Day 17: Girls, we run the world.

Day 17 – Cappadocia Green Tour

After a good deal of uncertainty over whether or not we should do another tour, cancelling (sorry Emre!), and debating the pros and cons, we ended up deciding to go and boy,  were we glad we did!

Our group was quite the fun one,  including two awesome Venezuelan girls,  Daniella and Mariana, a bubbly Beijing-born honorary Brit, Hilary,  and of course our hilarious and informative guide, Aydin and driver Suwat (spelling?!). Aydin seemed quite concerned at first as we hadn’t picked everyone up yet and the were just 2 boys amongst 8 girls in the group apart from him and Suwat. We told the boys they had better watch out! The odds evened a bit with the addition of 3 more boys and 4 more girls but hey, eBay can I say?  Girls,  we run the world!

Our cheerful group began with a lookout point for a beautiful panorama of Göreme and pigeon valley. It was still very cold but I had about 5 layers on including 2 coats and Leah had a pants on pants situation I truly envied. There had even been some snow the night before which added a festive air to the day.

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From there we headed for Derinkuyu,  an amazing underground city totalling 12 stories, only the first 6, I think it is, of which are open for visiting at present. Aydin provided us with an awesome history of the region on the way there which helped to explain the purpose of the uderground city, one of a few in th e area, which were used to protect against invaders of the region. It’s truly miraculous to me that this was so many thousand of years ago, yet the lure of power and riches still seems to propel people into similar conflicts to this day. So sad…

The city itself is remarkable for its age. They were capable of holing up in there for an estimated 2-3 months and had ways of ventilation,  keeping small animals in for food/warmth, ways of getting water, a chapel and a grave area. Yet many questions remain unanswered as no written records have ever been recovered detailing anything about the city, its inhabitants, or its functioning. All knowledge about the city stems from what has been found and extrapolated. Many of the tunnels are very narrow and low, giving us a workout for the day and making me appreciate the freedom of paragliding!!!

From there, we departed for Selime Monastery, which had been used as a monastery and a caravanserai in the past. Aydin told us two interesting facts of note here: 1. The scenery around here inspired George Lucas for a Star Wars set,  although at the time the government of Turkey would not permit filming there and 2. That because of the resettlement of Greeks from the area that there are many churches in the region, essentially none of which are in use because the Christian population is nil. This monastery was so interesting architecturally as it is difficult to imagine a place so old and the work that went into creating a livable area without modern tools.

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After Selime, it was time for another yummy lunch, this time at Star Restaurant, near Belisirma,  I believe. Again, a big high five to Woop Woop for a good choice in lunch spots – no tourist buffet here!

Our after lunch itinerary included a walk through the Ilhara Valley and a stop at a church with some beautiful frescoes. Aydin explained about how the paintings were done using the whites of eggs and naturally found dyes. Very interesting.  From there we carried on down the valley,  talking with Aydin, Daniella, and Mariana. Such interesting people and great conversation.  Thanks guys for a lovely walk,  including the obligatory tea stop partway through! 🙂 We are so privileged to meet such inspiring people. You make me a better person.

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Our final stop of the day was at an onyx and jewel factory. They showed us again about onyx as we had learned in Pamukkale and then we learned a bit more about Zultanite which is apparently only found in Turkey and changes colours in different lights. So cool.

Our group was quite good at the goodbyes, with a boisterous and cheerful ‘goodbye!!’ to each group leaving the bus. Sadly we were the second to last people off the bus, leading to a much less choir – like goodbye. Haha.

Our supper that night was at Cappadocia Pide House, a restaurant owned by the cousins of Emre, whose family owns the hotel. We dined with Nam Hyeon who we had paraglided with in Fethiye and also Hilary, who was walking by and saw us inside. Dinner is so much more lovely with friends! We tried pide for the first time (yum) and some more of the veggie casserole type thing we’d had at the restaurant on the tour two days prior. Thanks for such a lovely day everyone! 🙂

I would also just like to note that these two makeup crazy, city girls have gone SEVERAL days without makeup. I mean, NONE at all. It all started somewhere around Fethiye…I blame the beach life! Simply unthinkable for both of us in general in Canada, but I have to say it’s actually pretty empowering (and let’s be honest, I’m hoping it helps to keep my skin from aging so much!!!!).

