There are some places in the world where we, as travelers, or as humans, are discouraged from going. First of all there is Afghanistan, the mother of all evil. Then comes Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Iran, and a few more monsters on the list. I did not expect that Turkey was on it, too. But as I crossed the border from Iran and got off a car in the small town of Yuksekova, that smell of burnt chemical in the air made me think otherwise. Lacerating for my eyes and throat, it just did not seem right; nevertheless, we kept walking as we needed to get out of the main road to hitch another ride.
It was then that I understood something was going wrong: normally, they do not welcome tourists burning tires in the middle of a traffic light’s junction. And normally, they do not do so holding metal crowbars and hiding their faces behind black scarves and sunglasses. This was not a normal Turkish welcome. I am not completely sure, but this way of Eurasian greeting may relate more to the PKK, better known as the Kurdish Liberation Front.
The whole scenario looked like unreal, like it was being played in slow-motion. Seconds later, police tanks rolled up the street without any sort of grace. The sound of tear gas’ explosions lacerated the air with a slow fatigue, as it was forced out of a thinner cannon’s mouth. People gathered around us, asking where we wanted to go. I tried to indicate the riot just one hundred meters in front of us, but nobody seemed to take it too seriously. “Go to the bus terminal”, someone said. Another one could see my discomfort and show his own, without speaking a language I can understand. Seconds later, a truck pulled in and swerved to the curb at my thumb’s command. We got quickly in and out, riding away from a junction that was getting more and more crowded with tanks as I looked in the rearview mirror. At last, even such enormous machines became tiny dots on a reversed horizon line.
This time it ended up well, luckily. But what may happen the next? It is extremely tricky and unpredictable to forecast what may happen travelling across a Danger Zone, a conflict area, a hellhole, as some may call it. As a matter of fact, we should not go, although at times we are geographically forced to. I confess, I did not check the security situation of the Hakkari border region before setting out of Iran – a perfectly lovely, safe country, If I may say -.
At times, we just do not know why we get there. Or, more dangerously, sometimes we want to visit these places because we believe that the ultimate travel thrill is there, where the unknown, the risk, and the dangerous all lurk together holding long knives and shotguns in their scary claws. I reckon that a few meters more may have been a lethal, if not deadly, introduction to Turkey for me and my partner. And I more shockingly reckon that by thinking backwards, that moment was sort of thrilling. A GOOD thrill, I mean. Something unexpected, something wrong that made me understand why many jaded travelers try to push the limits further, looking for adventure thrills that resemble a Ballardian vision of travel.
If this post may seem pointless, please understand that I just felt it was right and worth to share this story and my reflections with the Vagabonding readers…
And it is not because I crave danger or I am so jaded that stupidity has eaten my brains… it is just because that moment will keep on flashing back to my memory for years to come as the moment I really understood what being there, in the Danger Zone, feels like.