REPORT OF A BIRDING TRIP TO THE SOUTHERN AND EASTERN PARTS OF TURKEY
A short day-to-day report of our journey follows. We found out roads are of various quality. The maximum speed in Turkey amounts to 90 km/h outside the cities, but at many times it is not even possible to reach this speed as a result of potholes as big as craters. At other times, driving through the mountains makes travelling very slow.
Since Turkish people are amongst the most friendly in the world, if not the most, drinking tea is a time-consuming business as well. Especially outside the main cities, one tea-drinking invitation a day is standard. People are very interested but speak hardly any language other than Turkish. Some speak little German, French or English, but presenting a bird book explains much more.
On the map below, the route has been drawn. The numbers are referred to in the rest of this report.
Day 0: Saturday, June the 26th
Left Amsterdam for Antalya at 21:30h. Arrived at 02:00h local time.
Day 1: Sunday, June the 27th
Started by renting a car at 03:00h and started driving eastwards at 05:00h. Short stop behind supermarket Metro, north of Alanya (place 1). Driving towards Silifke along the coast, passing Anamur (place 2). People, beware! This road is terribly slow, mainly because of the endless turns and slow trucks. Try to avoid it and drive via Karaman if you do not wish to visit it specifically. We ended up in Silifke at the end of the day, and checked in at one of the few hotels opposite the autogar. We paid a total of 40 million TL or 22.25 for the four of us. Shower and toilet at the room. Room clean. Food obtained near the autogar, but very basic. A short trip into the Göksu Delta (place 3). Unfortunately we noticed that at sunset is at 20:00h, so not allowing much time to visit in the evening. This later turned out to be very inconvenient many times, because temperatures forced us to bird in the early mornings and evenings.
Day 2: Monday, June the 28th
Early start at the nearby Göksu Delta (place 3), birding from 05:30 to 13:00h. Drove towards Tarsus (place 4) and birded for several midday hours, although extremely hot and humid. Started driving north towards Demirkazik (place 5) at 18:00h and arrived at 21:00h. Our car turned out not to be built for steep highways, not reaching speeds over 80km/h at some parts. We stayed at the famous ªafak brothers pension and paid 50 per person for the pension and a drive up the mountain next morning. Quite a sum! But, the pension was very proper and breakfast and many in betweens were included.
Day 3: Tuesday, June the 29th
Again an early start, this time at 03:00h. Drove into the famous Aladag Mountains behind Demirkazik (place 5) with Cávit ªafak and his Lada Niva 1.7i. Many new birds were added to our lists. Stayed in the mountains until 14:00h, had a late breakfast at ªafak pension and left at 15:15h. We drove north towards Kayseri and heading for Sivas, we ended up at a motel, belonging to a petrol station in Gemerek along the main road. Paid just 20 million TL or 11.15 for the total, but rooms and toilets were extremely dirty.
Day 4: Wednesday, June the 30th
A whole day of driving necessary! Finally some sleep and started driving northeast towards Sivas and Erzurum at about 08:00h. Birding along the road turned out to be very productive, especially between Sivas and Erzurum (place 6). Turned north 25km before Erzurum at 18:00h, heading for Sivri Kaya. Made a stop of an hour at Gelinkaya (place 7) for some birding. Drove further north and arrived at Sivri Kaya (place 7) at 21:00h. The last hour of driving had been in the dark, which was very unpleasant, mainly because of people and animals strolling along the roadside. With many effort (because of the dark and the absence of a proper flashlight, so bring one!) found the famous Mustapha Sari, who lives in a small farm up on the hill on the eastside of the road in Sivri Kaya, just a few meters south of the minaret. Mustapha's friend offered us a place to sleep inside the wooden teahouse, which is one of the most northernmost wooden houses along the main road. Next day, be also received a good breakfast there and paid 30 million TL or 16.75 for the total sleeping and eating.