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Day 16: “More new friends”

Day 16 – Göreme and environs

So picking up from where we left off, we met up with our group for the day.  We went with Woop Woop Travel (hello awesome name!) and Ali was our awesome tour guide for the day. He was super informative,  quite funny,  and totally called me out for falling asleep on the bus in the afternoon. But he understood. … night buses are hard!  
Our first stop was Uçhisar. This used to be a strategic point in the region given its height and is often referred to as a castle,  although it’s not. At this stop,  we somehow picked up our first new friend,  a fellow from Bangladesh. Don’t know where he came from or how he joined our trip but he did!

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You can see many pigeon holes here and that’s quite cool. Pigeons were previously used to carry messages in the area.

Carrying on,  we checked out the Urgup family chimneys,  which are meant to look like a family of three.  At this point,  we were really starting to feel the cold. It was shocking considering the week before,  it was 18 degrees and sunny!

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Our next stop was at Devrent Magic Valley, also known as Imagination Valley. Here,  the different rocks have different formations including the Virgin Mary, a crocodile, and ducks kissing. We didn’t have time to look around here much as we were moving along to Paşabağ Fairy Chimneys. Me to Leah just now (2 days later): “Did you take anything useful or interesting from the fairy chimneys I could share on the blog?”
Leah: “Nothing comes to mind”

Terrible? Well, perhaps, but keep in mind we’d had somewhere around 2 hrs sleep the night before and it was bloody cold out! Mostly, it was just super cool landscape here and the shape of the columns were more unique here than in other places.

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After some free time here we motored onwards to lunch at Aydede Restaurant. We tried the traditional pottery baked stew. It was awesome! Definitely recommend to try this when you’re in Cappadocia. It’s pretty popular here so it would be surprising if you weren’t offered it at some point. Also, I have to note that this was the BEST tour lunch we’ve had so far in the trip. Two thumbs up!

After lunch, we stopped in at an old Greek village called Çavuşin. These cave houses used to belong to the Greeks that lived in the area before being kicked out back to Greece. Now, they are mainly uninhabited. Here we picked up two more “friends”, a Spanish couple. Don’t know how Ali kept finding us new friends but he was sure good at it!

Next, we had a stop in Avanos, which is famous for pottery. We watched an awesome pottery demo here,  where they showed us how to make a teapot!  So cool. We were wishing we could take some stuff home with us but 3 more weeks and weight restrictions wouldn’t permit it.

From Avanos, we made a stop at the famous Göreme Open Air Museum. It was once a monastery and thus has several beautifully preserved churches in it.  These churches are located within caves. Unfortunately photos are not permitted inside. It is a very beautiful site but we were freezing cold at this point and hugely ready to move on….to the gift shop,  where I got a Turkey tee to act as a new piece in my rapidly shrinking wardrobe. Things seem to be developing holes and we have yet to do laundry not in a sink. Ah the traveling life…

After one more pit stop for a beautiful vista of the landscape we headed back to our hotel. 

We were staying in a really cool cave room. Something they don’t tell you about a cave room is that the cave drops dust and bits of cave randomly on stuff. It’s kinda cool actually,  like the rooms are living.  At this point,  I have to give a big shout-out to the showers here at View Cave. Not only was it hot but the pressure was AWESOME. Totally made our long day better!

Day 13, 14, 15: A lot of buses and rain

Fethiye to Olympos
We started off the day with another yummy breakfast at the Fethiye Guesthouse. The breakfasts here tend to be quite similar, with the exception of the breakfast at Atilla’s,  which his mum prepared fresh each day and so was a bit different daily. Breakfasts generally consist of: tomato and cucumber slices,  olives,  some types of cheese and bread,  eggs done in some form (often hardboiled), orange slices,  sometimes cornflakes, and always tea. It’s really filling and yummy!

