To the Black Sea: June 26th
The campsite was actually nice and cool which was something we were not expecting from Turkey. We all slept well and the spot was nicer than we thought when we arrived the previous night. There was a lot of trash, but the woods were nice and not to buggy. We packed up and for pretty much the first time on the trip we decided to just drive in a general direction and not worry about any kind of destination. We had most of the parts that we wanted to get from Istanbul, and the only thing we had on the agenda was to find a nice spot to hang out for the day and work on the bikes. We stopped in Sile, the first little town that we came to along the Black Sea. Everyone was pretty hungry, and in a brief lapse of judgment James tried to squeeze through a spot that was not quite large enough. His left box clipped a cars tail light and cracked the plastic covering. This was our first run in with something going mildly bad with other people so we were a bit nervous about what to do. The guy did not speak any English and we really didn’t speak Turkish. He looked upset, but it didn’t become a fiasco. He lit a cigarette and grumbled a bit as James gave him 100 Turkish Lira (~$30) and then we went our separate ways. We had some Menemen from a little shop and probably got ripped off again. We were told it was 6 TL, but like usual our bill showed 8 TL. We still haven’t figured out the proper way to dispute a bill. It is a little strange after you have already eaten the food to try and bargain a lower price. Feeling a little down after being taken for at breakfast and paying the tax for hitting a car we headed off to find somewhere nice to brighten our moods. It didn’t take long, and after about 15 minutes of roaming around on some dirt roads we found a nice little beach with no one there. We parked the bikes and called it good.
Nice spot for motorcycle maintainence
The sun was shining, and it was surprisingly not overwhelmingly hot. We all changed our oil and oil filters and did some minor adjustments. Michael took off his top end to check for a slight leak that was coming from his engine. This became a bit of a problem when the gasket shrunk in the sun, and when we tried to put the top end back on the gasket would not fit. After quite a few tries, lots of strips of duct tape, and 6 hands we got the gasket back on the top end and everything was good to go. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the sun and reading our books. At one point a farmer drove his tractor down to the beach with his whole family and they piled off the trailer to hang out on the beach all day. It was a cool little environment and it felt great to not be stressed about where or what we needed to do next. After we were pretty well sun burnt and worn out by the sun we headed farther down the coast in search of a campsite. We fueled up at a gas station and as Sarah hopped back on the bike he expressed "I am suprised your kickstand can withstand all the weight that is on your bike." This turned out to be a bit of a curse, We stumbled across a farm looking area that had lots of tables set out and quite a few people dining on delicious looking food. We were intrigued and rode into the field to check it out. Upon further inspection everyone had their own bbq that they cooked their food on. We went to inquire about how it worked but no one spoke english. Lots of sign language ensued and the owner started making phone calls to find someone he knew who spoke decent english. During this time James' bike took a topple when his stand sunk into the soft ground. I was parked next to him so his bike hit my bike and they went down like dominoes. Turns out my kickstand couldn't hold both Seabie and Jolene and the added weight snapped it right in half. It was pretty depressing to look at my kickstand pointed straight up at the sky. I wasn't to bummed though because we were all in good moods from a good day, and at this point the small turkish man running the place had found someone who spoke englsih so we ordered up a kilo of chicken for the bbq. I am pretty sure they killed the chicken that day. It was super fresh and there were still traces of feathers on it. Either way it was delicious, and after once again being charged more than what we were originally told we set out to find camp.
Cooking up some chicken
We wanted to set up camp and watch a movie off of James’ hard drive to end a nice relaxing day. We roamed around on quite a few dirt roads, stumbled across a campground where it was 100 Lira a night, and as the sun set found a nice little spot on a hill overlooking the Black Sea. It feels good to find a nice spot that you don’t have to pay for. We laid out the tarp and set up for another slumber party.
Michael tried making some apple tea that he had got from the Grand Bazaar, and like everything else we got there it was pretty much worthless and 10 times more expensive than buying it just about anywhere else. The apple tea might have been the worst though. It really was a big bummer when the chunky apple tea had next to no flavor. If you are going to buy anything from the Grand Bazaar stick to the Turkish delight! That stuff was delicious. Overall it had been a great day and we ended it by watching Avatar on the laptop. We all passed out in about 30 minutes smiling about the cheesy lines about the “flux vortex.”
