Category Archives: Turkey

It’s all a fairytale!!

Turning our backs on the coast, we made east for Pamukkale – famous for an amazing series of tiered lakes on the slopes of a mineral rich hillside and Roman ruins.

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The famous tiered lakes of Pamukkale

The famous tiered lakes of Pamukkale

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Ruins of Heiropolis at Pamukkale

Ruins of Heiropolis at Pamukkale

My cynical side bubbles to the surface quite often when visiting major tourist attractions such as these lakes.  You feel like you’re just a mobile ATM machine that talks back! An arid and unimpressive location other than the main attraction has been made a lot less attractive with the investment in cheesy hotels offering bright blue swimming pools nestled amongst palm trees so that you forget where you are!

Walking ATM's

Walking ATM’s

These ancient lakes are a geological anomaly that provided the catalyst for settlement to bloom around this area.

As usual, we were met with a throng of tourists – acceptance is the key! They are also entitled to be on holiday and enjoying such locations – apparently!

Undies, Undies, Undies and ...still Undies!

Undies, Undies, Undies and …still Undies!

Keeping to cardinal east on the compass and via some stunning mountain driving and inland lakes, a few days later we arrived in the locality of Cappadocia. From the first moment, this collection of geological and man made oddities has you intrigued!

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Cappadocia

Cappadocia

River gorges and limestone mountains have eroded into the most amazing structures and for millennia humans have carved everything from small food cellars to churches into this relatively soft rock culminating in complete underground settlements that could support up to 20 000 people for 6 months during siege or disaster!

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Underground Cities - Kaymakli and Derinkuyu

Underground Cities – Kaymakli and Derinkuyu

The whole region is just plain weird and fantastic!

Travelling this area, you really feel like your somewhere other than Earth (Tatooine maybe?)  –  Staggeringly eye catching from every angle!

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Uchisar Fortress

Uchisar Fortress

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Amazing landscape

Amazing landscape

Arriving in the area of Goreme, we didn’t just find a campsite, we found THE campsite. With elevation on our side we were perched above magnificent columns of sandstone with our own private excavations to explore along with surreal views of Uchisar at sunset.

Uchisar Sunset

Uchisar Sunset

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Alone for a little while, our camper gave us away! An Austrian in a ‘60’ series LandCruiser spotted us! With such exquisite views we camped together and relaxed into easy conversation with Chris and again swapped travel details with the like minded.

Chris and his trusty steed

Chris and his trusty steed

Hot air ballooning is ridiculously popular here.  With cool solid air and landscape from somewhere outside the Milky Way, it’s easy to see why.

Just on daybreak, we were awakened by the loud roar of numerous fans inflating their balloons in readiness for their journey aloft. Exiting our home, we were greeted with a truly stunning sight, the landscape coming alive as it receives those first touches of morning sun.

IMG_1786 IMG_1793 IMG_1798As if they were themselves alive, these fabric monoliths began to blink randomly all across the valley floor like giant one million watt light globes being flicked on and off! Slowly they began to defy gravity and head skyward! I’ve never seen anything like it; the sheer quantity and magnitude of these floating orbs was unbelievable!

IMG_1807 IMG_1827 IMG_1838The sun’s rays making their presence more strongly now, the colours of early morning blending into each other, the cool desert air, the roar and brilliance of the flames.  The complete spectacle was one of those memories that burns its way into your mind and stays perfectly clear for evermore! Beautiful…

By mid morning, the landscape had become less inviting – the colours dissolved, replaced with the shimmer of heat and call of the air conditioner.

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"Love" Valley

“Love” Valley

We had seen what we came to see and been fully rewarded.

Istanbul enter, enter! GPS loaded, we had made it as far east that this stage of our journey would take us.

Northwest via Ankara was an incredible sprawl of urbaneness surrounded by large hills sporting scrubby bush and pale rocks. Concrete and apartment living are the modern Turkish vision here! Yes, there are the individual residences and suburbs, but extremely high-density living is in full swing.

Istanbul announces herself well before you can consider yourself within her environs.  Hectic traffic and concentration required, you seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in heavy traffic with the usual irrational lane changing and pushing, whilst creeping along the motorway at 2km per hour!

The Bosphorous Straight

The Bosphorous Straight

All in all, I found the drive into this metropolis not all that bad. Maybe I’m becoming a little more conditioned to using my vehicle’s size to force little Renaults to be courteous! Urban sprawl continues for many kms enroute to the area of main interest for tourists -the Sultan Ahmet District.

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Anything Goes

Anything Goes

RV parks and campgrounds appear non-existent within close proximity to the Old City.  As such, Jen had found a fantastically well-located guesthouse with street parking right in the centre of the old city!