Having finished up breakfast we headed out to catch our bus to Olympos. Another cool thing about Turkey is that they usually have some type of shuttle bus to and from wherever you are going and it’s complimentary.  Super convenient! Our bus was the typical dolmus or minibus and we were excited to note our Korean friend from paragliding taking the same bus,  although he was heading to Antalya.

The drive from Fethiye to Olympos was stunning. The highway is twisty and convoluted and takes forever to drive but man is the scenery worth it. The cost from Fethiye to Olympos was 32TL or roughly $16 making the roughly 4hr trip pretty cost effective.  The trip probably only takes about 2.5hrs by private car but on the minibus,  you are subject to numerous stops as people disembark in random places and flag the bus down in equally odd spots.

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When we arrived at Olympos, we discovered the bus lets off at the rest stop for the highway then you catch another minibus down the hill to the little settlement of Olympos. This costs 5TL and I’d say it’s well worth it as the journey is quite hilly and you traverse 2 rivers.

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On the bus we were super pleased to meet Lena from Germany and Naima from Morocco. Lena was going to be staying at Bayram’s as well. Yay for another new friend!

We arrived at Bayram’s and were greeted by the awesome Yusuf. This guy is one of the most congenial,  funny, and helpful Turkish people we’ve met. Big thanks to Yusuf for a terrific stay! Bayram’s Treehouses everyone … you will love it there!

We pulled up to our treehouse and threw our stuff down so we could go for a quick walk on the beach and check out the ruins of Olympos before dark. Since it was just about 5pm by then, we had free entrance (it costs 5TL per entrance otherwise) and enjoyed a nice walk and rest on the beach. We made the acquaintance of a lovely Turkish fisherman who was rather reminiscent of Captain Jack Sparrow minus so much eye makeup and plus a dog. We watched his fishing rod for him while he went back to his house (tent on the beach). More on our fisherfriend later.

By 6 we were ready to head back to Bayrams for supper, which was the usual delicious Turkish feast. After dinner, Yusuf started up a campfire,  the first of the season, and we sat around chatting and making some new friends, including Leonard and his group of 4 girl friends from Germany.

The music was getting a little bit peculiar (ie instrumental Céline Dion) so Yusuf let me at the computer to create a playlist, which, if you know me, is one of my favourite things to do. Wannabe DJ right here, folks. Unfortunately the rains started in a little while later so we called it a night and good thing we did because it proceeded to downpour and put on an impressively massive thunder and lightening storm for the remainder of the night.  It was probably the longest lasting and most intense storm I’ve been in.

When we woke up the next morning it was still raining lightly and the whole place was flooded along the pathways. It would be an inside day, we decided. I had exciting news that morning: I was offered a permanent, full-time position in Creston on med/surg/ER! After much debate and “the official German position” from Lena, haha, I decided to accept. 🙂 Here’s to paid vacations in fabulous places from now on!!

Our big activity for the day came a bit later in the afternoon with a walk to the Chimaera. It takes 7 km to get there and so we left just past 4 pm so we could see daylight and night time views. Our fisherfriend came in handy once more, showing us the path up along the river bank and up a rickety metal ladder as opposed to having to wade through the river. Fisherfriend’s dog was friendly, being just a year old, and was biting at my legs. I warned him he would go into timeout if he didn’t stop and he didn’t so I picked him up and carried him for a little ways. When I put him back down, he found a pinecone to chase so apparently timeout worked!  🙂

The walk to the chimaera was essentially flat until the last km and it only sprinkled a bit on us so it was an enjoyable walk and is actually part of the Lycian Way, some of which we’d done on our walk in Fethiye a few days previous.  The last way costs 6TL entry and is all uphill to the flames. There was a big group of noisy American’s, from one of the nearby air force bases we learned, but as much as they’re a but noisy, boy are they always friendly!! They had brought marshmallows and sticks up with them and they very kindly offered some to share with Leah, Lena, and I. Such a nice bunch!

