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Published: September 23rd 2014
On the night bus to Trabzon 9pm September 19, 2014
During this year of travel I am trying to become more computer/smart phone savvy. At work you know the basics to do your job and the rest tends to get left behind. Unless of course you are under 26 when it is almost innate.
So my latest toy is a GPS app for my Samsung phone, Gaia GPS. It was recommended by a blogger who had hiked the Kackers, where we are heading after this. They noted that getting used to the GPS before you start hiking with them is important. Most people have used GPS in the car and I have used it many times at sea as well.
In fact, that is where I started. I downloaded the Fethiye area from 'OpenCycleMap' and it proved great to be able to course plot from the phone in the cockpit. It did not have depths like a chart but it was great for ETA's and 'course to steer'.
Moving on to Cappadocia I have been able to use it hiking and it has presented several learning experiences.
Basalt protected table mountain/mesa in the background
The Cappadocia region centred on the village of Goreme and it's 102 hotels and pensions does not require GPS for the vaste majority of visitors who go from tour to tour, bus to bus spotting fleeting glimpses of the spectacular geology and scenery for which it is so famous.
Cappadocia's phenomenal landscape in South Central Turkey is a direct result of the collision of the EurAsian and Africa tectonic plates. This has created/is creating the Central Anatolian plateau. 20 to 30 million years ago there was major volcanic activity which laid down around 100m of compressed ash (tuff) with a final layer of basalt in many places. Water and wind erosion have then done the rest. Humans finally came along and the soft tuff was great for building houses, churches, cities out of sight of enemies. For those who know the US think Badlands NP, with a bit of Arches NP and then add in Mesa Verde.
There are some fantastic hikes and no decent walking maps (am I being too cynical in thinking that the local guides would not want good maps in general circulation) so a good GPS has been very
37 of the 56 balloons we saw that morning
Jules and Linda this has to be on your bucket list!
handy. For the first time today after three days of walking we have also followed trail signs (coloured stripes) which are not common.
That said the paths have generally been good and easy to see. Again it was only today that we ended up on a good path that was not present on the 'OpenCycleMap' I had downloaded of the area.
One of my major concerns was phone battery life and I have found that if you switch the screen off the phone will last all day with the GPS on. We have downloaded the same maps and app onto Jane's Android LG tablet as a back up.
And hiking is what Cappadocia is made for. Yes it is a global premier site for ballooning, I know (we got up early to see them and counted 56 in the air). You can also hike to places to get the balloon's eye view and within 50 metres of walking away from the road (as with anywhere) the crowds disappear and you are free to explore the open spaces.
The walks are such a contrast to Goreme Open Air Museum,
Cappadocia's own Ephesus, with its high concentration of frescoed rock carved churches created by early Christians. We went there straight off the night bus from Fethiye and did our normal thing of getting audio guides. These greatly helped interpret the frescos in these and other churches we saw later in other valleys between the coach swarms. Some frescos are remarkably well preserved after a thousand plus years despite vandalism, being used as pigeon houses and continuing erosion of the surrounding rock.
After a brief rest to catch up on emails we set out again mid afternoon on our first valley hike. We discovered that dolmus were less frequent here and did the first 2km by road on foot before cutting into the Meskendir valley. This was notable for its water eroded tunnels. We also stumbled across an amasing open air gallery run by an ex-pat Dutch potter called Charlotte Van Den Akker (see www.batibirlik.com.tr an Ankara gallery that exhibits her work). The quality and uniqueness of her work was amasing. Her glazes in particular stood out. We were enticed by one of her pomegranates, very much a symbol of this part of our trip as they have
just come into season around us.
With GPS in hand we then went up the 'Red' valley and down the 'Rose' valley exploring some ornate cave churches on the way. One seemed to be a simple dark hole in the rock. As we went up stairs and our eyes got used to the dim light a three nave church with carved supporting columns revealed itself.
The walk finished at Cavusin and by then the sun had set so we stopped at the LP recommended Panarama pension and restaurant (firstname.lastname@example.org). They served a superbly seasoned chicken Sac Tava (which Google translate says is 'sheet pan' and I translate as stir fry). By now it was 8.30pm and the only way to get home to Goreme was an informal taxi arrangement with the restaurant owner. The dolmus had stopped at 7pm.
The next day we had made the decision to join the masses on the 'Green' tour. This was epitomised by two young British Asian doctors celebrating their first wedding anniversary with a day trip to Cappadocia from Istanbul! The tour did allow us to visit the Derinkuyu underground city which is 35km
Romeo and Julliette
See Facebook for the video
from Goreme and nearby Ihlara gorge. Sarlan was a nice guide with a Polish wife in tow and we were still glad to get our independence back in the end. If I was doing the same sites again I would hire a car or scooters (Jane insists we would have to have two!).
The underground cities, of which Derinkuyu is the largest of the 36 in the Cappadocia region, were started as hiding places for the early Christians from the pagan Romans and developed into storage areas in later years. They chipped out of the soft tuff with ventilation shafts and wells as well as churches kitchens etc.
That and the following evening we cooked for ourselves at the pension. It was not advertised and the owner let us use the breakfast kitchen on the roof terrace on request. It did mean that meals had to be cooked in a large pan usually reserved for egg boiling or a fry pan. We could manage.
