While in Istanbul, we had the chance to meet another rally team during breakfast – they are Jeremy and Henry of The Mongol Way Round.
By chance, they had the same route as we did through Turkey and Georgia, so we decided to convoy and spend the next 1,000+ miles together until our routes split apart. Now of course, our driving could turn a bit interesting.
We left Istanbul about noon, with hopes of reaching Cappadocia by night. Twelve hours later, even with almost non-stop driving, we were still too far from reaching Cappadocia; so we decided to set camp on a random sunflower field at about 1:30am.
The following morning we woke up early to finally reach Göreme in Cappadocia at around noon. Since it’s Cappadocia, we decided to stay at Shoestring Cave Pension, which is a cave hostel (a typical experience to be had in this town).
Our first stop, the Kaymakli Underground City. I had visited Cappadocia and a few of these sights before (and wrote about them here), but it was fun to see them again with my teammates and the guys from the other team.
We hired a guide to take us through the underground city (highly recommended in order to appreciate it).
We had the luck of hiring a guide who not only was good with his explanations, but he almost didn’t care what we did or where we headed inside the tunnels and chambers. So basically, we became 5 little kids in a playground.
We passed through various chambers, climbed into holes where tourists don’t normally go since they are not quite easy to climb out from once you jump in (and a cut on my left knee is a testament of this), and went through narrow, unlit tunnels with just our flashlights and desire to spook someone. It was fun!
We decided to spend the rest of the afternoon in Devrent Valley, also known as Imagination Valley due to all the figures you can visualize from the curious shapes created by the erosion on the stones.
The road to reach Devrent Valley was closed due to construction, but since we are in a rally and not in a typical vacation, we passed the barriers and made our way to the valley.
While we weren’t the only ones bold enough to pass the barrier to reach the valley, we practically had the whole valley for ourselves for most of the time (only a handful of people passed by sporadically). We climbed up to a point where we could see far into the valley looking towards the sunset.
After about an hour of peaceful chatting and fooling around, we made our way up to a hole on the side of the mountain – it looked to be a 3500 years old house/living space.
It wasn’t that easy to get up to it, but we managed to enter the space and look at the sunset from a better vantage point through the natural window in the cave.
The following morning we woke up at 4:00 am to do the hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia. The morning was a bit chilly, but we had the most perfect weather you could ask for.
Cappadocia’s landscape is surreal when seen from the ground, but it is even more impressive when you can see it from the sky and witness the expanse of rock formations spread for miles all around you. We could see the valleys, the Uchisar Castle that crowns Göreme, and the mountains far beyond the region.
This is a MUST DO when you come to Cappadocia.
We had the luck of having good wind pushing us towards an area called Love Valley. The reason for this name is because the rock formations eroded in such a particular way that they look like, um, penises.
I had seen the valley before from the ground, but like the rest of Cappadocia’s landscape, seeing them from above gives you quite a bit of a different perspective. They do look like penises.
It was time for us to hit the road again for a full day of driving. On the way, we stopped at a gas station to discuss how far we would drive for the day, and that’s when we came across a few very friendly (too friendly, I would say) Turkish men.
One of them saw Stephen and without any hesitation, he pinched his nipple! What the hell?! As if that wasn’t enough, he got into our car and browsed everything we had. He played with Alex’s iPad, my solar charger, looked at pictures in our cameras and looked over all our equipment.
He was just curious about what we had and we were doing and didn’t intend any wrongdoing. Of course, he didn’t want to leave without a “present”, so after asking for us to give him stuff (including signaling our phones, camping equipment, and other electronics) we gave him some moist towelettes and bid him goodbye.
By sunset, we drove to a random village in the middle of nowhere and camped deep in the mountains. It was very windy and cold, but it was a beautiful prairie landscape. There was nothing around us except nature.
As the sunrays began to shine the following morning, we were woken up by the sound of hundreds of sheep bells. A shepherd was walking his sheep down towards the village and happened to pass next to us (or, we happened to camp next to his usual route).
He shifted his attention from his sheep to us, as if we were some kind of weird object he suddenly discovered in his farm (well, we were). He walked towards us and in a very friendly manner said hello to everyone.
He spoke to us, but we were lost in translation and could only communicate through hand gestures. It was fun though since we all laughed at each other trying to figure out what we were saying.
The shepherd helped us quickly with a few directions for our onward journey. He also did the “curious search” of our camping equipment and car, and somehow expected a present. We didn’t have anything to give him, so we gave a few spare Liras (Turkish currency) and bid him goodbye.
The following day was uneventful since it was a full day of driving, but it was fun to see the now usual puzzled looks from people passing by as they see two dirty rally cars together.
In order to reach the border with Georgia, we had to cross the high mountains of Kaçkar, Karçal and Yalnızçam, and the lake Tortum Gölü through the road D950.
Besides the Transfăgărășan Road in Romania, this has been one of the most beautiful drives we’ve done so far! The road followed the river and winded between the mountains through the valley.
Each turn we took showed a different view that ranged from steep cliff drops and canyons to wide expanses filled with enormous mountains.
Turkey is an amazing country, and unlike many other countries, even the major highways are interesting and beautiful!
This was a good way to leave Turkey. Now we are about to enter Georgia.
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