(8) Goreme, Turkey: Motorcycle mama

Ahhh…I’m back to being in love with night trains.

When I left you last in Istanbul, I was recovering from a creepy man on a night train and questioning my existence as a traveller. Catching (by 2minutes) a ferry across the Bosphorus to the train station, I made it to my third attempt at a positive night train experience. I was not disappointed.

I spent the equivalent of about $45 for a 16 hour train ride and an immaculate room with bunk beds all to myself. An attendant on each car cam to make up the beds and provide a towel. There was a pull out countertop to make a portable office, and a mini fridge stocked with a few tasty items.

Can’t say I sleep totally well, though, as every time my ladder knocked against the wall or any other similar sound was made, I woke up with a start thinking creepy man was trying to get back in my room again.

Otherwise, lovely.

Arrived in a city called Kayseri, where I slogged to a bus stop with a couple from Montreal in order get to the main bus station. A man at the stop said that he was getting on the same bus and would show us when to get off. He also offered to pay for us. Note that I’m assuming this is what he said based on his hand gestures. Much uncertainty, but it seemed alright to me. The young woman from Montreal almost started crying – the uncertainty, the heat, her heavy pack. She said she was more independent when she travelled alone, but the near meltdown had me thinking otherwise.

Göreme is a main tourist centre of a region of Turkey called Cappadocia. Cappadocia, which once had an economy based on underground lemon storage and collecting pigeon shit for fertilizer, is now heavily tourism dependent. Lemons are still stored. The pigeon shit industry, however, has collapsed.

The attraction of Cappadocia lies in its unique geography and related homes and churches. Long periods of erosion have left many pillars of stone and dirt which dot the landscape. The pillars, called fairy chimneys, once contained complete homes, and but more often now contain guest houses. Similarly unique-looking valleys have complete villages carved into the earth, with bricks used only sparingly.

My stay in Göreme was overwhelmingly relaxing. I spent four days here overall, and used my time to hike, motorcycle, and write. It helped that the place I found to stay at had a lovely shaded rooftop terrace, wifi, and a great view.

While Göreme has become well touristed over the years, I don’t find it offensive. (Update: Camels were just brought by our outdoor restaurant eating area for rides. Perhaps I spoke too soon). I think the surroundings help – the immediate physical geography surrounding the town means there is a reason for people to be here.

My longest hike took me 5 hours up above Göreme, under sedimentary layers and above eroding, rolling, technicolour canyons. I found myself in old rooms (homes?) carved into the mountain, with doors that walked off into thin air (has the geography changed so much?). I spotted lemon caves and old pigeon shit collectors, admired frescoes in old churches built within rock walls, and wandered through a semi-abandoned village carved out of hills and fairy chimneys.

The walk was a great reminder that what I love about travel is most often the physical geography. I can be at peace in stunning surroundings. I can sit, think, enjoy views and be content. History? Meh.

On the hike I also finally bent my orthodontic wire enough so that it snapped off. It’s still in contact with 4 teeth – I hope my hard earned teeth stay in place for the next five months.

My motorcycle circuit took me far. It had been suggested to me the night previously by a local restauranteur that the valley to the east of Göreme was much more scenic than the valleys south. I’m so glad I took his advice. While the road was cold, even with my fleece done up tight, the air was lovely and the views ever changing. I stopped at a great little old monastery looked after by an engaging host who had been looking after the area as a volunteer (along with his father) for 40 years.

Winding my way through the hills, I knew I was getting low on gas, and was starting to get concerned as I hadn’t seen a gas station since I started earlier in the day. I’m sure most villages have a “gas guy” that has buckets of gas somewhere, but I wasn’t desperate enough to start asking, and soon could see that I would make it to the next big town, where I was sure gas would await.

And it did. I filled up, had some chai with with a group hanging out at the station, and headed back to Göreme on a long boring highway. At this point, I was cold, tired and sore and just wanted to get home, but stopped just before Göreme at another scenic village and some viewpoints. I’m really loving the geology here.

Other than these two more major excursions, I walked, met some interesting people, had some great food, and enjoyed the weather (though the nights are cold). I’ve had a lot of time to think about my plans for the next few days, and I’m torn. There are one or two places that interest me, but I worry that I would put a lot of time and effort to getting there, only to be disappointed. I suppose that a poor excuse, but unless the location is in physically stunning surroundings (do I hear an echo in here?), I’m not content (especially if the accommodation is crap). So I’ve cut two originally intended destinations from plans, and am heading directly to Savur, a small village set among valleys and mountains, with a unique guest house. It’s expensive compared to what I’m used to, but I hope it will be worth it.

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