|The viewpoint. Looking out over Cappadocia.|
|Like something out of Hobbiton or Tatooine.|
|Homeless tries on one of the local souvenirs.|
We finally reached a place called "The Rock Valley Pension" - an amazing and cosy little hostel nestled into the base of some of the aforementioned rock formations. After a bit of dilly-dallying about who slept in which room…and with whom. Everything was settled, bags were dumped on beds and we all congregated in the hostel’s ample (and uber-comfortable) lounge/bar area. Some people then went off exploring the town, some retreated to their rooms, some used the free wi-fi to catch up with friends and family back home and some started tucking into the beers and the spirits (…of Christmas yet to come).
|Roxy - Parked up outside the Rockey Valley Pension, Goreme.|
By dinnertime, everybody was back in the lounge and the general hubbub was at a higher volume than it had been earlier. I took an opportunity to pop out and Skype home from my laptop in my room, and I swear I must have gone back only an hour later and already, words were being slurred and eye contact was a struggle. In the corner you could hear the beginning of “deep and meaningfuls” so I chose my moment to sneak back out quietly. There were a few valiant (and drunken) efforts to come and get me but thankfully, I was still feeling a little bit rough from whatever I picked up in Aleppo, so I at least had a (very lame) excuse to duck out of the inebriation. The truth is, I’ve never been a fan of boozing on Christmas Eve – I’d grown up as the oldest of four (by seven years) so it was always about my wee siblings enjoying “the magic” rather than me stumbling home and waking everybody up at 1am and disturbing Santa as he was putting presents in sacks…
|L-R: me, Ish, Son, Ron, Allison, Mark, Gab, Spence, Kimbo. (Photo courtesy of Allison Harvey.)|
- A. bombing around the Cappadocian countryside,
- B. finding one of the underground cities and
- C. staying alive!
Within less than half an hour of being on the bike, all of my fears had disappeared and I was whizzing down the empty country roads with Berbs and Spence, topping at 115km/h. In hindsight, this was pretty stupid – I knew my experience was meager and I could have been hairy strawberry ice-cream if I’d have come off the bike at even half the speed I was going at. At the time, I couldn’t care less.
|We passed these strange mushroom-like features at the beginning of our ride. They feature on all the Goreme tourism shots.|
|Mount Doom in the background!|
We rode for a couple of hours out of Goreme before stopping for a snow-fight on the side of the road (it seems that we had come agonizingly close to a white Christmas in Goreme). There were a few more stops along the way to check maps and ask locals for directions but eventually, we reached the ‘Derinkuyu Underground City’ and before entering, popped into a local restaurant for some Pide…beautiful Pide. (Pronounced 'pid-ay'. An amazing pizza/panini type dish that Ish introduced me to.)
|Derinkuyu Underground City|
We didn’t really know much about Derinkuyu and were still buzzing from our bike journey when we got in. Entry cost us 15 Turkish Lira (just under 8.5USD), and it was money well spent. It was an amazing place and it hurt my brain trying to picture how entire communities and civilisations had flourished here in one of Goreme’s handful of underground cities. The “city” went about 85 metres deep and with its own underground school and burial chambers was supposedly big enough to shelter tens of thousands of people along with their livestock. We all practically skipped our way around behind our guide – I’m not sure if our bikes had leaked petrol fumes or if we were just so exhilarated from the ride there and the fact that none of us had crashed.
|Son crouches in one of the many passages.|
|Berbs feigns death by hanging in the burial chamber. (The sign says 'Graves').|
|The view from the afterlife. In the words taken from Spike Milligan's epitaph "I told you I was ill!" L - R: Berbs, Spence, Pat, Tanj, Ish, Son, Allison.|
|It was pretty damn cool.|
|Playing around in the underground school's playground. L-R: Allison, Spence, Son, Ish, Pat, Tanj. Berbs is lying down.|
|Pat & Tanj - ready to take on the lunar landings.|
The journey home couldn’t come quick enough – not because we were bored of the underground city, but because we’d all enjoyed the freedom of taking in the Cappadocian countryside from the seat of a scooter.
|Time to reflect with my wingman.|
|The Hell's Angels were quaking in their boots. L-R: Berbs, Ish, AK, Spence, Allison, Son, Tanj & Pat.|
To make the return leg a little bit more interesting, we tried to just make it up as went along…with little reference to the map. At one point this lead to us all trail-blazing along a dirt path which turned out to be nothing more than a trough in a Turkish farmer’s furrowed field.
|Pat & Tanj take it all in. (I told you the colours were amazing.)|
|Ish's Sponge-Glove Square-Pants. (Bought in Damascus.)|
|No Photoshop necessary.|
The ride home had been little bit more eventful than our outbound one: at one point, we stopped behind Son who was in hysterics having just witnessed Spence over-use his throttle and go flying over a grass island at a junction. Not to be outdone by her hubby, Allison also stacked her bike in front of a group of local men in a sleepy town we passed through. Thankfully, her pride was the only thing that took any bashing worthy of mention. About an hour from home, my scooter starting giving an even more teenager-friendly whine than originally and when we stopped I realized that it’s exhaust had rattled itself half loose