Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Big Heads

We move westwards to Nemrut Dagi - a mountain that now certainly does attract the tour groups. It takes us all day to get close to it - including a long stop in a small nameless town where all the men wore pale lilac arab-style headscarfs (very fetching) - and we find ourselves sat on the side of the approach road trying to hitch a lift up the mountain. A car stops and we load up and the driver explains he is chef of a pension. We are not sure if he means he is the cook or the owner. However the guidebook describes the pension's pleasant back garden as a great spot to camp, which is what we plan to do. The guidebook doesn't describe the gravel carpark or the strange smell which we eventually trace to a dead cat thrown over the wall.
But it's cheap and there other happy campers - a nice couple from the Czech Republic. The chef arranges for the cat's disappearance and we pretend we can't smell it anymore and pitch our tent. The Czechs have negotiated for a ride up to the mountain top at sunset and we join them. There is some initial confusion as to whether we are going or not and finally the chef has to abandon his pots and pans and drives us up there at the last minute. The ride is a 12km pull up a brand new cobbled road. The car stalls a couple of times on the steep stretches and the chef is evidently concerned about getting back in time to cook the tea for his other guests. We ignore his plea to hurry back down to the carpark.

At the top of this mountain is a man-made summit of crushed rock with two ledges - one facing east and one west. On each ledge is a series of huge stone statues. The heads have fallen off due to earthquakes and they now lie before the headless bodies. Each one is about 2 metres high. They are big heads. They were put there by a local king round about the time of Christ and his tomb is thought to lie beneath the false peak. Beside a sculpture of himself sit his fellow gods. It would appear he did actually have a big head.

As the sun drops to the horizon the light softens and the cameras click away. There must be about 60 other tourists here - more than we've probably seen since we left the Kackar mountains. We join the melee and enjoy the sunset. A big moon is already high in the sky. We are about 2500m and the view is wonderful. Old King Antiochus certainly picked a good spot. As we descend back to the carpark and the tour buses and trinket sellers we realise that we are just back on the edge of Tourist Turkey.

The next morning we move on to Malatya for a night. It's a pleasant modern city of about half a million and we idle about the market and along the tree-lined streets. We have chosen a slightly expensive hotel - the cheapie in our guidebook demanded an inflated sum for a grotty room with shared bathroom so opted for something much better. We know it's a good hotel because the sheets actually fit the bed.

No comments: