Goodbye Reality


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Middle East » Turkey » Central Anatolia » Cappadocia
May 26th 2008
Published: June 19th 2008EDIT THIS ENTRY

It has been about five months now and Rozy and I have experienced, discussed and analysed the many differences (both subtle and extreme) between the transport systems of 6 different countries. Our travels in Turkey bring us closest to some of the most economically developed countries in the world, and, one would probably expect a jump in the quality of the transport system given this proximity and other factors. Turkey’s transport system (specifically the bus system), much to our pleasant surprise, trumped all others we have experienced on this trip by a rather significant margin, and, on an extremely consistent basis as we learned later on in our travels.

Getting to the bus station, purchasing a ticket and boarding the bus, at least from our first experience, couldn’t be any more simplistic. Firstly, our hostel sold us bus tickets (commission free) for our next destination. Included in the price of the ticket, was a “free” transfer directly from our hostel to the bus station which happened to be 45 minutes away. At the well organized and hassle-free bus station, we had an air-conditioned waiting room to hang out in until our bus departed…a nice smooth start.

Stepping onto the bus, we couldn’t help but notice the side of the beastly Mercedez-Benz was spotless, and, on the inside, the carpet was perfectly clean, the air smelled of lemon, and the driver (and conductors) was dressed in nice slacks, a white shirt and a tie. The bus ride commenced with service as we were offered a choice of coffee, tea, juice, water, or soda along with a choice of snack cakes. Throughout the 10 hour trip from Istanbul to Goreme, the two conductors took turns passing out water to the passengers, spraying air freshener, dispensing hot drinks and snacks, and switching the movies being played on the overhead LCD monitors. Unfortunately, the bus was not a sleeper, so, we had to work hard to find a few comfortable moments to snooze, however, everything else about the bus was designed to provide a maximum level of comfort to passengers. As the bus approached the final stop in Nevsehir, the conductors finished performed their final duty by visiting all passengers on the bus and squirting a slash of the infamous Turkish lemon cologne into everyone’s hands. Impressive…just don’t lick your hands after you get that lemon stuff on them as it is extremely bitter and tastes nothing like it smells (yes, I made that mistake at 6am).

Our luxurious coach arrived in the little town of Nevsehir several kilometers outside of our final destination of Goreme, where, we were supposed to transfer to a minibus to travel the last leg of the journey. Upon arrival, we were herded off of the bus by two friendly lads who told us our minibus would be arriving in 10 minutes and that we should seek refuge in their store with a glass of tea until the transport arrived. With tea in hand, Rozy, myself and the 3 other unfortunate travelers on our bus were harassed for about 45 minutes to buy trips and hotel stays at the crack of dawn. Rozy and I politely listened to the pitch but didn’t want to buy hotel stays and travel packages for Goreme from some random dude who approached us in Nevsehir (because we are not stupid and can usually smell a scam). We declined all sales attempts, and, when one of the guys realized that we were not going to purchase services from him, he ignored us and told us that the minibus would be arriving “in a little bit” (well beyond the initial quote of 10 minutes at this point). Frustrated, I stormed out of their holding pen and searched around the bus station for the office of the company whose bus we rode the previous night, and, once I found it, I explained our situation to the guy who appeared to be in charge. A long story short, this gentleman yelled at the jokers trying to sell us crap we didn’t want, and, those same people trying to sell us stuff, promptly loaded us and our luggage on the minibus parked in front of their store and whisked us away to Goreme…just another early morning pain in the ass, Ugh.

The quick drive from Nevsehir to Goreme passed through some dream-like landscape, finally coming to a halt in the center of Goreme, a village full of upside-down ice-cream cones full of holes. The landscape of the town is beautifully weird and feels sufficiently removed from reality making it seem almost fake. Beyond the unusual conical tufa (stone made from lava, ash and mud) outcroppings, the abundance of roses added to the picture perfect environment giving every angle in the town a fresh feel.

Fantastic reviews led us to the Kose Pension where we met Spotty (the resident Dalmatian and tour guide), and landed our gear in a little wooden hut that rested atop the top floor of the pension. The roof of our hut hung low and prevented us from standing upright on the inside, however, it was a cozy little nook that had a bit of a view of the surrounding area at a cheap price. We had a quick brekky and a conversation with a retired, backpacking Kiwi couple before plotting our course for the next few days.

