Good Energy

The guys at Good Energy have been really supportive and excited about the expedition, so much so that they have made a contribution which allows me to keep the blog regularly updated during the expedition, so they and everyone else can follow the journey. Good Energy supplies 100% renewable electricity sourced from wind, water, sun and sustainable biomass. CO2 from coal-fired electricity generation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Switch your electricity supply to Good Energy using this link and not only will you be supporting the pioneering community of independent green generators, but for every sign up they get they’ll make another donation to help get the bus around the world. It helps you cut your personal CO2 emissions, helps them grow a great business, and helps me get round the world.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Rocks and soft rock

The big advantage of not having a guide book is that you view a place without context or preconceptions. I don’t know anything about Cappadocia, the history, the geography. All I know is what I’ve seen while I’m here; a tourist town, letting it’s hair down at the end of a good long season.

It goes without saying that the moonlike geography is really unique and intriguing, and the valleys it creates are a joy to walk along. But i've heard many evangelise that this is the most beautiful place in the world, and while it is stunning I wouldn’t be as categorical as that. Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, the Bandiagara Escarpment all give Goreme a good run for their money with a more understated, and tranquil awe.

Of course having no guide book I can’t escape the feeling that I am missing out on something obvious that everyone else knows and that drives my restlessness to explore and discover.

In the evening I find the backpacker bar in town that my guidebook, if I had one, would no doubt recommend. There’s a Halloween party, it seems for expats and well heeled Turks. I meet a bevy of western expat women that live and work here, enchanted by the landscape and for many by the men folk too. Over the Turkish covers of soft rock ballads from the bar’s speakers, I hear tales of relationships and infidelity that parry the drama of a teenage common room, and remind me of the female “Love Tourism” in the Gambia, about which we made a film on our journey through there to Cape Town.

There, most of those relationships are doomed to failure because of the cultural differences, clash of expectations and contradicting motives. I see all those ingredients are here too except the women have a more bohemian spirit than the package tourists of Banjul. Maybe that’s enough to make it work?

There’s an air of prosperity at the fancy dress party and a Turkish hotelier tells me it’s been the best season since 9/11, and the crunch has meant they are getting better quality English speakers, as they downscale from more expensive destinations to Turkey. I’m surprised at how many America backpackers there are in town. "Now we have Obama, we can show our faces again" one jokes.

I talk for a while with a French woman, who along with her French partner runs a ranch and horseback tours. We talk about the relationship that a guide has with their passengers (“Pax”, the dehumanising term I used to use when I worked with American coach tours around Europe). On the one hand you are a friend to them, but this is just a veneer, because you are also working for them and they have expectations of the service you will provide. And a third rule of the relationship is to make a living out of them too of course. Working back to back on tours, presenting this veneer of friendship can drive you mad. I quit touring in the end because I found I couldn’t stop applying the veneer even in my personal life.

Throughout Turkey people are overwhelmingly friendly, but in the tourist centres, here and in Ulu Deniz, my rapport with them is subtly distanced by this tourism veneer, which frustrates me. If I had more time I could get beyond it, but I'm not overwhelmed enough to want to and there are plenty of towns in Turkey where this rapport comes instantly. The astounding natural beauty around me is tinged with just the smallest hint of insincerity.

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