Turkey in a Motorhome Part 3 - A Mystical Nemrut Dagi Adventure

Since arriving in Turkey, everyone we had met had told us about this mystical place sat the top of a very high mountain in Eastern Turkey, the guide book had listed it as one of their highlights and it was a Unesco World Heritage site, so we knew it needed to be on our itinerary.

Nemrut Dagi is a 2,170 meter high mountain with some massive carved stone heads at the top, placed there by a crazy King back in the Middle Ages. We weren’t sure where to camp or even how far up we could drive. As we were driving up passing through the little village of Karakut, we were pounced upon by a friendly, but slightly forceful, owner of a little pension who insisted that if we were to attempt driving any further, it would be certain death for our engine, tyres and breaks! He insisted that we should camp in his car park and he would drive us up the next day (for a fee, of course). He said he had wifi, hot showers and a restaurant... Well, only part of that turned out to be true. But as it was dark and we had been driving all day, we decided to take him up on his offer and we pulled into his car park. The wifi was pretty weak so I went and sat in the restaurant and downloaded ‘Have I Got News For You’ and watched the rest of an English Premiership game. Whilst sat in there, the guy insisted on rolling me cigarettes after cigarettes of locally grown throat peeling tobacco. I think it's an acquired taste!

The heads of the gods at the top of Nemrut Dagi.

We decided to go and brave the showers which were probably the worst showers in Turkey! There was barely a trickle and someone had used an old pairs of jeans as a building material, blocking up holes in the small room. Our dream of a piping hot shower didn’t quite happen, but it was just enough to wash our hair and make us feel slightly fresher.

I never thought that jeans could be used as a building material, but apparently they can!
We settled down for the night and decided that the next day we would risk ‘totally killing the van’ and head up to a pension near the entrance gate to the park where we had heard third hand that it was possible to camp. The next morning, we paid, got a final warning from the owner and headed on our way onwards and upwards.

Driving another 5km up the hill, we came to Cesme Pension. The guy there was a little shocked to see an English camper pull up at the end of October. We asked if we could camp, he smiled and agreed. He said he could give us wifi, hot showers, water, electricity and toilets all for 40 Turkish Lira per night! The only downside was that we would have to park on the road on a massive slope. I think it's here that the van levellers really came into their own.

The views were pretty stunning at the top.
Next day, we decided that we would set off and walk the final 9km up to the actual site of the stone heads. Setting off, it was a balmy 17 degrees so we both wore shorts and a t-shirt. Little did we know that as we climbed the wind increased and, as it did so, did the wind-chill factor, by the time we got to the top the wind-chill factor must have been at least -5 so we put every item of clothing we could lay our hands on, on. But it really was worth it! 

The weather can so often really affect the feeling a place leaves with you, and for Nemrut Dagi this was no exception, the cloud level was falling so it felt like we really were walking through ‘Middle Earth’ The waves of mist blowing past the heads. Unfortunately due to the intense cold we could only take a handful of pictures of the heads before we had to run and escape back to the little cafe shack at the entrance. Here some American tourists had also taken shelter and had sprung up a conversation with the local Kurdish men who were selling their wares and smoking more Turkish rollups.

In the cafe shack cum souvenir shop with Kurdish men.
Jamie quickly googled a Kurdish phrase book and we were immediately welcomed in and offered some free tea. It's always amazing how trying to learn a little of the local language can help ingratiate you into a new community, especially when you’re talking to a marginalised, often persecuted, community such as the Kurds.

We hung out there for about 20 minutes sipping tea, smoking roll ups, warming our hands on rather unsafe looking electric heater and trying to learn some more Kurdish words. It turns out that one of the guys was a massive Man U fan Jamie told him he was from Leeds and, to our surprise, he had heard of them! It was nice to see two strangers bonding over a love of football.

Knowing that we had about two hours of daylight left, we decided that it was time to leave. We shook hands vigorously, took some pictures of our new friends and set off on the long walk back to the camp. Whilst walking back a few cars stopped and offered us a lift. We were so tempted and almost caved, but we resisted and kept on walking. Some of the people who stopped were quite shocked and surprised that we didn’t say yes! But we were glad to have kept on.
It's a long walk home.
On arriving back, we found the pension owner sitting by a little steel stove trying to warm every inch of his body wrapping himself around it. We asked if we could have a hot shower, he obliged and opened up one of the rooms and let us use the en-suite. What an amazing day.

The next  day we filled up our water tank, paid the lovely man, shook hands vigorously and set off back down the mountain to our next destination.