Kind of similar to last year’s week-long driving trip west of Antalya with Ferda and my parents, I arranged another week-long auto tour starting and ending in Diyarbakır. This year Megan joined us as well. Welcome to Mesopotamia.
Except maybe for Kurdish nationalists, Diyarbakır isn’t anyone’s favourite place in Turkey. It’s the de facto capital of Kurdish Turkey, but even Ferda’s best friend who is Kurdish and from Diyarbakır suggested skipping the city altogether in favour of more time in Mardin, Şanlıurfa, and Gaziantep. However, Diyarbakır is well-connected with flights and has plenty of rental car options so that’s where the five of us met.
I was excited to see the city walls that almost entirely surround Diyarbakır, the second longest wall in the world after the Great Wall of China.
Last year Peter, Amy, Scott, and Stephanie flew straight from Anchorage to Erzurum to ski the Kaçkars. This year Megan flew into Erzurum from Los Angeles, and like last year we went by dolmuş up to Olgunlar and stayed at Osman and Fatma’s uninsulated pansiyon for about a week. Their hospitality and Fatma’s cooking were, once again, absolutely fabulous. Of course, Fatma and Osman don’t really ski. Osman, however, does have a pair of skis but noted how difficult it was to go uphill.
At the end of the week, Megan gave Osman the skins that she had used all week so maybe by now he’s making turns from the high ridges above his house. That I doubt, but back in the day Osman made many trips up to the Kaçkar Summit via Nastaf Yaylası and Dilberdüzü. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that he’s skied up to the yayla by now. Megan and I skied up to Dilberdüzü one day, a place I hadn’t seen in the winter before.
Every since seeing Kaputaş Beach from the road with my parents, I’ve wanted to go back there. It’s a beautiful stretch of white sand and turquoise water, hemmed in by steep cliffs. Then I learned that there’s climbing in the canyon there. Well, that cinched it for sure. Ferda and I rented a car and took off for a weekend in Kaş.
If you like mountaineering books, I recommend No Picnic on Mt. Kenya about two Italian mountaineers who were prisoners of war during World War 2 at the base of Mt. Kenya. They saved some of the their daily rations, made crampons out of kitchen utensils, and eventually escaped the prison in the middle of the night not to get away but to attempt a climb up Mt. Kenya. After their climb they even sneaked back into the prison at night the same way they had escaped!
Our walk up Mt. Ararat a few weeks ago was nothing like this. Cuma, our guide from Doğubayazıt, explained what an easy walk we’d have on Ağrı Dağı (Ararat). “It’ll be like a picnic,” he said smiling. He was right.
Four of us came from Antalya and met up with a larger group (of 12?) from Ankara and a lone climber from İstanbul, Gökhan. Cuma had led groups like this literally hundreds of times before and made the logistics look easy. At the same time he was enthusiastic, smiling, and seemed to genuinely love his job.
After climbing at Karakaya I had almost a week before I was supposed to meet some friends in Doğubayazıt. I spent a couple nights in Ankara and then went to Sarıkamış for a short backpack trip. At the last minute I decided to take the train, a fun 26-hour journey. Sage and I took that same train from Ankara to Erzurum two summers ago so I had an idea of what to expect. This time I didn’t have a sleeper like before (those sell out quickly), but the regular seats are quite comfortable. Leaving Ankara I enjoyed the scenery until it got dark and then headed to the dining car for some chicken şiş. During dinner I was joined by Daan who was making his way from Utrecht to Yerevan, mostly by train. We chatted, drank beers, and Daan, whose knowledge of religious history is much better than mine, explained (at my request) the split from Rome of the protestant/Lutheran/reformist arm of Christianity. In an e-mail from Daan a week ago he wrote, “That train ride was definitely one of the highlights of my trip :)”