Likya Yolu

THE LYCIAN WAY 6 : POSTSCRIPT.

3 weeks since arriving in Turkey we are back at Dalaman airport after a pretty smooth run yesterday from Cirali. It had proved impossible to get info on the net about buses either via Antalya or back over the coastal route we had hiked. Local knowledge also left us similarly confused with varied, conflicting or non existent opinions on the way to do it. In the end we kind of left it to the gods and they served us well. A small minibus dolmus up to the main road met a bigger one that took us to Kalkan that met another one that took us to Feithye that met another that took us to Dalaman where we waited 5 mins for a cab to the airport hotel. Literally walked from one bus to the next. It still took us 7 hours though. Mind you not bad considering it had taken 3 weeks to hike.

When planning the trip I definitely overestimated the ground we would be covering a day. Not realising the difficulty of the terrain I had estimated 25 days hiking at 22 km a day to complete the 540 km that I believed was the length. Wrong on many fronts. The actual length ( without variations) seemed to be 440km. And we could only average 16km a day. And we only walked 18 days.

So we covered about 290km. If we had continued for the planned extra 10 days at that average we could have made it but the route is supposed to get tougher for the end stages.

We ended in the most beautiful of places. Olympus and Cirali are set in , literally, awesome surroundings and maybe because of the Olympus National Park are pretty low key resorts with no high rise hotels or even buildings over 2 story that i can think of.

So it was lovely to spend a day on the vast stretch of beach, relaxing. Gazing at the majestic mountains and floating in the cooling sea. Lovely to enjoy the sun rather than try to hide from it. Lovely to walk around without breaking a sweat from the load on our backs. Chilling.

That’s not to say that the hike was not enjoyable. It definitely was. But a little too demanding at times to be classified as fun.

But of course effort brings rewards and the views from the high points justified the struggle in getting there and the relief of submersion in those beguiling turquoise waters made the sweaty clambering beforehand well worthwhile.

The Turkish people were invariably really friendly and hospitable and we only came upon a couple who seemed keen to grasp every lira the Likya Yolu could provide. The food was good and nourishing although it could be hard to find much of a lunch or dinner in the village stores. We had a wide range of accommodation, mostly wild camping, which you can do virtually anywhere, but also camping in yards and gardens and campsites, a few pensions and a hotel at beginning , middle and end. Oh and the room in Dorothy and Ramazan’s villa with a pool. All of it was good value. The falling value of the Turkish Lira was good for us but I felt for the many who relied on the income of the vanished European tourists, who stayed at home due to Covid concerns.

There were precious few fellow thru hikers on the trail, we met mostly people out for the day or a short section. It was early in the season though so perhaps more will come. It would have been better to hike when the weather had cooled but we were constrained by the last Ryanair flight home. Apparently it’s been the hottest Sept/Oct for nearly 40 years.

The route is varied and although we didn’t make it up into the high high mountains we enjoyed a lot of different landscapes. But if your someone who likes to stride out uninterrupted , “smashing it” as they say, and clocking up the km this is not the route to take. 2km an hour was not unusual and some clambering, scrambling sections were painfully slow.

The archeological remnants of millennia old civilisations were astonishing to witness, scattered liberally along our entire journey, and gave us pause for thoughts about the rise and fall of empires. Where were we on the pendulum at the moment, and would our structures last so long after our demise?

On our last evening we got a spin up to the phenomena of Chimeria. The natural gas seeping through the rocks from the bowels of the earth has been alight and flickering since before the days of the Lycians. From the car park it was a km of steep rocky steps up towards the ridge above the town. Our final hike.

A strange scene- like a stage set or a ritual celebration or the mass awaiting of something unknowable to occur.

Some people cooked marshmallows.

We bumped into Igor again, one of the first hikers we had met, sharing a camp weeks before and crossing paths again days later. Bonded by the Way.

The darkness fell and the atmosphere rose, as more people arrived and the rituals continued we made our way back to our lift.

Final dawn and I had to greet the sun from within the sea. All calm and peaceful, with a first light turning Olympus mountain pink and groups of yoga folk decorating the beach.

After a day on the buses a last swim in the airport hotel, under a deep blue sky and the planes that have bought us home.

So now, when and where next?

THE LYCIAN WAY 4

So 2 weeks of Lycian Way hiking under our boots and the packs should feel like an extension of ourselves – a humpback your completely accustomed to – they don’t.

2 weeks in our bodies should be ” track fit”. Lean, mean walking machines – agile and balanced – striding strongly up or down without thought or effort – they’re not.

Well mine anyway, I won’t speak for Ivor. I think the main problem is the pack weight. And the rough, rocky and steep terrain. And the heat.

