Features: Pammukale to Cappodocia
Location: Cappodocia, Turkey
Distance so far: 17,982
GPS Co-ords: Lat 38deg 20.827, Long 34deg 31.759
Dates: Friday 24th November - Monday 27th November
Highlights: camping at the foot of the amazing thermal springs of Pammukale, the Blue Lagoon of Oludeniz, I always thought Father Christmas came from Greenland not Turkey, the tree-houses and very wet eternal flames of Olimpos.
After leaving Ankara and spending the night at a Truckers stop, we awoke to find a small group of men from the restaurant staring in through the windscreen. This quite often happens and they receive the larger shock as either Chaka puts his nose up to theirs or we raise our heads from the back. We got dressed and all got out to be met with the offer of a cup of tea. Chaka was once again the main focal point and we were shown the 11 puppies the resident dog had recently given birth to. We stood chatting to them out-side in the brilliant sun-shine in our best non-existent Turkish and when we came to pay they said it was free of charge. I don't think we've actually paid for a cup of tea in Turkey yet.
We left and started the long drive to Pammukale arriving at around 3.00pm. What an amazing sight. From a distance it looks like a huge down hill ski slope jutting right out on its own. In total contrast to the rest of the landscape which is quite barren. This extraordinary natural phenomenon has come about due to the calcium rich spings at the top flowing over a plateau and calcifying to form ridges known as 'travertines'. These in turn fill with the calcium rich spring water to form small pools.
As the light was fading, we went in search of somewhere to stay for the night and as we stopped to consider our options, we were approached by a man who directed us to a nearby camp-site. It was actually a large house with camping facilities in their front garden. The deciding factor was the hot shower which we were in desperate need of and the offer of a spot of laundry doing, which was growing steadily by the day. We also had supper there, so a night off from cooking.
We arose bright and early and started our ascent of the rock. Temperatures were getting colder by the second and as we reached the start of the calcified rock we were told that we would have to take our shoes off to protect it from further damage. Those of you familiar with my feet will know that 'blocks of ice' is too kind a description of them and for a second I honestly wondered whether I would be able to climb all the way to the top in bare feet. However, the sight of everyone else discarding their shoes and socks was inspiration enough and off we set.
As we climbed higher, we would intermittently walk through pools of spring water which was quite warm and a welcome relief from the otherwise icy surface underfoot.
This photograph is quite deceiving as Neil and Chaka are actually quite high up at this point and standing in one of the water filled travertines. The far edge in the background suddenly gives way to a sheer drop down to the base of the rock.
This photograph shows how the rock stands out against the rest of the terrain.
The views over the surrounding area of Pammukale are spectacular and the whole experience left us feeling rejuvenated. Not to mention the clean feet!
Neil said he was taking a photo of the fabulous views of Pammukale. Who am I to argue?
Chaka meanwhile was chatting-up the Jendarm's (Turkish Military Police)
At the summit, stands the Roman ruins of Hierapolis founded in c190BC, the museum and the Sacred Baths now a Hotel.
Later, we walked into the town in search of an Internet Café and found the 'Backpackers Inn' advertising 'Bloody Cold Beer ' and an Internet facility - what a great combination. We were welcomed inside and as we ascended the stairs to the restaurant at the top, we had a quick peep into the rooms and they were absolutely spotless. The Backpackers Inns are part of a group of Youth Hostels and you can camp there for free and use their showers if you eat in the restaurant.
We left Pammukale around 4.00pm en route to Fethiye but fatigue took its course and we stopped at 8.00pm at a service station to spend the night. We awoke to find Bumble engulfed in a cloud of diesel fumes, unfortunately, one of the downsides to sleeping at Truckers stops. Around 6.00am , all the drivers rise and start their engines. Clouds of fumes quickly ensue and it is our alarm call to move on. Temperatures had also plummeted at night and were now around 3 or 4 degrees, even more of an incentive to get the engine started and the heater on.
Chaka finds his own source of heat!
We drove along the coast towards Fethiye and arrived at Oludeniz, famous for its 'blue lagoon' and a very popular Mediterranean destination.
Unfortunately, the rain had set in and it all looked rather bleak, particularly as it was out of season and everywhere was shut. Not the best time to see the area. We parked in a small clearing by the lagoon alongside a Turkish family out for a Sunday picnic. As we sat eating our lunch, they brought a plate of sliced tomatoes over to us which was very kind. We stayed for an hour or so, but as the rain was coming down faster and heavier, we moved on along the coast towards Kale and home to Father Christmas.
An Arch over the road proclaims 'The home of St.Nicholas, Father Christmas'.
This particular strip of coastline is spectacular and even with heavy rain, the sea was a fabulous aqua-marine colour. We arrived in Kale late afternoon and the rain was by now torrential. We drove into the town and after leaping out of Bumble to buy some bread, I found myself literally marooned outside the shop unable to make a dash for the car due to the rivers which were now cascading down the streets.
I have to admit to never having heard of Kale before arriving in Turkey but St Nicholas was a 4th century Byzantine monk who lived and is buried here. We drove on to find somewhere to park for the night and we spotted a small marina with an array of splendid wooden boats in dry dock, perched on stilts. We nestled in between 2 of them and started supper. The rain subsided slightly however, by the time we retired to bed, it had come back with a vengeance accompanied by flashes of lightening and loud claps of thunder. We suddenly wondered whether it was a good idea to park in between the 2 boats as they towered above us. We had also noticed a few leaks in Bumble and the front passenger seat was being put through its paces. However, we got the sleeping bags out and tried to get some sleep.
