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No more red dirt


TURKEY | Friday, 25 November 2011 | Views [611]

We didn’t get much sleep on the night bus to Cappadocia. The bus stopped every hour or so, turned the light on and basically woke everyone up. I think I got a bit more sleep than Chris, his long legs make it difficult to get comfortable on buses.  Just before dawn the bus stopped again, this time for prayers.  After all this we eventually made it to Goreme, our base for the next few days.  Luckily we were able to check into our hostel early and have a bit of a rest.  Cappadocia is located in Central Turkey.  It is famous for its fairy chimneys, weirdly shaped conical rock towers formed through the erosion of soft volcanic tuff.  Traditionally people have lived in caves in the chimneys, these days the cave houses cater to the tourist market with lots of boutique hostels and hotels in them.  So as it is the thing to do in Cappadocia we settled on a cave room...which smelt a bit like a damp student flat in Dunedin, but it was nice and cool. In general Cappadoccia was a bit cooler than on the coast, a welcome respite for us.

On our first morning we decided to check out Goreme open air museum, a short walk down the road from our hostel.  However as we made our way their Chris realised that he forgot to put sunscreen on and didn’t have a hat.  So for that reason and the number of tour buses turning up at that time we decided to skip it for now and return later in the day (which turned out to be a wise move).  Instead we spent most of the day sorting out our plans for the remainder of the trip.  This included organising our balloon ride and day trip for the following day (involved going to many places and figuring out the best deal) and sorting out our plans for eastern turkey (deciding that all the tour operators were super dodgy and we would be best to go it alone).

The next morning we got up bright and early to go ballooning.  Hot air ballooning is another one of the things to do in Cappadocia, and while not cheap was definitely worth it. It turned out to be one of the highlights of our time in Turkey.  Our pilot seemed to like mixing it up, dropping down very low barely skimming the ground (and trying to pick apricots off trees) and then rising up really high. It was a great way to see the unique Cappadocian landscape (check out all the photos).  Landing spots vary as the balloon is at the mercy of the wind.  The wind had been picking up during our flight which made for a difficult landing.  The pilot was in radio contact with the support crew and we could see them driving around below as the pilot tried to spot suitable paddocks.  We made one attempt but had to pull up as the wind took us too close to the road and power lines.  The second attempt (in another paddock) was successful. We were told to brace for a rough landing (basically do a wall sit on the sides of the basket) as people have had broken legs due to the impact.  When we finally touched down it was a pretty solid bump....a lot rougher than I expected.

After a quick breakfast we joined a day tour.  There are four main tours that depart from Goreme each covering different parts of the region.  You decide what tour to go on and then it doesn’t matter what company you go with as they all do the same route at the same time.  We think there is a definite marketing opportunity for a reverse tour....covering the same things but at a different time to everyone else.  While waiting for our tour to depart Chris noticed a familiar figure in black jeans and with long hair strolling past. It was Steve who we had met in Croatia and again in Montenegro.  Turns out he was on the same day trip as us, so we spent the day catching up and comparing travel stories.   The tour took us to one of many the underground cities in the Cappadocia region.  The underground cities were built by the local residents to hide from invading forces.  Each city was carved out of the soft rock, with multiple floors and rooms.  Ventilation was by way of several shafts that reached to the surface.  They even kept their livestock inside.  There are around 40 known underground cities in the Cappadocia region and maybe many more, but only a few are open to visitors.  The one we visited is one of the biggest.  So we had a wander round, Chris banged his head a few times on the low ceilings, and  got caught up in mini traffic jams (as all the other tour groups were there at the same time). 

Next we headed to Ihara valley, where we went for a short walk beside the river and checked out a small church carved into the hillside. Lunch by the river, then checked out Selime monastery, view of pigeon valley then off to our final stop of the day....the onyx factory.  Thinking back we should have never bothered to get out of the bus...but we went in as we were curious and couldn’t think of anything better to do.  We got shown how they carve the onyx (a mineral found in these parts that they carve into tacky souvenirs and jewellery). Then we got shown the jewellery section and got invited to tour the showroom and make some purchases. Well I’m not really a jewellery person and was pretty keen to just get out of there...but then we realised that they had locked us in.  I did a half hearted walk around the show room only to be stalked by some pushy sales man.  I stopped to talk to Steve for a moment and the salesman assuming that Steve was my boyfriend tried to talk him into buying jewellery for me.  I made a quick escape but the salesman managed to track me down again before I found the back door out of the place.  I was pretty relieved to get out there without being made to buy something....some people weren’t so lucky.

The next day we hired a scooter to do some exploring on our own.  The hire company recommended we go to Zelve open air museum, it turned out to be well worth the trip. Hardly anyone else there, really interesting to explore... we thought it was a lot better than the more famous Goreme open air museum.  It is basically an abandoned village with lots of small cave dwellings cut into the side of the valleys.  We spent a couple of hours exploring, even finding a tunnel through the hillside from one valley to another.  However without a torch we didn’t want to venture too far....the camera flash wasn’t quite good enough.  That evening, with an overnight bus ride ahead of us we decided to find a hostel with a pool.  This turned out to be Steve’s hostel (I think he was sick of us by then) where we had a relaxing swim and beer. 


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