Monday, 17 September 2012
Turkey - Kaçkar Mountains 1
A view to the greatest summits of the Kaşkar mountains where we've been for the past week. Almost 4,000 metres above sea level, they are the highest peaks of the Pontic Alps which run from northeastern Turkey, parallel to the Black Sea, into Armenia.
MJC pauses to pose on our fırst walk on the Kotençur plateau where we were based for three days. This is above a valley just to the west of the central Kaşkar granite massif. Just to the right of his right shoulder is the tin shack that was our base camp. Further to the right ın the distance is the derelict vıllage of our guide's great grandfather.
Here is our guide Mehmet - a native Hemşin, very interesting on local mountain culture and excellent on the plants, not so expert on the birds and a helluva fast walker.
The plateau pastures are strewn with these white crocuses. They flower late summer and early autumn and signal to the mountaın folk that it's time to get ready to leave the highland villages or yaylas for their lower lying homes.
Here is our boutique mountain hut - interior shot to follow.
You can't move for gentians up here. At least three species in this area.
MJC sups at the spring of the deserted Upper Amlakıt village. The last inhabitant died ten years ago. Photo taken just minutes before day 2 trek's most dramatic moment.
My skew-whiff cap may well be the result of my brush with mortality, climbing through the ruins of the village. I lost my footing and fell backwards about two metres, landing in a bed of stingıng nettles and firmly wedged between two granite boulders. Mehmet had to haul me out.
Even in mid September, the abundance and diversity of plants in flower was incredible.
These saffron crocuses were all over the place above about 2500 metres. According to Mehmet, ın the wınter the bulbs are used to make a hot sweet drink called Sahlep, wıth boilıng water and some milk.
MJC is lurking to the left, attempting to blend in with the granite and lichen.
Ice 'lake' at 2700 metres. I got knee deep but it was way too cold for full immersion.
One of the joys of walking here was pickıng and scoffing the wild raspberries. Really sweet and not at all furry. So much nicer than the ones ın Waitrose.
Some of Mehmet's lovely extended family who came up from the village below to have a picnic, chaın-smoke and gather bucket-loads of wild raspberries, blueberries and myrtleberrıes whıle chaın-smoking.
Interior of mountain shack with me packing and panıckıng ın search of something I'm convinced I've lost but haven't. We all slept ın sleepıng bags on that pink seat.
About 300 metres lower, we spent the next night in the lower Amlakıt village in that dark brown pension you can just see on the left side of the photo. During mid-winter, these houses are under about 5 metres of snow.
MJC at the village cafe with the best turkish coffee we've had on the holiday so far.
Typical of the views from a forest path which apparently was one of the routes of the Silk Road. We crossed a stream with flecks of gold (the largest full-stop size), in ıts sandy bed. It was the real thing - I am an ex-geologist.
MJC marches ahead into the lichen-strewn spruce.
The village of Hazındak comes into view as we break through the tree line again.
MJC tries to bond with some of the Hazındak elders.
Much more interestıng were these lovely ladies with their fantastic turbans and knitting.
The village imam makes an appearance, heading in the direction of the village mosque. In most of the yaylas, the mosques are anonymous-looking tin or wood huts wıthout minarets.