Somewhere along the black sea: June 22nd
The prayer calls woke us as usual and seemed much closer than we had expected. We wondered who may have heard our outdoor airing of the movie "Avatar" the night before as we packed up our sleeping stuff. We broke out the stove for some coffee and eggs and discussed the plans for the day. We finished breaking camp and set off along the coast keeping our eyes out for a place to get Graham's
kick stand fixed. We pulled into the town Agva Merkez to grab some water and maybe some food. While stopping for water Graham asked a hardware store about his kickstand. They promptly told him there was a welder 5 minutes down the road so off we went. One stop later we were waiting for the power to turn back on at a tire shop where the welding was to be done. As we waited we witnessed a bit of the truck maintenance that keeps the country moving. After taking an oxy-acetylene torch to the lug nuts on one of the rear tires of a small cargo truck, three guys piled onto a 6 foot long breaker bar to crack it free and release the tire. We then watched them craftily re-shape the kickstand using two hammers and a lot of banging. They then welded the tear closed on the kick stand and reinforced it using a bit of scrap metal. a bit of black paint and the kick stand was as good as new. Graham still has a bit of an issue with the new one as his bike leans more than it did but all things considered it was a good cheap fix at only $15.
Not quite full from the egg breakfast and feeling a bit weak we headed back into the downtown area and parked to find some food. A bit of wandering and inquiring about wifi and we settled into a restaurant to get food and download maps. At this point everyone except Sarah was feeling pretty light headed and weird, especially Graham and me. We went ahead and ordered and I got a delicious Gozleme which was similar to a quesadilla but more flakey. A bit of food, some water and visit to the wash closet and I was feeling much better. Michael had his maps loaded up and we were soon back on the road and headed along the coast. We quickly diverged from the main roads to find a good costal road and found ourselves bouncing and sliding along a very muddy and pothole-filled road. A small stream of water made its way back and forth across the road bringing mud and debris with it. This kept things interesting and got a bit of adrenaline flowing. Once again we were impressed with the bikes but a bit wary of their capabilities in mud as they seemed to get pretty squirrely. I was very happy that I had changed my very bald rear tire out while in Istanbul.
Feeling funny in a cafe
We arrived at a beautiful pull off along the coast that looked a bit more like Ireland than Turkey and soon decided that we should camp there. This was the earliest we had set up camp in a very long time and it felt good to have some time to relax. We explored the rocky shore setting up our hammocks but soon retreated to the tree line as the cloud were still ominous and the shore was exposed and not conducive to tarp usage. We cooked up some polenta we had left over from Italy which seemed like ages ago and filled up on sandwiches. We spent the night enjoying the noise from the sea and catching up on some reading. Before the sun set I did a bit of exploring and scrambling on the rocky coast. I
found a beautiful cove with an arch as well as a nice perch to watch the sunset. I returned to find everyone tucked into their hammocks and quickly followed suit. It was perfect sleeping weather with a cool breeze blowing through the hammock and the sound of the sea in the background. It wasn't long before I was asleep.
Roaming day: June 23rd
I'd like to start slightly before the 23rd. Our campsite the night of the 22nd was my favorite of the trip. I fell asleep in my hammock listening to the waves crashing on the shore, watching fireflies buzz through the trees and thinking about the entirety of the trip. We're only 1.5 months into a 7 month journey and we've already experienced and seen more than I can comprehend. Thank God for this blog and the time we're taking to document it. I feel like I'm already overlooking experiences that would, in an ordinary situation, be unforgettable. However, the moments like last night I will not forget. The ability to sit back and reflect is something I will start to cherish during this trip.
Great spot to read a book
There were multiple bouts of rain during the night and I felt unbelievably snug in my hammock knowing my rain tarp would keep me dry. When the lightening started, around 4 am, I got even happier. With no obligations or destination for the day, we slept in till 8:30, right around when the rain stopped. We packed up slowly, boiled water for coffee and read a couple pages in our books. It was a relaxing morning and something I think we desperately needed.
