We came to Cappadocia because so many people told us of the surreal landscapes and awesome hiking. When we arrived in the little town of Goreme, it definitely didn't disappoint. As we cruised over the hill towards Goreme, the plains were littered with these conical rock structures everywhere. It literally looked like a fairy tale world where gnomes and unicorns would live. Imagine our surprise to learn that so many of these "fairy chimneys" as they are called have been carved out and lived in for years and years. Seriously, it's an entire society of rock cut everything! I guess once upon a time there was alot of volcanic ash deposited here that was compacted and hardened, though still relatively soft, enter carving them out. Over time the elements have eroded away bits and pieces of the land leaving these bizarre fairy chimney's and other shapes everywhere throughout the region. It's really hard to explain just what this region looks like so I'll let the pictures do the talking for the most part. Many of the (more expensive) hotels in Goreme are inside these fairy chimneys. We spent awhile cruising through the town checking out the scenery and looking at these hotels, some of them absolutely magnificent.
Ultimately settled on a beautiful little room in a cheap non-rock hotel. We first booked, I'm sure of it, the cheapest room in Goreme with a shared bathroom, the only fault being the heat (places around here are more likely to have heating than AC, a testament to the typical climate in these parts). Of course Bridger cracks the window wide open all day. Obviously there were creatures lurking around because that evening we killed a giant mosquito thing and found a snail on Bridger's backpack which Bridger took out of the room and got rid of. Later on I go to the bathroom and find another snail so I'm thinking that this place is gross and infested with snails. I tell Bridger and he says,"in the garbage?". What?! In the garbage?! Ummm no, on the ground like all the other normal snails...I thought it was a really odd question considering that fact and the fact that I probably wasn't leisurely looking in the garbage. But he's a strange guy so I didn't think too much about it until I realized that, where I assumed that he had taken the backpack snail outside to get rid of it, what he had actually done to "get rid of it" was to put a live snail in the garbage can in the bathroom inside the hotel. Who puts a live snail in a garbage can?!?! Oh guy.
We were awoken that night at 2 am to drums heatedly beating, literally somewhere right close to our room before moving all around the neighborhood. Now drum beats in the day time, no problem, drum beating in the middle of the night, holy shit eerie. It didn't help that a dog was barking furiously, contributing to the notion that this was not a regularly occurring event. Though neither of us admitted it to each other until later, our minds had already decided that either "oh crap, the rebels were here" or "this place is freaking haunted". So of course I, an amazing Googler, googled "why are there drums beating in the middle of the night in Goreme" and somehow sifted through the answers to find out that it is a part of Ramadan tradition for a drummer man to beat drums through the neighborhood to wake people up to eat before first prayer when fasting would begin for the day. Once upon a time before electricity and alarm clocks, this would serve as the reminder for people, however, I guess now in the age of cell phones and alarm clocks, it is becoming a bit of a dying tradition. So, once we realized that it wasn't the army or ghosts, it was actually really amazing for us to get to experience it! And experience we did, every morning at 2 am for the duration of our week stay in Goreme.
The next day we found out that the water was out in the entire town. The entire town!! The hotel had one spare water tank that emptied quickly and after that, tough. You could not take a shower after hiking and most importantly, you cannot flush the toilet for the foreseeable future. So what do you do, just keep filling er up, pee on top of poo on top of pee, and hope somehow the town finds more water! Exhibit 209, why you should travel with someone you really love and are really comfortable with :)
We have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Goreme. On one hand it is an extraordinary base to explore the region because everything worth checking out is so close. On the other hand, word is out about Cappadocia and it has become a really heavy package tour town which, predictably, breeds all sorts of unlovely things like scams, crappy food, freaking travel agents everywhere and a general indifference and/or animosity of local people towards tourists. No better was this reflected than in a) the fact that there are camels everywhere that you can ride/take pictures with even though, to my knowledge, Turkey does not have a desert and camels are not in fact even endemic to the region and b) the fact that every travel agent in Cappadocia sells the exact same tour itineraries known as, not joking, Tour green, Tour blue, Tour red... With flashbacks to ingesting body grime and bashing into people on Tour A, B, C, D in El Nido, Philippines, as (almost) always, we opted for the do it yourself version for our visit to Cappadocia which is highly, highly recommended.
Goreme is surrounded by outstanding hiking trails through the many valleys surrounding the town. Though not dangerous, caution is warranted as the valleys themselves are quite quiet and isolated and in a few extremely rare and unfortunate cases, tourists, especially women have been attacked there. In one particularly terrible case, two girls were killed. Scary stuff. A bit on edge (mostly me), we carried a knife, told people where we were going and generally did not carry valuables with us, no problem, and amazing experiences.
