We got so very, very lost today. So lost.
We had decided we’d have a quiet day after all the activity yesterday; so we mooched about over breakfast and then the kids did some coding for a while and Jennifer and I sat and read books on the terrace. Then, mid-morning, we took a taxi to Uchisar where a pinnacle known as the castle dominates the local landscape.
We’re getting a bit used to seeing rooms hollowed out of the rock and the Uchisar Castle was nice enough, but didn’t blow us away. On the other hand we were thrilled to find ourselves in the midst of the filming of an episode of the The Amazing Race. Now it was the Chinese version, but the kids got to stand on the finish mat and the day was looking good.
By the time we descended back into the town a wall of lightning-cracked storm-front was speeding towards us over the plane. Discretion being the better part of valour we retreated into a local cafe and sat watch an absolutely torrential downpour while debating whether to continue with our plan to walk back to Goreme down the Pigeon Valley. The doubters in our midst were over-ruled and we decided to continue on once the rain had stopped on the basis that (a) it was supposed to be a lovely walk and (b) it was only around 4km anyway and so wouldn’t take long.
So we set out. The walk down into the valley was notable mostly for the deeply etched ravines which the runoff from the downpour had etched into the paths. The same geology that allows for interesting erosion and building caves means that the path gets washed away at the drop of a hat. The walk started well with what we though was a detour to the left to take a look at some great rock formations. It was only when we’d schlepped back to our starting point that we realised the detour was in fact the way we should be going. The walking was easy and the whole trek wasn’t exactly long so we re-traced our steps quite happily.
The valley was quite lovely at this point. The walls are riddled with pigeon houses and bigger rooms, there are wildflowers everywhere and the birds singing was the only thing breaking the silence. The scenery remained lovely as we moved on but the path became increasingly muddy – to the point where we hit that fine line between muddy and just a shallow river. The path was also completely without any signposts, had multiple branches and faded out repeatedly. We had to retrace our steps several times.
We were getting a bit weary by the time we came to a truly huge puddle which an old man with a mattock was working on draining. It was a relief to have him confirm this was the Goreme path and to see a sign. So on we went. The path soon became almost non-existent and hedged in with stinging nettles and the water started rising around our ankles. Just as we were considering the wisdom on continuing the old man popped up and explained in broken English that the path ahead was basically a river and that we should turn around. He then proceeded to lead us to high ground and led us for the next half an hour up along the ridge of the valley. Finally we came to a branch in the path and he indicated we should just continue down the right hand branch. With a smile and shake of the hand he turned back.
We continued on but once again the path soon started branching and disappearing. About 15 minutes later we took the right branch, crossed a plank bridge, stumbled through some vegetation and found ourselves on the edge of a deep, vegetation-filled ravine. And I do mean deep and I do mean edge. Once again we beat a retreat all the way back to the fork and took the right hand fork that put os on the other side of the ravine. We followed the ravine edge along with the ravine getting progressively more deep and sheer sided and the path getting progressively narrower and more eroded. Finally we reached a point where to progress would have meant sliding down a steep, thin scree-covered path that if we didn’t stop at the end would have us dropping over the cliff.
So we stood and regrouped, girding our loins at the through of retracing our steps all the way back to the beginning, but realising that proceeding was pure folly. There was not much enthusiasm for where we found ourselves, but we all accepted that our choice was limited. And then up popped our fairy godfather Turkish man again. He pulled us back with big arm-gestures and shouts of ‘dangerous, dangerous’ and then proceeded to once again lead us onward by a different route. As this route involved leaving the path and then squeezing through a 20m natural crack on a rock in the pitch dark there was absolutely no way we’d have found it ourselves.
Our saviour led us up into the hills again and around the ravine, all the while showing us the local vegetation – pears, apples, mulberries (which turn out to be very tasty picked off a tree), mushrooms, and more and demonstrating for the boys ‘technique’ for dealing with the scree slopes. After another long walk we finally reached a lovely little taverna by the path where we sat down with big sighs and had freshly squeezed orange juice and peanuts in the shell.
The last part of the walk from there was pretty easy and eventually we went through a tunnel and popped out of Pigeon Valley into the edge of Goreme, scratched, bruised, nettle-stung and having gone far more than 4km.
Our saviour then roused his broken English to tell us that his daughter was having an operation in Istanbul tomorrow and he couldn’t be there because he had no money. He said this all with a mournful shake of the head and then turned away. It was at this point that we considered whether we had turned out to be the pigeons in the Valley. But realistically he had saved us from retracing our steps, made sure we weren’t lost, showed us lots of local flora, and saved us from doing something really stupid at the ravine edge (although we like to think we would definitely have turned back). And having got to the end of the walk we were feeling like we’d had an adventure. So in the end I happily slipped him some money and we all came away satisfied with the Valley of the Pigeons.