Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Wednesday 7 September 2011 - Sokulupinar (2000 metres) to Dipsiz Lake (2950 metres) and back

Approx 22km, 1000m ascent, 8.5 hours including stops.

Last night's late sun was countered by this morning's late sun. It didn't hit the camp site until after we had set off at 8.40am up the track past the cave.

Breakfast included 'borek' a calzone with cheese enclosed in the toasted dough. All of Adam's making and delicious. We have a good cook.

After an hour we reached the end of the jeep track by a spring and a flock of sheep guarded by dogs. A large flock of snow finches flitted from place to place in the neighbourhood. A nearby wheatear pecked away unconcernedly, scorning the antics of the finches.

From there, a good mountain path past St John's Wort and other Alpine flowers, many with fleshy leaves to retain moisture in the dry conditions, led all the way up to our destination - a high lake, seriously depleted at this time of year through evaporation, surrounded by a mountain cirque.

It took 4.5 hours to get there. We were down to 16 today as Dave had been ordered to rest and Carey had been encouraged to spend a day with Ramazan, our Jeep driver. This would enable him to enjoy an exploration of the nearby village and gain a better insight into the local culture.

The sun beat down from a dark blue sky all day. Sunglasses were worn. Lunch was taken beside the lake.

On the descent we were invited into a shepherd family's tent, where a twelve year old boy, Mohammed, laid out a selection of his mum's knitted socks and gloves, etc. There was much interest and after a little bargaining the Welsh Witches splashed out 50 New Turkish Lire on some snazzy footwear for their coven. The tent was fairly spacious, with a small kitchen area and a blue tarpaulin over a roof constructed of wooden slats and used as a sort of cupboard. A felt overcoat was produced and Mohammed delighted his audience by demonstrating its use as a sleeping bag. Like any respectable household, this one required guests to remove their shoes before entering.

On leaving the tent, some of us moved quickly down the valley on skittery scree, past a veritable garden of Autumn Crocuses. It wasn't as steep as the stuff that had yesterday claimed at least seven fallers and ripped Tessa's shorts.

Three tents were pitched near the next spring at 2500 metres, beyond which a steep gully led towards the peaks that the tents' owners were scaling. They were not walkers.

We waited here, and lower down above the Jeep track and sheep pasture, just in case Turan wanted us to pass the sheep as one group, to minimise dog risk. He did want that, and he single-handedly saved us from being ravaged by four 4-legged enforcers, using a mixture of Turkish swear words and two walking poles.

Soon we encountered our Jeep, with Ramazan and Carey, who grinned and hijacked Joanne and Tessa for an early shower. Most of the rest of us carried on down past spent spurge and asphodel for tea and Turkish Delight that took the entire cap off one of my teeth.

Meanwhile, Sue, Susan and Roy decided to explore the cave near the campsite. It turned out to be an overhang full of sheep droppings.

After another lovely sunset (pictured), we enjoyed more of Adam's cooking before a controversial suggestion from Turan sent most of the group scampering to bed.

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Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Tuesday 6 September 2011 - Sari Memedin Yurdu (1800 metres) to Sokulupinar (2000 metres)

Approx 11km, 700m ascent, 7 hours including stops and searches.

Another 'blue sky' day. After paying off our assistant cook and assembling for the now routine 9 o'clock start, we strolled up the Emli Valley, welcoming the shade from the cedar trees with their light coloured pointy-up cones. It was a hot day.

The switchback path, if you can call a single five kilometre zigzag that, took us along a sandy path, past thistles and spurges, gently up to about the same height as yesterday - 2500 metres. On the way, Tessa lost the mouthpiece of her platypus (piped drinking system), and a search party set off back to comb the area in which it had been spotted. This took some time. The seven strong vanguard led by Turan hadn't noticed the incident, which was hidden from their view. So it was a relieved Turan, who had returned down the trail to investigate, when I explained the problem (I'd gone on to meet him). The rest of the vanguard, sadly, didn't buy my 'We saw a Mountain Lion' story!

Before this incident, on the turn of the switchback, a needle of rock came into view. "I want to climb that" announced Sue. "You can't" asserted Turan. So she made do with the above photo.

After passing a large German group heading in the opposite direction, the only people we have encountered on the trail, we continued along a high path to a succulent spring. Time for lunch, with a welcoming cool breeze.

