Aladaglar and the Golden Rain

My heart is beating so loudly that it must be heard. We’re lying in our rooftop tent on top of our Toyota Landcruiser. It is pitch black outside and since a couple of seconds it is completely silent as well. I am looking at the woman next to me who is now awake, she looks at me with her big blue eyes and brushes her long dark hair out of her sleepy face. I answer to her “what is going on” question is an unintelligible murmur, more to calm her down than that I actually have an answer. I stick my head underneath the sturdy and frozen canvas of the tent and stare into the darkness outside looking for a clue. Cold air brushes the side of the Toyota, the tent and my face. Vaguely, I smell burned sulphur and I notice that a load of micro-dust is being taken by the wind. It is dead quiet now, I can almost hear the dust descending on the car and I have to remind myself to breathe. Back in the tent she has managed to squeeze her long slim legs into her trousers and she’s putting on a sweater. It is clear that she has no intention to go back to sleep any time soon. A couple of days ago we started driving a 4wd route through the Aladaglar Mountains in Turkey. The Aladaglar Mountains are part of the Taurus Mountain Range that lies in the provinces Kayseri, Nigde and Adana in the Central Anatolia Region south-east of the more known Cappadocia. The Aladaglar Mountains are sometimes called the Anti-Taurus Mountains and have a surface of 545 square meter. We arrived early in the season and the park hadn’t officially opened yet when we drove through. Cold drizzly days are behind us, but the bright sun warmed up our vehicle earlier today. This area is known for its large differences in temperature, during the day it can get up to 30 degrees Celsius while it freezes at night and on the highest altitudes in the park the snow will stay all year round. We followed a route that led us to the highest peak of the Aladaglar: The Demirkazik with a height of 3756 meters. Tracks through the snow gave us the reinsurance that another car had followed this path recently. We plodded on until we reached a recently descended avalanche with haphazard pine trees poking out of it that covered the entire road ahead of us. We turned the vehicle around and found a beautiful camping spot just on the border of where the snow had started, but behind some rocks which still protected us against the elements.It is now very cold with bright stars against the dark sky. In the meantime, I have also put on all my clothes and wrapped in a thick down jacket I have just climbed down the narrow stairs of our rooftop tent and wait for my eyes to adjust to the darkness.A couple of minutes ago we were roughly woken up by a dull explosion close to our camping spot and I have decided to have a look outside. Slowly, I follow the tracks of our car around the large rock formation which we are camping behind, back to where we turned the car earlier. Besides a few rock climbers here and there, Aladaglar doesn’t get a lot of visitors, especially not in this season. There are some shepherd and nomads living in the vallies, but that is about it. Hidden behind some rocks I can now see what is going on. A group of young men with an old car and head torches are carrying pick-axes and shovels up the narrow paths. The receding snow and good weather the past few days attracted a small group of local gold diggers who illegally, by the light of their torches and the moon, try their luck to find some gold at night in this mineral-rich area.

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