Posts Tagged ‘Goreme’

Today we were up bright and early to catch our 6:10 shuttle to the airport for our flight to Izmir… Unfortunately, the bug Caitlin had hopped back to me and I was feeling pretty crappy (pun intended) and wasn’t moving too quickly this morning… Marie and Caitlin helped pack up the last things and we made it to the shuttle – more or less on time… We picked up one more set of travellers from another hotel and then the driver – apparently cognizant of being a couple minutes behind schedule – floored it and headed for Kayseri airport (about an hour away) at warp speed… Not a good idea in a fully loaded van driving on cobblestone roads and poor quality paved roads… After about 10 minutes at warp factor 9, a loud bang followed by a telltale thumpity-thumpity-thumpity ride signalled a blown out tire… We didn’t mind as our flight didn’t leave until 9:10 but there were some very stressed people on the bus as it dawned on them that they were going to miss their flights… We all piled out of the van (and a few of us pitched in and helped as best we could to speed up the process) and eventually the damaged tire was replaced and we were good to go again… Of course, we were even further behind so the driver cranked it up to warp factor 10 and did a passable impression of a Formula One racer as he darted in and out of traffic, around buses, through red lights, etc.

We arrived at the airport in a literal cloud of dust and squealing tires… Everyone piled out and joined the huge queue of people waiting to get into the airport (remember, here you have to go through security to get into the airport). Our luck held out as they opened up a new screening station right in front of us so we made it in before a lot of other people and headed for the Pegasus check-in counter. At this airport they did the check-in by flight (which made a lot more sense than the gong show we encountered in Istanbul) so we were able to check-in quickly and then headed for a completely deserted waiting lounge on the second floor… Where I promptly stretched out and tried to sleep… The Immodiums I’d popped back at the hotel were doing their job but I was still feeling lousy… Just as I started to drift off, a couple of kids arrived intent on testing the acoustics of the empty room by yelling and screaming at the top of their lungs (I’m not exaggerating here… they literally yelled, shrieked, screamed, etc. with abandon and a complete lack of parent supervision). Luckily Marie and Caitlin returned and prevented me from stuffing the screaming tots in a garbage bin…

We hung out for a bit longer and then it was time to board the plane… Air Canada take note… When a plane has exits at the front and back it’s super fast to load the plane (and unload it) if you use both exits… I know… It seems like a radical idea but it works! The flight was uneventful (save for a bit of confusion we created when we told them we didn’t want the chicken sandwiches we’d ordered… They were the same as the ones on the last flight and some things you can only eat once in a lifetime…). Then it was into Izmir airport to wait for our bags… I think they loaded each bag onto the conveyor one at a time… With a smoke break in between bags… Ours were among the very last bags to show up on the carousel (about an hour after the flight landed)… Then we made the trek to the International Arrivals level to find our car rental agency…

We picked up our car (given that the girl at the counter spoke very little English and we speak no Turkish, I’m not sure if we have insurance but it’s all good)… Only problem… they have no GPSs to rent… No problem… We’ll just use the airport’s free WiFi to google maps a route… No free WiFi… No problem… We’ll just drive around until we find a McDonald’s and use WiFi to get a route to Pamukkale…

Can you believe there’s an airport in the world that doesn’t have a McDonald’s right nearby… After driving white-knuckled for about half an hour (remember, I’m operating on little sleep and feeling crappy still and am now in Turkish traffic) we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere with no WiFi restaurants anywhere around… So we pull out the iPhone, fire up the cellular data and start roaming (at $9.99 per 20MB). We leave the data on long enough to get a route and use the iPhone as a GPS to get us out of Izmir and onto the right road to Pamukkale (about 3 hours away).

Partway along we stop at a Burger King (not by choice…we do our best to stay away from fast food both in Canada and while travelling but we were desperate for WIFI and it was 2 pm and we were getting by on baby cookies since 6:00 am – so a few chicken tenders would tide us over).  The Burger King restaurant itself was kind of cool – the restaurant was built spanning all 6 lanes of a 6 lane divided highway so you’re sitting and eating above the roadway… Definitely never seen that in Canada.

Once we got to Denizili things got a little complicated (helped, no doubt, by me feeling way under the weather by this point) as we missed a couple of turns and had to do some backtracking but eventually we made our way to the hotel where we checked in around 7 pm and I promptly crashed for the night…

Marie and Caitlin went for a swim, had dinner and played some cards (while checking on me occasionally) and then called it a night as well – but not before dosing me up with enough Gravol and Tylenol to possibly cash in on my life insurance.   Hopefully I’m feeling better tomorrow because I’ve been looking forward to Pamukkale for a long time.

