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amongst giants in rose valley

Day 32 - the Silk Road between Konya and Goreme




It's the type of landscape that makes you see things that just aren't there. It stretches far beyond what the eye can see. The Silk Road is all flat lands and hazy horizons. It's a romantic name for what is now a dead straight highway travelled by Turkish drivers with F1 sensibilities. We're going 140kms/hour. This is not fast enough for the locals. They overtake us, going like clappers. I notice how much work is being put into the roads; either to maintain them or build new ones. Turkey seems to be expecting big things. And why shouldn't it? It's a pretty fantastic place to travel. 


We stop at Sultanhani to have a gawk at the Sultanhani Caravanserai. When traders used to travel the Silk Road route, they stayed in the caravanserais that were dotted along the way. They could park up, hitch their horses, and stay for three free nights. I've never seen a caravanserai. The entire concept of travelling along the Silk Roads and stopping at these caravans reminds me of Fallout 3 and the caravan merchants. So obviously, we have to stop. 



The stone carvings on the front gate are beautiful, the trees are all autumn-y, and the stables are creepily dark with lots of pigeons roosting in the ceiling. Rob makes them fly around by clapping. I hurry out before one of them gets really annoyed and poos on my head.


Just before we get into Goreme, we pass fields and fields of pumpkins. They're all just merrily laying in the fields, dots of orange in brown dirt. We debate whether there should be more foliage around pumpkins. Do they really just spring up as if a truck has just dumped them in a field? These are city folk questions.

The landscapes of caves, fairy chimneys, and strange rock formations in Goreme are, frankly, gobsmacking. It's not like anything I've ever seen before. The closest comparison is Petra but that was orderly, precise, and planned. The cave villages, complete with churches that spring up, look haphazard, rudimentary, and organic; like they've been grown from the ground. To compliment this experience, we are literally staying in a cave in the Caravanserai Cave Hotel. It is surprisingly comfortable. And super fun. The next morning, Rob confesses it was pitch black when he finally turned the lights out and he freaked himself out thinking of the past caravan dwellers this place has hosted. I tell him we may have been sleeping in the stables. He shouts, "Even worse! Ghost HORSES". 


It's a little too late to go to the Goreme Open Air Museum and we need to work off our enormous pides at Firin Express. Apparently, the things you do if you aren't at the open air museum is to go hiking. We're the unlikeliest hikers. Around us in Goreme, there are super prepared tourists in all manner of hiking gear; boots, wool socks hiked up to their knees, waterproofs, walking sticks. To prepare, I put socks on, tighten up my Vans, and buy some brownies and a huge water. Hiking prep done.


The Rose Valley loop that we embark on is easy. Which leads me to think that we were mucking around for a couple of hours at the entrance and didn't actually go further. This suspicion can be attested to by the busloads of middle-aged tourists that are spewed into the trailhead. 


A storm cloud comes to rain of our parade and we huddle in the entrance of a cave mosque with everyone else. We listen to two ladies go on about their footwear and how they didn't pack any trainers because they didn't expect to be scrambling up rocks and hills. One lady only packed some "travel shoes", her sandals, and "evening shoes". "Trainers take up so much room," she says. I can only agree. 


We explore churches with badly-damaged frescoes, little cave homes, and valleys with fairy chimneys. I call the fairy chimneys rude names with delight. 


Rob patiently waits at the top of the hill while I scramble down to get in the middle of the fairy chimney action. I need him to take a photo of me amongst them for scale. They are gargantuan and alien. The name "fairy chimney" is too frou frou for them. 


I'm also inordinately pleased that I am the perfect size for cave living. Everyone else has to bend down. I get to stand up straight with a few centimetres left between the top of my head and the ceiling. I imagine what knick knacks I could put in the niches on the wall.


On the way out of the valley, I'm accompanied by a stray dog. I name her Cindy. She sits when I tell her to and she waits for me as I take my time ambling down the path. The stray dogs and cats in Turkey are killing me softly.


The rest of the night is stormy, grey and rainy. The centre of Goreme feels like a small alpine town. Like a Turkish Queenstown with more rocks thrown about rather than mountains and lakes.We sit on the covered balcony of an upstairs cafe. I've got a blanket on my lap like a nana and I'm drinking sahlep and baklava washed down with more Turkish tea. The thought of going back to the hotel and curling up in my cave is actually, very, very welcome. 

five days from east to west

rumi's tomb in konya