Friday, February 11, 2011

Ihlara Valley

Wednesday 5th May The Ihlara Valley.

Today was truly my downfall! After a lovely breakfast we met with our tour group and guide Fatih, aka Ryan Giggs, and set off for the Ihlara Valley.

With a brief photo stop for a panoramic view over Goreme we were on our way. The group was small, there was a girl from Vancouver, two from Arkansas , a couple from Melbourne and a couple from Holland.

As we were driving along, I was itching to stop the bus to take photographs, the snow covered mountains made a beautiful backdrop to the green fields we were passing. This is why I’m not mad about bus tours - but on the other hand if we were ever to get anywhere perhaps it is the better way for me to travel. So I took a couple of photos through the bus window, there was a little reflection, but at least it was better than nothing.

So, you can imagine my delight when we arrived at Ihlara to start our 7km trek to find a lovely snowy mountain just waiting for me to take it’s photo.

After a quick trip to the loo, I bought a couple of bottles of water, asking for them in turkish of course, leading to a longer conversation with the shopkeeper and the girl from Vancouver as to why I was able to “speak” turkish. Of course I should have remembered that pride comes before a fall!

I was delighted to find nice wide stone steps down into the valley instead of rickety wooden ones that I feared might be there. We were bringing up the rear of the group when suddenly my right leg went from under me. I felt a sharp pain the the back of my calf and also in my ankle. İ had slipped on some loose gravel, much to my embarrassement.

I hopped up quickly, Hubbie insisting I take my time but I just wanted to get on. The leg wasn’t too bad and I would manage. Unfortunately, the next bit was scrambling over some rocks to complete the descent. Well, my pride was in tatters now. My 83 year old mother would have managed it better! I have been going to physiotherapy for a few weeks because I have Rotator Cuff Tendonitis in both shoulders, sounds impressive but it just means that if I move my arms the wrong way or over-stretch them, they hurt like hell.  Drama queen or what, most people get one frozen shoulder but I had to have two...with a bit of tendonitis for good luck. İt was worse because of a fall in the bath 3 months ago. Nobody is going to believe I don’t drink if I continue to make a habit of falling!

Anyway, we walked on. The valley is very scenic and dotted with churches in the steep sides of the canyon. A beautiful river runs through it. I didn’t go to see the churches because while the others climbed up, I sat and rested my injury. The group were wonderful and so was Fatih, they were very understanding that I was a little slower than the rest and the girl from the Netherlands gave me arnica to rub on my leg.

The hike was not terribly challenging, but during the first half, there were a few places where two good hands oh oh, were needed to scramble over rocks, and the ground surface was sometimes slippy with loose gravel on top of the rock. The second half of the trek is easier, without many obstacles to be crossed.

We stopped for lunch beside the river in Belisirma before heading on to Selime Catherdral. This again is an ancient rock church, but different from those we had seen before. Many of the other churches were famous for their frescos but this one is important because of it’s architecture. I took a look at it up a steep hill and decided to stay at the entrance but I sent Sean up to take photos for me.

I took some photos from the entrance and soon started a conversation with the people down at the gate. I explained why I wasn’t going up and was given an iris to cheer me up. They were amazed that an Irish woman could speak Turkish and I was soon told about their families.

I was also shown the grammar book from which the man taking the entrance fees was learning English and he told me it could help me with my Turkish too.

A short while later the lady from Melbourne came back down as she did not like heights and we were soon to be joined by her husband as he had become separated from the main group. Taking photos is a dangerous pastime!
We had a lovely chat sitting in the sun.

From here, we went to Guzelyurt to see a small underground city but on the way Fatih who had noticed me earlier taking the photos through the window, stopped the bus so we could all take photos of “Big Hasan and little Hasan” the snow covered mountains in front of us, which was very thoughtful of him.
The next stop on our tour was a visit to the underground city. Again I had to sit this one out as there was a tunnel that was a short steep drop. We then walked to the nearby mosque. It had originally been an Orthodox church but was converted to a mosque after the population exchange in 1924.

The imam came to give us a guided tour, Fatih translating, but the imam was frequently interrupted by an old man who corrected or added to what the imam was saying. His father had come from Greece at the age of 10 as part of the population exchange.

Later he came back, with bread, still hot from the oven for us. The imam told us that this was not something he had ever done before, it was just for our group. He had obviously taken a shine to us. İ would have loved the opportunity to talk to him at length, he had stories to tell.

