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Final Statistics: Alex & Maz Total distance: 93,550km
Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ Now settled in Sydney, Australia
Final Statistics: Martin Total distance: 79,698km
Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia Now settled in Bristol, UK

More strangeness seen along the road

Written by Martin Pitwood. Uploaded 12 October 2005.

Turkey, Country 9, Diary entry 10-11th Sep 2005, Total distance in western Turkey: 3122 KM

This is the most bizarre landscape. The constant erosion of the rocks has over time caused a strange arrangement of sandstone pillars and valleys, which is in itself quite unusual but can be seen in other places in the world, but the thing that makes Cappadocia quite unique is that the early Christian settlers here took to hollowing out these pillars and turning them into living quarters or even churches, so looking over the landscape now there are man-made holes all over the formations. It looks like something out of the Clangers.

Uchisar citadelOur first stop was Uchisar which is a rock citadel, on the summit of which is an open-air chapel. We climbed up to find the last few minutes of a service being held and the congregation, numbering around twenty, singing a mournful hymn. This was the first indication of any Christianity we had seen in Turkey, but since Turkey is 99% Muslim I suppose thatís not too surprising, and they seemed to be some kind of orthodox Christians because the priest (bishop, whatever) had a big beard - you can tell Iím not too well up on religion canít you. Service on top of Uchisar citadelSorry about that. But it was a lovely big beard. The view from the top was also exceptional, itís always good to climb to a high point when arriving in a new place to get an overview of the area and we could plan our day from there.

We didnít stay long before the tour buses started arriving so we climbed down and extracted our cars from the ones that had tried to block us in in an otherwise empty car park and we moved to the next spot, which was Goreme. Our cars Goreme is a small village mostly of tourist shops and restaurants but on the edge of the village they have created an open air museum to these early Christian settlers and their excavations. One thing that has annoyed us a little about the attractions in Turkey is that they charge you once for the car park and then again for the actual admission, so we decided to use our legs and park further away and walk back. The ďfurther awayĒ meant driving up the next hill so that we would be able to feel good about getting some exercise in addition to saving the money to be able to afford the next attraction. On the way down the hill we could see some red paint daubed on the inside of a room that had been carved from the side of the hill and it didnít look like graffiti so we went up to investigate and found it was a little chapel. A number of passageways had been carved through the rock so you could go right through and out the other side, and after just a little further exploration found ourselves bypassing the ticket control and into the museum area! Well we didnít do it on purpose, honestly, it was an accident.

Goreme open-air museumThe museum consisted of a route around a number of different types and ages of caves consisting of living areas, dining rooms, kitchen and oven areas and the most spectacular of course being the lavishly decorated churches. Ochre-decorated church caveSome of the decorations were quite rudimentary, being a simple red ochre paint on bare rock, others were more colourful and finely detailed, but all of them were masterpieces of stonework, the domes and pillars left uncarved from the original rock must have taken some very careful planning. Some people have some serious dedication to their faiths and, especially around this part of the world, and I am constantly in awe of that.

Finely decorated church caveAfter a couple of hours of walking round there the lure of the kebab called again so we decided to go into Goreme village for a spot of lunch. On exiting the museum area we were apprehended by an official-looking chap accompanied by two policemen demanding to see our tickets and asking if we had entered by the gate or by climbing over the rocks. We tried the innocent look, but there you go boys and girls, if you want to be naughty and find a secret route into a place, make sure you take the secret route out again otherwise you might still get caught.

After the obligatory kebab (very tasty) we headed towards Pasabag and the so-called area of the Fairy Chimneys. These are the most bizarre formations where the uppermost layer of rock is obviously more durable than the lower layers so a pillar is formed with a wider area on the top. Fairy ChimneysThey end up forming very strange shapes which reminded us of something, not sure what.

These were also carved out and used as dwellings but now are empty and can be explored, and in some places there are ladders to help but the ladders were not actually fixed to any rocks, just leaning in convenient places... reminding us once again that for full EU integration the Turkish Health and Safety Executive will have a little work to do harmonising their standards with the EU norm.

Fairy ChimneysFinally we moved on from there to Kaymakli which is one of two underground city systems to have been discovered in the area. We parked up and wandered around the mound of rock where the city was supposed to be and were less than impressed, but then found the proper entrance and went inside. It was quite a remarkable warren carved from the rock - living areas, kitchen areas, dining areas, food storage areas etc. and dividing all the rooms were walls basically only thick enough to stop whatís above it from collapsing, and very narrow passageways joining them in all directions. Kaymakli underground cityIt was such a labyrinth we were quite grateful for the arrows periodically located to point the right direction to follow, but even so some of the passageways were very cramped indeed and almost required crawling on all fours to get through. One thing that wasnít clear was how these areas used to be lit but even with the electric lighting since installed it would have been very easy to get lost, or worse since many of the passageways were vertical and covered for our sakes by big metal grates, and at one point we found a vertical ventilation shaft which seemed to have no end either upwards or downwards. We were a LONG way underground, and being the only people in there and being very close to closing time made things a little unnerving and eerie.