We didn't know where we were going so it didn't matter where we went. All we knew was that we wanted to ride along the coast and find a campsite fairly early in the day (somewhere near Zonguldak was the idea).
We road out of the campsite in search of breakfast. Depending on how you look at it, we are traveling through Turkey at the best or worst time. Being here during Ramadan means we get to witness an ancient practice and be recipients of their religious beliefs, one of which is hospitality towards travelers. It also means, due to the fasting, that nearly every restaurant is closed. Therefore, unless we're in a touristy area or a city, finding a restaurant or any place to eat, has been difficult. It wasn't any different this morning.
After about an hour of searching, we pulled over on the side of a highway and found a spot that looked closed but the doors were open. We entered and were immediately greeted by a kindly woman who offered us soup (called Chorba in Turkish). She pulled up Google Translator and we were able to communicate via the computer. We ordered 2 Pide Kebabs, 4 soups and 1 Kunefe (a sweet cheese pastry). We got all we ordered as well as bread, multiple teas, a vegetable plate, a plate of beats and 4 pieces of cake. It was unbelievable, we paid a total of 43 Turkish Lira (~$15) for a delicious 4 course meal.
Before entering Turkey, I downloaded an app called PhraseBox Turkish (it's not a very good app and I wouldn't recommend it) that provides the pronunciation and spelling of a couple Turkish phrases. When I tap a certain phrase, the app speaks the phrase. We used the app to ask for the bill and the woman got an absolute kick out of it. We were able to have a conversation that included more smiles and laughs than words. The restaurant is called Nar Firin Kebab. If you're ever driving along the Black Sea on D010 West of Zonguldak, I highly recommend it!
Beautiful people (minus Graham) and wonderful food
With full bellies we continued to ride east towards Zonguldak. We took the back roads and found ourselves perusing some dirt streets that I can almost guarantee no motorcycle from the US has ever ridden on. We stumbled upon, what appeared to be an abandoned mosque, that actually had 4 woman inside who were either terrified or highly upset by our presence. We also found, after riding ~2 miles down a rocky path, an old man who provided us with more plums and berries than we could carry.
Hard to see, but he was competely toothless
Maybe it's because we're traveling during Ramadan and hospitality is emphasized during this religious time, or maybe it's just the way Turks are, but every single person we've interacted with has been unbelievably generous and kind. It's amazing, how people who haven't eaten since 3 am (fasting during this year's Ramadan starts at 3 am and ends at 8 pm) are able to be so polite and friendly.
We bailed on the idea of being able to sleep on the coast and decided to head south from Zonguldak towards Ankara. We road through 3 or 4 different villages (while it was raining) looking for a place to camp. We couldn't find a thing. Finally, we found a road that wound up past a kids summer camp and popped out on a farm. We were able to take a side road off of that road, and after doing a bit of off roading, we found a decent camp site. We set up camp in the bushes and cooked up some rice with cheese. We tried to make a tomato paste soup, but it turned out to be a mush that was hard to stomach. We decided to cook up more rice. We cleaned everything up and went to bed.
Camp spot for the night
Dropping off the QUICKjump in Ankara: June 24th
All snug in our hammocks it is kind of relaxing listening to the prayer calls and drums go off at 2 AM. The drums have a low bassy sound which is complemented by the mellow prayer calls. This night the drums came really close. They couldn’t have been farther than 100 yards from James’ hammock. We figured there must be house on the other side of the small forest we had setup camp in. We decided not to push our luck with being so close and after a quick pot of coffee we headed to Ankara to drop off the QUICK jump with Ugur!
