Cowboys from Space Landscapes

I was asked today if I was on a package tour by an older lady. I had thought a simple look at me might have led her to another conclusion; ...

I was asked today if I was on a package tour by an older lady. I had thought a simple look at me might have led her to another conclusion; with a three month turkish sun tan, beard woven into bearing feelers on my chin, hair tied back into a scruffy top knot and coaxed into place by a flowery headband, a most dashing curled moustache and billowy hemp pants acting in a similar way to the hot air balloons inflating in the Cappadocian sunrise. For once, however, I was wearing shoes...

(no Jewelery or top knot, but you get the idea, Antalya Museum, Antalya)

Normally I'd let my rant ramble into the realm of the cliche: in that I didn't believe in guided tours.In that with a little research and more time on the ground you'll learn more about the topic and have a genuine connection with it In that the tours were far too expensive and that the greater amount of money handed over seems to bypass the locals and find its way elsewhere. In that I hate being in a group of people having a competition with each other as to who can walk the slowest in their ugly khaki shorts whilst shooting photos on their tablets and making slightly racist and totally daft statements about everything before rushing back to the shelter of the cool air in the bus, hotel room or tat souvenir shop.

(the ugliest shirt I have had the pleasure of seeing, Kotapi palace, Sultanahmet, Istanbul)

She however did not judge me by the way I looked and so I should not judge her. Rather than fill the air with the kind of nonsense that would not further either of us, I told her the story of a remarkable man that I would never have had the pleasure of meeting otherwise.

Unfortunately I forget his name...great start... but on the grounds that it seems 30% of males in Turkey are called Mehmet and 30% are called Mustafa, we will dub him MehStafaMet.


Cappadocia, (Kapadokya in phonetic Turkish), is a remarkable place. 9 million years ago, active volcanoes in the region spewed great clouds of ash into the air. Over time this ash settled and consolidated to make up the soft bedrock rock of the region and was carved by rain, wind and water into a fantastic moonscape of bulbs and minarets, dubbed fairy chimneys. If this landscape wasn't strange enough, the rock is just soft enough to carve out with a pick hammer, and people throughout history have been digging their homes into these alien towers and well below (7 stories in fact!) the ground.

(Çavuşin cave houses, Cappadocia)

The gift of this rock is also its downfall; fast erosion means these peoples dwellings were likely to lose a wall or cave into their downstairs neighbours within the owners lifetime, and as a result, nearly no one lives within them now.

...nearly no some strange loophole and heritage, Mehstafamet is the only person to live within the fairy chimneys in the secluded Rose Valley. Handed down from his grandparents to his parents to him are two cave houses, one for summer and one for winter.

(Robyn checking out MehStafaMet's pad, Rose Valley, Goreme)

Robyn and I had been hiking for a few k's and had a long day of walking ahead of us. An early morning hot air ballon ride had filled our heads with some sweet spots to hike too and the early start (4:00am) made us a little dozy. We'd lost our track and had to find our own way down the very slippery walls of the canyon. Step, slide, look up, scream. A lizard jumping from a large bush startles Robyn. In a cloud of grey dust she sees nothing, but hears the sound of a big belly laugh. As the dust falls, the laugh does too, and standing ahead of her is a man with a big smile and an equally big cowboy hat, " making your own path?"

(Rose valley, Goreme)

He invites us to sit down and remove the burs from our socks. I don't know what it is with Turkey, but every single plant here has sea urchins for seed pods! We start to talk and learn his story; MehStafaMet ran long duration horse tours, one week minimum and hence had no need for a house. After many years, when that finished and he'd tried to move back to the city, he struggled. It seemed that he couldn't deal with the crowds, he needed the space. So by making a deal with the local government, to restore a few cave houses, he could reclaim his house of heritage.

He needed a few things from his place and so invited us to come up and see inside. On seeing all the cave houses in the area, I was repeatadly struck as to how small they seem. Fill them with personal things and they seem so much bigger. He had power from a small solar panel on the 'roof' and water from a cistern: In the old way, a cave room was built low in the bed rock, ground water flow slowly seeps through the walls of this room and was pumped up to his place. the water was perfectly clear and cold. nice!

(Inside MehStafaMets house, Rose valley, Goreme)

MehStafaMet was a chippy; he carved wooden panels with beautiful geometric patterns as a commission for the local hotels. He drinks raki and wine with his fiends every night, loves life and plays his home made instruments made from pumpkins (frame drum, flute, didgeridoo, berimbau). He is fed from the vegetables and fruits in the oasis of the valley and tends to small personal vineyard. He is kind, softly spoken and generous.

If your on a tour bus, he might seem just another Turkish face to hassle you to buy some home made portukal suyu (orange juice). If your not on a tour, he might seems like just another Turkish face happy to share a kindness, a story, and çay (tea).

I'd rather one story and a three photos, then a fake turkish rug and aircon. Keep your tours, I choose to travel slowly.

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