It would be advisable, however, to use one of the campgrounds concentrated to the north on the Black Sea and accept the local transit implications that come with that decision if your vehicle is any larger than our Patrol otherwise a dent or 2 or getting stuck in a narrow street is a real possibility!

Entering the Old City is really just a maze of very skinny one-way streets, crawling with pedestrians and all manner of products loaded onto carts enroute to their retail outlets.

At one point, we were up on the kerb with our bull bar literally touching a building forward of us, whilst a Mercedes people mover squeezed past with mm to spare! You have to get used to it – that’s just the way it is!

With hotel located, we were again met with that Turkish hospitality! 2 of the hotel staff had parked their cars on the street right outside in order to keep a location large enough for us to park! Where else would that occur? Settled in, we began our explorations of this interesting city.

Pop star parking!

Pop star parking!

The city is massive and could probably replace the dictionary definition of “urban sprawl”. It is hemmed in to the North and South by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara respectively and the population has exploded east into Asia and west into Europe along the available land.

Having a portion of the urban jungle on either side of the Bosphorous Straight has afforded Istanbul the reputation of being the location where “East meets West” and it’s certainly true. The Sultan Ahmet District is without doubt worth a wander.

Istanbul

Istanbul

From underground Roman Cisterns to Egyptian antiquities relocated here throughout the ages, the largest and certainly one of the oldest undercover markets in the world, famous mosques and simply the colours, food and it’s people make Istanbul an intriguing destination.

Ayasofia

Ayasofia

Egyptian Obelisk

Egyptian Obelisk

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Ayasofia

Ayasofia

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Whirling Dervish

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Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

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Medusa heads

Medusa heads

Not sure how traditional this is???

Not sure how traditional this is???

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Call to Prayer Schedule

Call to Prayer Schedule

Inside the Blue Mosque

Inside the Blue Mosque

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Turks enjoying a BBQ and a swim!

Turks enjoying a BBQ and a swim!

Relaxed and happy with our visitation to Turkey we made west for Bulgaria over the next days with some interesting sights to come!

Cheers Justin.

Turkish Delight

Departing what seems like 18th century road construction techniques, all of a sudden you’re in the modern era! That’s how it feels entering Turkey!

The first thing that happens is that you remember you have a fifth gear.  Now I love driving on tracks and wandering about the countryside, but poor bitumen roads are the pits! Not to spin the idea to far in the direction of modern infrastructure however, as Turkey persists with its share of bad roads on most fronts other than its motorways and toll roads connecting major centers! Nonetheless, it proved to be a nice if not short break for a very shaken Patrol!

With the Turkish rumored to be some of the friendliest people on the planet, we were keen to find out for ourselves. From the moment we stopped for fuel and were greeted with smiles and helpful advice along with a hand to get the Patrol cleaned up in the truck wash, to the day we crossed out, we were the recipients of that rumored hospitality.

It had been a while since we’d travelled in a country with a relatively large conservative Muslim population and daily life in rural Turkey provides images that are repeated village after village – generally few women around and teahouses loaded with men drinking tea and playing Mahjong!

Mosque by the beach!

Mosque by the beach!

All heads are guaranteed to turn in our direction as our unusual vehicle idles by, usually because idling in a low gear is about as fast as we can transit the bumps!

Generally however if you initiate a wave, you’re sure to be met in kind.  Most teahouses are strictly men only but there are a few that allow both sexes and the best way to locate them is to observe the clientele. If you’re used to patronising any and all establishments without considering whether your X or Y, then it takes a little getting used to.

As we descended south, the temperature was increasing rapidly. Most days pushed 40 degrees, never a pleasant temperature for travelling. We were heading toward the Gallipoli Peninsula, but with quite a few kms still to travel, we received our first view of the Aegean Sea.  It was so inviting, that a camp had to be found forthwith. We wandered around coastal roads and tracks for a while before locating a great site, slightly elevated, granting us views over the sea toward the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Quite a Moonrise...

Quite a Moonrise…

Camping Bliss!

Camping Bliss! The Aegean Sea..

I was saddened immediately, however, to see that other than in the tourist areas, we were back to a landscape littered with refuse. The same lack of regard for the environment that we continually come into contact with in many far eastern countries and it continues all the way to the Bering Straight.  I can’t understand how you can pollute your countryside with refuse and then sit amongst the decay whilst camping and swimming as if it’s normal behavior! It’s not normal behavior.

