(Thanks to grand daughter Sylvie for the illustration)
Rambling man is now attempting to hike the Lycian Way, a 20 year old route put together by Kate Clow from a wealth of ancient paths, tracks and drovers roads along the Turkish ” turquoise coast”. A 540 km trek from Fethiye southeast then northeast to near Antalya, it has 29 sections and takes 30 to 33 days. We have only 26 days available so will have to miss a bit.
I say “we” cos I’m joined by Ivor Bundle again. Sadly the planned trip by the Tres Amigos was scuppered when Mickey ( Man of the Mountain) Dawson buggered up his knee and was forced to stay home.
A wise decision as this trek is no place for dodgy knees being pretty rugged in hill walking terms. We’ve only been at it for 4 1/2 days so far and I believe the easier sections are supposed to be at the beginning but it’s been pretty hard going on steep and rocky paths with sections of loose stones and scree ,occasional landslides and rockfall interspersed with wider or flatter mule and tractor tracks. Nearly all off road and totally glorious. Still 30 degrees or more, with packs weighing 12-14kg loaded with food and water, we try to start early and hunt the shade for a breather when we can.
The days are about 12 hours long and full of de-camping, hiking, hiding from sun while lunching, hiking, camping, washing clothes, reading up route etc etc that little time or internet is left for blogging – so if you’re interested in more info on this wonderful route, check online- suffice to say it passes several holiday centres on the coast but mostly travels through small villages of farmers and goat herders and travels up and down between the high pastures and forests and the beaches and harbours of the med. A long long history of a succession of civilisations, cultures and peoples have all left their marks upon the landscape and the hiker will ramble through remains of the ages as they walk here.
We started the adventure at Kayakoy, and after our first Turkish coffee and Turkish delight headed up to explore the old Greek town of Levissi, abandoned after the massacre of Greeks in the Ottoman Emoire during Ww1. A subsequent treaty and population exchange ensured the towns inhabitants could not return.
From the top of the ruined town we had an 8 km walk, following our first red/ white trail markings through a tall forest of pines with occasional views of the Taurus mountains rising pale blue in the distance.
On the far side of the ridge we were a little confused at a junction of ways until a big and boisterous man and his companion showed us the way down to Ölüdeniz and Ovacık, where we had a room prebooked. Turned out he was a publican on the strip of gaudy bars , restaurants, shops and what have you in this most British of resorts. We had no idea that such a place existed here and it was an assault on the senses.
The kindly publican had us in for a drink and we set off to eventually find our hotel, which we sadly left at 7 next morning without time to indulge in the enticing facilities.
Before long we’d made it to the official start of a long journey, fingers and toes crossed.
Immediately we started to rise steeply with views of the beaches and harbour of Ölüdeniz and the capes and headlands beyond. We passed a number of fellow hikers rising from their tents as we climbed first on a wide track and then, a sign of things to come, a rough and stony path.
Access to water is pretty important on this route and I’d bought with me a little cup/ mini bucket and string with which to gather water from the old storage wells or cisterns that dotted the route so was interested to see if the first we passed contained the life juice. It did.
Blue skies, green trees and dried and yellowing scrub made for pretty landscape.
There was abandoned development here and there and lots and lots of bees hives. Later we discovered stalls selling pine honey- a new one to me.
Finally reaching a level section of high ground we took the opportunity to relax a moment and enjoy the one spring fountain we’d found that wasn’t busy with bees.
The first stage end is at Faralya,but after a tasty and hearty lunch at a pension run by a charming and friendly couple we had the strength to carry on to Kabak beach, passing our first Lycian tomb.
Ancient and twisted trees dotted our route that steeply returned to sea level where after a swim we found the Secret Garden campsite hidden away, maybe illegally , in the woods behind the beach. First day, two stages done.
First erection of Ivor’s tent successful and rested by an exhausted sleep we left early next morning to avail of the shade afforded by the towering mountains to the east of us we had now to scale.
Cyclamens and asphodels emerged everywhere from the forest floor as we reached the top and were rewarded with far reaching views.
Old grain terraces and olive groves mostly abandoned, the strong scents of herbs and pine needles in the heat and the deep red of the naked arbutus strawberry tree.
Here and there along the route are little stalls selling cay, (tea) and water, drinks etc. Sometimes manned sometimes with honesty box they usually have resting platforms and shade, lovely shade.
They have lovely little wood burners for heating the tea water and this one had a subterranean cooler.
At Alinca we were treated to more delicious food and Turkish hospitality at a pension / shop/ restaurant. Our hosts have always been very friendly and inquisitive, and the food wholesome, local and homegrown and made. Little gifts of fruit are often offered and the tea cup often refilled.
A grand design modern home sat below us with a view to die for. Location location.
We met a couple that we bumped into often over the next couple of days, the only walkers met on the trail since the first day. Maybe it’s still too hot!
Off again, at a junction we had to decide. One way to join our new friends at the ruins of Sidyma or another route south to the nearer village of Gey. We had run out of time- so headed for Gey. It takes a long time to cover any ground on this terrain and we’re afraid we’d run out of light.
So so hot we used the magnificent old water cistern to cool down. A big metal bucket on a rope thrown into the water and hoisted for a shower. The refreshment lasted moments.
A cross country slog and a final exhausted stretch up a section of road and we arrived in Gey to ask for food and shelter. Taken in by a household we couldn’t decide were in business or not, we pitched in their yard and they again did us proud with dinner , breakfast and shower. Only problem the overpopulation of cocks that crowed incessantly from 4am!
The lady of the house wove carpet and there were huge sacks of wild herbs dried in the shed. The neighbour drew water from the cistern in the morning as we headed away , making for a wild camping spot on the coast about 8 hours hike away.
Beautiful and ancient old olive and holm oak trees, many delicate stacks of stones to mark our way, and so many asphodels poking up from the dry ground from their huge bulbs.
Long abandoned threshing circles and constant vista down towards the coast.
Another village, Bel, another lovely couple and a chance to have tea, cake and shop for supplies. Loaded up with water ( 4 lt) and good we carried on into the heat with a lot of altitude to lose.
Passed the tiny and mostly abandoned village of Gavuragili we continued down towards the pebbly beach still being pounded by big waves, similar to our swim at Kabak beach. We found a nice place to pitch in the cliff top trees next to the campground where there had been a festival last year and still sported the signs and decor. We met our new friends Olga and Basil there and I spent the night star gazing without my fly sheet.
A short day today started at 6 before the burning orb rose into the clear sky with a wash etc at the village washing station before climbing a forest track up and over a ridge and down to views over the flat plain ahead. The 12 km beach of Patara backed by protected wetlands and behind that hundreds of plastic poly tunnels. We stopped for breakfast on the trail overlooking the ancient ruins of Pydnai before exploring the amazing stone work at ground level.
From there it was a short but tricky stretch down over rock and a landscape recently burnt to a very dodgy bridge over the river separating us from Patara Green Park camping, whose advertising signs have been regularly enticing us since we started.
A day to have a swim, do the washing , erect the tents etc and wrestle with the internet in an attempt to post a blog.
We also had to mask up when the governor came to call proceeds by a mass of police.