Read Part 1 here
We followed him blindly, and drunk as we were, there was nothing to stop us, no inhibition, no fear. Whatever fear we felt initially quickly dissipated as we followed him right into the stars. At least, that’s what it felt like.
We were high in the mountains and the stars looked close enough to touch. It was breathtakingly beautiful. We were walking on a narrow ledge, going in single file. Every so often Crazy Ali would stop suddenly and say “Look! Look at the heavens! Look how the stars shine!”. But drunk as we were, we’d end up bumping into each other every time he stopped and then stumble and almost fall. And then, when we finally stopped, we would look at the skies and voice our amazement loudly – “Whoaaa! Lookattheskkkkkky!” to the point that Crazy Ali got a little bugged with us and said ” Look at the sky… silently!” :P
He was also a bit concerned about how we kept bumping and almost falling off into the deep darkness below, so he asked us to all hold hands and walk in a line behind him. Anu, the daintiest of us, had already slipped and fallen to the ground once, and she dissolved into tears at the prospect of following this strange man into God knows where (she didn’t drink and Nitin, her husband and she were the only sober people in the group). Crazy Ali would hear none of it. He went up to her, gave her his hand, and said ” Come! Nothing will happen to you! You have Crazy Ali with you!” Of course, having a guy named Crazy on your side isn’t much comfort, but Anu was too scared to do anything else other than take his hand.
We kept walking. It was so cold that my nose felt like it had turned into an icicle. Finally, the track widened, we must’ve descended down to a clearing of sorts, we were in a small circular space and surrounded by trees. Crazy Ali stopped and the guys went behind the trees to pee. When they got back, Crazy Ali bent down to take something from his backpack. We all looked at each other nervously, half expecting him to say something like ” We all go a little mad sometimes” (a la Psycho) and start after us with a scythe or something.
But when he turned around, he had candles with him. Big fat candles, one for each of us. The walk wasn’t over yet. And we followed him again, through dark tunnels this time, and under prickly bushes and short trees that made long creepy shadows in the candle light. We started ascending after a while, again along a narrow ledge. This time we could see the tops of trees and knew that we were again high up in the mountains, and if we fell, we would fall into the forest, in all likelihood, never to be seen again.
I lost track of time, and my hands had gone numb to the point that the hot wax melting onto my fingers had no effect on me whatsoever. Suddenly, to my right, ( on my left was valley of nothingness) I came across a small cave in the mountain. All the wine and raki I’d drunk made me wanna pee badly. So I stopped and asked the others to go ahead. I took my candle with me and went into the little cave. I’m sure if I was sober I’d not have been able to go into a lonely cave in the mountains by myself. But though the effect of the alcohol was wearing off slightly, I was still too intoxicated to worry about whatever fears of the natural or supernatural would have kept me away otherwise.
After I was done, I walked out and ahead, a little faster this time, hoping to catch up with the others soon. I reached a bend in the path and after I took the turn, I found 3 of the guys – Subodh, Santosh and Sandeep, sitting down on the ledge, chatting away nonchalantly. The others were nowhere to be seen, and the guys didn’t have their candles either.
I was suddenly very alert, and on the verge of panicking.
Subodh, where are the others?
Subodh looked at me placidly, blinking a few times.
He took them.
Took them?! What do you mean took them?!!! Took them where?! And where are your candles?!
Oh, he said we didn’t need the candles anymore.
I was worried now, for real. All this time everyone was half-joking about the mass-murderer thing, but now… it suddenly didn’t seem very funny anymore. I realized I’d no idea where I was, no cell-phone or any other way of reaching anyone, and had no idea how to get back even if we managed to get away!
I had nothing on me for self-defense even! I tried to think if I could use anything I had on me as a weapon.
Subodh, what do we do?! What’s happening?
I guess he realized I was scared, cos as a way of reassurance he said “I have my pen knife!“. It goes to show how far out of logical thinking we were that I accepted this fact solemnly and offered my room-key to add to our sorry cache of “weapons”.
Suddenly, in the middle of this conversation, I heard someone yelling for us.
Sanjanaaaaaaa! Sanjanaaaa! Subodhhh!
It sounded like Veena, Subodh’s wife.
I called back “Veeeeenaaaaa! Where arrrrre youuuuuu?!”
Come onnnnn! she called out to us.
She didn’t sound scared, or like she was being held at knife-point. We walked ahead, following her voice and stopped outside a cave. A much deeper looking one this time.
We walked in, and up a few steps, following blindly into the darkness… and suddenly there was light all around. Warm, flickering, dancing light of a hundred candles lit the room we were in. Every nook and cranny had a candle with a flame dancing brightly on it. The others were all there, smiling at the look of amazement in our faces.
It was Crazy Ali’s secret church. One that was hidden deep in the mountains of Cappadocia. One that no one knew how to get to other than him. He smiled at us kindly and said ” Crazy Ali! Crazy, not dangerous!”
We opened the bottles of wine we’d brought along with us and sat around as Crazy Ali recited his poetry to us. He has a strong, deep voice, and the cavernous room we were in made his voice echo and sound even more beautiful.It was the most surreal experience of my life. He read us several poems he’d written and at the end of each he’d sign off by saying Crazy Ali, with a strange wave as if he was writing his name in the air.
I don’t know how long we were there, but soon, we blew out the candles and were on our way back. Back down the ledge and through the tunnels, into the clearing and back to the top of the cliff. The driver was back, waiting for us, and Crazy Ali dropped us back at the hotel. He hugged us all goodbye and gave me one of his poems titled Come (back) to Cappadocia as a keepsake. I was so touched by his gesture, but had nothing to say that would even begin to express my feelings of wonderment and awe, to thank him, for everything.
There really is nothing more to say. I could tell you about our hot-air balloon ride, and the other wonderful people we met, or the amazing places we went to in Istanbul. But when I think about Turkey, Crazy Ali and The Walk he took us on comes out tops!
If ever you go to Turkey, do not miss out on Cappadocia. Maybe you’ll meet Crazy Ali, he could take you to his secret church. Don’t listen to the locals who talk about how dangerous the trail is. We talked to some the next day and they told us about how someone had fallen down and died just two days before while traversing the very path. And when we looked down the path we’d traversed in the morning from afar, we were as amazed as everyone else at having made it back safely!
It was a crazy thing to do, agreed. But what’s life without a little crazy anyway?