A DAY AND NIGHT IN A VOLCANO...
THE CONTINUING ADVENTURES OF TEAM DAVE IN TURKEY
This instalment of Dave and his now fourstrong gang's story, finds them camping in a volcano and admiring the breathtaking views and sights as they travel through Turkey - if you want to catch up and have missed the previous episodes, check out the link here.Over to Dave...
The prospect of travelling up Nemrut Dagi volcano had been one of the aspects of the trip I had been looking forward to most of all. After reading about the place in the guidebook I resisted the temptation to spend too much time on Google Earth as one wants a few surprises in life.
The now Gang of Four stocked up with some food in preparation for cooking, (would a cooker be necessary?) in the town of Tatvan before riding up and down the main road full of new developments, looking for the track that would take us up to the volcano. A young guy stopped to help and told us about his trip to the UK on an Africa Twin, then he directed us to the right road, 20 yards ahead. We headed up the hillside to find the usual road construction and hotel building site. Diggers and dust everywhere but once we rode over the top of the crater we entered a different world.
The Land That Time Forgot.
The crater is seven miles in circumference, there is lush green grass, trees and lakes (and huge dinosaurs...er...) Stopping at the first and smallest of the lakes we took all the gear off the bikes so we could explore unencumbered. There are a number of tracks and trails but just being inside a volcano, all be it a dormant one, was enough.
We liaised by a tea stall next to one of the lakes and sat back enjoying the scenery and sunshine. A number of tourists, some foreign like us and Turkish people were sightseeing too, we had several conversations as we wandered by the lakes that looked very deep and cold. Whilst meandering around on the bikes Chip met one of the digger drivers who told him we could ride where we wanted and camp where we wanted too. He also said we could use any of the pallets that were dotted about where the workman were paving the tracks. He warned that we might need a fire as it gets cold at night. Back at our camp, sitting in the sunshine I looked up at the edge of the crater, towering all around us.
We live as we dream, alone
How long would it take to walk up there?
Would the view be spectacular and worth the effort?
The others weren’t interested so I went on my own with a bottle of water, a crunchy bar and an apple. One of the tracks out of the volcano went in the right direction so I was able to go part way on the bike then start trudging up a sheep trail up the outside of the craters edge.
To answer the questions:
About an hour or so of uphill slog.
The view was beyond spectacular. It was stunning, magnificent, unforgettable and many other similar adjectives.
I sat down to munch my mini picnic and watch the hawks circling on the thermals above the sheer drop into the volcano.
Walking back down I started wondering just how far up the path I could get on my bike or indeed how far we could all get up the path. I really wanted the others to see and experience the sights up that crater. I would talk them into it.
Getting back to the camp I arrived the same time as Chip and Dirk who had ridden into town in search of essential beer supplies. Dinner was cooked by the fire as we watched the sun go down and the moon come up. The digger driver was right, it got decidedly chilly and we were grateful for the pallets to burn. A couple of beers and we were ready to get some shut eye. I prepared for cold with two sleeping bags, a tiny summer one and another somewhat more substantial. I made a little camp out of the bike and a couple of tarp sheets. I was as snug as a bug in a rug.
In early morning grey light with a drip, dripping inside my little cave I awoke. Peeking outside it was very misty. Crawling out I realised just how right the digger driver had been, cold it was. There was a thick layer of frost over everything, including my riding gear that was covering gaps in my make shift tent. It was bloody freezing. The frost was shaken and brushed off my gear and laid out waiting for the early morning sun to burn the mist away. It was only about 5.30 and by 6.15 the sun was out my riding gear was dry.
I don't know where I'm a gonna go when the volcano blow
An hour or so later, we were packed up and heading for the path I had walked up the previous afternoon. The bikes were able to get most of the way up to the craters edge, stopping when the hill got a little too steep and then precariously parking them whilst we walked to the edge. I hadn’t bothered to take a camera the day before so was glad the others were there to record the scene. The view was just as spectacular the second time and after a suitable period of admiration we went back down the way we came, more or less. Then headed down the side of the volcano to the main road heading northeast along the eastern shore of Lake Van towards the Iranian border. The fact that we had tried so hard to get a visa to cross the border still stuck in our craw. It was made all the worse when the weather deteriorated very quickly as we got closer, being forced to stop and put on waterproofs. The worst of it had passed us by but made the surface through the obligatory roadworks a tad treacherous. The border town of Dogubyazit was grey, windy and desolate as only border towns can be with rubbish being blown across the wide road at impressive speeds. The only saving grace was the sight of Mount Ararat getting pretty close. The road north that kept us in Turkey ran past Mt Ararat and parallel to Armenia. We were going to travel a good distance north before we could enter Georgia, turn south and get into Armenia. Funny game International Politics.