After hot-air ballooning, Marie and I headed back to the hotel and let Caitlin (who was still sleeping) know that the balloon hadn’t crashed and that we had survived… I think she mumbled something along the lines of “that’s good” or maybe it was “go away and let me sleep.” In any case, we decided to let her sleep a little longer so Marie went and found a comfy lounge chair in the sun to catch up on her emails while I went to the restaurant and had some tea and worked on the blog and sorted pictures from the trip. Eventually we figured that Caitlin needed food more than sleep so we woke her up and we all headed up for the hotel’s breakfast… Marie and I figured that since we were staying in a cave hotel which is really a hole in the ground, we could act like hobbits and have second breakfast… We were earlier this morning so Efe was there to make some scrambled eggs (as promised) for Caitlin and I tried some Menemen (http://turkishcooking.biz/menemen-classic-turkish-breakfast-dish/) a mixture of tomatoes, peppers, scrambled eggs and spices… It was delicious!

After breakfast, it was time for showers and getting cleaned up and then up and out for our last day of adventures in Cappadocia. First up, we rented a scooter (for me) and a quad (for Caitlin and Marie) and went for a 1 hour tour of some of the valleys around Goreme. It was a ton of fun as we bombed around on some of the backroads around the town and checked out some of the valleys and sights… There wasn’t much of a “tour” but it was a lot of fun driving the bikes and Marie and Caitlin got a kick of the ATV… especially Marie’s tendency to close her eyes whenever they went down a steep hill.

After our motorbike tour,  it was time to grab some lunch. We picked a place where you lounge on little sofas instead of sitting at chairs and a table… It was quite comfy and the food was decent and lounging on the sofas felt quite decadent.The only complaint was the flies… They were brutal and we ended up bailing out sooner than we would have liked because they were driving us crazy (mainly Caitlin who does this whole spastic seizure thing every time a fly touches her).

After lunch, Marie and Caitlin went souvenir shopping while I went to find a traditional barber for my straight-razor shave. What an experience that was… As I walked up to the barbershop, there’s three guys sitting outside on the bench smoking… One of them gets up and seeing the 6 days of growth on my chin makes a shaving motion (or maybe it was a throat-slitting motion… it was hard to tell) and gestures for me to follow him inside… He points to a chair and gestures for me to sit… So I do. As I settle in the chair, a younger guy (an assistant or apprentice perhaps) comes over with a  tin cup with a bar of soap in it and they drape a couple of towels over me covering me from neck to crotch (this concerns me a little… I mean how messy is this going to be?).

Once I’m all covered up, the barber starts the process of lathering me up for the shave… This is apparently an art in itself as he lathers up the brush and covers my face in thick creamy soap at least 5 times… I can’t see anything without my glasses on but by the time he’s done lathering my face, I must look like Santa Claus… Then he pulls out the straight razor and gets down to business… One of the main reasons I’m doing this straight-razor thing is because of a story I teach in my Grade 11 English classes – “Just Lather, That’s All” (some of you might remember it from when you were in high-school). It’s a story about a barber with revolutionary leanings who, while shaving the face of a ruthless counter-revolutionary leader, contemplates slitting the throat of the man while he is helpless in the chair… I’ve never had a straight-razor shave so thought I should experience one to get more out of the story… Let’s just say there were a few moments where I was sitting in the chair, head tilted back, throat exposed thinking of the barber in that story…

There was nothing to worry about… A few deft strokes and the job was done. Then he’s lathering me up and doing it all over again to make sure he got all the whiskers… Then the rest of the experience starts… First he pulls out the scissors and trims my hairline and sideburns and makes sure that everything is neat and tidy. Then he pulls out a plastic tub and carefully pulls the lid off and grabs a paint brush and proceeds to slather the contents all over my face… Then heads out for a smoke… At first I’m thinking this is just something they do to make the tourists look stupid… after all I’m sitting there with what amounts to a face mask on… Until I see another guy (an obvious local) come back inside with his face all painted up as well… After about 15 minutes this stuff has hardened to the consistency of a plaster cast and has burned all the remaining hair (and a goodly portion of skin) off my face… Finally the barber returns and bends me over the little sink in front of the chair and washes it all off… I’m sure this technique is where the CIA got its inspiration for water-boarding… Then he pulls out a roll of thread and puts one end in his teeth and then makes a complicated “cats’ cradle” type string thing with his hands… Which he then scissors back and forth over my nose and cheeks and forehead… The net effect of this threading process is to pull out any small hairs left on my face… It brings tears to my eyes… Then he pulls out a pair of electric clippers and trims my eyebrows, nose hairs, ears and neck… Then it’s a pair of scissors up the nose to get the hairs halfway between my nostrils and my brain… Then he pulls out a long piece of wire with a cotton ball at the end and dips it in the solution they use to sterilize the combs… Apparently that’s so he can then light it on fire and whack it against my ears to get the hairs the clippers couldn’t reach… Gotta say, I wasn’t expecting to have my ears lit on fire today… And yes, yes it does burn a little…

