At the foothills of the Ararat

7 August - I am not quite recovered from my stomach ache yet. I've decided not to take part in the trip to Noah's Ark and take it easy to visit Ishaqpasha Seray. I start out on foot to cover the 7 uphill km to the palace. Contrary to what that Australian guy had told me in Akdamar, I think this is an awful drudge in the sun, rather than a pleasant walk.

The building is inspiring and its decorations carved in the stone are very elaborate. Its shapes are cut out against a distant desolate landscape, that only the township behind it partly breaks up. When it's time to go back, I chose the easy way and get on a dolmus that leaves as soon as it's full with passengers.

I get my luggage back from the hotel and set off to Kars, which involves a change of bus in Igdir. We are stopped and searched by the police; a bundle of leaflets is confiscated from one of the passengers. My seat companion is an Iranian guy and is in Turkey on business. He speaks little English, but we exchange a few words. He kindly takes me to Kars bus stop, where I have to wait some time. A boy invites me to a cup of tea and engages into conversation. He explains he would like to become an English teacher. He's young, but his speech reveals it is the result of hard study, research, passion and practise. I recognise myself at his age, though I can't have been so outgoing.

We leave, but the bus driver stops to buy aubergines, then melons and peppers along the road; someone grumbles loudly. Then, as usual, some passengers are dropped at frequent stops, more taken on board. The going is slowed by this process, and I get nervous. A passenger behind me is munching off some seeds and cracking their shells between his teeth, which rounds off the strain on my nerves. I ask myself why on earth mysterious passengers are dropped in the open fields from time to time, without anything around. They must walk miles before they get to a house!

I reach Kars rather tired and find a hotel for 25 LT. that's a bit more expensive than usual, but the first one was full and I wouldn't run the risk of coming across a cheap seedy hotel. At the restaurant I get talking with a group of French people and ask for details about the visit to Ani tomorrow.