IMG_1023 Anyway, enough of the negative, it was a Friday night when we camped and it was obviously a locals camping area so we weren’t really surprised when we were all but inundated with locals the following day. What did surprise us however was that they started arriving at around 4:30am! Headlights darting around and voices carrying in the cool morning air as hopeful campers sought out a cosy site.

Now we’ve experienced call to prayer numerous times, but whilst camped was a first for us. 5am and our new camp buddies were performing their duties alongside their tent. Fortunately, the singing that always accompanies these rituals was pleasing to the ear and whoever the singer was, had the voice for it. It’s certainly not always the case.  There have been times when I’ve been sure that a cat was being strangled with it’s little face pressed to a microphone.

A steady influx of locals persisted the whole of Saturday.  I felt a little guilty a few times when keen campers wandered over to our nicely concealed spot, hoping to secure their favourite and best campsite, only to find a foreigner in it!

However with inquisitive Turks making conversation with us, we soon felt at home.  Shortly, we were being offered coffee and with maps laid out, our journey was being planned for us by proud locals.

3 nights drifted by before we acquiesced to the urge to move on.  Feeling thoroughly relaxed but requiring some new stimuli, we made for Gallipoli!

IMG_1030As such a focal point for Australians and New Zealanders, it’s one of those places that will pull at your heartstrings and we were no different!

Famous Sphinx Landmark at North Beach

Famous Sphinx landmark at North Beach

Ari Burnu Cemetary

Ari Burnu Cemetery

Getting ready for the 100yr Remembrance at Lone Pine Memorial

Preparations for the 100yr remembrance at Lone Pine Memorial on 6th August

Interesting story on the plaque...

Interesting story on the plaque…

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Anzac Cove

Anzac Cove

What to make of it all – there are many facets to the conflict and a lot of research is required in an attempt to understand the events of 100 years ago. From the challenges of navigation with the technology available a century ago to the operational decisions that would consummate the outcome for so many allied and Turkish troops. The list of obstacles goes on and eventually became insurmountable.

Terrain above Anzac Cove and North Beach

Terrain above Anzac Cove and North Beach

I’ll leave it to you, the reader, to delve into the horrible events that sculpted the Gallipoli saga and dig to a depth that suits your appetite.

Our campsite looking across the bay to Anzac Cove

Our campsite looking across the bay to Anzac Cove

Leaving the Gallipoli Peninsula, we boarded a car ferry to cross the Sea of Marmara, where a young girl, her family spurring her on and watching from a distance, approached Jen!  She gave us some lovely fruit whilst sporting a nervous smile before striding back to her family!  Jen sought her out later in the voyage and presented her with a small gift from Australia.  It would be the same welcome for us at every stop!

We were now in the town of Canukkale with its hustle and bustle, colours and smells! Manic traffic and road rules I’m still no closer to understanding.  But teamed with a very warm and relaxed atmosphere, we were starting to really appreciate Turkey and knew we would be staying a while…

Troia (Troy) Archaeological site

Troia (Troy) Archaeological site

We made a visit to the archaeological site of Troy (Troia) and a wander here provided our first taste of Roman ruins. Whilst a very old Roman site boasting history back to 3000BC, the site generally is very much a site of Roman “ruins” compared to other sites in Turkey, which have either survived in a more intact state or had a considerable amount of restoration work carried out.IMG_1115 IMG_1126

There is also a tendency to push the Trojan horse story which is a complete myth, but if it gets the punters in, then why not!

Just a myth!!

The Original????

Upon returning to the Patrol, we found a Land Rover 90 and trailer parked alongside with, would you believe, New Zealand plates!

We waited a while until Ray emerged from his visit to the site. He had travelled up from Singapore and across China into Kyrgyzstan so we had a lot to chat about.  We headed off together in search of a campsite and eventually found a reasonable site by the Aegean where we were again the focus of local inquisition. All eyes were upon us both as we made our way in and out of the local’s camps looking for a suitable location.

Ray fro NZ!

Ray from NZ!

The larger challenge was finding a spot not completely paved with wet wipes and nappies! Yep – it can be as much fun as it sounds at times, this overlanding caper!!

IMG_1155 Eventually with a suitable site located and roof popped, we had our first visitor! After the first brave local had enjoyed a brief tour of the camper and returned to his kin uninjured, others rapidly descended upon us in order to satisfy their curiosity!

Another family passed by and an invitation via their daughter, whom spoke English very well, was delivered.  “Would we join them for some tea?” – an invitation eagerly accepted!

After a quick swim to cool off, we wandered over for some Turkish hospitality, and it was all of that. Tea was quickly dispensed and tasty treats served for us to enjoy. And tasty they were – Sarna, which are like Greek dolmates, and a dessert that I have no idea how to describe other than to say it was delicious. We spent some time chatting about our travels and Australia whilst delving into Turkish life!

