After a little more adventure than we bargained for in Erzurum, Seb and I started heading southwest, doing more driving, more sightseeing, and less skiing. We found a pleasant campsite near a creek about 10km east of the provincial capital of Bingöl. Driving up and out of the city the next morning, Seb spotted a small sign: “Hesarek Kayak Tesisleri”. He didn’t know the word tesis, but he recognized kayak (ski) and swung the car off the highway.
I can’t remember what we had planned for that day, but what a pleasant surprise we stumbled upon.
The lifts weren’t open when we arrived, but the only woman in the one group there was on the phone calling around trying to get them to open up. She succeeded, and the T-bar was running about 15 minutes later! Thanks, Dilo!
Here she is:
Her first time on skis was about two months earlier. She used the pandemic as an excuse to leave Ankara, come to Bingöl, and learn how to ski.
There weren’t more than 20 skiers, and not once did anyone except us leave the groomed run. We made fun turns on decent powder (with a good base) for about three hours.
At US$2.97 (25tl) I think it must be the cheapest lift pass I’ve ever purchased! Lunch cost more than the lift ticket, of course.
We drove on almost to Malatya that afternoon and camped above the small reservoir above the village of Yaygın.
Our goal at this point was to get to one of Turkey’s most famous tourist attractions, the UNESCO-recognized Nemrut Dağı (a mountain). Access is typically from the south from Adıyaman, but we were coming from the north from Malatya. Both access roads are often closed in winter because of snow. We were mentally prepared to ski quite some distance. What a surprise to get there and find that a plow had been through that day!
The road wasn’t actually open all the way to the site. We caught up with the workers and their huge tractor. They were still at it. We parked the car at a plowed pull out at about 1900m and started skiing from there. We carried large packs as the plan was to spend the night at or near the statues.
The guard at the site unequivocally nixed that plan, but still we had a fun look around.
The statues were erected about 2000 years ago by the Kingdom of Commagene, a small buffer state between the Persians (Parthians), the Armenians, and the Romans. It’s nice to imagine that the heads all fell off the bodies (you can see the bodies above and behind the heads in the above photo) in a recent earthquake (I heard such a story), but experts suspect iconoclasm, the same ignorance and fanaticism that destroyed the famous Bamyan Buddhas in Afghanistan.
The guard offered that we could spend the night in the cafeteria, somewhere a bit down the south side of the mountain so we could catch the sunrise on the East Terrace. The cafeteria didn’t sound very appealing. Instead we skied back to the car, drove a bit, and found a good place to camp about 900m lower (thus, much warmer!) than Nemrut.
Heading back to Malatya we again drove through Pütürge İlçesi (district). I quite liked the roads and the scenery. It looks to be a fine area for bicycle touring.
We were good tourists this day, first stopping at Arslantepe Höyüğü in Malatya to check out the 5000 year old paintings.
The Hittite reliefs (only 3000 years old) on site are replicas. I think you have to go to Ankara to see the originals.
Our next stop was Levent Vadisi, a climbing area. If we had brought our climbing gear, we would have stayed, climbed, and camped there. It looked fun.
In the late afternoon we stopped briefly in Gürün where I was excited to see the Armenian church. However, it’s being restored, and we could only look from a distance.
Above the church I was puzzled to see all these holes in the cliffs:
Turns out that’s 4000-year-old Hittite housing (if you believe the Gürün district government).
Normally on this trip we hadn’t done much driving after dark, but this evening we decided to push on to Kayseri. I was driving when suddenly we found ourselves in quite a snowstorm.
Seeing no reason to deal with that weather we spent the night at a hotel in Pınarbaşı. Thanks to our unexpected stop, in the morning light we stumbled upon a nicely restored caravansaray (han) in Karadayı.
Unfortunately it was locked up, and the man I asked made the key sound unobtainable, perhaps another (temporary?) covid travel casualty.