TURKEY 2: 04.04 - 25.04.2004

Translated by PROMT-Online-Translator

Route: Nuseybin, Diyarbakir, Tatvan, Konya, Side, Pamukale, Konya, Nevsehir, Alanya, Ankara, Tatvan, Van, Dogubayazit

Distance: 790 Km          Ascent: 6190 m

Preface: During our 2nd Turkey visit we have stayed predominantly in the eastern mountains. It was absolutely astonishing for us that it was already so warm in spite of the early season, so that wild camping was easily possible. If one follows our route, one comes without big climbing close to the Iranian border. Merely on the last 100 km one must cross once to a pass with 2644 m. This time differently than in our first visit we felt eastern Turkey is not so hospitabl. We had almost the feeling that many of the Kurds, who are predominantly living in the east, are embittered by their decades of civil war with the Turkish government and therefor are frustrated. In any case, the east of Turkey with his wild mountain world is region woth a visit.
Then in Turkey it went again in the mountains. Because the weather just as the state of the streets increasingly became worse the stages became tougher. The temperatures sank and the wind blew stronger and stronger. Although we about 18 km before Diyarbakir in our tent under a bridge the next morning our sleeping-bags were covered by a layer of sand which the wind had pressed through the mosquito net of the inner tent. At the same time the temperatures fell during the day to jusgt above the freezing point. The wind blew against us with full force (according to weather forecast at speeds about 60 km/h). The scenery was hilly and after we had put back only 14 km to 2-hour laborious cycling, we were really glad when a truck took us the last kilometres into town. We were completely frozen and, hence, decided to take a hotel room. Just as we were surprised, nevertheless, also the hotel got surprised by the cold weather, so that they had a small heating problem. In our hotel room we had only 11°C!!! Then only in the afternoon of the next day the wind decreased, and from day to day it became warmer again.
Then shortly before and shortly after Bitlis we met many fellow cyclists. First we met Philip and Beatrice (they cycled from Nepal over the Krakorum highway in Pakistan and the Central Asian republics and Iran in 9 months to eastern Turkey), who were together with a friend (who begun one week ago at in Erzurum -18°C!!!) now on the way home to Switzerland. They had the cold and high mountains of Turkey and Iran already behind themselves. They raved on to us thus about the Karakorum highway (crossing from China to Pakistan with some of the highest passes of the world) that we now consider to alter our route something. The next day then we met Garry and Corinna. The both begun 2.5 years ago in New Zealand, and have cycled over Australia and Asia here. Completely we were frustrated when we saw to her bicycle pockets half-empty. Although they also a tent had, besides it seemed to us that they carried along only scarcely half of our equipment. To the coronation still a big packet of cornflakes was in one of the half-filled pockets. Completely fascinated from their little luggage now we are in search also to save some weight.
After 4 days and 3370 metres in climbing we reached on Thursday about 10:00 o'clock the town Tatvan on the Tatvan lake. My parents had announced themselves for Saturday for a visit and their flight went to Antalya so we wanted to approach them by the train. The stationmaster explained to us that the train went to Ankara today at 7:20 o'clock. When we asked over again we found out that the train had set off, nevertheless, already about 7:20am. We thought no problem, then we take just the train tomorrow morning. Also here the stationmaster had bad news for us. The next train should go on Tuesday! Now good council was necessary. With the help of the stationmaster we found out that the next morning at 11:30 o'clock a train from Diyarbakir would go to Ankara. First we enquired the price of a coach journey, however because they tried to overcharge us completely so we decided go hitchhike the 250 km with truck. We cycled again from Tatvan out and already after few minutes the first truck stopped an drove us, from the situated 1700-m-high Tatvan, 80 km long to Baykan (1000 m lower). Then by a VW coach and afterwards still with a small van we travel the next 60 km to shortly before Silvan. Then a truck driver who offered to take us the last 110 km to Diyarbakir stopped. Quickly the bikes were loaded and we sat in the driver`s cab. Although the driver spoke, unfortunately, only in Turkish we found out that he still had to go to Izmir, on the west coast. Though it lasted for a while that we dared to ask, but then at last he offered us to take us to Konya (just 1000 km from here and 350 km before Antalya). Of course we accepted the offer with pleasure. While Ahmet slept the night in the driver`s cab we spread out our sleeping matresses on the nearly empty loading area. To believe hardly, however, Ahmet had loaded only about 30 autobatteries and a few empty palettes and went so straight through Turkey (just 2000 km). Unfortunately, he received in the next morning one more follow-up order, so that he dropped us already 100 km before Konya. The last km we then hichhiked with an empty car transporter and reached so on the Friday evening Konya. To Manavgat (here we were already in last autumn), however, we wanted to go by the coach. We left at 22:00 o'clock Konya and should arrive about 4:00 o'clock in the 270 km lying away Manavgat. Although it night was we were surprised that the distance did not happen to seem to us at all familiar (we had cycled they already once). Then about 3:00 o'clock we found out that the coach did not take the direct way, but went over Isparta . After thus from 270 km scanty 470 km we became achieved Manavgat only about 6:00 o'clock. Absolutely tired and exhausts from the long trip (42 hrs and about 1500 km) we built up our tent on the beach and slept first of all a round.
