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a vagabonding journey starting with a one-way-ticket

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Ever-continuing journey

Posted by Engin Kaban on December 9, 2011

Welcome to the communication channel of the 1 year South America journey of a Turkish traveller Engin Kaban. The journey has been com completed physically in 2010. However by the help of articles, photos and interviews through different media; TV and radio programmes and presentations, sharing and the actual inner journey is still continuing.

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Presentation in English in İstanbul

Posted by Engin Kaban on August 14, 2011

After several presentations in İstanbul and in İzmir, now I’ll have my first presentation in English in İstanbul for non-Turkish speakers.

So if you are around, come over. If you have any friends traveling in İstanbul, let them know.

You are free to bring your own drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) or snacks if you like.

17th of August Wednesday  19:00   

V Art Gallery,  Nişantaşı – İstanbul

directions from Taxim Square: http://goo.gl/maps/UGJd 

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The return of el Turco

Posted by Engin Kaban on January 30, 2011

The return of el Turco

December 30th 2010  01:30.

The last plane has landed in the international terminal of not-so-busy İzmir airport. There are not many people in the aisle but 4 people waiting at the gates with excitement are significant. They are holding big posters saying “Bienvenido a tu casa Juan el Turco” (welcome to your home Juan the Turk). The youngest of all is holding a video camera in his hand; possibly someone important is arriving and he doesn’t want to miss the arrival moment. Who is this “el Turco” they are waiting for? Should be someone important according to all the preparations.

And the gate opens. Not like a pop star or an actor, someone regular like us appear. A young man comes out with his jacket and trekking shoes as if ready to climb a mountain; in colorful clothes, a beard of a few days, a dayback, many alcohol bottles bought from all transfer airports en route, quite tired after 30 hours of travel and more important then all, a smile with big happiness and energy. Hugs and embraces…

These 4 people that have been waiting have something in common; their last names. They are the father, cousins and the uncle of the young man. Afterwards they all go home; pop a champaigne bottle in the balcony late at night, and chats till early morning… The young man is pleased. Normally if the plane had arrived by daytime as normal, the cousins were supposed to arrange a big celebration at the airport with davul & zurna (Turkish traditional musical instruments played in occasions like marriage, big parties, celebrations, welcomings etc.) but those had to be canceled due to missed flights and late arrival time. As time passes everyone becomes sleepy except for the young man who is still jet-lagged and accustomed to 7-hour-different-time-zone and is feeling like early evening. He is the most refreshed one of all.

First days are quite interesting for “el Turco”. He used to predict many things would have changed and would feel a bit like an outsider. But, no. On the contrary, he is surprised at the un-changed things behind. He feels as if he has just made a weekend trip to the next town rather than having a 1-year-trip overseas. Fair enough. “Apparently I have not missed a lot while I was away” he thinks.

First days he spends with his girlfriend, family and friends. He is very happy to be in the center of interest. He is being spoiled a lot. But he is also aware that this will not last long; so he tries to enjoy it to the maximum until people start to forget about him.

There are also things that he can never understand. Some small details that did not exist in his life for the last 1 year become irritating for him. Paying bills, house cleaning, changing the tariffs for the cell-phone, internet, shopping issues, stupid neighbours, matching the color of the shoes with the pants (which is not an issue if you had only one pair of shoes and one pants for 1 year) etc. As if all these were not enough, the general expenses in any given day without any specific activity seem to be higher than the expenses while traveling in South America; “should I again hit the road?” he asks himself.

After the first 2-3 weeks he is less spoiled, leaving behind the first dizzyness and as he becomes to be hypnotized he gets more used to the enviroment. He adapts back to things as they were a year ago. He also can’t stand still and makes a few short trips out of town. Apart from all these, he is also aware that relaxed times are over; so he starts spending long hours working in front of his screen making future plans and working on projects in his mind. Everything is as it is supposed to be.

January 30th 2011  01:30.

It has been 1 month since the young man is back to his country, city and home.

He is quite pleased.

Engin Kaban

January 30th 2011 – İzmir

Note:

For “Juan”, please check: https://routelatinamerica.wordpress.com/2010/08/11/the-brave-turk-juan/

For “El Turco”, please check: https://routelatinamerica.wordpress.com/2010/07/06/7-el-turco-in-patagonia/

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What would you like to drink my love?

Posted by Engin Kaban on November 27, 2010

My article that brought me the first-place in the travel writing contest organized by http://www.Gezikolik.com  The winning prize is an all-inclusive holiday in a luxurious hotel — November 2010 —

What would you like to drink my love?

You are sitting at a restaurant in Colombia. A place that is decorated in all its liveliness and accompanied by brisk Salsa music… You finish examining the menu and you are about to order your food. A sexy Latin waitress approaches you and asks, “what would you like to drink, my love?”

If you have spent only a few days in this country, you may easily get excited at an expression like this, or you may feel that you have ended up in a different kind of establishment rather than in a restaurant. On the other hand, if you are used to Colombia, your response may as well be, “bring me a chilly lemonade so that I can cool off, my darling.”

Colombians have unique salutations. I find “mi amor” and “mi vida” the most engaging. They mean “my love” and “my darling” respectively. You don’t have to look for an ulterior motive or expect something different when you are greeted like this. This is because, while you may hear one of these phrases from an attractive young woman, you are just as likely to  hear from a 60-year old hamburger seller on the street, “mayonnaise, my darling?” It is quite hard to predict when you may come across these greetings. You may even think of this as a game, and play it with Colombians according to the rules.

Colombians are also very polite. They greet people with “Señor” and “Señora” more than any other South American country. For example, when you are about to address someone, or when you don’t understand the person talking to you, you say “mister?” “madame?” instead of mumbling “excuse me.” Normally, in Spanish speaking countries,  “Señora” is used only for  married or elderly women, and “señorita” for everyone else. However, interesting enough, everyone is “señora” here.

It is also very easy to make friends with Colombians, with the condition that you pay attention to which ones are real and which ones are fake. People who try to sell you things on the street and who are very interested in the money in your pocket will greet you as “Amigo!” As most of these people are extremely insisting and annoying, it is important not to be involved with every person who talks this way. However, on the other hand, it is just as important to return the kindness and sincerity of  people who can potentially be your real “Amigo” The same word for women is “Amiga.”

After I first set foot on this country, it felt strange during the first few hours, while I was in a small town in the Amazons. The first Colombians I ever encountered in my life called me “boss.” I was thinking to myself, “I became a boss as soon as I arrived Colombia. What a great place.” As time went on, I realized that this expression “patron” was simply another sincere way of greeting people used by the locals in this land.

“Bonbon” is the expression that is used by guys to get attention from attractive girls. From my point of view, this sweet word fits well. If the lady in question is far charming and sexy, than you call her “Oohh Mamasita!!”. It must therefore be an intersesting experience  for a woman to walk on the streets of Colombia. Men in similar situations would be called “Papasito”.

There is another expression that I have heard only in this country: “A la orden.” It means something like “at your service.” You may get the impression that the entire country is dying to serve you when you hear this expression from all the vendors on the street!

Would you like your lemonade with ice?

A la orden mi amor…

Engin Kaban

November 15th  2010 – Bogota

Posted in Essays | 6 Comments »

The Amazon Times 2: Leticia

Posted by Engin Kaban on October 31, 2010

The Amazon Times#2: Leticia

My prior Amazon post was about the Peruvian city Iquitos. Now I am going to share my impressions on my next stop, the Colombian city Leticia and its surroundings:

–          The main way of transport from the city Iquitos that has no land access to the city Leticia, which has limited land access is by the river. There are two alternatives here. You can either travel on the deck of one of the cargo ships with the locals while sleeping on your own hammock and enjoying the slow cruise on the Amazon, or you can pay three times the amount of money and drive the swift motorboats in 10 hours. From the very beginning my choice was the former till…

–          Till I gathered more detailed information. This trip was going to be an experience altogether. However, at the same time it would be highly risky. The main problem was that there was no place for me to leave my belongings on the deck while traveling alone. The bags are left in the open. This means that whenever I would leave my bag for, say, a trip to the bathroom, my bag would be under risk. There are numerous tales of theft on the ship.

–          On the other hand, I kept hearing stories about pirates in the Amazon and how frequently they raid and rob the ships. These are definitely not myths; I have heard them firsthand. For instance, this apperently happened twice to a Peruvian fellow who worked as a chef in one of these carriers.  I also heard from other travellers in this region that the staff on the ships frequently fire open into the air to scare the pirates off.

–          Considering all these and the fact that I have become tired of dealing with safety issues for months, I chose the motorboat for the sake of a comfortable trip.