Then it’s time for a massage… Which basically consists of him pinching and twisting and jabbing his fingers into my shoulders, neck and back… It was not relaxing… Nor was the arm massage he gave which consisted of a couple of “rope burns” (you remember those from elementary school… grab a person’s forearm with both hands and then twist your hands in opposite directions…)… After beating the crap out of me for a couple minutes, it was time to slather on a final “cleansing” and “cooling” lotion… Not really… basically he pours about a gallon of what – judging from the way it stung – must have been pure rubbing alcohol on my freshly shaved, clipped, threaded and “massaged” face… To say it stung a little would be an understatement… In all the process took about 40 minutes and left me feeling pretty squared away and tidied up… Although as far as the shave went, I found it was about as smooth as I can get from a shave with one of the fancy 5 blade razors I usually use…

After the shave it was back to the hotel with enough time to change my clothes before my ride arrived to take me for my sunset ATV tour…

At the ATV place, I was given a hair net (to wear under the helmet) and a German soldier style helmet and sent out to pick a quad from a lineup of about 15 bikes… We got about 5 minutes of “this makes you go… this makes you stop…” instructions and were told repeatedly to “keep 5 metres between next rider” and then headed out for our 2.5 hr tour… It was fun. We bombed around on the bikes over a bunch of backroads and through some of the valleys until we ended up at Love Valley for the sunset… The only downside to the whole experience was the dust… It wasn’t bad if you were near the front of the line of quads but at the back it was brutal… Especially when you have people who think it’s fun to zig-zag back and forth creating huge clouds of dust for anyone unfortunate enough to be stuck behind them… And the ride back was even dustier as there must have been 100 quads from various companies gathered at Love Valley to watch the sunset… In all though, it was a good time.

While I was quadding, Marie and Caitlin went horseback riding…

This is Caitlin’s version of what occurred…

I thought horse back riding would be a really good idea. So I went into this imagining a beautiful horse, a beautiful sunset and hopefully a beautiful cowboy that happened to look just like Hugh Jackman’s character from Australia. I also thought that the riding would be easy because I had ridden twice before, albeit this was when I was very young, but I figured it would be just like riding a bike. Well I was partially right about what happened… The horse was definitely beautiful, I read in the Lonely Planet that the owner of the ranch (Dalton Brothers) trained wild horses and there is no question that they are well cared for. The sunset was also absolutely gorgeous. They took us up to the top of a rock castle where there was a nice viewpoint and gave us about thirty minutes to explore. Mom and I were told by one of the guides that there was a rock church just down the hill so we set off to find it trying to follow his mumbled instructions of down there and left…or right. We couldn’t find it and didn’t want to run out of time so we turned back and realized that in five minutes we had gotten lost. Only my mother and I could get lost going back the way we came but somehow we did and spent a couple minutes scratching our heads and looking around but we eventually made it up to the top. The next part was the highlight of the whole trip for me. THERE WERE PUPPIES!!! 1 MONTH OLD PUPPIES!!! They were quite possibly the cutest things alive (with the exception of my dog Ladybug, she’s obviously the cutest thing alive and we miss her and love her) and at 1 month were very content to be picked up and played with. The people that owned them/looked after them/used them as pick up lines on unsuspecting female tourists that just want to play with puppies said they were the only ones left from a litter of seven. Anyways they were cute and provided a nice happy thing for me to think about for the rest of our interesting journey. So now I was right about two things from my little ranch fantasy but on the other two…not so much. The “turkish cowboy” looked nothing like Hugh Jackman and spoke no English. Every time I panicked he would look back and go “ok, no problem” and then resume chain smoking. Now I think I might be being a little unfair because he was actually pretty safety conscious and good with the horses but it would have been nice to have a guide that was able to explain where we were and who could speak/understand a little bit of English in the event of a problem. None of this would have been a problem however, if I had been right about riding horses being like riding a bike. We had explained to the owner of our hotel that we had very little experience and that we hoped that it wouldn’t be a problem. His response was that it should be fine and he would make sure they gave us nice horses…or a donkey… Halfway through the ride, I began to regret not asking for a donkey. When we got to the ranch they put me up on the horse, gave me the reins and said left is left, right is right and pull is stop and then we were off. Now let me get one thing straight, horses are tall and that means when you ride them you are a long ways from the ground and I’m very much afraid of heights. So right now I have no clue how to steer the horse, it feels nothing like I remembered from the safe little trail rides I did when I was eight and I am swaying in a saddle that would never pass Canadian safety standards and we are going up and down steep little trails that if the horse steps wrong it’s going down with me on top. Long story short, I was terrified. At first, I thought I just needed to get used to it but after twenty minutes of the horse going wherever it wanted (it was really hungry and kept wandering off to eat) I was almost ready to get down and walk. However, after the umpteenth time of the horse leaving the trail and me panicking, the guide either got fed up with having to stop or felt really bad for me and got down and attached a rope to the horse that he held for the rest of the ride. This helped a lot; however, I never felt really comfortable until we were back at the ranch two hours later and I was safely on the ground. Now I realize that I’m making this sound a bit like the horse ride from Hell, however, I actually really enjoyed the experience and it was a great way to see Goreme and the fairy chimneys and I would like to try riding again although maybe at home…with a guide that speaks english…and maybe on a pony…or a donkey!