Dave 'my knee's gone pop' wasn't with us today - he took the easy route in the jeep, so it was just seventeen who continued along a lovely contouring path via a distinctive rocky tor, followed by some entertainingly skittery scree, to our destination - a host of two tone green tents in an even greener field that is subject to constant irrigation by way of a sprinkler.

En route we saw a Kestrel hover and dive, passed some 'French tents', my nose had a bleed, and Turan became the proud owner of a secondhand high heeled shoe.

The campsite is in a splendid position with a fine mountain backdrop as well as views across a deep valley towards the continuing chain of mountains to the west.

After our 4pm arrival, and 30 minutes of tea and biscuits and Turkish Delight, most of us set about washing off the dust and grime of the day. Some used the campsite showers, as usual - unheated; Sue and I chose the garden sprinkler. Interesting!

Time flew by. A 'marmot' was spotted in camp. It looked more like a ferret to me. Turan explained that in his youth he would catch these poor beasts by pouring water down their burrows and then chasing the soggy animals that emerged, weighed down by their wet fur, to exhaustion. I expect they were then savoured as a breakfast titbit in much the same way as Sue downed her grasshopper delicacy for breakfast along with this morning's boiled egg.

Sunset was magical, with pink light on the mountains above us, and great opportunities to capture silhouettes against the setting sun.

Dinner in the large open tent with its trestle table for 18, was the usual jolly gathering, after which some of us managed to stay up until after 9pm!

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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Internet in Turkey

I've been surprised to get a signal in the 'High Taurus', but the internet connection is somewhat 'flaky'.

I'm doing my best, but don't be surprised if I go off air for a while.

The picture is of Sue's breakfast.

Have fun

Martin

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Monday 5 September 2011 - A Mountain Walk from Sari Memedin Yurdu (1800 metres)

Approx 6km, 700m ascent, 6.5 hours including stops.

Another 9am start for this circular stroll into the mountains shown in yesterday's photo, from our 'pre-set' camp site at 1800 metres in the Emli Valley.

Overnight, wolves were howling and Daves were snoring.

During breakfast the sun hit the camp and normal clothing (t-shirts) was resumed.

So we enjoyed a sunny 700 metre ascent to our lunch stop, and an equally sunny descent back to camp to complete the short circuit.

Today's picture of Carey illustrates the magnificent scenery hereabouts, but fails to capture the image of a Golden Eagle soaring over the mountain tops.

That was first thing, as we left 'Fly Camp' as it is rightly known, in Mediterranean weather. The stony path soon became strewn with Autumn Crocuses, and Turan spotted ibex in the distance. They are not as tame here as in the Maritime Alps as they are hunted, but we saw more females with their young as we approached our lunch spot at the day's high point around 2500 metres.

A Red-fronted Serine drank from the spring at this point, which like a number of locations hereabouts used to be the summer home of up to ten local families - tending their sheep high in the mountains to avoid the summer heat in their villages.

Martins, Flycatchers, Pinks, Spurges and much more by way of flora and fauna entertained us on the way down. During this time, Carey suffered a gear failure - one of his borrowed but brand new Pacerpoles lost its tip. Oops! Meanwhile one Dave managed to roll over some rather prickly thistles in his attempt to become a pin cushion. Ouch! The other Dave suddenly ground to a halt - "My knee's gone 'pop'" he exclaimed. Oh dear! His dodgy digit was dutifully bandaged and Lil nursed him down to safety.

By 3.30 we were back at camp, supping tea and debating how best to 'shower'. Most people seemed to choose the 'bucket and hose' system.

By and by, dinner was served. "Enjoy your grasshopper soup" announced Adam with a wry smile. (Actually, not knowing Turkish, I have no idea what he said!)

A few beers later, Uno, a card game - an adult version of 'snap' - was attempted, using the South Wales school of Double Dutch rules. Amongst the eleven who played, friends were won and lost...

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Monday, 5 September 2011

Sunday 4 September 2011 - Marti Mahallesi to Sari Memedin Yurdu (1800 metres)

Approx 10km, 300m ascent, 5 hours including stops.

After a warm night at 1600 metres I woke to a 6am call to prayers. Some had been woken to an earlier call at 5.30! A lie in and gear sort until breakfast at 8 was in order. This is a holiday. A leisurely trip. No 'Alpine' starts are planned.

