On to the Turquoise Coast

On to the Turquoise Coast

Cindy was a bit burned out from the 6 hour hike the day before so she took a dolmus (mini-bus) and I rented a bike and we met up at the fairy chimneys (featured in the pic in the last post and partly visible behind us) on the way to Urgup. It turned out the town was still a couple of kilometers from the chimneys. As luck would have it, some locals were there taking pics, too, and offered her a ride to town.

En route to Urgup

En route to Urgup

Urgup from Wishing View Point

Urgup from Wishing View Point

Urgup is a bustling, sprawling tourist town much larger than Goreme. Actually, I would call it a small city. We enjoyed our visit and were glad we were staying in our quiet, peaceful hamlet. We ate lunch in Urgup and shortly thereafter it started to pour. I waited a while for the rain to ease and then headed back in a drizzle. Cindy took a dolmus but this time passed me on the road. I got back to town with dirt stripes on the back of my shirt and shorts. Of course, the sun came out just after I returned the bike. Doh! It was a 20km ride (10k up/10k down) and oddly my lats feel sore 2 days later. Perhaps it was a combination of big hills and no cleats to help get up them. It’s been tough staying in shape on the road.

Urgup/Goreme road.

Urgup/Goreme road.

How did he do that?

Last hike in Cappadocia. Those fairy chimneys sure do look funny.

We stayed one extra day and left Goreme last night taking the overnight bus to Olympos. Cindy fared much better than me as she was able to sleep–and quite soundly, even through one of the two stops the bus made! The buses are run very well here; we arrived in the big city of Antalya and immediately caught a connecting dolmus (pron. Dole-mush) to Olympos, and a second dolmus right to Saban Cabins where we’re staying the night. We are set deep into a valley surrounded by craggy mountain tops over a high pine forest mountain range. We drove off the main road and descended so far into the valley I was somewhat surprised to find out we’re only a 10-15 minute walk to the beach. It is reminiscent of two Greek islands we’d been to, Lesvos 9 years ago, and Rhodes 29 years ago on our belated honeymoon. Both islands are extremely close to the Turkish coast and we played with the idea of taking a high-speed ferry and going to Rhodes for a day of nostalgia. I doubt we will, though, as tickets are 95 Euro each, and we’re about to splurge on a 4 day/3 night cruise from Olympus to Fethiye.

Chillin' at Saban Cabins, Olympos

Chillin’ at Saban Cabins, Olympos

Olympos Beach

Olympos Beach

Crossroads

As we’re working our way towards Istanbul the protests and our safety is on our minds. We raised some eyebrows when we told everyone we were starting our trip in Egypt. Our eyebrows were raised, too, as we were well aware of the problems there. So we researched all we could by checking the news and State Department updates, reading blogs of people who were there during the revolution two years ago, and continuing to watch the latest developments until it was time to ‘pull the plug’ and decide whether or not to go. In the final analysis, it came down to not being in the wrong place at the wrong time. (Our new friend, Jim, had crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon 30 minutes before the explosion). Of course, not too far into our journey in Egypt we caught news of riots in Istanbul so once again, we’re watching the news and looking for alerts from the State Department.

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Cappacocia livin’

Cappacocia livin’

We’ve been in Goreme about 5 or 6 days and are loving it. It’s a small, quiet, low-keyed tourist town surrounded by wonderful scenery and tons of things to do and see. We’ve been staying at a place called the Rock Valley Pension which costs 90 TL (~ $45.50) per night. It’s a great place, very clean and excellent facilities including a pool, and Ahmet the manager, is a primo ‘answer man’ who lends help on a multitude of issues from directions to restaurant recommendations to helping me add minutes to my local phone. We’re lucky enough to be in a triple so the extra bed has all our stuff laid out on it. There are primarily younger people (backpackers) here who also have the option of staying in a dorm room for about $15. They’re from all over: Australia, New Zealand, Spain, France, Turkey, the UK, etc.. and, of course, the US. There’s also a good guy we met here, Richard, who lives in Jamaica Plain and has been teaching at Emerson College for 20 years!

We took an excursion of sorts one evening to “Turkish Night” where we were treated to food, drink, music (live and recorded), Whirling Dervishes, several different traditional Turkish dances and a belly dancer. The hall held about 250-300 people. Each table sat 8 people and we shared ours with 4 young adults from the Shanghai, China area and a couple from Turkey. I sat next to the Turkish woman who was a first year physician from Istanbul who, when asked, said she’d treated people who had been gassed. Her boyfriend “schooled” me in drinking their version of Ouzo (can’t remember the name)–cut it with water!