–          My trip began with the first light of  the day at 6 in the morning. The first hour was especially joyful. Watching the Amazon river, sighting motorboats of various sizes, looking at the ships, and seeing small settlements were quite enjoyable. Afterwards, these all dissappeared and there was nothing left save for the river surrounded by the infinite forest and the sky. These were also spectacular.

–          Our trip ended around evening time. We reached a very interesting location: the point where the borders of three countires –Peru, Colombia and Brazil- intersect. The motorboat docked on the island on the Peruvian side. I immediately approached one of the young fellows with a small motorboat. First, we walked towards the customs office in the middle of this tiny island in order to process my official exit from Peru. Once my passport was stamped, we moved to the other side, the Colombian land. I walked together with a Colombian man that I met on the motorboat till we reached downtown.

–          As I found out that the Colombian customs office was actually  closed at the time, I spent the night outside the borders of any  country. The following day I was lazy, and I did not go to the airport till the evening. Ridiculous enough, the only way to obtain the official entrance stamp on the passport was through the airport.  Even though, like me, you set your foot on the Colombian soil through the river, you need to stop by the airport to make it official. By the time I went, the airport was close. I remained a “fugative” for one more night.

–          Normally, they let people be like this for up to 24 hours. You get penalized if this drags on. I have already exceeded this limit. I went to the airport worried the next day, but the customs officer did not utter a word, and stamped my passport.

–          Traveling within these three counries is completely free. You may enter and leave as you wish. For example, I crossed the border to go to the Brazilian city Tabatinga just to smell the air. I sat down in the seaport and listened to the streets with banging Portuguese music. Afterwards, I jumped on a moto-taxi and returned to Colombia. Moto-taxis are the main way of transport here. Without that much thinking, you simply jump behind the youngster that is driving the vehicle and move your way through the crazy traffic. If you put enough thought, you should not be jumping on these vehicles.

–          The sister cities Leticia and Tabatinga are completely interwoven. Spanish and Portuguese are widely spoken on the streets of both cities. You may pay for something with one currency, and get the change in the currency of the other country. As the ratio of the currencies is about 1000, it is also easy to calculate the change.

–          It is very advantageous to buy currencies in these cities with US dollars. The rate of exchange is much higher than normal. As I had received this tip earlier from a friend who was here two months ago, I came here prepared and I purchased a lot of Colombian pesos with US dollars. I hope they do not turn out to be fake.

–          During the first three days  I spent in Leticia there were quite a few showers. For about 15-20 minutes, it would pour a great deal, followed by the reappearance of the sun.

–          As I had arrived Colombia, I felt the presence of Latin culture. The colorful lives, the constantly reverberating Latin music on the streets, people always ready to dance. My first impressions are very positive.

–          As I had arrived the city in the evening dark, I had felt unsafe until I found a place to stay. However, after spending three days, I later decided that the city way quite safe

–          I travelled to a zoo situated in the middle of the forest that is 11 km away from the city. I had the opportunity to see allegators, giant snakes, pre-historic turtles, tarantula and other animals alike that are native to these lands.

–          Afterwards, I strolled around in the forest, a distance of 7-8 kilometers. I passed through small communities.

–          I had to sell the hammock and the mosquito net that I had purchased in Iquitos to the hotel owner in Leticia without ever using them once. Not deliberately, I even profited from this transaction because of the price difference between Peru and Colombia.

–          My original plan was to embark on one of the cargo ships departing from Leticia and travel to the largest and the capital city of the Amazon Manaus in 4 days. Afterwards I was going to travel to Venezuella by taking a 40 –hour bus trip. However, I had already been receiving information regarding the frequent attacks by the guerillas on the buses that travel between Brazil and Venezuella. In addition, one Colombian man also told me that his partner was attacked this way and that Veneuella was in general very unsafe. I decided to alter  my route.

–          I could have still travelled to Manaus by ship, as these ships are safer relative to the ones in Peru. However, as it would have been very difficult and expensive to travel to Venezuella by means other than land, I completely cancelled my plan.

–          I decided to fly to the capital of Colombia Bogota from Leticia. While I was checking the prices of flights, I realized that it was possible to pay a little extra money and fly to even another city. So I purchased a plane ticket to the city on the Carabbian sea, Barranquila with a minimal difference in price.