Breakfast of water melon, cheese salad, bread and the usual accompaniments, and sausage omelette (did I tell you the area is famous for its sausages), was washed down with copious tea and coffee by the assembled group, now fully recovered from its jet lag, early start, and misplaced baggage/passport/hotel.

Here's the cast:
Martin and Sue - the Timperley Travellers
Susan and Roy, fellow TGO Challengers, seeking refuge from Hurricane Irene's devastation in their home town of Glastonbury, Connecticut
Dave and Elizabeth (Lil) from Hexham
Dave and Joanna from Harlow
Jane 'Egg' seeking refuge from the rigours of a yacht on the Bosphorus, and an audience for her tales of 'storm and tempest on the TGO Challenge 2011'
Alan, erstwhile TGO Challenger and landlord of the Greyhound in Burston (Staffordshire)
Tessa from Bowdon, who works in Leeds but lives very close to us
Anne from Newcastle, a University worker
Breda, Karen and Ann, seeking refuge from the autumnal ambience of South Wales
Carey, assistant editor of TGO Magazine, our junior member, a member of the Paparazzi - seeking a cover shot for the magazine
Turan - our local leader on this KE Adventure Travel trip
Elif, Turan's assistant, a budding rock climber
Adam, our cook - by far the most important member of our team
Various other 'assistants' and their own assistants...

We left in the bus at around 9 o' clock and after 5-10 minutes were dropped off at the start of a walk that took us across dusty scrubland with prickly plants under a hot sun.

There was no path, but the going was easy. By and by we paused for elevenses in the shade of a large rock. Beyond here, Sue found a friend - a giant grasshopper that over the next 500 metres wandered nonchalantly all the way down from her hat to regain terra firma.

Whilst late in the season, there are still a fair number of plants in flower including Carline like thistles and a variety of mullein.

We continued over desert like scrub with fine mountain views. The scenery hereabouts is very 'Dolomitic', with steep rock faces towering above us. A rough descent into a deep gorge - Kazkali Bogazi - delivered us to a lunch spot near a bolted rock climb. "I've been up there" commented Elif, Turan's demure assistant, who was clearly contracted to act as 'sweeper' for our group. A small group of climbers studiously ignored our noisy group.

Moving off again, our 18 strong band took another good hour to reach our campsite by around 2.15.

Time for tea and biscuits.

It's a lovely spot. A formal campsite with facilities and several 'camping fields'. We have the best of these (pictured), with a huge mountain backdrop. There's a large open tent to the right of the photo in which our meals are served.

A relaxing afternoon and evening were enjoyed by all, featuring a lengthy meal and culminating in Turan's exposition of 'the sky at night'.

Mark and Alan - thanks for your respective comments. I have Will's book 'In View of Monte Viso', Mark - an Alpine classic.

Ken - only three of us went down to that crumbling brickwork - even Reg declined to do that! It's a shame, but there really does seem to be no current use for the fine viaduct.

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Sunday, 4 September 2011

Saturday 3 September 2011 - Demirka

Here we are at a camping place in the village of Demirka. (Photo taken 'tomorrow morning'.)

The journey from Reading, where Ian kindly put us up last night before dashing off to Leysin himself, started with a 3.30am taxi ride and ended after a two and a half hour bus ride from Kayseri, via another bus ride and two Turkish Airlines flights - Heathrow to Kayseri via Istanbul.

It was quite a smooth journey for most of us, but Carey had a bit of an epic yesterday in Istanbul - due to 'disappearing' luggage, passport and hotel...

All is now well though, and all 16 of us plus guides and cook are happily installed in a flotilla of tents, and have enjoyed an excellent dinner.

We flew over arid looking terrain, to Kayseri, which is famous for sofas, sunflower, sausages and potatoes. It's a thriving metropolis whose inhabitants live mainly in ugly blocks of flats.

Beyond there, the bus ride took us past fields of golden stubble, potatoes and sweetcorn, in an area that looks much more fertile from the ground than from above.

We rose from about 1100 metres to this plateau at 1600 metres, and finished about 4km from the home of Touran, KE Adventure Travel's local guide - our 'leader' for the next ten days.

Whilst settling into the tents, we enjoyed watching the late sunlight on the mountains to our east. They tower over 2000 metres above us. From here they look like barren Alpine peaks, a bit like certain of the Dolomites. We'll get a closer look tomorrow, when I'll also find time to say a few more words about the cast of sixteen who are embarking on this TGO Magazine '2011 Readers Trek'.

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