After Ian’s birthday we spent three more days trekking in Cappadocia, and saw more fantastic scenery.
Friday 20 May
We left Ortahisar, and walked on to Çavuşin – our luggage going ahead by road as usual. It was meant to be a short walk – just 10km – but took longer than we expected. One thing we’ve come to recognise is that the weird and wonderful rock formations of Cappadocia are mainly in deep valleys. Walking through the valleys is most enjoyable, but getting down into them (or up out of them) is less so. This morning the path was very steep and slippery. We had to go very slowly, and even do some sections on our bottoms (Sandie’s shorts got ruined in the process). Another problem was that the directions for our walk were unclear, resulting in us spending time going backwards and forwards trying to ensure we were on the right path. In the valleys there are many so-called pigeon houses where farmers encourage pigeons to roost in order to collect their droppings for fertiliser.
But of course there were compensations! We discovered that in the valleys there were a number of ‘natural cafés’. These are places where an enterprising individual has set up a simple stall, selling fresh fruit juice and sometimes other drinks. They may have a collection of chairs or ancient sofas where you can sit. Given how few people we saw walking through the valleys, we were amazed that the owners could make any kind of living. But they were useful to us – we did not have to go without our 11am coffee, and had a delicious orange/pomegranate juice in the afternoon. Our lunch was pre-booked in the one natural café that also functions as a full-scale restaurant.
We passed two small rock-cut churches, and stopped to look at the frescoes. But it was the fairy chimneys and other rock formations that impressed us most. We walked through the Red Valley and the Rose Valley, names which were justified by the colour of the rocks, glowing in the afternoon sun.
Today our host drove us to the start of the White Valley, to begin our walk. As the name implies, the rock formations do not have the colour of those in the Red or Rose valleys, but they are amazing nevertheless. We largely ignored the unnecessarily complicated directions we’d been given, and followed the clearly identified path through the valley, ending at the village of Uçhisar, where we had an early lunch in a large restaurant that catered mainly for coach parties.
The next stage of the walk was through the Pigeon Valley to Goreme. The suggested path led down from the restaurant, but we did not get far before turning back – it was steep and incredibly slippery. Instead we walked back through the village and followed an alternative path which was much easier, although it meant missing some of the scenery. Goreme is the biggest and most touristy of the Cappadocian villages: it came as a culture shock to see all the shops, restaurants and tour operators vying for attention.
As we’d arrived there earlier than expected, we decided to detour to the ‘Open-Air Museum’, a collection of over 30 churches cut into the hillside, dating from the 9th to the 11th century AD. The frescoes in some of these churches were extremely well-preserved, but sadly photos were not allowed. In any case, it was difficult to get into the churches, let alone see the paintings, as there were crowds of people trying to do the same thing. From Goreme we walked back to Çavuşin, partly following the path we’d taken the previous day.
Today we were meant to do a circular walk from Çavuşin to the village of Zelve, and back via Pașabaği, which according to the Rough Guide is ‘the most picturesque of all the Cappadocian valleys’. We started by climbing up and around a hill and heading towards a mountain. The weather was good, the path straightforward, and we had great views of the top end of the Rose Valley. BUT there were places where the path almost disappeared, and you had to cross a crumbling slope – not easy, certainly not for us! We managed to negotiate a couple of difficult places, but had to give up at the next, for fear of sliding down to the foot of the mountain.
We never did make it to Zelve. But we were determined to visit Pașabaği, so after retracing our steps to the village, and fortifying ourselves with coffee, we managed to find a relatively easy route there. On the way we explored another cave church, just outside Çavuşin. The valley is fairly small, but the fairy chimneys (some with ‘hats’) are certainly worth seeing, so we took lots of photos as usual. But then the thunderstorm which had been forecast suddenly appeared, so we hastened back to Çavuşin, and ate the picnic lunch we’d been given in our hotel room.
Later we went out again to look round the village and its abandoned cave houses, and ended up in our favourite bar, which also doubles as the bakery. We were able to watch local men baking bread and others playing backgammon while the rain came down outside.
The end of our walking holiday! But we had time to spare before our bus, so went for a morning stroll around some of the fairy chimneys we’d spotted the previous day. Not an official route, but a pleasant easy path.
From Çavuşin we headed due south to the Mediterranean coast. Well, almost… our first stop was Tarsus, which was probably a mistake. The Rough Guide warns that there is little of interest in the city, but because of the historical and biblical associations we thought we should give it a look. We found it a grim, scruffy and depressing industrial city; the black clouds didn’t help. The hotel could not provide us with a map, and none of the people we asked for directions spoke English. We got a taxi to St Paul’s Well (allegedly on the site of the apostle’s house) and then got lost trying to find Cleopatra’s Gate (no direction connection, but she came ashore to meet Mark Anthony somewhere in the area). After that we were happy to move on.