I like to hike, I am not a professional and don’t like to brag but I have climbed a few (small) mountains and volcanoes (again small) in my time. I like the challenge of getting to the top even if I am cursing and throwing tantrums all the way up, something I understand Alexei really enjoys.
Our next road trip led us to Ayder, a green mountain village high up and perfect for hiking and escaping the heat of the cities. Speeding through the windy roads with ‘fetty wap’ blasting (we were hitchhiking with two young guys), gazing out the window I noticed something strange in the trees. Mysterious dark beings flying through the sky… which turned out to be a massive group of women in full burka ziplining! This is not something I get to see everyday and I love seeing a different side to these usually reserved ladies.
Today we were staying in a traditional Ayder home – a rustic wooden cabin. Simple, no frills and pretty exposed to the elements but it felt so cosy and perfect in the cold rainy weather. Nothing under the bed, nothing in the bed … yet. Our room had passed the insect inspection test although I didn’t tell Alexei about the centipede looking thing that was on his pillow….
The next morning at the crack of dawn we made our way to the secluded ‘Bulut Selelasi’ waterfall. Not the biggest waterfall in the world but we didn’t see another soul the entire time we were there, so it felt quite magical to have the place to ourselves. And it gave us the chance to take dangerous pictures on the rocks and jump into the freezing waterfall pool like two water rats without being disturbed.
“Selfie, selfie, no good, more more selfie selfie.” The two dudes that had just given us a lift from the waterfall to the bus station were adamant that they NEEDED a selfie with us before we left. Normally I don’t mind but our next bus was leaving in one minute (ago) and I could feel the daggers in our backs from the bus load of passengers death staring and calling us selfie twats! They wanted us to hurry up and get on the bus and guess what, we did too! After several failed attempts at the ‘selfie selfie’ game we had no choice but to leave the two guys by the side of road. The selfie with us looking cross-eyed would just have to do!
Lady who turned around to smile a lot at us on the bus. We must really smell now.
After a bumpy ride with a busload of interesting characters – there were group of middle aged guys who had been trekking for six days straight, a local old lady with her very old mother who turned around a lot to smile at us and a cool super friendly couple from Istanbul (Celin & husband) – we arrived in Kavron which was surrounded by the amazing Kaçkar mountains. We had originally planned to head straight to the Gul lakes, which were a two and a half hour trek away but once off the bus, the beautiful mountain valley was calling us…. and Celin had said to go that way first as it was brilliant up close! We set off clad in our best gym wear and trainers ready for a full day of fun!
Alexei’s nemesis who decided to chase him away… serves Alexei right for getting right up in the cow’s face with a big camera!
“Tell me we are almost at the top, right?”
“Yeah yeah, I think I can actually see the top this time!!!”
This was how the conversation went for the next three hours as we scaled the side of a steep mountain fighting our way through the surprisingly tall shrubs! Like a couple of goats, we galloped higher and higher, the plan being to reach the top and then walk down the other side of the mountain, until we reached the lakes. Bit of a shortcut, we thought. I can only put it down to the lack of water and food as to why we thought we could climb a whole mountain and back down again in a few hours! Every metre we climbed the peak seemed to be within reaching distance, but after ending up waist deep in the damn shrubs on a seriously steep mountain side we decided that we should at least rehydrate and eat some food if we were going to die soon.
Somewhere near the top (or so we thought)
I opened my backpack – one can of coke, half a bottle of water and a pear (yes just one). This is what we had come armed with for a full day of trekking. I don’t think the ‘association of trekkers’ would recommend this approach but I guessed our bodies could do with using up some of our spare fat reserves and it certainly felt very ‘Bear Grylls-y’. Perched on a rock we downed the water and Coke and demolished the pear in seconds. That probably wasn’t the wisest move considering we had no idea when we next would find water and drinking so much so quickly just results in one thing – busting for the toilet! And unsurprisingly, not a portaloo in sight! The next few hours was going to be fun, fingers crossed it wouldn’t be bumpy!
The view from where we sat defeated and ready to give up was impressive. The cows we encountered on the way up were now were just small dark specks. We had to admit defeat, it was time to go back down. The clouds were moving in and the last thing we needed was to be stuck in the mist with no food and water and just a bit of spandex to keep us warm. Luckily we slid most the way down, turns out running trainers aren’t so grippy after all.
Wasted prayers… we were shattered and stuck at the top
It pays to come unprepared – it turns out there’s free water everywhere!
Finally back on the ground with the cows (five hours in), we started the long trek to the lakes. We didn’t know where we going but just knew it was ‘that’ way according to every person we passed. Panting and stopping every ten minutes, we knew we were pretty exhausted. Climbing one mountain in a day is usually enough for a sane person but this is us and we were determined to get those lakes. We spotted two guys in the distance who were making the same journey. They were walking casually, not breaking a sweat and here we were struggling to climbs rocks, stepping in cowpats, being attacked by flies and having to give every cow a wide berth after one decided to chase Alexei! But we knew one thing, we had to beat them to the lakes! With the last of our strength, we got into goat mode again and just about climbed the steep mountain through rough shrubs and rocks, cursing the lack of a proper path.
Another two and a half hours later, success! We were treated to glittering blue alkaline lakes and we were the only people there… apart from the two guys who had beaten us after all. After a well deserved 15 minute rest we rushed to get back down. The view were great but after 7 1/2 hours my bladder was about to explode and now it seemed even more aggressive flies had decided to hang out with us!
Worth it for the view…
…and it turns out there are TWO lakes all the way up there, brucey bonus!
After all of that on the way down, we spotted… a path! It turned out that we had been risking our lives climbing through bushes on a steep mountain, avoiding angry cows and barely thinking straight due to dehydration and the need to pee, when all along we could have taken a path all the way up! Times like this you wish you had done a little more research and done what your mum always tells you before you leave the house for an outing – go to the toilet! Luckily we’ve both agreed that we’ll never hike or trek again so life should be easy from now on!
…and before we go, here’s a brucey bonus for you, the reader…
An old man in umbrella hat/ socks and sandals, sensually hand feeding Alexei a juicy grape!