From there we drove back to Pıgeon Valley to take photos and a quick trip around an onyx factory.

The previous night we had made a reservation at Dibek for their Testi Kebapi. The one night we coulod have done with staying at the hotel, we had to go downtown. Sean got a bag of ice for my ankle, which now resembled the balloon we had flown in, in both size and colour. He asked them to book us a taxi but they said they would drive us down.

We arrived at the restaurant and my first challenge was to lower myself to the cushions on the floor for eating. After removing my shoes I did a very ungraceful flop much to everyone’s, including my own, amusement.

Testi Kebapi is a local dish, cooked in a sealed clay pot for approximately three hours. The pot is brought to your table, cracked open with a hammer and served on a plate.

We had a lovely meal and I did all my talking in turkish. Our waiter wanted to give us a glass of Cappadocian wine on the house, because he appreciated my efforts to speak Turkish and my ability to laugh at myself. Unfortunately, neither of us drink! I told him that if he had a crane to get me up off the ground again, I would gratefully accept it instead.

We left the restaurant and went to a music shop I had spotted the previous night. I explained I wanted turkish music to make a backing track for a slideshow of my photos but didn’t know what to buy. He told me he would play some tracks for me to choose. Once again, there were compliments on my Turkish, pity I had a swollen ankle to go with my swollen head!

We took a taxi back to the hotel, went to the reception area to check emails and met a lovely Indian couple, Anamika and Subya, now living in Switzerland, who were also going to do the three day trip to Mt Nemrut and Sanliurfa.

We would have good company, the question was how was I going to walk up the mountain?


  1. These pictures are stunning and the commentary is so adorable! Loved it =)

  2. OMG Mary your photos are astounding. I had an opportunity to go to Istanbul in the 1990s and passed up that opportunity when I lived in Slovenija and Croatia. How sad. Love it here. :)

  3. You could really see the difference between photos taken from inside the bus vs. those that were not. Fabulous! From now on, I shall remember that....pride comes before a fall. ;-)) (I can empathize with your shoulder problems as I have them too. It's a genetic curse...*sigh*) Thanks for sharing your adventures!!

  4. These photos are breathtaking. What I like about your commentary is that you actually seem to be having fun during your travels!

  5. Incredible photos, just beautiful. Interesting to learn more about you, turkish, I am impressed.

  6. Oh my gosh, those images are just gorgeous!!!

  7. I am the fall queen in my family so I can totally relate to you Mary! But what photos and what a trip! The Turkish people seem to be such a hospitable culture. I can see why you love travelling there!

    Great adventure!
    ~cath xo
    @jonesbabie on Twitter

  8. What beautiful images! Just goes to show how much of the world there is yet to see! =) Sounds like the tour was fabulous, despite the fall! =)

  9. Your travelogue and photos make me regret my decision not to go to Turkey to my neighbor's wedding and the subsequent 9-day tour. Reasoning: my fellow traveller were younger Alaskans used to hiking and outdoors, and I'm older and more like you with a tendency to fall. Sounds like you twisted your ankle. But this post is definitely an incentive to travel there in the future. Hope your physical problems have been resolved.

  10. Turkey is a land rich in antiquities, beautiful landscapes and guaranteed sunshine in the summer. Cappadocia is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. But what keeps us going back is the warmth and hospitality of the people. I recovered from this fall, I had torn my Achilles tendon. I have fallen since, latest woe is a dodgy knee but I don't let this stop me from getting around. Stubborn is my middle name:-))

  11. Fantastic pics! I have only been to Istanbul and I would very much like to go back...

  12. I am so jealous ;)...The pictures are so wonderful, I would love to visit these places!

  13. O Mary, you poor thing! what a terrible fall. Why do these things happen when we are away from home and on holiday? I had a similar fall in Paris years ago, I tore ligaments in my ankle and they would not put plaster on it at the hospital.......I had to hobble around on crutches for days and managed to fall again with the crutches on the injured foot!!! The ankle was weak for a good 3 years after. It is back to normal now and I go really slow on surfaces that are new to me!

    1. No worries Noreen, I seem to make a habit of falling at the most inconvenient or embarrassing times. The body has taken a battering but I'm still hanging on in there. Where would I be for stories if I didn't live an eventful life:-)


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