The trip (chosen paragraphs and images).(for the whole story, all the pictures and a few videos, please visit the website, mentioned below.)
I made this trip between 6th and 18th of February 2012. Since the last autumn I was making plans for mountain trip somewhere. However, the idea about going in Turkey came suddenly, without being a result of those long plans. I had some money and free time, so GO FOR IT!
I departed on 6th, the evening, but the planned bus was cancelled. I took the next one, hour and a half later. I was astonished by the bus luxury - good seats, a small display in front of each passenger! Almost all seats were occupied, around me I heard people speaking Bulgarian, Turkish and English. It was possible to hear even more languages, but those passengers were travelling alone... Earlier the same they I've heard a dam wall get broken, causing flood in South Bulgaria - that's why we couldn't use the main road. Too bad, that means a late arrival in Istanbul and not enough time for a city tour. Our slow drive didn't bother me, soon I get asleep. I woke up for an instant, seeing sharp road curves, fully covered by fresh snow... Truly surrealistic view, comparing to our warm and cozy bus. I get asleep again, until the arrival on Bulgarian-Turkish border. There they needed our passports, after this check I remained awake till Istanbul. On the way I observed the pictures outside, finding things that you can't see in Bulgaria. The basic difference was the lack of snow here. it was like a late winter time in Bulgaria - gives the same sad impression, but also makes you to expect the joyful spring.
Here I'm still at home, choosing two of three sleeping bags... The winners are the blue one (feather stuffed) and the green one (a Swеdish one) =)
I left the heavy backpack in the company's office and with the light one, I headed the city centre. While switching from metro to a tram, I saw and instantly bought some Turkish baklava - the original taste! It is a bit different that the Bulgarian replica (other taste, with grated pistachio on top), but it's easier to get used with the good things! When I arrived on the centre, I made a quick tour through Kapali Charshi (I just needed to know its location), then started to look for a road map of Turkey.
When I went out of Saint Sofia cathedral, a man came to speak with me. He offered his services to help me about anything. Why not? I told him that I'm looking for a tour-operator. Okay, he said and asked me to follow him. I went with him, being a bit suspicious. But he really took me in a tourist office nearby, where a relative of him is working. There it came out that I can't buy a mountain insurance for Turkey, because I don't have a local tax number. Not a big deal. My guide took me now in a workshop for leather cloths, which products he's actually offering in front of Saint Sofia. We drunk a tea, looking for mutual business interest, then said a warm goodbye to each other. I hurried to the bus station, a rain started to fall. I picked up my luggage and continued to Taksim square, where a bus to Sabiha Gokcen airport can be taken. I managed badly my city transport, so I needed to walk in the rain (at least I saw Fenerbahce stadium). I arrived on Taksim, I found the right bus and I get in. It was so good to be in a dry and warm place like that! I was happy with the dense traffic, that made us to stay in the bus for nearly two hours.
I had to decide where to fly to, finally. The first plan was to do two airplane shuttles: Istanbul-Dalaman and Antalya-Adana. Meanwhile it came out that I could have a company for the most technical summit (Demirkazik) after five days, so I bought a ticket directly to Adana. I get shocked by the prices!! In Bulgaria, I found plane tickets on a promotional price around 35 TRY (20 USD or 15 EUR), but on the airport I paid 220 TRY (123 USD/93 EUR), extra weight included. In total, I was wearing 28 kilos, without the food! So, on the first day of my trip, I spent half of all my money. Despite this, the fly was very pleasant, from the plane I made good shots of Bolkar's highest peaks, where I was heading to.
South from this mountain range I saw views from another world. Unlike snowy Anatolia, I saw green fields, the spring was already there! When we landed and I went out of the Adana's airport, I noticed all the palms around. I saw a bus, but it wasn't in my direction; however, they invited me to enter and the bus drove me for free to a place, from where I was able to continue in my direction. On the way I bought a lot of dried figs and apricots, after I headed the bus station.
Orange tree on the street.
