`The worst thing about camping is . . . `. Andy paused. We all waited. It was crowded in the pub. `Camping!`
The thing is, he was absolutely right. Our travels on horseback would be much less daunting if we could look forward to having a roof over our heads, and the horses too. So far this September in western Turkey has been the wettest in years. There have been floods in Istanbul. At least 32 people have died. For the last several days, there has been rain during some part of every day. The sky is turbulent, with massive clouds forming and reforming, and occasional flashes of sunlight that remind us of how we had expected the weather to be. Not like this, not like this.
Tonight there will be a farewell dinner for the riders. Some of us haven't met each other yet. Tomorrow we will meet the horses near Hersek, on the southern shore of the Sea of Marmara. This is where Evliya would have ferried his horses across from the northern shore, having ridden them from Uskudar, on the Asian side of Istanbul, along the Baghdad Road, the road to war, or trade, or pilgrimage. Yesterday we drove along this road in the holiday traffic to collect some bridles and bits from a woman who imports tack from India. The road has always been famous for its trees and fountains, from where thirsty travellers and their horses could drink. We saw one fountain, anyway, amongst the Prada and Marks and Spencers and Armani shops. It was the last day of ramazan, as the Turks call ramadan. Today is the first day of the bayram, the Eid al Fitr, that marks the end of the fast and the beginning of three or four days of festivity.
We had hoped that setting off in Evliya`s tracks to follow his route from 1671, when he embarked upon the haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, would be a good way to commemorate him. And that celebrating this great Ottoman traveller would be in keeping with the spirit of the season. It remains to be seen if the weather will be kind.