With the allure of 'cotton candy' like mountains with sparkling blue cascading pools, we headed off from Kusadasi on the two seats we felt privileged to snag. After all the shenanigans that we had to endure to get bus seats....not the 'FULL' crap this time, this time, even the bus companies seemed not to know how to get to Pamukkale from Kusadasi......come on!!!!!...We eventually found a nice guy to sell us a couple of tickets and we were off with questionable expectations of what Pamukkale actually looks like. Anybody who has ever looked at a brochure on tourism in Turkey would have seen images of this small town. I think it might even be one of the natural wonders of the world, it is an UNESCO World Heritage sight. It has been said that I am a little cynical at times, skeptical always, and especially here in Turkey, I have come to believe very little. The only thing that has been for sure here is that we will be lied to about nearly everything. So the bar was really low about what Pamukkale would deliver. Well - I was wrong. It is just one of those little gems in the world that is well worth the effort to see. It was amazing, unique and just super cool. The phenomenon of Pamukkale is a calcium buildup, from spring water, in the middle of nowhere, that produced, and continues to produce, a mountain of snow white, fluffy foundations. It is the minerals in the water that build ups snow white pools which end up looking like something out of a winter wonderland. Adding to the magic of the place is that these calcium deposits occurred right next to Heliopolis: one of the ancient cities of Turkey. These ruins are still in pretty good shape and the whole area makes for some interesting walks. Jan and I checked into our hostel - a really nice place with a huge pool and right away met the owner of the place - Adem - a guy who should be the poster boy for hospitality for every other tourist based market in Turkey. He was such an attentive, sincere host, it was a delight to be there. The first night he took us and a group of Korean kids up a mountain outside of town to view the sunset and continued to offer us great attention during our stay. On Adem's advice we decided to go up to the water formations early in the morning to try and beat the crowds that arrive on tour buses from everywhere around Turkey. We got up really early and walked up to the waterfalls - only 5 minutes from our Hotel - and were rewarded with the place pretty much to ourselves for the first couple of hours. It was amazing to wander around, in the intense (mid thirties Celsius) heat, in and out of the pools. We were also lucky that the day we were there the pools were filled with water as they are usually not. Because there was so few that early in the morning, we did not have any groups or guides to follow. We only had three people ahead of us and we had seen them wade through the pools and climb up over the rocks. When we followed them, the gate guard spotted us - he was about 300 meters down the mountain from us......another long story........involving a lot of whistle blowing and yelling and we must have not seen him for a while because when we finally did notice him, he was heading up the trail towards us in a fast, furious fury......his whistle screeching, arms waving and him screaming at us to do something. We had no idea what it was we were supposed to start doing or stop doing. What we were sure of was how crazy mad he was. To get to us he had to walk on the calcium - and you can only walk on those parts in bare feet. When we saw him up close, he had come the 300 meters, taken off his shoes, rolled up his uniform pants, waded through the cascading pools and caught up to us. all we could hear was this whistle screeching and him yelling at us "FORBIDDEN!, FORBIDDEN!, FORBIDDEN!!!!!!"
We saw him but had no idea what it was we were doing that was forbidden. He had completely lost it and apparently we had climbed up way too high on the white parts. There were no signs, no way to know which way to go so we hadn't done it intentionally - we just followed the other group who had been ahead of us and were now long gone. Problem was, neither of us could figure out how to get down. The calcium 'snow' is like walking on a pumice stone, but the pools are filled with silt and the edges are very slippery. We couldn't get down off the hard parts back down to where he was freaking out........Man - we both were worried that he was going to pop a blood vessel and we would be responsible for a messy death on the cotton candy clouds. And of course it was a little funny because, even though he had caught up to us and was just 15 feet below us, he should have been able to see that we couldn't physically get ourselves down.....he continued to yell "FORBIDDEN!!!!" and blow his stupid whistle. I thought for sure it was going to be the end of our day at the site but......nah.......the drama subsided, the poor guy lost a few years off of his life due to added stress cortisones pummeling his body and we continued on to enjoy the place. We were able to get off the white parts just as the buses started to spew hundreds of Russians and Koreans. I will never, for the rest of my life, see the word 'Forbidden' and not think of that poor highly strung guy on the side of Pamukkale........trying to reign in two cynical free spirits who were finally not disappointed: the reality of the place surpassed the mythology. We hiked through the ruins before being tricked into a ride back to town by an old guy who serenaded us with his one verse of 'Happy Birthday' and his half verse of 'Jingle Bells". He told us he was driving the public minibus......surprise - another lie.......off to an onyx factory tour before getting back to town........oh well - it is good to have lots of time and a high tolerance for chronic deceit.