In fact the heat did for me a couple of days ago and I suffered a bit of the wobblies. I’d been feeling it coming on for a day or so and knew the signs of heat stroke/ exhaustion so been soaking my head in cold water and drinking lots of water and dioralytes and trying to stay out of it- but not easy when you’re hiking the Likya Yolu in September apparently. So my medical support team advised a day off. And today we had a good one. And yesterday was also pretty chilled. And the day before started with a boat ride.

Kate Clow the pioneer designer of the trail says in her seminal guide book of the route from Kas ” You could walk to Liman Agazi, the sheltered bay opposite Kas, or you could take the boat” Then she writes about the route scrambling down cliff faces and advises not to hike it with large packs. We didn’t need advising twice. So down to the colourful harbour where we secured our places in a little boat for a couple of euro.

The day before the bay had been very choppy after a few days of winds but now luckily it was pretty calm. The isolated beach the little ferry was taking us to was on a roadless peninsular and beyond the few comfortable restaurants and boutique hotels was a world of wild.

As soon as we reached the first opportunity for a cooling swim we were in- so hard to leave.

But leave we must- because there was promise of a cafe at Fakdere beach another hour or so along the trail. Fakdere was the site of the excavation of a nearly complete Bronze Age shipwreck which contained amphorae filled with resin, ingots of copper and tin, blue glass, ostrich eggs, ivory, Ebony, bronze cups, amber and glass beads and a lot of gold jewellery. All lost at sea 1400 BC. The buildings used by the excavators had been converted to cafe and accommodation.

Except it was all closed down. After more full body immersion cold water treatment we continued on , first up a steep gravel tractor track the back down through the rock , rubble and prickly scrub. After another enforced shade break where an illegal development had been bulldozed we managed to make it to a flat sandy area at the end of a road below Sisla Mevki. It always seems strange and somehow insulting to struggle to a place that others casually motor to. We were welcomed by some motor bikers who supplied cold water and a comfy chair while I gathered my remaining wits. That was it for the day.

The young ones had a bit of a party, the full moon shone unshielded through my flysheet free tent and I lay, like a rabbit in the headlights, feeling cold and shivery in my clothes in my down sleeping bag.

Up at daybreak to gain km in the cool, we set off for Bogazcik an agricultural village that also housed Ali’s Pansiyon where we stopped for a late breakfast , served by the cheerful matriarch as she wound her tomato strings and met up with a young hiker we’d seen at Fakdere. As we were heading off a German girl arrived who was covering serious ground. A hardcore hiker she had started the Lycian Way direct from the Kungsleden (?) the Swedish long distance trial I’d discovered when in Abisko in the far north. A serious trek. She’d had to give up after about 400km cos of two weeks strong wind. Carrying a 20 kilo pack!Made my inner moaning about the 12kg on my back seem a bit whingey. Better toughen up.

Off into the wilderness again fortified by a fine breakfast, bottles of cold water and talk of heroic hikes, we went up past but not too the ruins of Apollonia way up top of a hill too high.

Then on over the red earth through a strange limestone landscape past more ruins of tombs and buildings and twisting and turning down down again to the magical inlet at Aperlae where there are are many remains from 500 bc underwater. There were a couple of major earthquakes in this region that caused an inundation and evacuation.

And we found our rest place for the rest of the day evening and night at The Purple House, rumoured you be closed but thankfully never so. An old house owned by Riza, converted in the honourable bodging, upcycling, recycling , reducing and reusing tradition. Originally his great grandads 220 years ago, long abandoned with the ancient city alongside it was rediscovered by Riza after 8 years as barman in a techno club in Antalya. Talk about a change of seen! Totally out there – way off grid.

With the still huge moon hanging in a night sky miles from any light pollution and a group of women singers serenading is from an offshore yacht it was a special place to stay. Riza organised his friend to pick us up from the other end of the narrow isthmus early next morning and boat us to Ucagiz, saving us a lot of rock scrambling. He even transported our packs by the only transport out there.

A magical ride over calm waters in the early morning light past yachts at anchor in the island sheltered sea. One was a super mega yacht owed by a Canadian multi billionaire. Nearly 100 m long- $200,000,000 worth. I liked our vessel as much.

Ucagiz was a flower filled harbour town doing a lot of business with boat trips and cruises of all kinds and the Pension that Riza had sent us to, where we camped in the garden, got the brother to take us on a trip around the antiquities.

Amazing sights, amazing beauty, sunken cities. We stopped for a swim at the end of Kekova island and swam ashore to see more ruins. Riches in the debris of time.

Back in town we continued the day off with a stroll to tombs and a swim. And now to dinner. Hopefully fit for another long trek tomorrow.