9/6/90

The bus arrived in Erzurum at 7:30 a.m. and we unloaded our stuff and went into the bus station to find onward transport. We got a bus to Tortum for 3,000TL each and got a board to wait for it to depart. Erzurum is the highest town in Turkey at over 2,000 metres and the beautiful steppeland around it was lush with spring growth. A myriad of alpine flowers were growing in the fields amongst thousands of small clear streams. As the bus drove further into the hills we passed many mobs of sheep and cattle tended by shepherds as they grazed the lush pastures.

Finally,  we drove over a saddle and descended into a long rugged valley until we reached the town of Tortum, nestling in a canyon full of poplar trees. We walked up into the centre of town and asked about transport down to Tortum Golu and were told the only way was by taxi which would cost 4,000TL.  We agreed on the price and loaded our stuff into the boot of a battered old car and drove down to Uzündere, 37 km away.  When we got there we were still 5 km from the lake so the taxi driver waited while we bought some bread and veggies then we carried on down to the lake.  We couldn’t find any likely camping spots as the lake filled a deep gorge, its sides plunging straight into the water so we carried on down to the bottom end of the lake where a 45m waterfall dropped the headwaters of the Çhoru River into the valley below.

Then disaster struck!  The taxi driver wanted 70,000TL for the trip –  he reckoned that the fare from Tortum to Uzündere was 40,000…not 4,000. We argued with him for 10 minutes and gave him 17,000TL and a 5 pound note, telling him he would get 100,000TL for it. He left in a huff and we decided not to camp straight away but to walk a few miles down the road. Unfortunately, the taxi driver wasn’t as stupid as we thought and he came back about 2 hours later with the local bank manager who reckoned the fiver was only worth 27,000TL, which was about right!  We had another long argument and ended up giving him another £5 and US$5.

Feeling very pissed off we walked on down the road which now entered a deep gorge with the river becoming progressively swifter and wilder as the valley deepened.  We managed to hitch a ride on the back of a truck which took us 10 km down the gorge to a service station. We had a drink there while the local men leered at us, then hit the road again. Only 200m from the service station we met an American guy sitting beside the river with four kayaks reading a book. We got talking to him and he told us that there weren’t many campsites all the way down to Artvin, 70 km away, and that the gorge got even narrower further down. While we were talking to him, his five mates turned up in two very tired rental cars and we yarned to them as well. They were all rich know-alls from California and when we left them Kelly was spitting sparks about rich yuppie computer geeks!!

About a mile further down the gorge we finally found a spot to camp on a small flat area of ground under some towering cliffs about 50m above the road.  We set up camp and I built a low rock wall to screen the tent from the road1. It wasn’t an ideal spot but it was better than nothing and after sneaking down to the river for a cold bath,ducking behind rocks every time a vehicle went past, we fell exhausted into the tent and slept.

1Freedom camping in Turkey, especially close to the Russian border, where we were, was illegal. We therefore had to make sure that we weren’t observed whenever we camped over the next few days.

Our camp in the Çhoru Gorge.

8/6/90

Steve and I got up at 4:15 a.m. to watch the sunrise.  The wind was still howling in from the west and the sunrise was, like the sunset the previous night, wholly unremarkable. We packed our gear and walked back down to the hotel where a dölmus arrived to take us back to Malatya.  As we descended the steep hill we passed the same people as yesterday, riding their donkey’s up the hill to gather winter feed for their animals. The women kept their heads bowed to avoid looking at us but the driver stopped to talk to one man and his daughter couldn’t help but look at us.  She was beautiful, with long dark hair and alert blue eyes.  Sadly I thought, it will only take a few years before the harsh climate and hard work will turn her into a weathered crone like the rest of the women we saw up there.

The trip back to Malatya was quite speedy despite having two flat tyres, and we got there at about 9:30a.m.  We walked up to the information office to see what else we could do in the area, but there wasn’t much to see around Malatya so we decided to catch the night bus further east to the town of Erzurum.

