Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Endangered Birds!

We left Şanlıurfa and all its charms (which were few) behind and headed back to Goreme.  It was a long drive.  Along the way, we stopped in Birecik, a nice little town on the Euphrates.  There's nothing too special about the place, unless you're a bald ibis.  In that case, you and 152 others of your species are all that exist on earth.  I'm told there's another population in Morocco, but ornithologists really want them to be two different subspecies.  Either way, these guys are critically endangered.  Over the late 20th century, the bald ibis population plummeted due to the use of pesticides.  And now this is all that's left.  It's actually an improvement, because back in the eighties, they were down to about 30 birds, if I recall what the preserve-guy was saying.  The reason why they're kept caged is that they're migratory.  They'll stay here until February, then they get released.  They'll stay close to Birecik and eventually return here again.  In past years, they've released numbers of them to migrate along their natural routes.  This meant that they got to fly to Syria.  None returned.  So yes, Syria's a tough place for humans and birds.  When we asked what happened to them, the preserve-guy just said they'd been shot for sport by those crazy, ignorant Syrians.   
This gives you a better idea what the bald ibis looks like.  They've very, very ugly.  And they sort of smell bad, too.  But that doesn't mean they should be eradicated.  I can imagine that they're quite majestic in the air.  If you see one, please don't kill it.  

OK, so we were back on the road, covering lots of territory.  We stopped at the same mountain town for lunch and at the same ice cream parlor in Kahramanmaras for delicious ice cream.  As we were outside finishing our cones, this really important-looking motorcade pulled up.  There were uniformed cops and secret service-like guys all over the place.  This very nice van pulled up and out stepped a bunch of well-dressed folks who looked like politicians.  Emre guessed that it was the province's governor.  Soon after they went in, all the cops and secret service guys were eating ice cream and not guarding the governor very closely.  So yes, everybody loves ice cream from Kahramanmaras.

We hit the road again and made it to Goreme by the evening.  I caught a night bus to Istanbul.  The 13-hour ride was once again unpleasant and uncomfortable.  During the night, it rained like crazy.  I mean, downpour-monsoon-like.  By the time we hit Istanbul, it was beautiful.    

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