I caught a ride with Jenn to the horse stables right down the hill from the Open Air Museum. I’m not sure exactly my plans, I’d like to do a bit of hiking, but not knowing the area complicates things a bit. I could just go to the open air museum, but I wanted to see that with Jenn.
It turns out most of the canyons are pretty hard to get lost on as they all terminate into the main valley and the road to Göreme. But needing my bearings and having no map of which canyon is which, I saw that the ATV rental had a map and decided to have a look. Sadly it wasn’t much help, and the guy working there wasn’t much help either. He pointed down a dirt road and off I went.
I wasn’t really dressed appropriate, when we had been out this morning it was quite cold, but now it had heated up and I was wearing all black and long pants. It was by now in the mid 70s, which isn’t awful by any means, but definitely warm for what I was wearing. I had half a liter of water, which I knew to be good for about 2hrs hiking which was all the time I had if I was to meet Jennifer. I tried to make good time knowing she’d be coming up behind on the horse, and I would cover a little less ground than she.
It wasn’t too hard finding my way into the first valley, but I didn’t know which it was, just that it wasn’t Red or Rose because I saw spray painted arrows for those two all along the way. I kept thinking I needed to get over the wall of rock to my right as I moved through the canyon to get over to Rose, but every time I found what I thought was a cut and a trail it ended in a dead end. Happily enough the scenery even here was still pretty stunning with rippled white rock surrounding me and little broad hoodoos with pigeon houses built in them.
Pigeon houses I thought meant the style of these homes cut into the rock like homes of pigeons, often high off the ground, but no, they’re actually houses for pigeons. The soil here being volcanic is very nitrogen poor, so ancient farmers would build coops for pigeons in the hoodoos near their farmland and houses in order to get pigeon droppings for manure to enrich the soil. Today I’m guessing they have the advantage of nitrogen fixing, and grow many different things from grapes to potatoes.
Eventually Jenn did catch me with her group on a tiny little mare, she was talking with another rider and looked a little bored with the pace, without the horse on the bit just sitting at the back going for a pony ride. I got a couple of pictures as she went by before cutting up another dead end trail.
When I returned to the main trail where I’d seen Jenn, they were gone and I had realized I should have followed them for a while to get an idea of where they were going (so I could see as much as I could of what they did), but also to get a better feel for the area. I eventually found my way up a successful cut and out overlooking the Rose valley. I descended down from there to a dirt road and a juice shack that seemed a bit out of place. Not knowing which way to go, I mistakenly went left which headed down towards the main road and boredom.
Eventually I came to a junction, and not having any option given my time I decided it best to just head back to the ranch. What I’d seen had been nice for the first portion, but had become just a walk down a dirt road for the second half. Oh well. I was worried that I had the only money and would need to be back when she arrived so I made an effort to not be late.
I beat Jenn back by about 15 minutes and went to the café next door for some water. It turns out all I had was 1L and 100L, and the big water I thought was 1.5L. I apologized and said I’d need the small one, I didn’t have enough, and he said it was ok, and then he pointed out that the sign says 1.5€, not 1.5₺…
Gratefully I took my water and just as I was leaving could see Jennifer coming in with her guide and minus the other riders she’d left with. She’s beaming happy and says she had a great ride. Apparently the other riders were really novice and turned back early, but then she got to go up a technical trail to see these two churches cut into caves and have juice, and, and, and! I’m glad she had a good time.
We then caught a ride back to town got a lunch recommendation for pide as Jenn wanted to try it again. This time there wasn’t mounds of sour cream on top, just meat baked into the crust. Much better like this.
We decide we want to go to see an underground city and head out to find the bus to Nevşhir. After leaving the hotel though we realized pretty quickly that by the time we got out there and got back if the bus transfers were quick and efficient (which they wouldn’t be) we’d only have an hour there, so instead we shelved that for the following day and had to come up with what we wanted to do again. We had wanted to do a Desti Kebap (really more of a stew in a terracotta pot), so we found that Dibek in Göreme does a good job of them and is known for traditional food so we decided to swing by and make a reservations.
I had not slept amazingly the night before, and with the short number of hours I was already sleepy before all of this. Jenn was now catching up to me on this front so it was back to the hotel for a quick nap. Only the nap turned out to a bit more than originally planned and we basically had just enough time to get ready before our sunset horseback ride.
