A Weekend Around Adana
by Fred Moore, February 2009
We decided to forego our three-day weekend because of weather; in checking the forecasts it just seemed to me that too many “ifs” existed in other parts of the country. Adana’s weather doesn’t look all that good either, with rain forecast nearly every day. Carol and I discussed it and decide to stay close to home and maybe go out only on day trips.
Today we’re off on an odd little adventure driving to Aladag. I figure if the weather turns bad or we run into snowy road conditions, we can simply turn around and come home. Aladag is a village up in the mountains northeast of Adana. We leave Adana heading toward Kozan and just before we reach Imamoglu (son of the Imam, the Muslim priest) we see the sign for Aladag and turn left on a secondary road. We’re on a two-lane asphalt road curving and rolling through agricultural hillsides blanketed in new grain crops. The abundance of rain this winter has turned this landscape emerald green with occasional patches of nearly black cultivated earth waiting their turn for the next crop. Most of the lush green we see today, I believe to be wheat and our ample rain has made it grow thick and beautiful. Most of it is high enough so the breeze makes the color green lighten and darken as we drive down the road.
We continue our ride over gently raising and falling hills curving first this way then that way through one village then the next. We travel through Saygecid (this village name relates to respect), then to Sevincli (a name meaning joyful), on to Hacihasanli (Haci is religious, Hasan is a man’s name so maybe this village is named for a religious man named Hasan). We have fun with village names, we feel like they usually say something about the village. One of my favorites not far from Adana toward the coast is Demirtas (demir is iron and tas is rock) or literally ‘iron rock’; now that sounds like someone wanting a really solid village – HaHaHa.
Continuing on we come to Uctepe (uc is three and tepe hill); we never do find the first or second hills though, HaHaHa. This village sign also includes the word Erigcam, the ending ‘cam’ has something to do with glass. Uctepe is quite interesting; there are large stands of prickly pear cactus on both sides of the road as we drive through the village. We’ve climbed through the foothills of the Tarsus Mountains getting this far and now we come to Musulu (sorry, I can’t translate this one). A short distance further we come upon the Ceyhan River. The road curves and falls at the same time as we skirt this section of the river and it appears it has consumed some farmland; there’s a wheat field here that is partially submerged. As we flatten out we come to a route decision; we can go left over a bridge or straight ahead. Crossing the bridge seems the most appropriate because it appears it’s the ‘main’ road. As we approach the bridge, it looks as though it’s floating on the water. On this end, there’s no gap between the water and the base of the bridge but on the other end we see what might be a foot of space between the water’s surface and the bridge’s base. We make the assumption that the water is at flood stage although it doesn’t appear to be moving as quickly as rivers sometimes do when flooding. The river is extremely muddy making the water the color of butterscotch syrup; the lack of debris in the water is probably what denies us the illusion of fast moving water.
Further up the mountain we encounter Carkipare (grinding wheel – maybe this little village once had a mill, maybe it still does). Our next village is Kelerbasi (basi has something to do with the head, keler I don’t find at all). My dictionary is 700 pages but obviously not equipped to handle my village translation curiosity. Anyway, our drive so far has been extremely beautiful; we’ve had no rain nor have we seen any snow. That kind of surprises me since we’re at a thousand meters above the plains below. We’ve seen plenty of cows, sheep and goats; I even had to slow to near stopping for a cow that was grazing the side of the road. I’m always very careful to give animals their space not knowing if they might simply walk into the road.
Here we are; the road is flattening out on the mountaintop and there are houses and cleared land to our left. It’s beautiful up here; we can see for several kilometers back over our shoulders. The road begins to climb again and we must stop for a picture. There’s nowhere to pull off so I simply stop and take a few photos out the car window. The road curves again and we’re on another plateau with small patches of cleared land for crops. Now we drive along a mountain stream, clear, fast flowing and a wonderful view. Up we go again, just slightly and then we crest a hill and below we see Aladag, clinging to the mountain walls. I notice in my rearview mirror a sign that reads 100 Km to Adana so we’re about 60 miles away from home. It has taken us over two hours to climb up here but what a reward; the air is crisp and clear, the smell of pine trees fill the air and even the small stream we passed filled the air with nature’s music. We have the car windows open to take advantage of the wonderful air up here and the sound of rushing water filled our car. I was, for a moment, transported back to my childhood home and the creek that ran behind my house; running water is always so relaxing in pleasant settings. I imagine sitting next to this stream in the summer simply letting the day slip by; listen, you can hear the water as it flows gently over the rocks in the streambed. Carol comments on the temperature of the water – icy COLD, makes us shiver just thinking about it.