After a meal at a lokanta1 we lugged our gear to the bus station, bought tickets and left our packs in the waiting room. With a whole day to fill in we went first to a trashy Chuck Norris movie overdubbed in Turkish, then found a tea garden and sat there for 2 hours. We watched an army parade in the main street and wandered around the market for a while.  I bought a little sheep’s bell from a hardware store and we sat drinking çay with the owner while we worked out a price (2,500TL).

Finally with nothing else to do we walked back to the bus station and had a wash in the toilets.  A  kiwi guy called Tom was waiting for a bus to van so we swapped stories with him for a while.  When the bus turned up it had been badly overbooked and it was an hour later when we finally left Malatya and began our uncomfortable 10 hour journey to Ezurum.

1 A lokanta is a small, family-run restaurant serving food through the middle of the day.

7/6/90

IN THE LAP OF THE GODS1 We got up at 8:00 and showered then paid for our room and went out to have breakfast and find the tourist office again. A dölmus arrived to pick us up at 12 and we loaded up our gear along with a Canadian guy, 2 Americans and three people from Hong Kong. Our two Kiwi friends were there too and we set off out of Malatya and into the hills.

The landscape of High Mesopotamia.

At first the road was flat and straight but soon began to rise until we were winding our way over a high pass with a stiff wind blowing from the south. All around us terraced farms and small villages clung to the hillsides. We stopped for çay on the way down the other side of the pass, the road descending towards a huge braided river flowing east-west at the bottom of a vast valley. Once we had crossed the river (I thought that it may have been the Euphrates but decided that we weren’t far enough east yet) we began to ascend again, this time up a gravel road through round, eroded hills on which grew many varieties of trees. We stopped for another çay break at a small hospital then descended once again into a deep, rocky gorge.

The surrounding mountains were composed of stark, bare rock but even so, small farms and houses sheltered with stands of poplars clung to patches of flat land. There was arable land on the valley floor and many of the farms were irrigated by complex channels built around bluffs and along metal channels. The features of the people, too, were changing, their features weathered and dark with slightly oriental eyes. The houses no longer had pitched roofs but now had flat roofs constructed of mud and timber. 

We crossed one more river then finally began the last ascent up the steep, zig-zag road leading to the top of the range, at the end of which reared Nemrut Daği. Huge bluffs of shattered grey rock towered above us and even at that altitude (6000 ft) there were summer pastures for stock marked out by neat stone walls. In several places shepherds sat watching flocks of sheep, goats and cattle and down the road came a stream of people leading donkeys loaded up with grass cut from the highest meadows for use as feed for stock in the coming winter.

We stopped at a two story hotel nestled in a basin below the summit and Linda and I along with Kelly, the Canadian guy Steve, and the two Kiwi guys, Tony and Russ, had a long argument with our slimy little Turkish guide and the hotel owner about sleeping out on the summit. They couldn’t come up with a valid reason why we couldn’t do so, so we loaded our packs back on to the dölmus and went on up to the top.

Nemrut Daği is the last resting place of Antiochus I, king of the land in High Mesopotamia called Commagene. Antioch I lived 2,000 years ago at a time of peace in the land between the rivers and had nothing to do but consider the afterlife and his passage into it. So he built on the summit of Nemrut Daği, 2,150 metres above sea level, a huge tumultus or funerary mound, flanked by huge statues of the Gods facing east and west.

The statues on Nemrut Daği

We paid 2,500TL each to a sly-looking attendant then began to explore the extraordinary area. There was a very strong wind howling across from the west and the view was reduced by a haze of dust but even so the power of the place captivated us. The heads of the statues have long since tumbled to the ground and now stare sightlessly out over the surrounding land as if the sight of 600,000 sunrises and sunsets has blinded them forever.  The tumultus is also a mere shadow of its former self, having been reduced by half by the heavy-handed searching of treasure hunters and archaeologists for the tomb of Antioch I but it is still an impressive structure.

