|Ashley, Agnés, me. (Ashley)|
It was a little slow getting out of Rize. We left in the morning and there wasn't a lot of traffic. Along came a shuttle van. When it stopped I explained that we were hitchhiking and therefore didn't need to be taken in the shuttle van. The man insisted that there was no one in his van anyway and he was going to Fındıklı, a town on the border between Rize and the Artvin province. So we climbed in. It was nice that we didnt have to crowd into the back seat of someone's car with all our luggage. It was roomy and nice inside. We were all exhausted. Ashley and Agnés fell asleep, but I fought off sleep to keep and eye on our driver. He seemed nice enough, but I didn't get a great feeling about him. He called a friend of his on the phone. He didn't think I knew any Turkish. I heard him talking about how lucky he thought he was giving a lift to some beautiful foreign girls. Hey, what about me, I thought. So the guy was sleazy, but at least he wasn't dangerous. He stopped the shuttle van to pick up some passengers. I felt a little guilty that we were freeloading and the others had to pay. I decided that it would be best for us to get out of the van before Fındıklı.
|Cow in front of the state hospital in Ardeşen (Ashley)|
We were passing through Ardeşen when I made my decision. I told our driver a believable fabrication about how the girls wanted to do some shopping in the market. I had already woken them up but had not yet explained what was going on. We exited the shuttle van and bid our driver adieu. Our eyes were caught in the middle of a tug-of-war match between our exhaustion and brightness of the eastern Rize morning; yet for me, it beat another minute in the shuttle van. We bought some snacks from a bakery where I engaged in a pleasant conversation with a local. He was incredibly kind and helpful, giving up his chair and pooling two others around a table for us. For Ashley, I asked the man where the nearest bathroom facilities were and he helped her to their location. Sitting at the table, we were asked by another person associated with the bakery if we wanted beverages or anything else. Considerate of the Ramadan month, I responded that we didn't want to be rude and consume food or beverage in front of them. "Thank you," came the reply, "but we're not fasting either." After Ashley returned, we did not tarry at the bakery much longer. Our destination was Georgia and we only had one day to spend there. We thanked our new acquaintances and walked on down the road, signaling for someone to take us east.
I was pleased with the main street of Ardeşen. It was busy and lively, with shops and people all about. It was slow getting out of there at first, but I didn't mind. Eventually a car with two or three old women approached. They were dressed in clothes of a pattern traditional of the region, and in addition they wore big smiles as the car pulled to stop near us. They were such a riot. One woman asked us where we were going, but I realized that they really wanted to know where we were from. It was their second question. They were so lively and friendly, laughing and looking at us with admiration as I chatted them up for bit. I could see that there was room in the car for us and wished that we would get invited along. However, their destination was reportedly a local one. They seemed like they were having so much fun with the experience of stopping and talking with us. Often when a car stopped for us that was not going where we were going, the driver would sort of hurry off as though choosing to stop was a waste. But these women showed no sign of such a sentiment. It occurred to me later that they must have known all the while that they wouldn't be able to take us far, yet they wanted to learn about us and make an adventure of it anyway. I was disappointed when they drove off, but I took joy in seeing their hands waving enthusiastically as the car disappeared down the road.
A little later another vehicle stopped for us. It was a large white van. I knew it was a commercial vehicle of some kind, perhaps a touring van. When the side door opened, a Turkish man jumped out. I could see Turkish tourists inside the van. He asked where we were going. I told him eastward, but I more emphatically told him that we were merely hitchhiking and did not want to cause him or anyone any inconvenience. One or two of the people inside told us to come on and join them, that it was no trouble at all. I resisted their hospitality for a few moments more, pointing out that we did not have money for transportation and that we could easily find a ride with someone else. These points were laughed off as nonsensical and so we gave in. I couldn't gather too much from their conversations, so I engaged in one with someone sitting near me. They were a family from İstanbul who had hired the large van for a private tour into part of Artvin. A couple of them could speak some English. As we talked more about our plans and their plans, they began merging. By that I mean, we were invited to accompany them into the foothills, away from the Artvin coast. We made our decision about 2 kilometers before the diversion point of our intended paths. Life's an adventure, my companions and I agreed, let's see where this one takes us.
|Into the Artvin wilderness (Jeremy)|
The adventure took us down increasingly narrow roads, until they were wide enough for only the van. The dirt road wound along a river, sandwiched by lush trees which were decorated with the occasional strikingly-gorgeous bird. None of them were of a species I recognized. We stopped a few times to get out and admire our surroundings.
|Ashley, sitting alone in a comfortable spot (Jeremy)|
|Ashley and Agnès (Jeremy, with Ashley's camera)|
|Ashley (Jeremy, with Ashley's camera)|
|Me, looking less-than-completely-heterosexual, holding a flower (Ashley)|
|Me looking completely heterosexual without the flower, shut up (Ashley)|
|Treated to a delightful meal of fresh alabalık (trout) near the river (Agnès)|
|Trying muhlama (cornmeal with cheese and butter) for the first time. So good! (Agnès)|
|Overview of the bridge (Ashley)|
|The bridges did the beautiful landscape justice (Agnès)|
|Ashley and I enjoying the view (Agnès)|
|Hard not to admire the architecture (Jeremy)|
|Me, stopping to smile for the camera (Agnès)|
|Ashley running up the bridge toward the awaiting van (Jeremy)|
|The next frame, showing Agnès following suit (Jeremy)|
|Finally, I came running along toward my companions (Ashley)|
We walked toward customs quickly with eager anticipation. It would have been hard to imagine it at the time, but the day was about to get even better. We could never have asked for what was in store for us.
|Walking toward the Georgian border (Agnés)|