Day 13: Love

Today is only a half day in a way as we’re flying out at 8pm to Istanbul back via Sabiha Göchen to the south of the city. Working backwards this means a 6pm pickup. We have another checkpoint of sorts at 11am with our checkout, and 10:30am breakfast being over. We want to fill the time, but not be sweaty all day before getting in late. We decided first we should go do our last hike, Love Valley before returning for breakfast and a shower and checking out. What we’re to do with the rest of our day is completely undecided.

To get to Love Valley we take the bus to Uçhisar and tell them to drop us at the trail head just outside of town. From there we hike the length from top to bottom mostly downhill and catch the bus coming to Göreme from Avanos we think it is, either way it will be a bus headed towards Göreme, and which one doesn’t matter a lot.

We find the bus and hop on board, stomach empty except for half a cliff bar each. It’s worse for the bus attendant who is probably fasting for Ramadan and misses that he was to stop the bus for us at the trail head. I saw the pink colored sign for the valley hikes go past and we’re almost to Uçhisar which I remembered was too far. I shoot him a look and he realizes he was supposed to stop the bus for us which he does about a quarter mile late. I can’t imagine fasting from 3am to 8:30pm, no food or even WATER. I’d be grumpy as hell and not very productive. I can’t help but think they must lose a lot of work productivity for this month.

The trail markers aren’t the easiest to follow with all of the random trails heading out to random plots for farming scattered about, but we find it and descend into Love Valley, so named for the phallic like hoodoos that can be found here.

The trail is quiet and we’re the only ones on it. It’s still early, and Turkey is especially quiet in the mornings now that Ramadan has been in full swing for a good month. We wander our way down the side of a tuft formation that feels very grippy like sandstone eventually finding our way to the valley floor. Here it’s green and wooded and side trails split and rejoin all the time. Basically there is no way to really get lost as long as you’re headed down the valley.

Most the way down we start to recognize familiar sights from our hot air balloon ride like the camel hoodoo. As we get further along and closer to the end we see more and more hoodoos shaped in the peculiar name that gives the valley its name. The trail isn’t that long though and before we know it we’ve popped out at the road on the other side.

We see a bus go wising past but there is no way to flag it down. We elect reaching the road to head towards town, some of the buses only run once every hour and we’re about 4km out, we can hike that in about an hour if we keep a solid pace. We’re hoping now to make breakfast though if we miss it, we can always find food in town. We kept glancing back for anything that sounded like a bus, but we were in Göreme without a single bus having passed us. We reached the hotel 30 minutes before breakfast ended, just enough time to eat, shower and pack before check out!

Now what to do with the rest of the day? We need cash again for the bus… so off to find an ATM and then lunch. Only all of the ATMs in town seem to be not working. We try 6 without success. A Chilean pair of girls are having the same trouble. No error, just failed to make a transaction. We decide to find a lunch spot and had been recommended Firen for pide and they take credit cards.

Back on the hunt for an ATM we run into the Chilean girls again and they’ve met with success at the only bank in town, so we head there to try our luck. This one works a bit further, far enough along to tell me that my card’s expiration date has passed. Sure enough, since the last time I used it we’d ticked over to July 2014 and my debit card was no expired. What the heck Wells Fargo? Shouldn’t I have received a new debit card months ago? Why cut it so close! We had checked the mail right before leaving, so it’s probably at the post office right now on hold waiting to be released to our home. Jenn’s card though works. She’s now the sole provider of cash.

Somehow we end up striking up a conversation with a Chinese-American from Boise outside the bank. She’s been working in Eastern Turkey for two years now teaching English. She’s on summer break though for the moment and is on vacation, exploring her options for schools as she goes for when her contract finished at the end of the year. We talk about where we’re going, and what the summer has been like at our different stops. So far Cappadocia has had the most temperate weather which usually isn’t the case when comparing inland areas with the coastal waterways. We end up talking for quite a while when a white woman walks past on crutches and her foot in a brace. I ask her what happened to her foot and she sits down on the couches in front of the bank with us.

