Updated: Dec 31, 2019
After a short summer in Bozeman, Anju had to leave the country for her Visa. Naturally, we made a climbing trip out of it and drove up the West coast visiting my family and climbing at some beautiful destinations such as City of Rocks, Tahoe, and Smith Rock. We ended up in British Columbia for a few weeks trying our best to avoid the rain (turns out it rains A LOT in October). My free truck topper did indeed leak... After Anju flew out of Vancouver, I drove down to the valley and climbed for a few days before flying to Berlin!
I intended to make a separate post about this, but that time has passed so here are a few awkwardly formatted slideshows. You will have to click through if you want to see the photos. Special thanks to the family for hosting us, and to Fritz and Kaitlyn for making fun out of five days of heavy rainfall.
Once in Germany, it was a whirlwind of meeting with friends and family before getting started on a roadtrip to Turkey. We also celebrated my birthday, which coincides with the 30th anniversary of the reunification of Berlin. Anju's father was kind enough to loan us his van for the long drive, so we built a simple platform bed in the back and loaded it up with supplies for the drive. With the van, we had lofty aspirations of linking up all sorts of destinations in Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Unfortunately, however, weather had its own plan in mind and that had a heavy influence in our decision making.
Our trip began with a drive through Southern Germany, Austria, and into the Dolomitis- our first proposed destination. Cruising through alps on the well manicured autobahns gave us the opportunity to look, but rain and snow denied us the pleasure of exploring the outdoors. We spent the night in the town of Bolzano, moving our bodies at the local climbing gym. Maybe Europeans have a high standard of climbing gyms- or, more likely, I have a low standard- but I felt like I was walking into the future as we entered the glass walled funky building of Salewa's concept store and cube gym. As I unraveled the rope bag, I realized that we had in fact grabbed two 40m gym ropes instead of our luxurious 80m bi pattern. I guess it was convenient that we discovered this in a gym rather than at the base of a longer route... We stopped at Decathlon immediately after and found a hot pink 8.9mmx80m cord for only 139 Euros. Now we have his and hers 80 meter ropes!
After our Dolomiti stop, we continued on to visit my cousin in Venice who graciously hosted us for two and a half days. Staying in our own apartment and eating out was luxurious and, despite the floods, we were able to walk all over Venice. Catching up with family who lives on the other side of the world was a real treat.
We left Venice with hopes of climbing in Meteora, Greece but the heavy rainfall was not looking conducive for climbing, so we opted to drive straight through for two days to Antalya in Southern Turkey. This was okay, as we reasoned that we could take our time on the way back when weather was hopefully better. I also had contracted a minor cold while leaving Venice and the drive would serve as a good "restful activity". We blasted through five borders while only acquiring one ticket (that we know of) and ended up spending the night in Sofia on our way. Slowly, the roads got worse and the use of blinkers and lanes became more and more seldom. After arrival in Antalya, we spent majority of the day gathering supplies, resting on the sunny beach, and getting checked into Jo-Si-To campground in Geyikbayiri.
Jo-Si-To is a paradise. Anju had been here before, but this was a first for me and it was exciting driving into the picturesque little campground tucked in the middle of all the climbing. The farthest crag we went to was maybe a 25 minute walk, while the closest being a stones throw from the bungalows. Most of the folks had no vehicles because it was so easy to hitch hike to and from town for supplies and touristing. The showers were hot, the knifes were sharp, and the fresh pomegranate and orange trees really tied it all together for me. The wifi was a little slow sometimes, but that's usually a good sign. In the end we payed 5 euros a night each, which is about as cheap as camp four (and much, much better). In the common area, you can order breakfast and dinner (and Turkish beer/wine) for 4-7 euros each and they looked all pretty yummy. This seemed to be the main campground in Geyikbayiri, having the most space and serving as a hangout in the evenings. Although it is apparently more expensive, you know you're supporting a couple who has their names all over the guidebook and those titanium glue-ins aren't cheap.
Left: Lowering out of the Poseidon Cave on our first day. Pumped...
Above: The entrance to an ancient Lycian city just a 30 minute hike from the campground.
On the first few days we enjoyed climbing some of the best crags at my friend's recommendation (thanks Jake!), but soon Anju caught my cold and it hit her much harder. We took a few rest days, one of which where it rained 5 inches in 12 hours! Apparently some people were still climbing in the caves during this downpour. Eventually Anju started to feel better and I didn't have to try to climb with random Eastern Europeans.
Neither of us managed to project anything, but we both climbed plenty of amazing pitches. After twelve days, we were starting to feel better on the enduro tufa fests. We decided to move on from our paradise to try to link up some newer climber areas on the way to Leonidio, Greece, where we could stay until we got notice from the embassy on Anju's Visa interview. This began with a stop an Citdibi, one of the more impressive limestone faces I have seen. This sector is stacked with hard routes and has a more appealing angle for those of us who suffer in dead horizontal roofs.
