Erbil, Iraq- Still trying to organize my next project here, an expensive waiting game….
Erbil,Iraq-It’s been six long years but I finally made back to Iraq though i have so little cash, it’ll be a short stay it looks like. Hopefully with my never say die, give ‘em hell attitude, I can accomplish something…
Adana, Turkey- I’m in another utterly random hotel in an utterly random city along Turkey’s Mediterranean coast en route to northern Iraq. About to get on yet another all day bus ride and plan to cross into Iraq tomorrow. Have no idea what to expect or who I’ll meet, but that’s the best part of this whole deal, isn’t it? Don’t have any contacts in Kurdistan either and do not have a handle on what all the costs are but I’ll wing it as usual. I’ve read that the intercity taxis are the costliest part of the whole deal. Will Turkey attack while I’m there? I’ll soon find out.
Antalya, Turkey- I’m chilling on the central Turkish coast for a few days before a planned excursion to Iraqi “Southern” Kurdistan soon. I have an piece out in today’s Asia Times that is a reprint of a two-part Jamestown article from the past few weeks. Antalya is a major women-trafficking center and some readers may remember the beautiful seaside city being put in a macabre light in a disturbing Frontline episode three years ago called “Sex Slaves.” I’m staying down at the beach where a lot of the hotels cater to Russian and Ukrainian tourists as well as likely undesirables from said countries. But I don’t see any “Natashas” walking around, just families and young Turkish couples.
Fethiye, Turkey- Taking a break from the break I was taking in Ios, Greece, I’m on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey flailing around until I hit the next war zone. Turkey is a kind of paradise for this sort of travel. Bound by Greece, Bulgaria, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia with ferry service to occupied northern Cyprus, Ukraine and Russia, Turkey is the navel of my world. You can go from war zone to thigh slapping Australian backpacker antics with a 24 hour bus ride in more than one direction. Today I went hiking and swimming with a couple of sisters from Los Angeles and two local guys both named Volkan. I called our adventure “The Tale of Two Volkans” as we set off for the day, which turned out to be amazing. We drove to some tiny hamlet further east and hiked down a small mountainside to a secluded cove and dove in a very warm, very salty sea. One of those days where life doesn’t get much better. On the famished hike back up to one of the Volkan’s car, we discovered fruit, all types of fruit dangling from all these trees. We each grabbed a bunch of grapes before stumbling on shriveled blackberries, ripe figs, sour pomegranates etc. It was a garden of eden scenario to the max.
Don’t know where this road is leading, likely Iraq or Georgia. Got to keep it going though. Good times, bad times, I know I’ve had my share.
Whenever I’m here in Turkey, I always think back to a chapter in Robert Kaplan’s The Ends of the Earth called “Strategic Hippie Routes” which is about his trip in the 90’s to Kashgar, Xinjiang and meeting a frugal backpacker along a (then) new post-1979 hippie trail. This was long before Kaplan went of the deep end with his mil groupie books post-9/11 and was one of my early inspirations in these here travels. Read that book.
Tomorrow and possibly points beyond. It’s been fun here in Greece although the weather wasn’t what it should be but let’s just say I’m looking forward to that trusty old Turkish hospitality after a week and a half here.
When I first began this never ending story a decade ago, I was sitting in a travel agent’s office in some mildewed office building in downtown Karachi waiting for a ticket to Dubai, then in its infancy. There was a poster on the wall offering a specialized tour called from the “Highlands to the Islands.” I was a diptych of the stunning Baltoro Glacier in the high Karakorams and a a white sand beach on a deserted atoll in the Maldives. I’ve kind of modeled all the travel I have ever done and continue to do on this idea. I traveled from Kabul to the Cyclades via Dubai and its little visited sharia neighbor Sharjah. I got a flight from Sharjah International Airport, former home of the OG “Lord of War” Victor Bout’s gun running operation earlier in the decade. You won’t find the gruff Bout there these days or the Taleban in the Flying Dolphin airlines office. You’ll just find a few perky Fillipinas in neatly pressed grey skirt suits saying “Athens?” to the few European expats strolling into the airport. I thought it amusing that Air Arabia’s other heavily discounted destination that day was Khartoum.
I’m working on a back log from Kabul in a room overlooking the Agean. A classic room with a view.