Heading out of the campsite towards Ankara
We were still pretty amazed that we were in Turkey because the landscape resembled nothing that I would have ever imagined Turkey to look like. Pretty large green mountains enveloped in low lying foggy clouds. Everything was pretty wet or at least damp. We booked it straight down to Ankara and the green hills slowly disappeared as they turned into gold grasses covering low lying hills. Right as we got into Ankara it started to rain, and it decided to rain HARD. We stopped under a bridge to put on rain gear but it was to late. We were already soaked, and I think even if we had our rain gear on it wouldn’t have done much good. The rain drops were massive, and it even started to hail on us for a little while. The rain messed with Michael’s phone and suddenly our navigation lost the address we were aiming for. We had no idea where we needed to be in Ankara, and the combination of rain and horrific drivers was making a pretty stressful situation. The drivers in Ankara don’t believe in turn signals. They just start merging into your lane at a steady rate until you either move or get run over. One guy merged into Michael’s lane just enough to hit a massive puddle, and give Michael a shower of greasy Ankara road water before speeding off halfway between two lanes. We stopped at a Toyota dealership and despite the terrible drivers everyone we encountered was incredibly friendly. They let us use their WIFI, and invited us to sit down on their couch and have some tea or coffee. We declined because we were completely soaked and their floor was spotless. Instead we awkwardly stood on the mat at the entrance dripping everywhere and looking completely lost. We had 3 or 4 people try and help us and have us sit down for tea before a guy came in who spoke really good English and could give us some good directions. He told us the best way to get there and Michael got the map reloaded on his phone. We took off to find Ugur in the middle of Ankara, but when we arrived at the address that we had on the phone it was most definitely not the right spot. It was a Turkish family’s house in the middle of a construction zone. The various people who were hanging out in the area were a little confused when we pulled up in front of their place. We showed them what we had on our map and they pointed various ways, said some things in Turkish, and tried to lead us out in the right direction. We went the way we thought they had told us and were lost again pretty quick. We stopped and asked various people, but they all seemed to be telling us different directions. We were in the heart of Ankara’s industrial zone, and there were cars parked every which way along the sides of the road leaving a space just wide enough for 2 box trucks to pass each other in many spots. The intersections were navigated in a similar way to what I have experienced in Southeast Asia. You start sticking out into traffic slowly until they can’t get past you and then you gun it as quick as you can in the direction you need to go. By some kind of miracle we found Ugur’s shop eventually and the guys working there invited us in for tea. Ugur was on his way over. Ugur showed up right as the tea was ready, and wanted to take us to lunch. We felt bad for not even taking a sip of the tea they had just brewed, but we all piled into Ugur’s car and sped off into Ankara to find a place that was open. Ugur was a tall, large man with a curiously soft voice. He explained most places were closed for Ramadan, and that he was not a good muslim so he didn’t fast. He also told us he eats every meat except for pork. Not because he is not supposed to according to Islam, but because he doesn’t like the taste. After speeding around some streets pretty aggressively we arrived at a nice restaurant. Ugur ordered us up various types of meat dishes that we enjoyed with Ayran, and the deliciously soft bread you can find throughout Turkey. Ayran is a popular drink here that is pretty similar to a liquidy yogurt. After we stuffed ourselves on Kofte (Turkish meatballs), Chicken wings, and chicken kebab we enjoyed 3 rounds of Cay (tea) while talking with Ugur about our plans in Turkey, and where we should/what we should do. He was pretty fond of Gaziantep, but we had no plans of getting that close to Syria. Near Cappadocia there is a town called Keyseri that is famous for its Turkish ravioli, and Rize is also famous for wine. We kept that in mind for route planning later. After lunch we left the QUICKjump with Ugur and headed south to Cappadocia.
Dropping off the QUICKjump with Ugur
I couldn’t wait to see Cappadocia as it is the place I think of when I think of Turkey. Of course this means it is touristy, but I had envisioned there being lots of dirt roads through the fairy rocks that we could get lost on. The drive from Ankara south was incredible. This was the Turkey I had imagined. Rolling hills covered with farms, sunny skies, wide open spaces, and…..pink lakes? We came across a lake that looked incredibly salty and the amount of salt content in the water had turned it a light shade of pink. It was one of the stranger things I have seen and it was awesome!
