Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Off the beaten track in Cappadocia.

It's a shame we had to postpone writing about the wonderful Cappadocia, but it's not too late to do it now. The memories are still fresh, we have plenty of amazing pictures and there's a perfect setting for recollecting and writing: we're both laying on a couch from the hotel's exterior bar, inhaling mixed scents combined with the fresh mountain air, and listening to a good choice of songs.
The people below have started a camp fire as well.. so, let's just start the story-telling:
The first minutes in Cappadocia were quite silent, interrupted only by the camera's shutter clicks and remarks like: "wow", "look at that", "and that".. The scenery was quite unusual and amazing, with cone like structures that were used by people for various purposes, including as houses. Everything looked so fairytale like, that we wouldn't have been too surprised to see hobbits getting out of those weirdly shaped houses :)


But we were still in the bus, not yet free to explore. Ten minutes later, the bus finally stooped in the middle of Goreme village - our destination for the next three days.
Andra was not yet fully awake after the 8 hours bus ride. I was awake, but exhausted. So we got to the Flintstones Hotel and fell asleep in our half cave room.
As soon as we got up, we started to explore. Not for long.. as I started feeling really bad and ..you know the rest. The second day was better; not fully recovered though, I chose the shortest hike for that afternoon: Pigeon Valley and White Valley:
...
Since I'm not completely recovered after the food poisoning episode, we both decide not to goo all the way with the hike (a 4.5 hours track), but return on the same path after around one hour.
With this in mind and a rudimentary map in our hands, the exploration of Cappadocia begins.
The path is not clearly marked, so we take a couple of wrong turns at first -and end-up in some peoples' orchards. A Norwegian couple does the same and we get acquainted on unknown ground.
However, they seem very independent and uninterested in hiking together. After asking for directions the only local we see around us, they just leave us behind, without saying anything at all.
Soon after, an old french couple catches us from behind and we start chatting. At first it seems that it's very unlikely to form a connection, the huge age gap being the main reason for thinking so. However, we all stumble upon a bug turtle hiding in the bushes near the narrow path, and that provides us with a common subject to photograph and talk about.

It's the biggest turtle we've ever seen!
We silently take lots of photos, afraid that she'll move deeper into the bushes and we won't be able to see it anymore.
Then I decide to take the somewhat heavy creature in my hands and move it in the clear. After a few seconds hidden inside the shell, the head and feet make their way out to guide the body back to safety.
Ah, now we can see it entirely and take some quality pictures. We stay far enough to avoid stressing the creature; so she slowly moves back into shade and stops half a meter away from the path. It's clear she's quite comfortable with our presences, but prefers to stay clear of direct sunlight.
We all continue hiking up the steep and narrow path, then catch up and start talking to a middle aged Canadian woman who passed by us a while back. An improvised local tavern provides all of us with "├žay" and a place to rest for 10 minutes.
The owner is a lively chap, continuously making jokes in French ..jokes that I don't understand.

Andra translates for me the conversation between the French couple (Ana & Ivan) and the Canadian woman (Sonia). When they realize that I haven't been a good boy in school and ignored the french lessons :D, they kindly offer to chat in a rather rusty English.
Finally! I can do more than to smile back.
While enjoying the tea and peanuts, the Norwegian couple appears out of nowhere. You know.. the one that left us behind half an hour ago..
When we ask if something happened, they start heavy laughter among us by answering that they took every wrong turn so far.
But again, they leave us there and continue on their own. I like and respect their determination :) Little do they know we'll have the chance to laugh two more times thanks to their wrong sense of direction :)
In 15 minutes we reach the neighboring village Uchisar - with its citadel placed on one of the highest grounds from Cappadocia. From up there we have a breathtaking view over the surroundings, and we definitely take our time to enjoy it.


But the real fun has not yet started. On the way back, we take an unmarked road that seems to head back to our village - Goreme. The path is a lot less walked than the other one and we continuously need to dodge all sorts of plants teaming with thorns - trying to reclaim the path to the wild.
It doesn't take long and we get lost, then find the right path, then again take wrong turns that are either a dead end or lead us on the razor edge of a nearby precipice.
The locals have made a lot of secondary paths in their search for various wild plants and fruits.
We like it! We definitely don't have time to get bored.
After a lot of trial and error, it seems that we have no way out - this time. The path is there in front of us, but it's too steep and it goes way too close to the edge of the abyss.
Lucky for us, there was a local a few hundred meters back, collecting wild plants. We call for him and he offers to lead us to the right path. After a few hundred meters together it's clear we'll have to pay him: he doesn't just want to show us the right path, but also acts as a guide by pointing various interesting plants, or the best spots for taking photos. Like I need someone to tell me the latter :). But he's not impressed with my photography gear and he continues to tutor us about photography.. He even asks if the film ended, when I stop to change lenses :) ..funny dude..


After some really interesting 30 minutes, we get back onto the path already used when hiking up to Uchisar. So, we pay the man the equivalent of 10 euros plus a half a pack of cigars that he asked from Ana and Ivan. He's not that happy with the money received.. he obviously hoped for more, but finally accepts the payment and leaves us on our own.
For the rest of the way, we talk about various subjects and make jokes until we reach our village - where we all stop for french fries and beer.

Then, Sonia returns to her hotel, leaving us to make plans for the next day with Ivan and Ana.
It would be too much to go into details for the second day as well. It should suffice to say that it was equally interesting, if not even more. We got to the "rose" and "red" valleys, hiked for more than 5 hours and returned to Goreme incredibly fresh.
That day we strengthen the friendship with this lovely old couple, and we were lucky to have spent our time with them, taking secondary paths and small risks, getting lost and then finding the way back to civilization, ...things that we wouldn't have done if we were to hike alone.

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