April — May, 2010
For me, the Lycian Way, so named because it traverses a region along southern Turkey’s Mediterranean Coast that was once ancient Lycia, was a rugged, 500-kilometer, trekking challenge that Britain’s Sunday Times rates as one of the world’s ten best walks.
Could I do it? Were my spirit and 67-year-old body up to this kind of an adventure? My only previous long-distance walk had been a week in Scotland, and that walk had been supported. Others had transported my luggage from one B & B to the next, and I always ate in fine restaurants and slept warmly between clean sheets. I also had the companionship of Kay and our American friends Mike and Judy.
The Lycian Way would be different. I would be alone and carrying everything I needed on my back. I had to be prepared to camp at those times when no other refuge could be found. I gave myself a month this past April to walk as far I could, and in fact I stopped after 24 days. During that time I covered 15 of the Lycian Way’s 28 routes or segments for a total of about 240 kilometers. I had some uncomfortable moments, but, on balance, it was a positive and memorable experience. What follows are some excerpts from the journal I kept while walking. They give a pretty good sense of what my days were like.
1st day. Ovacık to Faralya. 15 kilometers
2:30 pm: I’ve stopped to rest and eat a bit of bread and cheese. I’m not far from the village of Faralya, my day’s destination. I’m very tired – all over – but especially in the feet, which are burning. Hours of walking over sharp stones have taken its toll. The weather has been mostly cloudy and mercifully cool. The landscape, ever changing, is beautiful.
6:45 pm: My room at the Gül Pansiyon is freezing. Arrived 3:30 – showered, washed clothes, napped. Now I’m preparing to eat. This was a long, difficult day. I wish I’d had my hiking poles, especially on the last downhill stretch.
Dinner: brown trout, fries, tarhana soup, and salad. Good and filling.
2nd day. Faralya to Kabak Beach. 11 kilometers
9:30 am: Started half hour ago. Steep climb out of Faralya. Stopped to rest. Way above village still hear cocks crowing and putt-putt of scooters. Sunny, cool. Hope it lasts.
Met Sandra and Micha, a young German couple from Berlin – the first long-distance walkers I’ve met. We’re going in same direction but at different speeds. Meet at rest stops.
4 pm: Staying at a quasi-campground behind Kabak (Zucchini) Beach called Shanti Garden. Hasan, wild-eyed but young and energetic, is the proprietor. I have a canvas-covered A-frame with bed and bedding. There are separate toilets and showers. It’s like being at summer camp. Beautiful day, beautiful spot! My washed clothes are dry. Went to the beach, swam briefly and lay on the sand. Warmth felt very good on my sore leg muscles. View of the mountain background from the beach is stunning, sheer-sided, grey, streaked with light brown.
3rd day. Kabak Beach to Alınça. 11 kilometers
Easter Sunday. The climb today was a killer. I missed a turn and lost my way. Fortunately, I met two Israelis, Avner and Sharon. With them I backtracked a short way and found the trail. More climbing. Alınça village is perched at the top of the mountain separating Kabak Bay from Yedi Burun (Seven Noses).
I was done in by the time we found Bayram & Bircan’s house and their large family. Bayram has a few “bungalov” (what we would call cabins in the States) and will provide dinner and breakfast. Spent time talking to my Israeli acquaintances. Took a shower and washed my T-shirt. Going up the mountain today, I felt like a Sherpa.
4th day. Alınça to Boğaziçi and Sidyma. 11 kilometers
9:40 am: Leaving Alınça I walked with Avner and Sharon quite a distance on an asphalt road. No shade but easy walking. I didn’t mind a bit. We met some Germans walking from the other direction and discussed routes. A & S are bound for the village of Gey while I want to take the alternate route and camp near the Roman ruins of Sidyma. At the village of Boğaziçi we separated. Good guys! I found a tiny shop and bought a bar of soap, nuts, cheese, crackers, sausages and a candy bar. Then it was off the pavement and uphill. The countryside has been fantastic. Views of the sea and wide valley with pine trees and wild flowers. I saw some blue irises.
1:50 pm: I’m stopped at a grassy spot under a tree. It’s sunny, and there’s a cool breeze. Bushes around me look like oleanders, but with dry, brown flowers. Perhaps new buds haven’t formed yet.
3:25 pm: Arrived Sidyma. At the home of İnur and Ibrahim – elderly couple with a room for rent. I was planning to camp, but we’ll see.
