Currently in Chiang Mai, Thailand (06/12/2013) - 31200km cycled

9 Oct 2012

Cappadocia and a few hundred kilometres further

Posted by Will

Cappadocia is a small area in central Turkey famous for lunar landscapes and ancient cave dwellings. For outdoorsy people it is a dream come true. I spent 4 days climbing into caves, trekking through valleys, scrabbling around underground cities and putting my feet up to the sight of dozens of hot-air balloons floating across the sky. I’m convinced you’ll find nowhere in the world like Cappadocia.

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I had my first view over Cappadocia in the small town of Uchisar where I was swamped by a bus-load of Italian tourists who wanted to take photos with me. From this spot, the highest in Cappadocia, I could pick out the perfect place to camp – a little ridge above the fairy chimneys in Goreme. So, leaving the spectacular Ushicar castle behind me, I free-wheeled along the ridge to set up camp. To the left, the jagged moonscape of the Cappadocia plateau; to the right the anthill-esque Uchisar. I spent a lot of the night looking out over the land in the light of a full moon. And in the morning, I watched sunrise over a 4000m mountain while watching hot-air balloons illuminate the sky. That’s certainly a contender for best night’s camping.

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Next day, I headed down into Goreme with the sky still flooded by balloons. I offloaded my bike at a friendly camp-ground and set off among the fairy chimneys to explore some caves. I wasn’t disappointed. Almost deserted at this time of year, I could clamber up valleys and climb through tunnels carved over 1000 years ago with only my own echoes for company. It seems to me that Cappadocia is one enormous adventure playground. There’s always another cave to climb through, another wall to scale, another ledge to inch across, and the history behind it all adds another dimension. People (‘troglodytes’ to use the proper word) lived in these caves for many centuries to hide from religious persecution and harsh winters. Some of these ‘cities’ are over 9 levels deep and contain hundreds of rooms, complex drainage systems and even ingenious traps to halt invading forces (traps include pits, rolling boulders and spear mechanisms). I spent hours exploring and only covered a fraction of what Cappadocia has to offer.

One particular event sticks in my mind. As I walked back to camp on my last day the sky clouded over and I was caught in the most ferocious wind-storm. A dusty place, Cappadocia transformed into a swirling yellow haze which blew hard into my eyes, nose and ears and almost instantly turned my hair white. Trees bent over backwards and littered beers cans flew down the road like rockets. Walking the kilometre back to camp was unthinkable. So what to do? People found the answer to that question over 1000 years ago: dive into a cave and sit it out. And that’s exactly what I did. And I can’t remember the last time I felt so cosy.

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Cold Turkey

I’m now 500km further on from Cappadocia and have cycled over a lot of ups and downs. Mountain passes now regularly reach 2000m yet it isn’t the hills that have bothered me. Colder weather has come with the mountainous terrain and the deepening of October and I am feeling the chill. Within a week, the day temperature has plummeted from an average 30C to 15C. I now ride every day with my florescent yellow jacket and sometimes have to wear a beanie hat. The days of sweating in the tent are behind me. Once the sun sets I have to snuggle down deep in the sleeping bag. Is this really a concern though? No, because I’ve got cay. This warm liquid life is never far away and always perks me up. It will get colder though, very cold, and quickly, so I need to get to lower ground within the next month.

As usual, I’ve met some wonderful people on the way. Road maintenance crews should take the spotlight in this post as they have never failed to offer me some kind of food or drink. One group gave me two packets of halva: a nutty, sugary, crumbly block that is delicious and has a superb amount of calories and protein. I ate them both and didn’t feel hungry for the rest of the day. Since then I have always made sure there’s a halva in my food pannier. Another road crew gave me a bottle of water when I was dehydrated near the top of a large hill and two shepherds invited me into their cabin for breakfast.

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In other news, I recently spent a classy night in the abandoned cafeteria of a petrol station courteousy of two men named Osman and Firclet. The broken counter-tops, chairs and windows with dead leaves scattering the floor gave the night a zombie-apocalypse kind of theme. Maintenance-wise, a screw on the back pannier rack of the bike sheared off a few days ago requiring an inelegant fix on my part involving an ill-fitting nut and bolt. That will have to be looked at.

So there you have it: the show goes on. Another week enjoyed and more memories to savour. Now, I will take the train to Ankara to tussle with the Iranians over my visa application. It looks like things are moving forward but my fingers are still tightly crossed. The thrills and spills of the Iranian visa process are up next.

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6 Comments already on “Cappadocia and a few hundred kilometres further”
  1. 2:19 pmpermalink
    09 Oct 2012

    Stefan

    Hey Will, the photos from Cappadocia are incredible! Love the blog, good luck with the Iranian visa.

  2. 3:09 pmpermalink
    09 Oct 2012

    Mumsey

    Wasn’t expecting that, wow!! Shame I couldn’t have flown in to Cappadocia! XXX

  3. 9:03 ampermalink
    10 Oct 2012

    Fran

    What a special place! Great photos too.
    Good luck with the visa and I look forward to the next chapter.
    Fran xx

  4. Will

    11:37 ampermalink
    11 Oct 2012

    Will

    @Stefan: Thanks for the nice comments recently. All the positive responses give me a great boost.
    @Fran: Same to you too. Next chapter in progress …
    @Mumsey: x

  5. 11:46 ampermalink
    11 Oct 2012

    Nevin

    Wonderful photos. I’ve only ever spent time in Istanbul and this makes me want to travel around Turkey even more! Good luck with the visa and stay warm! xxx

  6. 9:46 ampermalink
    22 Oct 2012

    Bryan Keith

    Will, that’s great to hear you gush so enthusiastically about Kapadokya. I was there ~14 years ago on my first cycle trip to Turkey and have been a little afraid to go back because I’m sure it’s changed a lot. However, maybe next month… It shouldn’t too crowded in November, and it would be fun to see it again.

    Nice writing. Keep up the adventure. I’m in Ankara now, trying to plan some trekking for the holiday (Kurban Bayram─▒).

    Bryan