The Best of the Rest of Turkey

Trip Start Apr 06, 2010
Trip End Nov 16, 2010

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Where I stayed
worst campsite to date

Flag of Turkey  , Agri,
Thursday, May 13, 2010

After leaving Ankara we had a long way to go to get to Iran - who ever knew Turkey was such a massive country! But it is a beautiful country and the driving doesnt seem so long when you have amazing landscapes to enjoy.

Our first introduction to the world of caves was at the Ilhara Valley where we had a nice long walk through. A fast running creek runs through the middle of this huge crevasse of steep rock (400steps high that we had to climb out of at the end). Apart from the natural beauty of the place it had a very interesting cultural heritage. Up in the rocks are numerous caves, many were homes (only a few still lived in today) but there are also some very interesting church caves, where the rocks have been painted with all the bible stories that we know today, and the caves are actually cut in the same shape as a church, including baptism areas.

Getting deeper into the world of caves we visited an underground city. A bit eery, and very cold so far underground (8 stories deep). It is now just a tourist site and nothing of any real interest except for the endless narrow and short tunnels, and the doors (big circle of rock that could be rolled in front of a passageway). Very claustrophobic I wouldnt like to get stuck down there (especially not with the young local boys who flashed themselves at some of the girls who happened to be walking around without a male with them)!

The highlight of our time in Turkey was Cappadocia, the ultimate cave world and most unusually beautiful natural landscape. Photo's dont do it justice, all I can say is put it on your travel wish list! Not sure if I am biased though by the fact our campsite had the best showers of the trip so far (whatever temp & pressure that you want!) and I had some great food whilst here. I wont write about the landscape as it is too hard to explain (see photos), except to say that Goreme, the village we stayed in, still is a cave village and many of the caves are still inhabited, the people are really laid back, and it was generally just lovely to be there.

We went hot air ballooning at sunrise which was one of the best experiences of my life, could not stop smiling the rest of the day (possibly helped by the champagne on landing). It is definitely the best way to see the Fairy Chimneys, the Rose Valley, the Love Valley (aka Penis Valley), and is just such a peaceful ride the only noise is the occassional woosh of gas. Jeff spent a day bike riding through the weird landscapes, even got close up inside one of the penis's. While he was off riding I spent the day eating, drinking & playing backgammon in the Nazar Borek Cafe on another cushioned, low tabled gazebo with a cute puppie to play with. What a life!

We also spent a day hiking through the valleys, trying to follow paths that went nowhere and walking (scrambling) down through the massive ridges. All that walking deserved a long lunch at our favourite Nazar Borek Cafe! Jeff & I did another long-ish walk back to the campsite of similar style - aimed to follow a trail but got lost and eventually just bush-bashed in the direction of the campsite. And as a reward for our day of hiking we went out for a night of traditional Turkish dancing (whirling dervishes & belly dancers included) followed by modern Turkish dancing (basically the traditional night in the cave turned into a nightclub).

We had a few drive days & bush camps to get across Eastern Turkey. We were all a bit scared of the continuous bush camping as it meant no amenities but we all know each other well enough now and really it all smells the same! We were pleasantly surprised by some of the stops along the way. A beautiful lunch stop at an ancient Roman bridge over a fast flowing river that some of us swam in, some bathed in, others (me) got swept away and tumbled over the rocks in (Im OK, just a bit of bruising). A bushcamp on an army firing range. Driving along the shore of Lake Van (reminded us of Scotland or NZ with the beautiful green water and snow-capped mountains in the background). Starting to shop in local markets, no more stores, and fresh fruit in abundance.

One of the bushcamps was a real test for the tent - Nemrut Dagi for sunset. While it was a beautiful sunset (after a tough very steep climb over some patches of ice) it was freezing and blowing a gale. We all sat on the truck while we waited for dinner (a first) and many people decided to sleep on the truck overnight as their tents were blowing over!! I had a sleepless night as the wind howled around the tent and I kept thinking it was going to blow over the cliff taking me along with it (totally irrational). But the MSR withstood the test and we are very happy to say now we have survived downpours of rain and clifftop gales. The next big test will be extreme heat ... possibly to come soon!

Our last stop in Turkey was the border town of Dogubeyazit (aka Doggybiscuit) where we had to stay in the worst campsite ever for 2 nights while the women all got their chador tailor-made ready for Iran. The chador has been a hot topic of conversation (debate) ever since arriving in Iran, but will talk more about that in the Iran blog. Just to say that of the 21 girls, we have been described within the group as either one of the following - nuns, Arabs, muslims, tourists. There are only 2 nuns and guess who is one of them.

Also the dreaded travel bug has taken hold on the bus, now up to 7 of us have been struck down, I was one of the first, and unfortunately worst with both ends getting a regular workout. All better now. The joys of travelling!

Some older videos you might be interested in that other people have posted online:
BUDAPEST - our Scottish friends show what ít's like camping in the rain.We make a cameo appearance in this video if you watch carefully for the moving yellow tent as we aim for a less muddy spot.
ANZAC DAY - we star in this documentary
Slideshow Report as Spam
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