Dream horses: hayal—huyul
It all seems so very long ago. We were suffering bouts of nostalgia even before it ended. The Ride is now over, and we are back on the hard ground. It feels rather like returning to normal life after a time spent at sea. Every slope, every forest, every field, every river one drives past seems to invite a return to the saddle, and the landscape all around demands to be crossed in the gentle and harmonious fashion that was our privilege for the past weeks. Indeed, in retrospect the Ride seems like a fleeting dream. It is no wonder that Arabic and Ottoman have words for dream/hayal and horses/huyul that share the same root (correct me if I am wrong).
Simav is where we left Evliya's route to return to Kütahya, his ancestral home. From Simav he continued towards Izmir and eventually reached Mecca as was his aim. From Simav our remaining riders—Donna and Ercihan and Caroline—rode around the north of the Şaphane Mountain, so as not to retrace their route from Eski Gediz to Simav, which followed Evliya's southerly route. For the first day, which took us from the Simav plain up into the mountains, we passed through the villages of Şenlik, Inlice, Kestel, and Halifeler, to camp at Sefaköy where there are hot springs of ancient date. We had with us Pinar, a friend of Ercihan's who is more at home on her feet, as a climber and mountaineer, but who soon felt relaxed on Ilos. The usual mixture of patikas, village roads, old roads, no roads, and a few unavoidable stretches of asfalt.
It was a wet, wet night, and the weather turning colder. Stories of floods elsewhere in the country dampened our spirits, and we had a late start the next morning but set off, minus Pinar, to reach Çavdarhisar—site of the wonderful yet too little visited site of Aizanoi with its stunning Zeus temple and ruins scattered around for miles. A cold, cold wind harrassed us for much of the way, but mercifully the rain was not continuous. A route through the villages of Karbasan, Düşecek, Abaş and Ağarı—probably some 40 kilometres—brought us to Çavdarhisar where the horses had a stable and we a room in the Belediye guest house. It was cold, and the first snows had begun to fall right on cue, 31 October/1 November, after weeks of T-shirt weather.
We had no idea that our Ride was to come to an abrupt end in Çavdarhisar, with our last day or two back to Kütahya unridden, but in retrospect we choose to believe that fate intervened to make it last for a blessed 40 days and 40 nights. The streets of Çavdarhisar were empty of cars that Sunday night—except for our exotic support vehicle (see Susan's photo)—and the police ran a check on the number plate and found that it was saddled with an outstanding debt. The fact that this was not ours but that of the previous owner did not concern them, and if it had not been for the intervention of high-level authorities in Kütahya, we might yet be in Çavdarhisar. Our van was eventually allowed to leave under police escort, and the next stop was the Kütahya police pound where Ercihan and Metin managed to resolve the problem after some effort.
But, the Ride was ended. Without the support vehicle we could not continue. Saved from inclement weather by the police of Çavdarhisar.
Kütahya again, where we were greeted with hospitality by the Mayor, Mustafa İca, and his colleagues all—particularly Aylin Hanım and Yaşar Bey—and entertained by our dear rahvancı friends—notably Birol Babanoğlu and Mehmet Koçak, who have helped us so much along the way, and to whom we are deeply grateful.
Sedat returned to Avanos with the remaining of our calm, brave, horses, in a truck supplied by the Turkish Jockey Club; Ercihan and Metin drove the van back home; Mac and Donna and Caroline returned to Istanbul by minibus (courtesy of Kütahya Municipality).
We have incurred so many debts, to our sponsors certainly, but also to the numerous individuals who gave generously of their time and expertise, as well as to the people we met along the way who greeted us with interest in what we were up to and with open hands and hearts. We think warmly of you all.
Now the work begins. First of all there is a guide book to be written and a documentary film to be made. Both these pleasurable tasks are in hand—Ajans21 in Istanbul already has 15 hours of rushes taken on the Ride—and there are TV and press interviews to do.
We returned to the exhilarating news that 2011 has been designated the year of Evliya Çelebi by Unesco. We set out on the Ride intending to commemorate this great traveller in our own modest way on the 400th anniversary of his birth, and now find we will be joined by many others around the world who will ensure that his 40 years of journeyings (again that 40...), and the 10-volume record of them that he left to posterity, become far more widely-known and deservedly-appreciated for the remarkable phenomenon they are.
Watch this space. The show goes on.