There, again, several people came to me to offer a taxi, to ask where am I going... I told them, then one of them showed me the right direction. I continued forward to see a line of big buses. There, the same scenario: where do you go - to town of Tarsus - come, this way. With my new guide, we went to a group of mini buses, he pointed at mine and called the driver who opened the luggage-grid. To this kind of communication, I was suspicious or felt troubled in the beginning - because someone is making me a favour for free. Then I realized that these guys are making favours to each other actually, looking for potential customers that way. In the bus I was alone, with the driver and the ticket seller. By seeing the small old bus, empty, with two people working in it... I asked myself how this business could be worthy. On the way, people started to get on, one by one - and soon the places were fully occupied. As I saw, there's just a few official bus stops. We stop every time, when someone wants to travel. In the Bulgarian buses you can see a sticker, saying "The traffic lights are not bus stops". Turkey is quite another thing. In Tarsus we stopped in front of a gas-station, the ticket seller showed me the bus stop to Gulek, then said "Goodbye!". Close to station I saw an exterior tap, alight by the sun at the moment. I used it to refresh myself, then passed on the other side of the street, heading to Gulek bus stop. On the way I found a food store, where I bought a kilo of yellow cheese, one bread, 3-4 packs of wheat sticks and a bottle of spicy ketchup. This way, my equipment get over 30 kilos. Later I decided to buy rusks, because they're lighter than the bread. I'm skipping some water this way, but it's ok - I walk on water (snow) in the mountains! I looked for the bus for Gulek and the first man that I asked, showed me sector that I need. Soon I was sitting on a chair, in a sunny place, drinking tea with the mini bus driver and other local people. Turkey is exceptional!
It was great idea to take the electronic translator with me; this very useful american device (still made in China though) helped me a lot. For two years and a half it stayed at home, just gathering dust there. But now it's of the day again! With its help I managed to explain what the snowshoes are, where am I going to hike, what I work, we also talk about football (such a luck that I still remember Hasan Sas, who played in their national team 10 years ago). More people going to Gulek came, looking curiously at me, the others explained to them who am I. In general, I received sympathy by two manners - first, the Turks are warm and welcoming people and second, they seem to enjoy guys with circus look like me. The mini bus get full even before to leave Tarsus, we took up, on a rambling mountain road. As I looked how the landscape is changing outside - from warm spring time to severe mountain weather, I felt a shiver of timidity to pass through my heart. I felt myself like being not on the right place, not as a bur, but as an inevitable victim of those alien mountain lands. These thoughts were distracted by the curious landscapes out of the bus, it was very interesting to observe those strange hills, "pimpled" with countless of stones and rocks, sticking up around. From Gulek I started to walk and made a joyful discover - I was exactly on the street, given in the GPS track. Soon I reached the end of the town, last single houses...
Interesting little cave.
Soon, on a crossroad out of the town, I left the asphalt to follow a black road, along a stream. There I changed my look for mountains, put my snowshoes on and started to walk. Soon the path entered a small canyon, the snow get deeper and harder to trample.
Soon I think I've heard wolf's howl! I get worried, I sent a text message to a friend of mine, who's an assistant in University of Forestry, Bulgaria. The answer was quick, authoritative and calming, that's it: "The population of wolves in Turkey is not very big, just wear a stick with you. If you're crossing a dank place, speak louder to yourself :)" So far, so good, I headed forward, impatient to reach the alpine meadows, to get above the forests, the wolf's food and the wolves themselves. For my big surprise I reached enclosed area with buildings inside, looking new. Outside a man was shovelling the snow, I hid myself behind a tree. I didn't want to be seen and forced to go back, but also this problem can occur latter, when I guide clients there... The man didn't saw me so I had the opportunity to continue, but my curiosity prevailed - I went to see him. He wasn't surprised or worried, just gave me a warm smile. Asked me if I'm from German, I denied. He invited me to enter his place here, I get confused. I had about an hour before down, so I could use this time for walking... Finally, his kind insistence won over my practical thinking. And also, I could'n miss this opportunity for an additional adventure!
