The return of the Hair Snob

I ran my fingers through my hair.

It had grown a lot since I had it cut back in January.

And it felt gross. Fried.

“Arlene, this is disgusting,” I moaned, tugging at my sun-damaged locks. “I need to fix this or it will drive me nuts.”

Fortunately, Arlene’s pre-travel life included being a stylist.

We sat on a picnic bench in Kadir’s as I combed my overly-dry hair with my fingers, scowling at its quick descent into unhealthy.

“I give you good price,” she said, imitating the shop owners trying to hawk their goods. “Ten lire.”

“Sold.”

The next day, my last day in Olympos, I got my hair cut.

On the porch of a tree house.

My hair, which was spoiled rotten in my previous life, was wet around my shoulders as Arlene pulled out her stylist tools she brought on the road with her — a smock, scissors and a squirt bottle.

In the heat of the afternoon sun, she chopped and layered and spritzed my hair as passersby stopped, stared and questioned us in various languages as to what we were doing, then smiling and nodding once they figured it out.

“Well, we don’t have a hair dryer, so your hair has to dry before I can finish the cut,” she said, pulling off my black smock. “Let’s go take photos.”

The two of us walked around Kadir’s, snapping images of the tree huts, the towering rock faces behind the site and people. Then, we had lunch at the pizza hut.

“OK,” she said. “We can go and finish your hair.”

I produced a tiny flat iron — one I have only used on rare occasions since I started traveling, but kept it just in case.

She ran it through my hair quickly and then we were back outside on the porch and she provided the finishing touches to my hair.

“Finished,” she announced.

I got up, ran my fingers through it and was delighted. It no longer felt like a broom.

I looked in the mirror.

This is the best my hair has looked since I started traveling.

There were no fancy products in my hair. There was no blow-out and styling done. But, it was perfect for where I was.

Backpacker perfect.

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Heat = Sea

Olympos was hot. Walking outside immediately caused sweat to pour from my body. Sitting in my room was an option, but only a kilometer or so away was the sea.

And, that was a better option.

Arlene and I strolled down the small road to the sea, dodging cars and trying to stay cool.

On the way, one of the shops sold frozen bottles of water, so we grabbed those up quickly.

After paying the entrance fee to the park, we continued our quest to the beach surrounded by Roman ruins.

Finally, there was an opening in the rocks and there, before us, was the vast blue Mediterranean — along with thousands of people, crowded on top of each other, fighting for their piece of the sand and sun.

We found a little spot and dropped our stuff, and then submerged ourselves in the water.

I expected it to feel refreshing, but instead was greeted to bath-water-warm sea.

Not great. But, it’s the sea. I can’t complain.

We swam and relaxed in the water for awhile, while around us was buzzing with life.

Men on little fishing boats dropped anchor in the water, producing beer from coolers. Women walked on the sand, selling grilled corn. Picnics popped up on towels. Couples laid leg-over-leg.

This place was alive.

Even if it was crowded, even if the water was warm, even if the sun beating down on us was nearly unbearable, the energy emitting from the people-covered beach was undeniable.

After a few hours, Arlene and I called it a day, heading back to Kadir’s and the free dinner, followed by drinks and the club.

Of course.

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Summer camp for grownups

A few hours after my para-falling incident, the Fez Bus pulled into Kadir’s Tree Houses, the first “tree houses” to open in Olympos, Turkey. There had been a fire earlier in it’s history that devastated the site, but it had since been restored. And, subsequently during this time, other entrepreneurs followed the popular “tree house” theme and opened their own sites dotted with log homes down Olympos’ main road to the Mediterranean.

I walked off of the bus, ready to embrace a more calm and tranquil environment.

“You are going to get dirty here,” Scotty turned to me and said.

A gentle breeze kicked up, swirling red dirt on my skin.

Oh, yeah, I was.

I stopped and looked around at the entrance to Kadir’s. Tree huts painted with whimsical, hippie images on each cabin. A main tree hut with tables and benches on the first floor and upstairs, a bar in the center with views of the entire site.

Reception was hut. Another hut served pizza. And another was a night club.

Wow.

I walked with a few of the girls to our dorm.

“There is no air-con,” they announced.

I stood there, still in immense amounts of pain from plummeting earlier in the day.

No way in hell.

I walked to reception and asked for a private.

“We have one left,” the guy at reception informed me. “It is behind the night club so it is loud, but there is air-con.”

“Fine,” I said. I didn’t care about loud. All I cared about was not being in pain and getting some rest.

I dropped my bag in the room. A tiny wooden room with uneven wooden floorboards,  a single bed against a wooden wall,  a baby bathroom and a hose to shower, and a big, beautiful white air-con unit fastened to the wall above my bed.

One good thing about backpacking is that it makes you care a little less about where you rest your head. Train station. Bus station. Airport. Rickety room behind a night club with barely a shower.

It was perfect.

