When we eventually crunched our way through densely packed snow on Gömbe’s snow covered mountain I realised this was pretty much everything I’d hoped for. While I’d had a taste of snow (metaphorically) last year while staying high up on Dundee’s terraces in Scotland, only a stone’s throw from the Dundee Law (hill), it has been a while since I was able to delight in the gorgeous white stuff!
So after a three hour drive from Kaş on the coast of Turkey, into the mountains behind, here we were! I loved the feel of the crisp, cold air that made my face tingle, and I relished the absolutely still, clear atmosphere that seemed to emanate from the mountains. I think there’s something magical about snow covered hills. Looking at them from the distance as we approached Gömbe they gave off an aura of silent grandeur which Barry and I agreed was majestic.
The climb to these white heights took us along forest roads that wound – sometimes precariously – around the mountains. As we ascended we passed through various eco systems, and there was a definite change from the pines to more silvery fir tree line that marked our arrival in the higher, colder region.
Turkey's brown bear
This habitat is home to some of Turkey’s 3,000 remaining bear population. Ursus arctos, or the Eurasian brown bear has a round head, strong bones and large paws with claws up to 10cm long. As you can see from the photo we took of bear footprints in the snow, the front and back prints together look like a hominid footprint. Perhaps this is the origin of the yeti myth? Female brown bears can grow as large as 250Kg (550lb), while males can reach a maximum weight of around 480Kg (1058lb).
While this bear used to be predominantly carnivorous, over the centuries its diet has changed so meat now only makes up about 15% of its dietary intake. Maybe goats make up some of that 10%. It would certainly explain why the goatherd we saw further down the mountain was carrying a large rifle!
Personally I was hugely relieved that we didn’t see the bear prints until just before we left. I spotted them in a patch of snow just as Baz was pulling slowly down the road from where the car had been parked. As we jumped back into the car after filming the prints, I thanked our lucky stars that we hadn’t come nose to muzzle with the – granted, awesome – animal.
Brown bears are legally protected in Turkey, although there are still some killed largely due to their damaging livestock and beehives. However, these animals do prefer sourcing their meat from sheep and cows, rather than humans. The major reason for the bears’ decline is deforestation and disappearance of their natural habitat. If you’re interested in this subject, you can read more in this informative journal article: Ö Emre and İnci Togan (2004) Status and management of brown bears in Turkey, Ursus 15(1):48-53
Don't eat yellow snow!
I did say at the start of this blog that the snow was pretty much everything I’d hoped for. I say “pretty much” because I had held a not-so-secret desire to make a snow angel and as soon as we found a spot that had nearly foot deep snow, I threw myself back onto the cold white cushioning and flapped my arms up and down. I knew straight away that I wasn’t going to be successful this time because my arms merely glided across the surface. The snow was too dense, probably due to having fallen a day or two earlier, topped off with slight surface melting and freezing.
I was disappointed. But only for a moment. In the recesses of my mind, childhood memories of ideal snow states sprang to mind, and if I wasn’t mistaken, this particular snow type was ideal for snowballs! I grabbed two handfuls and jammed them together. Perfect! I chucked the newly made snow-missile at Baz and hit my target! We followed up with a bit of snow ball chucking until I remembered the next snowy memory from childhood.
“Hey Baz!” I yelled as I watched a snowball he’d thrown disintegrate into white powder on a boulder. “I’ve got a tip for you!”
“Don’t eat yellow snow!”
He laughed and I scooped up a handful of perfectly white snow and ate some.
“This is okay though,” I crunched.
“What flavour is it?” he asked.
Descending from the snow covered heights a while later, ecstatic to have some footage of actual bear prints, we threw on the car’s heating full blast and warmed our noses, fingers and toes.
We laughed about the stowaway cat that we’d almost taken for a ride from Gömbe’s petrol station (and you can read about that in my previous blog if you like: Aannsha’s Blog #59 – Q&A) and began making plans for our next day’s car adventure. But I won’t spoil the surprise, I’ll blog about that next week. For now, do enjoy our snowy trip to Gömbe’s majestic mountains in this Saturday’s YouTube video.
Until next week, remember, don’t eat yellow snow!