Suitcase and World: Gathering firewood with Şahin and Ersin.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gathering firewood with Şahin and Ersin.

t home, I burn wood in my fireplace purely for enjoyment and when I want wood for the fireplace, I either head for the store and buy the stuff that's nicely pre-bundled to fit on my fire grate or I call someone to deliver wood to my house. I'm a city girl and that's how we do it in the city :-)

But not so in the heart of the Turkish countryside. Here, wood is essential for both heating homes and cooking fuel and the luxury of buying wood is not an option. When the weather gets cold, you have to gather wood and you have to do it the "hard way". That is, take an axe to a tree and haul it home. Multiply that by as many trees and large limbs as you can fit into the back of your tractor haul and you call it a day. Wish I had known this before I accepted Şahin's invitation to go "gather wood' with him :-) Keep in mind that I'm also outfitted in tourist garb - completely not prepared to be a woodsman. But I'm always up for an adventure so what the heck.

Ersin and I waited outside Şahin's shop waiting for him to arrive with the tractor and haul. Then, I heard the puttering sound of the tractor engine. Then, Şahin appeared.

Ersin put two small wooden stools on the tractor haul and we both climbed on board. On the way out of town, we stopped at the market to pick up drinks. We chugged down the road heading out of Göreme. It was a beautiful afternoon.

A short distance out of town, Şahin veered off the main road - the road sign read "Bağlı Dere" which is the Love Valley. We had hiked there the weekend before so the landscape looked familiar.

As Şahin concentrated on steering the tractor and the haul up and down the narrow, unpaved path, I enjoyed the scenery that passed before my eyes although I kept wondering where the hell the trees were - I was seeing nothing but rocky landscape.

As we drove deeper and deeper into the valley, the road became more and more narrow - to the point where we could go no further with the tractor. And, we had finally reached a spot in the valley where there were trees - albeit scrubby looking saplings.

Ersin and I climbed off the tractor haul and the guys gathered up the axes and supplies from the market. We started to hike - I had no idea to where. Of course, we passed tree after tree that looked "firewood worthy" but I guess they weren't as we continued to walk and hike and walk and hike. It seemed like an eternity before we stopped. I have no idea why we stopped where we did but the guys soon took axe to tree trunk and started hacking away. In little time, they had amassed a pile of wood for us to haul back.

Round 1. We each latched onto small trees to haul back to the tractor. Dragging the wood back over uneven, unpaved paths was not easy. Dangling tree limbs would get caught onto something or other and you would have detangle the branches before you could move on. At one point in the path, there was about a four foot drop that we had to navigate across. Not easy with small tree in tow. By this point, both Şahin and I were cursing Ersin for convincing us to hike all this way to gather wood - especially considering there was plenty of suitable wood near and around the tractor. Along the way, we all had to stop every now and again to rest. The damn wood was heavy! Back at the tractor, the guys tossed the wood into the haul. We then hiked back to where the guys had chopped down the trees and took a drink break. By this time, we had all broken out in sweat so coats and jackets came off. After a few minutes of rest, we repeated Round 1. By the time we got to Round 3, I was ready to call it a day but Ersin wanted more. Şahin and I begged Ersin to go and he finally relented - after Round 4. We dragged our last batch of wood back to the tractor.

Thank God we finally called it a day. The guys checked the tractor haul to make sure limbs and branches were tucked close in otherwise, we would never make through some of the more narrow passes on the road. Ersin managed to stack the two wooden stools back into the haul and we both climbed in and settled back for the ride back to town.

By now, it was late afternoon. We had spent close to 3 hours gathering wood Cappadocian style and I had the wounds - scraped ankles and splinters embedded in fingers - to show for it. Back in town, we enjoyed the fruits of our labor as Şahin burned some of what we had gathered in the small wood burning stove in his shop.

What a afternoon it had been!