Oh my God - Nemrut Dagi RULES!
Karadut Travel Blog› entry 480 of 658 › view all entries
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Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, woooooooooow! Maybe i shouldn't write anything else about Nemrut Dagi, because all my head keeps saying is WOW! Now i had seen the photos before and knew what to expect, but my trip here was a little bit special for a number of reasons - snow, solitude, a full moon and a scintillating sunrise. I can't imagine any other factors that could have really improved my trip, it was just one of those experiences that you have to experience to understand.
The History of Nemrut Dagi dates back to the 1st Century BC, when the Kingdom of Commagene was declared independent from the Seleucid Empire. Mithridates I took the throne in 80BC, and was quick to claim ancestral routes back to Seleucus I Nicator who founded the Seleucid Empire and also Darius the Great, who had been the King of Persia.
So thats the History, and now how i got there! Of course the trustworthy Lonely Planet recommended a tour, but i wasn't in any mood to pay extortionate sums of money to be shuttled up to the top for an hour or so. Once i arrived into the small village of Narince i was mobbed by a group of young children, but a kebab shop owner fended them off and pulled a chair up for me to sit down on, outside the shop. It was nearly midday and i was feeling peckish, so i bought a kebab and sat with him waiting for a dolmush that was running up to the village of Karadut.
Whilst waiting i got a shock when i saw a guy strolling through the village with a backpack, and soon i found myself engrossed in conversation with the bloke. Paulo was an Italian traveller who was hitch hiking his way through Turkey and like me he hadn't encountered any Westerners outside of Istanbul. We therefore took advantage of having someone to share our experiences with and chatted away for the next two hours. Finally he decided he had to make a move as he was walking up to Karadut, and just before 14.00 my dolmush turned up.
“Nemrut Dagi 15kms” the sign proclaimed, i was starting to feel deja-vu, this wasn't the first time in recent weeks where i had been dropped in the middle of nowhere. 'Karadut, Karadut' i repeated to the driver, but all he did was point up a road to the left and drove off to the right.
I knew the Cesme Pension was around 6.5kms from the summit, so that meant that i had a 8.5km uphill walk if i wanted to get there. Sunset was around 16.00 and i didn't want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere, so i made up my mind that i had no choice but to start walking. Whilst the scenery was captivating, i was in no real mood to enjoy it and this was heightened when i was once again mobbed by a group of children screaming 'tourist, tourist, money, money, what is your name' and so on and so forth. The kids in the East of Turkey are a real pain in the arse, but i tried to stay calm and just upped my pace until they left me alone.
Approaching Karadut village, a dolmush pulled up and i said 'Cesme Pension' and he signaled for me to get in and then drove me about 500m to Karadut Pension. This wasn't where i wanted to stay, but the driver and owner both started telling me Cesme Pension was closed. I knew this was a lie as i had made a reservation only yesterday, so tried to persuade the driver to take me to where i wanted to stay. Clearly the dolmush drivers are in cahoots with Karadut Pension and the driver flat out refused to take me, even though the office in Kahta had told Volkan over the phone that they should go up there.
Throwing my backpack onto my shoulders, i was back on foot and with the prospect of another hours walk up an 11% gradient with 25kgs hanging off me, marvelous! I eventually made in to the Pension at 16.
I was keen to take a shower and the owner told me that i should hurry as the water would freeze in the next 30 minutes or so. This gave me just enough time to get myself clean and also do a small amount of laundry. It was the last thing that i wanted to do after such a long day, but it was a necessity. Once i was done i went to sit by a fire with the owner and his assistant, that was burning outside. I decided to try and dry my clothes by the fire, but this made them smell of smoke and to add to my woes i burnt one t-shirt and melted part of my walking boot! Under normal circumstances i would have been pretty pissed off to say the least, but I'm trying to implement a mind set of realising that such things are trivial in the grand plan of life.
Some time later an English guy called Matt came to join us, and he was on his way back down the mountain having seen the sunset. Whilst i enjoyed his company, we were then sadly joined by a complete jackass who was Canadian-Turkish. Now i have met some jackasses in my time, but this guy really rated up amongst the biggest. I simply hate people who lie and boast, and this guy did both and nothing else. The worst thing is that he was boasting about things he clearly hadn't done.
