Getting from Van to Kars involved many hours on the bus. Worry not--the bus was comfortable, the company good and the stops timed just right.
We considered going to Iran and getting a stamp on our visa, then reconsidered and instead turned north toward Kars, Turkey.
We passed Mt. Ararat
|Massive Mt. Ararat showed it's summit|
We paralleled the Armenian border. There were both Turkish and Armenian look-out posts on the hillsides.
We traveled through rural farm and range land. The houses were small and probably very old. Some looked inhabitable but were lived in. A power line and a T.V. dish were a tell-tale sign.
The land rose to 8,600 ft and I felt right at home. There was snow everywhere--it was melting and spring was on it's way.
At lower altitudes, the skeletal cows had made it through the winter and were chowing down on green grass. The sheep looked healthy and the sheep dogs were diligent about controlling their charges.
|A black sheep left the fold--the sheep dog is on the job.|
We stopped at Muradiye Falls for a pit stop and a good cup of tea. The winter run-off from the snowpack was surging over the falls in brown cascades.
Turning off the main road we headed toward some caves on the hillside that separates Turkey from Armenia.
THEN WE DROVE INTO THE HILLSIDE!
We followed the road into the hill.. Nordan said we were in the Turluca Salt Mines, Tuz meaning salt in Turkish. Salt mines have existed here since at least medieval times; this mine was actively being mined.
About a quarter mile into the mine the bus stopped and we got out to investigate.
|Shadows of our group on the bus|
A stone house houses people who stay in the salt mine for restorative reasons.
Further down the tunnel we heard and saw signs of active mining.
|bags of salt neatly laid out while mining equipment works in the background|
|two men are guiding a piece of equipment in front of the dozer|
|The area is huge; the ceilings very high--about 35 ft.|
|dynamite holes in the wall|
There was a small pool of water--very salty--in the cave. The striations on the wall are the veins of salt. It is said that the two mines in the area could supply all the salt for the 70 million people in Turkey for the next 100 years!
Returning to the bus.
|Note the shiny floor--polished salt--but not slick|
Returning to the light of day