Belly Dancer replete with, ahhem, enhanced assets!

Belly Dancer replete with, ahem, enhanced assets!

When giving directions New Englanders standard tongue in cheek answer is, “You can’t get there from here”. Cappadocian’s should have one, too: You can get here from everywhere! There are tons of trails going all over the place. There must be at least 10 direction signs on rocks like this to the Rose or Red (or Rouge) trail….

Trail sign. Red Valley, Rose Valley, and Cavusin town.

Trail sign. Red Valley, Rose Valley, and Cavusin town.

The signs in Turkish indicate two “Red Valley” trails, calling them I and II. In English they are called the Rose Valley and the Rouge (“Red” in French) Valley which sits just due North, er, make that due South of the Rose trail. This next set of signs are beauties since they seem to point to the same places and/but are oriented at right angles to each other. Goreme actually sits about 1/4 mile directly behind where I’m standing.

Gorkundere sign. So, I should go which way?

Gorkundere sign. So really, I should go which way?

They are numbered so I assume there is some key to them somewhere. I only wish I knew where they kept the key! There are other trail signs that have (satellite?) pictures of the trail but are unintelligible anyway. We went out in one area one day and ran into several people who were totally confused looking for a trail or turning back because the trail had disappeared or seemed to have come to an end.

And then there are the maps. In short, they suck. The one I’d been using of Goreme (pron. Gore-em-ay) and the area was actually published upside down, that is, South on top. Hence, my comment above. But it was the best map I could find so I used it. There was one for sale in the tourist office for 10 TL (Turkish Lira) but at a glance it wasn’t any better than the one I had…once I got used to South being at the top.

The bottom line is that you can’t get too lost, and what the heck, you’re in a beautiful place!

Rose Valley-Halci Church

Rose Valley-Halci Church

Halci Church Fresco

Halci Church Byzantine fresco

The hike we were on (two pics above) was supposed to have been 3-4 hours and ended up lasting 6 hours. We hiked up to the plateau that straddles 4 large valleys and walked along the top of the plateau until we came to a parking lot where I had to ask a local juice vendor directions to the “Meskendir Trail” head. The guy gave me general directions so we followed the road hoping to find the trail head. When we finally found it we were rewarded with a descent into an amazing green, lush valley with tunnels that had been created by thousands of years of flood waters rushing through. Byzantine era residents probably had a hand too as there were plenty of caves, rock houses and pigeon nesting holes as well.

On the Meskendir trail

On the Meskendir trail

On the trail we met a terrific couple close to our ages (or Era) from New Zealand who have been camping their way from the U.K. through Europe. They’d been in Turkey alone for 5 weeks. Way to go, Sue and Dave!

Every rock house needs a satellite dish.

Satellite reception! The finest in rock house living.

Hanna-Barbera meets Cappadocia.

Hanna-Barbera meets Cappadocia.

Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia, Turkey

Goreme is centrally located in the Cappadocia region which is approximately in the middle of Turkey. Fantasmagorical moonscape dotted by “fairy chimneys” –some comically phallic shaped– and surrounded by wild erosion-moulded mountains and valleys.

Cappadocia-scape

Cappadocia-scape

Dating back to as early as the 4th century C.E., underground cities like the one we visited in Derinkuyu were built to protect Christians from Arab or Persian invaders. Some of the underground cities were thought to be the domicile for up to 10,000 people for months. Derinkuyu was built on 8 levels downward and equipped with holes for ventilation, kitchens, bedrooms, dining rooms, storage rooms, stables, wineries, granaries with grindstones, graves and protective devices like circular doors that could be rolled and locked into place.

Stone door

Stone door

Not for the claustrophobic!

Not for the claustrophobic!

Hiking here is stellar! With towns so close together and dolmuses (mini-buses) passing by frequently, it’s easy to hike trails one way and to plan and execute various trips without covering the same ground. And the scenery is almost beyond imagination.

On the aptly named "Sword trail". The narrow canyon extends hundreds of yards mimicking the blade of a sword.

On the aptly named “Sword trail”. The narrow canyon extends hundreds of meters mimicking the blade of a sword.

Pigeon Valley

Pigeon Valley

Pigeon trail coming into Goreme

Pigeon trail coming into Goreme