We left Citdibi and wound our way through the Turkish country roads before linking up with the coastal highway. Eventually we stopped in Demre and parked on a deserted beach for the night. The city of Demre appears to be an agricultural powerhouse, but it also a tourist destination with the ancient Lycian cities of Myra and Kekova. Without any crowds, we checked out Myra's Greek theater and the tombs where Ol' Saint Nic' was buried originally. We didn't have the time or money to take a glass floored boat to Kekova, the sunken city, but maybe next time...
After our short tourist stop in Myra we continued our drive to Datca, a narrow peninsula of the West coast of Turkey. Naturally, we stopped on the way and soaked up the sun on an ideal Mediterranean beach. Coincidentally, there was some amazing looking tufa-tugging only 60 meters from the beach (although we didn't sample it). We pulled into Datca that night, checking out the cute cobble streets and seaside resturants before bivying beneath Can Baba, the main cave.
Everything I imagined of swimming in the Mediterranean on a warm December day
The next two days we climbed what was, for me, some of the best continuous tufa routes I have ever done. Luck was on our side; right as we reached the wall on the first day, a group of local climbers were impressed by Anju's Turkish and let us take some photos of their home made guidebook (only after offering us some cigarettes and coffee). Besides one French couple, the entire Can Baba cave was empty. The draws on an 80m (?) 9b through the center of the cave swung around in the light breeze, adding to the immensity of the sector.
As planned, we left Datca after only two days. This was justified in the sense that we wanted to get to Leonidio as soon as possible (so that we could settle down there for a bit) and ferries were leaving Bodrum, not Datca. We drove out right after finishing climbing and slept on a dirt road bordering the sea between two massive resorts. We had planned a rest day in Bodrum, the upscale tourist destination and Aegean port, but the primary objective was to figure out the complex fairy network that could get us from Turkey to Kos (with maybe a stop at Kalymnos) and eventually to Athens. Upon arrival at the ticket offices, however, it became clear that we would have to wait a few days in Bodrum or on the small Island of Kos. Dang. We found a small cafe with wifi and went back to the drawing board...
At the cafe, we both logged into the outside world for the first time in a few days and discovered that the visa paperwork had come in from the consulate and required Anju in Berlin as soon as possible to continue. Very rapidly, our hopes for Greek multi pitches and endless oranges were shattered and we regretted leaving Datca even more. In haste, we checked weather and decided to hit Meteora for two days on our way home. We scraped up what was left of the rest day and toured Bodrum and its high end tourist shops, millionaire yachts, and super pazar.
That evening we drove out towards Istanbul and slept near the ancient city of Troy. We caught an early ferry across the Dardanelles to avoid the epic metropolis (and it's accompanying traffic) of Istanbul. More beautiful coastal driving brought us to the Greek boarder and eventually to Meteora in the night where we slept at an abandoned (?) monastery high on a hilltop.
The next morning was cold and clear, with an amazing sunrise bathing the famous monasteries in orange light. Too cold to climb and impressed by the UNESCO site, we drove over to the Monastery of Varlaam. It is hard to believe that this was constructed so long ago and we thoroughly enjoyed the touristing. Plenty of stories seemed ridiculous in the history of these ruins, but one stood out: There was a metal cross forged in the 13th century and placed on the summit of the largest formation in the 14th century (confirmed by its inscriptions). Apparently it was visible until the early 1900s (when it presumably tipped over) and was eventually plucked off the summit by a helicopter in the 70s and returned to the monastery. The next year, modern climbers completed the first (modern?) ascent with a 9 pitch 5.9+ which remains the easiest route on the formation. Apparently no evidence of a previous primitive ascent remains (i.e. wood ladders hammered into holes) which leaves the mind to wander- I'm thinking of a new Free Solo film about a 14th century monk...
That afternoon we climbed a 6 pitch conglomerate funk slab with an average of 3 pieces of protection per pitch. The summit was beautiful and offered views of the nearby village and neighboring monasteries. The register was very reminiscent of the Saxionian Elbesandstein, which I do enjoy. That evening we ate some greasy Greek food, but not after watching the town gather in the center for the annual Christmas lighting. The next day Anju wasn't feeling as great, so I channeled my inner monk and solo'd a moderate tower with a small summit and signed the register as the 5th person that year. Afterwards, we picked up some chocolates for the long drive across six countries and took off.
On the second evening of our drive, we crossed the final boarder onto the smooth, clearly painted, and free Deutsch Autobahn. This also coincided with the end of our audio book, the epic 48 hour IQ84 by Haruki Murakami. Sweet relief. Over the next few days, we got the paperwork in for the visa, settled in, and cleaned out Suat's van (thanks!!). The trip was cut short by illness and the paperwork, but it was still an invaluable experience for me. I cannot wait to get back for more climbing and all of the wonderful, helpful people we met. Next time we will make it to Ankara for Anju's family and maybe I'll learn to say more than just thanks. For now, I'll just keep studying Deutsch!