–          As I am writing these lines, I am flying from Bogota to Barranquila. If I don’t change my mind I will take the bus from Barranquila to Cartagena. I will enjoy the sun and sand on the Carabbian beaches.

–          With this flight, I will also re-enter the northern hemisphere for the first time after nine-and-half months.

Engin Kaban

October 30th 2010 – Santa Marta

Posted in Essays | 6 Comments »

The Amazon Times 1: Iquitos

Posted by Engin Kaban on October 12, 2010

The Amazon Times 1: Iquitos

I have passed 1 week in Iquitos, the biggest city of the Peruian Amazons. I
will briefly share my impressions for this period of time;

–          Iquitos is the largest settlement in the world without road
connection. Main connection way is riverway. I flew in, and will continue by
river.

–          By the time I step outside the plane, I was welcomed by hot
weather (35-40C) and humidity (90%)

–          It never rained in 1 week. There is no winter-summer here. Only
dry and wet seasons. And right now it’s the end of dry season. Therefore the
water level in rivers is at its lovest. As I have heard, the wet season is
really really wet. Therefore this was my main criteria of timing to be here
in the dry season.

–          Main transportation within the city is the 3-wheel-motos. There
are thousands of them and they create an amazing chaos and noise in the
city. There are also few weird-looking buses. The buses nor the motos have
any windows; so you feel the breeze as you go.

–          Unfortunately, in the city there is an important sex-business
especially targeted at tourists. It is very common that children work as
prostitutes. I even hear stories that people in tourism sector are marketing
their own girls to tourists. Seeing 40-50 year-old tourist men with 15-20
year-old local girls is very common. Amazon women are more sexy in
comparison to average Peruvians. Also there is an obvious amount of
homosexuals.

–          The city is quite dangerous in general, especially some parts.

–          It is possible to try some special foods and drinks for the
Amazon area.

–          As I reach the city, I bought a hammock and a mosquito-net; the
musts for anyone living in the Amazons.

–          Here I met some people selling artcrafts on the street. Later I
met 2 New Zealanders through these people. These “wise” guys have decided to
buy a boat and cross the Amazons themselves. They neither can speak any word
in Spanish nor have any idea about the area. It is almost impossible to
finish this journey safely. With them and some more local people we went to
some interesting districts of the city to search and bargain for boats. It
was a very interesting experience.

–          With a Peruvian that I met in the city, we went to a native
community that lives in the jungle. We were hosted by an amazing family. The
idea was to stay 1 day, I stayed 4.

–          This is a community that speaks their own language (as well as
broken Spanish), living in their own world in the jungle but also in
connection with the outer-world. They are quite interesting and incredibly
hospitable. Together we fished, had walks in the jungle, rowed in the river,
saw many weird plants and animals etc…

–          All houses are built approximately 2 meters high from ground
level on stakes. In dry season they are high, but in wet season they are in
the middle of the water; only reachable by boats.

–          I felt very weird wearing my gore-tex trekking boots while all
locals always hang around barefoot. But I can’t do anything.

–          The river is everything for people living in the jungle.
Transportation method, drinking water, socializing place, sewerage, laundry,
toilet, trash, resource of food etc..

–          I have visited a butterfly farm that is run by an Austrian woman
who has been living in the jungle for 30 years. There were also monkeys,
parrots, sloth animals and a jaguar.

–          Mosquitos are not as bad as I was scared of. Usually I use my
sprey. As it is dry season, there are not many mosquitos.

–          I have been hearing stories of robbery and pirates attacking the
boats traveling on the river, from first person. No urban-legends. Quite
exciting.

–          My next stop will be the 3-border-point of Peru, Colombia and
Brazil; and then the Colombian Amazons.

–          Stay tuned…

Engin Kaban

October 12th 2010 – Leticia

Posted in Essays | 2 Comments »

9

Posted by Engin Kaban on September 24, 2010

9

Today is September 24th, 2010. It has been exactly 9 months.

It is indeed hard to believe. On the night of December 24th 2009, I remember vividly my arrival in  Brazil in the middle of summer while it was winter in Turkey. All the countries, cities, towns and villages I have travelled… It seems as though all these took place yesterday.

