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Published: October 24th 2011
I didn’t realize how much I missed the ocean until I saw the Black Sea spread out before me, glittering under a sinking sun. I took in a deep breath of the salty sea air and instantly felt closer to home. I had just arrived in Amasra, a picturesque port town and the starting point for a tour along the rugged Black Sea coast. The burly big brother of California’s Highway 1, the road sports black, craggy outcroppings and steep slopes of verdant green. It’s narrower, its curves are tighter, and the drop-offs are more vertigo inducing than those of its sibling in the west – and its beauty is much more savage.
My destination was Sinop, 320 kilometers to the east. While waiting for a bus that turned out never to come, I started walking. The gradient was excruciating, but I happily trudged along, keeping my thumbs to myself. In total, I walked about 50 of those winding kilometers, with the Black Eyed Pea’s song “Just Can’t Get Enough” stuck in my head the entire time. I serenaded the dogs who came up to sniff me, “I’ll love you long time so you know the meaning.” Unimpressed, they’d trot
off, leaving me alone to sing to the hills.
For all its beauty, there’s nobody on this road to appreciate it. I’d walk for long stretches at a time without seeing a single soul. Once, after a particularly steep hill, I sat down for a much-needed breather. A man walked up to me, eating raw hazelnuts. Without a word, he offered me a handful of the delicious nuts and for the next few minutes we enjoyed them in peace, the only sounds the cracking open and spitting out of the shells. Just as silently as he came, he refilled my hand and walked away. And I was alone again.
Although I never technically hitchhiked, every car that passed (I’m telling you the road was empty) stopped to offer a ride, and I always accepted. My favorite was the fish vendor who picked me up just outside of Cide. We stopped in all the hillside hamlets, honking and yelling, “Pavalut, pavalut.” People poked their heads out of doors and around corners to see the commotion. They’d spot me in the passenger seat, shuffle up to the truck and plaster their faces against my window. The more curious among them
opened my door to get a better look or pat my shoulder. Some offered gifts of apples or other food items. And they all left with a bag of fish. I think we made a good team.
After him, came the elderly German couple in their RV. For twenty years, off and on, they’ve toured the entire Eurasian continent, going everywhere you’re not supposed to go – Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria – all with, “No problem.” For over 150 kilometers, I sat comfortably in the camper’s dining area, uncomfortably listening to the same album of Christian soft rock on repeat, in German. Somehow, I made it through the mind-numbing melodies and on our second day together we celebrated Thaddäus’s 69th birthday. At 69, he still greets every day as an adventure. What an inspiration! It just goes to show you that it’s never too late for anything. Most of the roadblocks that lie between where we are and where we want to be exist only in our minds.
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