Day 5: Thursday, July the 1st
Early start at 04:30h for a rough drive with our hired car into the mountains east of Sivri Kaya (place 7) with Mustapha. Back down at 06:30h and breakfast. Some birding down the river just north of Sivri Kaya until 09:30h. Then drove back south a little towards Ovit Dagi Gecidi for an hour of high mountain birding. Drove north towards Rize and further along the coast. Arrived at Savºat at 18:00h and settled at hotel Sahan in the middle of the town. After haggling paid only 25 million TL or 13.90 in total for a very proper room! Ate something next door and went to sleep at a reasonable time.
Day 6: Friday, July the 2nd
Left Savºat at 06:00h. Drove eastwards towards Ardahan (place 8). We visited the pass of Çam Geçidi at 2640m. Arrived at Ardahan at 09:50h and scanned for raptors in the wooded hills just east of Ardahan and checked also the valley south of Ardahan (place 9). Round midday we headed for Aktas Gölü (place 10) on the Georgian border. Here we drove past a suspicious military control post and parked the car to have a walk on the south side of the lake. Getting back to our car and driving along the military post, we were stopped by the militaries, which turned out to be customs officers. They said we had passed the border, but we had not noticed! After a cup of tea, we headed south again and passed Çildir Gölü on the east. We headed as fast as possible towards Kars, because it has just an hour before dark. We ran into a very nice small lake, 35km north of Kars (place 11). Although we wanted to arrive at Doğubayazit by sunset, we had to stop at Igdir at 21:00h, because of the many vehicles on the road without any lights, which would inevitably turn out into an accident. As other days, it had got dark at 20:00h already! Igdir turned out to be quite an unpleasant city, with much noise on the street and many vague drunk figures. Some good hotels are available along the main road through the village, but we checked in at the dingily hotel Tuncer for 20 million TL or 11.15 in total. The hotel was so filthy that sleeping on the beds was hardly reasonably possible.
Day 7: Saturday, July the 3rd
Early start, driving towards the by now famous Işak Paşa Palace (place 13) at Doğubayazit. Underway, birding turned out to be excellent (place 12), so we took our time for that! Therefore, we arrived at the Palace at 07:45h and watch the birds until 10:30h. Although the heat was abysmal, we found all target species and more. After this nice experience, we headed south towards the Van Lake area. The area in between (place 14) also turned out to be pretty, but less attractive then north of Doğubayazit. Driving went on easy and we arrived at the north of Van Lake area (place 15) at 15:30h. At 17:00h we drove further south towards the Van town and checked in at hotel Arslan. This turned out to be reasonable and we paid 25 million TL or 13.90 in total.
Day 8: Sunday, July the 4th
Started the morning at Erçek Gölü (place 15) and its surroundings. Headed for the Van Hills (place 15) and ended this place by a visit to the South Van Marshes at the start of the afternoon. The rest of the day was spend driving north, towards the Bulanik area. We checked in at a reasonable hotel, Serhat, in Malzgirt, where we paid 26 million TL or 14.50 in total.
Day 9: Monday, July the 5th
Once again an early start. With some effort we found the river Murrat near Bulanik (place 16) and spent the whole morning strolling along the river and its surroundings. Left for Nemrut Dagi (place 17) and arrived there at 12:30h. Harsh wind made bird finding a tough business, but we enjoyed the fantastic scenery and stayed until 15:30h. Drove westwards in the direction of Diyarbakir. The road, which is the road towards the east in Turkey, turned out to be tediously slow, caused by the many turns, the slow trucks and the bad blacktop. At a lot of places, parts of the road had even disappeared into the near gorge. Tired or sick by the heat and the lack of a good sleep, we drove into Diyarbakir to find a hotel. Diyarbakir turned out to be enormous, as it forms the capital of Kurdistan. We checked in at, once again, a terrible hotel in probably the busiest street of all and paid only 20 million TL or 11.15 for the four of us. Good hotels are present, though.