When I look back, I feel that what I have gone through is truly incredible. While many things went as I had planned, some others happened in a way that I could never predict. Regardless, all of these have stayed and will stay with me as new experiences that I will never forget. I shared many of these in my six-month newsletter (https://routelatinamerica.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/first-6-months-of-my-dream-journey/)

I have travelled seven countries in nine months. This almost corresponds to my original intent of travel-one-country-per-month. When you take in to account my near four-month stay in Argentina, the numbers look reasonable.

It looks like what I had originally planned as a one-year journey is not going to end in one year under these circumstances. In South America, I have Venezuella, Colombia and Equador ahead of me. I may even travel to Galapagos islands if I can manage to find a reasonably priced tour. I will not be travelling to the remaining three countries in South America, namely Guyana, French Guyana and Suriname as they require visa, and I am not interested in these countries enough to go through the pains of obtaining a visa.

Originally, I was thinking of flying directly to the United States after I conclude my tour in South America, but I have now decided to continue my trip through land and sea. I am planning to travel through Central America and enter the United States through Mexico. It seems that there are 8 to 9 countries in between, but they are all small. When you add all them up, they roughly become the size of a country in South America; I will probably travel through them pretty fast.

On the other hand, what really excites me is the trip to the Amazons.  I purchased my plane ticket yesterday. Next week, I will be flying to the city Iquitos, which has the uniqueness of being the largest settlement that has no access from land. Even though I am a nature person, I may not spend that much time in the Amazons because of insects and similar creatures, of which I am not a big fan. But who knows…

Following the Amazons, what remains is the triad of Venezuella-Colombia-Equador. In all aspects these three countries seem very intriguing and vibrant, yet, at the same time, precarious. Starting today, I began my own research and it already looks like lots of interesting things are awaiting me in these lands. As I experience these in person, I will share these; however, I would not want to experience all I read.

Now I realize that I am seriously becoming exhausted, and that I have reached the saturation point for many things. I don’t become hyped-up for everything as I used to, for example, and I am now more serene. I enjoy it more when I spend time by myself. Especially during the times I stay in hostels, I try to stay away from the “frantically partying gringos”, just like now; as I am writing these lines on a Friday night. It seems that my trip is getting even more “internal” everyday; and that is what I wanted it to be since the very beginning. Although it seems that I will be travelling for many more months, I would not be that upset if I had to end my trip on a personal decision or for a necessity; I have already seen what I have seen.

It is truly taxing to be constantly struggling in  various circumstances. I have especially realized this in the last one-and-half months in Peru, and I can say that I am sick of it: having to deal with people lying through their teeth, salesmen trying to rip you off, having to bargain with cabdrivers each time I need to take a taxi, fellows turning out  to be drug dealers after a lengthy conversation who originally greet you on the road with “hola amigo”, having to constantly watch out my backpack and pockets in crowded areas, having to take precautions in a ten-person hostel room where theft is rampant and many other things. All I want now is being able to walk on the street in peace.  I’d better directly fly from South America to Scandinavia, the place I admire and that is on the other extreme in terms of  sereneness, and refresh myself.

One of the most important lessons this nine-month trip taught me is that a “lengthy trip” or, as I  call it, a “mobile living experience” is much different than a short (a few weeks or couple of months in duration) trip. The experiences, the constantly shifting mood, the strategies that need to be undertaken, the unpredictable necessities, the gains and losses are truly distinct from a simple so-called vacation.

Once you reach a certain point, you can either become addicted to travelling and move on, or you can simply give up. I reached that critical point at the end of five-and-half months and decided to “move on” (please see https://routelatinamerica.wordpress.com/2010/06/09/continue/ Now it has been nine months, and albeit there are times where I seem to be complaining, I still choose to “move on.” I have been used to this life-style after all.

This journey has taught me yet another lesson. I realize that I would not be able to “move on” like this my entire life. Even though I love seeing, travelling and changing locations, namely “living to the fullest”, I have also come to appreciate the virtue of “settled life” during my journey. No matter where I go out with the people around me here, this would not compare to the joy of drinking beer with my “real friends” in Alsancak. Nor would it compare to the pleasure of sleeping in my own house after a long tiring day and the happiness of  having my family, friends and loved ones around me.

One of the most significant aspects that makes this trip even more exciting is returning home in the end. So is the fact that there are people waiting. Otherwise, it would probably be a very different experience, which would be lacking many crucial elements. It would rather be an “escape.” I, on the other hand, did not escape, I just “underwent some change.”

