Underground Cities, Monasteries and Pigeon Poop

Trip Start Jul 06, 2008
Trip End Aug 18, 2008

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Monday, July 14, 2008

On our final day in Cappadocia we decided to take a tour that hit about five interesting places that would have been very difficult to get to on our own.   The tour covered over 200km and was from 9:30am - 6:30pm.  We aren't exactly 'tour' type of travellers, as we believe there are 5 main reasons tours are not the best way to get around and see things when away from home.  The 5 reasons are listed below:

1)  Tours are often overpriced - We completed understand that you can pay a bit extra for the ease of joining a tour when you don't have to worry about transportation or mapping out your itinerary and often you get some expertise along the way from your guide.  This was the case for us.  We felt the price was very good as just the entry fees for the stops along the way were over half the cost - and that's not counting the extra money it would have cost us just to get there - let alone eat as well.  So two thumbs up for #1.

2)  Tours can be crowded -  I'm sure you've all been on a tour of some sort when you've been vying for a seat or elbowing your way to the front of the line to be within good hearing distance from the guide.  Too often tours end up with 100's of people all crowded in an area trying to see whatever it is they are paying too much to see.  Our tour had 25 people on it - which did seem rather large.  At all the stops we made, there were at least 4-5 other tours there as well, which made everything even more crowded.  It was difficult to get pictures without people in them, but we think we got a few.   One thumb up.

3)  Tours Have Time Constraints - This is inevitable.  In order for tours to work, they must have time limits and itineraries to follow.  For our tour, the time limits were rather short for individual exploring. We would have gladly traded the hour long lunch for more time looking around - but alas, this was not to be.  We were told we had 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there, and always felt rushed.  Two little thumbs down on this one.

4)  The Extra Stops - So many of the tours we have been on throughout our travels have had some cleverly woven in 'bonus stops'. Unfortunately, these stops include carpet shops, silver shops, and any other kind of specialty that the country you are in may have.  It is these stops that you are shown some of the 'best' items you could ever buy...yadda, yadda, yadda.  There was only one of these stops on this tour - so one thumb is back up again. 

5)  You Don't Get to Choose Your Companions - this one can be a doozy!  Whomever has signed up for the tour is who you will be with for the day.  It could be all Japanese tourists flashing their cameras, it could be a bus full of kids shouting and crying and fighting, it could be a group of 'WhooHoo!  We're-18-and-life-just-started-and-we're-going-to-party-and-tell-everyone-about-it tourists or - if you're really unlucky, you might just have a tour with Boobs MacGilligy and her sidekick Blonde Ambition.  (Names have been changed to protect those involved).  This last one was our fate.  Considering this tour had a 3km hike, a climb up the side of a mountain and a cramped descent 83 meters down into a cold Underground City, you would think that you would be appropriately dressed.  But not Boobs MacGilligy.  She was wearing designer jeans, trendy sandals and her double D's were screaming 'Look at us!  Look at us!' as they were nearly bursting out of her extreme low-cut V-neck blouse.  Now we can appreciate a nice rack with the rest of them, but honestly - put them away! Tie them down!  Duct tape them if you have to!  But sweet merciful crap, you're on a hiking tour not a runway!  Her sidekick, Blonde Ambition wandered closely beside her as the world obviously revolved around them.
Two thumbs down.

We began the day by piling in the minibus with 23 other people.  (Boobs MacGilligy and Blonde Ambition 2 seats behind us).  We drove for a while and stopped at a beautiful panaramic scene overlooking Goreme.  Seeing all of the peeks and rocks from above was pretty spectacular.  Our time limit there came quickly and we were coralled on our bus again and on our way to stop #2.