Day 10: Tuesday, July the 6th
We did not leave too early, and had a hard time leaving the city. As we finally found the right direction, we headed for Çermik. Our, apparently dated, map, showed this was the way towards the famous Nemrud Dagi. But, instead, we should have driven directly towards Siverek from Diyarbakir. From Siverek, the road goes westwards and we ran into a small and rusty ferryboat that could sail the whole population of Turkey at once. At least, that is what the captain though. We were probably ripped of, but we paid about 15 million TL or 8.35 for this 5-minute crossing. At noontime, we could start to discover the very impressive area of the Nemrud Dagi (place 18). We drove up the famous mountain and visited the attraction, being a set of heads cut out of stone. A considerable fee had to be paid, but tickets were valid the day after as well. Strangely, we were more impressed by the birds along the very steep road upwards than the stony heads! In the evening, we drove down and checked in at Pension Karadut, which is along the road between Narince and the mentioned attraction of Nemrud Dagi. We had a diner here and enjoyed the view meanwhile. The cost for this perfect pension was just 30 million TL or 16.70 in total.
Day 11: Wednesday, July the 7th
From 05:00h to 08:00h, we birded along the road to the top of Nemrud Dagi (place18) and tried to obtain better views of the birds seen the day before. Afterwards, we drove to Adiyaman and further towards Birecik (place 19). The temperature was extremely high, and the wind felt like standing next to a huge wild fire. Luckily, the excellent motel Mirkelan near the large pump, just west of the river Euphrates, provided rooms with air-conditioning. There was a price for this, though. We paid 60 million TL or 33.40 per night for the four of us. After a cold bath, we fought the heat and went to the most famous sites around the city till dark. The air-conditioned room made sleeping possible.
Day 12: Thursday, July the 8th
Started at 05:30h at the Main Wadi (place 19) and visited most other places again in order to find the last species missed the day before, and also to obtain better views of species already seen. Visited Halfeti, but this town turned out to be only very depressing and hardly any birds could be found, probably also because of the scorching heat. Spent the night once again at the perfect hotel Mirkelan.
Day 13: Friday, July the 9th
Again visited the Main Wadi at 05:30h and then drove south along the river Euphrates towards Syria to find some 'new' places not described by Gosney. This turned out to be pretty good! We drove towards Gazi Antep and further towards Durnalik (place 20) later that morning. We arrived at the start of the afternoon, but the weather made bird finding hardly possible. When we arrived it was very hot, and after an hour or so, a hard wind started to blow and even rain started to fall. We decided to drive to Tarsus (place 4) again, in order to do some better birding there in the morning to follow. We took the highway, which was very fast. Arriving in Tarsus and after some searching in the dark and heat, we found the hotel Cihan, which also had air-conditioning. We paid totally 50 million TL or 27.80 for a perfect room.
Day 14: Saturday, July the 10th
In the morning we drove to the Tarsus Delta (place 4) again and saw quite some more birds than last time! Temperature was extremely high again, though. At the end of the morning we headed westwards towards Silifke and Tasucu, for we would travel to Cyprus by the ferryboat in the forthcoming night. We took the highway, which was very fast and cost only little. At 15:00h, we ordered tickets and tried to stay at the ticket office as long as possible for it was air-conditioned and the temperature and humidity outside was terrible. We paid a total of 307 million TL or 171 for this return voyage by the normal ferryboat! Ben and Kasper visited some places in the Göksu Delta while Frank and Wesley went for a cold drink nearby. A small dinner was obtained within the summer village, south of Tasucu and even a shower was offered by the owner of the lokantesi. At 21:00h, we tried to get on the ferryboat, as said by the people at the office that afternoon. But, we could not enter the gates to the ferry before 22:30h. Customs office took about half an hour. We settled on the ferry and tried to get some sleep on the wooden benches. The ferry should leave at 00:00h and arrive at 05:00h, but left only at 04:30h because of another ship in its way in the harbour!!!
Day 15: Sunday, July the 11th
Day started at the ferryboat towards Cyprus (place 21). The idea was to arrive at 05:00h and take the ferryboat back towards Tasucu at 12:00h; it is possible to find the target species of the isle on one morning! But, the ferryboat arrived only at 09:30h and customs took us another hour and cost 10 per person. At 11:00h, we took a taxicab and did some birding above the Bellepais Monastery (place 21). We went back at 17:00h or so and the taxi driver took us to a 'cheap' hotel, costing not less than 120 million TL or 66.75 for one night! The taxi itself cost 12 million TL or 6.70 per ride. Luckily, the hotel was air-conditioned for the temperature was again extremely high. The price did include a breakfast, which we got the evening before on our request.