From time to time, I want to yell, scream and make my voice heard. It is good just knowing that there are people who can hear me, share my feelings and perhaps understand my writings even tiny bit. This way, I can write more.

Love to those who can hear me…

Engin Kaban

September 24th, 2010 Lima

Posted in Essays | 6 Comments »

Change in Strategy

Posted by Engin Kaban on August 12, 2010

Change in Strategy

This is an informative message:

You know, I am on the road for 7 months. Many things happen during this
time, enviroment change, people change, I change…

And during all these, I am trying to write. I created a website before
hitting the road; initial plan was to keep it updated, but I couldnt. The
last post on my website now is from 4 months behind.

I love to write, and to share. But I realized it’s so difficult to do all
whilst traveling. Especially updating the website is like torture lately,
with the rare and slow internet. As I stay behind, I feel more under
pressure.

I also realized I spend too much time on computer, and decided to reduce
this.

I shared my thoughts with a few close friends and made my final decision:

– I will not put my writings for the last 4 months missing on my website.
I’ll only put the photos.
– I will be sharing all my photos after now as well.
– Instead of writing long and staying behind, I’ll send out short
informative posts.
– I’ll continue to write long for myself, but not to share on my site.
– I still have the idea of publishing a book about my trip, from the very
beginning. I’ll put together and edit all my notes in the end as a book.
(it’ll only be in Turkish though, unless I become a well-known travel writer
one day and have my books translated 🙂
– I will devote the time that I gain from all these to the many projects
that have been floating in my mind and those that I could never really focus
on.

That’s it for now.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can write directly to me.

Greetings and love…

Engin Kaban

August 11th 2010 – Puno

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The Brave Turk Juan

Posted by Engin Kaban on August 11, 2010

The Brave Turk Juan

Argentina #1o: El Chalten

Day 100-101 (April 3rd – 4th):

Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/enginkaban/ElChalten#

We are at the intersection of two roads. The weather is clear, but just as cool. There is no sign of life other than a few vehicles that pass by every few minutes. Our view comprises plains that spread out all the way, mountains in the background and lengthy roads. There is not a single building and person in our sight. The only thing we hear is the wind. We may have to wait here for a while. Perhaps no car will pick us up and we may have to camp by the road. We simply don’t know. It does not really make a difference anyway. Patagonia is spectacular. Aaand, today is my 100th day of my trip. Hundred days in the roads of South America…

In the morning, Gülcan and I left the house in El Calafate, and hit the road. Through three different vehicles we have managed to make it to this junction that is about 30 km away from the town. From here, we need to move on to El Chalten road, where the traffic is even scarcer (10 instead of 20 vehicles per hour). I really hope that a pickup truck picks us up so that we can continue our journey while enjoying our view in the back of the truck. I wish I had asked for something else. After a while, a pickup truck does stop. They ask us to jump on to the back of the truck. We are very happy. Our happiness does not last that long however; soon after we start freezing, shivering and feeling numb in the following minutes, we condemn the driver for this. The driver speeds about an average of 130 km/hr in the empty and flat roads. This means that we are exposed to severe gusts even in the most shielded part of the open trunk. We then wonder what is in the luggage that is lying on the back seat; it must be something quite valuable, otherwise, he would have offered us the backseat instead. After two hours of torture with the wind, we arrive El Chalten. The driver dares to ask us how our trip was. I reply, “cold.”

Nevertheless, I recover from this trip all right, but Gülcan feels completely off due to the wind. She feels miserable and falls asleep in the hostel we find. On the other hand, I, with the excitement of having arrived at the heaven of trekking, plan a short and simple route from the map and begin my stroll. With the last light of the day, I climb a hill that is right by the town and watch as the darkness sets in over the town.

El Chalten is a placid town that is situated in the tiny basin in the middle of rocky mountains, with a population of 200. Because of the countless walking and climbing routes and the famous Fitz Roy Mountain that is right next to it, thousands of European nature-enthusiasts fill this town. There are plentiful hostels, camping areas, internet cafes, supermarkets and other items that we may need.  The town is in such a perfect location that it is possible to do daily walking trips and return on the same evening to your hostel. Alternatively, you can bring all the camping equipment, and spend a few days in the nature in the designated camping areas in the national park.

