Friday, May 30, 2008

How I Spent My Birthday - by Mr. Terry

It started May 29 at 12:02 a.m. on a bus in central Turkey when I encoutered a hand reaching from behind me to shake my hand. It was Daan, a Dutch guy we met at our Cave hostel in Cappadocia. Yes, we slept in a cave, but that is another story. Daan was contratulating me on my birthday. I looked at the clock at the front of the bus, and indeed, it was my birthday. Dave too offered congratulations. I think I would have let a good hour slip by before I really realized that it was officially my birthday.
We had been on the bus for two hours. It was ten more hours to Oludeniz where we would be paragliding. We left Goreme at 10PM. Goreme was indescribably gorgeous. It was out of this world. It is full of these stone houses carved out of the mountains and hills, fairy chimneys, and all sorts of madness craeated by volcanoes and millions of years of erosion. Just google Cappadocia for photos and explanation.
On our first night in the cave there was a thunderstorm! So, we are in a cave, with the call to prayer bellowing, and a thunderstorm rolling in. It was magical. We spent three days in total hiking and hanging out with other backpackers. We flew into Cappadocia from Istanbul. I say flew in, but as Dave describes it, the pilot basically just dropped the plane on the runway. It was a pretty sketchy landing. Istanbul was great and we were back for one night last night and we return tomorrow night to fly to Athens the next day. We have been covering a lot of ground.
So, back to May 29. The overnight bus ride was remarkably comfortable for an 8 hour bus ride. A couple of Gravol and I managed two or three hours sleep. I remarked to Dave that I was awake for about 21 hours of my birthday. Gotta get your money's worth!
We arrived in Atalya at 8am and changed to a mini bus to continue to Fetiye. This was a hilariously authentic bus ride. Just Dave and I and one Belgian lady among swarthy Turkish men, plump women with kerchiefs and little old men hunched over with canes. It was a real milk run. It went on forever through the hills of Southern Turkey.
We finally arrived in Fetiye buy still had to get ourselves to Oludeniz for birthday paragliding. Of course we were swarmed by taxi drivers. Being a bit tired after the 10, no 12, hour bus ride, I opted for the easy taxi mode to travel the 30 minutes to Oludeniz.
We arrived, checked in with Nicolet, who I have been emailing back and forth for two or three weeks now, and decided we would go for a swim in the beautiful blue Mediterannean in lieu of a shower as we were just in Olundeniz for the day and had no hostel as we flew to Istanbul later that night.
As we sat on the beach we could see the paragliders soaring and landing within feet of where we were sitting and finally the time had come!!!
We signed the standard "if you die it is not our fault" form and got in the jeep for the 40 minute climb up the mountain, stopping to give a lift to locals who were down in the valley doing their shopping. Pretty hilarious.
The view was spectacular and I pointed out to Dave the lower clouds which were basically at our eye level. 6000 feet. The place where other paragliders were taking off did not seem to to suit our guys, so we continued to the absolute top of the mountain.
Dave was first to go. So...basically you have a guy strapped on your back and they tell you to run like hell off the cliff and keep running even if you are in the air or you will just drop. Nice.
Dave did it like a pro.
My 'co-pilot' was Onur. He was quite the cat. We had to wait about 10 minutes, standing there with 6000 feet below us, for a good breeze. The only time I was even a tiny bit nervous, and I wouldn't even call it that, was standing there because of the delay.
I heard, "Terry, are you ready?". I said hell ya, and Onur said, "Then, run like hell, Terry". So I did.
I can't describe the feeling. It was surreal. Almost like being in a movie. You are just hanging in mid-air. You are so high, you don't think you are even moving. There is no sight of the chute above you. It was incredible.
Onur and I chit-chatted a bit, got each other's life story. He has a degree in psychology and a masters in economics, but he does this 6 months a year and travels the other 6 months. We kinda bonded. I told him it was my birthday and that is when things got really interesting.
He took off my helmet (Later when Nicolet was looking at the photos she said, "Terry....where the hell is your helmet?". I guess Onur wasn't supposed to do that) so that the photos and video he was doing while flying would be better. Then he said, "Terry, would you like to fly it". Obviously I said yes and he gave me a quick lesson and I was flying! Then, I got a bit bored and told him I was going to do a big 360 turn. I guess Onur figured I had some life in me and asked, "Terry, should we do some tricks?" I replied, "Funny you should say that Onur, I was just going to ask if we could take this up a notch." Well, that we did. He handed me the video camera, grabbed the strings and it was a circus ride from hell - all while Onur sang me Happy Birthday. I have no idea what we were doing, but Dave watched from the ground and said we were upside down. I just about lost my lunch. It was intense as hell, I screamed with joy (and a little fear) and finally it tamed down and we started our landing. A perfect landing.

And that is how I spent my birthday.

Dave and I caught the evening flight to Istanbul. Had to tell the cab driver how to get to the FRIGGIN BLUE MOSQUE - hello and got to bed around 1:30 a.m.

I don't know if I will get a chance to write about other happenings. Being bathed by a burly Turkish man at a Hammam was quite the experience. Hiking in valleys where you see hardly anyone else, being 8 levels below the surface in an underground city was the bee's knees. It goes on and on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Terry! OH MY ...! My first born son did what? Can't wait to hear these stories.

Pam