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Tuesday 25th July - Tunnels and cave churches

We made it to our first rest day! In the words of Oliver Twist, 'who will buy this wonderful morning?!' We all had a wonderful sleep in at the cave hotel and ate breakfast in the garden. A little Turkish lady kept coming out to give us omelettes and fresh gozleme. A random turtle went trudging past us escaping from the kitchen. The manager explained that an Australian girl stayed with them a month ago and found the turtle on the street, she collected him and asked the manager to look after him. He's been living there ever since and makes his way around the garden looking for an escape. Our blogs have been slow in the upload but Haylee managed to put a few more up, it's been very hard accessing good wifi to update them. Reaching our destinations past midnight every evening means we've barely had any time to keep everyone on track with our blogs. They're there though! They'll all be up soon we promise!

We visited the incredible Goreme open air museum. Ancient rock-cut churches from the 11th century are scattered throughout the valley. It's a real shame though that majority if not all have been somewhat destroyed. The beautiful artworks in the churches have been damaged, the Saints' eyes have all been purposefully scratched out. Even depictions of Mary and Jesus have had the faces and eyes all scratched out. Graves are located inside the church's as you enter. Quite sad to see that majority of these graves were reserved for tiny bodies that could have been none other than babies and toddlers. Each church was a relief from the blazing sun and heat of Cappadocia.

Upon returning to the car we found a Muslim family admiring our stickers. Two of the daughters in the family asked if we'd take a photo with them. Lunch was enjoyed at Old Cappadocia, a restaurant in main town of Goreme. James was pleasantly surprised to find they sold a large selection of beer. We'd assumed being a Muslim country that we wouldn't find alcohol anywhere. Goreme, though (and Cappadocia in general) is such a highly tourist populated area that alcohol is flowing all over the place. Just outside the restaurant we met Chris who was randomly sitting on a stool outside a pancake place. He's been assigned to a a team as a videographer (there's a few teams this year being filmed for a tv series).

We decided we'd drive to the underground city of Kaymakli. A massive tourist site, people visit Kaymakli to see the claustrophobic tunnels and rooms where thousands of early Christians lived to escape persecution. We've been using an app called to drive all over Europe. It's quite hit and miss, some days it will work fantastic, other days it takes us through the strangest routes. Today was the latter. The app took us up on a random hill with cobble stoned streets. There were hotels around but we finally came to a one way street we couldn't enter. We slowed down near an elderly man running a stall on the side of the road. "Kaymakli?" He smiled and started pointing the direction we'd already come. He explained in Turkish to us where we needed to go but we got the general gist of it. Onward we drove to the underground city and found it with the next half an hour.

Over six thousand people lived in Kaymakli underground city, an absolute maze in there! If we hadn't followed the red arrows to go down and the green arrows to go back up and outside we'd have become super lost. All the tunnels and rooms look the same, a lot of them have signs out the front that say 'living room' with random holes everywhere inside. At one point James thought he would try some parkour and jump up onto a ledge in what was supposed to be yet another 'living room'. He took his thongs off beforehand then asked Natalie to pass them back to him. Unable to reach James, Natalie threw the thongs up. James smirked and looked behind him where the thongs landed. "Oh, was there a hole up there?" James nodded at Natalie and we all burst out laughing. Fortunately it was a big hole and James was able to climb down it and retrieve his thongs. Patrick took his huge professional camera backpack down into the tunnels with him, probably not the best choice. He got stuck quite a few times in the tunnels; the fact that he's also claustrophobic didn't help his situation very much. After an hour down there we slowly made our way out. A huge bus load of tour groups had made their way inside making it extremely jam packed. We made it to daylight and walked to the car. A woman from Adelaide was inspecting the decorations on our car and started chatting to us, she said she'd had enough of the cramped underground city and wanted to come outside. She got confused about Fr Chris Riley and thought he was Fr Bob Maguire (radio presenter). She was curious about the rally and shocked we'd managed to fit all of us in the tiny car.

We decided to drive back to Goreme to grab dinner and hopefully hang out with some other ralliers. We'd been seeing teams all day. It's as if we'd all converged in the one spot. Always good to see some other crazy people like us. decided to take us on a crazy route again, we ended up driving past old mate again who we'd asked earlier for directions. We gave him a big wave as we went past, he probably thought we were still completely lost driving in circles!

We decided to have some pre-drinks before dinner. Today had definitely ended up being the break we needed, we didn't know what to do with ourselves now that we didn't have a town to leg it to by evening. The bar we visited for pre-drinks had yellow bean bags all over the place. We sank into them and had trouble getting out. The cocktails were ridiculously cheap, we could have bought five each but restricted ourselves to one. They ended up only being around $3aud each. Weirdly enough, despite being a super trendy bar they had decided to pump Christmas music all over the place. Not upbeat Christmas songs though; slow traditional ones. Perhaps they were getting into the Christmas in July festivities.

We ate dinner at a restaurant called Dibek where you take your shoes off and sit on the floor. Thankfully no one else was there so even if our feet or socks smelt terrible it wouldn't bother anyone. A few of us got a traditional dish cooked in a clay pot that is cracked open by the waiter when he delivers it to the table. The manager of the restaurant was a great guy who had a big chat to us. He said that a lot of people think that Turkey isn't safe to visit at the moment which is affecting their tourism industry. He wished for us to go home and tell everyone that Turkey is safe and open for business! There you have it people, come visit Turkey! The building we were in had been part of his family for five generations and was now over 400 years old.

We'd promoted to a few other teams that we would be hunting down some shisha that evening at Coffeedocia (a nearby restaurant). After walking in there we had to awkwardly walk out because they didn't serve any alcohol and James was hanging out for a beer. We went back to the the bar we'd visited earlier with the beanbags, One Way. It was much more lively in the evening though, no more Christmas music thankfully and stacks of people smoking shisha. We found a table and told all the other ralliers that we'd moved from Coffeedocia. James, Haylee and Patrick shared a strawberry shisha. A team called Bears Without Borders consisting of four guys joined us for drinks, before we knew it midnight had come and gone. We drove back and prepared to get up in just a few hours for our hot air balloon ride over the fairy chimneys.

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