Sumela Monastery

June 19th – Happy Juneteenth Bryan.
I am very tired. Very, very tired. Yesterday I pushed myself beyond what my sane mind can normally handle. It is strange riding alone because there is no one to confide in, no one to react to one’s suffering. So, one is able to push beyond the limits of endurance of a sane, social man. I became very somber at one point. I was in great pain by the end of the day too, I couldn’t stand up off the seat without involuntarily uttering sounds of agony. For some reason, I kept going. I stopped in Şivan for groceries and a baker gave me orange juice and a loaf of bread for free, which saved me about a half a dollar, but I appreciated it. I think it was the vacant look in my eyes. I rolled out of town and climbed another good hill before finding a great campsite, which I needed, for my mind was deteriorated. I camped in a forest for the first time in three weeks, a pine forest! That smell brings me back to life, I feel like I am at home again among the pines. I took it easy, relaxing, happy to be off the bike. After a good night’s sleep I lazed about all morning, seriously considering a rest day, but I knew there was too much daylight to spend here. I didn’t break camp until about ten-thirty, and prepared myself for another grueling day. It was not to be though!


I did have a sizable climb in the morning, but after that I popped down into a river valley and drifted along for most of the day on a gently descending slope!

This is just what I needed. I popped out on a main road and loaded up on provisions. There was a good headwind here, but the road was still flat. I went through three long tunnels, each about a mile long, which I hate. I really don’t want to die in a tunnel. After these the road headed up again, which was fine, because there is no good camping in a narrow valley. Refreshed, I hit the hill with gusto. But it is a big hill, the biggest climb I have seen since Italy.
June 20

I camped in one of those little patches of trees downhill from the road.
I am still on this hill. My legs gave out before I found great camping, but I am concealed from the road at least. I am hugging the edge of a cliff off a turn-off, a tiny patch of trees on a cliffside the road hugs. Good enough for me, I was too tired to care. I am 50 kilometers from Sumela monastery, wondering if I really want to go to Kars this trip. I have to return to Turkey anyways someday, there is so much more I need to see! Maybe I will add Kars to that list along with Troy, Ephesus, Antalia, Mt. Nemrut, and Mt. Ararat. I really need a whole trip for the Adriatic coast, I missed Southern Greece and Italy too. They’ll be there, as far as I know.
I took off up the hill feeling unusually cheery, cheeky, plunk, mordant, whatever you want to call it. I’m not sure why, for I brutalized my legs and woke up to rain. Well, my legs I am not really worried about, nor the rain, it is a good excuse to stay lying down. I was given a novel by a fellow from New York in Istanbul and I finished it this morning. It is a New York Times best seller and I will admit that once I overcame the nauseousness elecited by the overuse of flowery metaphors I was quite entertained by it, though it was a waste of my time. A novel is only justified as a means to sneak in wisdom and social commentary on an unwary audience, those who have no patience for undiluted philosophy or valuable observation, those who must be tricked into taking medicine. This book, a solid 500 page tome, has about half a page of anything insightful. All a novel needs is to be entertaining. To be entertaining, it only needs sex, suspense, and only a little tragedy and comedy delivered in an obscene, grotesquely self-indulgent style that was picked up in that creative writing class you took back in high school. Really, it is like pornography, you just patiently absorb the reaults of someone playing with themselves. That’s all most of you like to read anyways, so don’t be offended by my drawing attention to your perversion, it’s hypocritical. But we are human, and humans are natural hypocrites. I still read the damned thing and enjoyed it, even though it was like playing with Duplos again. (Jaded erudite alert)
See, I told you I was feeling cheeky today. I don’t even do this to be passive-aggressive, I do it because it is easy and entertains me greatly. The funny thing is, the book was hard to write. I have half a mind to write a novel myself, because I have yet to be able to write a book, which is a life goal of mine. My problem is that I have been trying to write a good book. Maybe I should start with a novel instead. That’s where the money is anyways! No one wants to read heavy stuff, television has just about rotted that part of our brains right out. Still, “tis’ easier to criticise than create.”
Another strange tweak to my day aside from brainstorming my breakout novel is my attire. The linen breeches and shirt I have been wearing for days were disgusting by the time I called it quits- linen don’t wick away sweat like synthetic. So, I left them out to air, and hopefully get rained on. They did get washed, heavily, this morning. Not only are they soiled by almost any standard of hygeine, but thwy are also soaked, and it is a bit cold. So, without any other options, I donned my tights again and my least favorite shirt, for I jave taken to carefully safeguarding a shirt and shorts to wear when I stink my way into a hostel and gather my laundry for washing. I have gotten stuck in some pretty strange outfits, or find myself garbed very innapropriately for the weather. So, yesterday I rode in linen, like Jesus, looking very much the part of a mystic who has been long on the road, his clothes, like his identiry, having been shredded and new attributes attained that reflect the nature of his journey and the land he travels through. Today I look like I was air dropped straight from a Planet Fitness in some ritzy neighborhood. I got fewer honks today.
This is actually nice because when every third car honks at you it really disturbs your revery. Frequently I about crap my pants at some of these fearsome horns, it is taking hours off of my life! I am also getting a little bit tired of talking to people. For one, I have to struggle through Turkish again and again, whereas for them it is a unique occasion. I have also realized that I am usually interesting as an oddity and a rarity, like a pokemon people try to collect, or an object to temporarily dispel the monotony of their day. So it is not really me, what kind of person I am, but more of a circus act. I am in a video taken by some Saudi Arabian guy, who took it after he heard I was American. As I rode off, others were also asking for videos, I should start charging! So, I tend to ignore people more.
I also get pretty feral after a few days alone, I begin to trend antisocial. Strange occurrences. When I am by myself, I am able to think long and hard about specific aspects of myself, my life, humanity, or the universe. Usually my thoughts reach out beyond an anthropocentric view and into the realm of what some might call “God.” I contemplate the nature of time and consider how time is a line crossing a plane on another dimension, that our line of time is intersected at every moment by lines of eternity, and that we really change the world with each decision we make, deciding which path we take through a plane of potentialities… I try to imagine what the fifth dimension is like. Or sometimes I just think about ants and gnats, contemplate a rock formation or the channels cut into a dirt bank by the last rain. Perhaps I simply smell the perfumes of the plants and flowers as they waft in on the breeze, or lose myself completely in the climb.
My mind is much fuller of Christian symbolism than I thought, or even prefer. I think about angels, demons, chains. I think about Jesus in the desert, being tested by the devil. I think about why anyone should travel, and I keep thinking, “The devil is in the desert.” One need not go far to finds deserts though, there are plenty all around us, and even more within us. What is nice about travel, aside from a firsthand perspective of more of the world, is that there are no excuses. All I have are time and quietude, no responsibilities. My world is emptied of distractions, but it is filled to the brim. Nature abhors a vacuum, and when an individual finds a desert, they fill it with their being, people it with angels, demons and gods, their compressed lives unwind and stretch out, sometimes revealing things once hidden within the folds. So I get absorbed in my emptiness, it is like a giant workbench. I spread out, and start sifting through the clutter. So, when a fellow slows down or stops to stare, sometimes I ride by, quite busy, working intensely.
I sometimes wonder who’s next after the demons are trampled.
Okay, maybe a little too much honesty for one day, but I have experienced some very strange states out here, and I wonder sometimes if I am not only opening up as a being, but also accruing more secrets, becoming more distant… Really, it is not for me to say. Que cera cera. I do what the day requires and see what tomorrow brings.
I am glad to be alive today. I finished my big climb, which was topped off with a long tunnel. I then descended through a beautiful mountain valley, in which I had to pass through four more tunnels all over a mile long and very narrow. I hate tunnels and I would be very disappointed if I were to die in one. I don’t want to die closed off from the sky, in a darkness only the depths of the earth or a windowless room can manifest. Maybe that novel is getting to me huh? I’ll read a few more and then my style will be on point.
It was not long before I hit the turnoff to Sumela Monastery. I found camping gas in town, which I was very happy to find! Difficult to locate. The road up to the monastery was beautiful and not very steep, to my surprise. I was hardpressed to remember that I am in Turkey, not Oregon. Here I am on the coast of the Black Sea, riding through a mountain valley with elderberries, rhodedendrons, stinging nettle, alders, brachen ferns, blackberry briars, queen anne’s lace, and honey clovers growing along a creek with rock outcroppings jutting out of a mixed deciduous and coniferous forest above me. I can’t believe how similar the flora is! I am in a similar latitude I suppose. I wonder what it will be like when all the vegetation becomes unfamiliar. I pull up to a toll booth like we have for our National parks and get waived through for free. It starts getting pretty steep as I near the monastery. Soon enough, I am at the entrance. There is a restaurant and a sign for a footpath. There is also a sign for a road, 3 kilometers to the top. Well, I don’t want to leave my bike down here, so… up we go!


