27-Mar-2006 -- The following morning after my visit to 38N 33N, I had a Turkish style breakfast (bread, jam, sheep cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, and tea) in the hotel in Konya, and then I left the city via the eastern ring-road. I passed a road-sign pointing in the direction of Çatal Hüyük, the site of one of the oldest human cultures on Earth, but I did not have the time to go there this time, it would lead me too far off of my way and I still had a very long way to go today. So I took the main road in direction of Karaman, a big city about 120 km southeast of Konya and not far away from confluence 37N 33E, my aim for today. I made good progress on this road, the first part runs through a flat area, though by far not as boring as the plain that I drove through yesterday, then I saw a chain of mountains, the Özyurt Dağı, appear at the southern horizon, and the mountain closest to the road became an impressive landmark in front of me for quite a while. When I passed it, I was already close to Karaman.
But I did not need to drive inside the town; I could take the first turnoff to the right just when I reached the outskirts of the city. I followed a smaller road for a couple of kilometres, then after crossing a bridge I turned south on another road in direction of Ermenek; the Central Taurus Mountains (Orta Toroslar) lay ahead of me. According to my map, there was a village named Burhan near the road that I was driving along, and then a smaller road would go from Burhan to another village named Çatak ("Valley thicket"), which the map indicated to be the closest village to the Confluence, a couple of kilometres northwest of it. So I tried to get to Burhan at first.
This was no problem, I found the right turnoff, and soon entered Burhan on a good road. But after a few turns inside the village the road seemed to end at a central place - from here on only small paths and narrow unpaved lanes went on between the houses. I could not decide which lane would be leading to the next village, so I stopped and asked a jovial man sitting on a bench about the way to get to Çatak. He seemed perplexed by this question, and replied that there is no way to go there from Burhan. I insisted on the information displayed on my map, but he could not help me. I returned to my car to ponder about the situation, when he knocked on the car's door and offered to show me the way to Çatak, but therefore I would have to return to the main road. I had no better option, so he entered the car and without much ado and before I could object another man jumped into the car, too.
We left Burhan towards the main road and continued along it for several more kilometres. After quite a while we reached another turnoff to the right with a road sign displaying the names of Çukurbağ ("Vale garden") and Çatak, this was indeed promising. This smaller road soon reached another village, this was Çukurbağ and my companions asked me to stop for a short rest. Now I understood that they used this unexpected opportunity for a morning visit to some of their friends. We were all greeted and invited to take a seat in front of a small farmhouse and were offered something to drink, while a couple of other men from the village came to sit with us, too, when they saw us there – and I had to shake a lot of hands. My companion from Burhan, his name was Ramazan Kaçar, explained that I wanted to go to Çatak, so after a while the three of us jumped into the car again, and we drove on. Meanwhile I had the GPS receiver ready and noticed that I was only a little more than a kilometre from the Confluence. We drove along the road to Çatak and I found that the road did not approach the spot closer than about 700 m, and that Çukurbağ was indeed much closer to the Confluence than Çatak.
Having arrived in Çatak, my companions wanted to know whom or what I wanted to visit there. I felt a bit sheepish about having to explain to them now that I had no interest in the village of Çatak or its inhabitants at all! So I tried to explain to them what for I was after in reality. I showed them GPS receiver and maps, and said that we would have to return to Çukurbağ again. I don't know whether they took me for completely crazy now, anyway they said nothing and we returned along the road that we had come along before. When passing the point of closest approach, I showed them the GPS receiver again and explained more detailed its indications, and said that I would try to walk the remaining distance on foot. They understood, but wanted to be brought to their friends in Çukurbağ first, where they would wait for my return.
When we arrived again at Çukurbağ, I had driven 160 km since I left Konya in the morning. The villagers wanted to know whether I had found what I sought in Çatak, but Ramazan explained to them my true intentions. Three men declared themselves ready to accompany me on the final quest; I think they were curious about what was to be found at this mysterious spot - a treasure, possibly? We walked along the road for a while, then left it and walked along paths and tracks through a rather impassable, hilly region, strewn all over with stones and rocks. From time to time I quoted them the remaining distance, until we finally arrived at a valley where the Confluence could be supposed to lie on its southern slope. My three companions got excited now to find the expected treasure, and me too, I got excited to approach at last the first unvisited Confluence out of all the Confluences that I had planned to visit during my stay.