Later: I’ve taken the room. This old couple is very poor. The house and grounds look messy and disorganized. Dinner came very early: bakla (broad beans with tomato sauce), spinach chopped, mixed with rice and topped with yogurt, salad, and bread).
5:30 pm: I’ve eaten dinner. There are things to see here, but I’m too tired to go look at them. Maybe tomorrow. As I came into the village, I passed the old Roman necropolis. Imposing sarcophagi still standing.
İnur is moving around, filling a watering can, and watering her plants. Growing things is a serious business. These people eat what they grow.
It’s different being out here in the deep country. There’s almost no motor traffic, yet the air is full of sound. Birds and the sounds of animals: cows, goats, chickens and roosters.
The village has been built on top of ancient Sidyma. İnur’s house stands right at the center, a small public square still called the Agora. There are bits of Lycian, Greek and Roman Sidyma everywhere: building blocks, wall fragments, sarcophagi. The villagers have incorporated these dressed stones in their walls and gardens. Very interesting. I’m glad I came this way.
5th day. Sidyma to Bel and Belceğiz. 11 kilometers
The walk from Sidyma to Bel, which means “pass” in Turkish, was uphill through a dry riverbed. Then on a dirt road and a stretch through a forest.
A çoban (shepherd) invited me for tea, and his wife wanted me to stay in their house. However, I was intent on camping further along near Belceğiz. The walk up to there was magnificent – gorgeous views of valley with snow-covered peaks in distance.
4:25 pm: Sun obscured by dark clouds. My camp – such as it is – is set up. I’ve had a visit from a shepherd from Bel in search of a lost goat. I offered him tea and he refilled my water bottle and offered me some cake his wife had made for him.
Early evening: I have company. Jaume, from Catalonia, and Gabi, his German girlfriend have arrived to make camp nearby. Jaume jokingly says he’s retired. Over tea, I learn that he’s a bricklayer with income from a rental property that allows him freedom from work. I cooked socuk (Turkish sausage) over a fire I made.
6th day. Belceğiz to Pydnai. 12 kilometers
I passed a rough night. The tarp I sleep under is not a tent and a cold wind gusted all night. I slept on and off until 6:30. As I was packing up one of the odd shepherd characters came by to watch. He led me to his dwelling and gave me water from his cistern.
I left without breakfast and made my longest and most precipitous descent yet. Treacherous! I arrived at the village of Gavuralığı where I had expected to find a pension. There was nothing except a few dilapidated houses and a trail overgrown with waist-high daisy-like flowers and weeds.
The only person I found in Gavuralığı was Ramazan, 78 years old and living alone. I rested on his terrace. He gave me an orange and an apple. Tried calling Kay. No service.
Walked over the mountains to Pydnai. Very steep and difficult. On this stretch I came across the carcass of a sheep that had been recently killed by a carnivore – a wolf or mountain lion perhaps. Its hindquarters had been eaten. Scary to think such an animal might be roaming around where I camp.
Bypassed the Pydnai ruins and on the beach I met Jaume and Gabi again. They had taken a shortcut.
5:40 pm: The three of us are waiting for a dolmuş to the town of Kınık where we hope to find a good pansiyon or hotel and get cleaned up. We’re exhausted.
Bad news! No pansiyon in Kınık. It’s not much of a place. We need to go on to Patara, but the last dolmuş has left. While we wait by a meat wagon, we eat delicious grilled köfte (meatball) sandwiches on thick bread. The cook is a nice guy interested in who we are.
It’s dark. Finally, arranged transport to Patara for 25 TL. Not a long drive. We find the Akay Pansiyon and the young owner takes us in immediately – 35 TL ($20) for room and breakfast. A hot shower has never felt so good. I drank a beer with Jauma and Gabi and went to sleep.
7th day. Patara – Letoon – Xanthos – Patara. 6 kilometers
8:30 am: I’m sitting in the dining area of Akay Pension. Today, I’ll take a break from the heavy walking. I want to visit the nearby ruins of Letoon and Xanthos.
Before leaving I went to a local barber for a shave. He gave me a good one, trimmed my nose hairs, massaged my head and arms, and perfumed them. I felt I was at a beauty parlor.
Hitched a ride to Kınık and caught a dolmuş to the Letoon turnoff, from where I walked to the ruins. Walked around the Letoon site followed by a group of kids, who were hoping I would give them money.
Letoon contains the remains of a Temple to Leto, a goddess loved and abandoned by Zeus. Wandering, she came to this spot where there was a natural spring. Some shepherds chased her away, and in revenge she changed them into frogs, perhaps the ancestors of the croakers I’m hearing today.
