Heads of Nemrut - Sunrise and Sunset
Trip Start Jan 08, 2005
135Trip End Ongoing
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Yusuf immediately gave us all names - David was Uncle 2nd driver. I was Aunty, Fabrizio was nephew and Corina was his niece. For some reason he couldn't get his name wrapped around Corina and kept calling Calorie or Carolina and a few other variations. It kept us in fits!
First we visited the Attaturk Dam which was huge. Yusuf gave us the run down and we took a couple of shots. It was huge!! David was impressed with the structure itself, but does not agree with the idea behind damming as it often destroys important archeological sites and people are relocated from villages their families have been living in for generations. Catch 22 I guess. Damming makes otherwise unworkable land fertile so that people have jobs and can produce more etc but on the other hand you loose historical sites and people have to be relocated which can be distressing. Next we went to a section of the very old Euphrates River which I remember learning about from my high school days. Didn't ever think I would bathe in it though! Swimming was an option so I paddled to test it. It was bloody freezing! It had come fresh from the mountains. Yusuf offered to help me out of the water but I ended up on his shoulders in the fireman's hold!!! We ate a load of melon he had bought from the roadside too. While we were driving Yusuf had a never ending supply of local information and stories to tell us. So now I know what a pistachio tree looks like and we stopped to look at some tobacco plants too. He sang loads and taught us some turkish songs (Oi, Oi, Emine!!). On to Karakus where there is a man made mound which was constructed to hold the graves of the royal ladies of the Commagene (1st century BC). There are some really old stone columns and a small hill to climb. We drove on to the old Roman Bridge at Cendere. Unfortunately it used to be the main passage for all the traffic including trucks and a few years ago a petrol tanker caused it to collapse and they had to rebuild it. But they used some of the old stones so it still looks quite good. Thankfully they've built another bridge for traffic. Next stop was to take a look at an old castle (Yeni Kale). We could only admire from the outside way down from road though because some Americans (about 35 so Yusuf said) had been injured while taking photos up close a few years back so it's closed now. Then we went up to see some more statues at Arsameia on another hill which were from the same era. While climbing I broke my beloved 7 year old sandals. David had already repaired them twice on this journey but this time the sole had a big hole and the strap had come free. It looked as though I would have to buy another pair. They had been with me to nearly every country I had been to. I didn't know if I could part with them. The statues were ok. The views were brilliant. The sky was such a gorgeous blue. There were some really long tunnels that apparently connected through to Yeni Kale but they were about 150 metres long but nobody knew if they were open all the way so we didn't attempt it. We were on our way to watch the sunset at the top of Nemrut Dagı amongst another set of ruins. Yusuf said we would need good climbing shoes and looked at my broken ones, then at David's sandals. He said no good to both. He said he could lend me a pair of his and brought out this pair of fake black Prada mens shoes. 'Commando shoes!' he said. Everyone laughed at me. We still had about another 2 hours drive so headed on. It was rough going. We had to go really slow (1st gear all the way) because it was so steep. The road was just dirt in some spots and bad cobbles in others so it took ages. We passed lots of cars that had over heated. Eventually we got up there and I donned my commando shoes. They looked ridiculous! A definite passion killer! We climbed up about 500 metres to the Eastern Terrace and the first set of heads. This is the story from Lonely Planet - another man-made mound that was built 1st century BC under orders from King Antiochus. It supposedly holds his tomb but no-one really knows. He ordered statues of himself to be built and also others of gods (apparently his 'relatives' - looney). Unfortunately you cannot touch the remains of the statues. They were chained off about two years ago. The heads have fallen off the bodies but they are still impressive. We took a few photos and headed over to the Western Terrace for the sunset. The commando shoes were uncomfortable but holding up well. There were more heads and bodies over there to look at and we sat around with loads of other people waiting for that magical moment. It was a lovely sunset but not as impressive as from the temples of Bagan in Myanmar. We climbed down and went for dinner and a quick sleep. We could have stayed up all night talking to Yusuf but we all had an early call for the sunrise so went to bed.
We were up at 3.30 for our drive back up to Nemrut and sunrise with the heads. Corina wasn't feeling too fab so it was just David and I up the trail. I looked a stunner in my commando shoes and blanket trailing. I'm so thankful that Yusuf insisted I take one. I didn't think it would be too bad. It was harder climbing in the dark and we wanted a good possie to see the sun come up. Luckily David had his mag lite! There were already loads of people up there - the smarter ones with blankets, the not so clever in shorts!!!! The wind was really whipping round making it the coldest I've been for a while! The commando shoes were not insulated and I had no socks. We sat and did our best to warm each other. David mentioned brass monkeys!! I decided to let David freeze his hands off taking all the photos and sat shivering under my blanket wondering how long it would be before the sun popped up! Well what a splendor when it did! Just beautiful!! An amazing array of colours, each gaining more strength the closer the sun came to the horizon - then it was there in all it's glory! It was breathtaking. A big Ahhhhh from the crowd and people started the downward trek. The colours on the heads were fabulous but too many people got in the way so no good photos could be taken. I was thankful to be back in the warm van but was glad me and commando foot wear had made the effort. We went back to the pension for brekky and then had a big drive back to Urfa (with more melons).
Yusuf had been great and we had really enjoyed the tour. I guess in reality the heads weren't the best ruins we've ever seen but as David has said - we would have kicked ourselves if we hadn't have found out ourselves and the sunset was spectacular!