While listening to Hans Zimmer I was about to close my eyes but then immediately reopened them. Formerly, closing my eyes I used to make a long journey throughout my memories back to the beginning for long minutes. Yet, I started getting lost among my memories. Now, it comes to a situation when I have to stop to take a breath while living those memories in my mind once again. At those moments I deepen into thoughts what would have happened if I had taken the other road instead of that I had chosen and then returning to the starting point of my journey. The point where I started is important to me since my family lives there. I saw them right there at the last. Therefore, I have to feel myself in peace when eye close my eyes to come back to that moment.
I had shared an article of Enes Sensoy “traveling with Gurkan Genc”. As he mentioned there, “Actually, Gurkan doesn’t share many of his memories with us”. Then I read a message from one of my followers.
“Three years ago, when I read all of your articles of your Japan travel in just two weeks I got excited so much that I was telling everyone about you. Then I hadn’t had opportunity to read your writings for a long time and started to read from your last article (he had read my Zambia article) and the change in your wording is impossible to overlook. I couldn’t feel your old excitement and thought whether you got fed up from traveling or just were tired. It was like boring informative writing. While thinking that there must be something wrong I got the answer while reading this article. Then I learned that you were restricting yourself not transferring your old excitement. You do not need to write a newspaper article, everyone can write such an article. I didn’t like your new way of writing at all.”
At such situations what my friend Gokce Okullu has once said comes in my mind: “Gurkan are you aware that the road you are on changed you incredibly. The road continually sculpts and files you and you change with the things you learn and the experience you gain on the road” Well I’m happy with this evolution. I do not have to be admired by others. I’m not doing this journey on behalf of other institutions or persons but for myself. On the remaining time I share some of my memories for young people. And the readers may enjoy those memories.
I arrived in Pretoria in South Africa. Our ambassador Kaan Esener allowed me to stay in a small two stories house used for temporary employees. In the next days I was told a woman charged by the ministry will stay in this house and to avoid gossips I moved from this house with 2 separate rom. Afterwards, the couple Esra and Ismail hosted me in their house. Thank you once again.
One of the diplomates I met in Morocco had moved to Pretoria. Lastly, we were riding on bikes together on Rabat streets, now we are together once more, it was a nice surprise.
In their house, Durmus abi (brother in Turkish also used for men older in age) temporarily employed in the embassy and his wife were staying. There was no bed in the room where I was staying. I rolled off my mattress and sleeping bag and settled in the room. Many things to do in South Africa were in my mind but I gave up afterwards due to the conditions there.
After a couple of days, a soccer event was organized by our embassy in favor for helping and supporting orphanages. I played soccer with the children and told them about what I was undertaking. For years I try to inspire children besides promoting my country and to show we can choose a different direction within our life adventure. I said the most important thing is what ever you do never get afraid and give up. In the mean time I talk about my journey because that is my dream. For others my journey may seem boring or ordinary. I share my experiences I gained on the road with young people for years to inspire them to follow their own dreams. It may or may not help but to show a different point of view is always good. Who knows, maybe one of these young people will change the history of humanity.
I gave also an interview to a newspaper. During my stay in the capital town, I went to the Turkish Movies Week organized for the 4th time. Our ambassador invited me once for a lunch. I told him about what I did till I came to South Africa. Another day I was invited by Emre. Lahmacun (a kind of pizza with spicy minced meat filling), manti (Turkish ravioli served with yoghurt), dolma (stuffed vegetables), there was nothing left what I didn’t eat. People ask me: “Don’t you miss Turkish cuisine”. My answer is: “Never, because I meet Turkish citizens in every country and they cook for me Turkish meals”.
In Pretoria I waited for Hande who was coming from UK. I had ordered a new laptop, a new GoPro 4 Black camera and other equipments which were broken down under the floodwater in Botswana from England and Hande was bringing them. She was going to visit her cousin Oktay in Botswana but her flight was primarily to South Africa. Well, since these are expensive here, buying everything from UK was reasonable. Hande will take a flight to Johannesburg and then we’ll rent a car and drive to Botswana. Well, why am I going back to Botswana? Because every month I have to renew my visa valid only one month for Turkish citizens and allowed to extend 3 times at most. On the 4th time you get visa for only one week (PS. At this point you either bribe the officer at the border gate or you pay for a 3 months valid visa). Our visit to Bostwana and return to South Africa was a real adventure. Well, my driving was like riding a bike through narrow side roads and preferring dirt roads frightened her. Those places where really deserted. To be honest, I got also afraid driving in such places. Do not miss understand, I felt uneasy about how to fix if the car gets broken. On bike I feel myself more comfortable on deserted roads. It is easy to fix a bike. Well, talking about safety issues if you ask whether it is safe to ride on a bike with panniers on both sides in Johannesburg, everyone would say of course not. While riding toward the city I saw signboards “attention theft in this region” along the road. As a one both camping near Johannesburg and also generally camping at many spots in South Africa, I would say for a traveler born and living in Turkey traveling in South Africa is quite easy.
