Monday, December 1, 2008

Down onto the Anatolian plains

From Ürgüp (favourite town in these parts) we did a loop through Zelve, Göreme, Uçhisar and then headed down through the Ihlara Valley, and then descended to Aksaray. The main feature of the landscape was all the caves and even underground cities burrowed by fellow troglodytes into spectacular finger like outcrops of soft volcanic rock. Of these the oldest Byzantine Christian ones were the most touristy ones, in 'World Heritage' areas. Unfortunately despite exorbitant (and excessively strictly policed!) entrance fees they weren't well protected, with almost all of the frescos well and truly wrecked (even post restoration?). No information in English, either. Didn't feel much like Europe to me. The best part was just exploring isolated caves by ourselves, away from popular areas. Vegetation wise nothing of real note. Lots of tiny marmots (??) which squeak (very high pitched) just as we ride past. Have found their burrows but not seen them yet. Or maybe I'm going mad?
Still not many meaningful encounters with locals... the friendliest men are still the ones who've worked in Germany...
Most embarrassing is when the freezing souvenir sellers (still busloads of Japanese turning up) find out we're Australian and go, 'Ozzie Ozzie Ozzie...' Cringe.

4 quality cave nights (tent in cave), each with its own special feature:
- a wild dog running past panting loudly just as dinner was almost ready (it kept going)
- an excellent balcony where I got stuck in the cold unable to move for 15 minutes when a Turkish (?) couple drove down to what they thought was an isolated spot, got out and started 'making out' on the grass 5 metres directly below - luckily it got too cold for them too and they retreated to the car where they continued for another hour with the engine running (climate vandals)!
- special visit by group of drunken mystery Turks (they were poking around in the cave below ours)
-a mystery ventilation (or other) shaft 25 metres deep which we found just behind our tent - in the dark behind a ledge which I sat on briefly

Eating lots of delicious olives, olive oil, fetta cheese, good white bread, bulghur/borghul, helva (plain/with choccy/with pistachios), baklava, honey.
New taste sensation - üzüm pekmeze (grape molasses) - goes well with fine bulghur for a morning porridge!

Weather cooling down a bit - it's been SNOWING here. We have now entered 'breakfast and dinner in sleeping bags' season (known to others as 'winter').

Two weeks or so left for the remaining 700km to Istanbul...

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