“Do you want to come for food, or tea?”
“No thanks, I just ate!” (And I’d already been invited for tea, everywhere…) “I’m going to camp on the beach.”
There were some murmurs amongst the gathering around the plastic table.
“You can’t camp there, the government doesn’t allow it!”
“Don’t tell them then!”
(OK, I said that last part in my head)
The government seemingly doesn’t allow a lot of things here. Like Wikipedia. Or Booking.com. Or journalists.
I rumbled along without much care over the hard and lumpy salt mass to my allegedly restricted camp site. The shore of the crystal clear Salda lake is a white beach made from a mineral found in the water, and the water itself is a strange, mystical turquoise colour, giving it the nickname “the Turkish Maldives”. Despite the advice, many people camp here from time to time.
But today there wasn’t really anybody else about, and there wouldn’t have been anybody at all if there weren’t youngins lingering around for a staged wedding photo-shoot. They had brought along the usual wedding stuff: pretty flowers and chairs, guys with fancy cameras, and a semi-automatic sniper rifle, a real one, obviously. They all looked horribly rich, but thankfully not intimidating.
A small drone flew from their crowd over to the salty islands in the middle of the water, and then 2 guys appeared on the small ridge and one of them casually blasted a few sniper rounds into the lake, laughed and then left. And that was that. Crazy people everywhere, confirmed. I decided to stay anyway and pitched up my tent.
I wasn’t totally surprised by the lack of people around here, because it’s not really near anything and at almost 1200m, makes for some pretty cold nights even in summer.
I went to sleep to the gentle sounds of the waves lapping the shore, the birds tweeting and the crickets singing. And in the middle of the night I woke up (for a piss, okay) to an incredible sea of stars above. But it was too cold to look at them for long.
Apparently it’s a crater of a volcano, and that’s why all the mineral stuff. Ever camped in a volcano before?
I made myself a nice breakfast as by now it’s the first day of Ramadan, so I imagine it difficult to get decent food with everyone fasting.
And I cycled across the beach alone in the sunshine. Until I tried to leave.
And then “Hey! Oi! Come! Chai!”
“Or coffee?!” They shouted.
As it turns out there’s a little pack of gypsies living on one edge of the beach huddled in little makeshift tents. They sell tea and coffee and simple food to whoever passes. I sat down with a guy who could speak more German than English and even at that I still knew more German than him.
What we lacked in communication we made up for in sign language banter. He took my camera and took these photos.
With a big gulp he drank the rest of his Turkish coffee, with the grains too, and smiled.
And then I cycled off, waving goodbye to the volcano gypsies living their humble and simple existence on the periphery of nowhere.