With an overnight bus to take us from our mountain bike tour of Cappadocia straight to Mt Nemrut, we never thought much about the idea of taking a rest before hiking up 3,000 feet of elevation. After our bike ride in Cappadocia we were able to fall asleep on our bus before we even pulled out of the station and didn’t wake up until we’d arrived at our destination….still it wasn’t enough and I was due to pay for it.
The peak of Nemrut Dagi is over 2,100 meters in elevation marking the highest we’ve been in quite sometime. The peak though is something of a shame, it’s not real. The mountain was chosen by a pre-Roman king wanted to sit amongst some gods whom he considered his relatives and carved a nice ledge for some giant statues (with even bigger heads). This wasn’t enough though, he then created a big hill of rocks up the mountain to be made into a new summit to serve as his eternal tomb. Gotta love those monarchs.
The walk, truly, was easy enough. Follow the road from just outside our pension and don’t deviate until we see some giant stone statues. We started walking around 2pm, giving us plenty of time to get there before sunset. We were exhausted though, and I walked nice and slow. We watched as a horse escaped its pen and was chased through the hills by its master. I stopped to say hello to some cows and to admire a street sign that had been completely covered in bird droppings. I looked for any excuse to stop… I was exhausted and the 3 hour hike took me a solid 4 hours….and I was doing it without any gear.
Some people like to climb Nemrut and spend a night at the top and get up for sunrise. The wind in the evening was enough to make me sure that wasn’t in the cards for us….sunrise looks the same as sunset anyhow. When we gazed at those giant heads, sitting on the ground in front of the wrong statues (the heads were too big to be supported by their bodies and fell, they were stood back up by modern archaeologists) I thought they looked a touch small but didn’t leave without taking a chance to flex my muscles in front of Hercules.
Walking around to the other side we sat with the friends we started the hike with (but couldn’t keep up with) and had some tea. We started talking to a Kurdish man who leads trips through Eastern Turkey and Northern Iraq. He gave us his card. You probably think you know where this is going but you’d be wrong, we had already decided not to head further east, or south for that matter. The funny part about this man was that his name was Montana and it had been given to him by the US forces he had worked with throughout the rest of Iraq where he had been attacked over 10 times. Whether we believe him or not is irrelevant, the point is that we are in a region where people have seen and experienced the power of the US in ways we simply cannot imagine. They are part of a living history, one we hope to explore in the coming months as we go to countries that end in the letters ‘stan.’
IF YOU GO: We went directly from Cappadocia to Kahta which is the nearest town to Nemrut. We stayed on the slopes of the mountain in the town of Karadut which was easy enough to reach with a minibus from Kahta. There was no need to purchase a tour from Cappadocia or from within Kahta, we were able to get to Karadut via bus and walk the remaining 12km walk on our own without a problem. There are some other small archaeological sites in the area though and if you are interested in seeing those, then a tour would be advisable. All four hotels in Karadut offer transportation to/from Nemrut for about 50 TYL round trip per car. From Kahta it is easy to get to Adiyman or Sanliurfa which serve as local transportation hubs to the rest of the country. We stayed at the Karadut Pension and a quick call to the owner provided us with mini-bus instructions to reach his place from Kahta.