Beldibi to Aksaray (Cappadocia, Turkey)

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We enjoy a leisurely final breakfast and morning together before Mum and Dad drive me to Antalya to pick up the rental car. They patiently wait for me to (a) find the rental car company and (b) organise the keys to the car. They help me organise a trolley to transfer my gear from the campervan to the car. And then we say our goodbyes. The rental car company upgraded me from the smallest class to a mid-sized car so now I am traveling in style.

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The first thing I notice about driving in Turkey is that Turkish drivers are erratic. Firstly, the fast traffic does not adhere to the speed limit at all. They race. And the slow traffic straddles the emergency stopping lane and the right lane of the road. At least you can identify them but it is rather odd to me and does not really allow anyone any easier opportunity to pass because there’s still fast traffic in the left lane. When I say slow traffic; I mean slow. This car was traveling at about 50kph in a 90kph zone.
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Slow moving traffic does not only come in the form of cars. There are all sorts of slow vehicles on the roads, like overloaded trucks and tractors. I even pass a horse and cart at one point but don’t manage to capture it on camera. I don’t mind that the traffic is slow; it just strikes me because I had envisaged Turkey as a European country. This image is changing and I am now starting to see that it actually is more a part of Asia than the West.

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The sight of men riding on and in the back of trucks confirms this reality. Though the helmet-less men and families I have already seen riding around on scooters and motorbikes should have been a warning already. Mind you, this is East meets West so the scooter and motorbike riders might be helmetless and bikes might carry whole families but they do not ride slowly like in Asia; they are careening around at 80-100kph.

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But it’s not just the traffic that makes the kilometers pass by. The landscape here is amazing! At first I drive along steep winding mountain roads that hug rocky slopes. Every bend brings in view a new mountainous shape. It’s fascinating and the driving is definitely not always easy as I twist, turn and dodge both slow and fast moving vehicles.

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Late in the afternoon, the landscape changes dramatically. There’s no warning or intermediate zone. There’s just mountains and then yellow. The yellow fields stretch as far as my eyes can see. The small lumps of hills here are barren and yellow too. There’s barely any trees as golden fields take up every scrap of space. At this speed I cannot determine what the crop is. But the road travels through these fields for a good 200km (135 miles). I realise that if I had been cycling here, I would have ridden through these fields for at least two days; if not more.

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The apple and potato harvest is in full swing. As I drive along I see trucks loaded beyond the brim with these crops. In many cases, men sit precariously on top of the loads. I watch as whole villages harvest potatoes from the ground. A tractor digs them all up and then lines of workers, both men and women by the look of it, pick the potatoes off the ground and put them in huge bags. The bags are then transported on trailers pulled by tractors and horses. I’m not sure how they go from being bagged to ending up loose in the big trucks. Perhaps I never will. It looks like back breaking work and I am grateful not to have been born into this life.

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As the sun sets in my rear vision mirror I stop for a feed at a roadhouse. I eat lamb shish with salad and a big clay bowl of yoghurt. It’s delicious and sets me back the grand sum of 25TL ($AU12.50). As always here in Turkey, everything was home made and freshly grown, from the herbs on the shish to the yoghurt in the pot. I need to find farmer markets or grow vegetables again when I get home because it’s just such a luxury that I have missed for the past few years since I sold the house and vegetable garden that we had in its garden.

I reach Aksaray and contemplate pushing on to Goreme where I believe the most popular part of Cappadocia is. But it is still 166km (100 miles) and Google tells me that it will take about 2.5 hours to get there. It’s 7pm and I am tired from the long 500km drive from Antalya plus the long distance we traveled from Beldibi to Antalya’s airport. I check the internet (thank goodness for my Turkish sim card) and notice that I can get a one-star hotel with average reviews for $AU40 a night or a four-star hotel with exceptional reviews for $AU61 a night. There was a time earlier in my quest for 42 when I would have stopped by the side of the road and slept in the car or maybe booked the cheaper motel. But not anymore. I can skimp on other luxuries. But if I can get an exceptional hotel for $AU61 a night, then I am doing it for the rest, relaxation and chance to recharge my personal batteries. The hotel is wonderful. It would cost me $200 a night easily in Australia. And I don’t know anywhere else in the world where the concierge brings the guests a plate of fresh fruit in their rooms for supper at around 8:30pm. I got an apple, two plums and a banana. No charge. Just inclusive. Oh, and there was a hammam (Turkish bath) included in the price of the room but I am not comfortable with that for the same reasons I had concerns in Japan and Korea (Turkish baths appear to be naked places and I can’t do naked places). It didn’t detract from my absolute pleasure at the luxury of this hotel though. It was a good night of fast wifi, BBC television (British television is so foreign and strange to me) and a soft doona.

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