The Lycian Way

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 5

4 days of hiking since our sojourn in lovely Ucagiz and the surrounding turquoise waters holding the ghosts of a once mighty civilisation.

It’s been 4 days of up and down. In terms of geography, terrain, health, emotion and decision making.

First up Ivor gets a work call that makes him anxious to get home and organises a flight for the 11th- ten days early. So we need to plan where we can be to get him a bus back etc.

We had already decided to leave out the upcoming 3 day (3 long days climbing to 1800m) section over the mountains as there are no food, water or accommodation options and the amount of water we’ve been drinking made it too much to carry. Way to much. So we were going to do the popular choice of getting a bus from Demre to Kumluca and a quick spin in a Dolmus to Mavikent to start the trail again. Taking out that chunk made it much easier for me to finish the Lycian Way in time.

But first we had to get to Demre.

Setting off as usual in the gloaming, down a concrete block road that seemed to radiate immense heat, past the boatyards, a cemetery ( a reliable source of water, like the mosques, as the Muslim faith seems to be keen on clean), and a stretch of plastic greenhouses and goat pens.

The track alternated between smooth red soil cleared of stones to the more usual jumble of ankle twisting rocks.

We knew there was supposed to be an isolated cafe/ bar/ camping at an inlet along the coast and we were hoping for breakfast but it was still early when we got there and the only person around was still sleeping it off.

A funny set up the place seemed to be closed but this kayaker was staying in a tent and making himself at home at the inn. He talked about a customer who was camping and made us a cup of tea. I saw my first kingfisher.

The indented coastline and offshore islands made for very sheltered anchorages and we past some with many yachts floating between blue and blue.

Turning inland we crossed a stretch of thankfully level ground before climbing up to the tops of the cliffs and past more greenhouses around the hamlet of Kapakli.

It’s been shocking to witness the amount of plastic going into the environment here. So many plastic water bottles and the hanks of plastic cord that the greenhouse crops grow up are all dumped- to slowly slowly become part of worm, earth, plant,fish et all. All but the rocks I guess.

Descending again to the coast on more rocky ground we stopped for a swim at beautiful Cakil and continued on a sometimes tricky scramble to eventually get to a footbridge across the river Sura and the big wide beach at Andriake where I couldn’t resist another cool down and we organised a cab to the bus station in town.

Arriving at Mavikent around 5 we only had time to walk down the seafront strip alongside the beach to where the rag taggle collection of homes on stilts ran out and we could find somewhere to pitch our tents.

We had a few km of road walking in the morning to get us to Karaöz from where we would do a big loop down the peninsular to Gelidonya lighthouse on a long, strenuous and exposed route. The scenery was spectacular. Towering mountains and tree covered cliffs above a tranquil transparent sea. We stopped, or were stopped, on arriving at Karaöz by an insistent proprietor of a cafe where we had breakfast.

Out past more greenhouses and fully loaded with water we headed off, past Pirate Bay, long a hang out of the bad men , and on past numerous campsites, some more inviting than others. I had to stop at a beautiful fruit/ flower garden for some freshly squeezed before the long hot climb up and up to the lighthouse.

By this time I was over hot and dizzy again so had some electrolytes and cooled myself in water from the wasp and hornet surrounded cistern. We rested up in the shade but were too harassed by insects to camp there as planned. One of them got lost in my belly rolls and stung me! Talking to a hiker who’d arrived from the other way and looking at his app there seemed to be camping options further on so we saddled up again and carried on. After a while a group came down towards us led by a lively and boisterous fella we’d met on the trail a couple of weeks ago. Turned out he was a guide and he gave us the heads up on a spot at the high point pass to camp. Some of his group, those struggling at the back, were suffering visibly while he loudly and happily sweated on his way. Speaking of sweat I produce a drop from the end of my nose every couple of seconds and my shorts look suspiciously like I have embarrassed myself after a very short time of exertion in the heat.

