Tired of traveling the beaten path I decided to take on the ultimate adventure: hiking solo through the rugged and remote Kaçkar Mountains in Turkey. I thought I was an experienced hiker, because I had spent years exploring the great outdoors, but I didn't know that this would be my biggest challenge yet.
I packed my backpack with all the supplies I would need for several days in the mountains and set out on the trail. As I climbed higher and higher into the mountains, I was struck by the beauty and majesty of the landscape around me. I could feel the cool mountain air filling my lungs and the muscles in my legs burning with each step. But despite the physical exertion, I felt alive and free. Just as I reached a good camping site for the day I encountered a sudden and violent thunderstorm. The wind picked up and the skies darkened as lightning illuminated the sky. I quickly realized that I needed to find shelter and fast, which looked impossible as I had just reached the open fields of a wide mountain ridge.
Just as I was beginning to lose hope, I stumbled upon an old stone shelter. It was ancient and clearly unused, but it offered some protection from the elements. I huddled inside, feeling grateful for the temporary refuge. As the storm raged on, I heard footsteps approaching the shelter. I tensed, wondering if I was about to encounter danger in this remote and isolated place. But as the footsteps drew closer, I realized that they belonged to a group of local shepherds. The shepherds greeted me warmly, and they quickly realized that I was in need of help. They invited me to join them in their own shelter, which was nearby, and I gratefully accepted. The shepherds welcomed me into their makeshift home, offering me food, warmth, and shelter from the storm. They shared stories (which I unfortunately couldn't understand completely) and laughter, and I felt a sense of connection and belonging that I had been missing during my long journey.
As the storm passed, I tried to leave the shelter the next morning. The shepherds insisted that I stayed longer for the good company, but I politely thanked them for the hospitality and continued my journey through the mountains. Reflecting on what had happened, I realized that this unexpected encounter had been a gift. I had learned that even in the midst of isolation and solitude, there was always the possibility of human connection and kindness. And I knew that I would carry the memory of my time with the shepherds with me forever, a reminder of the power of community and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.
Two days further on the hike, the mountains had another lesson to teach. I came across a gruesome sight. A horse lay on the ground, freshly killed by what appeared to be a bear or a wolf. The sight made me acutely aware of the potential dangers of the wilderness and made me more alert and present in my surroundings. I knew that I needed to be cautious and aware of my surroundings at all times. The thought of encountering a bear or wolf was never far from my mind as I continued on my journey. But despite the dangers, I also felt a sense of awe and wonder at the raw power of nature and the incredible diversity of life that existed in these remote and rugged mountains.
As I hiked further into the wilderness, I felt a newfound sense of respect for the natural world and an appreciation for the need to coexist with the wildlife that called the Kaçkar Mountains home. And I knew that my encounter with the horse, as disturbing as it was, had taught me an important lesson about the fragility and resilience of life in the wild.
Days later, as I reached the end of my journey atop a high peak, gazing out at the vast expanse of mountains and valleys below me, I felt a sense of exhilaration and triumph that I had never experienced before. The wind whipped through my hair as I thought about all that I had accomplished, and all that I had learned about myself during my time amongst these mountains. Eager to experience the magic of the mountains yourself? Come and join me for the hiking retreat RECEIVE on 4-9 July, that I will guide together with the amazing Ben. Click here to start the magic!