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The Start of the Tour

Göreme, in the Cappadocian mountains (lots of erosion, and weird shaped rocks, nicknamed fairy chimneys - or large penis shaped rocks, by our tour leader!)

Well hello one and all! Well here I am, nine days into the first tour and loving every minute! We've done so much so far, and everything has been so diverse.

From Istanbul we headed to the Gallipoli Peninsular where we camped by the sea at Ecebat - always good to go to sleep to the sound of waves on the shore! We took TJ's very informative tour around some of the landing sites, graves and trenches - why couldn't the history teachers at school have made stuff that interesting? Afterwards we snorkelled one of the wrecks, just yards from the shore - felt good to have the old fins on again! Unlike most of the places I've dived, it's actually OK to take stuff you find there, so I have a souvenir of a bullet to present to my father (it's his birthday just about when the tour of Africa finishes, so I may be a skinflint and make that his present, tee hee!!)

Our next stop (other than a brief one at Troy, where we saw a really crap wooden horse!) was Selçuk, which was our base to visit the ruins at Ephesus, which once held one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Temple of Artemis. The ruins were really really impressive - we had a guide here too, and learnt a lot about the site of the city, and the different influences the place had been under, and got an insight into what life would have been like there. It's a definite plus point to being on an organised tour, as I would never have been able to afford guides were I travelling independently.

The campsite, Atillas Getaway, was a bit swish and had a swimming pool as well as a bar. In a totally unconnected incident I fell over and twisted my ankle - the drunken sprain I suffered a few years ago has left me with a bit of a weak ankle, and I have a habit of doing this . . . but I really wasn't drunk this time! Anyway, I received some good advice re resting it (as much as poss - there's no way it's stopping me from doing stuff!) and keeping it raised, and it's healing so much quicker than previously.

While we were at the campsite, the rain came in - and boy, did it rain!! Absolutely torrential, superb electric storms, soggy tents and leaking lockers . . . nice! We seemed to be being stalked by the cloud over the next couple of days, and saw trees and electric lines down - even snow! We were due to be rough camping the next night, i.e. no campsite, toilets or anything, but instead found a place where we all got rooms to share for no extra cost than it would have been to camp - a good result. The following morning we went to Pamukkale, where there are terraces made up of calcium deposits, flowing with thermal water (though the hotels in town siphon off a lot of this so they can boast hot pools, so it was not as impressive as some of the pictures of it I've seen - still cool though).

The next night was spent rough camping - we found a gorgeous spot, by the shore of a large lake, mountains all around, some good trees to squat behind (!!). We arrived just as the rain stopped - a rainbow putting in an appearance, as if to give the seal of approval to our choice of field. That night was our (Natalie's and my) turn to cook again (we'd started off by cooking on the first evening . . . well, we made coleslaw whilst somebody else barbecued the meet - cop out, huh?). Due to the inclement weather I had the bright idea of making soup to warm everyone up . . . another easy one! We sat around a campfire to eat it, and all had a great evening.

Next we came here, to the town of Göreme, where we are camping just out and up from town, surrounding by these amazing shaped rocks. (Part of Return of the Jedi was shot here, if that means anything to anybody!) We've gone round and seen some of the caves were people used to live - that must have been the life! Some of these caves are really quite extensive; they used the first floor as stables for their animals, lived in the next couple of levels, and kept pigeons in the top floor! Steps are carved out of the face of the beautiful pink and white volcanic rock to allow easy access (my tongue is firmly in my cheek as I say that . . . we entered some of these complex caves, and I have to say that it was pretty damned nerve wracking negotiating the foot- and hand-holds - especially with a strapped up ankle!). There are actually a few families still living in caves like these, and many shops have utilized them for storage space.

We also visited an underground city, which was originally started BC, and has been added to at various times over the years. It was never used as permanent housing, but instead was a bolthole for people in the nearby city, used during cold winters or in times of impending war (such as the crusades . . . bloody English!!). Yesterday evening we went to a Turkish night (yes, I know, I'm in Turkey - every night's a Turkish night!!) which involved drinking, eating, dancing (whirling dervishes, belly dancers, traditional dances including a wedding dance, which I got dragged up for . . . it wasn't too embarrassing, as I just had to sit in the middle of the room with a red cloth on my head, and shake my head to turn down all the old men that were brought up to me, and then nod to accept the driver of our truck . . . I think the tour leader had set that up, as he'd noticed me making eyes at the driver, who is extremely sweet!!) - a very good deal at the all inclusive price of 20,000,000 TL . . . about 8 quid!! When we left there we headed on into town and danced the rest of the night away. Good times.

Today has been a fun day too, after a nice lie in we were picked up and taken to a nearby hamman, or Turkish bath. The men and women were separated off, and we changed into our bathers and wrapped in a towel, before heading into the main room. The large room was hot and steamy with a sizeable marble slab in the middle to lie on, a sauna at one end, niches in the walls with taps and marble sinks so you can poor plenty of cold water over yourself (and/or others) to cool off. One by one we were led of into another room, where we were first massaged, then scrubbed down, then soaped & rinsed with boiling hot water - what a lovely clean feeling! I expect we all needed it too! It was so cool to lie on the slab in the middle, looking up at the domed ceiling, with the sun filtering in through the 49 (yes I counted) round windows, watching the steam swirl in the rays of sunlight.

Well there's a queue of people waiting to use this, so I'd better leave this here . . . I'll tell you something about the awesome truck & the great people some other time - just let it be known that I'm having a super time & everyone's getting on amazingly well with each other!


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