15.03.2013 - 15.03.2013 20 °C
Today we left city life behind and went for a trek through the Ihlara Canyon. Since Dad's back wasn't exactly in peak condition, Abby, Mom, and I started off without him. We'd planned for him to pick us up at the other side of the canyon. It was a warm, windy day, and we were thrilled with the good timing of the weather. Apparently it's going to drop from 20 °C to 0 °C tomorrow, as well as rain. Lucky timing on our part.
There are a number of old caves that were used for churches and dwellings carved into the sides of the canyon. Our first stop was at one of these churches, which was covered in fading frescoes. Unfortunately there was quite a bit of graffiti, but it was still beautiful, and full of twists and turns and hidey holes. We went further into the cave, climbing up steep, dusty steps in order to reach the second storey. One of the rooms was pitch black, and as I ventured further into it, I stepped into one of the many sunken areas of the caves, and dropped a couple feet into the darkness. It gave Abby and Mom a scare, and certainly got my blood pumping. I was warier of the other shadowy, cavernous unknowns I encountered after that.
We continued along the trail, and soon came across a tea and snack shop, with several tables and chairs constructed from stumps spread across the path. The owner definitely has the best location he could hope for. We were urged to sit down and buy a tea, but we refused, astounded that anyone could drink hot tea in this weather. He persisted, however, and presented us with two refrigerators filled with juice and Fanta. So we ended up purchasing a couple of the overpriced drinks and settling down on the stumps. Turns out the fridges were just for show, as the drinks were as warm as the water in our backpacks. We were also instantly visited by swarms of pesky flies, so we quickly moved on.
The walk was fairly flat and smooth, and the scenery was gorgeous. The only downside was the buzzing, biting flies that would attack whenever the wind died down. Marvelling at the towering cliffs about us, we nearly missed the steadily approaching orange dot on the trail. Then Abby yelled "Daddy!" and barrelled towards it. Dad had decided to take a shot at the trek, as it had been one of his highlights when he planned the Turkey leg (haha) of our trip. Though he was bent like a nail hit by an amateur carpenter, he wasn't in half the pain he was yesterday. We were happy he'd gotten to have at least part of the canyon experience.
We stopped at another church that was quite similar to the first, though more open and decorated with frescoes that seemed to have done better at surviving the elements. There were more cliff-side dwellings nearby as well, but they were a little out of reach for the casual hiker.
We passed the parking lot and ticket booth, and started on the next portion of our walk. We parted ways with Dad once more, who decided he'd do the same thing as before and drove to the other end of the trail. The three of us continued alongside the stream running through the centre of the canyon, taking it all in. Eventually, our level riverside path gave way to rockier terrain. We climbed higher and higher up and along the boulder strewn side of the cliff, and ended up coming across a flock of sheep being lead up and over the rocks by a pair of shepherds. A couple of the braver animals kept to the path until forced to skirt around us, but most scampered off the trail as soon as they saw us coming. We in turn had to avoid the numerous droppings covering the path for the next few hundred metres.
At the seven kilometre mark, we spotted a sign that pointed upwards towards another cliff-side mosque. It took some scrambling off the beaten path to reach, but it provided a nice if mainly beige view of the canyon. We opened up our packs and made a lunch of the fruit, nuts and seeds we'd brought along. Relaxing in the cool of the cave, Mom told us that she was perfectly content. Abby was quick to point out that this meant Mom was happier without Dad there, which may have tainted the sentiment a bit. But it really was a great moment. I think that even Dad agrees that it's good for the three of us to have some time without his male influence.
Getting back down to the trail was a bit more difficult that climbing up, but we managed alright. We continued walking, and soon spotted the orange dot again. Reunited, we completed our tour of the Ihlara Canyon. At this end of the canyon rests the Selime Cathedral, a labyrinth of stairs and caves and fairy chimneys. Here's a video that will give you a much better idea of what it was like than I can. Let's just say it's nothing like Notre Dame. We entertained ourselves exploring the cathedral for the better part of an hour, and left just as a horde of tourists ascended. I'm going to miss the off season.
We returned to our hotel tired and slightly sunburnt. Mom and Dad went to see the Kizil Kilise, or Red Church, which they summed up as nice but nothing special. They also tried and failed to find Monastery Valley. We'll give it another shot tomorrow. We had dinner at the hotel again, and were served much more than we could ever eat, all of it tasty. Through our meals here we've learned that Turkish food isn't all döner and durum and pide, though you can always expect three or four kinds of starch on your plate.
Tomorrow is a travel day, and we'll be off to Göreme, a town about an hour and a half from Güzelyurt. Wow, two umlauts in a row.