We kept riding until it turned dark and decided we should find somewhere to sleep. We were about 50 km from Cappadocia when we pulled off the road into a small clove of trees. As I was turning around I lost my footing and dropped my bike while I was plugged into my Bluetooth. I felt a tug on my helmet as the cord snapped and my Bluetooth went quiet. I had fallen on Sarah’s wrist so she was annoyed, and I was pretty pissed that my Bluetooth could potentially be trash when a truck pulled off the side of the road and dropped someone off. James didn’t see the guy get out of the truck so he turned on his bike and circled around to park in a different direction. This must have spooked the guy because he disappeared. This in turn spooked us because there was a guy 100 ft away from us and we couldn’t see him in the darkness; definitely not ideal when you are about to sleep there. Michael did a quick drive around with his bike and still couldn’t find the guy so as we were all deciding to leave the truck that dropped the guy off had circled back and pulled into the grove of trees. The truck flashed its lights and we didn’t need any more encouragement to get the hell out of there. We pulled off a little farther down the road and road up a tractors trail a little ways and camped at the end of it next to a little field. We planned to wake up early, and be out of there before anyone could find us. As we lay down to sleep, and dry out our wet feet we looked up at the incredible stars overhead. The moon was a big enough sliver that we could see the outline of the surrounding hills, but not bright enough to block out the Milky Way and the rest of the universe. It wasn’t a bad spot to crash and we all passed out pretty quick.
Cappadocia: June 25th
The alarm went off and I hardly stirred. After getting confirmation from the others that there wasn't a farmer about to run us over with his tractor we agreed to sleep in a bit more. I rolled over in my soggy sleeping bag. The dew from the night had left anything not packed away soaking wet. This cycle of waking up briefly, rolling over and getting permission to sleep more continued until a tractor was actually spotted. It was a ways off but had stopped and the farmer no doubt had spotted us. We packed up our camping stuff quicker than we ever had and were soon bumping our way back to the highway.
The drive was a bit quieter than usual due to the accident the night before which left Graham's intercom on the fritz. We arrived in Nevsehir and after a bit of searching found breakfast at a trendy looking cafe near the local university. A younger girl served us a traditional breakfast dish with some small pastries, an assortment of spreads, some vegetables and bread. We connected to the wifi and got caught up on emails and a few other necessities while listening the cafes bumping euro style techno music. The breakfast wasn't quite enough so we ordered two Menemen's to fill in the gaps. Eventually we tore ourselves away from the wifi and headed into Goreme which was the heart of Cappadocia. Cappadocia is a region of Anatolia, Turkey famous for its prominent rock pillars with houses carved into them. Our first stop was one of many churches carved into the rock. We picked up a book a paid a small entrance fee before exploring the tight passages of the church. The church had two levels connected by a very tight stair case in which you almost had to crawl through. The top level had a winding passage that wound into another, pitch black room. Excited by the amazing church we began reading up on the history of Cappadocia. Besides being amazed by the history which reached back almost 10,000 years b, we found a description of an awesome underground city only 30 km away that was a must see.
We returned to Goreme for some food at a small cafe. Michael befriended a Turkish rug vendor near the cafe who showed us through his shop which was filled with thousands of rugs. The vendor's family had owned the business for 110 years and told us stories of days past and traveling by camel instead of motorcycle as well. We departed with the mission of seeing the underground city of Derinkuyu. We arrived as busloads of tourists were leaving and after paying admission headed into the labyrinth which lay below. The city was lost in 1923 and rediscovered in 1963 and was used by a number of people as protection during wartime. The city is supposed to be able to shelter 10,000 people according to the book we purchased. Its size and complexity was truly mind boggling. It consisted of 8 levels and included stables for live stock, churches, food stores, graves and more. The tiny tunnels and stair cases that wound from room to room had giant stone wheels that could be pushed into the tunnel to block the way in event of an attack. There was even an vinery to press and ferment the grapes within the underground city. It seemed as though the inhabitants had thought of everything from having their wells protected from the surface to protect from poisoning to the amazing ventilation system which made the city habitable. The town of Derinkuyu supposedly houses other underground cities with as many as 18-20 levels. We left the city humbled by the scale and age of the surrounding dwellings and the complexity of the history.