This is Marie’s version of what happened:

So here’s what really happened during Caitlin and Marie’s most excellent horseback riding adventure in Goreme, Turkey. Caitlin and I had been really looking forward to horseback riding long before we left Canada. So the day arrived on the heels of Caitlin recovering from having her first ever bout of traveller’s illness. But the lure of the horses helped her improve. The company we choose, based on the various online reviews, Dalton Brother’s, came and picked us up from our Pensuine, private car nonetheless, just for the two of us. This was a good start considering the very small number of recent reviews that weren’t exactly glowing from previous participants (like the horses threw five riders during one group’s ride, or the trails were too narrow and steep for the horses and riders to handle). Having read those prior to heading out did create a wee pause and question of what we had got ourselves into, however, the staff at the Pensuine had recommended them and they hadn’t steered us wrong yet. 

We arrived at the little ranch just past 4:30 pm after a very short ride. It looked at first like it was just going to be Caitlin and I but then we chatted with a newlywed couple from France who were the only other riders. The guy was clearly nervous. They handed us the same baseball style helmets we used previously that afternoon for ATV’ing and showed us to our new four legged best friends for the next 2+ hours. 

Other than my saddle looking like it came from Toys’r’Us (you know the clear plastic kind that go with the plastic horse!).  It had a cover on it, not entirely sure what it was made of, and no saddle horn to hoist oneself up and down with or to hang on to.   As we started out with me behind the guide and Caitlin behind me, all was going well, until the guide looks back and says, “from Afganistan, no English.” It was going to be an interesting ride…

So I’m happily riding along and I look back to check on Caitlin and ask her how she’s doing. To my utter shock (because she was so pumped and excited to be doing this prior to actually getting on the horse) I see a statue frozen in utter terror, that mostly resembles my daughter, holding the reins of the horse in a death grip, which of course is giving her poor horse whip lash, preventing it from seeing where to step because Caitlin’s grip has the horse’s head looking straight up into the sky. I ask her if she is okay and I receive a very feeble “not sure, it’s kinda high up here”. 

It will help put things into context to know that before we left we asked the owner of the Pensiune to let the driver know we were inexperienced riders.  We chatted for a few minutes with them and the owner jokingly suggested to Caitlin that she ride a donkey. At one point during the actual trail ride I heard Caitlin say “they should have given me a donkey”. 

Very early on into the ride Caitlin’s horse decided she was tired of the view of the sky and decided to take charge and put her head down and forage for food. This caused Caitlin some concern. I asked the guide to stop as Caitlin’s horse was going to show Caitlin who the boss was and start to walk off the trail and up the side of a wee mountain. I tried to motion to the guide that she was nervous and he finally understood and hooked a lead rope to Caitlin’s horse and they walked together in tandem. This helped immensely.

