The van ride from Van to Kars was a good one. Highly entertaining. The route taken was pretty roundabout and we ended up passing very close by the Iranian border. We learned that there is a good bit of drug smuggling that occurs in the area and that was the reason for the multiple military checkpoints we had to stop at. Six times our van stopped to chat with guys in camo. Twice we had to get out and open up our packs so that they could be searched. In addition they checked our passports. An additional three or four times they only checked our passports. Very nice guys, all around. They seemed amused at our being out their way, but they were quite friendly. In addition to the large number of men with big guns, there were also bunkers and these tank/car looking things with four sets of wheels. They looked like a lot of fun so during one pause in our progression, I meandered over, slowly, with a big smile on my face so as to look harmless, and took a closer look at this oversized toy. A couple men came over, smiling, but with their guns in hand (typical pose for all the military guys here. A bit more disconcerting when automatic weapons are in hand than when they are hanging by someone's side.). I smiled, gave them the hand sign for "wonderful" and said "very beautiful" in turkish. They laughed and we "bantered" about a bit, conversing in non-verbal ways. They showed me around and pointed out all the cool features of their tank. However. When I signed a request to drive to them, they were suddenly less amused. Ah well. I had to try!
The coolest part of the drive was the scenery. Gorgeous plains, incredible valleys and canyons and mountains. The most beautiful scenery I had seen yet in the country. To me anyway. I am a sucker for mountains and canyons, you know. Not only did we see mountains, but we drove right past Mount Ararat! It was beautiful! Not to mention the history and the stories behind the mountain. As hard as I looked I could not spot Noah's Ark. An amazing sight. I am constantly shocked at all the things and places I am seeing here.
Getting into Van and finding a hotel was easy enough. Then it was a matter of waiting a couple more hours for the Ramadan fast to end so that we could eat. Found a nice place in a park next to a lake and feasted. A bit too much, as when the bill came we were a bit shocked. But the food was great and one expensive meal in a month is not bad. Into bed we settled with happy tummies.