There weren’t any tears shed when we had to pack up and leave our beautiful pigeon house, but they weren’t far away. It was truly the most enjoyable accommodation I have stayed in. Of course, other than Deli-chan, our campervan that took us around Australia. Amazingly, the manager of the hotel was Japanese, too. Risa and her had a bit of a chat and we found out more about our suite – you don’t want to be there during heavy rain it seems!
There was one last sight that was within easy reach from Göreme before we left, so we made a quick dash out to Devrent Valley to see what the fuss was about. Being Cappadocia, it was about rocks. Instead of the large habitable rocks in other valleys in Cappadocia, the specimens here were much smaller, and much denser. It reminded us a little of The Pinnacles in Western Australia, though much less uniformity.
Lonely Planet listed a whole heap of shapes that were said to be visible, including camels, dolphins, seals, Napoleon’s hat and some kissing birds. Either our imagination wasn’t up to scratch, or it really required liberal use of imagination to see some of the shapes. Either way, it kept us busy trying to spot the shapes as we wandered along the pathway in the baking hot sun.
And with that, we were finished with Göreme, and we were now making our way towards Ankara. But, we still had one more thing to stop for first – the ‘castle’ at Uçhisar.
Today was spectacularly clear, and to our surprise and total amazement, we could see what looked like a snow capped mountain in the distance. We stopped for a closer look at the panorama lookout just above Göreme, for one last view. I thought the snow must have been a mirage, or some other illusion, as it was way too hot for there still to be snow. But, a little research, and we leant that the 3,900m Mount Erciyes not only has a ski resort, but that the volcano does in fact have year round snow cover!
Much like Mount Erciyes dominates the landscape, Uçhisar Castle also dominates the area. We have seen it in the distance since we arrived, and have been curious about it since. There was a 6TL ($3) entry that wasn’t covered by the Cappadocia Pass. Unfortunately it was a massive disappointment, as it was little more than a staircase around the outside of the ‘castle’ to a view platform on the top. Sure, the view out over Cappadocia was stunning, especially on such a clear day (though, it was also stunning from below). It just would have been nice to have been able to see more of the ‘castle’.
The biggest positive was that the aerial advantage was able to help me find a good location to photograph the massive ‘castle’ complex. However, navigating there in the car was a little more challenging. I like to think that the effort was totally justified by the result.
And we were now officially finished with Cappadocia, and our long journey to Ankara had begun. We eventually left behind the rocks and sandy hues for the long plains of wheat and other farms with their beautiful red soil. The long driving on the flat and straight roads made staying awake difficult. Just like our time around Australia, this was enough to turn Risa catatonic
Trying to be adventurous, we again tried to stop in a small local restaurant in a small town. I don’t recall the name of the town, but I do recall the feeling driving through there. We were a long way from the normal tourist route, and our presence was drawing attention – not in a bad way, but after a few weeks by the Mediterranean we’d forgotten what it felt like to stand out. The first shop that we saw seemed to only make chicken kebab sandwiches (tavuk ekmek), so we ordered two. It was one of the cheapest meals we’ve had, and for once it was amazing. The bread was perfect, the chicken was juicy and there chilli flakes and other herbs on the table to add a little flavour.
The lunch break gave us a quick perk up, but it didn’t last long and I was soon feeling the fatigue. Even a break to buy ice-cream was only enough to wake me for half an hour or so. We considered stopping at a town just before Ankara, but we couldn’t find a cheap hotel, so pushed on with heavy eyes.
But, at the last minute, we decided to return the car to Ankara early, and catch the night bus to Istanbul. We realised that by the time we got to Ankara, and left early in the morning to return the car, we weren’t going to be left with much time to actually see (or do) anything. And by catching a night bus we were able to save money on accommodation.
And like that, we dropped the car at airport and caught the bus to the major Ankara bus station (ASTI) for 10TL ($5) each. We had a very basic glimpse of the capital from the window of the bus. We had originally thought about spending two nights here in Ankara, but I was struggling to find much that took our interest any more – we were both at the stage that we were ready to head home.
It was quite an experience walking into the ASTI bus terminal. There were dozens of people trying to sell tickets on the buses. The normal instinct is to try and ignore hawkers, but I was feeling brave and was curious what was going to come from it. He asked where we were going, and what time we wanted to leave, and armed with that information, he escorted us to a few different bus counters. Lonely Planet had given me a rough idea of the expected price, and straight away he was in the ballpark. But, to play it safe, I spoke with a few other hawkers, who all told me the same price of 50TL ($25) each for the six hour journey to Istanbul.
We tried going to the counters directly to see how it compared, only to find it too confusing with the overwhelming number of counters to visit. We managed to find the original hawker again, and he did the most unusual thing and haggled himself down– it was now only 50TL for the two of us! It almost felt too good to be true, and there was a certain part of me that was nervous that we’d been sold a fake ticket.
The bus station was one of the more depressing places we’ve visited in Turkey, too. There were families that looked like they were camped inside. We were never in any risk, but it was hard to feel comfortable under a constant gaze.
We decided to catch a later bus so that we would arrive in Istanbul at a reasonable time – we didn’t want to arrive too early to check in to the hotel. So, we killed time at a cheap restaurant that was showing the World Cup on TV.
Outside, there were dozens of buses, and crowds everywhere – even though it was nearly midnight. We were starting to be concerned when it didn’t look like our bus was there. I thought that maybe our tickets were counterfeit after all. But, it turned out that they just moved the bus to another bay – but finding that information proved to be rather difficult. Even though we’d found the bus, the staff on the bus didn’t want to let us on, but luckily Risa’s tenacity paid off.
When we booked tickets, the hawker talked about the bus being a V.I.P bus, so I was quietly hopeful – the bus even had big stickers on the outside repeating the promise. But, stepping inside the now crowded coach, it was clear that it was V.I.P in words (and signage) only. It may have been nicer than regular public transport, but it certainly wasn’t luxury. I took a step back and thought of what $12.50 would buy in Australia, and it wouldn’t even get me to the Gold Coast from Brisbane, so I can’t complain too loudly.
There were televisions in the rear of the headrests, however they didn’t seem to pick up any clear stations. There was no toilet, only the option of paying to use one at a pit stop along the way. The seats reclined a little, except for mine, which seemed to have had the actuating lever ripped from the side of it, leaving my seat back vertical. And, the final complaint – there was a family with three very young children directly behind us, crying and making noise as we rolled out of Ankara a little after midnight.
All the stars were lining up for a rather uncomfortable night, and I questioned if it was really worth saving a little time and money for this.
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