think I almost died on it.  It's not really conclusive I would have died, but the risk certainly went up.  The element of water has tried to kill me once.  Nearly Drowning at Sea.  Now the element of fire took its shot.

The Turkish path is generally terrible.  I've done treks in Germany and all over New Zealand.  The Turkish government hasn't 't maintained it so well.  When I hiked the path it was 104 F (40 C).  I got lost on the the terrible path because the bush outgrew it, you lose it, and in weather like that, you dehydrate quickly.

Even though I brought half a gallon of water with me, that, I drank it really quick, and even remember saving some, so I could keep hope alive that I had water.  But at some point, sweating profusely, I finished the water and nothing was left in the plastic bottle.

There was one point that it all seemed so hopeless.  The sea was below me.  There was no way to go forward.  The top of the cliff seemed impossible to get to.  No one was hiking on the path, and I knew no one would.  It's God awful I tell you.  Not the path.  But the fact that the trail wasn't maintained. 

I asked God to take my life because I was so miserable and desperate.  As I said, there seemed to be no hope.  I had run out of water.  No one would find me.  It was 104 F.  I was going to die, or at least I thought I would.  Perhaps someone would walk the trail randomly and find me.  But that was really not going to happen, at least for another few days.

It was like walking through a desert without any water.  You imagine that water will miraculously appear.  You hope if you crack a rock water will come from it.  You believe that it will rain.  You even consider drinking your own urine, but you have no urine because you have no water in you.

On your mind, all the time, is water.  You can feel the cotton mouth and the fact you can't sweat anymore.  And you know, you need water and the salt water in the sea is no good.  Every second you think about water.

You actually stop sweating.  I sweated so much, which I usually don't do, that my backpack was covered in salt crystals.  It was that hot.  Then a head ache starts pulsing through my head.

I had to make a choice.  Do something.  Do nothing and potentially die.  If I did nothing and lived, it'd be at the mercy of some hiker finding me in the middle of nowhere.  

Remember; I'm off the track.  So, it's most likely I'd die.  Even if someone hiked the trek, which no one was doing, how were they going to find me off the track?  Who's going to come looking for me?  People back home know I don't come back until mid July.

I could just see the headlines: Dumb American Tourist Dies On the Lycian Way Because He Didn't Have Enough Water.  I'm sure my "friends," like the Director of Parks and Recs, in Baldwin Park would be dancing with joy.  I just couldn't let any of this happen.

I decided to make my way to the top of the cliff.  So, I scaled the cliff, all the way to the top.  The plants hate you on this trail.  They all have thorns and spikes; so besides being on the verge of dying, I was being cut up the whole time.  My arms and legs felt like it was on fire from all the itching and cuts.

There was a miraculous tree on the top, though.  It looked different from all the other ones.  When I got to it, I hugged it because I knew it was leading me on the right path.  At the top of the ridge, I could walk on the boulders and stones now, away from the terrible plants - that blocked my way forward. 

From there, I was walked West, where I knew a village existed.  It was easier to walk because there were no thorny bushes blocking my path.  But from the top, I found the trail.  I followed it religiously. 

But the Turkish trail was so bad, I got lost again.  They seem to have started paths that go no where.  But this time, I got smarter.  I backtracked and I went on the other fork in the road.

After walking two more hours in the blazing sun, only thinking about water, but knowing I'd live (because I found the trail), I made my way back on the right track.  I eventually made it to a village of 200 people.  I owe the village my life.

There, a high school Turkish girl, brought me water, because I said, "Water.  Please."  She could see in my face I looked like I've been through Hell.  I felt like Hell.

She brought me a half gallon.  When you get that water, you don't care about anything else.  You'd give up your car, your money, whatever; to just have water.  That's how desperate you need it, and you know nothing else matters.

I drank it, in what seemed to be just a few gulps.  I drank it so fast I coughed and wheezed.  It went down the wrong hole.  Because I drank it so fast, I went dizzy.  My brain couldn't process that it was dehydrated and rehydrated in one instance.  (Apparently, on average it takes the brain anywhere 10-20 minutes to really understand the true state of your body.)

I was embarrassed to be in front of their house.  So, I walked a few yards, found some shade on the village road.  I sat down in the shade, but I probably would've collapsed if I stood up longer.  I napped for 30 minutes.  I could hear the village dogs barking.  I could hear the chickens clucking.  I thought of my home in Los Angeles and our three chickens.

As, I walked down the road, a Turkish village family invited me to their porch.  They gave me more water and fed me four cups of tea with sugar.  It was still scorching hot, and it was 4pm in the afternoon.

The family told me I could walk three hours to the next village.  I pondered whether I should walk or hitchhike.  On my way to the next point, some old Turkish man ran me out of his village, yelling at me.  He didn't even want me hitchhiking there. 

I managed to hitchhike my way to the biggest village, which is absolutely gorgeous and stunning.  It's a small fishing village off the coast of the Mediterranean.  It's really is gorgeous.  I love it.  I'm happy to be back with people.

I'm happy to be alive.

The next day, I thought through why this awful event happened to me.  Then I realized, I was unprepared.  All of my long distance treks have been in New Zealand and Germany, where the temperature are cooler.  This is the first time I've done a trek in such a scorching climate.  I've never experienced how fast your body loses water.  It's subliminal, really.  Also, I started the trek much too late in the day, 11am.  Also, I learned a valuable lesson on these Turkish paths.  If you end up nowhere - stop going forward.  Go back, and look for the other part of the road.  I should've known better; a German tourist told me he got lost once on the track too.  It's hard some times because the brush has overgrown and covered up the path, but it's there somewhere.  Also, I read a blog of an American lawyer who also ran out of water on this track.  It happens easily here.

I met some South African trekkers, and they told me they were going to walk the part I did but decided not too because it was too hot.  Obviously, they were a lot smarter than me.

Anyways, I've decided to stay in this fishing village for a few days.  It was 106 F today.  During that time, I blasted up the air conditioner in my room and just read.  What else could I do?  Go in the wilderness for another walk?

I've decided I will hike to the next village, however.  I can't live my life in fear.  I know better this time.  Anyways, I should get the dunce award for being unprepared or the scout award for making it.  I think the latter.  Unless you've been alone, in the wilderness, without any water, in the blazing sun, and you think you're going to die, I can tell you, it's hard to control the panic and fear and think rationally.  But I did it.  I didn't even freak out during the whole ordeal, though I can say, it was an unpleasant experience to say the least.  I'm back and alive and well and writing to you. 

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