Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Today we went out for a drive into the golden brown countryside of Van Province

Wondering what to do on our second day in Van, we suddenly came across a taxi stand with some photos of touristic places, one of them being the waterfalls at Muradiye. Well, we had thought about taking public transport up there, but it was over 60 kms away and the problem with public transport is that you cannot stop to take photos. So, we were soon asking how much it would cost to hire a taxi for the day and in a few minutes the deal was done. For an agreed price we would have the taxi for the rest of the day until about 5 or 6 and the taxi driver would take us to the waterfalls and also a castle and some villages.
Well, we are always a bit apprehensive about taking drivers out (except for our very dear Abdul Kader in Hama in Syria - may we hope all is well with you and your family), especially ones who do not speak a word of English! It looked bad when the first thing we did when leaving Van was to fill up with petrol for 80 lire, for which we had to advance our driver 100 lire. Then, it became apparent that he had completely missed the tuning for the castle. And then he made up some stupid excuse not to drive to the old bridge in Muradiye. Then last of all, he seemed to refuse to take us to the town of Ozalp, being seemingly more keen to drive us back to Van as quickly as possible.
However, surprise, surprise, he DID take a turn-off and we were soon driving along small country lanes through the most beautiful wide expanses of countryside, mostly golden brown, backed by the mountains which provide the main boundary between Turkey and Iran. And he did stop, time and time again, when I would spot a shepherd or a cowherd ro some birds or particularly spectacular scenery and all of a sudden our day had become perfect, especially as we were met by such large smiles and waves everywhere we went.
But then, all of a sudden as we were descending from the hills, the road surface changed to recently laid black tarmac which was soft and gooey under the hot sun. The gravel layer had not been put on yet. Fred first noticed there was a problem when his hand turned black from the tarmac being thrown up, then it was the turn of my forearm. The car did not seem to be too badly affacted until we came to the bottom to the main road and our driver stopped to find that his car had turned BLACK! Ooops! Now it was our turn to feel guilty for having put him through this. We offered to help clean it with cloths and although it worked a bit there was not enough cloth nor hours in the day. Fortunately, just down the road there was a car wash and after seemingly lots of shouting, they agreed to give it a go, first some young boys would go over the car with a cloth, turning it brown (a mixture of yellow and black) until the older young man with the jet water spray had a go and blasted all the dirt off in a matter of minutes and thankfully the car turned yellow again and we were only 20 lire poorer.
Of course, by the time we were back in Van, it was all dusty as the Turks are widening the road through the east of the country to Iran and India beyond with heavy road works going on every 5 kms or so.
The financial transaction at the end went off without a hitch, the petrol HAD been included in the price we had agreed and we only had to pay the balance, plus a handsome tip for our patient driver. And what a relief that was after our nightmares with car rentals in Eritrea and Somaliland...


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