After finishing our ‘Green Tour’ we got our bags from Arch Palace Hotel and headed to the nearby Göreme bus stop.
We had tickets for a mini-bus to Kayseri, but our departure time came and went with no sign of a mini-bus. We went to the Nevsehir booth multiple times, showed our ticket, and the guy indicated that it was coming. Eventually (at least 30 minutes after our scheduled departure time) another guy ushered us into a minivan. We squeezed in, and hoped that it was going to Kayseri.
It did indeed arrive at the Kayseri bus station. A guy met us at the bus, and ushered us to a counter. At the counter, they took our tickets, put them in a drawer, and gave us tickets leaving on an earlier bus. Although this whole transaction seemed strange and sketchy to us, they wanted no extra money and we were now on an earlier bus. Since we could not really complain due to the language barrier, we went with it.
The Kayseri bus station was large, with seemingly many bus companies based on the number of company windows. Everyone at the bus station seemed unaccustomed to seeing white people.
We headed out to the bus slip indicated on our ticket about 15 minutes before departure time. No bus was in the slip, but when we showed our tickets to other people waiting around, they indicated we were in the right area. One guy, who was travelling with his wife and child, was really friendly to us. When the bus arrived, he pointed it out and seemed to tell the driver where we were going (since the bus was continuing past Malatya).
We boarded the bus, and realized that our ticket numbers put us in the 5-seat back row. This row was tight and uncomfortable, but we were just happy to be on a bus that would soon take us to Malatya. A commotion started, and it seems they had likely double booked our seats. We had no word in this conversation (since we could not speak Turkish and they could not speak English), but it seems the men who had also been assigned our seats ended up having to stand!
We eventually left Kayseri with many people standing in the aisles. We inflated our neck pillows, put on our face masks, inserted ear plugs, and attempted to sleep.
JT slept pretty solidly, but Katie woke up off and on. Katie woke up at one point when we were stopped at a gas station for a rest break. She was tempted to go use the restroom, but was afraid she might be left if she did, so she went back to sleep. The next time she woke the bus was going onto an unpaved section of road. The next time the bus was stopped on the side of the road and the driver and conductor were outside. The next time the bus was stopped again on the side of the road. The next time the bus was going through what seemed to be large potholes on an unpaved road. And so on. After awaking at least five different times to the bus being on the side of the road, Katie was not surprised when the bus stopped again. But this time the bus did not start again quickly, and instead the driver came down the aisle and opened the floorboard compartment to the engine. Not long after, JT woke up and decided to get up for water. As he attempted to walk down the aisle, oblivious to any issues with the bus, he almost fell into the open engine compartment!
We tried to keep sleeping, but decided to just stay awake once the sun started to rise. We stayed in our seats, wondering when/if the bus would start moving again. At one point, another bus stopped and we were motioned to get off. We got off, but when they tried to open the baggage compartment to get our luggage, it would not open because the bus has absolutely no power. Everyone else going to Malatya boarded the new bus, but we were forced to stay with the broken bus because we did not want to abandon our luggage. Eventually most people got off the bus and sat in various places around the bus – some in the surrounding hills, some on the ground, and some on little seats (we’re not sure where the seats came from – they seemed to be on the bus). We eventually got out at the persistence of the friendly guy. People ushered us to two seats and some children brought us fruit from the nearby trees. They were eating it, so we followed suit. Other families shared their bread, crackers, and cheese with us. We got out a phrase book and some pictures from home in an attempt to connect even though we are unable to verbally communicate. Being broken down on the side of the road turned into one of our most memorable experiences from Turkey!
We tried to convey to the conductor that we needed to be in Malatya by 11am, but we never could tell if he understood us. We tried asking for estimates of when the bus would be fixed, but again, it is uncertain whether he understood us. Eventually some men came walking towards the bus with a bicycle pump and a container. They seemed to be pumping oil into the bus using the bike pump!
Finally, everyone got back into the bus and the bus successfully started around 10:15am. At this point, we had no idea how far we had left to go. After passing many fields of sun-drying apricots, we eventually arrived in Malatya around 11:15am.
Since we were the only remaining Malatya passengers on the bus, they dropped us at the side of the road across from the Malatya bus station. We decided that we were in the exact right place to catch our dolmus to our meeting area for the Nemrut Dagi tour, so we opted to continue to hold our full bladders and save the time that would be required to go into the bus station and use the restrooms.
JT knew that we needed the #2 dolmus, but he was not sure how to tell the number of each passing dolmus. He awkwardly held up two fingers, hoping that a #2 driver would see that and stop. A dolmus eventually stopped, and we lucked into the passenger in the front seat speaking English. He knew where we wanted to go, and offered to walk us there, so we hopped into the dolmus. Meanwhile, our new friend called our Nemrut Dagi tour group and told them we were on our way (and not to leave us).
Our new friend eventually told us it is time to get off. As we were walking, he said he has to do some business first, but that it would not take long. He led us to a warehouse/office area, where there was warehouse space on the ground floor and office space upstairs. We followed him into a warehouse with dried apricots on the floor. We left our luggage in the warehouse and followed him upstairs to the office area. He talked to an older Turkish man, who gave him a massive amount of Turkish Lira money. Meanwhile, Katie was hoping that our luggage was not being stolen downstairs and that we were not being sold to this older Turkish man!
After a short conversation between the two men, we all headed downstairs. We gathered our luggage, and then all four of us got into a car. The older man drove really crazy, but eventually he got out and our friend kept driving us. He finally parked and all three of us got out. He led us to a café where we did indeed meet our Nemrut Dagi group. We offered to buy him a meal or otherwise pay him, but he wanted nothing more than to be JT’s Facebook friend! It was refreshing and renewing to meet truly good people in the world!