Mt Ararat is hugely majestic, rising up from the flat scrubland to 5000 meters and is 40k in diameter, complete with snow on the top. It too is a volcano and was last erupted in 1840. We were able to see it for the best part of the afternoon.
We would see it again but the next time would be from the other side.
A spannering in the works
We travelled on to the town of Igdir. A pleasant enough place with a modern centre that provided us with a meal and a couple of beers. We also came across a bike shop. Dirk was keen to have his oil changed as he had travelled all the way from Berlin via the Balkans and it was about time it was done. The only person in the shop was a young lad about 13 but we managed to arrange to come back with the XT in the morning, sort out the best oil with him and the price. This boy would go far. Despite being happy with the negotiations I think Dirk was relieved that it was someone significantly older who actually did the spannering.
Job done we headed north for a while then turned west on dirt roads towards the ruined city of Ani. Here is something I find fascinating, like so many places we visited in Turkey, Ani used to be a very significant city with a couple of hundred thousand people living there, as important as cities like Damascus, Constantinople and Baghdad. Now it is just ruins in the middle of….. nothing, just a couple of villages nearby. Those other cities have all survived and developed despite being invaded many times. Not so Ani which is very close to the Armenian border, in fact it was originally the capital of an Armenian Kingdom. The authorities are starting to develop it as a tourist destination and have built a new road from the town of Kars but commercialisation is wonderfully minimal with one small teashop run by a man and his young daughter.
Putting the boot in
Our plan was to reach Georgia today but despite having two GPS’s and two maps we buggered up big time by missing a right turn, going on to Ardahan and turning right there. We should have realised our karma was wrong when two dogs ran out of their farm and went straight at the lead bike. Milky was doing at least 50 and these guys were not stopping till they had their teeth in something. He managed to fend off the first beast with his left Alpine Star. It went down like it had been pole axed with a yelp that pulled the second one up in double quick time. I have no idea how Milky did not come to serious grief, my heart rate had sped up so what his was I can only imagine. As us three came past, only seconds later, one dog had retreated at pace and the other struggled to get up. None of us hung around to see how it would fare. Milky shook his boot but apart from being a bit sore was unscathed.
The landscape had been mainly grass covered undulating hills, we were quite high up but it was not at all dramatic. Then, quite literally we went round a corner and found ourselves within an alpine environment. Steep, pine and rock covered hillsides, the road descending then ascending in a phenomenal manner. We could tell that we hadn’t been transported back to Austria because we went past a village of wooden shacks that were barely clinging to the mountainside and would not have met the building regs for a shed never mind peoples' homes.
In spite of enjoying the wonders of this new terrain it started to dawn on us that we were heading west a little too much. A navigation check was required and our mistake became obvious. Doh! To go back or carry on? It was a bloody long way back so onward it would be and although our first big navigation error was galling, it turned out to be a good thing but that would not become apparent for a couple of weeks.
Finding a place to stay a ways down the road, all be it the wrong road did not prove much of a problem. On TV that night we watched Germany beat Portugal, drinks on Dirk then and a couple of glasses of raki ensured a good nights sleep.
The son of the owner of the hotel had a moped with a puncture and we had a go at fixing it in the morning, well actually there were about ten punctures and we weren’t about to use all our patches so admitting defeat we left and pressed on down the valleys towards the Black Sea. On the way we went through civil engineering works where new roads and hydro dams were being built on a vast scale. Absolutely fantastic views and riding all the way down to the sea.
Who's laughing now?
There is a big dual carriageway that heads up to the border town of Sarp and the queue of lorries waiting to cross the border went for miles and miles. Laughing to ourselves at the wait the drivers had as we rode past with the Black Sea on our left we reached the border. And you know what? They wouldn’t let Chip out of the bloody country!!!
Ah...dams, volcanoes, vicious dogs, the cameraderie of the road - what more could you ask for from a ripping yarn? Anyone know any of these places or have any comments?
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