By J.A. McCarroll
#10: Sex Vacation
July 25: 11 06 A.M.
It?s not yet noon, and my shirt is soaked with sweat. Not soaked in hyperbolic sense, mind you; but soaked in the standard O.E.D. sort of way (adjective: extremely wet; saturated). Because of my incipient sunburn, I have no trouble locating and feeling each individual drop of sweat forming on my skin and dropping towards my tremendously dorky and rather expensive hiking shoes, which my girlfriend swears will help me climb rocks and stuff, although I think they are more designed to keep any woman, ever, from wanting to talk to me. So far, they are working, although, again, I can?t swear it?s not the sweat. I?m on vacation, hurtling over some cliffs that I?m sure would be super gorgeous if the dolmuş driver would slow the hell down for just one second. So far, I?ve billed this trip as a ?mental health? vacation, which has so far been a pretty terrible lie, as I think I might be actively going crazy out of tiredness, thirst, and general lack of desire to do anything but lay down and drink lemonade. Several rows behind me are my two traveling companions, both Australians, who I will refer to as Steven and Patrick, in honor of the game we have decided to play throughout the vacation, which is to make as many references to Morissey as possible. When introducing themselves, Steven has, so far, claimed to be an anthropologist, a film-maker, a gonzo journalist, and a student, while Patrick has maintained a 100% average of just saying, ?My name is Patrick? and looking down at his feet, despite the fact that apparently he was in a pretty cool band five years ago, and currently lives in Belgium, which seems like more accomplishments than Steven or I could ever really hope to achieve. He also has, objectively, the coolest hair of the three of us, although Steven would never admit it, ever.
July 25: 11 12 A.M.
Through careful snooping on backseat conversations, I have discovered that Steven has adopted the habit of referring to this trip as our ?sex vacation,? which I hope is some of that famous Antipodean humor, because we will be sharing tents, and also because then I wouldn?t have anything appropriate to write about for my column.
July 26: 3 35 P.M.
In the midst of what was otherwise a pretty uneventful day at the beach a small crowd has gathered around a prone woman just 20 meters from where I am crouching and hiding in the shade. The Australians and I cannot help but speculate. ? No one looks sad,? I say, ?so, she?s probably not ?? and here, of course, I whisper, ?dead.?
?I reckon she is, mate,? says Steven, ?no one knows her enough to be sad.? His voice goes into the same register he used yesterday when he surreptitiously quoted the Lonely planet guidebook and dubbed the water as ?the wine dark sea,? this is, I?ve learned, his Important Statement voice.
July 26: 3 41 P.M.
A hand waves from the ground, prompting a sigh of relief in the rubberneckers. We sigh too, although, perhaps more audibly disappointed than I?m comfortable admitting. ?It would have been really cool,? Patrick quips, ? to, like, call her boyfriend and be fully like, ?can we talk about your girlfriend in a coma?? ? So far, he?s winning the best Smiths reference contest.
?Steven!? I call out, interrupting whatever odd things he?s talking about with a stranger on the beach, ?Did you hear what this charming man said?? Steven blinks, smiles, and whispers back, ?John, This joke isn?t funny anymore.?
July 26: 4 39 P.M.
Morrisey reference game ends, after almost an hour of jokes too strained to record. Unsurprisingly, there is no clear winner, but three very obvious losers.
July 26: 8 39 P.M.
Number of times I tell a stranger about the girl I saw die on the beach today: 5. Number of new friends I made today: 0.
July 27: 12 07 P.M. Day 3
So far, as both a sex vacation and a mental health vacation, this trip is an absolute failure. Sex-wise, none of us has even successfully completed a conversation with the outside world, save lying about the accident we saw yesterday, much less convinced anyone to even come into the vicinity of our tents. Also, we smell, objectively, terrible. In terms of mental health, while I appreciate the absence of 15 million other people, I have spent the last 72 hours vaguely concerned about my imminent death. My google search results on my phone are, as follows: ?How to cure snake bite,? ?Dangers of Bad Water,? ?Do I have heatstroke,? ?Riptide!? and ?The Smiths Discography.?
We are somewhere in the hills between Kabak and the Butterfly valley, trying to find the Lycian way, during the part of the day most experts refer to as the ?don?t go outside zone.? The walk is supposed to be 8 kilometers, most of which is uphill. Due to differing measurement systems in Australia and the United States, I cannot adequately picture what this means, which is probably why I have agreed to make the journey.
?I?m thirsty,? Steven complains. So am I. So is, probably, Patrick, although it?s hard to penetrate his down under mystery. We are woefully unprepared vis-a-vis our fluid intake needs because our hostel charges 3 lira per bottle of water, at a markup of roughly 600% of the suggested retail price. Helpfully, the trail that we are supposed to be on has a multitude of springs, which apparently is Turkish for ?lead pipe sticking out of Lycian tomb somewhere in the mountains.?
July 27: 2 34 P.M.
?Don?t run!? Steven screams at our running backs before looking behind him, picking up a stone, and starting to run. The noise of three very angry sheephounds ricochets off the valley?s human-scarred granite wall. We are very thirsty and lost. Patrick is grinning like a crazy person; ?Turkey? he says, as we round a bend and stand with arms cocked to throw rocks at our canine pursuers, ?just take a breath, mate. It?s beautiful.?
I do as he says. He?s right: the entire valley, save our sweat soaked bodies, smells wonderfully herby. I could easily imagine rubbing pretty much anything around here on a piece of garlic bread and having it rule. More barks echo behind us and we turn and run again, each heavy footfall releasing a cloud of crushed herbs and spices, which frankly, probably don?t make us any less appetizing.
July 27: 3 01 P.M.
We are, in my estimate, 90% done with our 8-kilometer hike. This last part, however, is a doozy. To enter the fabled hippy bliss of the butterfly valley, one must first have no fear of death; case in point, the descent to the valley requires the use of all four hands, a rope, and a lot more luck than I normally possess. The entire process looks like it was designed entirely to terrify my mother, who would really like me to have grandkids and not die in a particularly mangled state.
July 27: 3 03 P.M.
Breaking news! One of the Australians is apparently desperately afraid of heights, and is, at the moment, inching his feet off the edge of a cliff and weeping. While sworn to secrecy about which Australian, exactly, was the wuss, I can comfortably say that this is basically hilarious in the most come-uppancy sort of way.
July 28: 6 33 A.M.
My entire body hurts so badly I sort of wish I didn?t have any limbs or nerves. It?s the kind of soreness that you?re afraid to tell anyone about because what it basically says about you is that you are an out of shape idiot and you didn?t wear enough sunscreen, and I try to keep those facts hidden.
I?m sweating in my tent and it?s been like 80 hours since I?ve had a cup of coffee. From the tent over, I hear Australian snores, while the verdant hills buzz with the sort of bugs I?d frankly pay a lot to not be anywhere near. My mind wanders to Istanbul, where I?m allowed to stay indoors all day, taking showers and ignoring other humans. I measure the be-herbed hills and gorgeous beaches against the internet and cool shoes. Oh, I think to myself, wishing someone was around to hear my wit, Heaven knows I?m miserable now.
July 28: 8 49 A.M.
Immediately following breakfast, I find a baby tortoise on the stairs outside the dining room. Soreness and bugs and imminent death be damned, this is the best day of my life. I never want to go home again.