We were going to cook a decent vegetable dish for our host in our last evening in El Calafate, but could not make it. Thus, we came to El Chalten with our eggplants, potatoes, carrots and onions. Because Gülcan does not feel well and because I feel lazy to cook myself, we fall asleep early in our first night. The next morning, our biological clocks and growling stomachs enable us to rise before dawn. We are probably the first in the hostel’s history to cook a vegetable dish that early in the morning. Even though we do not have many of the essential ingredients like salt, I still feel the taste of that meal up to day.

Safe and sound we prepare. The first thing we do is to move to a hostel named Hostelling International, the place that we could not stay the first night due to being full. We leave our stuff and immerse ourselves into the spectacular nature of El Chalten. Because it is going to be a daily trip, we only take small bags, and a little bit of food and drink. Both of our walking performance is quite good, so we continue our trip fast paced. At some point, we notice two people yelling from the top of a hill nearby. Even though we cannot make out who they are, we realize that they are children and they are asking for help. We don’t quite understand what they are saying, but I shout “wait, I`m coming” to them. It is interesting that none of the other campers respond to the cries of these children even though they hear them. Gülcan remains on our route should she need to call for extra help. I reach the children after a brief climb. They are two boys, and around 11-12 years of age. They look very scared. One of them is continuously crying. Apparently, they lost their father. I cannot make sense out of the fact that a man loses his children in a place like this. In any case, we leave the children with two women who are on their way back to their hotel. As we continue our trip, we run into a man who, Gülcan feels, looks upset. She approaches him, “excuse me, have you lost your children?” Bingo! We found the father. I don’t see any sign of joy and excitement in this man for having found his children, however. It would be absurd anyway to expect such a reaction from a man who manages to lose his children on the top of a hill.

The name Engin is very difficult for Argentineans to pronounce. One person I met on the road had told me that my name was difficult and added that my name would be Joan from then on. I had no objection to that. Juan is a very common name here. Since then, I always introduce myself as, “I am Engin, but you may call me Juan.” It is quite fun. Similarly, when I had a trip to Morocco last summer, someone started to call me “Ahmad.” Likewise, I was introducing myself with this name in Morocco. Let’s see what happens when I travel to the Far East. Since Gülcan knows this Juan story, she starts to call me “The Brave Turk Juan” for having saved the children on the hill. Apparently, a similar incident had happened to Gülcan earlier, and an Argentinean had started to call her Julie. The brave Turks Juan and Julie continue to travel the Patagonian land inch by inch.

After an 11-km walk, we finally reach our destination. Ahead lay Torre Glacier and the lake. Impressive. Now, it is time to take a break for food and enjoyment. I enjoy my canned corn, one of my favorite foods in the wild and in civilization, by the lake. Once again, I admire the perfect and wild life of Patagonia.

We follow the trail that ascends by the side of the lake and enables us to near the glacier. Every meter, the glacier looks even more captivating. Even though it cannot compare to Perito Moreno glacier, the fact that you can reach here just by walking and that the glacier greets you is even more impressive perhaps. As for the other glacier, you need to travel on a vehicle and need to walk with hundreds of tourists on a metal platform in order to achieve a good view. Here, on the other hand, you reach the glacier only after three hours of walking.

As we begin our return, we notice that no one else is left. As it is going to get dark in two hours and that we have a three-hour walk ahead of us, it is logical to get going. We say, “Never mind, we are the brave Turks and Patagonia is in our jurisdiction” and hit the road. Moreover, we decide to take a different route in order to experience different places. It is not easy to get lost here anyway; the walking paths are very obvious and there are lots of informative signs at junctions and even small maps. If you are already used to nature and have some sense of direction, there is no problem. As we reach a point that has the view of the entire town, it is already completely dark; perfect timing. An owl that is standing on the top of a rock greets us here. He is, as though, saying welcome, I am with you and don’t worry. He is only one of the players of the fabulous nature of Patagonia.

We cook dinner in the fully equipped kitchen of the hostel. I enjoy my time on the puffy couches, my favorite part of the hostel. Another day ends in Patagonia. Tomorrow is the time to camp in nature.

Engin Kaban

June 14th 2010 – Santa Fe

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My interview on newspaper

Posted by Engin Kaban on August 10, 2010

On 9th of August Monday, an interview with me about Iguazu Falls was published on the travel addition of one of the most-sold newspapers in Turkey.

You can see it through the link below or clicking on the photo (in Turkish only):

http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/seyahat/15512399.asp?gid=56

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