After climbing the steep rocky slope, I finally stood upon the spot exactly at noon, the GPS receiver indicated an EPE of 4 m and an altitude of 1415 m. All around us we saw only rocky hills with some lonely trees here and there. The village of Çukurbağ could not be seen although it was not far beyond the hills to the Southeast. Towards southwest the impressive snow-covered summit of 2427 m high Oyuklu Dağı could just be seen jutting over the hills in the foreground. The three men were disappointed because there was nothing to be found here, and watched me while I was taking the usual photos of the cardinal directions, a set of pictures to create a panorama from, and a picture of our little group, then we returned to the village where the others had become impatient waiting for us.
My two companions from Burhan and I entered the car and I brought them back to their village. But Ramazan did not leave me at the central place, instead he invited me to visit his house and have lunch together with him there. Too often I had refused invitations before because of time constraints, but now I thought that I could spend another half hour here in Burhan, especially as I had successfully absolved all planned confluence visits, and now it was time to calm down and repose and savour the success after all the efforts. So I accepted his invitation and followed him to his house where we sat down in an oven-heated living room to talk for a while. His friend joined us after a while, and I took a photo of us three. Ramazan's grown-up daughter entered the room and began to prepare coffee on the oven, then she baked Yufka (pastry leaves) on the oven's plate, filled them with cheese or cooked and dried meat, and didn't stop to serve me and the others until we could eat no more. Then it was time to have some glasses of tea, but finally I had to say "Thank you" and "Goodbye" to them, as I had still many hours to drive to my hotel in Side. Forget about the "half hour", it was already a quarter past 3 p.m. when I left them.
Now I had to take my choice: To get to Side from where I was now, I would have to go more or less in westerly direction, but all bigger roads were running in North-South direction. To proceed in westerly direction I would have to use minor roads through the mountains. Another option would be to return via Konya and the same way that I had come before, but this was much too far (and not as challenging). I still had a lot of diesel in my tank, but there were only a few bigger towns along the road that I was going to drive, so to avoid an empty tank on the way home I returned to Karaman first, where I soon found a gas station and filled up my car once more. Then I plunged into the adventure to drive the mountain roads, and luckily by this decision I passed through some of the most impressive landscapes that I saw on the entire trip.
I made good progress on always good roads with very little traffic, once or twice I had to ask for the right way. After passing the village of Habiller ("The ropes"), the road descended in serpentines into the deep valley of the river Göksu Nehri ("River of azure water"): only a couple of minutes for a descent of more than 600 m! The river valley offered absolutely fantastic views of waterfalls, small villages high up on the mountain flanks, and canyons. The road followed the river valley a long while upstream until it left the river where it emerged from a deep and narrow canyon. When I approached the city of Hadım ("Eunuch") it started to rain. Soon after Hadım the road climbed up over a pass and suddenly I found myself in a still completely snow-covered area, on the 1890 m high Gevnebeli pass the falling rain even turned to snow. From now on the road steadily descended and before reaching Bozkır ("Steppe") night started to fall. Here I had the intention to take a shortcut road, but already when I entered this road, a sign informed me that the road was closed after a distance of 40 km. So I had to drive a longer detour that brought me to Seydişehir. Four and a half hours had passed since I left my hosts in Burhan, it was completely dark now, and I felt hunger again. So I made a break to have a good supper and continued about one hour later.
The remaining distance was boring because I could see nothing around, but finally I arrived at my seaside hotel another two and a half hours later shortly after 11 p.m. I had driven exactly 1000 km during my three-confluence tour of yesterday and today. Although I was exhausted from the long tour, at the same time I felt excited by the amount of impressions that I had seen, so I made a short midnight promenade down to the beach to calm down. With the feet nearly in the seawater and in the warm breeze, I could hardly imagine that only a couple of hours before snow had fallen on me high up on the mountain pass!
The remaining days I spent visiting the antique sites of which the Turkish south coast is famous, Side, Antalya, Aspendos, Perge, Selge, until at last on 29 March the day of the 2006 Total Solar Eclipse arrived. I could observe the complete event with thousands of other spectators in the area under perfectly clear skies, and the 3 minutes and 45 seconds of total eclipse made me shiver from awe for quite a while, even after the sun had reappeared again...
Two days later I delivered the car at the airport before flying home, I had driven 2250 km with it, visited six Confluences, one of them a "first", and observed a lifetime-to-remember event - not the worst balance for a one-week stay. The singular impression of an unfriendly encounter had become by far eradicated and overcompensated by the much more typical helpfulness, hospitality, and friendliness of the Turkish people, and these are the impressions that will last.