Our plan was to hit the highlights of the Cappadocia region over the course of a few days starting with lightweight trekking around Goreme and progressing to a full day of motorbiking throughout the greater Cappadocia. Trekking around Goreme was an experience ripe with discovery and adventure. Spotty, the official guide-dog at Kose Pension, was kind enough to escort us to the nearby trails and take us along his favorite route through Rose Valley. Spotty was absolutely uncompromising with respect to our direction, so, we had no choice but to go along with his plan and pay a visit to Rose Valley. Fortunately for us, Spotty chose an excellent track and we had some amazing close-ups of the cones and stumbled upon a number of ancient houses, churches and gravesites dug into the cones. Odd rock formations shot out in all directions as Spotty confidently blazed our trail through the outskirts of Goreme. Once back at the pension, Spotty and his stray dog companion we both rewarded with some left-over Turkish bread for their tourist services.

Feeling a bit adventurous (but getting light on cash), we hired a motorbike of sorts with which to explore the outer reaches of Cappadocia. The unexpectedly high costs in Turkey required us to hire, shall we say, a rather small motorbike in order to remain within our budget. We glared with envy at those on normal sized bikes as Rozy and I explored the surrounding area on our tiny scooter, model name “Popcorn”. Yes, the motorbike was called Popcorn and it had an engine commensurate with its laughable name. The bike’s little engine was just barely powerful enough to get us up some of the larger hills so long as we remained on the side of the road allowing the other vehicles to pass. We started off by heading 60km south to the little town of Derinkuyu to visit the underground city cut into the tufa. The underground city was a strange site and we spent about an hour navigating its series of tunnels caverns and nooks as much as 9 stories deep at some points. The entire network of tunnels and passageways was dimly lit, mostly empty and rather eerie at times especially once Rozita surfaced and left me on my own to explore.

After a delicious kebap lunch in the town of Kaymakli, we hopped back on our Popcorn and set out to find a road that would hook us east and take us the long way back to Goreme. After several half-understood conversations with elderly village men (all of whom were incredibly eager to provide assistance), we happened upon the direction we were in pursuit of and continued on our way. Under a quickly clouding sky, we Popcorned it as fast as we could to the village of Ayvali where we took a bit of a break to view the local tufa and all of the crazy abodes and churches that had been carved into it in centuries past. Roaming around the ancient little village, we spotted several women baking large quantities of bread in what appeared to be some sort of open-air bakery carved into the side of a cliff. The beautifully carved tufa, bright green vegetation, hanging mist, and ancient village houses all combined to make a great little walk even as the sky began to leak.

A bit damp, we continued on the Popcorn to Mustafapasa taking pictures around each bend as the scenery refused to relent. At a couple of points, the land on either side of the roadway dropped abruptly into wide crevasses full of tufa formations. Beyond Mustafapasa, we encountered dirt roads heading away from the main road and into fields full of fairy chimneys (tufa cones). We bumped and scraped our way through the rough dirt path on our little bike and encountered some rather amazing terrain littered with odd shapes and surreal horizons. On approach to the town of Urgup, the weather spewed forth its nasty side and gave us a freezing cold drenching as we encountered two particularly dramatic fairy chimneys complete with fascinating stone caps resting atop the chimney’s point. A blue-black sky set the back drop for some beautiful shots as the rain eased up and the first rays of a setting sun peered through the clouds from the west, illuminating the tufa.

Our last day in Cappadocia was partially interrupted by what was quickly developing into a nasty case of pink-eye in Rozy’s left orb. This illness, while incredibly annoying for both Rozy and those she complained to (namely myself), was a new one for our travels and made a nice complement to the collection of maladies accumulated thus far (including, but not limited to, ear infections, colds, food poisonings, skin fungus, sunburn, bladder infection and skin gashes). The rest of the day was spent doing some local trekking and saying goodbye to our fellow American friends we met the previous night…it was good to finally bump into some folks from the USA as it had been quite a while since we had any encounters!

That evening, we boarded our next bus which took us down the road, just 1 hour away, to the town of Kayseri where we were supposed to pick up our next bus bound for Sanliurfa (Urfa). The bus felt more like a private jet on the inside with its incredibly plush
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seats, soft-lit blue track lighting at the floor and ceiling, attentive conductors serving beverages and snacks, and its ridiculously large windows providing an wide open view of the surrounding landscape. We arrived in Kayseri where a gentleman waiting to take us our connecting bus snatched us up and led us to the ticket office to check-in for the second leg of our journey.


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20th June 2008

Great blog!
I was intrigued by the first picture of your blog when I was browsing the "Newest Journals" and I'm glad I clicked on it! I loved your photos as well as the rest of your blog. I was very inspired to read some of your others, and look forward to another one!
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