The way out of the valley was up. I wrote earlier at what was my first break for the day. Not long after that moment I began a steady rise. The mountains on both sides grew closer and the road up grew steeper. It was turning out to be another scorcher and I kept looking for a spot where I could bunk down for the afternoon but the best I could find were spots that offered imperfect shade and temporary reprieve until I could push on. Three times I found myself sitting under a small tree that offered only partial shade and uneven ground. Once I found a rock ledge that looked like the perfect spot to sit and rest. I figured the shade offered should last me about an hour and a half before the moving sun took it all away. I had not even been sitting there a minute before I realized the ledge also played host to one of the biggest ant colonies I had ever seen.
It was my next break spot that really did me in. I found another rock ledge about five feet off the ground that looked both promising and comfortable. For about twenty minutes it was. Then I noticed that as the sun shifted I needed to remain leaning further and further back to stay in the shade. As the sun passed its zenith and fell westward my spot of shade was gradually disappearing. It was time to get up and move on. I meant to hop down off the ledge but I didn’t stick my landing. My left foot landed on uneven ground. It crumpled and I fell. I tried to get up and brush myself off but my left foot couldn’t hold weight without immense pain. No matter. I couldn’t stay where I was and I could not go back.
I was not limping far before the next road sign told me I had crested the hill and my next 2.4 kilometers would be downhill. Even still, it took me much more than an hour to limp my way down that descent. Just past the bottom, and past a sign saying Isparta 50km, I found a campsite better than I could have possibly hoped. It had clean water, an outhouse, two fire pits, and enough level ground to hold a dozen tents like mine. I set up my tent, refilled my waters, and climbed inside to rest and inspect the damage done to my foot. The foot clearly wasn’t broken but the swelling had already begun and also the cuts and blisters on both feet was far worse than I thought.
I tried to nap but between the heat and my all around soreness it wasn’t going to happen. I rested a little, I prayed a little, and then I pulled out my phone to assess my situation.
I was almost on top of the spot where I was supposed to turn off the main highway to keep going toward Yalvac. If I ignored that turn and stayed on the highway, I was getting close to Isparta. I had no idea what my intended path would be like. I don’t know how many cars would be taking that side street through the second half of the mountains I was to be walking. I don’t know how steep the climb would be. I don’t know how large the next town was. As much as I didn’t want to add another 100 km to my journey (fifty up, fifty back) I needed to stay on the highway, get to a real city, and give my ankle a chance to recover. Isparta it is.
Sometime around 4:30 I abandoned my campsite and moved on. I figured I would walk to a likely spot where I could plant myself with thumb out and hitch a ride. Surprisingly, even though my foot had swelled up like a balloon by then, I managed to find a limping pace I could maintain. Apparently, walking with my open blisters had greatly increased my tolerance. It was right around sunset that I found myself a ride. Actually, I hadn’t yet given up and started trying to hitch yet although I was close. My benefactor was an engineer who lived in Isparta but worked in Antalya. He had seen me on his way to work that morning and he said I was looking a lot worse now than I had been then. As we chatted and got to know each other, I pulled out my phone and booked the cheapest thing I could find for two nights. Hopefully that would be enough recovery time and then I could hitch a ride back to where my path breaks off from the highway. Until then, I would have an unexpected chance to relax in what looks like luxury.