Lovely Hospitality

Lovely Hospitality

Suddenly, as is often the case when you’re engrossed in your surrounds, the day began to wither and it was getting a little dark.  The swarming mosquitoes descended upon us in numbers rarely experienced and only then did we find out these people had a 100km drive back to their village! Presented with some melons we departed company to waves and smiles as these lovely people set off on the long drive home.

After a late night swapping travel stories and munching on massive, locally grown tomatoes, which were just unbelievably good, we said our farewells to Ray.  He was heading north for a rendezvous in Budapest whilst we were to continue our exploration of this country.

Travelling Turkey’s south and west coast, you rapidly find yourself amongst resorts and hotels.  A little like Bulgaria’s Black Sea tourist strip but sporting lovely blue waters in contrast to the rather cloudy estuary that is the Black Sea. Amazing tourist complexes fall over each other in pursuit of your patronage, touts pushing brochures through your windows at every set of traffic lights. Private beach after private beach loaded with umbrellas and deck chairs, the package holiday is no doubt King along this coast!

Giant heads are always popular!!

Giant heads are always popular!!

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Campsites were harder to obtain along this section but with a little map reading and perseverance; we always managed a reasonable site. The official campsites along this coastal strip leave little to be desired.  I’d rather sleep in the cab than partake in a cramped site with all but no sanitation.

No doubt Turkey is a popular destination and transit route for avid overlanders, the first give away being that we are now seeing some form of 4×4 camper on an almost daily basis, not to mention motorcycle travellers, of which there are many.  One of our camps found us alongside the sea within a grove of ancient olive trees overlooking a kite surfing club and as I was coming to the end of my first beer I heard a vehicle approaching from behind.  A quick snap of the head and there sat a Land Rover 130 with distinctive French license plates! Doesn’t seem to matter where you’re from, if you’ve a passion for 4×4 travel, then we seem to use the same powers of deduction in order to locate a home for the night.

Skander and Veronique

Skander and Veronique

Skander, Veronique and children were coming toward the end of a 5 week journey and we soon learnt that Skander is a camper manufacturer in France making for some great discussions regarding styles in Europe and so on.

Although camping by themselves, they were expecting to be joined by a friend later on that evening.  That turned out to be about 11:30pm. I think their friend may have become a little lost – he also got a little bogged on the muddy beach.  Fortunately there was no real tidal movement, as he stayed where he was, vacuumed into the mud, until mid-morning when with help from Skander they extricated the stricken Hilux.  I offered some assistance in the form of watching and taking photos, which I think, was appreciated!

IMG_1190Hopefully we will have more to say about these adventurous travellers in the near future, as we hope to meet them again at their home near Narbonne in the South of France.

With a list of Roman sites of world renown, Turkey has been gifted some outstanding attractions. The following days were spent visiting some of these sites. The majesty of these cities, created with such vision and outstanding craftsmanship really has the capacity to leave you grasping for answers as to how they managed it all.

IMG_1172The Pergamon Acropolis was first, closely followed by the nearby Asklepieion, an ancient Roman Hospital and place of healing – just amazing.

Pergamon

Pergamon

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Early Roman Hospital Ruins

Early Roman Hospital Ruins

Circular Healing Centre

Circular Healing Centre

Maybe worried she might catch some ancient disease??

Maybe worried she might catch some ancient disease??

Ephesus (Efes) was next and without doubt the stand out! A true insight into what a grand vision the Romans had and the engineering they managed to accomplish so long ago.

Celsus Library at Ephesus

Celsus Library at Ephesus

Roman Road

Roman Road

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Everybody loves a toilet photo

Everybody loves a toilet photo

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Roman Amphitheatres are everywhere

Terrace Houses Complex

Terrace Houses Complex

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Incredible mosaics

Incredible mosaics

Preparing to leave the Ephesus car park, we spotted four French 4×4’s! A quick chat regarding any campsite locations they may know of close by, didn’t reveal anything.

Fortunately, we had a location in mind that Skander had used and had it loaded into the GPS. We quickly fell into convoy with the French 4×4’s although purely by chance, as, slowly it appeared as if we were more than likely making for the same area! I’d have loved to have heard their UHF chatter as they were being followed by some Australians around every corner and bend!

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Yes – we ended up at the same location with wall to wall locals parked along a stretch of beach! If only I could transport the smells, charcoal smoke, the music mosquitos and fireworks. The squatting in the bush and not to forget the ever-friendly smiles and waves! AHHHH Turkey.

Camping Turkish Style!

Camping Turkish Style!

 

Cheers Justin.