Wednesday, 30 November 2011
When I Get to the Border: Dogubayezit, Van, Iran
These three days have been amazing. I've ridden over the Tendürek Pass from Dogubayezit to Van Lake (2644 metres ASL) despite warnings from drivers about snow drifts and impassable conditions. Those warnings were greatly exaggerated, but the summit was so cold, sterile and beautiful. The landscape on the other side was a white wasteland, until I descended to Muradiye Waterfall, an incredible cascade where I stood on the bridge and felt the spray crystallise on my face. Arhan, the Kurdish restaurant proprietor at the falls, made me breakfast and insisted that I should return to Dogubayezit to get to Iran rather than going through Van. I gave this serious thought when I visited Seytan Koprusu (Devil's Bridge), but once again I ignored sincere advice. I was keen to see Lake Van and I hate doubling back. Also, I want to cross the border at Kapiköy, as I found this interesting Wikileaks cable about the Kapiköy crossing:
I camped by Lake Van, being unwilling to stay indoors in an earthquake zone, even if there was a hotel to be had in Van. It was mild, I pitched my tent to catch the morning sun and had a late start, taking in the warmth while looking at the blue water. After a week of sub-zero daytime temperatures, it was getting above freezing, and the sun was strong. I set off with only a couple of layers on for the first time since Cappadocia.
Rolling down to Van, I had my first press interview! A couple of guys in a van waved me down and made me ride up and down the road a few times so they could get some photos, and though our grasp of one another's language was basic, I told them how long I'd been travelling and gave them an outline of my route.
They warned me not to go into Van, and rightly so - I saw enough in the outskirts. Some of the buildings were showing signs of earthquake damage such as exposed brickwork and gaping cracks; tents and shanties were dotted about the streets and waste ground, a few people had set up roadside stalls to sell their possessions, and gangs of kids crawled across rubble heaps, searching for valuables. Feeling like an interloper, I only stayed long enough to get some food and beer - especially beer, as this is my last night in Turkey, and my last chance to have a drink.
The road surface from Van has been quite poor, and I don't expect it to improve, but tomorrow I'll cross the border at Kapiköy. That'll be one more country coloured in on my map of the world.