About an hour later we got to the top of a viewpoint, dismounted (my butt was very sore) and Caitlin announced she was walking back.   We milled around the viewpoint for half an hour, played with adorable one month old puppies, took some pics, had a good laugh when Caitlin and I managed to get ourselves a wee bit turned around on a very short trail while looking for an old cave church one of the guides suggested we go see. The path had two directions, once we walked the 20 feet to it from where we left the horses, you then turned left or right. We choose left, didn’t find the church, and then overshot the steps to go back up.  Caitlin said “don’t tell dad!”  Clearly, Caitlin and I have the odd navigational challenge. 

After the puppy therapy Caitlin had found her zen place again and was able to get back on the horse. The ride down was good, Caitlin’s horse seemed to have forgiven her for the previous whiplash and we made it back all in one piece. My “Toys’r’Us” saddle provided me with the most colourful bruise and pretty amazing swelling on my butt, however, it was totally worth it.

 

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It seemed like we’d just fallen asleep when the alarm jolted us awake at 3:45am… We quickly brushed our teeth, got dressed in the dark (to disturb Caitlin as little as possible) and then headed out to meet our 4:15am pickup for Turkiye Balloons (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g297983-d3581662-Reviews-Turkey_Hot_Air_Balloons-Goreme_Cappadocia.html#REVIEWS). They’re the number #1 rated activity in Goreme and the #1 rated hot air balloon company so we felt pretty confident accepting the hotel’s recommendation to book with them.

Our driver arrived right at 4:20 – sans van as the road was so blocked with other vehicles that he couldn’t make it up the road – so we hoofed it down the road a little ways and piled into the van for the 5 minute drive to their restaurant/booking office where they provide a buffet breakfast (typical Turkish breakfast fare) while taking care of the administrivia – which basically consists of typing your name, sex and age into their computer – there were no waivers or liability insurance or anything (I can’t imagine the paperwork that would be involved in doing this back in Canada).

Then you’re sorted into vans based on where your hotel is and driven to the launch site. When you arrive, the balloons are attached to the baskets and the ground crew is in the process of inflating the massive balloons with high powered gas fans… When the balloons are partially inflated they fire up (literally) the hot air part of the process and start firing huge jets of propane fuelled flame into the balloons… Once the balloon is upright, they start loading you into the baskets (24 to a basket) and once everyone is ready they release the ground lines and you rise slowly into the air. Just before you cast off, one of the ground crew climbs aboard to tell everyone that the pilot has no control over where the balloon goes and can only control up and down… Marie was not terribly impressed by this piece of news. There’s virtually no sensation of movement when you take off and, when the jets aren’t firing, the whole thing is almost silent… Marie was pretty nervous leading up to the take off but relaxed as soon as we were off the ground and moving as it’s so smooth and they stay pretty close to the ground to start…

Shortly after takeoff, though, we were skimming the ground at a stately pace and edging up the hills leading to the valley and the panoramic views of Cappadocia. It’s pretty magical as you rise slowly above the landscape (which is impressive in its own right) and on one side you’re seeing the sun “rise” against the hills and in front of you there are around 100 balloons of all shapes and sizes and colours spread out across the sky… It’s hard to know what to look at as your eyes are drawn to a particular balloon then to the colour of the sky then you realize you’re hundreds of feet above ground as you’re passing over one of the many valleys. The whole time our pilot, I’m sure, is showing off as he drops us perfectly into one valley after another and then perfectly gauges the ascent so we just skim over the land as we come back up… There were a few times we weren’t quite sure if we were going to clear the land but he gauged it perfectly each time.

The hour passes quickly in a blur of breathtaking vistas and the exhilaration of floating through the air… But then it’s time to get some altitude and the pilot fires up all four of the burners and we start rising fairly rapidly… 500 metres, 600 metres, 700 metres, 800 metres and we’re now above almost all the other balloons and can see the earth curving off in the distant blue haze…

Then you’re descending gently and heading for an open field as the ground crew chases the balloon with the vans and the support vehicles and the balloon pilot is gesturing this way and that predicting where the winds will bring the balloon… Although the pilot’s in perfect control of the balloon, it’s clear from his “yuck yuck yuck” that the wind is taking him someplace other than he’d like to go and at one point we literally skim the top of a tree (we could hear and feel the topmost branches brushing against the bottom of the basket as we passed over). Once past the tree and other obstacles, we all assume the landing position (knee bent, facing away from the direction of travel and braced against the frame of the basket) and touch down with a gentle thud in some farmer’s potato field as the pilot opens the top of the balloon and releases much of the hot air… As the balloon’s momentum threatens to tip the basket, the ground crew is there hanging on and pulling the balloon back down to the ground… There’s a final moment or two of struggle as the balloon tries to get airborne once more but the pull of the land (and a half dozen beefy guys) is too much and everything comes to a stop… The lines and halyards are disconnected and the balloon slowly deflates and lies flat on the ground while the elated passengers climb out and mill around talking excitedly amongst themselves.

