21 t0 26 August
Contributed by Gerald Maclean
It is now the 21st and I am back in Avanos at the ranch having decided that the heat on the road really was way too much for me, even in the relative shade of the minibus cab with occasional a/c and regular cross ventilation when there was a breeze outside. Yesterday at about 2:00pm while we were parked in the shade on the edge of Altunhisar, I noticed that the temperature was 42 celsius. So when Erdinç showed up at camp that evening and plans were being made, I begged a ride back to the relative cool of Avanos and the ranch. Even here in the relative cool right by the Kızılırmak river, temperatures are only dropping below 30 after dark.
I spend most of the day rather glumly drinking as much water as I can while sitting in a comfy armchair in Ercihan’s private cabin at the ranch. In the evening, a wedding is being held in the garden restaurant at the ranch. The music is frightfully loud, so when Donna phones from camp, I can barely hear what she is saying over the broken and crackling connection. Erdinç and I drive to meet the ride in evening camp outside a village called Zengen. We have borrowed a pickup truck and are carrying various supplies. By road, Zengen is just over two-hours drive from Avanos, but in a day or two the ride will have moved deep into the Konya plain and beyond daily reach from the ranch. When we arrive at camp, we find that Yunus has set up a rakı sofrası for the evening meal, that traditional collection of dishes to be snacked on while drinking the aniseed-flavoured spirit that some confuse with ouzo and arak. On the table here is white melon, yellow and white cheeses, olives green and black, a green salad of roka (rocket or arugula) and chopped tomatoes, and in the kitchen a pot of kuru fasuliye, dried white beans stewed up with tomatoes, onions and small pieces of lamb. But all too soon it is time to say farewell, to wish the riders luck with the rest of the journey, and to load Donna’s bag into the pickup. I fail to stay awake on the drive back to Avanos.
We find seats back to Heathrow for the 26th, and spend the intervening days trying to make ourselves as useful as possible. Donna helps Raphaëlle train the young horses that have recently arrived on which she will be taking customers riding later in September and through October. Disconnected reports come in from the riders; all are enjoying themselves, though the going continues slower than can be maintained. We hear they made only 15 kilometres one day. Plans for cutting the route and finding a lorry to move the horses ahead are in the making.