It’s obvious as we drive through the village; this is a summer get away for those who live far below. Many of the homes we see are shuttered and a lot of the shops in the village are closed. There’s activity in and around the village center though; the upcoming Turkish Municipal Elections are very evident as the street is teeming with political banners and there are men mingling in the street (we’ve seen plenty of this even in the tiny villages we’ve come through). I have to drive quite slowly to allow the men their space as they walk from one side of the street to the other (most without looking). They seem oblivious to traffic; that’s not unusual really but during this election season it seems there are far more men congregating in and on the street than normally is the case.
I drive back through the village the way we came and our views as we traverse the winding mountain road give us a completely new perspective of the ridges and valleys we’ve already seen. We encounter far more traffic going down the mountain than we did coming up. It pains me to some degree because coming up the mountain we were on the inside of the road mostly hugging the mountainside, now we’re on the outside most of the way looking over 200 foot cliffs! That’s not the half of it; there never seems to be enough road surface when you’re on the outside of the road looking down into these deep tree-lined, rock-strewn valleys.
We come upon a large truck loaded with logs. This guy is taking no chances; he’s in low gear and driving with unusual precaution. I don’t have to follow him for only a few minutes though because the road straightens a little and I get around him. Naturally, I only barely get by him when a car appears from the other direction. Yes, all is well or I wouldn’t be typing this, HaHaHa. Just after getting by, we curve left and get an incredible panoramic view of the valley below. The vast expanse of landscape stretching out before us is magnificent; there’s not a color missing from the spectrum of usual earth tones. From here to the horizon far off in the distance we can see the road twisting and turning toward the valley floor; the rocks at our feet are silver gray and as we look further in the distance they turn dark, almost black. The vegetation must easily be seven shades of green while the sky is marbleized gray-white with small patches of blue. I wonder just how one would begin to paint such a superb canvas to do justice to this breathtaking snapshot of our planet.
It never seems to take as long returning from a place as it does to go there; we’re back down now to the river and driving across the rolling emerald hills. Once back to the main road, we turn left and drive through Imamoglu on our way to Kozan. We decide we want to drive up to Kozan to see the castle (it dates from the late 12th century) as long as we’re in the area. We’ve been through Kozan several times before but have never made the effort to get up to the castle.
Down the street further now we see the sign for the castle and turn right to head for it. There’s our turn, a very narrow street headed up toward the castle; we can see it on the ridge just above us. The street is steep and there are cars on both sides most of the way as we ascend--look out there’s a large minibus coming out of that street. That’s our street, Carol says; we’re supposed to turn right here--the sign points toward the castle. I go a little beyond the street entrance and let the minibus out than I back up to make the right turn. We go about half a block and have another right turn. Then I see the street ascending more aggressively but decide I’m not going any further up; I simply turn down the street to my right and head back to the main highway below. If it were a nice day, we might have considered a walk up the rest of the lane toward the castle but not today. Once back on the flat, we simply head home.
Not far past Imamoglu Carol points out what she believes to be a castle off in the distance on our left. I’m not convinced she’s seeing what she thinks she’s seeing but acquiesce to make the next left. The sign reads Ceyhan so I know where we’re headed and go that way. I figure it can’t be far to settle Carol’s illusion and we’re still headed home, more or less. In a few minutes we’re passing a small village, Yenikoy (new village); I come upon two tractors and have to slow as I wait for a clear road ahead to pass. My time comes in just a few minutes and I pass, then I see a very interesting sight, a horse and cart coming at break neck speed. A young man standing on the cart driving the horse has his whip at full snap and the horse is at full gallop. Then in the next moment there’s another horse and cart with several young men and again the driver is getting all he can from the poor steed hauling his cart. I find it odd because we see many horse carts but rarely one that is moving at full gallop.
Once that excitement has passed, we come to Gurmurdulu, another small village--this name doesn’t translate for me either. Then we come to Sagkaya (sag is right as in the direction and kaya is huge rock); this village is actually listed on our travel map. Most of the villages we drive through are not listed on any map. A lot of times roads are not on the maps either or the map has roads that don’t exist; maybe one day they’ll be more realistic. Carol’s castle is looking more promising now; we can actually see that maybe, in fact, she’s seen what she thought she saw. We’re coming into the tiny village of Tumlu (no translation) and there on a hillock above the village is the Tumlu Castle, like Kozan from the late 12th century. These castles were all thought to be from the Armenians primarily. We make a note to return here, this could be a castle we might get up to with very little hiking. It’s interesting – this castle is listed in our book but we’ve never heard anyone speak of it. We drive on and pass through Tatlikuyu (sweet well) and then Kivrekli (no translation) and finally we come to Ceyhan. We turn west and head home finishing a delightful day of adventure.