Chaka was getting increasingly restless throughout all of this and he couldn't sit still on his usual bed - the engine cover. As we turned the lights off, he jumped down to the small area in between the side door and the bed. He often slept there throughout our travels in Morocco, mainly to keep cool, but he was also somewhat smaller then. He went to sleep and after a while we realised that he was dreaming and kicking his legs against the door in the process. I nudged him and although he sat up, it was clear that he was still asleep. We turned the torch off and went back to sleep. The next thing we knew, he was thrashing his legs around in utter panic, getting them caught in the cooker as he did so. He managed to leap up onto the engine cover and we both sat there wondering what on earth had happened. We thought he must have had a bad dream but we then noticed that he was disorientated and there was something wrong with his back legs. He seemed to have lost his balance and was dragging them quite noticeably. We scrambled around trying to find our RSPCA book on dogs to see if he had had a stroke or a seizure but he then stumbled and lurched back onto our bed. His body was taught and his hind legs were rigid but kicking. We were by this time in a state of panic and really thought that he had had a seizure or worse still a heart attack. Reading the book, he could have had a number of things and in the middle of the night with torrential rain and thunder and lightening as back ground music, we were extremely distressed. Chaka was by this time totally unable to sit or lie down as he couldn't put any weight on his hind legs. Neil then wondered if he had trapped a nerve when he had got his legs caught in the cooker thus causing the obvious extreme discomfort and loss of balance. He had now calmed down and was getting twinges every time he tried to sit down so this seemed plausible. We didn't know what to do, find a vet or sit tight until the morning. The chances of finding a vet at this time of night was pretty small so we tried to make Chaka as comfortable as possible and see what the morning would bring. After a lot of moving around, he finally managed to lie down while Neil gently stroked him for what seemed like hours and he eventually went off to sleep.
We awoke with baited breath and as Chaka opened his eyes and made a few tentative movements, Neil climbed out of the side door quickly followed by Chaka who leapt out as though nothing had happened. We watched as he walked around the marina and could see no evidence of permanent damage. What a relief. We kept a close eye on him but he seemed absolutely fine and we surmised that he must have had a trapped nerve that had eased off during the night.
Neil & Chaka taking shelter from the rain.
We drove on towards Olimpos, home of the eternal flame and en route made an inpromptu stop on a small beach to have lunch. As we sat there, 2 large overland trucks passed by tooting their horns and waving their arms. After lunch we drove into the next town and there in front of us parked up were the 2 trucks. We pulled over and got chatting.
They were 2 German couples and spent 3 months each Winter travelling around visiting different countries. Their vehicles were huge Mercedes, 15 year old ex-East German border police trucks and had been totally refurbished to house a bed - permanently down - shower/toilet and fully fitted kitchen. They were also going to Olimpos, so we travelled in convoy finally descending a steep winding road which led us into a small valley. It was actually a dry river bed and the area was literally swarming with 'pansions' offering tree houses as accomodation set in amongst lush orange and lime groves with chickens criss-crossing in front of you. You could imagine weary back packers arriving to this little piece of paradise and staying for months at a time. A place to escape and write your memoirs. The German couples were not intending to stay, they had been to Olimpos 4 years previously and at that time you couldn't drive all the way down. They wanted to see if it was possible now and were astounded at how much it had changed in that time. It was now a very popular destination.
We had been recommended a 'pansion' called Bayrhams and we found that you could camp in your own vehicle for free and use their facilities if you had supper there. So we parked up, sorted the dirty washing out and headed off to the showers and then a spot of Satellite TV to catch up on the Bush/Gore election. We handed in yet another bag full of washing and I decided to hold back on a few of my 'small' items and hand wash them. As we sat in the main room, watching TV along with a few of the other guests, a wave of relief swept over me as our washing was brought into the room to dry and 2 lines were strung up across the room just dodging peoples heads and our washing was ceremoniously displayed for all the world to see. Highly embarassing!
We took Chaka for a stroll, off the lead, thinking that he would behave, but had forgotten about the chickens merrily weaving their way along the paths. In a split second, one of the chickens made the fatal mistake of running and Chaka was off like a torpedo. Our shouts of Chaka, Chaka, fell on deaf ears and there was nothing we could do to distract his attention. By the time we reached him, he had the chicken firmly between his jaw and it took all of Neils might to prise it off him. Thankfully, the chicken was unharmed albeit rather shocked and after a flurry of feathers, it ran off. Needless to say, a small group of onlookers had gathered and at one point I found myself wondering how much a chicken would cost, if it had come to that.
The weather was still cold and the rain was persistent but all the guests sat outside for supper and a camp-fire was started. We had a really enjoyable evening talking to the other guests, a French physiotherapist from Dunkirk travelling on to Iran en route to India and Australia, a Canadian chap who left Canada in 1982 to cycle around the world - still going strong 18 years later - a New Zealand chap and his German partner who said that when he was born, God had said to him, ' you will grow vegetables' and an Australian chap who had arrived a few weeks earlier intending to stay a couple of nights and had been asked to run the place for a while.
We had all intended to take a dolmus and visit the eternal flame later that night, but with the rain still hammering down, there was little point in making the trip. So after a very nice supper we retired to bed with Chaka dreaming of chickens and Neil and I dreaming of warmer climes.
After a good nights sleep, we had breakfast and paid the bill. A total of £8.50. Unbelievable for a hot shower, washing our clothes, 2 beers, supper, breakfast and camping. Must be the bargain of our trip so far. We also learnt that all but 3 of the 'pansions' at Olimpos are owned by the Bayhram family and there are quite a few of them, each set in the orange groves….
We highly recommend a stop over at Olimpos, it had a great feel to it despite being out of season and cold and wet. In the Summer it is apparently heaving, with camp-fires and singing going well into the night. Not somewhere to stay if you want a good nights sleep but a great place to meet like minded fellow travellers and chill out on a can of 'Efes' and a spot of Bruce Springsteen.