We set up camp in the lee of a metre high stone wall which gave us some protection from the screaming wind then walked around the foot of the tumultus to the westernmost set of statues to watch the sunset, along with about 200 other people who had mysteriously appeared from the village below. The sunset itself was unremarkable but it is easy to see what a beautiful and magical place the old King had chosen as his final resting place.

We went back down to our camp and had a meal of bread, tomatoes and red wine and talked for a while.  Later on, Russ and I took our camera gear over to the foot of the east-facing statues to take some photographs of the heads staring out across the ghostly moonlit hills. It was eerie and quite unnerving walking around amongst the toppled heads, their stone features casting long, silent shadows across the stony ground on which they stood. Above us the headless torsos of the statues sat immobile in the wind as if awaiting the day when the gods they represent would return to replace their lost heads in their rightful places.  We took several photographs each in the pale silver light and I went and stood out on the flat stone altar in front of the statues. The wind out there was fierce and it was impossible to stand still enough to take a photograph so we left the statues and went back to camp.

Tony suggested that because we were up there, we might as well climb the tumultus so the three of us – Russ, Tony and myself – walked around to the west-facing statues, took a few more photographs then began the climb to the very top of the mountain. The going was steep and the footing was loose and dangerous but we forged a rapid pace and it only took us 5 minutes to reach the top. As we stood on the 2,150m summit, our breath coming in ragged gasps, the wind screamed out of the caverns of the night as if Apollo and Zeus and the spirit of the old King himself were shouting at us to be gone from their sacred spot. We only stayed long enough to take some photographs then left the summit to the spirits and the wind and descended back to camp.

The summit of Nemrut Daği

Tightly wrapped in our sleeping bags (in my case two sheets and the tent) we sat and ate biscuits and drank the remaining wine while we listened to Cold Chisel on Kelly’s walkman. I spent a cold and sleepless night.  

1In this instance, the heading in my diary for that day refers to an instrumental track of the same name from the Alan Parsons Project album Pyramid. I am listening to the track as I write this entry. 

Our outdoor camp on Nemrut Daği

6/6/90

GÖREME TO MALATYA We met Kelly down at the bus station at 10:00 and were lucky to just be there in time to catch the direct bus to Kayseri which saved us having to go to Nevshir first. The road followed a long, gently sloping valley towards the towering bulk of Erciyes Daği, rising out of the morning haze with all the foreboding that an extinct volcano can muster.

The ugly town of Kayseri sits at the very base of the mountain and when we alighted at the bus station we were mobbed by touts selling bus rides all over Turkey. We bought tickets to Malatya then went and had a snack and found a shady spot to wait until the 1:00pm departure time. At 2:00pm there was no sign of the bus and then the ticket-seller came over with tickets for a substitute bus. We weren’t about to grumble so we boarded the bus and found our seats at the rear.

Once we were out of Kayseri the landscape changed to steep and torturous mountains, their sides bare of soil and vegetation but the valleys between green with crops and fertile farmland lined with graceful lombardy poplars. Later on, the landscape changed again, this time to wide plains of wheat and barley. We entertained ourselves joking with the bus’ attendant until we arrived in Malatya at around 8:00pm and were immediately pounced on by the local tourist officer (just as the Let’s Go1 guide had said he would!) who shepherded us into his office and told us about the tour to Nemrut Daği2 and where we could find a cheap hotel.

We walked up into the centre of town and met a couple of Kiwi guys who are going on the Nemrut tour as well. They directed us to the hotel where they are staying and we went there to see if there was a room available. The grubby but comfy Mercaz Hotel cost us 6,000TL each but it was an OK place for the night.  

1The Let’s Go guidebooks were an American series of guides aimed at backpackers. Like their Anglo-Australian counterpart Lonely Planet, these guides were full of sometimes-useful, often inaccurate or occasionally downright incorrect information. Our friend Kelly had the Turkey section of the Let’s Go Europe guide and it was a standing joke with us that it’s best use was for lighting fires with!