Then on Sunday midday my parents arrived in Side. Actually, they had booked as a hired car Fiat Doblo (nearly one pickup van) , nevertheless, instead received, a mixture of a VW GOLF and an estate car. First we thought that we had no chance to get our bicycles and the whole luggage into the car. While we just were busy with our bicycles a little bit just the Easter hare was apparently to be in the area. However, luckily he had not hidden the Easter eggs completely so well, so that we could find them before the whole chocolate melted away in the sun. Actually, it is almost a miracle, but after about 1 hour we had stowed away everything in the car. In the afternoon we strengthened ourselves first of all with a pizza with Giuseppe (our favorite Italian from the last December who was pleased gigantically about our visit), before we explored the closer surroundings (waterfalls of Manavgat, ruins of Side). We spent the first night camping on the wild beach of Side.
The next morning then after an extensive breakfast on the beach we started to Pamukkale. In Pamukkale there are several springs in which warm water strongly enriched with minerals comes from the earth . Already 2000 years ago the doctors used this and established there the famous welfare and health resort town of Heraklion. Beside the theatre and some ruins of the remedial layouts only the graves of those for which all help came too late are open to the public. Nevertheless, Pamukkale is famous for his sinter terraces. The warm water flows here about several hundred-metre-wide abyss into the depth. In runs down since centuries so wonderful, snow-white sinter terraces have formed here. In the course of the Tourismusboom in the beginning of the 80s in Turkey many hotels were built directly above the terraces and within a couple of years the terraces so got dirty, that all hotels had to go and were rebuilt now below the terraces.
Now with an interstop in Konya incl. small mosque sightseeing drove to Capadocia. In Capadocia the rocks exist are of tuff stone, so that the weather created weird forms. However, also the people used the soft rock. To protect itself from enemies they established no gigantic fortress layouts, but dug subterranean towns. We discovered the first subterranean town rather by chance. Presumably it is opened only in some time, because we were the only tourists and some construction workers were about to finish the outside works. The towns had been dug in several floors (up to 8 floors) in the earth. In peacetime the inhabitants lived in their surface houses. If they were attacked, nevertheless, they simply fled into the subterranean flats. Up to half a year they spent so underground. To survive was anything but a pleasure, but at least they survived.
Though the second subterranean town we attended was written out in the guidebook, however, it lay something off the beaten track. We met a young man, that offered us to lead us through the subterranean town. Either the lighting was defective which did not know our guide didn not khow how to turn on the light. Thus we went armed with 4 flashlights on a discovery tour. This town was even more imposing than the previous one. As gates served the gigantic stone slices which one could roll with the help of animals (donkey or cows) before the entrances. The different levels of the town were connected with shafts. To climb to the next level they had simply made small steps on the right and on the left in the rock. Very much to the joy of my parents and our guide we wanted to see of course also some other levels. An about 9 m high shaft was especially adventurous. One had to climb the first 2 metres only a normal ladder and then we had to get then from this into the "stone ladder" in the shaft. Although it was very dusty by the tuff stone everywhere, the air was very fresh in the subterranean town. Because the inhabitants disappeared during a attack with their whole cattle underground they presumably also had their own ventilation system. Unfortunately, our guide spoke except in Turkish only a few lumps in French, so that he could not explain everything we saw . After just 1 hour we crept again to the surface and said goodbye with a cup of tea.