Up a hillside from the town of Kınık lies what remains of ancient Xanthos, once a Lycian capital. I studied a great stone obelisk covered with Lycian inscriptions. Although the language has a few characters familiar from the Greek alphabet, many others — in the shape of triangles and chevrons, for instance — are strange. Scholars believe Lycian was derived from the Hittite language.
Xanthos has a very long and remarkable history. The Lycians prized their independence above all else. Rather than surrender to the Persians in the 5th century BCE, they burned their women and children alive before fighting and dying to the last man. Centuries later, they repeated this scenario rather than surrender to Brutus and his Romans. The only invader they ever accepted was Alexander.
This is my rest day. I’ve walked only a few easy kilometers, but am still tired. Back at Akay Pansiyon, I’ve washed my clothes in the bathroom sink.
Note: I wasn’t carrying much in the way of clothing: 3 T-shirts, 3 pair of boxer shorts, 2 pair of pants, and 3 pair of socks. I’d had a 4th pair but somehow lost it early on.
8th day. Çavdır to İnpınar Spring – Üzümlü and Akbel. 17 kilometers
Day of pleasure and pain!
This has probably been my most difficult day so far. During the entire day I’ve met no other trekkers. Maybe they know something I didn’t. Starting from Çavdır the trail follows the course of an ancient Roman aqueduct, one that had once brought water to Xanthos.
At times I could see no trace of the ancient channel. Other times I was walking directly in it. There were points where it ran along a precipice with a sheer rock wall on the inside. These were scary moments. I also ran into many bushes that encroached on the trail.
At a certain point, the channel became alive with water rushing through it. I crossed a stone bridge built by the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago to carry the aqueduct. It still functions intact. I can’t imagine anything we build today lasting that long. The Romans built for the ages whereas we live in an age of impermanence.
I finally got to the headwaters of the spring that fed the aqueduct. Water still gushing forth. Here I stopped to eat some cheese and crackers.
So far, so good. Troubles began after the spring. At times I had difficulty finding the trail. In the clearings there weren’t any waymarks. I used my compass to follow what directions there were in the guide.
By climbing out of the valley that held one spring I finally came out on a tarmac road leading uphill to the village of Üzümlü (Grapeville). Instead of climbing the long hill, I hitched a ride in a trailer pulled by a farm tractor. It was a rough ride and thankfully not too long.
Üzümlü was a busy place where I should have ended my trek for the day. There was a central square with a café whose owner made me a delicious tavuk (chicken) pide, with salad and ayran (a drink of yogurt and water). There was a fruit and vegetable seller nearby who dropped off two bananas on my table. Momentarily refreshed, I moved on after buying some nuts and a candy bar at the local market.
The rest of the walk to the town of Akbel became frustrating and painful. First, I had to walk a kilometer up a steep village road, then up a stony path that brought me to a no-name village tea shop. The young owner brought me tea, and while drinking it I watched some local characters kibitzing around four men playing kumar, a game played with numbered tiles. These were real peasant types, rough and not modern looking at all. The scene made me think of something out of a 19th-century Russian novel.
After this I was very tired but had no choice but to walk the last 3 K to Akbel. Again, it was a descent into a valley and a climb out. There was a river to cross. Guidebook said to wade across, and I tried, having tossed my shoes and socks to the opposite bank. I slipped while trying to toss my backpack and the pack got wet.
On the far shore I couldn’t find the path uphill and was finally saved by an old shepherd who led me to one of the red-and-white paint slashes that mark the Way. Then I climbed and climbed up a hairpin goat trail.
It was getting late in the day, and I needed to get out the valley before sunset. Finally, I could see the village of Akbel in the distance. Then, just as I was near, I lost the trail again. I shouted in frustration, which brought a young country girl to my rescue. She led me to a wide path that took me up to the tarmac road to the village. She also showed me how to ward off menacing dogs by throwing stones at them.
At the edge of the village, which had no lodging, I waited by a fruit seller until a bus came to take me the short distance to the resort town of Kalkan with its hotels and restaurants.
A taxi driver took me from the bus station to the Çelik Pension. I was given a room at the top, one facing the town’s beautiful bay. I showered and slept almost immediately without any dinner. My feet ached all night. I took aspirin for the pain. Must have stayed in bed at least 10 hours.
(I’ll skip details about Kalkan except to say that I rested there and met a wonderful restaurateur named Ali Oztürk, who operates a tasty, seaside bistrot he calls Kaptan. Musically speaking, we are kindred souls. We both love jazz, blues and the songs of J.J. Cale. While I enjoyed some excellent sea bass, Ali put together a blues mix and presented it to me on CD. I hope to revisit Kaptan one day in Kay’s company. She would enjoy meeting him.)