2 Nemrut Daği is a 2,100m peak in Eastern Turkey notable for a collection of massive statues and a tumult (burial mound) on its summit. Over the next few days we would make an epic trip to Nemrut  Daği which would become one of the highlights of our travels. For some background information about this amazing place, check out this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Nemrut  

5/6/90

We got up at 8:00 and had a Turkish breakfast (omelette, flat bread and tea) then walked down to the dolmüs station and caught a ride to Nevshir, then a minibus to Kaymakli which took about ½ an hour. We negotiated “student” discount to get into the underground city which was bored into the solid rock by Christians escaping purges by Muslim armies1.

Underground Tunnel, Kaymakli.

The first large chamber, just inside the entrance, was a stable and from it a maze of narrow, twisting passageways and interconnected rooms led us deep into the ground. The entire city consists of eight levels but only the top level is open to the public as there are dangerously low levels of O2 deeper in the complex.

That, however, didn’t deter Mark and I from following several long, pitch black tunnels leading down into the bowels of the Earth. The first one was a dead end but the second passed through several tiny rooms, each with a huge boulder poised to be rolled across the opening in order to seal it off. As we descended, the tunnel became lower and narrower and began to dip steeply so we decided that was far enough and retraced our steps back up to the lighted passage where the girls were waiting for us. We guided them down to the second room where we took some self-timer photographs. We then carried on exploring the underground city, including dropping stones down a 100m-deep vertical shaft.

Deep in the Kaymakli Underground City. L-R Linda,Mark, Kelly, Kath, Ferg.

Back on the surface we had some lunch then caught a bus back to Nevshir and from there a dolmüs to Üçhisar, a rock village on the hill above Göreme. We walked down the hill behind the village, taking photographs then split up from Mark and Kath who had to return to Göreme to catch a bus back to Istanbul.

Kelly and I beside the irrigation tunnel.

Linda, Kelly and I decided to try to climb down into one of the narrow valleys below us so we followed a steep gully down into the intensively-farmed land amid dozens of graceful rock pinnacles. We wandered slowly down the valley following  a small creek which had been diverted onto the farmland through a 30m passage hewn through the base of a larger pinnacle. The valley was quiet and peaceful and the crops were healthy and well-kept. Near the bottom of the valley I remembered that I had the key to our room where Mark and Kath2 had stowed their gear for the day so I ran all the way back to Göreme to catch them.

We saw them off on the bus then walked back up to the pension where I grabbed my camera gear and walked up to the top of the hill where I sat for an hour and a half  and watched the sunset. It wasn’t very spectacular but the eroded cliffs on the far side of the valley cast cool shadows while far off in the distance, the towering bulk of Erciyes Daği, the volcanic peak that had produced the soft rock of Cappadocia, glowed blue and purple in the sky.

Back down at the pension we showered then walked down to the village. We had a small meal at a restaurant then went up to the pension where Kelly is staying for a beer. 
       
1The first underground shelters at Kaymakli were constructed by Phoenician refugees in the 8th century BC. Successive waves of refugees escaping from persecution by Mongols, Muslims and Turks enlarged the underground city into the massive, and largely unexplored, labyrinth that exist today.

2We only knew Mark and Kath for the 3 days that we were at Göreme. But in that short time we became friends and as the years passed I had sometimes wondered what became of them after their travels in Turkey. Exactly thirty later, as I was prepping this diary entry, I re-connected with them using a Google search and Facebook. My source information was an address that Mark wrote in my diary and by using this to cross-reference the search engine results I was able to track them down in their Canadian hometown. In 1990, as we explored those tunnels beneath Kaymakli, we could never have imagined the amazing technology we would one day have access to!

4/6/90

I got up at 4:00am and in the cold darkness just before dawn, walked up the ridge behind the pension to watch the sunrise. It was an overcast morning and a few spots of misty rain were falling as I stood on the ridgetop with the sounds of awakening birds and animals echoing up from the valley. At 4:20 the mournful sound of the Muzzins1 began to ring out from the mosques of Göreme and in the clear, still air even the calls from the nearby town of Urgip, 9km away, were audible.