I started early, some minutes to six. Again, walking on the soft snow, advancing little by little. It snows since the previous evening, my warm pants get wet - looks like the body heat melts the snowflakes. I stopped to put my waterproof pants on, also cut a snow profile. Not good, soft snow till the bottom; but still solid, all layers were tightly connected. Relieved by the promising avalanche forecast, I started again. In this moment I didn't realize that the profile structure could be different even on two neighbouring slopes... Blissful ignorance, they say.
Soon it get very warm, I was sure it's because the new pants. But then I saw the shadow of my right trekking pole, imprinted on the snow. I looked in the sky - a small blue window appeared! I looked forward... And get stunt! It just stopped to snow, so I had then a narrow view forward - but still wide enough to see a majestic ridge to stand there! It was a few kilometres forward and kilometre and a half above me. Ok, this is how a mountain over 3000 m looks like, I said to myself, shocked and venerating in front of this view.
I wanted so much to reach the end of the valley before sunset. I picked up a broad place, just before its end. There, I should be far enough from an avalanche, no matter where it falls from. In the dusk, the white field I was walking through, started to lose shape. I stepped aside, to avoid little hills in front; right after I realized that those "hills" are actually the line of the horizon. In this manner, I made some unnecessary curves instead of walking straight, to save efforts and time. Finally I reached the broad place and set my bivouac. I felt safe here, outlying on an equal distance from all surrounding slopes, from where I could expect avalanches.
A moderate wind was blowing, during the night. Fortunately, in the evening I covered with snow the tent's edges - otherwise I risked to wake up all covered with snow powder. I overslept! I planned to go in 6 AM, I get up at 7. It took me too long to gather all my stuff and to get prepared to go, so I managed to start again in 9 AM. Just unforgivable! Probably, due to my feverish stuff packing, I torn the tent's bottom with my piolet, while digging the poles out. For my luck, later I managed to set a hard tempo, so in the early afternoon I reached a key saddle, from where I turned straight to the peak (even if I was still unable to see it).
I assaulted the north slope before me - apparently with too much enthusiasm, because I disregarded my GPS track and stepped aside of it. The track followed a passage left from me, where the inclination wasn't that big. And that's how the sunset found me, on a ground, a bit steep for a bivi! No way back - I drew my piolet and started to clear and level a place for the tent. I begun with a simple digging, but soon replaced it with cutting of snow blocks and using them as a lee and tent's foundation. The blizzards didn't wait for me to finish and rose rapidly, starting to bring the usual snow powder. I ended with arranging the snow blocks, get in the tent, in my sleeping bags, had my dinner and started to prepare for sleeping. In the dark, only the wind was breaking the silence. I woke up several times, but the loud songs of "Mountain winds" orchestra made me not to wish to get up. Contrariwise, I was thinking about to stay the whole day in.
Good morning? Not this morning!
The morning came, but the wind stayed! Just in case, I took a look out of the tent, through a fissure - and saw an azure blue sky! I threaded my hand out and held it like this - it didn't get frozen, despite the wind. This changed the entire picture and I begun to prepare myself, encouraged by the wind's frail blasts. I quickly packed the tent and went further. Wanted to summit this day. I made this bivi on 3000 m, to the peak I had 500 more, and the descend... It will be my reward.
Medetsiz - from South and North.
After the summit, I didn't like that I had to walk on a ridge for a long time. Well, this can't be avoided - the valley I had to get down to isn't close to Medetsiz. And probably because of my preferences - to descend as fast as possible, I get easily confused and descent in a wrong valley, by switching to North too early. When I found my mistake, I've already passed very steep terrain. To climb it back should cost too much efforts, time and also avalanche danger. So I continued going down, expecting to deal with a relief, similar to the one I had on South - valley after valley, all passable.
After some rambling and down climbs I started to descend very fast, I was sliding down the snow, like being without any load. And when the dusk came I found myself on a place where my ski slope disappeared, somewhere far bellow, with no bottom... I get misled, by searching for the middle of a valley here. I expected to find there a stream and passable terrain. First, there weren't a valley, but gorge; second, the screes from both sides looked passable, but not the gorge itself - at least, not by me. With big difficulty I climbed back the steep snowy slope and started to prepare my bivi under a rock, hoping to hide from the night wind that way. I levelled a small site, as much as the acclivity allowed me to, and drew out my mat and the sleeping bags. The tent remained packed, no place for it tonight. I put the harness, ensured myself with a rope connected to my walking poles, driven to handles in the snow. And then get into the sleeping bags.
