Cappodocia (or Kapadokya) is glorious.

It's geology begets vibrant colour and surreal shapes. 

I dropped out of the rolling hills east of Aksaray near Nevsehir. Immediately it was clear that I was somewhere very special. I rushed to Uchisar and climbed it's unique castle the better to appreciate these incredible surrounds.

Hewn from the rock this thrusting cave fortress looks like a castle as imagined by Salvador Dali and utterly dominates the area.

I had my heart set on spending the night in one of the caves and spied that the western face of the hill upon which the castle stood appeared unoccupied. Feeling cocky I clambered down with my bike (not a simple task when - especially when your trying to be discrete) and found a promising spot.

The view took some beating

It's no wonder that George Lucas decided to set scenes from Star Wars here. The scenery was pure science fiction although it was Frank Herbert's Dune that came to my mind.

Although this was real Sandmen stuff

Unfortunately with the sun well on its way to setting I was disturbed by three Turkish youths clambering through an adjacent cave and taking an axe to one of the boarded up castle caves. Not quite knowing what to make of this I decided to go in search of somewhere quieter to spend the night.

Fortunately I had got a good look from the top of the castle and so sped off through Urchisar's twisting back roads and followed one that led to a promising looking dirt track.

Promising but precipitous

After some hairy downhill slaloming through deep sand I found a very pleasant 'cave adjacent' wild olive grove tucked out of the way and gratefully laid myself down and enjoyed the views of the valley ahead and the town and castle behind me.

When I awoke ıt was to the sound of fires roaring and yet another arresting sight.

Balloons. Balloons everywhere!

With a backdrop of extinct volcanoes and Cappadocia's unique geology I was all I could do to climb the adjacent rocks to better enjoy the view and a morning bowl of cereal. Perhaps oddly it was Newport Pagnell that I was thinking's off. An abiding childhood memory of waking in my Aunt and Uncle's house to a similarly balloon strewn sky.

The hot air balloon really is a very fine human invention. Not efficient or particularly navigable but undeniably stirring. Hitchıng a basket to a bag full of air before setting a fire and flying off into the sky is just such a wonderfully preposterous notion that one can't help but smile and admire the boldness.

A delightful way to start an excellent day.

Having slowly pushed my bike back up the sandy hill to something approaching a road I set off to explore but the going was slow as around every twist and turn in the road at the top of every slight rise a new and enchanting alien panorama lay in wait.

I even caught a glimpse of my first Camel

First came Goreme, the geographical and spiritual center of Cappadocıa. I wandered the open air museum marvelling firstly at the throngs of tourists (mostly Korean and French) and eventually at the beautiful cave dwellings used by the regions Christian's as a hiding place from marauding armies from the Roman's to the Seljuk's.

The sight of the paintings being restored in all their orthodox glory couldn't help but remind me of Angelo and his work in Macedonia.

The cave paintings were remarkable both for their excellent condition and the Caucasian-ness of those depicted. Ignoring the orthodox forms the images would not have looked out of place in the Bayeux Tapestry, which just goes to show how multi cultural Anatolia was before the twentieth century and Armenian genocide and Greek-Turkish exchanges.

Fields of fairy chimneys followed as I wove my way around visiting small villages and reveling in the open countryside and almost traffic free roads.

Up close the fairy chimneys that had seemed so dainty at a distance revealed themselves for the massive rock monuments they were.

Following tracks almost at random I came to the town of Avanos on the banks of Kizilirmak Turkey's largest river.

I was a little disappointed that I hadn't cycled along the river from Ankara as it was very peaceful and a perfect place to stop for a couple of overly expensive beers.

 As the afternoon drew on I slowly made my way towards the village of Mustafapasa where my Warmshowers host awaited me. Alkım came and met me and together we walked back to her boyfriend Caner's hill top home. 

Arriving at the door who should I find outside but Javier the Spanish cyclist who I had met on the way into Istanbul and his friend Jon. They had bumped into Alkım that day and accepted an invitation to stay the night and it was a very nice surprise to see a familiar face out of the blue.

As well as Javıer and his friend a veritable host of visitors were staying with Caner and Alıkm.

Benoit and Celine a French couple on a cycle tour which took them south through Spain to West Africa before getting a plane to Istanbul and cyclıng Turkey.

Javi and his wife, a couple from Andalusia who had been travelling the world with buses, trains and hitchhiking.

When Alkım and Caner's friends arrived for the evening and I was told a barbecue was the plan I was in heaven.

The marvelously tumbledown old Greek house had a sprawling courtyard with an unexplored basement and all sorts of exciting nooks and crannies. The perfect setting to cook some food on a an open fire, smoke, drink and chat with interesting people. It made for a marked and welcome contrast to the mild isolation of solo cycling.

Entertainment included a projection of Man with a movie Camera which combined with a joint or two and an ambient soundtrack ensured an enjoyably surreal tinge to the night.

Only added to when Alkım revealed hidden talents with a fire show of not considerable skill

With such wonderful hosts as Caner and Alkım it was inevitable that I would stick around for a few days and with that pleasing thought I took my leave and headed to bed.

An excellent evening drew to a close as I took my sleeping mat and bag onto the roof and went to sleep with the gentle chatter from the ongoing party drifting up from below.

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