Returning to Goseme we had found a meal which was a bit more expensive than our previous meals but equally as delicious. We spent an hour or so attempting to order parts for our motorcycles and were informed by a forum that we had not done our research and our bikes were in fact pretty rare on this side of the world. Eventually we gave up, discouraged by the cost and timeline for ordering parts and departed for a campsite. We pulled off the road and setup camp on top of a hill near some buildings that looked to be abandoned or for maintenance. We packed into the 3 person tent and began to watch Indiana Jones on Graham's laptop but were shortly interrupted by a truck pulling up to one of the buildings. We lay quietly listening for the drivers intention. After what seemed like ages the truck drove away, but before we could relax another truck arrived. We decided the best course of action was to be as quiet as possible and try and get some sleep. Eventually the second truck left and I fell into a wary sleep, closely sandwiched by Graham and Michael.
Kayseri: June 26th
The night before we were worried about a couple trucks pulling into a driveway near our camping spot. This morning we woke up with hundreds of hot air balloons circling us.
Unbelievable view to wake up to
People were waving and yelling good morning to us from their balloons. I felt foolish thinking we had found a secluded campsite. Balloons were landing all around us, Japanese tourists were walking around and taking pictures of us, and a man drinking a beer (at 6am) who did not speak English was trying (we think) to sell us prostitutes. Needless to say, we got up and out of our campsite very quickly.
It was too early to eat breakfast so we decided to try off roading through Cappadocia. We found a couple trails that were unmarked and did not say "No Motor Vehicles" so we decided to give them a try. We made it about 1.5 miles before being turned around due to the difficulty of the terrain. I like to think that if we didn't have all our luggage on, we'd have been able to ride through the single track between giant rock slabs, but something tells me we would've had just as much difficulty. Being turned around didn't change the fact that the ride was absolutely beautiful.
Once back on the main road, we decided to head toward Kayseri. We were told by Uger, that there is Turkish Ravioli in Kayseri that we had to try. We made it to Kayseri, but we did not find the ravioli, instead we found a small restaurant that served us soup with unknown meat in it. Given all the pictures of peeled lamb heads around the shop, we were under the impression that the soup was full of lamb eyes, brain and meat from the head of the lamb. I also think they may have thrown a couple lamb testicles in there.
The soup was good, but definitely not my favorite. I was full, not because I had eaten my fill, but because I didn't want to eat anymore lamb brain. We were thankful when the plates were cleared and the customary post meal tea was served.
The restaurant we ate at seemed to be located in a local shopping area. No one was hassling us to buy their products, no one spoke English and everyone stared at us. We've become accustomed to the stares and after saying hello "merhaba" and flashing large smiles, everyone around us (~20 middle aged males and a couple boys) relaxed and smiled back.
James brought a knife from home that he wanted to trade for a Turkish knife and he was able to do that with little difficulty. Graham tried to trade his old motorcycle helmet for a knife with no success. He bought one instead and is still stuck with his old helmet. We're thinking we may try to trade it for a chicken sometime in the near future. A box of honey comb that was quoted at 150 (~$55) Turkish Lira in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, was 10 Lira here (~$3.50). James and I bought a box without questioning the price.
I will rarely give travel advice, but here is something I learned: after venturing outside of Istanbul, we have found nearly every item that was sold in the Grand Bazaar for fractions of the price. If you're in Istanbul, the Grand Bazaar is great to visit, but do not expect to get a fair price. For example, we paid 12 Turkish Lira for 100 grams of apple tea that we later found in a super market (exact same brand) priced at 6 Lira/500 grams. The price in the Bazaar (after bargaining) was 10 times the price of the super market. And the tea wasn't even good!
We left downtown Kayseri in search of an internet Café so that we could get some blogging done. We found the Joker Cafe and spent the next 4-5 hours working. Before leaving the Cafe, James looked up a lake just a couple miles north of Kayseri called Kizilirmark. We didn't know what it would be like but decided it could have a good campsite. We were not disappointed.
The ride to the lake was phenomenal, large rolling hills and beautiful farmland. We took a couple sharp turns and road down a couple brake boiling dirt roads until we found ourselves on a road following the lake. From the lake, we turned off onto a creek path and followed a drainage ditch into an open field where we made camp.