10th day. Kalkan – Bezirgan. 12 kilometers
Bezirgan is a hugely spread-out village on a large plain ringed with mountains. To get here I climbed for several hours, first steeply over a ridge, then in switchbacks up the side of a larger mountain.
On the way up I met two Dutch men, strong and experienced trekkers, with whom I had some conversation. They had trekked for 3 months last year through Europe. The younger one was carrying a digital Canon SLR around his waist with extra lenses.
At Bezirgan the single pension was full. None of the locals whom I met offered me shelter. At the local teahouse, Dervish, the owner, was more helpful. It had begun to rain steadily, and he offered to let me set up my tarp on the next-door balcony of an old house.
The house, like most of the buildings in Bezirgan, is a yazlık (summer house). These are all empty at the moment since the owners don’t come up to escape the heat below till May and June.
It’s cold and wet here. If it weren’t for the kindness of Dervish, who has helped me set up my tarp and cooked my yufka cheese sandwich, I would feel bad about the lack of this town’s hospitality.
6:40 pm: I’ve taken a walk around the plain to find my outlet for the morning. It’s quite a distance. There was sun briefly and a gorgeous rainbow. Moments later a strong wind blew in so much fog that I couldn’t see the mountains I’d admired five minutes before.
11th day. Bezirgan – Sarıbelen – Route to Gökçeören. 10 kilometers
It was a long night; slept fitfully – 11 hours in the same position on hard wood. At one point I looked up at the sky and saw stars, so I knew it was clearing. My breakfast: instant soup, yufka, kaşar cheese and tea. I found a modern toilet near the tea shop, washed, cleaned my teeth, packed. Though I had to camp, at least there was running water and a toilet. Also, on the porch I didn’t get wet.
2:45 pm: I’m sitting in a beautiful spot, above Sarıbelen on the way to Gökçeören. Around me are interesting rock formations. There are old pine trees and a rocky clearing. I’ve made a fire and cooked socuk on a stick. Writing this while the coals burn out. Sunny with a breeze. I’m sleepy, tired from too much climbing.
6 pm: I’m camped in an isolated spot, a clearing between Sarıbelen and Gökçeören, my destination for tomorrow. I’ve rigged my sleeping tarp differently with one end on the ground and the other whose opening is quite low. There will be just room enough for me, but I’m hoping that it will be more wind-proof and warmer. I’ve built a fire ring and collected wood. I won’t eat much, maybe just my can of tuna. There is no water source here, so I must conserve what I have.
12th day. Campsite above Sarıbelen to Gökçeören. 12 kilometers
9:20 am: Sitting on a rock very high up on the opposite side of the valley where I was yesterday. I’m looking down at the deserted coasts of the Med and some of the islands. This is a very lonely spot. The sun is shining, and a heavy mist covers the sea so that visibility is limited. There are no ships to be seen.
I passed a rough night. My experimental tarp rig was a bust. It sagged and lots of condensation accumulated. My sleeping bag got wet.
As I was wending my way toward Gökçeören, I met Hüseyin Yilmaz and his wife coming as though on a picnic. I had seen Hüseyin’s crudely lettered signs along the trail, advertising food and lodging. I told him I was coming to stay with him and continued walking. Just as I was approaching the village, he met me again and led me to his home where I was surprised by the rudimentary way he lived. The promised hot shower turned out to be a bucket bath in the bathroom Yilmaz shared with his wife. I washed my cooking things at an outside tap. Yilmaz and his wife live with a set of grandparents.
She’s 80 and looks 100 and he’s 87 and still going strong to judge by the way he swings an axe. These old people don’t have more than three teeth left between them.
One of the first questions I always get from Turks, “How many children do you have?”
13th day. Gökçeören to a campsite below Phellos. 15 kilometers
10:30 am: I’m glad to have left Hüseyin’s place behind. It’s so poor, yet H. has the mentality of a businessman in it for the money. He brought me into his salon for dinner and tried to sell me cheap jewelry and hand-made scarves. I bought a plastic necklace to appease him.
We ate from a tray set on a cloth on the floor. No sign of a table. H made rice and beans and served them with yufka (unleavened bread), honey and salad. I ate my fill.
Hüseyin gave me a ride on his motorcycle (an old Jawa – Czech machine) to where my trail resumed a couple of kilometers outside the village. My first hour of walking wasn’t bad, and then I had a very long, steep climb out of the valley.
