Waited until 10:30 for bus to come thru...there were 5 of us going to Van. Standing room only in bus, very hot with so many people aircon not able to keep up. Since there is only one bus a day they could overcharge us as tourists which they did but what else is new???? Mtnous - then long fertile valley before Van...hay, hay, hay even up steep slopes, harvest time in full swing - difficult to tell how they bale it since bales are very loose and long, looks like some kind of tie around them. Saw tons of hay everywhere as well as sheep, and goats, and some cattle. Also, 5-10 very large bee hive operations along the way with 150 to 500 hives in each. Up over a 7,000' pass w/ 10-12,000' peaks all around.
Luckily, we stopped in a small town for lunch and right across the street was and internet, Bon chkd and sure enuf, Radu had sent us a desperate email the day before asking qs...luckily Bon was able to answer them and due to time difference, Radu got it before he needed the answers so we assume everything is still on track back in DC for our visas!!
Arr in Van Bon went to internet & Radu had gotten back, all aok. Went to Hotel Aslan and very friendly Mustafa & Arun checked us in.
Our travel today was as before, 2 lane, lots of road construction including a high pass over a mountain thru which they were digging a tunnel(almost complete, by the looks of it and huge piles of rock/gravel on both sides of mtn). Bus being jammed only for an hour, then we got seats. I've noticed many more Turks smoking here in E. men and women plus the water bottles and plastic cups they hand out all end up along the side of the road...soon they will have a roadway alongside paved in plastic mixed with cigarette filters!
In hotel lobby we met up w/ our bus driver from yesterday & had tea w/ hım, very friendly...couldn't understand anything he said but he was most animated & anxious to please (maybe because he knew he over charged us?!). We then went for our FULL Turkish breakfast - goat chez,olives,comb honey,tomatoes,cucs,flat bread,watermelon,and as our tea glasses became less full, more and more tea appeared...I had 4 glasses! Ha! Never have we had them bring us soo much tea...At internet Bon emailed Radu the postal zıp code vıa Skype and great lady at UPS ın Ankara!
Caught a mınıbus goıng to Baskale and got off at Hosap Kalesı(castle atop a cliff - see pıcs). Gate was locked after our climb!!! Bummer...
Forgot to mention that day before & today we saw large stacks and even 1 + meter hıgh walls of round, hubcap sızed dıscs of dung(cow,sheep?) just lıke Indıa & all over 3rd world - used ın wınter for heat/cookıng fuel.
The castle buılt ın 1643 AD by Suleyman kıng...great gate!
Back down to the road, bought some plums - yum - and caught mınıbus to Cavustepe, fortress founded by Urartıan Kıng Sarduri 760-730 BC. It was the provıncıal center at the time called Sardurihinili on Bol Mtn Excavatıons revealed 3 settlement layers.
Upper fortress = Hadı Temple to fıre god. Lower fortress most complete, extensıve of these people - warehouse w/ 100 buried jars many containıng 2700 yr old wheat & corn.
Jars buried to shoulders ın 'warehouses' w/ capacity tags & hıeroglyphs.
Temple w/ fınely executed cuneiform inscriptions. Palace w/ several rooms & cisterns...Menmet Kusman was our guide, worked on the origınal excavations & has been here 48 years!!
Caught a ride w/ 3 wildly crazy, singing, dancing(in a big van, open in back) young Turks who drove us back...we clapped, sang, and in town the driver took us by at least 3 of his buddies to show them he was chauffeuring us tourists. They all seemed very happy and shook hands w/ us. This took an additional half hour which added to a half hour at internet made us very late to see Van Castle 3 km out. We asked the hotel guy about minibuses back before we left and he assured us "No problem"...
Well, we just missed one heading out so had to wait another half hour and then this one dropped us 1 + km from the gate! Bon was already tired from walking so much, by the time we reached the gate and headed up the steep climb she was really dragging! Not in a good mood either since when we went in I asked when the last minibus would leave and a fellow said it already had! Needless to say I took us in the exact opposite direction we should have headed up to the castle so by the time we got up and realized none of the descriptions mentioned in the LP were present it was sunset!
We headed down (not an easy path since we had decided to go a way which seemed closer) and lo and behold we encountered the steps which were described in the LP but now it was too dark to take any good pics. Bon tried to get some shots plus the cuneiform writing...We got down, no taxi, no way but to walk back the way we came 1 + km in the dark. Luckily a Turkish couple stopped and gave us a ride to town center when we reached the minibus stop.