I woke to cacophonous birdsong – or at least that how it sounded at dawn- which is pretty early at this time of year. Preferential though to the drumming of rain. All was quiet on that front and we were cozy and dry. When the birds finally drove me out of my sleeping bag, it was damp outside but dry. There must be something about our choice of campsites but again as we were finishing our packing up routine a large herd of cows was being driven up the track. This time they were meandering slowly and several took to sniffing our bikes. Having been taught to keep cattle at a healthy distance I was particularly anxious when the bull decided to take a look at our camping spot and was pawing the ground where we had been cooking but the small boys driving the herd didn’t seem concerned and and eventually they all moved on without incident.
There was a sharp bottom gear climb out of the gorge at Guzeloz and back up the the plain. When the ground levelled out at about 1600m it was desolate and windswept and only 8C! We layered up again and cycled across the strangely beautiful landscape without seeing a single car.
We dropped steepy off the plain again down another gorge into a fertile valley with cones of rock typical of the cappadocian landscape where layers of compressed volcanic ash from milennia ago had eroded leaving wierd and wonderful shapes.
We stopped at site of Keslick Monastery, another C9th to C11 rock cut monastery complex. 250 monks had lived with most of the them housed in rooms carved out of the conical rocks. As we tend to get going early when we camp, the site caretaker was just getting his tea brewing when we arrived. It was a delightful peaceful site. The rock churches and carved rooms were again amazing but also around the ancient structures were beautifully tended vegetable plots, ringed by flowers. Much I guess as it would have been when in use. The caretaker proudly told us that this was his garden and sat us down and gave us tea after we had had a good poke round the site.
The next section to Urgup was meant to me a gentle down hill but was interspersed with sharp little – or not so little – undulating climbs which are energy sapping. Urgup is the first main tourist centre in Cappadocia and we were suddenly surrounded by cars, having hardly seen one all morning on the minor road we had been on. We stopped for a welcome cup of extortionate tourist coffee and particularly delicious chocolate croissant when we perused booking.com for a place to stay in Goreme, our destination for the day. Or at least I should say I irritated David while I insisted on looking at about 20 hotels on the website (before booking the first one) whereas David would probably have just booked the first one on the grounds it seemed fine!
Another very steep climb out of the village but this time with numerous tourist onlookers – some taking photos of us. It is difficult to try and look cool when you can hardly push the pedals round (as if we warrived every day. We were shown where to hang our gear – changed into dry clothes and had tea and something to eat. It occurred to both of us that we would have made it to the town in the dry if we had not had the puncture. But then again, the rain may have come earlier!ould ever look cool anyway!). A few km further on to the turn off to Goreme and a steep descent that quickly turned to irregular cobbles. It was treacherous riding and we had to get off the wheel the bikes down the last stretch then a final section of bone rattling cobbles into the village.
After a few wrong turns we found the Melek Cave Hotel. I like to think my booking.com perusal was well worth it (although it was the first hotels I looked at) as it was a delightful hotel with, as the name suggests, rooms cut into the hillside as of old. I think we have the prime cave room because we are also the only guests. Every second building in Goreme is a hotel so competition must be high at the best of times but, as with everywhere we have been, tourism in Turkey has been hit very hard by politics with numbers well down.
We spent the rest of the day chilling out. A stroll round town took about 15 minutes at a stretch so we spent the rest of the time relaxing at the hotel and even dug out the travel scrabble (game abandoned due to ever decreasing places to make words and overwhelming hunger requiring dinner – but I will just record for the record that I was winning at the time). David accepts this but points out that if the game is unfinished, there is no record – which may right but who would marry a lawyer.