I mention yesterday that I had few hopes for the gorge. I couldn’t find guided tours of it, which suggests that it’s a petty tame stroll. Another problem was, I didn’t want to do it alone. Assuming I found some entertaining bit of gorge and managed to crack my head open I wanted someone around who could go call for help. Sarah was extremely reticent to enter the gorge. She really doesn’t like climbing around on rocks jumping over gaps and swimming through cold rushing water. Which I was my best-case.
Eventually she agreed to wander in with me but only until it got hard. At which point I would attempt to stop and turn around. So off we went first thing after breakfast to treck up the gorge!
We got to the mouth of the mighty crack and were greeted by (surprise surprise) a ticket gate! It costs money even to enter the canyon! Even the canyon costs money! So we paid our 8 lira and wandered in. The canyon is kind of tailor made for hiking up. It is a massive, narrow, fissure and a full river emerges out of it which fills the entrance to the gorge completely. The first 100 meters has walkways built into the gorge wall to get past this point. Once inside the gorge it turns out that the bulk of the water is fed to this point by underground rivers that emerge from the floor and walls of the gorge to rush out the final 100 meters leaving a small managable stream running up the rest of the canyon.
The fork where the rivers meet is really surreal. Water tumbles out of the walls and froths into a single river. We were alone and could marvel at the sight before heading on.
After we crossed the waters and left the joining waters behind we could look up and see the canyon extend hundreds of meters above us. Luckily the sun shone right down into the canyon so as we walked up the pebbly river bed we didn’t even get cold. The canyon was between five and ten meters wide where we were. But even more amazing than the size was the rock. The lowest layer of rock, extending 50 meters above us was solid marble! We were walking through a marble canyon! I couldn’t believe it. The river carved it into wide, undulating, shapes and buffed it smooth. It was like walking in a massive marble sculpture. I couldn’t believe the effect. At one point there was a great slab of it seperate from the main river which wasn’t illuminated by the sun but instead by the rays of light reflecting off the canyon. It looked for all the world Luke it was glowing. Like was 100tons of smooth softly glowing marble.
One unfortunate thing about marble: it is very sculptable. Which means the river had smoothed off all hard edges which means the bouldering was attrocious. No hand holds anywhere, few shallow cracks to work in and even big ledges where tortourously round. I did manage to find a few simple problems so I can now say I’ve bouldered on a marble wall.
So the canyon was amazing if unchallenging. I knew it would eventually get hard because it’s 18k long and after the first 3 or 4 is considered ‘impassable’. Eventually the walls started to close in, the rocks started getting bigger, and the sun started to retreat. This was as far as Sarah went. Luckily for me at this point some locals showed up!
These two brothers in their late teens scampered up behind us and as they passed invited me to join them! Sarah was cool to make the east walk back on her own so off we went! I think their names were Ood and Yasif. But I’m not sure. They didn’t really figure out mine either. We couldn’t understand a word eachother said but it didnt really matter. They knew the river _really_ well. The river itself was incredibly silty so you couldn’t see where you were putting your feet but they knew the shallow paths and it seemed even the position of submerged rocks. We flowed upstream climbing up rocks and through holes between boulders, it was a blast. We soon made it to this waterfall that fell into the gorge from the side (emanating from an underground river). It was sattered and lit by the sun. The drops put on a dazzling display even as the brothers worked assiduously to avoid it. Yassif, the younger brother, especially did not like the cold and had thus far succeeded in not getting wet past his knees.
We scrambled past the waterfall but it wan’t long before we hit a real obstacle. The marble walls closed in to just a meter. Accelerating the river to quite a pace. I was first to attempt it but was flushed right out. The other two chuckled but didn’t attempt it themselves. This was clearly the end of the road. Or was it? I’ve scrambled up a lot of rivers and wasn’t going to give up that easily.
On our right there was a ledge three or four meters up the wall that would let us circumvent the narrow gap. I started looking for holds, and trying out particular tacks. The brother’s saw what I was doing and tried to support my feet and push me up. I fell twice off the overhang to be sybmerged in the freezing river below. Once I got a hand on the top but my weak, pudgy SF body couldn’t get me up the badly sloping mantle. It was Yasif’s turn. He was the smallest and Ood (that can’t be his right name) showed me how they did this in Turkey. Yasif started on the holds I’d found, Ood pushing on his ass the whole way, then, when the going got tricky Yassif stood on his brother’s shoulders, then my shoulders and hand to succesfully top out! Woo! Win one for us! With Yasif up he could offer me his hand so I could finish that brutal mantle. Two of us where up. Now it was just Ood. We couldn’t just haul him up. It was too much and we were too unsteady. Yasif turned his attention to the narrow rush of river, suggesting we form a human chain that Ood could climb up the current.
We put the chain into action. Yasif had ok hand holds and I had pretty lousy ones. My leg was the final rung. Ood pusged himself into the current and managed to grab my foot. It was barely within grasp though and he couldn’t make very good use of it and was pushed back. I searched the rock and found a good solid foothold farther out. I Abandoned Yasif’s hand and, squatting with one foot, managed to get my foot much closer. Yasif excitedly yelled around the rock for Ood to try again. This time he got a great grip on my foot but was still having trouble pulling through the current. Yasif grabbed my hand and we both heaved trying to pull him up. Unfortunately this was all too much for my foothold and I suddenly toppled off my marble perch into the racing water and back to where we started. Blast.
Ood and I were now back where we started and it was agreed that that was it for today. The Gorge had won. We motioned for Yasif to ride the river through to us or leap into it off the ledge but he balked at the very idea of getting wet past his knees. I eventually held up my hands as foot holds and ge akwardly lowered himself down until he was sitting on my shoulders. I started walking away from the rock in the river like I was going to take him down the gorge but then mocked losing my balance and plunged us both into the deep river. Two of us thought that was really funny.
We quickly made our way down the Gorge and soon ran into a group of extremely ungainly tourists being cajoled and coddled up the river bt a couple of local boys acting as guides. We blew by and it felt pretty great to gracefully leap past the camera-strapped sun-burned tour bus set next to a couple of locals. Pretty soon I had to say goodbye to Ood. He was guiding with one of the groups. It was a funny goodbye. We’d all had so much fun but couldn’t express it in words to eachother. There was just alot of smiling and hand shaking before Ood had to tend to a Great bellied Briton and Yasif and I continued on down. We met Sarah soon after. She was enjoying the peace and beauty that was more and more often now being tested by ungainly tour-groups. I introduced her to Yasif and we all three continued out together. When we got to the end there was another fond goodbye to Yasif and the canyon adventure was done. I have to say it was a lot more fun than I had expected! Thanks to a couple of fast new friends it was a blast!