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It was nearly 10:00 before we woke up so we hurriedly showered then packed and checked out. The hotel bill came to 70,000TL (a mere £15) and we caught a dolmüs out to the bus station and bought tickets to Goremё for 8,000TL each: student price!

We bought a drink each and sat on the steps outside the terminal talking to other travellers while we filled in the 2½ hours until the bus left at 2:30. The 3 hour trip top Göreme was across wide rolling plains etched with the patterns and colours of intense agriculture. From rolling, fertile hill country we crested a ridge and before us was spread out the most amazing landscape we had ever seen. The valley was a maze of twisted rock formations, eroded gullies and towering pinnacles: hundreds of thousands of them stretching as far as we could see. On the opposite side of the valley the hillsides were a multitude of eroded cliffs and canyons coloured pink and red in the late afternoon sun.

The Goreme Valley, Cappadocia.

The bus dropped us off on the side of the road in Göreme and we walked up the hill to a pension called Kele’s Cave. On the way we met the 4 Aussies from Denizli and we had a bit of a chat with them then carried on up the hill and checked in to the pension. Both Linda and I, and Mark and Kath1, got rooms hollowed out of the rock and the view out over Göreme was spectacular. After we had settled in, we walked down to the centre of town and had a feast of exquisite Turkish food for less than £2-50 each, then went back to the pension and sat in the bar, also hollowed out of solid rock, talking, playing some Turkish musical instruments and listening to Chris de Burgh and Tracy Chapman on the stereo.

1Two Canadians we had met on the bus.

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DENİZLİ TO KONYA We got up at 8:30 and sat out on the patio for an hour or so drinking tea and talking. Sulieman took Linda and I along with 2 Germans into town to look around and to change money.

At the bank we changed £50 for 282,000TL and sat and drank çay1 while we talked to an old man and woman from out in the country. Sulieman had to show the Germans some jewellery shops so Linda and I spent an hour or so looking at leather jackets then bought a kebab each and waited for them outside the Post Office.

Once we were back at the pension we collected our gear then sat on the floor of the office playing backgammon. Sulieman and his family invited us in for a meal, eaten on the floor from communal bowls of yoghurt, tomatoes, bread, fried potatoes, eggplant and peppers. After we had eaten we settled our account on my Visa and Sulieman asked us to come back and work for him for a month, if not this year then next! We said we might. He ran us down to the bus station and we fished him 3 Canadian tourists. In return, he got 5,000TL knocked off each of our fares to Konya and we said goodbye.

The bus was a large and comfortable Mercedes and once we left Denizli we headed out past Pamukkale and up a long, wide valley. The bus made its first meal stop after only 20 minutes at a roadhouse and as it was cold and beginning to rain I grabbed some warmer clothes and our shoes out of the packs.

As the bus travelled further inland we passed through areas of intense-farmed land, the crops healthy and well irrigated by networks of elevated concrete channels. The patterns and colours were of greens and browns, and the lush orderliness of the crops was a stark contrast with the brown rocks of the scrubby and rugged hills on the sides of the valleys. At one point we passed a salt lake called Acigöl Golu, then later on in the afternoon, after passing through a series of torrential downpours, we crossed over a pass and emerged above the beautiful Egidir Golu. The storm clouds were breaking up and letting patches of late afternoon light through to illuminate the pale blue waters of the lake while all around, the broken shapes of the mountains were cast into deep blue shadow with the black storm clouds obscuring their tops and in places rolling down to the lower slopes. 

On the right hand side of the road a huge and broken cliff face towered over a heavily-guarded army base and the small village of Egirdir which was built on a tiny peninsula jutting out at the base of the cliffs. As we drove up the eastern side of the lake, the lightshow playing on the water from the sun and clouds was both spectacular and beautiful and the mist-shrouded bulk of the mountain range beyond formed a gloomy and foreboding backdrop.

We left the lake after about ½ an hour and headed north-east up a long valley, gradually turning to the south-east as we crested a rise and began descending another valley through the village of Sakikaraazac and along the easter shore of Beysehir Golu. On the far side of the lake rose the snow-capped summit of the 3,000 metre Mt. Yeneser, just visible in the gathering dusk.

Soon after nightfall we stopped at a roadhouse for tea then Linda and I both slept for the last 1 ½ hours of the journey.

Konya is a large city, its origins rooted deep in the long history of Turkey and our first glimpse of it was as a sprawling mass of lights as we crested a pass above the city.

Once we had left the bus we were surprised not to be mobbed by touts with offers of rooms so we asked at a desk in the bus station where we could find hotels then caught a Dolmus into Mevlana: the city centre. We checked into a hotel called the Otel Mevlana along with an English couple who had been on the same dolmüs2 and shortly after that we crashed out exhausted. 

1The Turkish word for tea is written as çay but is pronounced “chai” just as in other languages. As well as the usual black tea, sweetened with sugar but not containing milk, Turkish çay is often made from apples. The taste of elma çayi (Apple Tea) is one of those redolent memory-generators that has stayed with me to this day, reminding me of sunny Turkish cafes, old men smoking hubbles, and busy streets where boys run to and fro with silver trays laden with small glasses of fragrant çay.