The sunrise never happened so I went back down to the pension and went back to bed for 2½ hours.We had breakfast on the terrace of the pension then headed off down the hill to the village and from there we walked 1km out of town past small fields of grain and vegetables in amongst clusters of strangely shaped pinnacles to the Göreme Open Air Museum. This small, abandoned village contains the greatest concentration of cave dwellings in Cappadocia. The churches, convents , houses and monasteries are all hewn out of the soft volcanic rock called tufa (or tuff) which was spewed from the huge volcanic peak of Erciyes Daği, which lies about 100 kilometres from Göreme, around 150 million years ago.

Frescoes and columns, Byzantine Monastery, Goreme.

The dwellings are the legacy of Cappadocian Christianity from the Byzantine Empire and were built by monks between the 4th and 10th centuries. The monks inhabited the village until the formation of modern Turkey in the 1920s. The churches are decorated with frescoes, many of them in remarkably good condition. 

Byzantine Refectory where the monks chowed down, Goreme.

We spent 2 hours exploring the area then clambered down into the valley below the museum and walked out to the road through a quiet and peaceful orchard. We crossed the road and walked up into the head of a tiny valley where many cave dwellings were visible in the surrounding pinnacles amongst neatly tilled fields. There were no tourists here and we sat at the top of a small hill watching a half a dozen men, women and children working at their farm plots. Mark and Kath joined us and a short while later another American, a girl called Kelly came and sat with us too.

The 5 of us walked down past the farmers and the children gave us some fruit to eat. It wasn’t ripe but we pretended to eat and enjoy it. We wandered down the valley towards a strangely-eroded cliff then tried to follow a gully leading up into a maze of gullies. Eventually, we were stopped by a sheer cliff so we turned back and returned to Göreme. 

Playing Turkish Music, Goreme. L-R: Kath, Mark, Ferg.

In the evening, we had a meal at the pension followed by some plinky-plink Turkish music. Kelly came up for a beer with us then Linda and I walked her back to her pension, stopping for a glass of çay on the way.  
 
1 Muzzins call the faithful to prayer five times per day in the Muslim world.

Your intrepid travellers in Cappadocia.

3/6/90

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.

1/6/90

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! 

31/5/90

PAMUKKALE We got up at 8:30 and sat around drinking tea until 9:30 when a Dolmus arrived to pick us up. The trip out to the village of Pamukkale only took 10 minutes and cost 1000TL. We were dropped off at the foot of the terraces and we walked up through the toll gates, bullshiting half price tickets with our YHA cards.

The terraces, although a wonderful example of geology, were pretty disappointing. Dry weather had left nearly all of the pools empty or half full of muddy water and the hazy overcast day didn’t enhance the effect. The terraces have been formed over thousands by calcium-rich mineral water running over an escarpment to form hundreds of terraced pools called “travines” made of pure white calcium. In Turkish, the name Pamukkale translates as “the cotton castle.” At the top of the terrace lies an extensive set of Roman ruins called Hierapolis, built over and around the spring from which the water flows. Known for the healing properties of its waters from earliest times, it was a large Roman spa. Most of the ruins date from around 100BC.

 After an hour or so of wandering around the terraces Linda, me and two Aussies walked up for a quick look at the museum built into the ruins and ate an overpriced kebab each with the local dogs sitting beside us. One of the large hotels had an open swimming pool which cost 1,000TL  per hour so we went up there and sneaked in amongst a large party of Germans.  We spent about 2 1/2 hours swimming in the warm and fizzy pool the floor of which was strewn with pieces of marble columns and baths from the old Roman bath house. The edges of the pool were covered with beautiful pink hibiscus trees and the water was very relaxing, although was strangely non buoyant.

The front and rear of a postcard Linda sent home from Pamukkale showing the terraces as they appear when they are full of water.