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The flames themselves were pretty neat as it is wild to imagine that they have been burning for so many years without fail. We headed down after about an hour to get down the slippery, steep bit before darkness. The walk back was perfect with the aid of our torch and headlamp, except for all the frogs! Leah found it quite hilarious that of all the animals we’d met and I made friends with, I was scared of the frogs along the road. Honestly though,  can you imagine the horrid squishy feeling if you stepped on one?! Ick.

Finally we returned and were greeted with a warm room, tea, and some leftover supper. It was early to bed for me after that! Although,  that ended up meaning mending pants and going through photos.

The next day, our only plan was the hang out at the beach for a bit, along with the other 2 German girls who had arrived the previous afternoon,  Lina and Jana. It was quite hot and we really enjoyed relaxing and catching some rays. Leah even got a bit burnt.

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On our way back to Bayram’s from the beach,  we had one of the moments that reminds me why I travel. We came across our fisherfriend along the path and he was on his phone (who knew nomads of no fixed address had cell phones!). When he had finished his conversation,  he called out to us and asked if we were leaving that night.  We said yes and he gave us both a big hug and told us to “have a nice life, sisters”, hand over heart. It was really touching.

Shortly after we returned up the hill to catch our bus to Antalya then on to Göreme. We were both feeling a bit sad to do this as we felt we’d made the most connections and friends in Olympos somehow. It’s a place to easily “get stuck” in…

And get stuck we wish we had after that night bus! Probably the most horrible bus I’ve ever been on. To start with,  we were absolute back of the bus. Hello, bumpy! Secondly,  the bus was patrolled by the most strict bus attendant I’ve ever come across. She did not want anyone sitting where they weren’t strictly alloted and the bus was quite full. They kept the full lights on for quite some time and kicked off the evening with refreshments. Ok. We are boarding a bus at 9:30pm, on which there are no toilets and driving until 7 am. Tell me why people need drinks at that time!!! I was having quite the hissy fit about how miserable it was/would be/how planes are better/how I would get off and find my own way rather than riding the bus for another 9.5 hours. Luckily Leah bore my woes quite admirably and on we drove….stopping every 5 seconds to pick someone else up. I digress. Then for some reason, they turned all the lights back on at 3 AM, THREE AM!!!, to offer more refreshments. Urghhhhh. This is your night nurse speaking: GO TO BED, it’s the middle of the night! Needless to say, not much sleep was had by us.

Upon arrival in Nevşehir,  we were quickly helped to find our way to Göreme. First one dolmus into the city centre, then another into Göreme, and finally after some directions from the helpful tourist guy,  we found our home for the next few days, View Cave Hotel. Luckily, despite arriving well before check-in time, the fantastic Emre greeted us and allowed us to have some yummy breakfast and hooked us up with a bathroom to freshen up in and an explanation of the red and green tours of Cappadocia. We quickly decided to join up with the red tour for the day. More to follow on that!

PS check it out – actual photos in this post!! Finally figured out how to make it happen…😜

Day 12: Facing fears and the human car wash

Day 12: Fethiye, Turkey

After a somewhat sleepless night dreaming about my camera plummeting to earth, me plummeting to earth, and basically every other bad outcome possible happening, it was paragliding D-Day.

We were picked up by the Gravity Tandem paragliding van early in the morning, my stomach doing flips the whole while. We were soon joined by our other jumpers (fliers?), a newlywed Korean couple and another Korean fellow and headed off to the office at Oludeniz to pick up our pilots and gear. The only thing that was kind of unsettling was the fact that we were brought into the basement where their office is located and they didn’t really say anything about the plan to us. Whether that’s to build suspense or just cuz they were also tired early in the morning, I don’t know, but it certainly worked to further creep me out! 