2A dolmüs is a shared taxi, usually a van of some kind. The name derives from “dolma” , the traditional Turkish stuffed vine leaves. A dolmüs is always stuffed with passengers! 

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The Piso Livadi Cricket Club.

CRICKET AT PISO LIVADI We were up quite early and went down to the village for breakfast. After that, we sat on the beach and I had a swim in the wonderfully clear and warm water.

Around 12:30 we wandered over to the bar for a drink and by 1:30 enough people had arrived for 2 teams so the match began. We batted first and scored 93 before we were all out. I went for a duck! After drinks, the other team went in to bat and went down for 74. Not a bad First Innings lead for the ANZACs!

The game was played on the concrete car park beside the club with the sea on two sides. Two people fielded in the water and a direct hit into the sea was classed as a 6 while a bounce into the sea counted as a 4.

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Linda on strike facing a fast ball from The Rest of the World

I fared better in the second innings with a score of 8 before being bowled out and Linda managed a knock of 12. We were all out for 80 setting the other team a goal of 93 to win. Their opening batsmen were sent off in rapid succession but their middle order rallied and by the time their tail-enders were dismissed we had narrowly escaped defeat by one run. A draw was declared anyway and we retired to the “pavilion” for drinks and awards for catch of the match and man of the match.

The drinks flowed and a good time was had by all. Linda and I went for tea at around 7:30 then wandered back up to camp.

 

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After match drinks at the pavilion.  

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ATHINA The Hotel Palladium cost 4,000 DR1 (£20-00) but it was worth it to get 8 hours’ sleep and after a shower we packed up and left our packs downstairs.

The streets of Athens are wide (they have to be with drivers as bad as the Greeks seem to be!) and clean. Our first stop was at a bank where we changed £100-00 for 26,000DR. We walked up to the main square near which most of the travel company offices are located and after a bit of a look around we went to an office and bought tickets on a ferry to Paros Island2 in the Cyclades group for 4,200DR each. The ferry was due to depart from Pareus (Athens’ port) at 5pm which left us most of the day to fill in so we walked up to the Acropolis.

What a beautiful and awe-inspiring place it is. Sited on a hill overlooking the centre of Athens it stands as a testament to the building technology possessed by the ancient Greeks at a time, 2,500 years ago, when the tribes of Britain were still living in grass huts and using primitive iron implements. 

The approach to the base of the hill led through a maze of narrow streets lined with souvenir stalls. Once out of the built up area we walked to the right, under the cliffs upon which the Acropolis is built, then up a series of flights of smooth marble steps to the first part of the Acropolis complex: the Amphitheatre. Dropping away steeply below us the original amphitheatre has been rebuilt and is still used for performances today. Down on the stage some ballet dancers were rehearsing in the blazing sunshine. Further round the base of the hill the partially buried remains of an even older amphitheatre were being slowly uncovered by archaeologists. 

By using our YHA “student” ID cards3 we gained access to the Acropolis for ½ price and climbed the steep and slippery marble steps between the huge marble columns through which, thousands of years ago, berobed ancients passed on their way into the temple.

There are three main buildings on the windswept top of the hill, in a reasonable state of preservation, but still undergoing a complete rebuilding programme at present. There is a museum with some beautiful examples of early Greek sculpture and a lookout with beautiful views of the city and the surrounding hills.

We spent about an hour up there then followed another maze of back streets down to the main square and back to the hotel to collect our packs. The travel agent had told us that the best way to get to Pareaus was by train so we plotted a route to the station, swung up our packs and began walking. It was siesta (2:30-5:00) so there weren’t many people around but the trains were crowded with people going home. The trip took about 20 minutes and after another 20  minutes of searching at the port we found our ferry: the Golden Vergina.

We had an hour to fill in before sailing so we had a beer at a sidewalk café then boarded the boat and found a comfy place on our 3rd Class deck to sit on.

The voyage, which took 5 hours, landing us at Parikia at 10:30PM, was pretty boring although we did see our first Greek sunset while sheltering from the cool sea breeze which sprang up in the late afternoon. The sun, a brilliant crimson orb, left hazy images on our retinas as it dipped slowly behind a small island and darkness followed quickly.

As we were waiting to disembark at the stern of the ship, a lady came up to me and asked if we were looking for a room. She wanted 1,500 DR which isn’t a lot, £5 or so, so we accepted and made our way off the ship through a crowd of touts offering rooms to the other passengers and walked up to the town’s main square about 150 metres from the wharf. 

The lady’s house was up a narrow, white-washed side street and the room was quite nice, with a double bed and adjoining toilet and shower. We left our packs there and went out into the warm night to find a place to have tea which wasn’t a hard task at all. We had a salad and a beer each then wandered back to our room.    

1 The Drachma is the Greek currency.
We chose Paros quite at random. Linda closed her eyes and placed a finger on a map of Greece. Paros was the island she pointed to and it turned out to be amazing!
3 We used this ruse successfully throughout our travels: pretending that our YHA cards were student ID cards in order to gain discounts.