A post by Lady Felicity
The Fairy Chimneys in Cappadocia, Turkey, are big business. While flying in the hot air balloon during our first morning in Turkey, we got to see first hand just how big a business it’s all become – but if you want to know more about the hot air balloons, you’ll have to read the first part of this blog post!
The locals in Cappadocia have found just about every way imaginable to celebrate and make a living from the views. We saw horses riding through the valleys, people posing atop vintage cars and ATVs zooming along, kicking up dust behind them. Lots of photo shoots – wedding photographs, romantic roof top accommodation, love seats, horse and carriages, all sorts of things to incorporate not just the landscape itself but us in our balloons above it too in the photographs. The balloons have become an important part of the view which draws people to this incredible part of Turkey. And why not – it is certainly an incredible spectacle to behold!
We decided that we should explore the fairy chimneys and these picturesque valleys from a different perspective, given the range of options available. We decided on two methods. First was an afternoon ride through the valleys on an ATV and second we went for a sunset horse riding tour.
The ATV (all-terrain vehicle – which in this case mean quad-bike) tour had me a bit apprehensive as I cannot drive and have never ridden a bike (unless you count Greg’s Stage-Tricycle!).
After a quick practise (despite what Greg tries to make out in the video, ‘Turkey – Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities’) on their test track I was confident enough to give the tour a go, so long as Greg and our guide didn’t mind my cautious approach.
Our tour lasted two hours and included a visit to the areas main valleys: Rose Valley, Girls Monastery, Red Valley, Swords Valley and Love Valley. At each of these valleys we would park up and hop off of our ATV’s for a quick look around and a picture or two before carrying on to the next one.
Each valley was special and distinctive in its own way, whether for the colour of the stone or the shape of the chimneys. All of them were beautiful.
As the tour went on I gained in confidence enough that our guide took us on a few bumpy, hilly, fun paths, much to Greg’s relief. Greg wanted to play and by the end, play we did!
While Greg wanted and enjoyed the bumpy, twisting, hilly paths when on an ATV, he was less keen on them when on a horse. Greg and I are not experienced horse riders by any stretch of the imagination – you can count the amount of times we’ve ridden horses on one hand – and still have a few fingers spare.
The horse riding tour offers views which you cannot see in any other tour because the places they take you are only reachable by horse. This is why some companies will not take you unless you have some riding experience.
This tour also lasted for about two hours with a short rest stop in the middle. That rest stop was in the middle of nowhere… a nowhere that was an incredible journey to reach.
At times we were on flat or gently sloping tracks, enjoying the fairy chimney and valley views around us (when Greg’s horse wasn’t planting its feet and completely ignoring his words and nudges of encouragement!), while at others we were completely focused on our horses and the incredibly steep inclines or, worse, declines in front of us. Often with a cliff edge on one or both sides of us. I’d never seen a horse’s back legs resemble a frog’s before, but I have now. Watching the guide’s horse jump in that manner to ascend a steep incline and knowing mine was next was one thing, but when it came to the declines I quickly learned that I didn’t want to even look at his horse, didn’t want to see the crumbly, dusty floor which made the horses look as though they were stumbling and slipping as they descended.
When we reached the rest stop I suspect Greg and I were more in need of the rest than the horses were! Perhaps Caremello wasn’t just being stubborn so much as knowing what was coming and wanting no part in it!
Considering the rest stop was in the middle of nowhere and accessible only by horse, it was all remarkably civilised. A fresh fruit juice bar station, canopy covered seating, a blanketed, cosy cave room and, up some frankly disastrous looking steps (May once have been a wooden ladder but when it’s got that much glue and that many nails at odd angles trying to hold it together, I’m reluctant to call it even that!), a cave church with beautifully preserved, colourful frescos.
Greg was so shaken, he opted not to test the steps or his knees, and left me to explore the church while he sampled some juice and enjoyed the fantastic view across the valley.
While at the rest stop, another group of riders joined our small party of three. While some were experienced riders and were exhilarated and loving the views, one couple were as inexperienced as us and quite frankly terrified. The poor lady didn’t want to get back on her horse, she just wanted to stop. Her guide was reassuring, explaining the steepest parts were now over but also had to point out that the horse is the only way out of there, much to the lady’s dismay.
I had thought that Greg and I were afraid but not like this. While we were truly frightened at times we were still giggling rather than crying. Excited as well as scared. Enjoying the incredible views and experience even though it made us gasp in my case and sound like a religious sailor at times in Greg’s. If we had known what it would be like beforehand, we may not have been brave enough to do it and that would have been an incredible shame. It was an amazing, terrifying, exhilarating, extraordinary experience and, having both survived it injury free, I’m so very glad we did it.
If you have never been on a horse and have a real fear of heights, just don’t do this one. It’s not for you. Stick to the ATV and unless the fear of heights means you struggle in tall buildings, try the balloon too. Both are excellent and purely enjoyable.
If you are fine on a horse, however, this is an experience not to be missed.
If you’re like us and inexperienced but want to give it a try, do it but don’t be surprised when you break out in a cold sweat or question your sanity for doing it!
At the end of the day, remember that the horse doesn’t want to fall over the cliff either and they tread this path regularly, they know what they are doing. So long as you don’t fall off the horse, you’ll be perfectly fine and have a chance to see some stunning views and have an experience like no other.
I’m less sure if Greg’s legs (or Caremello!) would let him but I would certainly be willing to do it again.
The Fairy Chimneys are incredible and however you wish to explore them, I doubt you’d be disappointed. We certainly weren’t. Just fantastic.