It’s the end of our first week on the road on our adventure, Overlanding the Silk Road. It’s been a busy week. Already there have been two bucket list moment, as we’ve travelled from Istanbul to Goreme. We’ve travelled a considerable distance in Alice, our trusty bus-truck. We’ve camped every night and visited WWI battlefields, tasted Turkish wine and taken our first ferry. Yes, you can certainly say that our first week on the Silk Road has been eventful.
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We left Istanbul at 0930, dragging our belongings from our hotel to our new home for the next three months, Alice, the custom built overland truck from Madventure. We are thirty people at this time, that will change. 28 of us in the truck, one on a motorbike, one in a LandRover.
There’s free seating on the truck, but, of course, some seats are better than others. Some folks don’t like moving, seat buddies have been formed, favoured spots identified. One of us gets to travel with James, our driver each day, up front in the cab, helping to navigate and spot toilet and lunch breaks.
Istanbul to Cappadocia – Our Stops
Our first stop this week was just a few hours from Istanbul – the WWI battlefields of Gallipoli. We’d read extensively about Gallipoli while in Australia and especially in New Zealand. It was there that we discovered the magnificent exhibits of Peter Jackson brought to life where so many died so far away from home.
We stopped by the Gallipoli museum but had arrived too late to watch the immersive experience movie. We paid our respects at ANZAC Cove, Lone Pine Cemetery and Chunuk Bair. I found the final resting place of Lieutenant Colonel William George Malone, whose story, Peter Jackson brought to life so vividly at the Te Papa museum in Wellington, New Zealand. Read more about our visit to Gallipoli.
We camped on the rough ground (I can hardly call it a beach) outside the famous Boomerang Bar. Some of our group even slept in the bar itself. The rest of us cleared the broken glass, bristles and thorns away from us the best we could and hunkered down to avoid the wind and tried to ignore the noise of the road right next to us.
The next day – a free day – saw us ambling about. Buying 9-inch nails to deal with the hard ground which is not kind to tent pegs. We bought lines too, as our tent was mysteriously missing guy lines. And then, we set off to find wine. What? Do you think we wouldn’t give it a shot? We’ve wine tasted in India and Myanmar, so Turkey is pretty ordinary compared to that. The Suvla winery here sits just outside the National Park and is a fabulous place to wile away the afternoon. And 22 samples of their finest wines.
Our third day of the trip started early, with a queue to get on the 8 am ferry from Eceabat to Cannakale and from there it was just a few kilometres to the ancient ruins of Troy. Probably. There are those that say that it isn’t Troy, but the wooden horse replica (missing Brad Pitt) was there, and so, therefore, so were we.
This feels like a whistle-stop tour right now. Compared to the slow pace that we’ve acclimated ourselves to. So Troy was just a 90-minute visit and then we were off again. Our next destination, the Deriler Camping Ground on the beach next to the Aegean Sea. We were to have two nights here, next to the beach, in a campground with showers, toilets and wifi. There were laundry facilities, but we took advantage of the fact that we’ve brought along our Scrubba washing bag and impressed the local washing ladies with our washboard technique.
We hopped into a dolma (a shared minibus) at 0800 the next morning and headed 4 kilometres up the road to the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus. Efes to the Turks. Hiking around the site with just a few people around was incredible. But the peace had gone by 1030 and the temperature had risen to 38 degrees, so we headed into Selcuk for ATM access, lunch and a wander.
Our next stop, Pamukkale is a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its limestone terraces. Water has flowed down here creating the travertines for centuries. That’s evident in the ruins of the city of Hierapolis at the top of the terraces. And so, like all visiting tourists, we took our shoes off, paddled through what water still remains, visited the ruins and lunched. Our campsite on the hillside some 5km along a winding road above Pammakale came with wifi, cold beer, a swimming pool and amazing views.
We experience our first cook group duty here at Pamukkale. Four of us prepare the kitchen area, figure out what we’re cooking (having bought it earlier in the day), cook, serve and then clean up. There’s time after dinner to get a shower, charge a few electrical items and crash for the night before getting up at odark hurty to prepare breakfast, clean up and then head off on the road again.
Drive Day – Konya, Turkey
We get an early start on day 6. Today is a drive day and we’ll be eschewing the comforts of a campsite. Our route takes us through Konya, home of one of the sects of the Whirling Dervishes. (read more about the Dervishes here. It’s also home to a Scania garage. Alice is sick and needs repairs. The hydraulics that allows James to shift the cab and get access to the engine isn’t working. And so we make friends with the crew at the garage, chill out at the nearby mall and stock up on long sleeves and long-legged clothes for Iran.
We end the day at a bush camp below a dam. We pitch tents in the dark. It rains, we haul out the tarp for cook group. A thunderstorm skirts around us during the night, as do wild dogs and locals who drive around yahooing in the wee small hours. We pee and poo behind trees and rocks.
Day seven sees us heading towards the Ihlara Valley, touted by the Lonely Planet as a shady walk along the valley bottom. There is shade. There’s also a lot of sun. And cave churches. And fairy chimneys. It’s a pleasant enough walk, but it’s hot at this time of year. The climb out up the steps to the Ihlara Tourist entry is brutal. Our first week ends at the Kaya campground in Goreme. We’ve made from Istanbul to Cappadocia and end the week in another Bucket List Location.
We’ve made it from Istanbul to Goreme
This has been a superb start to our first week on the silk road. It’s been tough. Getting used to putting up and taking down our tent. Our first cook group. Mixing with folks that we haven’t met before. Learning the idiosyncrasies of the bus/truck/Alice and the people that we’re travelling with. Figuring out the complexities of what goes where and how to avoid having to haul our bag out each day. But it’s a great start.
What’s next. In week two of the Silk Road? We’re heading to Georgia, where there are fortresses, allegedly the oldest wine in the world and five consecutive days of bush camping. And with the thought of peeing behind a tree and not showering for days, I’ll leave you there.
- We’re overlanding with Madventure
- Details of our full itinerary can be found in Overlanding the Silk Road
- Our second week on the Silk Road went from Goreme in Turkey to Yerevan in Armenia.
- Check out the mystical Whirling Dervishes of Turkey here
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