It was a night I’ll never forget.
My legs felt like they were on fire and sleep eluded me for the entire night. As far as I could tell, the French guy beside me didn’t get any sleep either. His name was Louis, by the way.
During those rare moments when I did start drifting off into sleep, it was just as quickly broken by the subtle sounds of sediment falling to the floor. And no matter how hard I tried to cover my legs, a hungry mosquito would always add yet more fuel to the fire.
A few inches away from where I was sleeping was a large man-sized hole, with a steep drop below. Our things were propped up against a back wall, not far from another long hole that stretched down the side.
During the night, I wasn’t sure if I was having an out of body experience or if I was unconsciously drifting towards the man sized hole. Neither option seemed appealing.
I know this sounds like a nightmare, but I loved it actually. That’s the funny thing about sleeping in a Cappadocian cave. I hadn’t planned on it, but ever since Louis suggested it, the idea had dawned on me and we finally said ‘fuck yeah’ and decided to find a random cave and sleep in it.
There are many cave hotels in Cappadocia, which mimic what we were doing, but we wanted the real thing. And boy did we get it.
But anyway, I digress, here’s how it started.
I met Louis at the hostel I was staying at. It was the Kamelya Cave Hotel – and it was a pretty cool place to crash for the night. Louis was one of many backpackers staying there. After speaking to an elderly American cyclist who has traveled the world on a tricycle, I eventually got talking to Louis, who is a painter and musician from France.
The great thing about traveling is you can have a five minute conversation with another traveller and then spend the next day or two hanging out. That’s how it was with Louis.
The first thing we did is we went on some crazy, fast ATV rides around Cappadocia. It was one of those activities where you spend the entire time anticipating your imminent death with your heart stuck in your throat. Then when the ride finally ends, you’re already planning your next ride.
Later that night, we hit up a dodgy live music bar where we jived to traditional Turkish folk music. The first night we did that, the bar staff were on their best behaviour. As it turns out, they were a bunch of shady pervs. But I’ll talk more about that in another blog.
After having spent so much time together, Louis told me about his passion for hiking in the mountains. He had done a lot of traveling over the years and had recounted so many inspiring tales of the weird and wonderful adventures he had there. It sounded amazing.
So on the second day, Louis suggested that we have our own mountain adventures. And Cappadocia was the perfect place to do it.
That’s how we found ourselves hiking through the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia and meandering through the valleys of Goreme (an ancient town in the region).
It has this unspeakable beauty that can capture your gaze for hours.
Cappadocia is famous for its fairy chimneys (these cone-shaped rock formations that according to local folklore, were once said to have been inhabited by fairies – hence the name).
In many of these unique rock formations are caves and ancient churches which were once home to local communities that lived there in the distant past. Unbelievably, despite the unique natural beauty of Cappadocia, it is not a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is why travelers are allowed to camp there.
Every valley we trekked through seemed to have its own character, and we spent ages looking around, trying to decide which cave to spend the night in. The process of cave-hunting almost reminded me of house-hunting, except this was much more exciting and wild.
When it started to get dark and the weight of our backpacks threatened to put an end to our journey, we finally settled on a random cave with a magnificent view of the surrounding valleys below, where lots of horse riders passed.
As it happened, we could not have picked a better spot.
That’s because, when we woke up the next day, we were greeted by several large hot air balloons that floated almost directly in front of our cave. Honestly, we couldn’t have picked a more scenic spot if we tried. And we did try.
We were so close to the balloons, that one of the people on it started taking a photo of me with a long camera lens. I guess he didn’t expect to see two cave dwellers in a random Cappadocian fairy chimney!
My camera wasn’t quite as powerful, but you may be able to catch a glimpse of him here:
Or maybe not. Anyway, the night in the cave had been a blast. We spent most of it unsuccessfully trying to play music via Spotify, but as I’m sure you can imagine, the internet reception was virtually non-existent.
I think we got about one song in before the internet packed in completely. That was when Louis got out his Ukulele instead and we had a good old fashioned sing along before eating pot noodles over the camping stove and retiring to the sleeping bags and inflatable mattress that Louis brought.
The following morning, I got up before Louis did and clambered down to some of the caves below to enjoy the 360° views of the surrounding valley. It was better than watching Eastenders. There’s just something about being in the vice-like grip of nature that makes the time seem to fly by.
After the balloons had left and Louis woke up we finally went on a trek back through the valley before we caught a taxi back to the hostel.
I never expected to kip in a cave when I first landed in Turkey, but it sure made for an unforgettable night.
If you’re going to go camping anywhere in Turkey, few places will quench your thirst for adventure in quite the same way as those magnificent Cappadocian fairy chimneys.