22 years constant travelling. A month with the silver backs where he set up a clinic and school. He had a girlfriend in that village but she was killed by lightning along with a pupil. He introduced foam machines to Ibiza. Was climbing Everest and been filmed on discovery channel next year.
On Sunday i was up at 03.15, having not slept particularly well from the cold. I donned a shirt, t-shirt, another shirt, jumper, coat, trousers, hat, gloves, two pairs of socks and my walking boots and i could still feel the wind rip through my garments as i left the room. There was only one thing for it and that was to set off at a good pace to get the blood pumping. I had no need for my head torch, as the full moon was more than adequately lighting my way and the road began in a reasonable condition.
A couple of kilometres down the road and it was apparent that I was getting pretty high, as the asphalt was now covered in snow and ice, making the going a bit tougher.
At 05.45 i made my way up to the statues and was immediately blown away by the craftsmanship and setting. The bodies faced East towards the rising sun, whilst the heads sat solemnly in front of them, having been toppled by earthquakes over the centuries. A burial mound shaped like a pyramid and made up from crushed stones was positioned behind the statues and to crown the picture off, there was the full moon sat perfectly behind. This is why i travel! Julia later informed me that scientists had said that this was the closest the moon had orbited to Earth in decades, which was another unique factor about my visit here.
I tried my best to scramble around to take photos, but this wasn't always easy as the snow was knee deep in places and some of the rocks were slippery from the ice. The statues i was admiring were of Apollo, Fortuna, Zeus-Ahura Mazda, Antiochus and Heracles, with eagles and lions at either end. Antiochus dubbed this creation as 'The Throne of the Gods' and i can understand how one could feel immortal when buried in such a magnificent setting, with such an awe inspiring tomb.
I decided that the perfect view for sunset had to be from behind the statues, so i decided to ascend the burial mound and on the way got a good look at the Greek inscriptions on the back of the statues bodies. I have no idea what was written, but my guess would be 'Antiochus is a bloody good fellow, as are his God ancestors.
Having found what i believed was the best spot for photos, i had to huddle up and wait for 5 minutes or so until the sun finally came onto the horizon. The wind was coming up and over the pyramid making it bloody cold, but at times like this you know that your suffering will be worth it, and this proved to be the case, as the orange ball edged its way into sight. The valley slowly changed colour as the sun rose higher and clouds drifted into one part of the valley, whilst above the tomb some pretty patches of cloud materialised.
Climbing back down the pyramid, i stood in front of the statues again to watch them change colour, as the sun gradually fell upon the stone. It was hard to stand still, i wanted to keep moving, looking at it all from different angles, out to the sunset, to the statues, to the heads, back to the sunset and so on! I felt like a dog chasing its tail, going round and round and round! Around 07.00 i tried to compose myself and decided that i had seen what was to see on the Eastern terrace and therefore walked around the pyramid to the Western Terrace.
Whilst the Eastern Terrace had all the bodies pretty much in tact, the Western Terraces bodies were almost non existent. On the other hand the heads were in slightly better condition and there were also some nice carvings on display. As this side of the mountain receives very little sunlight, the snow was really deep and there was only so much that it was possible to see in such conditions. I tried to cut myself a trail to get some different angles and perspective on what i was seeing, but it was hopeless as i just sank deeper and deeper into the snow. I decided that i had better not test my luck too far and called it a day.
Walking back down the mountain i couldn't help but keep looking back with a stupidly big grin on my face. I think i may have burst out into laughter at some point, i was completely elated with the way my morning had panned out.
I ate some breakfast and packed my bags and had no other choice but to set off walking, as there was no minivan scheduled until the following morning. Even though i was carrying all my bags now, and having already walked 13kms, i had a real spring in my step for the 8.5kms back down to the main junction.
This trip has to be one of the most rewarding and satisfying that i have ever done. It entailed 30kms of walking and half of which was with a heavy backpack, but the rewards far outweighed the effort. I honestly believe that this is the beauty of independent travel, that whilst things may be more difficult, you normally get moments like these that you could not get from an organised tour with a group of 10 or 20 other people.