It turns out she’s also from North America, a Canadian from Alberta living in Göreme. She had come to visit about 6 months ago and went horseback riding with the Dalton Brothers, only she had such a great time and lots of experience riding and was invited to come work for them. She didn’t have much going on at home so she agreed and 3 months later her she was, living in Cappadocia leading horse tours through the mountains. She’d even gotten together with another of the guides. She lives in one of the cave houses and one day about a week ago leaving home she slipped a bit weird and broke her toe. Apparently the insurance system here is worse than in America and before an hour had passed in the hospital she was in a surgical ward without a single bit of English having her foot pinned. She thinks it’s completely unnecessary and probably would have been happy to just let it heal on its own, but here she is with pins sticking out of her foot all the same. I told her about my toes and I get a grimace out of her. She’s decided it’s time to go home while she heals since she can’t work and sort out moving her stuff to a storage unit and what not before coming back a bit more long term.

It’s interesting to wind up having a conversation for over an hour with two people who had come to Turkey on vacation and ended up staying long term.

We decided we had to get something else done today so we decided to hike up to the open air museum. The walk was more uphill at the end than I thought, and today was much hotter than the previous two. Trying not to get stinky we walk slowly and take our time. The museum is crowded with people and it’s hard to get around. We get an audio tour to help explain things, only it’s pretty damn horrible. The only bits that have any information are all Christianity related. I’m guessing that’s where the money has come from to put the tour together and maintain the museum because they sure don’t want to explain why there are these table like things carved out of the floor. Or what a particular nondescript room was used for. I’m interested in culture more than religion, and often these are intertwined, but hell if you could tell here. We arrive at the main church of the tour, and they want MORE MONEY. We already paid our entrance fee! What the hell! We skip it, frustrated, and leave. We’ve already wasted so much money and I doubt it’s half as cool as the churches we saw on our hike, the rest of the museum hasn’t been.

We walk back nearly as slowly as we walked up to the museum, and along the way a guy driving past looks over at us. I give him a friendly nod and then a bit further down the road he stops and offers a ride to Göreme. He’s an older gentleman with a newish car. We’re not going far and accept his offer. After we’ve gone a half mile I tell him “Thank You” but he misunderstands thinking we’re at our destination and pulls over to let us out. We’re confused but don’t know how to explain so we get out. He looks back at me a bit miffed like why did you accept a ride for so little distance? Apparently I had better luck with non-verbal communication. Oh well, it got us past the one hill on our way, so that’s something.

Back at the hotel we wait for our pickup. We have extra time and it’s a chance for me to catch up a bit on my journals. I’m so far behind I feel like I have little hope of catching up, and I’m now writing Day 11’s journal detailing our Balloon flights and horseback riding which ends up taking up some 4000 words. It’s great fun to look back through the photos though, it was such a cool experience.

Our airport transfer is a crazyman, he’s so fast through the narrow winding streets of Göreme; it seems like an inevitability he’s going to hit someone or something. On the open highway it’s not any better, the van drifts and he corrects harshly. Sometimes he drives while texting, others he has one foot sitting crosslegged on his lap. Happy to be gone we rush into the airport feeling a bit behind schedule with 45 minutes to board. It doesn’t help that the guy doing the xrays at the entrance (an extra layer of security they have in Turkey that they don’t have in The States), hurries us through. But once we check in we have to wait 15 minutes before they let us go through security to the gate. There is only our flight and a later one this evening.

Jenn is hungry but the food options are limited, and once we get to Istanbul we don’t really have options for a while. On the flight though they tell us they have a limited time offer for Ramadan of 50% off. We’re a little before the time when the call to prayer would be telling them they can eat again so maybe it’s to drum up sales? Suddenly expensive airplane food is reasonably priced and we get a couple of sandwiches and a coke. Much better.

At the airport as we exit there is a line of people with names on papers for airport transfers. We don’t have one this time, but it would be incredibly convenient. One of the guys sees me looking at the names wishing mine was one of them and asks if we have a transfer. I tell him we don’t and he asks where are we going? I tell him Sultanhemet and he says great, he can take us, and indicates for us to stand over by others with his group. Really he’s organizing group taxis at a flat rate, but 30€ each puts us at under half what we were expecting to pay for a taxi. We’re paired up with a pair of Dutch people, a young woman graduating from high school and a much older man who seems old to be her father. We’re the first to get dropped off, but our hotel Elanaz is hard to find and even once we’re in the area we drive around for a good half hour with the driver eventually getting turn by turn directions from the front desk to find it. It’s now just past midnight as we check in.

The hotel is interesting, it’s a tiny building 7 stories tall, but only with enough room for two small rooms on each side of an elevator. Everything is minimalist in space, but efficient and pleasant. Like Minu it feels a bit Ikea like, but it works. Wonderfully for tomorrow though, it’s quite centrally located.

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