Commentary Sections 1-3: from Çannakale to Tevfikiye & Truva (Troy), Türkiye [March
Sections 4-6: to Dhaka & Sylhet, Bangladesh [December 1995]
Section 7: to Nova Gorica, Slovenia [August 2001] Section 8: to Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia [December 1998 - August 2003]
Section 9: to Kaohsiung, Taiwan [October 2006]
FROM ÇANAKKALE (“the port” in the first line) TO TEVFIKIYE & TRUVA (TROY)
After an eye-rubbingly early climb out of the barely wakening provincial town of
Çanakkale, following a slowly winding, steeply undulating two-lane road through a
seemingly insignificant part of apparently nowhere, the labouring bus, one of few
vehicles evident, would appear to have no obvious reason to slow to a halt. Barely
a minute after stopping, it pulls away, resuming its journey to some far-off place
and leaving behind a solitary figure, deposited together with a rucksack, a suitcase
and a long, thin purple bag which could not feasibly have contained anything much
different in shape to some lengthy and impossibly straight sticks.
The solitary figure stands for a few seconds as if in partial disbelief, trying to
verify what limited bearings are available. The location is indeed a junction with
a barely noticeable country lane falling and winding away to one side of the main
road. With a certain sense of inevitability, the lone figure gathers his suitcase
rather uncomfortably and sets off to exchange the virtually empty main road for the
even emptier (if that is possible) side road. In some ways, the features of this
new route are like those of the main road in miniature, although the winding is more
pronounced, the undulations far less dramatic, and the scenery seemingly less barren
– although this latter may be somewhat due to the walker’s proximity. Hedges and
occasional trees appear on either side of the road. There is no other traffic, neither
motorised nor pedestrian, although this may reflect partly on the hour which is still
not yet 7 in the morning.
The lone traveller’s backpack is not of the most suitable design for a long walk,
but much more of a nuisance is the suitcase, heavier and more cumbersome than is
advisable for hand-carrying yet, having been brought this far, carrying by hand is
the only option available, given the indispensability of its contents. The unusual
shape of the third bag rather than its minimal weight adds somewhat to the task of
transportation. Perhaps predictably then, the onward journey is at frequent intervals
interrupted by an extremely slow motion form of juggling as the wanderer attempts
different styles of managing the unwieldiness of the load. The options are rather
limited, there being only one carrying handle to the suitcase, no handle to the long
thin bag, and the rucksack precluding the possibility of a hunched over posture with
the suitcase on the traveller’s back and a hand reaching backwards over a shoulder
to keep it in place…. unless…. unless the rucksack is removed and carried in the
other hand together with the long thin bag. That mode however proves even more wearisome
than just about every other alternative in this clearly amateur porter’s limited
repertoire. “It can’t be much further now” is a thought repeatedly interchanged
with “surely it will be just around the next corner?” or “it must be just past the
brow of the next hill” for the next two hours of intermittent progress in a direction
which overall is westwards in a journey also featuring a more than desirable amount
of trudging towards, seemingly, every other point of the compass.
One advantage of all this physical labour however is the warmth generated. It’s
true that this could have been better managed by wearing a shirt not made of polyester,
but it is nevertheless welcome given the icy temperatures which have greeted the
surprised traveller since his arrival in the country less than 12 hours ago. If
it’s hot in London, the sadly erroneous reasoning had started, it must surely be
even hotter in Turkey. The falling snow in Istanbul had been the first indication
of the flaws in his meteorological assumptions and that a limited summer wardrobe,
tent, sleeping bag and dismantled delta stunt kite might prove not to be the most
appropriate kit to have to lug around the Turkish countryside.
Arrival in the village of Tevfikiye is followed by some further reconnaissance &,
with the help of a not-exactly-over-busy security guard seated in a sentry box on
the entrance road to the archaeological site, it is established that the most suitable
place to pitch tent in defiance of the elements is the small patch of barren ground
surrounding the museum, a deserted, apparently abandoned but relatively modern building,
uncluttered by archaeological artefacts or indeed any objects worthy of musing upon.
The small blue dome tent is duly erected in a matter of minutes and a home away
from home is established.
TO DHAKA (the airport “commotion”) & SYLHET, BANGLADESH
His overwhelming impression of a first arrival in Bangladesh was gained just outside
the exit doors of the main airport building in Dhaka, where a meet-and-greet service
was due to collect him & and unrelated other travellers from the incoming connecting
flight from Dubai. The allocated waiting area was a small patch of tarmac a few
feet from the metal fence with the role of separating airport arrivals from the outside
world. The particular multitudinous part of the outside world being separated by
the fence was displaying a rather alarming degree of enthusiasm which the fence seemed
barely able to contain, their ear-piercingly cacophonous competing shouts and screams
coupled with flailing arms reaching pleadingly through the bars
(And there should be even more.....)
Before the port awakes he takes hill hugging bus which snakes then brakes some miles
As the bus pulls away he stands assimilates the lay of lands bags in hands.
A side lane a sign-post Loaded with shivers, blisters, weal blooms Trudge towards where
the wooden horse looms A raised tent a harbour Shepherds shout. Staring gypsy children. Coffee
house. Fire warm. Wary. Drawn in. An airport. A harbour.
Seat-belted on the plane remain Long haul energy drain brain strain flying again.
Wheels barely on the ground feet found. Safety announcement drowned. Bags downed. Exit
An airport commotion. He feels like a zoo animal, penned.
Cross the border. Up hill. Hill down. Gambling on the casino town's bright false dawn.
Confluence in concrete heat meet. Muddy estuaries with his feet he has seen.
Love River petrol place mask face. Road rail spaghetti space skirt chase hung horse race
An airport a harbour How many travels will it take to make the light-bulb in his head
awake? A bus-stop a station The grass always seems to be greener when on the other side
of the horse. An airport A harbour
Stretched arms implore their victim, deafened. A three-wheeled. night taxi. Exhaust
fumes putter splutter choking. Torchlit protest march, anger stoking. An airport. A