In the morning I stood up and willingly put on my outer shoes, before my hands to get frozen. I'm sleeping with my inner shoes, I'm drying them this way. When my hands get a bit warmed, I packed all my stuff and left it there. Me, I moved to the close western slope, to look for a ford through the screes. I had two low ridges in front, going down and I was hoping that there's no holes after each of them. For my luck, these ridges weren't the edges of a crack, but just a bumps. After them, below, I saw hundreds of meters snow terrain, free of obstacles - then I felt a big relief! I get back, still paying attention on the snow-track, looking for new details on it, that might stay hidden from my previous point of observation. "Looks fine, that should work." Now relaxed, I ate some bread sticks and yellow cheese. I shouldered my backpacks, switched the snowshoes for crampons and took back. I kept my altitude, although the slope predisposed me for a quick descent to the gorge's core. As low I walked, as big was the chance to encounter a hole or a rocky obstacle. They would retard me or even make me to go back. Slowly, slower than I wanted it, I was returning to the humans' world. At last I reached the bottom of the gorge, and looked back, to the giant stoned cascade that I skirted today.
In a moments like this we often say "Never again more of that!". The sun was hot there, on the flat ground, which I felt like a solarium, in combination with the light-reflecting snow. I took down the backpack, put the crampons in, and pull out again the snowshoes and the sun glasses. Even before to reach the village, a greeter appeared. A local lad saw me, we crossed together the cherry grove that separates the river course I was walking on, from the road to Maden. The main village street was covered by rubble and sheep's evacuations (more that the stones). After a few minutes it took us to the centre. My greeter wanted to wear my backpack, but first I refused, due to its weight - I didn't want him to suffer. As it was possible for him to find me distrustful, finally I gave it to him. We sit in front of the tea-house and talked. The people asked me if I saw deer upward - helas, no. I saw traces of rabbits and foxes, I think.
Soon came the baker's bus, he started to drive around. A man from the village gave me a sesame bap, my helper offered me two. First I refuse, considering them as a gift too precious, he get sad. Realizing my mistake, I willingly accepted the baps, when Halim made a second attempt. They negotiated with the baker to take me with its bus to the little town of Ciftehan. From Ciftehan I decided to test my luck with hitch-hiking. After 5 days of mountain hardship I needed a reload. I was moving towards Cappadocia, my intentions were to see as a tourist its landmarks. A truck driver took me for some kilometres, his destination was Istanbul. After, the hitch-hiking wasn't successful. To reach town of Nigde (in the foot of Hasan volcano) I had to take a mini-bus.
The green colour is the right way down from Medetsiz... The red one is mine.
In Nigde I visited 4 hotels, until I found suitable room (and price, in fact). The content of my backpacks took places all over the room, including the tent put on the chandelier to dry. Me, I slipped in the bathroom, for a long, hot and reviving bath...
On the next day, my first stop was in the village of Gümüşler, where is situated a small but quite remarkable monastery. The bus stopped on its final station, close to a school. From there came to us a little girl, daughter of our bus driver. She was obviously proud with her dad, she kissed his hand on depart. As I found out, this is the custom in Turkey - the young ones kiss the hand of the elders, often touching their forehead with it. To see the monastery and its vault, being the only tourist around, made me a special pleasure. After, I continued with my tour.
For my next place of interest (the underground city in Kaimakli) I needed to return by bus to Nigde, from where to take another bus. Both buses were late, which gave me a reason to think that I might not be able to make the whole Cappadocia tour today. I arrived in Kaimakli at sunset, where I found the entrance to the underground city already closed. So far with my plans to make it in a day... Finally came the bus which brought me here earlier today. I felt so good in the warm cabin, but then the ticket-collector told me that the bus don't go to Nigde this time. They drove me to the near Derinkuyu and dropped me at the entrance of the town's hotel. I get down with mixed feelings, grateful towards the conductor, and sad of being forced to rent another room in a hotel. The earlier plan was to make a bivi for the night. My pocket money were about to finish. After a short and successful negotiation I rented a room only for 20 TRL; I wanted it without a bathroom, but I found one outside, in the corridor. Close to the hotel I saw a small supermarket, from where I bought a lot of food. The food needed to cover two criteria - tasty (already tested) and cheap.