Kizilirmark and and ancient ruins: June 27th
I woke up a few times throughout the night due to the cold. I had exchanged sleeping bags with Sarah after teasing her for being cold. Turns out her sleeping bag really isn’t that warm. When the sun started to come up we were soaked in dew once again, and a boy and his mom were perched up the hill a little ways with their cattle. We decided to hold our ground instead of get scared off; mostly because all of our stuff was pretty wet and we wanted to wait around for the sun to hit everything and dry it off. This worked in our favor, and they didn’t bother us at all. In fact I think they were waiting until we woke up to drive their cattle past us. At one point the boy came down with his dog to check it out and when I moved around in my sleeping bag to check it out I scared the dog. He barked a few times at us to show he could still protect his master, but he decided not to attack the 4 human burritos lying on the ground.
Boy with cows
We finally got up, made some coffee and headed towards the lake to take our first bath in over a week. We decided that before we cleaned ourselves we should go check out the ruins on the side of the lake. It looked similar to Cappadocia with buildings carved into the stone cliff with a pretty good sized town beneath it. We climbed up the hill and wandered through the old cliff dwellings, and found signs that people still use the place occasionally. The caves carved into the cliff look to be used as stables for the local livestock. It was crazy to think that however many years ago this was probably a thriving city along the river, and now half of the ruins are consumed by a dammed lake, the cliff dwellings are mostly eroded, and cows now sleep in what was the living room of a prosperous family. After pondering over what must have happened to the town and how old it must be we ran down to the lake and cleaned off our dirty bodies.
The water felt great and we seemed to have the entire lake to ourselves! There was no one around. No boats in the water or people on the banks. It was awesome to see a large lake with hardly any civilization accompanying it. While we were drying off some people emerged from the ruins and drove their boat across the lake to come check out what we were doing. We did the standard sign language and broken words to communicate that we were motorcycling across a bunch of countries, and they did the standard response of twirling a finger by their ear to indicate we are crazy.
We left the lake and headed north with the idea of grabbing some food and continuing to the coast. It was already the afternoon though, and we were not feeling all that motivated to drive a huge distance. We stopped in a little town that had a surprisingly youthful vibe for lunch. We ordered some pide, and when they asked how big a pide we wanted Michael responded with his entire 6’4 wingspan. They took this pretty literally and they baked up a fresh 6 foot long pide for us to devour. It was complemented with a salad that they covered with pomegranate dressing that was absolutely delicious. We were completely stuffed and content with how the day was shaping up. I was in complete bliss with the semi remoteness of the area and the kindness of the people. Everyone was smiling and interested in what the hell we might be doing there. As we were leaving we had a sobering reminder that we were still somewhere foreign and there are some hostile people around. They turned on the news and it was showing a large building exploding followed by insurgents firing AK-47’s and RPG’s. It was insane to think that all that was happening less than a day’s drive away from the blissful paradise we had been enjoying all day. A man speaking pretty good English warned us not to trust anyone as we left and made a motion of someone snatching us. Definitely freaked me out a bit and put me in a strange place for the next hour or so, but as we left everyone was in the street smiling and waving to us happily. We continued north along semi paved roads that switched between lots of pot holes and just dirt road. We turned a corner and there was a beautiful field of purple flowers tracing the hills. We had to stop and take a picture and bask in the wonderful day just a little more.
After our pit stop we were so happy with the place that we drove up a little dirt road into the forest and found a great camp spot within 5 minutes. The forest was very open, and we could easily just drive through it on our bikes until we found a little perch looking out over the surrounding hills. The lack of brush also made it an incredible spot for hammocks and we wasted no time setting them up, sitting down, and reading our books for the rest of the afternoon. It was incredibly calming, and we hardly even noticed the storm clouds brewing overhead. When we finally did we also found a baby bird had recently hatched and made its way underneath James’ hammock. We didn’t know what to do with it, because the mother bird was nowhere to be found and this thing literally hatched a few hours before. It couldn’t even open its eyes. It was about to come down and we feared it would die from the cold so we built a little nest for it in James’ helmet before finding what appeared to be a similar type bird a little ways away. We made a new nest for the little guy, and hoped the other bird would adopt him then scurried back to our hammocks to setup the tarps before it came down.
I poorly setup the tarp and me and Sarah got pretty wet before I could get out and fix it, but our moods were still high and we fell asleep to the pitter patter of raindrops on the tarps and rolling thunder in the distance.