Yep, that’s right: Cappadocia. It was on my wish list for a long time already. Despite this area being a Unesco heritage site, it is still possible to explore this region off road on a bike. Perhaps not many mountain bikers are prepared to ride here because of the (in general) hot conditions and steep climbs. I encountered only one guide with two tourists, but more tire marks were visible. It feels unspoiled and in general the hikers are surprised to find a mountain biker on the trail. Usually they are amazed that it is possible to ride here at all.
Whatever the reasons others might have, I really enjoyed biking here. Yes, it can be hot, but in the narrow canyons it can also be really cool because of the shadows and the type of rock, “tuff” that stays cool and a bit moist in the shadows. This type of stone is quite soft and during millions of years, wind and water eroded the tuff into odd shapes, including spires, cones, and even a camel -apparently-. There are some really nice sections where you can ride on these naturally eroded rocks, I guess it’s similar to the slick rock trail in Moab. The rocks give plenty of grip that allows you to climb steeper slopes than usually is the case. Even when the surface is covered with a fine layer of dust the grip is really good. Only the very fine gravel layer reduces grip significantly. And wet conditions too I guess, but I only had dry weather.
In more recent times, because the tuff stone was soft and easily worked, people made houses here. They hollowed out the rocks, carved windows, doors and curving stairways. They even carved churches into the rock. So, everywhere you ride, you see caves, small windows and evidence of staircases. It’s like being in a fairy tale world. And even today the valleys are still used by locals to grow fruit and grapevines. Some caves are used for storage and sometimes you come across a small tea house, tucked in deep inside the valley.
When you follow the deepest parts of the valleys, you are actually riding in the (dry) riverbed. Sometimes there are tunnels and natural bridges that the river made -or were they cut out? It seems both happened and this allows the water to flow through.
The starting point was a very nice and quiet campsite south-west of Ortahisar. Still clearly a Cappadocia landscape but just outside the National park boundaries, and also outside the hot-air balloon area. The gas burners of these balloons are quite loud, especially in the calmness of the mornings.
A great advantage of using the mountain bike is (I think) the fact that on a mountain bike you can really explore the area at just the right pace so you don’t miss out any section. I created a nice loop that included the Red valley, Rose Valley, Valley of love, The Pigeon Valley and Zemi Valley.
And on top of that it was also possible to ride along the upper edge of the steep rock faces above Rose valley that made it possible to see the entire region. In this time of year (beginning of October) there were still some tourists, but never so much that it would have been awkward on the narrow sections. In fact, I encountered far less tourists than I expected beforehand.
But, besides the really touristic sections there are so much more interesting valleys and areas. It is literally a labyrinth of single tracks. Not all are equally suitable to ride, but hey, that’s part of the adventure. All these tracks make it possible to ride something new for at least a few days. Which I did.