We left Kars with the idea to spend quality time at Mnt. Ararat, near Dogubayazit. The road to Dogubayazit was in really good shape and we made good time, stopping frequently to take a break and take pictures.
You can't really get close to the mountain, unless you stay in Dogubayazit and organize a day trip from there. Since we were not up for anything too exciting and we'd seen the best of the mountain following the Armenian border, we pressed on.
The views towards the mountain overlooking the valley we had just ascended from were amazing. Although the picture is not a bad one, it does no justice to the vastness of the countryside.
Small villages dot the near-desert landscape. A picturesque stop resulted in the three pictures below
Storks and turtles (the really big ones, not the small green ones you get at the fair) are ever present. The turtles are definitely not as photogenic as the storks. I was able to approach this nest quite closely, as it was in the middle of the village on an electricity pole.
Peeking around the back of our rest stop, a small village with the barest of services sat on a small plateau.
We briefly stopped in Van, near the lake with the same name. We realized that potentially it would be better to continue to Tatvan, allowing easy access to Mnt. Nemrut the next day. This is not the Mnt. Nemrut with the fallen heads, but the other one. The ride along lake Van was very enjoyable. We did catch the first hour of sunset, which resulted in some night riding, a feature we probably won't repeat given the state of the roads.
Tatvan is quite a nice place. A smaller town with a better feel than Van, which is big and modern. On the way there, we went through two military blockades. Luckily, we're still getting away with playing dumb and riding to the front of the line. We then fake total exasperation to see lots of guns and tanks. Annoyed pointing to the end of the line is countered by stating, while pointing backwards, where we came from and pointing forward to where we want to go. Invariably, someone higher up pops up his head and waves us through. The "tourist" word is the only thing we understand in the shouting. I guess we don't look like Kurdish resistance fighters, or maybe they are loath to mess with the mighty tourist dollar.
The morning following our arrival in Tatvan, we decided to ride up Mnt. Nemrut (2,935 meters high), a rocky 13 kilometer ride up. There are a few lakes in the crater of the mountain, but we never made it, as the last part down consisted of deep sand and volcanic ash. Jan was a bit ahead of me and barely made it out.
On the way down, his fuel system quit for the 2nd time this trip. His fuel filters stop cooperating when he gets low on fuel. Earlier in the day, his shifter pivot bolt fell out. Luckily we'd just left the gas station, so we walked back and found it. Either of those occurrences on the mountain would have posed a different challenge.
So far, my damage has been limited to a broken mounting tab on one of my horns and a half-dead AA battery charger. I actually heard a part rattling inside and opened it up. A friendly electronics shop soldered the loose bit back in place and it works perfectly again.
We made a small alteration to our travel route and are going to dive deeper into Kurdistan, as there are a few villages which have only recently opened up again for tourists.