Friday, July 31, 2015
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Before leaving Turkey we decided to take a four day trip to Cyprus, knowing that it might be a while before we would be so close to the island again. Since flights from Istanbul only fly directly to Northern Cyprus, and are a far cheaper option than the journey to Larnaca, our choice on which part to visit was made simple.
I had been to Limassol and Nicosia in my childhood, and the only real memory I have of the trip was the clarity of the sea and the patterns on its submerged rocks, ever-changing shapes made by golden sunlight twisted by waves. I remember how some of my aunties and cousins fled to the island during the war in Lebanon, and lived there for a time.
Northern Cyprus was always a bit of a mystery. No one I knew ever spoke about it except to claim that it was run-down, dirty, and rough; that its inhabitants were as one person put it (to my disappointment and shock), "behind". I don't know why their perceptions were so negatively coloured, but I ignored them, eager to see for myself what it was really like.
I admit that I have read so little about the history of Cyprus, but I have gathered that as in much of the region's history, it was violent, bloody, and heartbreaking— divided land, divided people, exiles and refugees, homes taken. There was a lot I saw on this trip that unsettled me, but rather than focusing on the negative, I would like to express how beautiful Cyprus is, and how lovely the people on both sides are.
As it was summer, the grasses had dried a beautiful ochre, and the sea was a deep blue. The relentless drone of cicadas pulled the very thoughts from my mind, and the air smelled of earth and salt.
Friday, July 24, 2015
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
I cannot remember what time we met Mustafa at the front door of his house, but I can tell you it was at some ungodly hour of the morning when even the rooster was still asleep. He excitedly jumped into the passenger seat of our rental car, and guided Pedro to drive to a place that can only be described as a rental company's worst nightmare— ok, we've done worse on previous trips— and that time with the volcano was with our own Atilla The Krill Mobile (you shall be missed).
This was going to be the day. We would not accept any less than one Caucasian Grouse, and Mustafa assured us that yesterday he saw plenty up there in the pastures doing their thing— çok var! I was optimistic until the rain began— and it wasn't a heavy rain, but that insistent, nagging rain that feels like the very air is a thin veil of wetness. My dutiful boots, which served me so well in hiking through five years of Nepal's monsoons, decided that this was also their day. I squished up the mountainside while testing to see if I had any telepathic powers by mentally calling the grouse. Maybe it would work.
In a flurry of heavily accented Turkish, Mustafa suddenly called out to us, the only words I picked up were Dağ horozu and iki tane— Caucasian Black Grouse, and two. There they went!
This is sadly the best photo we have of the six grouse we saw on this trip, as my little camera can't handle distance nor rain. We each took turns watching a very smart-looking male fan around the female with his brilliant red eyebrows and puffed chest— it was both marvellous and comical. Birds have developed a myriad of absurd ways to attract each other (just think of those crazy Birds-of-Paradise!)— but then again, don't we all look a bit silly when flirting?
Wind and rain prevented us from going any further, and so we made our way back to the car, thrilled and soaking wet, our shoes caked in mud. Mustafa kindly invited us to his home for a breakfast of fresh eggs, milk, and butter— and a hot stove to warm our bones.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Monday, July 20, 2015
Sunday, July 19, 2015
As we promised the mythical Mustafa last summer, we returned to Sivrikaya this May to hire him as our guide into the high altitude pastures in search of the Caucasian Grouse, which we failed to see on our two previous attempts. We had four days in the Kaçkars, and we were geared up with more weather-appropriate clothes this time, ready to climb as high as we needed to, determined to see that bird.
As soon as the hills before us were coloured in every shade of green imaginable, I felt the tension of a city of 14 million leave my shoulders. The pollution, noise, traffic, and crowds of Istanbul fell so far away...
We might as well have been on the other side of the world.