Globetrotting Turkish traveler, his dog reach Afghanistan – Anadolu Agency | English

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KABUL, Afghanistan

Turkish traveler Umut Balkis, continues his world tour on bicycle with his companion dog Del in Afghanistan.

Having left his job nine months ago, leaving his family and loved ones behind, Balkis travels on his bicycle across countries, continuing his journey undeterred by the challenges brought by cycling through Afghanistan’s rugged terrain.

He has been a DJ in Türkiye but the series of unfortunate events he experienced, including his breakup with his girlfriend, the death of his dog, and his dissatisfaction with his job, became turning points in his life.

All these events led him to embark on a vast adventure, causing him to realize “how quickly time passes and to start questioning the meaning of life,” Balkis told Anadolu in an interview.

With his desire to “explore the world,” Balkis acquired a durable bicycle and camping equipment for long journeys, starting his world adventure from Yalikavak district of Mugla in southern Türkiye on Sept. 7, 2023.

On road for 9 months

At the beginning of his journey, the Turkish traveler first went to the southern province of Mersin and then crossed over to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Later, returning to Mersin again, he reached the region affected by the twin earthquakes centered in Kahramanmaras in February 2023.

Then, traveling through cities in Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government, Balkis also went to Iran.

Crossing from Iran to Pakistan and reaching the capital Islamabad, Balkis intended to reach Thailand via India, but the Indian Embassy in Islamabad did not grant him a visa.

Consequently, he redirected his route toward Afghanistan.

Arriving in Afghanistan last week, Balkis will head to Tajikistan from Kabul in the coming days.

While Balkis aims to visit the Turkic countries in Central Asia, his route’s endpoint depends on the visa policies of the countries he will visit.

Next goal to visit African countries

Resting usually near water and particularly in areas with low human density, the Turkish traveler stays with people he meets in cities.

He aims to stay on the road for a longer period and his next goal is to travel through African countries with his bicycle and his dog, Del.

He covers a distance of 100-120 kilometers (62-74 miles) in flat areas and 50-60 kilometers (31-37 miles) in rough terrain per day, and the most challenging parts for him are the hills and the insects he encounters while camping.

Met his travel companion dog in Iran

Balkis found a dog injured in a repair shop in the city of Shiraz in southern Iran, had it treated, and adopted it.

He named the dog “Del,” which means “heart” in Persian. Now, wherever Balkis goes, Del accompanies him.

People stop to take pictures with Balkis and want to meet him, while others invite him into their homes.

Balkis said he never feels alone, talking to Del by his side.

“He understands me too. With my hearing already 50% impaired, he acts as an alarm for security during nights in the tent,” he said.

“Apart from that, he has been a very easy means for me to communicate with people. Everyone who sees him comes to meet me. I am happy to travel with him. We will be together until the end of our lives. Now, he is my travel companion.”

His return date to Türkiye unclear

Balkis said he will be on the road for a while longer, and it might even last for years and he does not know when he will return to Türkiye.

“I usually camp in places with few people. I prefer places near water, the sea, and forested areas. I often encounter hospitality from the people I meet on the road.

“In cities, I usually stay either in hotels or as a guest in people’s homes. I don’t feel any fear, but in areas that are dangerous, I try to camp near police stations or official places and inform them.”

“I am also happy to get to know different cultures. I also write in my journal. Maybe I can write a book, maybe I can create a website.”

Stating that he can maintain better health by cycling, Balkis also added that he meditates for as long as he rides, typically seven or eight hours a day.

“This also benefits my soul.”

Balkis says he’s felt safe

Balkis said there is generally negative news in the international media about the countries he has visited so far and that there is a prejudice against these countries, and emphasized that he has not felt any security threat throughout his journey.

“So far, the countries I have traveled to, such as Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, have turned out to be much better than I expected.”

“People are very hospitable, friendly. Moreover, they are not as dangerous as they seem from the outside. There are many places to visit. I consider them as undiscovered countries,” he said.

Taking advantage of Türkiye’s popularity

Explaining that he attracts attention with his bicycle and his dog, and that this creates a positive image in people, Balkis said: “Especially in this region, Türkiye has a very good image.”

“People who see the Turkish flag on my bike try to communicate with me with a few words of Turkish they know.”

“They try to help me, offer something. I really like this,” he added.

*Writing by Muhammed Enes Calli in Istanbul

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