We soon loaded up everyone and everything into the van and set off up Baba Dag. We drew numbered chips to decide who would be partnered who whom and the order of go. I drew 2 and was partenered with Ufuk. Leah drew 8 and did not quite catch her pilots name. One of the Korean guys drew the pilot called “Psycho”! I was quite pleased to not be paired with him.

As we wound our way up the mountain, the Korean girl and I were having the same thought: SCARY! I reassured myself by thinking of the fact that I was probably more likely to die hurtling off a cliff on a missed corner going up the mountain! We reached the top and climbed the stairs up to the takeoff site. As the wind picked up, and I could see the vast expanse of land far below us, I began to have second thoughts and sat down on the picnic bench at the top, saying, “Nah guys, I think I’ll just stay here”, in what could only be described as the voice of a mouse. Ufuk and our driver beckoned me forward and I somehow found my feet walking in their direction. Within a minute I was strapped in and we were taking off. I didn’t realize at the time but we were actually the first to take off, which in retrospect was probably for the best. 

I was freaking out at first – no screaming but just eyes screwed shut and hands clamped togeter so hard they were tingling. Within a couple of minutes I opened my eyes up…. I can’t say I was totally elated to be up there but I was definitely ok-ish at that point. I still kept my hands firmly clasped however! My pilot, Ufuk, pointed things out to me and we talked about his life story a bit, how he came to be a pilot and so on. He was very reassuring and an excellent pilot, taking photos and video while steering and chatting. At one point he told me to open my arms like a bird…I think I managed to be a baby bird! He showed me the blue lagoon, which is when o discovered that the previous day Leah and I had made it to the beach but not actually the lagoon part, which is curved in at the end of the beach. He also pointed some sea turtles out to me. So cool! 

Soon enough we were landing and I was wondering if my legs would be able to hold me. Sure enough, landing was a breeze as all I had to do was stand up and walk. Super fun! Can’t believe I faced my fears and did it! With that done, we watched our videos and saw our photos and paid the exorbitant additional fee to receive these. They’re on a disc so we will be able to see them once we get home most likely.

After that morning, we figured we deserved some pampering so after a light lunch by the seaside, we headed to try out a Turkish bath or Hamam. The one we tried was called Sultan Hamam in Fethiye. The owner, a charming Austrian man, picked us up directly from the hostel and brought us there. One thing I would really recommend is to bring a bikini or even undies and a bra that need a washing! Once we had selected the add-ons we wanted in addition to the basic bath part, we were shown to a changing room where we fashioned a skirt and bandeau combo out of towels….so as you can tell it may have been better with a bikini, especially in the summer when you can use the pool outside too.

Anyhow, being nurses now and having lived in Korea and attended the baths there, we were ok with just our towel costumes, so we proceeded to the first part of “the human car wash”: the sauna. In this part you are meant to stay 5-15 minutes, so we stayed nearly 15. Once you’re done that, you’re meant to go into the steam room for 1-2mins. In reality, the steam room was so hot that all we could do was stand in the gush of steam that came out with the door opening! We figured that was good enough. With that done the real scrub began….

We figured it would be women doing this but lo and behold a couple toweled fellows rolled up and gave us the old wash. It starts with a scrub with a quite stringent loofah. It was SHOCKING how much icky dead skin came off. Pretty sure that any tan I had obtained the previous day in the sun was quickly removed. Once you get scrubbed, you get up and go over to the sink to get rinsed then return to the heated marble shelf where you lie down again and this time, they use some giant fabric tube with soapy water to create bubbles all over and these get scrubbed into you. After this, you get rinsed again and they’ll also do your hair. At this point, it kinda feels like they’re trying to drown you, but soon after that it’s over, you’re patted dry and you’re shuffled out the door all shiny and pink. Kinda like a car wash.

After that we were given some water, tea, and a snack before our massages, which is the add-on we chose. What can I say, a massage is a massage and it was relaxing and fine. We were soon returned refreshed to our hostel where we did nothing more than have some dinner and relax after a fine day!