Next day was another tough hot one when I had to stop once or twice feeling a bit faint. Something was up and I wasn’t sure if it was heatstroke. But we made it up and over another mountain, past more ruins to the cooling and reviving sea at Adrasan, where the gulet day cruise boats anchored up on the beach and parascenders swooped in to land. We bobbed about in the ocean, found a camp and frequented the stall of the lady selling frozen organic fruit juices.

So after discussions with my medical support team it seemed a possibility that my blood pressure meds were too strong for my current exercising, undereating body causing whitey like symptoms, and to try a day without them. Much much better.

But in the meantime I had wondered if it was a good idea for me to continue solo – not in great shape. It’s wild out there and if you fall ill on your own……

Anyway the next days hike, which was another pretty tough sea level to 800m and back through scree, rock , scrub and thick and fallen forest felt ok. No dizzy fits.

We left Adrasan along the beach and then the river, where pensions and restaurants had their tables placed over the water like the river at Seti Fatma in Morocco’s High Atlas where I hiked last year.

As we climbed we past a goatherd and his jumping bucking bell tinkling herd. Also a squashed scorpion. I’ve been disappointed not to have seen a live one, or a snake, or a tortoise. Actually I did see a little tortoise in the first few minutes of our trek- but it was similarly squashed.

Amazing views from the top of the pass as we looked out at some big mountains including Tahtali Davi/ Mount Olympos the 2366m giant I was hoping to cross the back of. So , what goes up must come down, though why sometimes they can’t go round alludes me. It was a long descent clambering over and under many fallen trees but the surrounding scenery got more and more spectacular. At a pass there was a building and a grain threshing floor. Extraordinary to think of growing grain right up there.

And then we were looking down at Olympos. The site of the ruins and the modern village of glam ping, camping, boutique hotels, eco resorts and restaurants. A very steep path slid us down to a badly needed Fanta and a decision was formed. Health and safety considered it was not wise to continue solo. I could rest on a sunny beach and bob about in the cooling waters for a week. I could check in to a nice hotel and hang by the pool sipping cold beer. But why would I when I could return to an Ireland entering winter and self isolate in a tiny wooden cabin for two weeks quarantine.

And having lost one of the Three Amigos before we started, better that the remaining two return together.

So we ambled through the ancient ruins of Olympos and swam in the sea again before moving on a little to Cirali where we eat and I wrestled with the Ryanair “change your flight” section before giving up in despair and moving to the “buy another flight sucker” section.

So a final day of sea and sun awaits and also a trip to the ” burning rocks” of Chimaera this evening. Tomorrow we’ll have to get to main road bus route and start the long return.

I’ll post a report of the flaming rocks and overall Lycian Way thoughts in a couple of days.

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.

THE LYCIAN WAY 2.

So 4 days trekking since last post and I’m hiding from the sun in a tiny wooden A frame at the foot of the 900m mountain we now have to climb. An emerging camp site being put together by a young guy from Macedonia. All off grid, a dozen or so little “bungalows” set in an olive grove that the Way winds through. It’s called the Olive Garden Camp if you’re ever over this way. It’s just after the busy, mostly British, resort town of Kalkan which we got through as quick as possible. Picked up a new cap for me as some bush grabbed the last from my pack this morning, and supplies and cash for Ivor, and got the hell out of Dodge. We’re hoping that a dawn start from here will have us up the mountain before the sun boils our blood.

We’ve seen a lot of outstanding ruins since Pydnai, the first of which were at the World Heritage site of Xanthos.

We’d taken a dolmus bus from Patara Green Park to avoid 5km of road through plastic greenhouses and wandered around the 2500yr old city after walking through the covered market below, which could have supplied some wonderful and cheap gardening tools. Too heavy to carry another 400km!

There were many signs illustrating the wonderful monuments that had been ” smuggled”, ” abducted” and ” removed to ” the British Museum by Charles Fellows who ” discovered”!! Xanthos in 1840. Ahh the arrogance of the robbing Empire.