As soon as I stepped out the door and back into the blaring Turkey sun, I realized Kadir’s is a summer camp for adults.
Everywhere, people sat around, drinking, smoking, chatting on cushions in the middle of the site, in front of a smoldering fire pit.

At 8 p.m. every night, they served a delicious meal, and in the morning, the same, complete with an omlette station.

Once the sun set, the site came alive. Upstairs, the bar served up drinks and had a DJ until 11, when everyone was ushered down to the night club, a large, open air complex with wooden walls surrounding it and a fire pit in the middle.

I didn’t want to go there, but every night, something took over my mind, and as I was ready to crawl into bed, somehow I ended up there.

With Scotty and Arlene, a girl I had met earlier on the Fez Tour and had been reunited with in Olympos, and a few others, we would walk across the dirt to the club.

Each evening, we would become part of this amazing atmosphere, kicking off our flip flops and dancing together around the fire to “Waka” and “We Don’t Speak Americano.”

Bodies everywhere, fire crackling. It was primal. It was sexy. It was pulsing with passion.

Then, I would walk two paces to my room and crawl into bed, music still pumping loudly, permeating the walls.

But, I didn’t mind. It fit with the ambiance of the site. I would pass out quickly and wake up each morning feeling refreshed and alive.

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Para-falling

I never thought my Bucket List would be my Death Wish. But, early Saturday morning in Fethiye, I nearly died.

I should have known better.

I had been talking about paragliding in Turkey since I started my trip. It seemed safe — you just run off a cliff and then float over the bluegreen gorgeous water and land on the soft sand.

I was wrong.

I had signed up the night before, after the Fez bus arrived to Fethiye from Koygeicz.

“I would like to go paragliding,” I announced to Scotty, who called and arranged for me, Corrine, Jeni and another girl from our trip, to take the jump early the next morning.

I went to sleep early that night, adrenaline and anxiety pumping through my blood.

Sleep was not fulfilling. In my dreams, I did not jump. It was rainy, which meant there would be no sailing down to earth from the sky.

Which was fine with me.

I almost had myself convinced I would not be jumping because of rain when my alarm went off at 5:30 a.m.

I got out of bed, tied my sneakers and headed down to meet the others.

The ride up to the sky center was scary enough. Piled into the back of a truck on benches, the four girls paired with four men who would jump in tandem with us, bounced and held on as we maneuvered dirt roads, clung perilously close to cliffs and finally reached the top.

“One of us could die,” Jeni exclaimed, bright smile on her face, totally joking at the sentiment.”

Foreshadowing.

I looked out at the peak above us. Dirt, rocks, more rocks, jagged edges, a road below, then a straight drop down the mountain.

Oh. My. God.

Strapped to instructors, people were walking, then running off a cliff 19,000 meters up … taking flight over the mountains and down into the vast sea below.

What was I doing?

Panic mixed with fear mixed with excitement coarsed through my blood, sending a multitude of different thoughts through my head.

“Here,” said the man who would jump with me. “This is your jumpsuit.”

My hands fumbled with the zippers, so he began to zip me up, then placed the helmet on my head, leading me to the ledge where other jumpers had gathered.

For a moment, I watched them. Walk walk walk walk, run run run run, fly fly fly fly.

You can do this, D.

He began to tell me what to do.

“When do I sit?” I asked him.

“Don’t think about sitting,” he ordered. “Listen to me and do what I tell you to do.”

Easy enough.

And then, it was our turn.

“Stand here,” he moved me to a rocky spot a little bit down the steep hill. He began strapping himself to me.

My heart raced.

“Wait …” I said, second thoughts charging through my mind, along with the hefty price tag for the jump.

“The wind is good right now …” he began.

“OK,” I said, closing my eyes. “Fine. Let’s just do this.”

And we were off.

A guy pulled me by a front strap down the mountain, walking at first and then breaking out into a run.

I felt wind catch the parachute.

And then all hell broke lose.

Suddenly, I was facing rock. Falling down … down … down.

There was one moment before we plummeted 20 feet that I thought we would actually take off. Then, I was looking at brown rock. 

Oh my god. We didn’t take off. We are falling. I am going to die.

And then, we bounced from sharp boulder to sharp boulder to sharp boulder.

I’m still alive … I’m not hurt …

And then more falling and bouncing …

We have to stop.

I put my feet out, tried to grasp something, anything to keep us from catapulting at the speed we were going down the cliff of rocks.

I am still alive … I’m not hurt …

Then, we went over the edge.

I died paragliding.

We fell about 10 feet and landed on our asses, my pilot still strapped to me. The road below had stopped us from going over the edge of the mountain.

My body began shaking uncontrollably, my first though being my pilot.

Was he alive? Did I kill him?

“Are you OK?” We asked each other simultaneously.

I broke out into tears.

“Yes,” we both said.

I was still breathing. I was alive. I was hurt. My body was in serious pain.