Closed church in Derinkuyu, on my way back to Nigde.
On the next day I get back to Nigde, took my luggage and all my washed things. After quitting the hotel I get back to the bus station, led by different reason this time - to reach Nigde's outskirts, from where to do a hitch-hike to Kayseri. I've made a short conversation with a group of highway workers, then started to wave to cars and trucks. I waited a lot, but that was worthy - a shiny truck going in my direction stopped to take me. The young uppish driver was wondering how to deal with my shoes, covered by mud. In Turkey, the truck's cabin is often regarded as a home, staying inside with street shoes is not allowed! I stepped in only with socks (packed my shoes and put them aside) and we departed. Do you have a cool GSM, he asked me. I showed him my old, loyal and crush-hardy Samsung, but my driver wasn't impressed at all. What about sun glasses? I took out my ski vizor, which was a misunderstanding; then I drew out my glacier goggles, he tested them... And they get highly evaluated. I left him only thirty kilometres away from Kayseri, on east I saw the majestic Erciyes to rise - my next goal, that made me to stand in awe right now. Soon I was taken by another truck driver, a cheerful man.
More smiling people, again a sunshine from azure sky... In a moments, during this adventure in Turkey, I was feeling truly happy, I feel grateful toward this country and its inhabitants. I receives a text message from Nuri - a Turkish friend of mine, living in Kayseri. The message wasn't finished, it started with "I'm sorry...". It looked like I won't be his guest this time, but the next message made me happy - he was coming for me! He showed up, smiling, took me in a mini bus, belonging to their mountain rescue team. We went to his country house, situated in the city's outskirts, to take his mother from there. And if this country was like a Promi for me, the Nuri's apartment was my Eden. There I drought my washed cloths, ate delicious things (obviously prepared with love by his mother), and spoke lengthily with my new friend and benefactor. Nurettin solidly stands behind his words that "all the mountaineers are brothers".
View from Nuri's apartment.
On the next day he drove me to the bus station, from where I departed to the ski resort, situated in the foothills, south of Erciyes. The weather has changed, fog and winds were raging there. The mini-bus driver, amazed and cheered up, asked me where the hell am I going, since out of the heated vehicle blizzards of snow powder were chasing each other. Well, I didn't know what to say, not just because of my poor Turkish... But still, I felt that I'm ready!
The lift pillars helped my orientation, appearing one after another out of the fog. Earlier today I met a group of five students, also willing to climb Erciyes. I overtook my fellows, finding them relaxing on a sheltered place. We consider to eat something salty, they said; I'm going to eat the thing which is on top of my food bag, I replied joyfully. After we continued forward, together. Despite my heavy backpack, I walked easy, thanks to the snowshoes. We reached the end of the ski lift, the wind remained strong. They asked me for my plans; forward, I said to them. They made a short discussion, then decided to go back, to wait for a better weather. For the next day the forecast had promised sunshine, followed by murky days again. We said goodbye, I continued alone. Just after 2-3 minutes I decided to stop for lunch, the wind grew less intense. Soon it get as strong as before, I quickly finished the eating in that uncomfortable atmosphere. My hands started to feel cold, the snow powder wriggle through my badly tight ski vizor... Then I also gave up from hiking today. While descending I noticed the silhouette of a building; I approached and found a house. Not sure, but I supposed that Nuri mentioned it... The "entrance" was through a big window - and it really was an exit from this inconvenient situation! Inside I was saved from the cold winds! I pitched my tent in the most sheltered room and slipped into it. I woke up around six, a complete silence was reigning. I peeped out... And saw clear sky! I frantically shoved in my little backpack some meal, a bottle of water, my crampons, the camera and a GPS, right after this I skipped out. I saw no other mountaineers in front of me, looks like I was ahead of my guys, the students. With my best tempo I started the climb, under a blue sky and with the sun on my back - what else a man could dream for! Erciyes is entirely a bare mountain, with a clearly seen edge from South, which can be followed easily, until we reach the Camel. This