The night before I left Goreme, the hotel owner asked if I wanted to drive out to a viewpoint to watch the sunset. Not wanting to miss out on a potentially fabulous experience (the sunset of course) I immediately said yes. I walked out the front door of the hotel and there he was. Black hair billowing in the breeze as he sat astride his scooter. Thankful I wore pants, I jumped aboard. The roar of all 50cc's straining against a maxed out weight capacity was music to my ears as we buzzed up windy cobblestone roads and sandy washes to the overlook. We made it just as the sun was dropping below the hills. Suddenly the sandstone took on all the colors of a sunset and the landscape eclipsed the sky with it's vibrant show of light and shadow.
We took the scenic way back. Instead of riding the roads, we took the scooter up and down rocky dirt trails that would make me squeamish on a mountain bike. Many times I offered to walk up steep sections, but no, no, I was assured that this was just fine. A rev of the engine and a bounce on the seat usually got us over the rocky stretches. I have never been so impressed with a motor vehicle. I vowed I would get myself a scooter as soon as I got home. With cliffs on one side and shear walls on the other, we wound our way, in the dark, back to the village. I thanked my guide and with a pounding heart I headed off to try and get a little sleep before the morning call to prayer woke me.
On the way to the Ilhara Valley, my goal for the day, I stopped in Darinkuyu, home to an extensive underground city. The city didn't open for another hour so I stopped at a tea stall nearby (also not open) and without asking I was served tea, biscuits, and fruit. Not as many people spoke English as I expected so with the very few words of Turkish that I learned and lots of charades, the stall owner said he would watch my fully loaded bike as I went to go see the underground city.
The city goes down hundred of feet but only the first 8 are open to the pubic. Since 2000BC many groups of people have used the city for protection from raiding parties, for living, for sleeping, for food storage, and for praying. Thousands of years and millions of chisel marks have created roomy chambers, tables, benches, and even a stable with feed bins carved out of the walls. The most affluent dwellers lived in the top levels where the air was fresh, lower down the rooms were smaller, the hallways more cramped, and the air was cold and stale. Walking up into the daylight never felt so liberating.
When I returned to the restaurant in the evening, the young man motioned for me to follow him. Holding a candle on a dish to light the way, he led me across a board to a small platform in the middle of the river that he had hung with beautiful patterned cloth of reds and golds to make a tent. He pulled back the opening and inside my room was lined with cushions and blankets. On a small table there was a dish filled with little candles that cast a soft warm glow throughout the space. He waved goodnight and I slept with the water gently flowing all around my little world.