This leg is 157 miles long, so it will take me about 3 weeks to cover it. I will spend the first two weeks walking along Lake Van at about 5500 feet. In the third week I will part ways with the lake and climb to 7600 feet, the highest point in the trip, before descending the final 8 miles to the Turkey/Iran border.
I will probably be walking this section in late March or early April, meaning I will have been on the road about 8 months. Temperatures will be around 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, 32 at night (10 to 0 degrees Celsius).I’ll start by leaving the city of Tatvan, on Lake Van’s western shore, and walking to Van, a city on the eastern shore.
Lake Van is a big lake. The main body is 60 miles across in one direction, 30 in another, plus there’s a 30-mile-long arm that juts off from the lake’s main body. It’ll take me a couple weeks just to walk from one end of the lake to the other. I’ll only be walking along its actual shoreline about 1/3 of that time. Most of those two weeks will be spent walking through hills about 5 miles inland.
There isn’t really an easy way around the lake. One route, the southern route, the one I plan to walk, is pretty mountainous. It’s difficult and expensive to build and maintain roads in that area. The northern shore’s route is flatter, but it’s longer (about 145 miles compared to the southern route’s 95). A train ferry shuttles automobiles and trains the 60 miles across the lake, but of course my goal is to walk, not take boats.
This area is prone to earthquakes. In October 2011 there was a quake that registered 7.2 on the Richter scale. Hit hardest was Ercis, a city of 80,000 people on the lake’s northeastern shore, about 35 miles north of Van.
The city of Van has a population of about 368,000 people and an elevation of 5600 feet. The city is mostly Kurdish. It’s near a bunch of borders, and over the years it’s passed from one set of hands to another. At one point it was Armenian, then it was Persian, then it was Armenian again, then it was Byzantine, and now it’s Turkish. Even Alexander the Great had it for a while.
From Van I have about 63 miles left to the end of the walk at the Kapikoy border crossing. It’ll take me about a week to cover that distance. During that week I will hit the trip’s highest elevation, about 7600 feet, before descending the last 8 miles to the border.
The border crossing at Kapikoy is one of three land crossings on the Turkey/Iran border. It is the newest of the three, having opened in 2011.
When I mention I will be at the Turkey/Iran border, some Americans bring up the American hikers who were arrested in Iran a couple years back. They worry that I might get arrested, too.
Those hikers got arrested crossing the border illegally while wandering through the mountains. Lots of people, including Americans, travel to Iran every single day and don’t get arrested.
I do not plan to celebrate the completion of my trip by crossing the border. I also do not plan to celebrate by wandering off to hike through unmarked, mountainous territory. After I touch the fence at the border crossing I plan to hop a bus back to Van and hoist a celebratory beer. Cheers!