Sunday’s day trip
It’s a new day and we once more decide to adventure out and discover new things. We’ve noticed a new historic sign just outside of Incirlik Village on the main highway: Ucok Damgali Hoyugu. There’s a little rain but this site is not far (6 Km or 3.6 miles) and we’re curious about what it might be, so off we drive to find it. The road is oil and stone (a step down from asphalt) so it’s paved to some degree. We quickly discover the rain has filled the potholes and we must be extremely careful of the ones that are more ‘crater’ than ‘pot hole’. I check my odometer so I can be sure we don’t miss the site. The road turns several times but we maintain the course and in less than fifteen minutes we’ve found the site. It’s far too wet to venture in and we simply make note to return when it’s drier. It looks like a Hittite tumulus (burial mound) but we can’t tell for sure; the sign does not translate for us.
Now that we know where the site is, I decide to follow the road further into the countryside. We’ve got nothing better to do and exploring sometimes brings us to wonderful new discoveries. We’re driving next to an irrigation canal that appears to have seen far better days; it’s concrete but it’s deteriorating. There’s some traffic out this way, so I continue our drive with little concern. As we drive further into the countryside, the road begins to become far less ‘car friendly’. I’m driving at maybe five mph; the car is waddling as I move ever so slowly onward; I’ve obviously made a mistake on this drive. I would never intentionally be on such a road – I use that term road loosely here because this surface defies all rational definition of road! I said ‘waddle’ because my Mazda is literally dropping first on the left and then on the right as I can find nowhere to turn around and can only move slowly forward; the roadway is one crater after another. Some of these potholes stretch fully across the road surface and there is no way to avoid them. I’ve never seen anything like this; ouch, there the car bottoms out and it pains me to go on. I count myself fortunate to have front-wheel drive!
Just ahead, there’s a village and I’m faced with another road decision but the right option is really no option; the road is full of cows and they’re headed right for us. I opt to drive through the village straight ahead. This too offers me an option because I can either go in the left lane or the right; a ground level aqueduct divides the street ahead. I opt for the left side and get about half way into the village with villagers turning their heads in complete awe of this odd sight in their midst and I decide to switch sides and go further on the right. I’m hoping for an outlet at the end of the village; what I get is boxed in! I’ve come to the end of the street and find I’m in someone’s courtyard. I know you’ve got to be chuckling to yourself; but trust me, it’s not that funny, thank you!
I turn around and repeat my drive back through the village with villagers looking like they know this guy is crazy. I feel just a little more than ridiculous being in a village with no way out but the way I came in. Half way out those cows I saw earlier are now headed down the street toward us on the other side. I know all these villagers are laughing internally; I feel thankful none of them even have a smile on their faces but they have to be amused at this Sunday-morning spectacle. I slip out of the village past the manure and head back the way we came. At the crossroads where I made the wrong decision, I go straight ahead; still in search of a real road.
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Remind me to never do that again!
We come to the village and see the castle off to the right; we’re looking for a sign pointing the way but never see one. We drive into the city center and find a very interesting statue of Ataturk (he appears to be wearing a formal cape) fronting a small replica of the near-by castle. We turn back to see where we might have missed the sign to the actual castle and make our own decision to turn without direction. I turn left just before reaching the autobahn again and head toward Iskenderun highway. We continue to see the castle as we drive; at this point we’ve decided we know how to get there and we turn left again at the main highway.
Just moments after we turn left there’s a historic sign for Kurek Kalesi – another castle. We decide to explore and turn to drive out into the country but see nothing and decide not to venture any further out today. We turn back and head for Toprakkale as planned. As I make a U-turn, we can see our goal across the fields and make our way toward it. In just minutes I’m pulling off the main highway onto the lane that ascends to the castle. It’s only a moment and we find the parking area just below the castle walls.
It’s still very wet from the morning rain and we check the walk that ascends the hill by the castle to see how slippery it might be and decide we think we can ascend without difficulty. It’s quite steep and the walk curves around the base of the castle to the entry. Once at the entry Carol takes a few photos and I climb the short tier of steps to the first landing. The stairs at the entry are extremely steep so we decide to come back to explore another day when it’s drier. We turn to descend and hear voices coming toward us; a number of young men are headed up for a look, maybe a picnic, they’re carrying a few bags. They greet us and ask if we’re German, we explain we’re American and pass pleasantries while bidding them a good day.
We get back to the car; we’ve had a wonderful day (mostly) and make our way back to the autobahn and head for home.
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