This is a picture of the mule.
The two donkeys were in the car.
Not content with using the cheap, infinitely efficient, clean and stress free public transport system, a decision was made to burn some cash on what looked to be a ten year old silver, manual, four door, diesel Renault, hired out by our mate Ask Kemal*.
Pick which one I was driving…
To my credit the gearstick was on the wrong side of the car, and we were driving on what felt a lot like the wrong side of the road – particularly when traversing three lane roundabouts at large intersections. Oh and we were driving with the Turks, who take road rules about as seriously as they take American tourists – ie, not very.
Look, no-one died. So it basically worked out fine. Ask Kemal may need to replace his gearbox though.
(Neither KV or I could work out for some time how to get the damned thing in reverse, so the two guards in the ticket box at the Cappadocia airport car park – dont ask – got their money’s worth watching us put the car in neutral and use sheer willpower to urge it to roll backwards, on flat ground, so we could do a 119 point turn out of our car space to finally exit the parking lot.)
We came across old mate on his mule after leaving the airport destined for the Ihlara Valley about seven hours into what was meant to be a ninety minute road trip.
You can’t see it in the pic but he was grinning like a madman, belting back down the road after he’d been to visit the men hanging out at the large red truck in the turnip field. It’s difficult to know whether he was grinning at two white girls in an old Renault, clearly lost in backroads no tourist has ever seen, driving on the one day of rest (being Friday) of the most holiest of holy weeks in the muslim calendar, or whether in fact it wasnt a grin, but a grimace. Let’s just say the saddle padding he had on that animal looked minimal.
Either way, it made my day. KV was less impressed. I think she was sick of being in the car, driving down roads lined with huge piles of rocks, which actually turned out – we think – to be turnips. The conversation went something like this:
Claire – “I wonder what all these farmers and trucks are doing? It looks like they’re ploughing and sifting the paddock for rocks. It’s pretty rocky. They’re big piles of rocks…
KV – “Why would they be loading them into trucks?
“I dunno. This is rural Turkey. Could be anything. Maybe it’s for landsacaping in Istanbul?
“No its sweet potatoes (you idiot).
“No way. Thats not a sweet potato, its the wrong size….I think they’re parsnips.
“Ah, aren’t parsnips kind of long with a pointy bit at the end?
“They’re turnips. Oh my god it’s piles and piles of turnips. We’re in the Turnip Belt of Turkey.”
“But I havent seen a turnip yet in Turkey. What are they using them for?
“Probably selling them to Germany. Germans love turnips.
(Do they? Do they really? Long road trips lost in turkey are entirely the right time for uninformed sweeping statements, as you will learn. Also, when you’ve been travelling together for more than a week, this is what constitutes an inisightful, probing conversation).
* Ask Kemal was recommended to us while staying in Uchisar as ‘the go-to guy” for car hire. Turns out he was actually the James Packer of Uchisar (owning three out of the seven shops around main street, and aspiring to build an 82 storied casino in his own likeness…wait, now I’m confusing the two).
We found Kemal whiling away the day on a somewhat dilapidated white outdoor chair in front of his dusty corner store. Locating him was easy, in the main street was an empty shopfront and a massive sign saying “Ask Kemal”, and an arrow pointing towards the corner store.
Finding our way around Cappadocia in a rental car was an entirely different story. All i can say is CIA haters be damned – if we didnt have GPS on the trusty Samsung, KV and I would likely have evaporated into the rural ether amongst the goats, the donkeys, the turkeys (turkeys in Turkey, funniest thing I saw all week), and the 9000 farming men who mostly all did double takes as we drove past. A couple of the really old guys didnt bother, but Im guessing they just had mobility issues.