I was being shaken awake in my hammock. Someone was standing over me, their face obscured by the bare light bulb swinging behind him. He wasn’t my dad. I wasn’t his son. He was, however, our saviour.
Let’s go back a bit. About 12 hours.
Me and my dad - my actual dad - were on the third day of our hiking trip along the Lycian Way in Turkey, a route which served up beautiful sea views, quiet forests and mountain passes.
It was all going well. Then we got lost.
By the time we realised we were on the wrong path, there was no path at all. We were accidentally descending the wrong side of the mountain we’d spent all morning climbing up. It was too steep to climb back up so we were forced to continue down.
All day we toiled down the mountainside in 35 degree heat. We fell over, slid across loose rocks, crawled through thorny bushes and cut ourselves scaling down steep rock faces. We wiped sweat from our faces with dirty hands. We fell asleep with exhaustion when we stopped to drink water.
Daylight and water began to run out. Panic started to spread slowly and quietly, like a glass of wine spilling across a cream carpet. We were exhausted and just trying to get off the mountain before it got dark.
Eventually we made it off the slope and onto ground level, but at the last step down my dad fell about six foot off a rock face into a tree and eventually onto the ground. He was bleeding and swearing. Luckily he hadn’t broken anything.
Covered in sweat, dirt and blood we broke through the treeline and onto a small beach hemmed in by the mountainsides. We sat back onto the sand in exhaustion and looked around. Tires, dirty mattresses and other debris littered the beach. A wooden cabin was half visible behind some trees. It was weird, like stumbling into the grounds of a serial killer. But it was also comforting; we’d found other humans.
I went over to get help. Gradually, the inhabitants of the clearly homemade cabin revealed themselves. There was a Turkish woman and her young nephew, what turned out to be two Iranian women and a mysterious guy, “Mr. Mohammed”, whose sheer lack of interest in two lost foreign hikers was impressive.
After muddling along in Turkish, English and “Iran-ish” we called someone who was able to translate over the phone. The only way off the beach was by boat. And the only boat was being used by the father of the family. He’d be back later.
There was a slightly strange atmosphere in the air at first. This was an intensely secluded part of the world, and we’d entered it unbidden. The language barrier was hard to maneuver. The little boy - topless, sporting messy hair and running around a remote beach - looked like a character from Lord of the Flies. There was a knackered shotgun hung up on the wooden wall of the open-air kitchen.
We walked over to the end of the small beach to a generator with a pull cord. The Iranian woman, the little boy and then the Turkish woman all tried to pull and start the generator. No success. They looked at me expectantly.
I tried repeatedly and just when I was about to give up, the generator spluttered into life. I let the pull cord go and the small group cheered. The Turkish woman said something along the lines of “you only managed it because I warmed it up for you before,” and we all laughed. The strange cabin hidden on a secluded Turkish beach now had power.
Getting the generator going also seemed to charge some form of simple connection between us; we all relaxed and become more comfortable in each other’s presence.
They brought us food and tea. And then more food and tea. We talked as best we could, using hand gestures and laughing when we couldn’t understand each other. In the background, Mr. Mohammed kept himself to himself, mostly eating spaghetti with his fingers.
Sensing our exhaustion, they then offered us hammocks to sleep in while we waited for the father to return with the boat.
And there I was. Clothes stuck to me with sweat, flies hovering incessantly around my face, carried away to sleep by the rocking hammock. That’s when I was awoken by the calls of “Son! Son!”
The father was back and was happily waking me and my dad up for a second dinner. It was well past midnight. The Turkish man was in his 50s and wore his t-shirt pulled up to reveal his pot belly. It was a style my own dad adopted in the coming days to beat the Mediterranean heat.
We went back to the table on the beach to tuck into our second dinner of the night. We shared plates of delicious tomato stew and dunked bread into meze dips. The daughter acted with bursts of energy, lighting a cigarette before promptly putting it out; suddenly getting up to bring more food or clear away old plates. The father wore a permanent smiling squint, like he was high or staring at the sun. Just happy to be anywhere.
And like this we ate our second dinner. Under the moonlight, by the sea, surrounded by mountains. Filthy and sweaty, but relieved. And in the morning the Turkish father took us on his boat back to safety, and we left the family to their unusual, off-the-grid existence.
In the end, getting lost wasn’t so bad.
By Gavin Williams
For more stories about losing yourself but finding other people, get the first print issue of Beings magazine.