It already became evening and looking for a place where to fill-up of our stores of water we discovered a sign of some churches. We followed the street and came after some kilometres to an old Byzantine's town situated in a canyon. Just as the owners of the subterranean towns had also dug their flats into the rocks. However, by the situation in the canyon they had windows and balconies. Just as their flats the Byzantines also had their churches in the rock.
Because the whole ruin was not opened (the office and some entrances were closed) we could visit only one church decorated with frescoes. After a French travelling team which had also gone the valley visited passed through we decided to spend the night in a cave situated above the canyon. After the dinner we still played with romantic candle light a boardgame before we pitched our tents and crumbled us in the sleeping-bags.
Capadocia is world-famous for his weird tuff stone rocks. Between Göreme and Zelve the rocks were washed out so strongly by the weather that they form to single rock towers. Partially the rock towers exist of different rocks, so that it looks as if the rocks wore hats. In one of the rock towers there was even a church. The entrance was in the ground floor. About a stone stair like in the subterranean towns, it went only on a small balcony and from there again up into a comfortable small room on the 2nd floor. One must see the amusing scenery absolutely with his own eyes, because the unusual rock sculptures can impossibly be described with words. Capadocia has impressed us stronger than the pyramids in Egypt or Petra in Jordan.
The visit of the canyon-like valley of Ihlare formed the conclusion of our Capadocia trip. After a descent of more than 600 stairway steps we reached the bottom of the 16-km-long valley. To both sides of the just 100 m wide valley the cliff faces rose precipitously upwards. Also here many churches were hit in the cliff faces. After we had already visited 2 churches we wanted to have a look at one more lying about 1 km away. The creek led a little bit more water than usually, so that parts of the main way were buried. Thus we had to find our own path and finally reached the church. Nevertheless, in contrast to the other churches this was built from black volcano rock. Now the sky darkened and it already started to rain with big heavy drops, so that we hurried hastily in the direction of car. Nevertheless, we had luck and remained spared from the thunderstorm.
Although we instead of by the bicycle we travelled by the car, we wanted to give to my parents a bit the feeling like it is if we are on the move with the bikes. Thus we spent the night exept of 2 exceptions in the tent and with a picnic cover we took the nicest places for breakfasts lunch and dinner. Highlight was absolutely our last picnic in which we sat then together in a swing. Martins dad was not so amused :-)
Because my parents had booked, a tour they had to hand in the rental car at a hotel to Alanya. Then the next morning the transfer to the airport should take place at 03:00 o'clock. After we had loaded our luggage again onto the bicycles they invited us to the buffet of their 5-star hotel. Unfortunately, we came a little bit too late so that we had to hasten. We just had the first round of desserts, when the buffet was cleared.
After we said goodbye to my parents we pitched our tent about 100 m beside the hotel in a sort of street underpass.
Now by the coach we went again to Ankara and from there by the train back to Tatvan at the Van lake. We used our day in Ankara to apply for a visa for Pakistan. Although we again needed a recommendation of the German embassy, we got the visa in still on the same day. The next morning the train to Tatvan should set off at 06:50 o'clock, and thus we spent the night in the railway station. At 01:30 o'clock, after the last train had gone, all lights were shut of and we were alone. Well, we thought we would be alone. As Nadine at 04:00 o'clock in the morning went on the toilet the toilet attendant awoke from his sleep, only to require the charge and then to fall asleep again.
Then at 6:00 o'clock the train set off. After our bikes were loaded we searched for ourselves a seat in a compartment and found one in which already two men sat. While hte first already got out after 4 hours, the second (Tekin) wanted to go to Tatvan as well. Tekin is a singer in a restaurant in Istanbul and was concerned very much around our welfare. Nearly whenever the train stopped a little longer he ran from the train to get some food for us. Also we had made provision, actually, for the train journey, however, we were nearly obliged permanently to eat the delicacies of Tekin. Because in Turkey apparently officially it was still winter, the heating ran permanently on full power. According to the thermometer which there was in every compartment we had approximately 29°C in the compartment. During the day we went thus either with open window or at least with an open door. Then thus it was unbearably hot at night even in the T-shirt and we had no restful sleep. The next afternoon we reached with a delay of 2 hours after a total of 32 hours of Tatvan.