I thought I could camp at the ruins of Lycian Phellos, but there was nowhere to do it. The whole site at the top of a high ridge is terribly overgrown. Most of what is there by way of ruins are tombs. The west end had two beauties – rock-cut, house tombs that must have belonged to rich and important people. It was late, and I was tired. I thought about sleeping in one of the tombs, but I wouldn’t have been able to stretch out. Besides, the thought gave me the creeps.
Earlier in the day, at a point near a gushing spring I came upon a group of 18 British day hikers and their guide. We talked a bit.
At another moment, I met a shepherd out hunting with his gun and dog.
The final stretch of the walk up to the ruins was terribly overgrown. I was glad to put on my fleece to protect my arms.
Since there were no camping options by the ruins, and it was getting late, I moved quickly down the hill in the direction of the town of Kaş hoping to find a suitable camping spot lower down. I came to a field with trees between which I could hang my tarp. Problem was the ground was covered with stones. I cleared most of them and hung my tarp between the trees. It was getting dark by the time I was settled. I ate a tomato and some cheese and yufka. Didn’t even bother to make a fire. Too tired. Crawled into my bag and began what became a pretty uncomfortable night.
I don’t know the best way to rig that tarp. It really isn’t very effective. Tonight, the breeze ruffled it making noise. Here, the ground was slanted slightly causing me to slip downwards. I really hated it. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from this trip, it’s never to go camping without a proper tent.
14th day. Campsite to Kaş. 11kilometers
This was a fun and easy day until the final hour when I had to descend a steep trail from a very high cliff, 600 meters perhaps. During the descent I slipped and fell twice, the first I’ve fallen in two weeks.
Beforehand, I walked for several kilometers along a village road and then on a trail through open fields.
3 pm: Kaş – I’m dozing off on the sunny roof terrace where I sit. I’ve checked in to the Yusuf Pension, showered, changed, taken my dirties to the laundry, eaten a köfte sandwich, replaced my watch band, picked up a set of hiking poles shipped from Istanbul, and gotten a shave and head massage.
Kaş is a lovely tourist town in a splendid setting that I had admired from on high. There’s a bay, a small harbor, and a peninsula that stretches out several kilometers. There are islands, too.
The town is compact and everyone seems to know where everything is. There are restaurants and pansyions but not as costly as in Kalkan. Today, April 15, is the official opening of the tourist season. A group of four men – two drummers and two horn players – have been parading around the town center making a din.
I’m planning on tomorrow being a rest day. I really need it.
A while ago I spoke to Kay as I’ve done every day that I’ve had a signal. I really look forward to these calls.
6:45 pm: Today is the kick-off ceremony for Kaş’s annual tourist week celebration. It’s a big deal with many in the town participating. Marching bands, folk dancing in native costumes, speeches by various dignitaries, awards and a baked goods sale.
All of us stood while we honored the memory of Atatürk and the authorities played a recording of the Istıklal March. Tourism is the reason for this town’s existence and everyone seems to respect that fact.
Generally, the town couldn’t look better. Everything is clean and freshly painted. There is no trash and nothing seems neglected or out of order. It’s a very pleasant place.
I’ve just ordered a Margarita pizza and a beer and will go to bed early.
I have to say something about Yusuf and his pansiyon. He’s great. I asked for a towel; he brought it immediately. I asked for clothespins; he brought a handful. I asked if there were anywhere in town that sold canisters for my butane stove; he put me on the back of his scooter and drove me to the place, fast, no sweat. He’s a dream. I’ll recommend his place to anyone going to Kaş.
15th day. Kaş – Meis – Kaş. Casual walking.
This is a rest day. I’m taking a boat excursion to the Greek Island of Meis for a few hours.
It was wonderful to sleep in a comfortable bed. Still, I was stiff this morning. I went out shortly after 7 a.m. to hunt for breakfast. Too early! I drank tea at one place until another that served breakfast opened.
9:35 am: I’m sitting in the morning sun near the Altuğ I, the boat that will take me to Meis. Having eaten and walked a bit, I feel good; however from climbing the stairs at the pension, I feel that my legs are still weak. It’s another sunny, beautiful, blue-sky day.
I’ve been charged by Kay to find some gifts for our friends and relations and send them to Istanbul. She’s right that they may be cheaper here than in Istanbul.
6:20 pm: Sitting at a café table enjoying a beer. I’ve bought jewelry for our nieces and Lauren and sent it to Kay in Istanbul via Aras cargo. The pieces are nice – two coral necklaces and three sets of earrings with pendants – silver, coral and turquoise.
