I've been curious about camel wrestling for ages. What is it? What does it involve? What's the appeal? What does camel meat taste like? After booking a trip to Selçuk over a month ago with E&M I was all set to find out.
People seem very split over both the merits of the sport and treatment of the animals. The camels don't seem to harm each other, just push and shove a bit. There are rumors that they're starved in advance of the fight but I've found no evidence of that. This would have been one of my questions to ask at the festival.
But the festival never happened.
All Saturday I was feeling tired and about the only thing to hold any appeal was the idea to cancel my trip. But no, I had to go because camel wrestling! This is how I find myself now in an impossibly narrow seat on a Turkish Airlines flight I had to pay extra for. Ayıptır, Türk Havayolları.
We arrived in İzmir late Saturday night, too late for a shuttle to Selçuk but at least there were four of us to split the 180 TL cab ride. We arrived at the Paris Hotel at about midnight, exhausted (especially our friend visiting from the States who had been traveling for 32 hrs) and just fell into bed.
E&M are far more budget conscious than I and M chose the hotel, but I don't think he expected stained and dirty sheets, plumbing problems, and wet bathroom floors. Tired as I was I had a difficult time falling asleep, convinced there were bed bugs (happily no). Also not helping me sleep was the screaming wind. I knew we were expecting rain despite all my crossed fingers and toes. But the wind...that was a portent of more than just a little rain.
We got up early the next morning hopeful of both clear weather and beating 10-20,000 other people to a good seat. I was down in the lobby earlier and spent my time having a rousing conversation about politics and animal rights. In Turkish, thank you very much.
Sadly that was the only successful part of the weekend. Shortly after E&M came down so did the word; cancelled. The only happens one day a year camel wrestling festival was cancelled. Sadly a poster was the closest I was getting to camels today.
After walking around in the rain trying to find a cafe open on a Sunday where we could get a coffee I called it quits and got the mini bus back to the airport. My return flight was at 10:30 pm and I was hoping I could get something earlier.
Getting to the airport was its own adventure. The mini bus between Selçuk and İzmir stops in a few places, including the airport, but not really the airport. The exit off the highway to the airport. Normally not a problem, I've walked it before and at night no less but never in rain so heavy I could barely see. Luckily there was a taxi waiting in the medium and another gentleman and I made the dash across the highway in the pouring rain to get the cab the rest of the way.
Unfortunately Turkish Airlines, which I usually enjoy, failed me today. After standing in a Turkish line for a while it was finally my turn. The very nice girl behind the counter told me I could go on a stand-by list for the 6:00 pm flight but everything else was full. Full how I asked showing her on my phone all the not full flights on Turkish Airlines' website. She just shrugged at me.
In the end I booked a brand new one-way flight for 300 TL. Annoying but money well spent as it saved me 7 hours of waiting. My flight was a little delayed, of course, but after 2 hours of sitting in one of the narrowest plane seats ever made I arrived back to more pouring rain in İstanbul.
And the worst part of the whole thing? Was not missing the festival, although yes that totally sucked, it was missing my favorite priest's last mass at my church. :(