We finally left when someone came down to fetch us and throw us out, and we a little way away from civilisation to find a camping spot for the night.

The next day was to be our next border crossing from Turkey to Syria but with an important stop in Kilis before crossing the border for two reasons: one, we didnít know when weíd next find internet access after entering Syria and two, the more important one, Nejdet from the dive boat in Kalkun had told us it was the best place outside Istanbul for buying baklava. Who are we to argue with an expert, we thought, so after a quick email check and website update, we made sure we stocked up with a good kilo of the little honey-soaked nutty pastries.

The Turkish-Syrian border was a pretty unremarkable affair with a disappointingly low window count. One running theme we have started to notice is that the border guards for the country youíre leaving are very friendly and the ones for the country youíre entering are much less so. At this crossing the Turkish guard pulled a handful of pistachios from his pocket and gave us one each. They were very different to what Iíd had before, they were fresh and still in their fleshy casing, unlike the roasted ones that come in packets. We went and sorted out the customs formalities for taking our cars back out of the country and when we returned to the car the guard gave us another handful of pistachios each. Perhaps he knew weíd need the strength to get through the Syrian part, which basically involved paying a large amount of money in so-called "diesel tax" together with the standard few dollars here and there for unspecified things.

Now we knew that diesel in Syria is very cheap indeed so we crossed the border with the minimum left in our tanks, but we soon found that diesel is quite hard to come by in Syria - despite paying the diesel tax, you canít actually buy the stuff because thereís a nationwide shortage! We had enough to get to Aleppo by which time our priority was to stuff our faces rather than anything trivial like buying fuel, so after finding a cash machine on the main road into town (which was extremely lucky, as it turned out to be the only one we saw in the whole of Syria!) we headed into a lively part of town to find some food.

The queue for the diesel pumpsWe ended up eating at quite a posh restaurant and Maz decided to wear a light coloured dress for the very first time of the trip and within minutes of us sitting down she had spilled Fanta all down it. To be fair, the glass actually did spontaneously explode, which was quite a surprise to all of us and the manager was half apologetic and half laughing! After moving table so they could mop up the mess, they brought out a huge mezze - a selection of starters such as hummus, baba ghanoug, tabbouleh etc. and we were almost full before the main course of shish kebabs even arrived.

After extracting ourselves from our parking spaces we went back out of the town to look for a remote location to camp, and we found a petrol station which obviously had some diesel in stock because there was a huge crowd of trucks, tractors, and taxi-minibuses all jostling for position around the two pumps. By this point we were getting very low so we decided to join the fun. Once again the bulk of our vehicles worked in our favour to some extent, but the people working the pumps saw we were foreign and took pity, they managed to clear a path so we got from the road to the pumps in a matter of a mere 20 minutes or so! Alex got served first and the diesel kept going in and going in, people were looking underneath his car to see where it was all going because they couldnít believe how much it was taking. Our capacity is 240 litres with the long range tanks we had added as part of the preparation, and Alex managed to squeeze in 230 litres for the grand total of around £17 sterling. Bit better than the UK prices we mentioned in our first diary entry! After I fought through and managed to get my turn at the pump we continued out of town and towards St. Simeonís Citadel where we eventually found a "deserted" piece of land to camp on, and finally a well earned sleep.

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Comment from Tall Eric
My ghast is flabbered - can you REALLY go over 2000 km on one tank? I just moved from Brussels to Toulouse, it's pretty much a 2k km trip (there and back); to think you can do that without filling up is just bizare. Does the steering feel rather 'light' when that tank is full? :-)

You could overcome the problem by filling the front up with dougnuts and kebabs as this would counter the weight nicely.

As this fuel story reminded me of it, I entertained some folks here with a telling of the tale of the dive on 'Unknown German Destoryer' in the middle of the English Channel; 36 spare fuel cartons from everyone's cars, stuck anchor, no slack water, shipping lanes, a container ship and someone with a bubbly foot afterwards. Hope you have improved your ascent techniques since then. Clearly you have got the idea of fuel management sorted out now, so that shows some progress. I'm sure that 36 1-gallon red plastic containers would have been cheaper than your ARB tank and would make you look more like a 'local' in many countries.
12 Oct 2005 @ 13:51:09

Comment from Tall Eric again
I don't have a personal web site (being an IT spod it's too much like being at work) so above I gave you the link for the place that gave me the 'snip'. If you want to spend the rest of your life having a laugh with zero responsibilities, as you are now - you might want to seriously consider stopping off there on your way home. You are going to go home, right?
12 Oct 2005 @ 13:57:02