As we drove, we saw many fields, sunflowers, barley adn so on.  Our second stop was at the amazing Underground City.  This was very cool.  There were 8 floors to this city and none were above the ground.  The tunnels and rooms were larger than the CuChi tunnels in Viet Nam, although there were a few passageways that we were nearly crawling through.  They made some passageways smaller to possıbly slow down any attackers.  The lowest floor, the 8th floor, was as deep as 85 meters.  This Underground City was connected to another underground city over 9km away.  It was quite large and had a church, schoolhouse, a graveyard, a place for animals, a winery and all kinds of large spaces that were all burrowed out of the ground.  The people who built the underground city also blocked doorways with large boulders to prevent enemies from entering.  Once again, there was a main ventilation shaft and multiple others throughout the city.  The main one was used for transporting goods and water and of course for fresh air. The people would only cook at night so that the steam and smoke would not be seen above ground so easily.  The temperature in the underground city was much cooler than outside at ground level.  It was so cool, it would have been nice to have a longsleeve shirt for part of it.  This was the first and only time Boobs MacGilligy decided to cover up the hounds as they were quite possibly poking people infront of her.  (Seriously - those things were hazardous).

The Ihlara Valley was our next stop.  We walked three of the sixteen kilometers and enjoyed the beautiful views.   We were walking along the bottom of the valley next to the stream, with the vast mountainous rock stretching up towards the sky on both sides of us.  Our group enjoyed lunch along the river at the end of the walk.  As we said earlier - there was PLENTY of time for lunch.  In fact many of us were waiting to leave.  We were given the 5 minute warning to hit the bathroom and get on the bus.  We were all on the bus when and our guide was doing the final headcount.  We were two heads short.  (Two heads, and 4 boobs).  We waited for nearly 10 minutes for the guide to head back to the lunch area to find them.  (Apparently she did not see the world revolving over there...).  Soon enough, our guide sped back to the bus and we watched Boobs MacGilligy and Blonde Ambition sauntered behind apparently in no hurry to join us so we could move along. 

Back on the bus and off to the Monastery.  This is another interesting and amazing sight.  Tour leaders used to tell visitors that the opening scene of Star Wars was shot at this location.  They have now changed the wording to 'it looks similar' to the scene.  It was basically another jagged mountainscape with tunnels and rooms carved and burrowed throughout.  After talking quite a few pictures and exploring various rooms, we heard our guide trying to round us up and head toward the bus.  We took our time here as we saw another couple from our group out as well.  (As long as we weren't the last ones back, we would be OK).  We probably only got to the bus 5 minutes later than the rest of our group with the other couple close behind us.  But there was still two people missing.  Let's think about this...who could it be?  Any guesses?

Clue:  Rhymes with 'Moobs McBilligy' and 'Flonde Sambition'. 

You guessed it!  Boobs McGilligy and her trusty sidekick, Blonde Ambition were no where to be seen.  We waited about 10 minutes, blasted the horn of the bus multiple times before the guide had to go up the side of the mountain to find them and tell them we were leaving.  Eventually, the guide came trotting back to the bus.  We nearly thought she hadn'd found them - but no - wait!   THERE they are!  The ones slowly descending, carful not to mess their hair (or fall out of their shirts???).  As we pulled away, the guide appologized for the wait and then added, 'I think you all know whose fault that was'. OUCH.  How do you like them apples?  (Or should we say melons?) 

Our final stop was at Pigeon Valley.  Across the valley and throughout the sheer rock faces of the mountainside, you could see openings carved out once again.   These were not churches or wineries, rather - these were Pigeon coops that housed 100s of pigeons.  The people use the pigeon droppings as fertilizer for their crops and vineyards.  Just across the street was the infamous 'onyx' shop.   This was the extra special stop on our tour.  We did not go in and one or two others opted out as well while the rest of the group went inside for the tour and fancy pricing 'special for you'.  Yes special indeed. 

This is where the tour ends.  We were taken back into town where we enjoyed some quiet time at our pansiyon (hostel).  We wonder where Boobs MacGilligy and Blonde Ambition are headed next.  They are sure to get there slowly and in their own time.  Countries around the world beware!

Hugs and Love,
Dana and Trevor. 
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