I

t gets steep real quick. I have to stop every hundred feet and I begin to think seriously about how silly it woukd be to die from my heart exploding. Only a fool would ride to the top on a loaded bike, but I did it. I rode every bit of the way too, just to say I did. This, I would not recommend to friend or foe, it was stupid. It felt much worse when I encountered this sign:


Son of a bitch. I just damaged my legs and risked my heart, for what? I jad read online that rennovations were underway, but I had been told by a few locals that it was open! Google also, showed its hours of operation as if it were open, but who trusts that? Defeated and very sweaty, I turned around. I was snapping some pictures from afar when a guy stops his car and offers to take some pictures of me! Well, what a chap! Now I have a picture of me and my bike that I didn’t take myself!


This is where the people started asking for videos.
I rode back down, gliding smoothly over the same road I labored up. I stopped at a little booth off the side of the road where I was immediately offered tea. I sat and chatted, exhausted. I was getting a little shivery and the tea helped a lot. I had stopped to inquire about a pair of pants, which I ended up buying. I really need a good outdoor shop and I hope I can find one in Georgia, but these pants are cool, comfy, and light- my new hostel pants! These guys threw in a magnet for free. Finally, a little recognition! Free bread, free admission to the park, and a free magnet! All this hard work is starting to pay off! Maybe it’s my new “too cool to care” attitude, which is really just the humility of fatigue and the wear-and-tear of the road.
I splurged on a hotel room- it was 10 euros- and had myself a good shower. Now I am bombarding you with blogposts, some of them irreverent and cheeky! Well, soak it in. I am developing a patern, whcih is total abandonment inbetween bouts of verbosity that are toilsome for me and possibly vexing and ungraceful for you.
Well, it’s not exactly a money maker for me. I’m out here making memories and the writing will always come second. I have met a lot of friends here in Turkey, by the way. It is also something new to me; Europe seems like child’s play to me now. We’ll see what the future holds, it’s going to get a lot stranger.
For now, toodle loo and with love from off the deep end.

Published by: bipedalgunnar

This is a blog about my trip across Europe and Asia. I am back in the States now, and turning this sequence of unedited, flurried and often poorly documented posts into a book, and hopefully a good one. That is proving to be a piece of work, but I am eager to do it. Now I'm back to work, trying to learn a thing or two about welding, get a career opportunity secured, and climb some rocks when I have a chance. Hope you enjoy it, but the book will be better *wink*.

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