I had just completed my intrepid overland journey through Iran and now had just five weeks to make my way to Cairo, to board my flight to Uganda. Before I got too excited about visiting ‘The Jewel of Africa’ with a group of University friends, I had to focus on the job at hand; my travel crusade through the Middle East!

Five weeks is not enough time to do Turkey alone justice, let alone Syria, Jordan and Egypt as well, so I decided early on I would have to give the majority of Turkey a miss this time around.  I figured Turkey was so large it warranted a special trip in itself and after what I saw of South East Turkey it seems like a great country to return for some cycle touring one day. Turkey also gives New Zealanders a free three month visa at the border, so coming back is no bureaucratic hassle – good work Turkey!

There are several Iran/Turkey land borders, we (Pehr (the Swede who I travelled with since Esfahan in Iran) and I) choose to cross the northern most border as this took us close to Mt Ararat (site of Noah’s supposed ‘beaching’), a mountain I had wanted to see if I was in the area. The snow-capped Ararat and its small companion peak reminded me of the Tongariro National Park in NZ; although Ararat is nearly twice as high. I originally had ambitions to climb it, but time was scarce so we couldn’t afford the time required to organize and complete the climb, however KE Adventure Travel offer trips to climb it if you’re interested.

On arrival from Iran we stayed in the small Turkish town of Dogubayazit; even here near the border it was a world away from Iran. We had not only had we stepped into a different political landscape, almost immediately the environment brightened; the steppes of South East Turkey are some of the most picturesque I have ever seen. All of a sudden there were familiar western brands, a sense of openness and distinct European feel - I even saw women with uncovered hair!

In Dogubayazit we met up with Catherine, a Belgium girl who I had previously met in Iran who was also on a similar itinerary i.e. on her way to Syria.  So two became three and the next day we all went to the town of Van, on the shore of Lake Van funny enough.  Mid July is hay season in these parts, so on the local bus ride from Dogubayazit we passed through hours of fields all being tended to by hand by local farmers and their families.  The photos I have just don’t do it justice, but it was really stunning countryside, however this comes from a former farm boy.

From what I could gather, Van’s main claim to fame (besides it beautiful lake) is that it is home to a breed of white cat (called the Turkish Van) that has two different coloured eyes. I had never heard of such a thing before, so when I saw a couple of them I thought they looked as creepy as it sounds strange.

From the town of Van we rode a couple of long distance buses, passed the town of Batman and eventually arrived in Gaziantep which is located near the border crossing with Syria. There isn’t much in Gaziantep except an interesting town market, but it’s a nice town. Of course with the ongoing Civil War in Syria, it’s not only not advised to travel there, it’s likely the border will be closed altogether. I was lucky to travel there in 2009 before the war, I detailed my travels on these pages around it’s remarkable attractions.

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