We didn’t go directly to Pamukkula however because now we had to endure two totally pointless factory visits. Pointless for everyone that is except for the tour organisers who clearly get paid a commission for delivering vulnerable and unsuspecting people to these places.
The first was a ceramics factory and shop and after a ten minute demonstration on the potter’s wheel we were ushered into the show room. I hate places like this, I don’t intend to buy anything and I always feel guilty about that and I am always concerned that Kim is going to let guilty feelings get the better of her and buy something expensive that we don’t really need. I prefer to plan my purchases – usually about three months in advance!
Another annoying thing always happens in these shops and I can guarantee that within seconds a sales assistant will have attached themselves to me like a burr and I just cannot get away from them. I have concluded that I either have the suspicious demeanour of a shoplifter or the face of a shopping mug and these people follow me round endlessly and I am like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid who cannot shake off that posse that is chasing them across the whole of Wyoming.
After the ceramics factory there was a visit to a Turkish Delight shop where I was even less inclined to anything because I don’t like Turkish Delight. On reflection I should not have signed up for the IMX Travel excursion and should just have hired a car instead.
The young man that sold me the tour assured me that the journey from Ephesus to Pamukkale would take two hours so I was shocked when the driver now said that it would take three and a half. I was dreading this part of the journey with the noisy Lithuanian family and the darts team chimps but then at a short stop we had a stroke of luck and were transferred to a smaller more comfortable vehicle with two young quiet couples. This was much better and we were so pleased about that because as the car pulled away we could hear that the the other bus had broken out into a spontaneous medley of classic cockney knees-up songs!
The bus now started to head east along a wide fertile valley on the way to the Provincial capital of Aydin along one of western Turkey’s most important travel and communication routes. To the north were the mountains of Aydin Dağs and to the south the mountains of Menteşe Dağs and in between in the valley were fields of olives, figs, cotton, grain and fruit but the progress was slow because of speed limits, frequent traffic lights and a very cautious driver.
At about mid distance he pulled into a service station and there was an unnecessary twenty minute break and during that time a team of men washed the car and the windscreen and then for some obscure reason opened the bonnet and poured water over the engine which sizzled with a fizz of surprise and which I thought was a rather strange thing to do – more about this later!
We left Aydin and carried on relentlessly east and soon we came across some thermal power energy generators similar to those that we had seen in Iceland. Turkey, it turns out, is located on the Mediterranean volcanic belt and has one eighth of the world’s geothermal potential – I didn’t know that! We passed close by the Denizli-Kizildere geothermal field which has nine production wells and an integrated liquid carbon dioxide and dry ice production factory that can produce a combined total of forty thousand metric tons a year.
Soon after this Haji, the driver, pointed out a white scar running alongside the side of the hills in front of us as though someone had poured a tin of paint down the side of the mountain – this was Pamukkale, our destination.
It took another forty minutes or so to reach the village and when we left the car we were looking forward to checking in to our four star accommodation at the Grand Sevgi Hotel.
Four Star – No Way! This turned out to be one of the worst hotels that I have ever stayed in ever (2 0ut of 5 on TripAdvisor and only 6.2 out of 10 on Booking.com, which is pretty bad). The room was like prison cell from Midnight Express, the public areas were worn out and shabby and the food at the all-inclusive buffet was just appalling. We struggled through a plate of inedible, tasteless mush and then spent the rest of the night worrying about food poisoning. On the up-side it did have free Wi-Fi!
After dinner we walked through the village, bought some wine from a nearby shop and went back to the room to drink it. The next problem was that our room was next to that of the darts team and with zero soundproofing I was worried in case they had brought a dart board along with them and put it up on the adjoining wall and for an hour or so there would be a steady rhythmic thump, thump, thump of the arrows hitting the cork and the regular celebration of “One Hundred and Eighty!” Fortunately we heard nothing, slept surprisingly well and woke early in the morning.
If evening meal had been bad then breakfast was several times worse. The hot food was cold, the bread was stale and the tea and coffee machine was a whole six weeks uninterrupted work for an environmental health officer and we were just glad to get the awful experience behind us, check out and rejoin the tour bus…
… which wouldn’t start! Little wonder really given the surprise dousing down it had had with water at the service station stop over the day before and now there was clearly an electrical problem to be dealt with. Haji assured us that it wasn’t a big problem, got it jump-started and we set off for Pamukkale and the ancient city of Heirapolis.
We were two hundred kilometres from our apartment in Altinkum and passengers in a dodgy vehicle but as I said before – more about this later!