Little did we know as we left the campsite that morning that this was to be one of the most special days of our trip so far. We did not know exactly where we would stay because the guidebook had a hole in the area and so did the map. There did not seem to be any big cities on our way up to Matalya.
We did well because we left early. The roads were empty and in fairly good condition, plus it was fairly cool and we were making good progress. Towards the second half of the day we had strong crosswinds but continued on to around 250 miles when we came to a small town called Gurun, population 10,000.
At the start the town did not look promising and I wondered if we would have to try to continue all the way to Matalya to find somewhere to stay. There were only a couple of houses and I wondered how it could have 10000 inhabitants. The first sign things were starting to get populated was a market shop so we pulled in for some chai. Kids materialised out of nowhere, still wearing school uniforms since it was around 3pm. keen to practise English they were saying who they were and asking where we were from. I enjoyed the friendly banter and nobody was asking for Lira. I had a warm feeling about the place already and the people seemed more genuine.
We asked about Hotels nearby and the owner with the help of some kids translating had a chat with a woman (who turned out to be his wife) and we managed to figure out there was a place around 2km down the road but the wife looked concerned. She made the fingers rubbing together sign that indicated money and seemed to suggest it was expensive. From what we could discern they offered to let us stay in the tree-house type building beside their shop.
The wife left on a bus with the kids as we drained our tea, still unsure if we had understood correctly. Asking the owner again I pointed to the tent on the bike and to the field to see if they meant to set it up. With the aid of an English phrasebook he seemed to be happy enough for us to do that but said we could stay in the tree-house (making the universal hand signals for steps) if we wanted. I went to pay for the tea and some food and made clear I wanted to give something for the camping too though in the end the bill seemed very reasonable.
We cooked some pasta on the stove after I figured out the venturi type thing that lets air in was blocked. Later the wife of the owner came back and we were introduced to everyone and invited into the house for some tea. Bread rolls were offered, as were apples picked locally, figs, walnuts and some sort of bean that looked like an olive but with a sugary powder inside. We managed to chat about life in our countries (via an enterprising son and Google Translation) and looked at all our photos and all theirs. It transpired the owner had built the tree-house himself as well as some miniature wooden furniture and was interested in antiques. Overall they seemed quite happy in their lives together and it was fantastic to be welcomed in here.
We went to bed much happier with the world and truly humbled by the hospitality. I considered how we could have easily driven right by if we had arranged another hotel/campsite on the way and what a great loss that would have been. To quote someone “these are the days that must happen to you“.