We had found the Oriental Cave Suites on AirBnB originally and then found we could contact them directly so could avoid the AirBnB fee. This made it
a very reasonable 100TL including the largest bathroom we have had for a while (you could actually swing a cat). I think you could have found cheaper with the level of competition. Our room was not dug out of the rock, which Jane had particularly wanted, as this is the 'differentiator' for many rooms in Goreme. Next time!
The next day we follow the pension owner's advice and took a dolmus to the nearby village of Urchisar. As we walked up to the castle we passed a man by a steaming pot in the middle of the road. They had pulled up ten or so paving blocks, dug a hole and a side vent and it turned out they were boiling grape juice into syrup. Following further questioning we were directed to the English speaking son who was pressing sacks of grapes with his feet using special welly boots. The raw juice drained across the floor into buckets. It was clearly an annual event that happened each harvest.
Incidentally this was the first time we came across a lady adamant we should not take her picture (with the evil eye). Jane could talk to
her at eye level and pacify her.
I fully expect if we go back today the road paving will have all been replaced as before.
At Urchisar we went up to the 'castle' a plug of ignimbrite rock harder than all the surroundings and the highest point for some miles. After enjoying the 360 degree view we headed for the top of Pigeon valley. This is where we started to learn that each valley had its own character despite all fundamentally being created from the same erosion forces on the soft tuff capped with hard basalt. Pigeon valley gets its name from the many pigeon lofts dug high up in the rock. The main purpose of these cotes was to creat a fertiliser source for the local farming. You see them throughout the region and some are incredibly high up the shear valley sides. We have concluded that they reach them by ladders made of cross pieces nailed to a single pole as we saw one of this design outside a church in the Red valley. You looked like you needed to pray before going up it.
What made Pigeon valley spectacular was the gorge at its bottom impossible to see from the coach vantage points. It also did not make a walk down the valley straight forward as at one point the path ended at a shear drop. The original track had crumbled away. You can only follow GPS tracks so far. We should have been warned.
We decided to exit Pigeon valley using a side path clearly marked on the OpenCycleMap. This was easy to find. It passed by a vineyard nestled in the base of the valley where we were disturbed by a loud knocking. We discovered this noise came from two wild tortoises, the smaller of the two bashing the larger one with his shell. We were not sure what was going on and after pictures left them to it.
After this the path became more technical as we closed in on the valley side. We reached a steep slope of bare tuff (think sandpaper with loose large grains) with no hand holds that we just managed to scramble up, in my case, using my knees. After scrambling through thickets and up more steep scrub we came to the final challenge, a very steep piece of bare tuff with five toes holes cut into it to get to the plateau and road above. Again there were no hand holes in sight which could have made all the difference. I tried it and got half way and then thought about how Jane might get up after me so came down. Jane came up and she managed to get up with me supporting her feet with my hands at first and then using the handle end of my walking pole to support each heel. Next was my turn. I got up the first four steps and just did not have the strength (I think in my ankles) to take the last step with no hand holds. So I came/slid down removing skin in places and filling finger nails with tuff. I would have to walk round to the other side about 2km while Jane watched from her perch above the valley.
This detour was not without incident. First, when negotiating the steep bare tuff slope lower down I ripped a big hole in the back of my trousers. Then as I walked through the vineyard it was clear what those tortoises were up to with the smaller aggressive one mounting the reluctant female. If you want to see and learn more please see my Facebook page for the video! I left them to it to climb up to my own Juliette.
Our next stop was to a souvenir shop we had stopped at the previous day. It was the only one we found who actually did little carvings, ideal for Jane's print shelf, out of the local rock and not moulded from plastic. We had a quick gozleme lunch and headed down Love/White valley. This valley had a challenging downward start and then was an easy walk to the coach park at the end. The basalt protected pinnacles are very impressive.
When we got back to the main road it was not clear when the next dolmus would be to take us back to Goreme. It was a nice surprise that when I stuck my thumb out the third car stopped. In no time we were resting out tired limbs in a hot shower and in my case washing a few wounds. The steep track out of Pigeon valley had all been on the GPS and one should probably have recognised the difficulty from its shape around the contours. Another learning experience which will probably help us in the Kackers.
Today, our last in Goreme, we headed for Cavusin and again my thumb proved more efficient than the dolmus. We went back to the Panarama restaurant for lunch and his menamen, think Spanish omelette, was the same standard as the Sac Tava from the first visit. We had picked out a GPS marked track that started at the base of the old town, now very eroded, and this lead you around the contour of the nearby table top hill with pinnacles below you. The marked trail took you all the way to the Zylve town ruins, dating from the seventh century and finally abandoned in 1953 when the obvious erosion made the location too dangerous. A dolmus brought us back to Goreme after a rewarding 7km (according to the GPS track).
So the moral of the story is for those who visit Goreme and Cappadocia is: avoid the tours, use your thumb as much as the dolmus, learn to use a hiking GPS so you can get out on foot and watch out for Romeo and Juliette! We can highly recommend it for a visit and do not do it as a day trip from Istanbul.
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