When the time came to leave we just casually strolled out on another entrance and escaped paying for the whole thing! We mucked around waiting for a Dolmus to take us back to Denizli and when we got there we went with the other Aussies to a pizza house for something to eat.  While we were there, the inexperienced young travellers sat and hung off every word a dickhead Kwi and his silly wife told them. They have been travelling overseas for a whole 8 weeks and thought they knew everything. 

After a bite to eat Linda and I went in search of a bank to give us a cash advance on my Visa card. We went to 5 banks and none of them knew what to do but the last bank, Gurasi Bank, just went straight ahead and did it for us and 5 minutes!

Carpet shopping at the Denizli Pension.

Back back at the pension we sat around having a few beers then after tea, Suleiman’s mother showed us how she makes carpets on a loom set up in the office. When Suleiman came back from catching tourists he and I began negotiating for a carpet of which I had no intention of buying but after protracted talks I bought it for £190, including postage and insurance. The carpet has a fountain design on it and it is made entirely of wool dyed with natural dyes.

Once the deal had been made, we sat on the floor amongst the other carpets and talked with Suleiman’s wife, mother and two German tourists. The carpet took 8 months to make including spinning and dyeing the wool and the actual weaving took two ladies 4 months.

30/5/90

KUSADASI TO DENIZLI The alarm went again at 6:30 and we showered then packed up our gear and departed. I managed to haggle the room rated down to 40,000TL with the bleary-eyed clerk and he hailed us a taxi. It cost 5,600TL to get out to the bus station and we paid 13,000TL each (£3) for our tickets to Denizli, the nearest town to Pamukkale. 

The bus, which left at 8:15am, was large and comfy and after we had got going a man came around with scented water for everyone to freshen up with. As soon as we left the coast the landscape changed to rugged, scrubby hills deeply scarred by gullies and cliffs. Much of the lower slopes were cultivated with crops of wheat and barley while further up, rows of olive trees followed the contours.

Once we had crossed The first range of hills we descended into a fertile and intensively farmed valley. Some of the paddocks were being tilled by large groups of people which probably indicated co-op farms. Some of the land was irrigated by elevated concrete channels but most of them were dry.  As we moved further inland the strip of fertile land on the valley floors grew narrower and by the time we reached Denizli at around 11:45am, the country was dry and windswept although we had still passed through large acreages of crops.

As soon as we got off the bus we were besieged with offers of trips to Pamukkale¹ several given in appalling Aussie accents!²  We ignored them all and walked out of the bus terminal but one guy persisted and gave us some good reasons not to stay in Pamukkale but to stay in Denizli instead. So we agreed on a price of 20,000TL and I checked at the tourist office where I was told that camping at Pamukkale would cost 15 to 20,000 as well.

Pension Denizli³ was in a quiet little backstreet right next to a mosque. The owner, Suleyman, was determined to get across to us that we shouldn’t worry about being ripped off in Turkey and went out of his way to make us welcome. After we had settled into our room we decided to walk into town for a look at the Bazaar. It was a 20-minute walk into town and we spent an hour or so going to a few banks trying to get money on my Visa card to buy a leather jacket at some stage. The only bank that would do it couldn’t get through to Istanbul to check so no luck there.

The bazaar was quite big but not very interesting so we trudged back to the pension, stopping on the way to the ripped off over some food and drink and tea but it was only £1 involved so no worries.

In the evening after tea, we sat and talked with a group of Australians who were also staying in the Pension.

¹The white mineral terraces of Pamukkale were the reason that we had come to Denizli. Our plan was to camp at Pamukkale but that turned out to not be an option.

²A common ruse employed by salesmen all over Turkey was to adopt the accent of the country that they assumed you came from based on hearing you speak. Most of them knew the name of at least one city in various countries and would claim to have friends/relatives in “Melabourne”, ”Auckaland”, ”Seedanee” or wherever.

³The word “pension” is pronounced “pen-see-onee” and refers to a small accommodation house.