It’s been a nice day. I’ve taken my boat trip to the Greek Island of Meis, only 20 minutes from Kaş. A nice harbor and beautiful, colorfully painted houses. Very relaxing. I found my lunch of tiny red shrimps – a local delicacy, I’m told – and some kind of clam-like shellfish with bread and a small pitcher of white wine to be quite expensive: 24 Euros. I think the Euro has caused everything to become more costly here, as it has everywhere else in the Euro zone.
The best part of the day was meeting an interesting Swedish couple from Göttenberg. They have been sailing their boat, The Windjammer, for months among the Greek Islands and along the Turkish coast. We really hit it off and have traded contact information. It would really be nice to exchange homes with them for a while. Their names are Michael and Carin Schweizer.
I’ve bought some food items and a small bottle of JB Scotch for my ongoing trekking. This has been a good rest day and tomorrow I’ll do a short walk to Liman Ağızı and back.
16th day. Kaş – Liman Ağızı – Kaş. 8 K.
My plan today is to walk a short distance to Liman Ağızı (Harbor Mouth) and back to Kaş. From the seaside at Kaş I can see my destination across the bay.
8:25 am: I’m waiting for breakfast. I’ve already gone out and inspected two Lycian Rock-cut tombs in the hillside back of town. They must be 2500 years old. One still has most of its ornamented facade. Square with setbacks and on the top corners oblong protrusions. Very elegant! And the polished stone still looks good.
11:15: I’ve made it to Liman Ağızı in record time – about 1.5 hours. Of the two approaches to this isolated beach, the guide warned against the first, a very steep descent on a cliff face with a stretch along a very narrow ledge. It wasn’t to be tackled alone, in wet weather, or with a heavy pack. I hadn’t planned on approaching this way but somehow found myself doing it. Fortunately, on the very dangerous section, someone had anchored a safety line to the cliff face. This made a huge difference.
Workers are finishing construction of a wooden jetty. It looks very well built. Otherwise, there is a shaded restaurant terrace, beach umbrellas and chaise longues just waiting for crowds to show up.
I’ve just noticed a couple arriving by private boat. The regular service from Kaş hasn’t begun yet.
It was an interesting walk over, the first time I’ve used the hiking poles that Kay sent down to me. They really helped on the steep descent, taking pressure off my knees. I have no particular problem with my knees, but they are aging.
Suddenly a moment of drama. A little boy, son of people who maintain this place, just fell into the sea a few meters from where I’m sitting. I heard his mother rushing past me; looked up to see her jump into the water and rescue the boy. He seemed to be floating on his back. He came out smiling.
Bought a copy of the IHT today and read about the volcanic eruptions in Iceland that has caused airports all over Britain and northern Europe to close.
17th day. Kaş – Purple House. 8 kilometers
Leaving Kaş – this comfortable town, for what, I don’t know. I’m back at the Tadım restaurant, waiting for someone to get together some breakfast. It’s 7:30 am, very early to eat in this town.
My plan is to skip a section whose difficulty doesn’t seem to be justified by the views it provides. I’ll take a taxi to the village of Boağızcık and walk from there. There are ruins to be seen on the following long but not-too-difficult trail. My destination is the town of Üçağız (Three Mouths) where I expect to find a pansiyon.
Well, the day didn’t turn out as planned. The taxi to Boağızcık was fine and I began walking immediately. It wasn’t long, however, before the trail got confusing around Kale Tepesi, the site of the ancient city of Apollonia. I lost time trying to figure out which way to go. Along came two Australian brothers, Hugh and Guy, and together we made some progress. I skipped the visit up to the Acropolis to see the ruins because I knew I had a long way to go to reach Üçağız. My right foot was tender as though I had bruised it and was slowing me down.
The Australians passed me, and I walked along through scrub downhill on a stony path for a long way. It would take me all the way to sea level.
Along the way I passed a giant herd of goats, more than I had seen during my whole trip so far. At one point, while I rested by a cistern, six young goats milled around, watching me with curiosity. Surprisingly, there was no sign of adult goat supervision.
About 1 p.m. I took a longer break and called Kay. Just after I began walking again, I came upon the ruins of Aperlae, spreading down a hillside from a hilltop Acropolis to the sea. First, I passed a large, ancient cistern half-filled with stagnant water. It had once been vaulted and covered, but its roof had long since collapsed. Next, I saw parts of the town’s walls, then various tombs of the “saddle-backed” sarcophagus type. As I descended I saw stairs cut into the rock leading to the city walls. Aperlae may have been a garrison town or naval base. There are remains of a sunken jetty at the seaside.
