Goin' without Knowin'
by Joe Scarangella
Part of the problem with constantly living, working and travelling in off-the-beaten track destinations (whatever that means) is it's hard to find information. Guidebooks either don't exist or are severely lacking. Local tourist information is a completely foreign concept. Nothing seems to have penetrated the World Wide Web. And locals often recommend places of little interest to international travellers. That means for me to plan weekend getaways, i'm pretty much on my own. Sometimes, just sometimes, i get lucky and stumble across places like Qezqapan.
I had plans to check out Kurdistan's largest lake, Lake Dukan (again). It's a trip i had done a couple times so i was looking for anything new in the area. Asking around, i was told to head for the "resort" of Chemi Razen. This was not my first rodeo. I've been to plenty of highly recommended "resorts" in the region, like Bekhal or even Shaqlawa, only to be greatly disappointed. The drive started with great promise. The carved out valleys and towering hills are most certainly pretty. But arriving at the "resort" i got pretty much what i expected. A tiny spring of a waterfall was incredibly over Kurdified with ramshackle buildings, concrete posts made to look like wood and general disarray. As usual, developers had taken a beautiful place and trashed it. I had no reason to stick around for long. And that's when i saw a sign for Qezqapan.
Generally speaking, Iraqi Kurdistan lacks in major attractions that neighbouring Iran, or Syria seem to overflow with. So travelling around, you need to get excited about "good enough". A cave, burrowed into the cliffside overlooking the valley, was just such a place that was good enough. However, part of the problem of visiting unknown sites is nobody knows about them. The cave seems Assyrian to me, but i've had people tell me it's Persian, mostly all people can tell me is it's old. I even asked at the museums in Erbil, but not even there could they tell me anything about it. None the less, it's a cool looking cave in a beautiful setting. Plus the incredibly rickety scaffolding that goes up the side of the cliff is an adventure all in of itself. So, even though i have been unable to find out anything about it, and despite the fact it's hardly spectacular, the cave at Qazqapan was a pleasant surprise.
Getting to Qazqapan/Chemi Razen can be a bit tough for the average traveller. There is absolutely no public transport and there is little to no transport at all except for summer weekends. The only way there is to hire a private car. Just north of the tiny village of Surdash, there's a sign (in English) pointing the way.
It's nice to be surprised. While Chemi Razen was exactly what i expected it to be, stumbling upon an ancient cave (whatever it was for) was pleasant. but even without it, the drive along the beautiful valley with snowcap mountains in the distance might have been good enough.
You can read more by Joe here: http://www.joestrippin.blogspot.com/.
More by Joe ScarangellaIraq (Kurdistan Region)
Stumblin' over History
Fallin' in Northern Iraq
Charmed by Koya
Doublin' Up on Dohuk
Za-kho, Za-kho, Off to the Bridge I Go
Divine Lunchin' (Mar Mattai)
Shaqlawan Sugar Coatin'
Al Kosh, of Course!
A Day at the Museums (Erbil)
Parkin' it in Erbil
Suly the Sequel (Sulaymaniyah)
Duckin' into Dukan
Crackin' the Citadel (Erbil)
Takin' the High Road (Dohuk - Erbil)
Iraq's B-Side (Amedi)
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