Living Off Mother Earth

Living Off Mother Earth

Most people are able to take in all the sights of Cappadocia through guided tours in about 2-3 days. Since we have the luxury of time, we opted to explore the majority of it on our own. One of the attractions of Cappadocia is the hiking trails through the various valleys. So we laced up our hiking boots today and went for a 5-hour hike.

The hotel owner gave us some pointers ahead of time so we were able to get to the trails without much problem. Plus, in the day of Google Maps, it’s really hard to get lost.

The loop hike has 3 legs. The first leg, from our hotel in Göreme to Uçhisar to the start of the Pigeon Valley trail head, is 2.9 miles on relatively flat terrain after an initial climb.

Looking back towards Göreme. Notice the flight of stairs carved into the rocks!

Cappadocia’s rocks were formed millions of years ago from volcanic ashes that solidified into tuff, which is relatively easy to chip away. This allows cave houses to be built, and stairs to be carved into the rocks.

Some of the geological formations remind us of the Southwest US. This looks like a typical mesa you’d see throughout Arizona.

Along the path we noticed fruit trees, pumpkin patches, and grape vines.

However, we were confused as to why the pumpkins were all cut in half with the insides emptied out. We later found out that the farmers were harvesting the seeds. Yes, you read that correctly, the seeds.
I initially mistook these for wild berries as they were just alongside the path. Upon further exam, I realized that these were grapes.
I couldn’t help myself, and plucked a couple off to try. These were the sweetest grapes I’ve ever had in my life! I also tried a shriveled up one (AKA raisin), and it was just like the ones you get from the store. However, how many people can say that they’ve had raisins right off the vine?
There were black, red, as well as green grapes all along the road. We weren’t sure if these belonged to farmers as they appeared not to be tended to. Also, who allows their grapes to turn into raisins?

After what seemed like a very long “mile” (I’d mistakenly took the ‘time’ to hike this leg – 1 hour and 10 mins, for the distance in miles), we finally reached the Pigeon Valley trailhead.

Here’s the view of the town Uçhisar. The highest point is the Uçhisar Castle, which served as a Byzantine fort back in the days.
Pigeon Valley is so named for the pigeons of course. Pigeons live in these caves where the farmers collect the droppings once a year to use as fertilizer.
The pigeons fly in and out through the small holes, while the bigger hole is normally kept shut by a door to prevent other animals from messing with the pigeons.
Here’s the “Ritz Carlton” of pigeon hotels.

We had the option of sticking to the Pigeon Valley trail to connect to the Love Valley trail, or to make a detour through Uçhisar town. The two locals (one of them was the farmer of a tiny orchard) we bumped into both advised us to hang a left past the orchard to go into town.

Both arrows indicated Pigeon Valley. We headed up towards the cave homes.
Fred Flintstone anyone?
Farmers plant in and around the valley, including along the hiking paths. So yes, those grapes I had earlier apparently belonged to someone’s crop, but luckily, it was the end of harvest.
Some fancy hotels in Uçhisar are located at the top of the switchbacks
The hotel grounds

Once at the bottom of Uçhisar, we crossed the main road to get to the Love Valley trailhead. The trail forks out into a wider road on the left and a narrower trail on the right (with a sign “Lov Valley” pointing in that direction). The left leads to the Love Valley Panoramic point, where people drive to go watch the hot air balloons in the mornings, and the right is the hiking trail that ultimately brought us down into the valley.

The uninspiring trail went for another short distance before we came upon a jewelry and pomegranate juice vendor. We had been walking for about 3 hours by now subsisting on water and a grape here and there, so pomegranate juice sounded like a good idea. Unlike in Istanbul, the juice wasn’t mixed with any orange juice, and was much sweeter and tastier than the ones we had in Istanbul.

The vendor also plucked 2 of these fruits off a tree for us to try. Told us it was ayva (I thought he meant to say guava), which is quince. Not sure it was completely ripe as it was hard and only slightly sweet, but at least we can now say we’ve had quince.

Luckily, I ask him about the Love Valley trail because he told us to go down the trail right next to his stand. Had we not asked, we would have kept going on the flat trail, which would have ended requiring us to turn back.

Thinking back, the placement of his juice stand is very strategic. He gets to pitch a sale to all the 5-10 hikers (according to his count) that come through all day.

Once we bid our goodbyes, we headed down into the valley.

This is when the terrain gets a bit more interesting , and the trail a bit less obvious. We saw a total of 2 other hikers coming in the opposite direction, and they were the last 2 we saw for the rest of the hike.
Water carves through the rocks
Beautifully undulating rock surfaces smoothed out by wind over time
Spent some time walking in the dried out river bed

We noticed small farms sprinkled along the right of the trail, as well as patches of grape vines throughout (taste tests indicated that these grapes were not as sweet). People are really living off the land.

As we ventured forth, the rock formations that give Love Valley its name started to come into view.

Basalt is the top layer and doesn’t erode away as easily as the tuff below it. So over time, you go from this to…
this, and then to…
this.
Yes, Love Valley is supposedly named after these phallic structures.

The final leg of the hike wasn’t interesting at all, as it was simply walking back to town along the roadway.

Total distance was 9 miles, not the 3 miles that I had promised Joe in the morning. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

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