We hiked through "pigeon valley", walking to the trailhead from town and continuing on as planned towards Uchisar to visit the Uchisar castle, the highest point in the region, looming so high you can see it from miles away. We walked with the hoodoo'd valley walls on each side when we ran into an older German lady hiking solo who informed us that the trail was closed up ahead.
Coincidentally at the same time we also ran into a local guy in the valley and all of a sudden he and she bust out speaking German to each other. Whaaaaat?!? Apparently many Turkish people also speak German, who knew. Sure enough he directed us to another path that would lead to Uchisar. Plagued with images is psychopathic locals in the valleys dancing in my head, I was sure we were being sent straight into a trap (what is wrong with me?!) but of course, we weren't and eventually the three of us moved until together until the castle came into view. Haha it was actually a little awkward because once we figured out our direction, she kind of lingered back not wanting to intrude on our "coupledom" and we invited her to join us assuring her that we get enough of each other but we also didn't wan to push because maybe she was going for solitude and didn't want to be with us. We walked and chatted together until we go to Uchisar where we naturally split, her up the castle, and us to an offshoot path that I hoped would lead to a wicked viewpoint, my favorite thing. The views from the top didn't disappoint! The only thing that did was that people had left like 5 empty water bottles lying on the ground at the top, the stupid, stupid assholes.
After we hoofed it uphill to see Uchisar castle which is absolutely insane because it is basically just a massive, massive rock hollowed out to inhabit.
We made it about 4 feet inside the entrance before stopping because, as you would expect inside a giant cave rock, it was so shady and cold inside and Bridger was pretty much in heaven. He would have been more than happy if we just stayed there all day without even seeing the rest of the (outside parts) of the castle.
But unlucky for him, he had me. Once we climbed to the top we were greeted by extraordinary 360 views of the land. Oh ya, and about 300 Chinese tourists snapping away photos of them posing with their staged scarves blowing in the wind and other likenesses haha. And also we found our German lady friend again, who grumbled, actually quite loudly and in true German blunt style to the Chinese this line: "You're so loud! You're not the only ones here! Why are you so loud?!!". They paid no mind and continued (loudly) snapping away their photos. I guess there used to be no barrier around the side of the top of the castle and a photographer died because he fell off the top of the castle soooo now there is barriers. At one point, there is a roped off section with a danger sign that stopped you from taking one step further where you would slide down a slope right out the hole at the bottom that goes rot down to the ground, woah.
After the castle we headed back to Goreme hiking through "Love valley". As usual, we missed the trailhead, walked way to far but came out to a place that gave a fabulous view looking down into the valley. Then a kid, obviously knowing we were lost, yelled far across the valley "Love Valley here" and pointed the spot 2 feet away from where he stood which was also about a km away from where WE stood and separated by a gaping hole in the ground. Not wanting to look like the incompetent trailhead finders that we were, we sat down and ate some snacks and took some pics to create the illusion that this was all a planned side excursion!
Eventually we made our way over to the trailhead and sure enough, ran into German lady again. Enter another awkward "do you want to hang out with me?" event. We hiked together for awhile but she kept stopping to admire something or take pictures, lingering a bit too long, so we interpreted that she was trying to separate herself from us. I definitely would not want to be hiking through the valley as a solo woman but hey, to each their own. We hiked for about 1.5 hours, flanked on both sides by the steep valley walls, without seeing anyone. Well actually that's not totally true because at one point we saw two people moving towards us not too far away from us and then we both descended lower and we never saw or heard them again. It was so odd that you could pass people in a relatively confined space but have no sense that they were there at all. And then we saw a Turkish man trimming trees all by himself in the middle of the remote valley. He was super friendly but a little eerie again to meet someone in such a remote space. Eventually we made it to an opening in the valley floor and understood how it got its name. We were surrounded by enormous penis shaped rock pillars...everywhere! It was incredible, so unique and good for some chuckles!
We also realized sometime around now how lucky we are to have relatively dark, tannable skin. Where the fair skin people of the world have to plan their holiday around sun exposure and sunscreen, we are lucky enough just to spend days in the sun without much thought, without much prep. If we forgot to put on sunscreen one day, whatever. If the water washed off your sunscreen while kayaking, oh well, we'll make it. So that is today's "what are we grateful for that we totally took for granted before" moment.