07.07.2017 - 07.07.2017 30 °C
Day 44 July 7 2017
Igdir to Tavan / 318 km
- SG is woken, despite earplugs, by one of the many mullahs who call to prayer at the crack of dawn. Currently before 4 a.m. She asks again the question - do Muslims really get up & pray at this time? Or is it just a legacy from a previous era?
- Of course it's not the only religion that should evolve to better suit the needs & demands of the 21C. The Catholic Church & the Church of England both come to mind here.
- The other impediment to a good night's sleep is room temperature. It would seem that to economise, the hotel management control the minimum temperature obtainable in any room. So be it. But SG was also disturbed in the middle of the night by a further rise in temperature. She suspects that in order to save money, management raise the minimum temperature by a couple of degrees for a few hours during the night, assuming that guests are fast asleep and won't notice. Yes, you're right she is very precious about bedroom conditions.
- 'Open the windows' you say - but then the noise from the mosques will be even louder!
- Breakfast is a pleasant surprise. Yogurt, honey, cheese, olives, fresh fruit , eggs and bread. Enough to eat now and for lunch. Sadly no coffee. Whilst eating we are entertained by the happenings in a storks'nest built on top of a nearby mosque. Stork watching will never lose its appeal.
- We leave by 8.30 a.m. and it's already 26C.
- We are travelling first to Dogubayazit, South of Igdir. We stayed overnight here on our London to Sydney trip. It is a heavily garrisoned town, and a major access point for entry into Iran. We fill up at the same BP filling station as we did 3 years previously. Memories come flooding back.
- Mtn Ararat still rises up majestically to the East. Another sight that we will never tire of. Especially in summer, when the upper slopes still covered with snow, are such a contrast to the scorched countryside all around.
- After Dogubayazit we turn off South in the direction of Lake Van. It is finally time to bid farewell to Mt Ararat.
- We are stopped for a vehicle check by local police. They don't take long. Perhaps with an army base here, there are plenty of personnel to keep busy.
- For the next 30 km we admire the view and the empty roads. But there is good reason - just as we climb to an altitude of 2500m we come to the end of the road. For now it is impassable. Navigator checks the maps me app for alternative minor roads. There are none. Annoyingly there have been no signs, not even in Turkish, to warn of the road closure ahead. Our only option is to return to Dogubayazit and do a huge detour via Agri to reach Ercis and Lake Van. What was going to be a long hot day has just got longer.
- So unexpectedly it's hello Mt Ararat once more.
- We knew Turkey would be a tough section of our trip - the hot climate, the difficulty of finding decent restaurants in obscure places and of course language difficulties. We are scheduled to spend another 10 days in Turkey. Some will be brief overnight stays in places that we will be eager to leave. But a couple are well known tourist destinations ( Goreme & Pammukkale). Food & accommodation here should be of a reasonable quality.
- Roads in Turkey are noticeably better than in the Caucasus countries. The country's infrastructure is already impressive and new projects are ongoing as we drive - the UK sadly does not compare, either with quality or coverage.
- At 315 km and after 4.5 hours of driving we finally rejoin the route we originally planned via Ercis on Lake Van. Fortunately the roads we chose as our detour have been generally good and traffic light.
- The drive around Lake Van is mainly about scenery, it is blissfully uncommercialised. Just azure blue water and a mountainous backdrop which today is sadly a bit hazy for photographs. The lake is the result of a volcano eruption which closed off the flow of mountain rivers. It stretches over 3000 sq km and sits at an altitude of around 1600 m.
- We stop briefly in Ahlat some 45 km before Tatvan. There is a vast Seljuk Cemetary here with tall headstones intricately carved on both sides. They date from 11C onwards. After days of Armenian Khachars, AG declares that he has had enough of visiting cemeteries. He has a point.
- As we come in for 'landing' at Tatvan it's blowing up a gale, a warm one at 30 C. We abandon plans to drive up Nemrut Dagi 3050 m from where there are excellent views of Lake Van and also of Crater Lakes within the inactive volcano. This afternoon, views would be limited.
- SG makes the usual room requests at check in and all seems ok. We spend a couple of hours chilling and catching up with emails whilst the wind and dust storm outside abate.
- Early evening, it's time to stretch our legs. We stroll along the pedestrianised street outside our hotel and down to the lake. The promenade is closed to traffic - we do not know if this happens every evening, just in summer or only at weekends. Families are out and about and groups of either men or women sit and chat.
Tea is the main drink on offer. Plus the usual canned soft drinks. There are no lakeside restaurants of any kind. Men sit at low tables, smoke & drink tea out of small glass cups. It's an evening highlight. We see no women doing likewise. It seems to be an exclusive male activity on male territory.
- Its such a shame that language prevents us from finding out more about modern Turkish society.
We do our diplomatic best: we pose for their photos, we smile, we wave acknowledgement. We stand out from the promenade crowds - our dress, our skin colour - just being in Tatvan we are an oddity - not many western tourists come here. Why would they? The lake water is cold, the hospitality industry is basic and no alcohol is served.
- We are continually offered tea, now and at other times : at local shops, at petrol stations, at hotel reception desk. Neither of us like Turkish tea. It is strong & bitter which is why they add so many sugar lumps.
- There is no obvious alternative to eating at the hotel restaurant on the 8th floor. It has panoramic views of the lake and surrounding mountains. The freshly squeezed orange juice is delicious, the staff kind and helpful, shame about the food.