Day 16: Monday, July the 12th
Start at 06:00h at the hotel. Same taxi as day before took us up to the Bellepais Monastery (place 21). We visited the same track and saw mainly the same birds. Little disappointed we decided to take the taxi to the ferryboat and try to arrange a return voyage by the fast boat. We managed to do so, and paid two strange taxes at two places (totalling 15 per person) and passed customs quite quick. At 09:30h we sat down and the ferry turned out to be air-conditioned, which was just perfect! At 12:30h we passed customs at Tasucu, Turkey, and took the car. As quick as possible, we tried to leave the hot and humid coast and drive inland. In the afternoon, we reached Karaman, a very attractive little town with many Dutch Turks and nice people. Unfortunately, birds were calling and we drove towards Eregli (place 22). At Eregli, we found easily found a good place to sleep through the ever so nice Turkish inhabitants. The hotel cost 60 million TL or 33.35 in total, including a diner with cold drinks and friendly people.
Day 17: Tuesday, July the 13th
The morning was spent birding within the Konya-Karaman-Eregli triangle (place 22). All lakes turned out to have dried up totally, but some nice birds were found. Also, a very poor family invited us for a drink. They were living in a small house of mud and rocks. We were offered a glass of milk, which was not emptied by all of us for understandable reasons. Suddenly in a hurry, we drove towards Konya and from there towards Ankara. All roads were pretty good, especially between Konya and Ankara. About 100km south of Ankara, we visited the extremely nice Kulu Gölü (place 23) and afterwards went for a room at the city of Kulu. We checked in at hotel Atay and paid 40 million TL or 22.25 in total. The hotel was very good and tidy.
Day 18: Wednesday, July the 14th
At 06:30h, we arrived at the Kulu Gölü (place 23) and this time visited some more spots over there than the evening before. At 10:00h we left, got our stuff from the hotel and headed south towards Konya, Seydiºehir and finally Akseki (place 24). We realised we had plenty of time until the flight back and took things dilatorily. We found two hotels, both at a cost of 40 million TL or 22.25 totally per night. After we randomly checked in at the hotel Duruk we took a shower and a nap and at the end of the afternoon visited some famous spots near Akseki.
Day 19: Thursday, July the 15th
From 06:00h we visited some spots around Akseki (place 24) and observed most target species for the site. By now, we had seen virtually all target species of this trip and the birding got more and more relaxed. Until the evening, we searched nearby spots. The night was spent at the same hotel as the night before.
Day 20: Friday, July the 16th
At 06:00h we started at the same place as the day before, just north of Akseki (place 24), in the hope to find more species. We failed and found less. Some other places around Akseki were visited, but at 10:00h we decided to leave. We drove towards Alanya (place 1) again. You will know why as soon as you read the places visited section! The night was spent in one of the many cheap and dirty hotels, especially made for the numerous beach-going fat Germans and Dutch. We paid 45 million TL or 25 in total.
Day 21: Saturday, July the 17th
A late start and some time for shopping in Alanya. Some cheap imitation designer clothing bought. With a lack of information for places to visit in the nearby surroundings, we drove into the mountains behind Alanya (place 1) and found some nice species. Though, no extreme birding possible here. In the afternoon, we drove westwards towards Antalya and found ourselves a small hotel just east of a small park on the eastside of the huge bay at Antalya. Paid 60 million TL or 33.35 for the four of us, but the hotel was perfect and breakfast included. Little birding was done in the adjacent park.
Day 22: Sunday, July the 18th
Slept until 09:00h and enjoyed a nice breakfast. Little birding at the adjacent park. Drove towards the airport at 14:00h and brought our car back to Hertz. Passed customs and had to wait until 17:00h before we could check in. Plane terribly delayed, left at 19:30h. Arrived at Amsterdam at 22:30h local time.
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