It is by the seaside, also, that I’ve found a complex called the “Purple House.” It’s a campsite and pansiyon run by a young man named Rıza. There is a 200-year-old house that Rıza said was built by his great-grandfather. His grandfather lived in it for 65 years. Rıza and I talked and I’ve decided to stay the night here in his bungalov, a surprising creation with a porch, a double bed and an ensuite bathroom, with shower stall and modern toilet. It’s all very elegant and comfortable. I don’t mind paying the 50 TL Rıza is asking for it.
4:30 p.m.: What I’ve done since my arrival is drink a beer and go for a swim along the seaside in front of the ancient ruins. Rıza has placed some chaise longues on the shore and I’ve lain in the sun awhile. Just in front of me a half sunken saddle-backed sarcophagus.
I’ve showered and now I’m sitting on the porch of my bungalov writing these notes. I’ve tried to light my little gas stove, which has malfunctioned and burned itself up internally. I’m not too sad because the upside is I won’t have to carry its weight anymore, nor the gas canisters I bought in Kaş.
I think I’ll pour myself a scotch from the half-pint bottle I bought and read a bit.
6:20 pm: I’m sitting with Rıza’s father, a retired government clerk. We’re surrounded by chickens that want the kabak çekirdeği (dried zucchini seeds) we’re eating.
It’s so interesting poking around the grounds looking at the various outbuildings. Rıza says he loves winter here. Has no need of company. He is married, however, and his wife has recently given birth. She and the newborn are staying in Demre, a town not far away, where they have a house. At the moment, Rıza’s mother and father are staying here with him..
About 7 pm: New arrivals. First, Gavin, a young economist from Northern Ireland, who works in London.
Next came three Turks. Çidem is the woman’s name. She works with children in an Istanbul hospital as a psychologist.
We all ate dinner together: grilled çupra (sea bream), bulgur, salad, bread and beer. Afterward we sat around a lovely campfire on beanbag chairs. I crawled into my sleeping bag about 10 p.m. and slept very well. My accommodations cost a bit more but are worth every kuruş.
18th day. Purple House – Üçağız. 8 kilometers
It was a strenuous four-and-a-half-hour walk that brought me to the tourist town of Üçağız. The town, on an inlet, is built next to the ruins of another ancient Lycian city, Teimiussa. Across the water on the peninsula is an old fortress and under the water by its shore are the sunken ruins of Simena, another antique town. In the Lycian heyday, during the 4th and 5th centuries BCE, this region must have hummed with life. Today, the most prominent ruins are the tombs: freestanding, saddle-backed and house tombs cut into the rock face. Burial customs must have counted for a lot in that society.
I am surprised by how tired I feel from the morning walk. I was on the trail by 8:30 a.m. and didn’t arrive here until 1 p.m. The last leg, climbing over and around the rocks by the shore, was the most difficult for me.
I needed to do my laundry, however, the Kekova Pansiyon where I’m staying doesn’t have enough water to run its washing machine. The help gave me a couple of plastic basins and some detergent with which I washed my things in the bathroom. I couldn’t believe how dirty the water got. I also don’t think I got all the soap out with my inadequate rinsing methods.
In spite of its water shortage, the Kekova is a really nice place. My room is large and so is the bathroom, much larger than in most of the hotels Kay and I stay in.
I hadn’t planned on a mid-day meal, but hunger overtook me, and a short walk away I found a buffet restaurant and the two Australian brothers. Like most trekkers here, they’re skipping around and not walking the whole trail.
After my food and two orange Fantas, I explored the Teimiussa ruins at the east end of town. I’ll be walking that way tomorrow when I head for Çayağız (Mouth of the Spring).
Spoke with Kay but was too tired to remember all I wanted to say.
4:45 pm: The woman manager just brought me a nice cup of tea. The weather, so sunny and hot earlier, has turned cloudy and cool. I hope it doesn’t rain. My laundry is hanging on the line.
I had a further thought about yesterday’s Purple House. It seems remarkable to me that Rıza can run his operation without a running spring or a renewable source of water. Same for his lack of electricity. His solar panels and batteries are enough to run his refrigerator and the tiny lights that illuminated my bungalow after dark.
