Monday, October 26, 2009

Living the life in Cappadocia

For some strange reason, I thought we'd never make it here but when Dan and I made it to Cappadocia after a tiring 11-hour journey on an overnight bus, we immediately fell in love with the town of Goreme which is our base while we're in the region.

The town is absolutely stunning: We are surrounded on all sides by valleys of fairy chimneys and honeycomb cliffs made of volcanic tuff, which form a truly magical landscape.

Goreme is not the frigid country town we expected it to be. Though it gets chilly at night, the mercury rises all afternoon, with pleasant temperatures in the morning and early evening. We were keen to start exploring however once we found a place to stay - a comfortable, beautiful cave room (we opted for one night of luxury and comfort before setting up camp) - we ended up taking a long nap before exploring Goreme's nightlife (complete with Turkish wine and live music!).

This morning we said goodbye to our gracious host at the Elif Star Caves and returned to more modest digs at the Berlin Campsite, setting up our excellent tent in record time before a full day of hiking and exploration in the Zemi Valley.

We started off visiting a rock-carved frescoed church off the main road. But much of the fun began when we entered the valley tackling a challenging, barely discernible trail that saw us jumping over streams and chasms, walking through orchards, putting our climbing skills to use to bypass rock cliffs, and even walking across a fallen log as if it were a balance beam.

I must give props to my Ecco warm-weather hiking shoes for keeping me sure-footed on the trail. I hadn't used them much since hiking in Panama in 2008 and was worried that maybe they were an indulgent purchase but they've been mighty useful on this trip.

The highlight of our day was when Dan, in his infinite curiosity, scrambled down a cliff face toward a fairy chimney perched at the edge and noticed a painting through a small opening. I was only too thrilled to be bouldering outdoors (though it would have been easier with my climbing shoes) so we climbed up the side and discovered that it had once been a church and it was covered in brightly-coloured frescoes! We found a few more rock-hewn churches and cave dwellings - and we could barely contain our excitement. These churches date back to the 9th & 10th centuries (A.D.) before the Iconoclastic Period. We stumbled upon two of them by chance as we wandered the great outdoors together.

On the way back to our campsite, we took a small detour to "Love Valley" (a small, well-marked trail that weaves along tall, slender fairy chimneys shaped like oversized mushrooms).

Afterward we braved icy-cold camp showers before trying Cappadocia's culinary special - pottery kebabs. Meat is cooked with vegetables in a clay pot and, once cooked, the pot is broken in half and the dish is served. It was a delicious, savoury end to a wonderful day.

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