The ground crew quickly sets up a table and starts pouring glasses of celebratory champagne (and grape juice for the kids) and they hand out commemorative certificates. Then it’s back in the van and back to the hotel by 7:30… just in time to download the pictures and type up this blog entry while Caitlin sleeps.

If you’re in Cappadocia, don’t even think about whether to do the hot air ballooning or not… Do it. You won’t regret it. It’s super expensive (€130 per person and that’s the discounted cash price) but there’s just no better way to see this amazing landscape and the ballooning experience itself is indescribable…. I don’t know what all the companies are like and with so many balloons up at any one time I’m sure there are some sketchy experiences but we found Turkiye Balloons to be very safe and very professional and our pilot made it all look effortless… Marie was pretty nervous (she didn’t sleep well at all) leading up to the flight but enjoyed it immensely… It’s nothing at all like any other form of flying and it feels incredibly safe…

All in all, it was a great way to start our last day in Goreme and a highlight of the trip… It’s too bad Caitlin wasn’t able to join us but she did enjoy the extra 4 hours of sleep…

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So the bug that got Marie and I earlier in the trip took Caitlin out today… She woke up at about 3am feeling really lousy and none of us got back to sleep for a while… so it wasn’t until well after 9 that Marie and I got up. At that point Caitlin really didn’t feel up to much of anything so she stayed in bed while Marie and I went to get some breakfast (included with the room).

After breakfast, Caitlin was awake but feeling pretty poorly so she and Marie decided to watch a movie while I got caught up on the blog and backed up all the pictures and whatnot. I went for a brief walk around the town (it’s pretty small although the maze of streets and cave houses, hotels and pensions makes it seem much larger when you’re walking around). When I got back, Marie and I went out for a bite to eat while Caitlin slept a bit more then we all curled up and watched movies until just after 6 when Caitlin felt up to going for a bit of a walk and grabbing something to drink (she still has no appetite but that was the case for Marie too who didn’t really eat anything for 2 days).

Adding to Caitlin’s feeling poorly through the day was her feeling bad that Marie and I weren’t able to to anything special for our anniversary (our 23rd)… We kept telling her that it was kind of nice to have some down time after the chaos of Istanbul and that we’d built extra time into our stay in Goreme so we could have some downtime but she just kept apologizing for it being a crappy day (then giggling and saying “no pun intended” – if she can still make bad jokes she’ll probably live).

During the afternoon, we made plans with Efe (the hotel’s concierge/gofer/front desk guy/breakfast guy) for what we’re going to do tomorrow.

Marie and I are going to get up at the ungodly time of 3:30am to be picked up by Turkiye Balloons to do the sunrise hot air balloon tour over Cappadocia. It’s the most expensive thing we’ve ever done traveling (€130 per person for transportation to the launch site/breakfast/a 60 minute balloon tour and commemorative certificate and traditional champagne toast upon landing (assuming all goes well of course) but it’s a must-do activity on pretty much every guide book, blog and review of things to do in Turkey so we don’t want to pass it up. I’m looking forward to some spectacular pictures… Marie is hoping she won’t spend the 60 minutes in abject terror… Caitlin decided not to do it because she’s not sure she’ll be feeling up to it and doesn’t want to have to cancel (and lose the money) and is worried that she wouldn’t like it because of the heights… Because it’s so early we’ll be back before she wakes up so it should work out okay.

Unless the balloon crashes… then she will be locked in the room because of the European locks which require the key to lock or unlock the room from the inside… We’ve encountered these locks almost everywhere we’ve stayed and can’t see the reason for them – they’re a huge hazard in the event of fire and don’t seem to be any more secure than a knob that turns or a deadbolt… Presumably there’s some advantage to them…

