Saturday, April 15, 2006

Near Tuzluca

I hadn't paid much attention to the location of the village mosque the previous evening, just across the street from my camping spot. But I sure did at first call for prayers at 5:15 in the morning. I’m becoming used to it but that volume just couldn't be ignored.

As I ate breakfast the chickens & turkeys that lived in the yard watched closely for tidbits that might come their way. When I started packing one of the kids who was part of the extended family in whose yard I was staying came around with a mate. He had great fun explaining me & my exotic gear to his friend.

I went straight to Ani, which was a couple of hundred metres down the road. I had the ruins completely to myself. The old city sat in a very defensible position. The city sat on a plateau, on one side a steep gorge dropped down to a river, on another there was another steep sided valley. It was protected by high walls & a castle at the other points of access. Unfortunately none of these helped that it was at the cross roads of bigger waring nations. Earthquakes & the ravages of Tamarlane were the end of it.

There was enough of it either left over or restored to get a sense of it. The high walls had clearly been extensively restored but were impressive nevertheless. A number of churches were dotted around, including one that had been turned into a caravansaray by the Selçuks when they came through in the late 11th century. Armenian Cristian as well as Islamic motifs were visible in its ruins.

The river that ran along the gorge by Ani was the border with modern Armenia. The ruins of a bridge from Medieval times could be seen that crossed it. A branch of the Silk road would have passed this way. No-one crossed the river these days at this point, at least not legally. A number of watch towers stood on the Armenian side & Ani castle was occupied by the Turkish Army. Both sides keeping an eye on each other & out for potential smugglers.

After Ani I took a minor unpaved road that headed South & joined up with the Dogubayazit road. I wanted to avoid backtracking to Kars with the requisite climbing involved. I hate backtracking. The road surface was pretty bad & I had to ford a stream swollen with melted snow. But I knew it was saving me quite a lot of time & it was delightfully quiet.

Over the day I dropped about 500m. In that drop green leaves on trees appeared. To me their greenness appeared almost flourescent after all the treeless brown & red earthed landscape.

I camped after passing through the small market town of Tuzluca. It was such a cool & friendly place, had it a hotel I would have overnighted there. I stocked up on bread (shop keeper wouldn't accept payment), tomatoes (was given a cucumber) & fuel for stove (much interest in my voyage). It had a picturesque old part with mud & stone built houses & piles of dung bricks for burning in fires.

I cycled 97km in 6 hours & 24 minutes

No comments:

Post a Comment