Because we are familiar with some situations if we like or not. A European traveler wouldn’t travel taking precautions as we do in this country. I had mentioned about this also in my first article about South Africa.
The evening we returned to South Africa with Hande a vehicle hit our car and we spent hours at the police station. Be careful not to end up at police station in South Africa, it will take hours before you leave.
I would like to say that the next days were quite monotonous, but it didn’t happen so. I had the opportunity to meet Turkish citizens and to have conversation with them. Besides getting acquainted with very interesting people, everyone offered me Turkish meals. In couple of weeks I had put on weight too much.
One day we went to pick up Emre’s (one of the Turkish diplomats) children from their school. They were going to a French school. As far as I got informed the school and its education was very good. Also, our ambassador’s child had graduated from this school. On the wall of the school was a geographical map showing Europe and Turkey. Taking a close look you could see that eastern part of Turkey was put under Armenian territory and southeastern part under Kurdistan territory.
- Emre, what is this? Did you see it?
This was the scandalous map distributed a couple of years ago in Kosovo. It can be said: “So what, it is just a map. Everyone knows that it is not true.”
At this point let me share a memory, it was between 80s and 90s when I was at the same age. I came across a traveler being grown up with a similar map on his school in Switzerland and had an intense conversation with him on this issue. Furthermore, he had traveled in eastern part of Turkey on his bike. After a while he became a member of the parliament of his country and supported the freedom of this region. He took those people he recognized under protective care. During this course he didn’t assume that Turkey was right. I don’t know what our ambassador can undertake against this school under the control of French in South Africa. A diplomatic note can be sent but whether this works I don’t know. I would launch a project in coordination with our embassy to analyze the perceptional process. I would become buddy with the French ambassador and in time would let the map from the class rooms disappear. I would grant new maps for each class room and also grant computers via TIKA (Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency). At least I would try it. No school would refuse such an offer. TIKA possesses such resources.
Well mentioning about projects, I came upon to 4th Turkish Movies Week in 2016 which was initiated by our ambassador Kaan Esener in South Africa organized in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town. This was a well organized program. The movies selected were excellent, but I must admit that I was disappointed about the audience. Later, I happened to meet Turkish citizens complaining: “Why didn’t we receive invitation for this movie week?”. Well, my friend, why do you want to go there? This is a promotion issue. Well, I must admit that we are good either in this issue. Yes, the theatre was full but a wrong the audience. The universities of South Africa are among the top 300 universities in the world. Hang the banners in those universities so the students can come. You prepared meals from Turkish cuisine, the appetizers were delicious. Invite the young people so they can post on social media that they have attended the Turkish Movie Week. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. Their friends reading those posts will also come. I still remember the Japan Cultural Week we attended in Morocco. My diplomat friend Pelin said to me: “Gurkan we were never successful to attract young people’s interest in Turkish Days”. But the Moroccan young people poured into the Japan Days, why? When you use their language in your advertisements and promotions then you attract their attention. In our case, the promotion organizations are done by the diplomats at our embassies or their wives. Well, they all are either graduates of political sciences or international relationships. How come? Alright, we are trying to do our best but although we have great opportunities why don’t we make use of them I don’t understand. Anyway, my favorites are still Bahrain and UAE teams on country promotion issue. Why? Because in those countries country promotions are done by publicity agents, public relations agents, writers, graphic designers, people working on export or importing goods and therefore traveling a lot. I’m also hearing that this promotion issue is well done in USA, I’ll write about this during my visit in USA.
Our older citizens might know better the famous singer Yuksel Uzel. She has settled down in South Africa. One day I went to her house and met her and her daughter Arzu. Then, I went many times to dine together or just to chat. She cooked lahmacun on wood fire and before I set off she gave me self made bastirma (pastrami). She said: “My son, take care of yourself, don’t skip your meals, take care of your nutrition, come to visit us whenever you have time, our home is also yours”. She was very candid.
