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It's a short and leisurely walk to Hell but it takes some serious effort to get to Heaven...

TURKEY | Monday, 19 December 2011 | Views [2390]

For the third time in 24 hours we climbed onto a long distance bus, already desperately in need of a shower and exhausted. It started off well -  the conductor of the bus made the bus pull over in the middle of nowhere, panicking over our tickets, calling someone and talking in a high pitched voice for an unreasonably long amount of time. Whatever the issue was, it was sorted but not before we had completely freaked out, wit me making furious statements about how I would refuse to get off the bus. It was a rather intolerable journey - slow, boiling thanks to no air conditioner and filled with the body odour of the Turkish grannies front of us. Jackson had no trouble falling asleep on my shoulder, earning us a few displeased looks (In the more conservative areas of Turkey, including the one we were in, men and women aren't supposed to sit next to each other on buses) Those six hours to get to Mersin were LOOOOOOOOONG.

But our journey wasn't over yet. We arrived in Mersin, an unattractive junction town, around 8pm and got on yet another bus, a minibus heading to Kizkalesi. In my sleep deprived fog, I accidentally read the wrong line of the bus information and mistakenly thought it would be an half hour trip instead of the two and a half hours it actually took. Surprise, surprise we had to wait ages for the minibus to fill up before leaving and it got even more crammed full of body mass as we inched our way through rush hour traffic. As I sat there, nearly hallucinating from working on ten hours of sleep in the last three days (thank you noisy dorms, early wake ups for hot air ballooning and the baby on the overnight bus) I was grateful that the nice young Turkish man who was intent on practising his English was sitting next to Jackson and not me. While his English was rather poor, the chatterbox was aided by a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and was the source of great comedy. Amongst his many questions, we were asked what kind of farming we preferred, if our father was fat and were earnestly told that he had heard there was a carrot problem in Spain. Luckily, Jackson's six hour nap on my shoulder meant he had more energy to deal with Yusup and we ended up exchanging emails, although he hasn't added us on Facebook yet. Maybe we didn't know enough about the carrot problem in Spain.

By the time we reached Kizkalesi it was close to 10pm. It took my very last reserves to strap on my backpack and stumble to the English speaking place Lonely Planet recommended (in a development that will shock absolutely no one, we walked in the opposite direction of where we needed to go and took ages to get there) We had been wearing the same clothes for far too long, hadn't properly eaten in hours and were both utterly drained. Kizkalesi's lack of hotels was a blessing in disguise as we were forced to get a twin room with seperate beds and both slept very well that night.We ended up having three nights in Kizkalesi, both of us keen to chill out in one place for awhile. Kizkalesi, with its sandy beach and views of two castles fit the bill perfectly. We lazed by the beach, swam the 300 metres out to the Maiden's Castle and back again and ate fresh fish literally on the edge of the water in the fishing village of Narlikuyu.

The Maiden's Castle in Kizkalesi, which we swam out to

Enjoying not being anywhere near a bus and relaxing on the Kizkalesi beach

Making some new feline friends whilst eating at the fishing village

Most amazing of all, we went to both Hell and Heaven in a day. Four kilometres up the road from Kizkalesi are the Chasms of Hell and Heaven, breathtaking natural structures which thanks to their location away from the beaten track means they are much less visited than the big name tourist sites in Western Turkey. The entrance fee was a measly 3TL and I enjoyed it much more than any of the hugely more expensive sites further on in the trip. The walk to Hell is leisurely and casual, and is reputed to be the site of where Zeus fought a 100 headed dragon named Typhon. Typhon initially trapped Zeus in the Chasm of Hell before Zeus escaped and buried Typhon in the earth, where his flame breath became Mt Etna.

Which way to choose? (Also, let's not talk about how heartbroken I was that I didn't have a camera to take of photo of me with this sign, pondering the direction I wanted to go)

The Pit of Hell, which is impossible to access (It's easy to make your way to Hell but once you're in there, you won't be able to escape...sorry for the terrible puns)

Heaven, however, is a whole lot harder to get to (the jokes just write themselves) You descend 455 steps - big, uneven, slippery steps -  down into the ground, arriving into the earth opening itself up. The Chasm is incredibly atmospheric, eerily lit and the sounds of an underground river rushing past making it creepily beautiful. Once you get into the cavern bit, the path turns to slippery, slidy mud and it's a struggle to stay upright but the view from the back, looking up at the darkness with the 5th century Byzantine monastary silhouetted at the top is completely worth it. Definitely one of the highlights from six months of travel.

The view from inside the Chasm

We also visited the Asthma Cave, curious to see if Jackson's childhood affliction would vanish once and for all with a visit (according to the locals, spending time breathing in the air in the Cave will get rid of asthma) Once again we went down deep into the earth and it was incredible. Good old Steve Fallon (the guidebook writer who had differing opinions to Jackson and I on almost everything) made it sound pretty dull and we nearly didn't bother walking up the hill to find it, but I'm glad we did. It's a gushing about worthy place and is pretty remarkable. We stayed so long that they shut the gates and switched the lights off while we were still in. Luckily we were let out by the caretaker because even though it was beautiful, I had no desire to spend the night there.

Before leaving the Mediterranean behind, we had one more amazing experience to cram in. We were hopping back on the overnight bus wagon again and were heading to Antalya from Silifke, the nearest big city to Kizkalesi. Silifke is a bit of a hole but has an ancient castle on top of one of its halls. Once we'd insured our backpackers were stored in a secure area and not just in the middle of the bus terminal, which according to the bus people was completely legit, we spent a hilarious hour or trying to make our way one kilometre up the road. Convinced by the bus man that the fortress was far enough that we required a minibus to get there, we asked to be let out at the appropriate spot. Clearly the minibus driver saw a chance to make some spare pennies as we got charged an excessive amount (which when converted into NZD is something like 3 dollars, but sometimes it's difficult to remember that when you are backpacking) to be taken to the next neighbouring village. When we realised he wasn't just making his way around the town before dropping us off and we were actually being taken to a completely different town and confronted him, he shrugged and pointed at the opposite side of the road. Eventually we made it back to Silifke and walked up the hill to the fortress.

Ruins of Silifke Castle - Silifke, Adana

Built sometime around 300 BCE when the Greeks were spreading themselves all over the place, the Hellenistic style castle has been left to crumble and has essentially been abandoned by the local authorities. We arrived just before dusk and had the time of our lives scrambling over rocks and under tunnels and jumping on the walls. As the sun begun to set, the call to prayer from five different mosque begun and it was pretty incredible - standing on a long forgotten castle with a vivid pink and orange sky, listening to the waves of different imams chanting and wailing surrounding the air around us. It was up there as one of the most epic moments of my life and still gives me the tingles thinking about it.

Tags: asthma cave, chasm of hell and heaven, kizkalesi, maidens castle, mediterranean, mersin, narlikuyu, overnight bus, silifke, turkey



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