Day 11: You look meaty

Day 11: Fethiye – Karakoy – Oludeniz

We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning in coastal Fethiye. A welcome change from the dingy quasi-sun we’ve been having for most of the trip indeed! We made a plan to take a hike around the peninsula over to the ghost town of Karakoy and on to Oludeniz, the beautiful blue lagoon, as the German couple we were talking to at breakfast had done the same route the previous day and recommended it. Our awesome hostel guy drew us a map and gave an additional explanation to go along with the Germans’ and so we set off at about 11AM. 

The harbour was beautifully calm and clear and the shipyards are all full right now with the boats being refurbished for summertime, which will begin in about a month here. We had originally intended on doing a boat cruise for 4 days along the coast, but unfortunately, the season starts at the beginning of April. The boats are beautiful though and Leah and I have concluded that we should probably move to Turkey, buy a boat, open a cafe, and live the good life!

Our walk started with a hike up a giant hill at the first turn the map showed us. We had some confusion once we reached the top of the hill as we were supposed to hang a left onto a trail, which is really not clearly marked. We flagged down a passing car and got some directions from a kind Turkish man. Unfortunately in Turkish however, so we were still unsure about whether we were on the right route or not. We decided we were headed in roughly the right direction though and continued on our way up a dirt road through the forest. Luckily, we came across a sign post by a field of goats not too far up the road that indicated Karakoy was just 4km ahead. Winning! 

The day was quite hot so we’d soon stripped off our layers and rolled up sleeves. We were treated to some beautiful views of the Mediterranean along the way and a few turtle friends crossing the road too. How they move that quickly with such limited  leg movement is quite incredible. We also ran into some goat friends along the way. There seem to be goats and sheep everywhere in Turkey, roaming randomly about, along sides of roads, highways, in forests, in fields, in people’s yards…it seems unclear about who is in charge of these creatures, but they are obviously tagged on their ears. It remains a mystery. 

So eventually we reached the end of the road and with it a sign that indicated that Karakoy was a further 5km along the road….say what?! How had we walked further and yet gained an additional km to go? Clearly, despite the expert directions, we had taken a wrong turn somewhere along the road. We decided to press on, having come so far already, and to skiP forward through several more minutes of hot sweaty walking, we did eventually end up at Karakoy. We  spotted the ghost town on the hill and took up with a puppy friend along the road. This big sandy blonde dog decided to befriend us, although at first we weren’t sure if he was friendly or quite scary. He ended up being playful and friendly and accompanied us down the road towards the ghost town where he kept us safe from another, smaller, barking/growling dog. Our new friend carried on with us up into the ruins at Karakoy, which have to be one of my favourites so far. How incredibly unique and beautiful and still very much intact, these ruins dates from 16th/17th century. They certainly have an eerie feeling about them and you can freely crawl around them exploring. Definitely glad we didn’t give it a miss. Our puppy friend abandoned us as we left the ruins, even though I had bribed him with a piece of cookie.

At this point, it was already about 2pm and we still had another 6km (uphill partly!) to get to Oludeniz, so despite the helpful directions of a French speaker, we decided to hop on the dolmus to get to Oludeniz. This beach area is STUNNING. The water iis an incredible shade of blue that changes in a gradient as the water gets deeper. We plopped our butts down and proceeded to have a wee picnic until clouds started to roll in and we went to catch the dolmus back into town.

 

Upon returning to town, we located some dinner at Arty’s Fish and Chips which is near the beach in Fethiye. I had a fish burger, which was delicious! There’s also free WiFi there and an awesome clean bathroom. Maybe not Turkish food, but certainly tasty and fresh. With the sun setting, we headed back to Fethiye Guesthouse to turn in for the night. We were telling our hosts about our day and the one was surprised to hear I was vegetarian. “But you look meaty!” he said, much to our laughter. Still not sure whether to take that as a compliment or not…