After we get back we’ll probably grab a power nap while Caitlin sleeps for a bit more and then we’ll all grab breakfast (Efe has promised to make Caitlin an omelette if she’s up and about so that should get her out of bed… if he throws in pancakes she’ll drag herself there no matter how she’s feeling). After breakfast, we’ll hang out for a bit in town (if Caitlin is feeling up to it we’ll probably do a bit of exploring or maybe rent some scooters or a car to go a bit farther afield as many of the attractions are in other towns). I’ll probably spend a bit of time getting an old-fashioned straight razor shave – something the Cappadocia region is quite well-known for… I’ve even been letting the beard grow for the past week so the barber will have something to work with. Marie and Caitlin will probably take advantage of me spending 5 lira (about $2.50 cdn) on a shave to go to the spa or the turkish bath or something and will come back all pampered and massaged…

For the evening, Caitlin and Marie will be going horseback riding while I go for a sunset quad tour… Apparently the horses here are too small to carry anyone over 200lbs so that leaves me out… and truth be told, I’m more interested in getting some good sunset pictures than the experience of horseback riding so it’s probably all for the best. We’ll be quadding and horseback riding until about 8:30 and then it will be time to grab some dinner and call it a night…

That’s it for our day in Cappadocia. It’s actually been nice to have the down time… the hotel is super comfortable (one of the nicest rooms we ever had anywhere) and it’s been very quiet and cool and the staff has been awesome. Efe in particular has been amazing – made Caitlin mint tea, brought her a small bowl of salad to try and settle her stomach, gave her the pillow off his chair when we were all just sitting around outside and has been very concerned about how she’s feeling…

It’s just too bad Caitlin’s been feeling lousy and didn’t get to enjoy the down time as much as we did – hopefully she’s feeling better tomorrow.

It’s off to bed now… I’ve got a busy day tomorrow of hot air ballooning, straight razor shaves and quadding…  It’s hard to believe we’re heading into the last 2 weeks of our trip…

 

We rose bright and early at 5:30am to be down on the street to meet our driver at 6:15am… He was there right on time (a bit early even) and we piled our stuff into his van and headed for Sohiba airport (about 60km away). Because traffic can be a nightmare in Istanbul (one blogger reported taking 4 hrs to get from Sohiba to Taksim Square) we left ourselves plenty of time to get to the airport ahead of our 8:40 am departure.

Traffic was light so we got there around 7am. It’s a good thing we left early. When you get to the airport, you go through security right at the entrance (your luggage and everything goes through the scanner and you walk through the metal detector) so there’s a lineup (it moves pretty quickly). Then once you’re in, there’s a huge lineup for the Pegasus check-in. They have electronic check-in kiosks but once you’re checked in, if you have baggage you want to check you need to stand in the same lineup as everyone else. They have no Pegasus employees floating around or directing people to tell you this (I eventually found a supervisor and was able to ask him). At first the lineup was moving pretty quickly but then the chaos started. They kept pulling people out of the line (presumably for flights that were boarding) which moved the line forward but created huge backlogs at the actual check-in counters. And the people left in the line started yelling at the Pegasus staffers (one guy spent an extraordinary amount of time and energy explaining, we assume because it was all in Turkish, how to improve the system to a guy who was probably making minimum wage). The staffers yelled back. One poor woman who was hauling two large pieces of luggage and two young kids held it together admirably for about 40 minutes – until one of the Pegasus staffers chewed her out because her three year old tried to check himself in as baggage and was walking the conveyor belt… She lost it. He lost it. It wasn’t pretty. So a supervisor pulled her out of the queue to help… She was still standing in line at the supervisor’s wicket after we had checked-in. In all, it took us about an hour to drop off our three pieces of checked baggage (we’d already checked in electronically). The system would have worked a lot more smoothly if they’d had staffers floating to talk to people before they get in the lineup (ie. the people who checked in electronically but had no luggage to check who stood in line anyways) and if they had a baggage drop for those people who just need to drop luggage…

It was now just before 8am and our flight was scheduled to start boarding at 8:10am but we still needed to clear security. They had two sections – one for international flights and one for domestic and both had quite huge lineups. We entered the line for domestic security expecting to be there for a while but they opened up another security station and we made it through quite quickly – although the extensiveness of the security check was a bit questionable as Marie packed a full 500ml bottle of water through in her pack and I’m not sure the staff were even looking at the monitors… Although they did catch the guy whose belt set off the metal detector so that’s a good thing I guess. In any case, we made it through security and found our way to the boarding gate around 8:10 and waited for the buses to show up to take us to the plane. They started boarding quite late but this part of the process was pretty smooth… Being used to the more stringent security procedures in North American airports we were a little surprised that no one checked out passports (or any other ID) at any point during the entire process. Hopefully they’re more stringent with their international flights.

