Location: Cappadocia, Turkey
Distance so far: 18,198
GPS Co-ords: N38d38'.706, E34d48'.361
Dates: Tuesday 28th Nov to Sunday 3rd December
Highlights: The fantastical, enchanting world of Cappadocia!
After leaving Olimpos we drove on to Antalya and then to Konya where we briefly visited a Land Rover garage in the hope of picking up some gear-box mounts. We parked by what we thought was the entrance to the service dept and Neil went in only to find that it was actually a furniture showroom. A few confused exchanges later and we found the right entrance. Two guys emerged, took one look at Bumble, started laughing and said that they didn't stock them. They suggested the Land Rover garage in Adana and after asking if they wouldn't mind calling them to check they had them in stock, they made the call and replied in the affirmative. They were a real double act. Immaculately dressed, mobile phones at the ready, exchanging quit fire banter between them - in Turkish of course - hadn't they ever seen a bright yellow 101 before? I guess they only dealt with brand spanking new Defenders, Discovery's and the like. Tut, Tut!
By the way Konya is home to the 'Whirling Dervishes!'
We spent another night at our favourite camp-site, yes, a Truckers Stop and the following day made our way to the remarkable region of Cappadocia. What an amazing place.
It was like landing on a surreal moonscape with awe-inspiring scenery. After reading glowing reports of its unbridled beauty and fairy-tale appeal, we wondered whether it would live up to the written word. But in Cappadocia, there are no words to describe what you encounter. It is a unique natural phenomenon and one probably best enjoyed slightly off the beaten track and out of season. The more we travel, the more we realise what a fortunate position we are in being able to drive off the main thoroughfares and visit all the little back streets, buy produce with the locals and get a glimpse of the real heart and soul of a town rather than just the touristy bits. Rather than say, where is the nearest camp-site or hotel, we can say, where is the best view of the surrounding area, park up and watch the sun set and rise and all for free! This has to be one of the main advantages of travelling and sleeping in your own vehicle.
When you do in fact get off the beaten track in Cappadocia, you find a place caught in another time. Totally un-westernised, locals riding donkeys along dusty dirt tracks, ramshackle houses built into the rock, shepherds herding goats and everyone in traditional dress. The pace of life is slower as priorities change and we felt ourselves warm to this strange and unique part of Turkey.
Around 30 million years ago, 3 volcanoes erupted spewing lava and ash over a huge area in Central Anatolia. As the ash compressed, it formed tufa which is a soft and easily manipulated rock and it is this that today forms the unusual moon-scape of Cappadocia. As the rock is easily worked, cave dwellings were excavated as early as 4000BC and when Christianity arrived in the area, this work was extended. Churches were also carved into the rock and the region became a true troglodyte kingdom.
We needed to find somewhere to stay for the night, so headed off following a steep, winding track which led to a small, secluded clearing very low down, surrounded by rocks and totally invisible from the top.
Chaka had a great time enjoying his first run in days and we had a very quiet, peaceful night tucked away in our secret hideaway.
The next day we made a plan and decided to first head for the town of Uchisar which is built around the side of a rock. You can walk all the way to the top, in and out of rooms, winding your way to spectacular views of the town of Goreme from the summit.
As the Arabs arrived in the region around 600AD, Christians had to flee their homes and they built vast underground cities which were totally self sustainable for up to 6 months at a time. Around 30 of these cities were said to have been built, although only 8 have been uncovered. We visited one of the largest at Derinkuyu and it was unbelievable. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was a labyrinth of incredibly tiny passageways some no more than a few foot high and wide and leading to endless rooms for storing food, cooking, schools, churches, it was amazing. We only saw a tiny section of it but it was enough to get a taste of subterranean life. Neil, suffering from claustrophobia, had to turn back at one point as we descended the narrow stairs to the lower floors. I felt a bit claustrophobic myself, but had to see what was below. In its day, it probably housed up to 5,000 people and was nothing short of remarkable.
We spent another night out in the wilds of Cappadocia, sure beats Truckers Stops.
The next day we made our way to the Ilhara valley, a breath-taking canyon totally hidden from view. We ascended the steep steps at the entrance, and were rewarded with a magnificent view. The canyon again masks a very interesting history. During the Byzantine period, Christians fleeing persecution from the invading Arabs, built countless frescoed churches into the sides of the canyon to practise their Christian beliefs in secret and safety. It is reported that up to 1,000 churches exist although only 300 have been uncovered.
We walked along by the river, darting in and out of the churches, enjoying yet another part of Turkey's rich heritage.
Watch out, there's a Smurf about!
As we walked back and ascended the steep steps to the main entrance, a lady asked if we could drop her off in the nearby town. As we approached Bumble, I saw her reaction and I think she was regretting her decision but, we drove her the very short distance into the town and as she got out she gave us a token of her thanks - 2 large pieces of chocolate gateaux. Such a kind gesture and despite our protestations she insisted. We continued our drive into Yesilgurt and found a remote high plain with the town as a backdrop and parked up for the night watching the sun-set over the mountains.
It was such a lovely spot that we decided to stay for a couple of days and enjoy the scenery and solitude.
On the last day, I had just removed a line of my more personal items of washing, when a man on a donkey appeared at the side door. He was not happy about something and he continued speaking in Turkish despite our obvious total lack of understanding as to what he was saying. I guess it could have been his land, we weren't sure, but we decided we should leave so packed up and headed off taking with us some very special memories.