rock blocks the comfortable trail and there's tree ways to deal with it - to go round from left, right or not to go round at all (which means to go back or just to climb over it). I chose to skirt it on right, as my Trabzon students were also advised. When Nurettin told me about it, I was more incline to climb it, but on the very site I chose a safer option... At least, it looked to me like this. In the deep snow, in a shadow, I was advancing too slow. Finally I followed Nuri's advice by moving more on right, where I "caught" a short ridge, parallel to the main one. Reaching it caused me a great fear of avalanches. In case of a snow-flip, I would be covered by countless meters of snow. On the small ridge's top, I get lost for a while, but then I corrected my direction and climbed to the main ridge again. I saw small holes in the snow, which reminded me for another danger - the sun unfreezes the loose rocks, so falling stones must be expected! Up there, exposed to wind and sun, the snow was very solid; in an instant one of my snowshoes slipped and I felt. I started to slip down quickly, my left hand grabbed the right pole in its base, to use it as a lever. That helped a bit, but actually I stopped thanks to a softer snow section. There I sank, changed the snowshoes with crampons and continued, carefully.
On the summit! I made a short panoramic video from there, right after the batteries get discharged - and I just borrowed them from the GPS... I started to descend quickly. Somewhere between the small edge and the Camel a big cloud passed over the main ridge - the one that I followed this morning. I concluded that the weather get worst. Being tired, also counting on the snow profile that I've made in Bolkar mountains and the lack of avalanches so far, I took a critical decision. I get directly down, using the nearest couloir. Humble, timid and ready for a prayer, I started to descend, hoping not to be involved into a catastrophe. Closer and closer to the valley in the foot... A highest stress level till the end, in Bolkar I get relaxed right after discovering the safe way, through the screes... I chose to walk not in the centre of the couloir, it looked to me safer this way. I reached the flat ground of the valley and started to sing, seized by relief. Through the petrous lava tongues I returned to the house without windows, my cosy home now. I could get down to Kayseri even today, but I preferred to go to sleep. Outside the wind got his powers back, but I was already safe and warmed up.
The way up is in red, the way back - in blue.
When I get back to the ski resort, I met again my new friends, the students. They gave up on summiting because one of the girls in the group had a stomach ache. Then we said goodbye, I departed to Kayseri. To the city I took a mini-bus, on the bus station I bought some food and get hidden, it was raining. Nurettin was busy today, but I wasn't worried at all. I was so calm, seized by kind of quiet happiness, I was ready to wait for him until dusk. The imam from the nearest mosque started to sing and caught my attention! That was my first time in Turkey to hear a memorable prayer! The voice of that man was touching, he elongated exactly the vowels that impressed me the most. Nuri came at this time, I assured him that I can keep waiting for hours, it wasn't needed for him to hurry. He didn't look jerky or worried. He met me with a big smile, after I stayed with him till the end of the day - in his office, on Kayseri's central bus-station and in his home. He get a bit angry when it came out that I actually have no money, and I did not shared this with him. You don't trust me as a friend, he said. This way, I agreed to accept a bus ticket to Istanbul, bought by him. And departed the same evening.
The difference between both sides of the border territories created a painful impression. The Bulgarian side looked abandoned and sad; in addition, the gloomy weather made this picture complete. Otherwise, I was lucky with this transfer - the main road was unblocked (after the flood).
In Sofia again. In the city bus the driver hardly endured so sell me a ticket. Close to me sit a young man with a horrible smell, that forced me to change my seat. Still, he had a nice voice - everybody in the bus found this, when he started to speak to himself. On a next bus stop seriously drunken man get into the vehicle, listening trashy music on his mobile... No matter those things, I've returned inspired! Every time when I finish a long trip, I felt myself vigorous, burning with desire to carry on with the tasks that waited my returning. This is always the final positive effect that the adventures bring to me!