Once again we headed out to Dalton Brothers, this time with an Aussie couple from Perth, one of which had been a show jumper in her youth. We got helmets and signed wavers and mounted up. We had the same guide Jenn had before, and Jenn was on “Windy” again. I was on a mare whose name translated to “Beautiful Mane”. Jenn had already talked to him a lot during their last ride and had told him I was not a complete novice. We would be taking a different route than Jenn did earlier in the day but neither of us knew what route that was. I got to show our guide I wasn’t a complete novice by checking the girth and stirrup lengths and then mounting without trouble.
My horse like Jenn’s didn’t like to have her bit pulled at all. Any contact at all and she would toss her head or stretch out her neck. She’s probably used to lots of inexperienced riders balancing themselves a bit by pulling on the reigns, or perhaps are just too nervous and pulling. It helped remind me I’m not as much of a novice as I tend to think of myself because of the people around me. My instructor had started me on the third level of dressage training, Contact, right before Scorch and Raz had to go home to Northern California. So I gave my mare loose reigns by extending my arms way out in front of me until she stopped fussing, and then I’d slowly move my hands back into normal position until I had the reigns with no contact but also no slack. I could still talk to her a bit by wiggling my wingers on one side or the other and use my leg to ask her to go left or right, but she wasn’t upset with me touching the bit. Every so often we’d stop or something and she’d start fussing again and we’d have to start over. I felt comfortable, but I was trying to ride well so I was concentrating a lot and not very talkative.
Jenn on the other hand was having a great conversation with a Turkish woman riding with us who had at one point lived in California and had taken up riding with Dalton Brothers semi-regularly now that she’d moved out to Uçhisar to work in the hotel industry.
We wound our way familiarly down to the junction in Pink Valley where I’d made a left earlier in the day and continued as I had down to Çavuşin a few miles north of Göreme. We walked through the town’s cobble stone streets as the sun got low on the horizon. A couple people took photos of us. Not long though and the lived in town gave way to ruins of once lived in cave homes that got more and more rudimentary as we climbed higher and higher on the dirt road that became a trail. We reached a spine separating valleys and found ourselves looking at the northern most section of the Red Valley made even more red by the sun. We came across a large group of tourists as we trotted up hill and they were pretty surprised to find us moving so quickly, and there were more pictures taken. We reached the summit and tied the horses up.
The summit is the goal of our ride, at the top is a juice stand where for 10L you can get a large orange juice squeezed while you wait, and boy is it good. And right below the summit is a church carved into the rock by Christian Byzantines avoiding persecution. The views are nothing to scoff at either. Below is Çavuşin with Göreme in the distance, behind are the pleated red hills of Red Valley, and across the way Love Valley can be seen in the distance. The sun sets as we mount our horses to head back to Göreme.
As we ride back through Çavuşin a little girl at one of the hotels runs up “HORSES! I want to ride the black one!” pointing at Jenn’s horse Windy.
We return via Sword Valley as it’s starting to get dark going down a straight dirt road. We hit a trot for a bit, but there isn’t much you can do when one of these horses decides they’re done trotting so we don’t make it too long at a trot. I definitely use more leg strength when trotting, I haven’t quite gotten over gripping when trotting when I should just be balancing. I had gotten past this once with Scorch, but I’ve regressed a bit.
Back at the ranch we hurriedly excuse ourselves, we have just 15 minutes until our reservation at Dibek, not enough time to go back to the room to change or clean up or even exchange my prescription sunglasses for my fragile normal ones. We get dropped off and make it just in time.
Dibek is similar in arrangement to Top Deck in that you sit on cushions on the floor next to very short tables. It’s much larger and in a 475 year old building renovated recently. We order some “homemade” wine which I really take to just be locally made, but it’s inexpensive and not too bad, kind of like a merlot but with no tannins at all. I’m feeling self-conscious about wearing sunglasses indoors at night, but I don’t have many options, either wear them and look like I’m trying too hard to be cool or something, or don’t and not be able to see anything. Our Desti Kebaps come, and they crack open the sealed pots with a little hammer pouring the contents out next to rice. We’ve ordered one chicken and one “meat” meaning beef. It’s more like a stew than I figured, but not as flavorful as I’d hoped. It’s good for sure, but no Top Deck lamb, which is what every meal this trip now has to be compared with. At home we always end up going to Café Bizou for our special dinners because the food is always amazing and the price is incredibly reasonable for the quality of food. We try other places but always end up thinking the food is better and cheaper at Café Bizou, we should have gone there. Top Deck is like that. We had to try a Desti Kebap though.
Back at our hotel we shower and completely crash. What a day. What a day. I’m not sure how tomorrow can live up.