a buddhist story

South-East Turkey, September 2017

A buddhist story

Four days ago I left the Turkish city of Van, headed north, hoping to make my way up to Iran, followed by Armenia. After 49 kilometers on the road, a discussion with a local man radically changed my hopes. We had spent a wonderful evening together, I had slept in his mosque, and we were now casually discussing over breakfast.

– Actually friend, what’s your route?
– I’m headed towards Dogubeyazit, through Muradiye. I should get there in 4 days. Then I turn right and make it to Iran
– Nope, impossible. That road is closed. It used to be safe, but it’s now a war zone. Even local transports take the long way around, adding hundreds of kilometers.
– Seriously? What can I do?
– I’m sorry, but your best bet is to turn back exactly where you came from. You have to do 40 km back towards Van, and then turn left. You will then get into Iran through a smaller road that is still open. I wouldn’t call it safe but it’s definitely better. Please do it. You are my friend. I don’t want you to die!

So I did those 40 km back, I turned left, and now I’m actually headed towards Iran. This means I spent 2 days of walking one way and 2 days walking back, with apparently no result. It sounds like an utter failure, but it was actually quite meditative. Have you heard the buddhist story of a monk asking his diciple to build a stone house on a hill? After endless effort, when the house is finally complete, he tells his disciple “I like your work. The house is very fine… but to tell you the truth, I’d like you to take it apart, and bring it to that hill over there. I just realized it would be nicer over there.”

Zion

Zion

After more than 3 months working here, I am finally walking out of Van tomorrow, and soon out of Turkey. I could not possibly disappear from this hostel without leaving a trace. Here is my trace. I will be gone, but Jah will live on. One love.

silence

A Life in Silence

My stay in Van, Turkey is lasting longer than expected, but not without reason. I made the kind of encounter that scarcely happens in a lifetime. That involves getting an insight into the speechless life of my dear friend Ангелина, learning Русский Жестовый Язык (Russian sign language), and learning to live silently amongst a society filled with noise.

I will be hitting the road in 6 days, towards Iran, armed with silence.

change of plans

Turkish Kurdistan, August 2017

A new road through Russia

My intial plan was the direct route through Asia, and it included Afghanistan. It would have been a real challenge. From accounts of the few people in history who have walked through the entire country, I’d estimate my chances of survival at 50%. This would also mean spending 2 months in war zones, and personally, I’ve had enough of getting shot at.

After months of painfully churning the question over in my mind and finding no alternative purely on foot, a simple discussion with a friend unlocked a whole new world for me: I learn there is a border crossing, open to foreigners, leading through the grey zones from China to Pakistan. This change of plans will add 4000 km to my route, 7 more countries, and a whole year on the road: besides the extra distance, this will add 5 months of working in Georgia to avoid being in Kazakhstan in the middle of winter, and a few months of working in China to give me the time necessary for my Pakistani visa. The road won’t be easy. It will include entire months crossing the deserts of Kazakhstan and 4500 meter high passes in the Himalayas. But I am now the happiest person on earth with a new solid plan allowing me to fulfill my dream.

lake-van

Kurdistan, July 2017
lake-van-1

Lake Van

I am finally a semi-permanent resident in the city of Van, Turkey. Crossing Turkish Kurdistan was no easy task: I had my share of death threats, of fears, of gunshots. I’ve slept everywhere from mosques to police stations, from beaches to dumpsters. But I am ok, my body in one piece, my mind recovering. I’ve now been volunteering at Van’s Backpacker’s Hostel for a month, living the local life. I have another 2 months here before making my way through Iran, when the weather will allow it. At 1640 meters high, the soda-salt Lake Van makes for a blessed exeperience, with cool and breezy weather even in the middle of July, when the plains are scorching hot. This is the perfect time to recharge my batteries, do my paperwork, find fresh new tires, fresh new shoes, and a fresh new mind for the 5000 kilometers awaiting me.

kurdistan

Kurdish Conflict Zone

I nearly finished walking through Turkey, which is by far the largest country I’ve ever crossed. I am now in the region of Kurdistan, which is by no means devoid of armed conflict between the Turkish Army and PKK rebels. Is it easy? No. Am I ok? Yes, by the grace of god. Do I still meet amazing people along the road, full of love and kindness? Absolutely.

cops are friends

South-East Turkey, May 2017

Cops are Friends

When a police car stops, it’s not to ask for my passport: it’s to ask if I’m ok. It’s not to give me a hard time, it’s to give me food. When they bring me to the police station, it’s not for interrogation, it’s for lunch. They ask if I have a tent, not to fine me but to make sure I’ll be ok at night.

Imray and Sekeria were two of those sweet-hearted officers. They even gave me a rose. “We stand for peace, just like you do with your white flag. Our very job is to maintain peace. In fact, you can document this encounter and show the world that we, the police in Eastern Turkey, are here for everyone’s well-being.” So here it is, I’m documenting this encounter, and with so much gratitude.

halfway there

Halfway there

Halfway through Turkey, and also halfway through my trip to India! Life is still just as easy as it was when I started. Since day 1, people have been telling me Of course it’s easy, but wait till you get further east! And here I am, further and further east… And still I don’t know what they’re talking about! Hurray!

container home

North-West Turkey, April 2017

Trustworthy

Yes it’s official, the world is trustworthy! It always gives you what you need, when you need it. Even when the situation seems hopeless. The only thing you have to do is trust it: it’s easier than it seems. I had pouring rain, heaps of snow, mud, slush, and freezing wind almost every night for a week. First, I worried. How in the world will I pitch my tent in this mess? But now, I trust. The world is taking care of me, because every one of those nights miracles appeared out of nowhere, like this abandoned Unicef shipping container which made a very dry and comfy home.

not alone

Northwest Turkey, April 2017
not-alone-1

I may be crazy. But not alone.

It’s ever-so-rare that anyone walks with me for more than a mile. Well this time, my brother Jonas walked 120 km with me as we exited Istanbul out into the Turkish wilderness. We slept all over the place and lived the real gipsy life! Of course everyone thought we were crazy, but we found the greatest respect in every encounter we made. Beautiful country, beautiful people.