I rise with the sun, keen to be on the road early. I have to wear my fleece while I pack up - a sure sign that autumn is here. I push my bike across the claggy soil field and back onto the asphalt - hopeful that today I will arrive at Babakale, and the eco village that lies just beyond.
My habitual garage stop is as entertaining as ever. Several people stop to gawp at the sweaty stranger sitting in the shade of the forecourt. All are very friendly and let me know I'm on the right track for Babakale.
I ride south with the Aegean Sea on my right. Along the way I pass many smiling tractor drivers. Often these tractors are pulling trailers packed with people on their way to a days vegetable picking. The vibrant and colourful clothing in contrast with the stern expressions that looks back at me...perhaps they're not morning people.
Climbing on cobbles up to Gulpinar takes some doing. The surface is boneshakingly rough and I rattle along in my slowest gear to make it bearable. It's hard to give a dignified and cheery greeting when your eyeballs are shaking in your skull and your teeth rattle about your mouth.
I arrive in the tiny fishing village of Babakale in the early afternoon. I have no contact information, only the knowledge that I must ask for a place called "garp"- which I believe means west in Arabic. This makes sense as the village I find myself in is the western most point in Turkey. As I park up under a tree in the market square I see two other touring bikes leaning against a bench. Martin and Penny from England are doing a tour of the Turkish coast. They very kindly buy me a chy and we chat in a vine shaded cafe. Once they leave to head off down the coast I get to finding my hosts. I query a few people and receive blank expressions, but third time lucky I find a hotel owner who knows the place. He points me off down the coast but just as I'm rolling of down the hill he calls me back. We walk down a narrow street and round a corner, he pops into a building and out runs Ellen from Istanbul. I enter the room and meet Deon, another volunteer from South Africa and Sahli who is the grounds keeper/organiser while the owners aren't here. Ellen and Deon are pressing olives that they picked this morning, and turning them into oil. Knowing nothing about it I simply sit and watch, learning what I can, while Ellen and Deon talk me through the process.
After a free dinner in the local restaurant I throw my belongings in the quad-bike trailer and jump in after them. We ride down a tiny little track cut into the cliff side for two kilometers to Garp. Bouncing along in the trailer I choke in the fumes and dust - but I have a feeling I'm going to like this place. Sahli show me my accommodation - a yurt style tent with two beds overlooking the ocean. It's a very cool place to sleep. I take a shower for the first time in days and head up to the main house. I am offered some home made wine that was processed by last years volunteers. Very nice it is too - lacking in any yeast (other than that found in the air) or preservatives it tastes quite different, but good different no doubt! I learn that Sahli sees me as competition for Ellen’s affections - yet another case where the platonic relationship goes misunderstood. Deon gives me the tip off to work hard to "win them over" as it were. They tend to not have men stay here as they are too lazy and drink too much (In fact Deon and I are the first guys to visit GARP in over a year). Maybe I can prove them wrong...but maybe not : )
Once the wine is finished we head down to the water for a midnight swim. The water is pleasantly warm - I suspect that is in part due the the "wine wetsuit" I'm wearing. The three of us bob and splash for some time. I notice we are surrounded by bioluminescent plankton. As our arms and legs push through the water the little critters light up like stars. I am forever fascinated by the beauty of the natural world - tonight is no exception.
This isn't my picture but gives you an idea - swimming in the stars!!!!