I stayed for a while at family Nalti’s house in Johannesburg. Esra Nalti is working in our embassy since a long time. I must say she is like a local authority of South Africa. Ismail is dealing with construction work in South Africa. They have two sons, Selim and Ihsan, and a daughter, Zeynep. Since Ismail is a bicycle enthusiast he has been following my journey since a long time. They opened their house to me and not just for couple of days, the first time for 15 days and the second time for almost a month. But during this period I got really tired, to rise 3 kids up is really a very difficult task. Hahahaha. Thanks to Esra, I have put on weight…
As Ismail was also a bicycle enthusiast, one day Hakan, Ismail and I went to the bicycle track in Johannesburg. Hakan was also living in Johannesburg. He had come from Germany and was now working as an engineer at a coal mine. I had gone to bicycle tracks in UK, Switzerland, UAE before and this here is the track South Africa Johannesburg. At first, the parking lot was quite good. Also an indoor space was built for the athletes to get ready. It is a complex with restaurant, café, bicycle washing area, etc. Let’s say, you are going with your family and your kids are young, for them there is an outdoor playing area where the kids can climb trees accompanied by specialists. That was a quite professionally built place. There are also bicycle hire and service departments. Although there were similar tracks in the city I could visit only this. It is not a short track and has 3 routes changing according to difficulty level. Furthermore, there is a pump track. Though it is hard to ride on bike inside Johannesburg with help of GPS you can ride till Pretoria taking side roads.
There is almost every month a sports activity in Johannesburg. There are things happening uninterruptedly. Hakan, Esra and Ismail attended one of those races. I also intended to attend but eating baklava, doner kebab, dolma was so nice and I didn’t want to lose the weight I put on. Also I could record with drone in this place, which I did. To observe people while running and the city from above was nice. Around lake in the capital town there were so many tracks, it was interesting to examine in detail. Look, Ankara possesses the same opportunities also, but I have never seen something like this done in Ankara. Even, if done I didn’t see any lasting for the whole day. It would be nice that the municipality or whoever would examine, even participate such events. Different points of view would lay the basis for new activities to be done in our country.
Lastly, I had stopped riding on bike in front of our Pretoria embassy and set off again from this point. At this first stay in Johannesburg and Pretoria I stayed for a long time in both of these cities.30
Exiting Johannesburg was much easier then entering. There is the M6 main road. It was pretty nice to ride on this road for the first day since there was shoulder. Then, I continued on R25 (You might be right that road information is quite boring and meaningless for some but very important for the others). Well, if someone on bike happens to use the Pretoria – Swaziland road, to me he/she can have his/her own way. Lastly, you’ll see side roads next to M4 main road, I would say take those side roads but the coal truck traffic on those side roads surprised me. Well, this coal truck traffic continued almost uninterruptedly till Swaziland. Though there was a shoulder on the most part of the road I really didn’t like to ride alongside those trucks.
For a long time, I hadn’t faced with -3 °C. During the night kudus come right next to the tent. They ate the left overs of the apples I had eaten and went away (I knew from the noises they did that they were kudus). Also some other animals came over but I could not figure out what they were. Anyway, one morning I packed up and stopped at a grocery along the road. I ordered an omelet and one cup of coffee. The cashier went out of the store and looked at my bicycle.
- Are you Turk?
- Yes, I’m.
- Beg me pardon, I didn’t understand
Dude, what’s up early in the morning.
- Are you saying Mustafa Kemal Ataturk?
I ate a bit from the omelet. I’m hungry, hungry my friend. The pasta I cooked last evening was not enough. I also sipped on my coffee. In the mean time, there was a complete silence.
- What do you know about Ataturk?
In middle and high schools in Pakistan about the life and performances of Ataturk had been taught. “We all know him as a great leader. Every nation needs one leader as him” Look, also the Japanese farmer had used the same sentence. From where to where.
- What is your name?
- Muhammed, also Ali Cinnah was an important leader…
I said smiling and got up from the table, we hugged each other and I continued on my road. I ended the day in Ermelo. By the way, the village and town names are eye catching while moving down towards south; Newcastle, Utrecht, Berlin, Amsterdam and many other names. The names of Dutch, German and British villages and towns are scattered throughout the geography of South Africa. You already know its reason.
There isn’t any fee for Swaziland visa and I passed the control point easily. My bags were also not controlled. The altitude rises from Pretoria to the border from 800 to 2000 m. The road also has up and downs. Anyway let’s continue in Swaziland..
(Since I had sent most of the photos with the old archive file to Turkey I wasn’t able to post them)