Mount Ararat, sheep crossings & the welcoming Kurds

Mount Ararat appeared out of nowhere as we drove towards the Eastern Turkish city of Van. You could tell the mountain was enormous. We were still so far away, yet it was already visible and its snow-capped peak towered above anything around it. 

I wasn’t even planning to stop near Ararat. With all the moving and the occasional madness of traveling with a little child, I totally forgot that it was on the way, but, you can’t miss it. It’s impressive. It’s visible from almost everywhere, once you reach its vicinity. The area around is beautiful, full of pastures and valleys, where the nomadic (probably more semi-nomadic) shepherds roam with their animals.  

I'd been wanting to film a huge flock of sheep from above ever since I got the drone. Finally I got my chance! I found out that unfortunately the drone scares the crap out of the sheep. They scatter in all directions, unless they are being intensely herded by their shepherds. 

For most part I haven't really interacted with people on this trip. I think this whole drone flying and landscape stuff puts one in a particular state of mind. At least it did with me. I didn’t want to interact so much. Just wanted to enjoy the amazing nature around me. 

While filming the video above, one of the shepherds saw me with the remote control to the drone and came up to see what I was doing. The video feed on the iPad caused him to exclaim “Oh, Allah!” He was clearly impressed and thankful that I showed him. 

When I finished filming, I felt that it was time to finally interact. Shepherds and nomads are some of my favourite kinds of people. I love their independence, their ability to survive without the modern world. I actually want to be like them, but, I’m too caught up with all the technology. My solution is to be a digital nomad of sorts. I try to stay away from the madness of cities, but, to still have enough technology to communicate and to create photos and videos. 

I didn’t get the men’s names, but, we chatted... through gesture, through the few common words we shared. They are Kurdish. The huge flock belonged to the two of them. The elderly man is 65 and the younger one is almost like me, 33. They were now about to split up and go in different directions. 

We talked about where we had been, about Australia having kangaroos, a Kurdish man marrying a woman from England and then the elderly man said that someone once took a photo of him when he was near Kars. He seemed quite proud of that. As we parted, he said "Good bye" to me in the traditional way, with a hug and a kiss on each cheek. This took me by surprise, but, I was happy to see how warm these strangers were. I hugged the younger shepherd, waved good bye and continued my drive. 

Just a few kilometres up the road I noticed a small Kurdish village and another huge flock of sheep. This is where we met the very friendly Mustafa. 

Mustafa came up to say hello. I gestured if the sheep were his. He said - Yes. I asked if I could take his photo. He agreed again, walking towards the flock. He asked if we’d like to come for tea. I thought… Well, why not? I am always fascinated to see how people live and I hadn’t really had an intimate look in these parts yet. This would be a chance. Mustafa is looking towards his house in the above image.

Before we had tea, I flew the drone above his sheep. Mustafa said that was ok too. The sheep freaked out and ran from the buzzing machine. A girl and a boy popped out from their house to chase the sheep and to group them back together. I kept flying. The sheep kept scattering. I wanted to know if it was ok to fly like this. Mustafa was entranced and amused by the whole thing. He continued to reassure me there was no problem, even though the sheep kept scattering and the children kept having to chase them. 

I realised that Mustafa was too hypnotised, while the kids were too polite and it wasn’t in their place to tell me off while an adult didn’t say anything. I decided to go higher, where the sheep wouldn’t be as bothered by the drone noise. That’s where the above photo was taken. 

It did not take long to understand that hospitality and warmth were a very normal thing for the Kurds. Our tea invitation turned into lunch as soon as Mustafa’s wife Neira saw us. 

It seems that everyone in Turkey adores children. I think this shows something about a society. I definitely see it as a positive, especially now that I have my little traveler with me. In the portrait above, Mustafa is smiling at my daugther Mia. 

While Mustafa poured us tea Tanya and Mia watched... Well Mia ran around and screamed, just for fun.

Neira with her tea and Mustafa in the background with their young neighbour. 

As we drove on over more mountain passes we had our last glimpses of Ararat. Mountain pass after mountain pass, ascent, decent and then... Ararat disappeared, almost as suddenly as it appeared.