By phone Tekin had already informed his family which expected us with a delivery van already in the railway station. Before we made a mistake or were asked even about approval, we and our bikes were already loaded. Thus we were driven without detours directly to the house of Tekin's sister. The really very nice family welcomed us warmly. After we had relaxed together with several cups of Cay from the long and strenuous train journey (Tekin, however, needed the rest more urgently than us), we went first of all under the shower (shower with a bucket of hot water). Because the family had a washing machine had we used the opportunity to wash our clothes. Then to top it off there was still an extensive and tasty dinner which was taken, as usual, on the ground, before we crept in our beds to sleep off ourselves.
After a restful night and a really big breakfast the next morning we succeeded after tough negotiations to us in dismissing. We wanted to go by the ship over the van lake to Van, and thus Tekin insisted on accompanying us up to the harbour. Because we have run together with him, however, we were a little bit too slow. We were just 200 m from the harbour when the ship ran out. We spent the 3-hour waiting period on the next ferryboat together with Tekin in an Internet cafe. In his care Tekin invited us on a tea and purchased biscuits some drinks and bananas for us. The ferries belonged to the Turkish railway company, and thus it was not further surprising that railway trucks were loaded onto the ship instead of trucks. We stretched our bicycles simply to one of the carriages. Now opened us Tekin that he wants to accompany us to Van and wants to go from there by the coach again to Tatvan. It cost our whole power to explain him that we also can travel alone. Then with a heavy heart he said goodbye to us. The ferryboat needed just 5 hours to cross the gigantic Van lake, so that we reached Van about 21:30 o'clock. Luckily the harbour lay a bit beyond the city, so that we found relatively fast a camp site.
Then from the Van lake it went even further into the mountains. According to the map we should have a pass at 1900-m height to cross. We had passed the place at which the pass should have benn long ago, however, the street climbed on and on into the mountains. After we met a Swizz couple who wanted to stroll with her cross-country camper also several years around the world, we made with marvellous sunshine a small rest. We cooked a little soup and wanted to start to eat just when the sky suddenly darkened and then it started to hail really hard.
Already during our last visit to Turkey we had some problems with the exactness of our map. At that time no pass was marked and suddenly we stood on 1800 m. Though this time a was marked at 1900m, however, the real pass came 40 km later with a height of 2644 m! We had luck and the snow which had hit some cyclists (the Swiss and the New Zealanders whom we had met 2 weeks before) in this pass, came with to us just some kilometres before, so that it was pretty cold.
Then after a nice long downhill some rain started again and because at the same time the sun was out, we had the big luck to see several very nice rainbows. Unfortunately, the sky was too very cloudy behind the rainbow, because, otherwise, one would have seen behind the mountain range the mountain Ararat. It is quite witty anyhow that we see the first rainbow (and again 3 at the same time) virtually directly at the foot of the mountain Ararat. To the mountain on which Noah has landed at the end of the flood after he has seen before a rainbow...
As if we had not already enough with the turkish mountain world, we had between the Van lake and Dogubayazit also a real dog problem. Up to now we had been attacked only very much sporadically by dogs. However, on this day we came approximately to about 20 single attacks. No matter whether from singles-standing houses, from places far away or from seep herds. As soon as we were sighted by any dog he began immediately his attack. Now and again came up to 10 dogs at the same time. This would have been relatively undramatic if it had been from dogs in the scale of Chihuahuas. However, here the dogs resembled rather wolves than dogs. They had approximately the size of a Bernadina dog and mouse-grey shaggy fur. Some of the dogs who are used by the local shepherds for the protection of their sheeps against wolves. For protection against the wolfes they even had neckbands with about 10 cm long nails. To meet the only one really sure method to protect us was to stop immediately to catch a few stones tand to through them at the dogs. We took at the beginning relatively big stones which can be thrown far. Then with increasing experience we changed on smaller stones (marble size). With a handful of small stones we were at least able to hit the dogs. However, for the action some nervous strength was also asked, because some dogs, after racing towards us for 200 m stopped in spite of the stones only 2 m before us and stepped back. However, we were disappointed by the dog owners. Up to a few children and two grandpas who came to us in a place for help and also scared away the dogs with stone throws, it disturbed the adults relatively little if we were attacked by their dogs. Unfortunately, but we had other worries, so that there is, unfortunately, no picture of the "dogs".  



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