Coming out of the mosque I put my purse down to free my hands and aid in my safe journey back down the awkward, eroded carved steps. Suddenly the world was in slow motion as I heard my bag shift. Even though the top was sealed with Velcro, the only two objects similar in size and shape came rolling out. In disbelief I stared as a red shinny apple and my 50-millimeter Canon lens dropped-off the mosque steps.

It all started when the four of us, Ben, Pen, Chris and I piled out of the car to hike the Ihlara Valley. I had hiked the valley 11-years ago with my mom, dad and two friends, so it held a special place in my heart. To help you with the THEN and NOW feelings I was having, here are some photos.

We spent five hours hiking and exploring the Ihlara Valley with Ben and Pen. I hiked the same valley with my parents and two friends back in 1999. See the next photo.

Laura, on the right of the Ihlara Valley sign 11-years ago. My friend Lindsey on the left.

Hiking through Ihlara Valley with Chris, Ben and Pen in 2010.

Laura (15-years old) and her friend Casey, hiking the Ihlara Valley in 1999.

Laura and Chris at the same location and view point at the Ihlara Valley as Laura was 11-years ago.

Group shot at the Ihlara Valley view point. Laura, Casey, Lindsay and in the back Laura's mom and dad.

We were extremely excited to hike the valley because of the tunnels, pigeon holes and churches carved into the steep cliffs.

One of the many rock-carved churches found in the Ihlara Valley.

This is a painting on the central dome in one of the rock-carved churches in the Ihlara Valley. In the past many of the churches were painted. However, over the centuries most of the frescoes have been vandalized or faded.

While hiking we came across a conveniently placed restaurant with log stumps for seats and each table equip with the Turkish necessities, an ash tray and sugar cubes.

A conveniently placed restaurant along the hiking trail of the Ihlara Valley.

Above all, we were especially excited to locate a hidden mosque the owner of our hotel told us about. We hike further and further into the belly of the Ihlara, never boring of the magnificent landscape.

The Ihlara Valley in Turkey.

Rounding a curve we were suddenly surrounded by giant cliffs. High up we could see carved doorways. Was that the entrance the hotel owner tried to describe? And is this the cliff edge he haphazardly marked on our map with an “X”?

The Ihlara Valley in Turkey.

Without further hesitation we pulled out our headlamps and flashlights. One by one we entered the small, claustrophobic tunnel. What a discovery! We had found what appeared to be an old well, a barricaded door, a small church and two grand rooms measuring 5 by 10 meters. Only twenty more meters down the valley we found the mosque.

A mosque carved into the cliffs in the Ihlara Valley. This is a sight rarely seen by tourists. It's off the beaten trail.

…I stared as a red shinny apple and my 50-millimeter Canon lens dropped-off the mosque steps.

“Oh no…” , I muttered. Time froze as both apple and lens gain speed with their descent, each one bouncing harder and further the more it crashed down the Ihlara Valley. The apple, like a runner in a marathon only feet from the finish line, flings itself off the hill directly into the gushing river below. “Oh no…” I think, being even more intelligent than I was a few moments ago. “Perhaps the lens will stop bouncing. Perhaps I’ll be lucky enough that it just stops and doesn’t follow the apple into the river. Or perhaps because of the ten bounces and bangs this unprotected 50-millimeter Canon lens has just endured down the mountain side, I should hope it puts me and itself out of misery by landing in the river.”

What does the lens do? It stops-dead 2/3 of the way down the hill. Collecting the lens cap which popped off at the top of the hill, I slowly make my way down to my injured 50. “It might still work”, I think. “Sure. It’s little…..and tough?” I pick it up. Its glass eye starring at me, still intact. “Um?” Chris tries the lens on his camera. “ERROR”. My heart sinks a little. “Darn it. I’ve already destroyed a lens and we’re only two months into the trip.”

Two days later I try the lens out on my camera and the most amazing and impressive thing happens. It works! It’s been a week since my poor 50-millimeter rolled down the Ihlara Valley, but remarkably it is still producing quality photographs! So for you photo buffs out there who need sturdy, reliable equipment, I think this one passes the test.

Updated on March 28, 2010.