We took off a few minutes late (after the somewhat worrisome announcement from the cabin staff that the flight was bound for Kayseri and could people please check they were on the right plane…) and the flight was pretty routine. We’d paid in advance for a package that guaranteed seat selection and also provided a sandwich and drink on the flight (otherwise you get nothing… they must have studied the Air Canada domestic flight model). Our chicken sandwiches were “interesting” but appreciated given we had not had time to grab anything to eat at the airport as we’d planned due to the lengthy check-in process. Marie and I choked down a few bites of our sandwich (way too much mayonnaise for me and Marie just couldn’t stomach the chicken and peppers first thing in the morning… Caitlin managed to chow down on her whole sandwich by washing every bite down with a drink of cherry juice (we also got a full bottle of juice – a major bonus on domestic flights anywhere!) It was a pretty good value pack – for 8 lira you got a guaranteed seat, a sandwich and a drink… We felt bad though because we were those passengers (you know – the ones who get something to eat and drink before everyone else).

As we were part way through our sandwiches, the plane started its descent… I’m not an expert on air travel but this descent seemed awfully steep (as in about a 45° degree descent)… I sort of expected the oxygen masks to pop down. With a couple of little pockets of turbulence as we descended, we even got a couple of roller coaster style stomach lurches (Marie was not amused) but the cabin crew seemed unconcerned so it must have been normal for this flight. We landed without incident, picked up our luggage (eventually) and headed out to meet our shuttle bus (we’d booked on through our hotel) for the drive to Goreme (about an hour away). We loaded with about a dozen other passengers (including a young Asian couple who left their pack on the seat beside them despite the bus filling up pretty quickly… until another Asian traveller (not traveling with them) got on the bus and then they quickly moved their pack so she could sit… We were also joined by a young Turkish couple who quite literally talked non-stop for the entire hour… Leading me to this conclusion about people in general: in any public setting you will have people (like us) who talk in whispers and who essentially keep a private space within the public space and there’s another group of people who treat the public space as there own and carry on conversations at full volume, etc. as if there were no other people around… This couple were the latter type of people… They jabbered away and laughed and yelled as if they were the only two people on the bus. I slept on and off for a lot of the trip which is probably what saved their lives…

Eventually we arrived in Goreme and started the milk run of drop-offs at the various hotels (glad we didn’t try to find our place on our own – we’d have needed a GPS unit at least). We piled out of the van and headed into the reception area of our hotel. There was no one there so we headed up to the restaurant where Hassan – one of the young staffers at the hotel immediately greeted us, explained that our room wasn’t going to be ready for a couple of hours (it was only 11am after all so we weren’t expecting our room to be ready) and showed us some things to do and places to go while we waited.

So we changed into some lighter clothes and headed out to find something to eat. We stopped at one of the usual touristy restaurants offering a variety of Turkish and Turkish-style dishes and ate and drank our fill… Then headed for the Goreme Open Air Museum – a UNESCO World Heritage site… To say that it was hot would be an understatement of colossal proportions…. But that didn’t stop us from making the 1km or so trek to the museum (made longer by a couple of wrong turns)…. Once at the museum we joined the usual tour groups and started exploring the site. Basically it’s the remains of a small Christian community who made their homes and their churches and monasteries and nunneries in the fairy chimneys and rocks… It’s pretty cool. You have mini-cathedrals carved out of the rock and living spaces and kitchens, etc. all carved out of the rock with tunnels connecting the various spaces. There’s lots of places they won’t let you go and you can’t take pictures in any of the churches but overall it’s a great way to spend a couple of hours… At one point we stopped to play with an adorable 7 month old German Shepherd puppy (it was a good thing his owner was there or Marie and Caitlin would literally have stolen him and snuck him home in our luggage).

After exploring the “museum” we headed back to the hotel and checked-in to our room – which is really cool. We have one of the actual cave rooms so the whole space (even the bed platform) is carved from the rock. We all took advantage of the best shower we’ve ever had in a hotel (a true double rain shower) and cleaned off the grime of travelling and refresh ourselves a bit before heading out to get something to eat. We chowed down on some delicious pitas and played some cards before exploring some of the shops on the main tourist drag. Goreme is a small town entirely based on tourism so there are lots of shops and tour agencies booking balloon flights, ATV tours, horseback tours and bus tours of the various attractions in the area.

We’d been up early and were tired out from a week of exploring Istanbul so we headed back to the room around 10:30 and called it a night. Tomorrow we’ll make some plans for what to do with our two days in the area.

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