More ancient wonders were literally on route later when we hiked on from Cavdir to Uzumlu and found ourselves walking an amazing aqueduct which, two millennia ago, carried water from the hills all the way to Xanthos.

Further on we discovered (that’s the Empire spirit talking!) a section that was still working, carrying a gushing flow of deliciously cool water down towards the sea of greenhouses past a delightfully chilled “kosk”or sitting platform.

From there we had to walk upstream through thick jungly vegetation passed a waterfall- not what we’d expected in this dry landscape.

Then on through shady forest but up and up through shady forest which meant by the time we literally staggered to the posh villa we’d lucked on for the night the cool pool was pure heaven.

Deborah and Ramazan treated us right royal and sent us off stuffed with a ” full turkish” in the morning to pass a wealth of fruit on route until we were past the villas and out in the scrub again.

At Amber we passed a jolly man squashing grapes and doing a fine impression of a drunken grape squasher. His wife gave us a drink of his foot juice. Lovely.

Next up Akbel provided us with a seamstress(?) for fixing Ivor’s chest strap on his pack. No money accepted.

We should have put money into the local organic veg suppliers but can’t take the weight.

Soon we were on a very inhospitable section. Not the people but the vegetation. Very sharp, very prickly, very dry, very overgrown.

We had been warned to wear long shirts/trousers but “it’s too darned hot”.

More antiquities in the middle of it all in the form of a 2000 year old Roman water engineering marvel of Delikkemer. The sealed siphonic pipes ran atop a 500m long wall, 1.6m wide and up to 12m high. Each of the 1000 pipe blocks weighs 800kg and the wall blocks are massive. The mind boggled.

On through the dried grasses of autumn to take shade and lunch at a water source we shared with a community of frogs and I think it’s where Ivor saw a tortoise in the bushes.

Whenever we are heading to a sea level stage end the route planners seem to delight in sending us up first. And so it was. On route to the village of Gelemiş we had to climb, getting temporally lost but finding more beehives.

A busy town with multiple sleeping options we chose to camp behind Medusa bar. A funky operation with showers and beer.

The red/ white markers led us astray first thing and we had to retrace our path back through the town. There is quite often a difference of opinion between map, markings and apps. Some markings have been painted by wily pension owners to lead you to their business. Allegedly.

But we made it down the road to the ancient city of Patara. Now inland from the 12km beach it used to be a harbour city and has seen a succession of people’s and cultures. And most importantly was the birthplace, in the 6th century, of one St Nicholas, AKA Father Christmas, although how he could handle the heat in that red outfit is beyond me.

What impressed me the most was the harbour bath house, a huge edifies that once housed a gym, sauna , solarium etc etc with cool, warm and hot rooms and swimming pool and underfloor heating and massive hot water storage tanks. 2000 years ago. Hats off to the Romans.

Culturally sated we went to the beach where many turtles lay their eggs. I saw a multitude of little scuffling tracks and little holes so I guess it’s laying time, not hatching time.

From there we had to traverse the peninsular to the south and back around to Delikkemer and then a “dangerous” and scary keg on to Kalkan. We thought we’d best break the stage and leave the scary stuff for a day so after a hot hike up and over Eren T mountain/ hill we descended to a lush and isolated beach to cool in the now placid waters.

Onward down the track passed other tiny bays people had claimed as their chill zones we made it to the water fountains and popular picnic/ swimming spot for local Turks. Exhausted and needing to be near drinkable water we decided to stay.

In the morning the twinkling lights of Kalkan drew us on from the camp. Back to the aqueduct then down a pretty crazy path up and down jagged rocks with 100m falls to the sea if you made a tiny error. Slow going but eventually we emerged into the opulent villa land on outskirts of Kalkan. From there a sweaty slog into town and a dolmus a few km down the highway from where we clambered through the olive groves to our tiny A frames.

4 more days and we’ll be back at the sea. Until then I’m hoping for some cool mountain air.

Oh yeah, Ivor got mobbed by wild boar in his tent last night. Didn’t sleep a wink.