Check for bleeding.

I thought for a moment about the places that hurt the most — my legs — and lifted up my jump suit and my pant legs. Blood. Cuts. Skin peeled back. But, nothing that required stitches.

“Get this off of me,” I cried, trying to unhook the multiple harnesses strapping the pilot and I together.

I sat there for another moment, taking in the extent of my injuries, the enormity of what had just happened.

I looked above. There were about 20 men who had dropped what they were doing to help us.

The parachute was caught on rocks, some which had landed on top of the fabric after our fall.

“Go and sit over there,” the pilot instructed.

“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” I repeated through a tear-soaked face.

As a group of people worked to free the chute, I sat on another rock, far from the scene and cried. Big, fat tears. Of pain. Of disappointment. Of anger.

What happened?

I knew, deep down, I had panicked. I had done something that had toppled both the pilot and I down a cliff. I had put myself in danger. I had put him in danger.

And now, I was beating myself up for it every which what way possible.

As others, those not affected by the terror they had just seen as we disappeared off the mountain, jumped and sailed away, I sat in silence, the only noise ever coming out of me were sobs.

After our accident scene had been contained, the pilot and I walked back up the hill.

I was mortified. I didn’t want to face any of these people who had just witnessed my body failing itself.

“You sat too soon,” said one pilot. “Two more steps … that was all you needed …”

Two steps. D. Two freaking steps. And, I couldn’t take those two steps off of the cliff.

I sat, causing the wind in the chute to pull down, causing us to fall down, down, down.

“Next time, don’t sit,” he said.

Next time?

“Are you ready to try again?”

Did he not just see me plummet 30 feet down a mountain and live to tell about it?

“Oh, no no no … I am not doing it again.”

“Are you sure?”

I nodded my head.

I got back into the truck and headed back down the mountain, every now and then breaking into tears.

When we got back to the office, Corinne and Jeni were there, waiting for me.

“You nearly died!” Corinne said. “Oh my god. We were so worried about you. All we knew was that you fell … ”

I burst into tears yet again.

On the way back to the hostel in Fethiye, Jeni relayed what she had seen of the accident.

“I saw you start, then I saw you sit, then the two of you fell over each other, fell down some rocks, and then … I saw you go over the edge, him go over the edge and then the chute disappear.”

“You nearly died,” Corinne repeated.

I got back to the hostel and saw Scotty.

“I’m so sorry for making the bus late,” I said to Scotty, once again sobbing.

“I’m just glad you are OK. All I knew was that you stopped, dropped and rolled!”

“I just need a hug,” I said, and he pulled me in and hugged me, making me feel safe for the first time that day.

“We are getting you drunk tonight,” he informed me before we boarded the bus.

The bus ride to Olympos was miserable. I sat in terrible pain, discovering new bruises nearly every moment. When we stopped in Kas to hit the beach, I opted for the bus.

I did a quick tally of my injuries: two cuts on my leg, bruises on both shins, a massive bruise on my thigh (my dad swore he saw Jesus in it) and a sore, sore back. For days, I could barely move without being in pain.

You are lucky to be alive, D.

In Olympos, everyone wanted to know the story. I was the exception to the rule — the girl who bit it when paragliding.

After my accident, I received detailed instructions from the USA: stay on the ground. Keep your feet on the ground. No jumping. No riding on motorbikes, ATVS, scooters, no nothing …

When we arrived to Kadir’s Tree Houses in Olympos, I upgraded myself to a private room with air-con so I could recover.

After ample drinks that evening, I felt better. Not recovered, but not in pain.

The next few days would be all about relaxing and being thankful Corinne could only say “You nearly died …”

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A final note on Kusadasi

A few days after departing Kusadasi, I thought everything was behind me. It pretty much was … until I was reunited with Claire in Olympos.

I was sitting at the treetop bar, enjoying my last evening in my adult summer camp surroundings when she sat next to me.

“Claire! Hi!” I squealed as she took a seat next to me.

She and I had been in touch during everything in Kusadasi. She knew what had happened.

“You won’t believe the message I got on Facebook,” she said.

“Oh god, is it about me?”

“Yup.”

“Can I see it? Will it make me mad?”

“Probably.” She opened her computer and logged into Facebook.

This is the message Murat wrote her (WARNING: strong language is used):

Also I explein you 1 more thing.
There is a 1 idiot bitch write a mesage to your wall about me and I hope you can guess.(diane)
I sended her from her 2. day and do you want to hear whats the real reason.
She dosent need a job she just want to her own room because she is looking for a people who will fuck her.
İn 2 days she finded 3 different people and you can guess who is the first man.(nathan).
Its not your problem but I just want to explein you because if anybody write a mesage about me maybe same time I need to say whats the real happened.

TAKE CARE.
BY

I closed the computer and closed that miserable chapter of my adventure and together, we burst into laughter.

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