Radioactive lake?

Published: April 24th 2018
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As we drive eastwards, away from the region of Cappadocia, we start to see an even more mountainous area emerge. The roads wind along narrow, twisting valleys between the mountains following the contours as we go. I've got the lucky front seat next to the driver (we swap seats in the bus every journey to make sure no-one ends up stuck at the back feeling sick the whole time). I start to see that all these mountains have terraces cut into the sides but they are not deep enough to grow crops. Instead they have been planted with tiny new trees. It's an incredible amount of work to have completed and I learn that it's to help prevent erosion. It must also be doing something towards balancing carbon emissions. We have a few stops at roadside garages along the way and I pick up some of my favourite snacks (tiny pistachio chocolate bars, Lay crisps, Cappy cherry drink, Sesame snap biscuits and cherry Magnum all for the equivalent of about a £1 total - bargain!).

We are far from the main tourist sites now and at our lunch stop we cause quite a stir rocking up at a beautiful lake with brilliant turquoise blue rocks at the bottom. Gokpinar Golu is usually a place that tourists wouldn't know about and from what we can see seems to be a favourite local beauty spot for picnicking and BBQs. Burak tells us afterwards that the people there were wondering who these 'Christians' were and how did they know about this place! If only they knew how many atheists there are in our group! The hillside around the lake is terraced and every so often there is a little wooden shelter with a bench and a BBQ fire pit. Family groups are making fires in these, chopping the wood into small pieces with little hand axes they've brought on their day out. I find a spot by myself to eat my snacks - introvert overload on group activities and an overwhelming need to be alone for a little while. From up here I look down on the pretty turquoise colours of the lake's rocks. It looks almost radioactive it's so bright.

Picnic over we get back on the minibus. I relinquish my front seat to someone else to relieve a bit of travel sickness from all the winding roads we've been driving along. We are really up in the mountains now and they are STILL all terraced with the little trees planted along the rows. Rock on forestry guys - awesome work! We start to see a bit more life in what is an otherwise pretty barren landscape. We see little farmhouses and people tending small flocks of sheep. I've noticed that in Turkey they don't leave their sheep out on the hillsides to graze like we do in the UK, but instead stay with their smaller flocks, presumably taking them back to be penned up at the end of the day. We find out that this region is known for growing apricots.Syrian refugees and Kurds come to the area to pick the fruits living a nomadic lifestyle in the camps.

After more stomach lurching bends we finally arrive at Darende. It's really not a tourist place at all but, after dropping off our stuff at the hotel, we do have a little walk along the side of the river that runs through steep-sided rock faces near the town. It's another spot for local families to wander and sit by the water enjoying the little restaurants. There's some kind of foundation mosque that was built and paid for by a group of Muslims who Burak seems to suggest are trying to use their financial influence and seeming generosity, building the hotels and schools in the area, to get their own people into government positions. At the moment in Turkey it is all rather volatile politically and could go any which way. What with us being close to the Syrian border and being in a more conservative region of Turkey I feel more comfortable taking my atheist vegetarian alienism back to the hotel. The others go out for an evening meal but there really isn't any point for the veggies in our group. This is the first time we won't be able to cobble together any kind of vegetarian food at a restaurant, so after a lot of questioning and trying to get the hotel chef to understand Burak manages to get him to bring us what we would normally have for breakfast - cheeses, salad and bread. We weirdly have a couple of slices of spam added as a garnish! They really, REALLY don't get vegetarianism here. I don't have a good feel about this place and am ready for our next day's trip which is what we are really over this side of Turkey for - heading towards Mount Nemrut, via a homestay at Kahta.

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