19th day. Üçağız – 8:25 a.m. – Çayağız. 15 kilometers
Finishing breakfast on the wide porch of the Kekova Pansiyon. In front of me lies the small bay with its jetty lined with excursion boats waiting for customers who may be delayed now because of the erupting volcano in Iceland that has shut so many northern European airports.
Just in front of where I sit, one the other side of the porch railing, are a lemon and an apricot tree, so near by that the women can reach out and pick the fruit without leaving the balcony.
The water is dead calm and the grey clouds that have gathered reflect bright silver near the shore. It’s very peaceful hereabouts. The loudest sounds are the roosters crowing.
I’m ready to walk. Rain is threatening. I hope it holds off.
10:45 am: I’ve been walking for a couple of hours on the way toward Çayağız. I’ve reached an inlet where there is a kind of café and maybe a pansiyon. No sign of human life. There is a large dog tied to post and lying on the café floor. He glanced at me and didn’t get up, a welcome change from the farm dogs earlier that wouldn’t stop barking at me as I crossed a long valley. I’m rested a bit and will resume my day’s trek.
1:20 pm: Stopped beneath the village of Kapaklı. Have eaten a lunch of two pieces of bread saved from breakfast with cheddar cheese and salami. Finished with several sandwich cookies.
The call to prayer has just sounded echoing through the valley. I’m not terribly far from the beach of Andriake, the ancient harbor of Myra; I hope I’ll have enough water to last. I’ll call Kay when I arrive.
7:50 pm: I made it to Çayağız thirsty with no water left. I walked into a large restaurant and immediately asked for water. I drank a small bottle quickly, then a second more slowly.
Çayağız is not inspiring. There is no lodging. Walking out and crossing a stream I met Sardar, who runs a beach bar and café. While I drank an Efes, he called people he knew to find me a bed for the night.
I’ve ended up the Hotel Murat on a highway somewhere. A young man named Tolga came and brought me here on the back of his motorbike. He’s a nice kid and a careful driver.
I’ve called Kay twice to relate my adventures.
The shabby Hotel Murat, on a busy highway, is a strange place. There are various men hanging around the lobby. The atmosphere is gloomy. My room has a bed and hot water in the bathroom. I’ve showered and sit on my balcony sipping Red Label Whiskey.
On the highway, there are lots of tractors pulling trailers loaded with tomato cases.
Across the highway are a couple of ugly concrete apartment buildings. One has the concrete pillars sticking up for an additional unfinished floor. Walkers along the highway are exclusively women and young girls. It’s a dismal scene, yet I like it. It makes me think of my hitchhiking youth – all alone on some no-name highway somewhere.
8:05 pm: I sit in the lobby of this depressing hotel waiting for a meal I ordered. I don’t know where it will come from. The kitchen in this place doesn’t seem to be operational. There is no sign of a woman around. If Murat is married, his wife lives elsewhere. What a strange place!
Today was brutal, especially the final hour. I’m very tired. Maybe I should give up this trek. The rocks and the scrub are getting too familiar.
An interesting note: At an inlet I passed today I ran into the Swedish couple, Michael and Carin. Their boat was moored there. They invited me aboard, but I passed, saying that I had too far to walk today. How true! This walk from Üçağız was supposed to take a bit more than six hours. It took me about 7.5, and left me exhausted.
Now, the question is, “Where will I go tomorrow?”
20th day. Hotel Murat – Myra/Demre – Olympos. 5 kilometers
7:40 am: I’m packed and ready to leave after breakfast. I’ve decided to go to Myra and find a nice pansiyon. There are famous ruins and tombs to explore there. It was one of the key cities in the Lycian League.
Dinner last night was unusual. The Hotel Murat has no kitchen or at least no cook. When I asked about food, a man listed several choices, and I went for the Saç Kavurma. I sat at a table writing in this journal when, after a while, someone came and covered the tablecloth with old newspapers. Moments later a delivery man appeared and set my dinner in front of me, a shallow steel dish with the meat and several pieces of pide bread. It was surprisingly tasty – meat bits cooked with onions and tomatoes. A plastic container held a not-very-fresh salad. My drink was a container of ayran. I guess I assumed that the cost of the meal would be added to my bill, but suddenly the delivery guy was at my side asking for 10 TL.
A peculiarity of my room is that the door to the corridor is not solid. It has a pebbled glass panel so that every time the automatic corridor light goes on, light comes into my room. This is a first!
10 am: Young Tolga drove me to Myra on his motorbike. The ancient theater here is large and complete except for the stage wall. The site at the foot of a 100-meter cliff is well organized. I paid 10 TL to enter the open-air museum.
There are many stones carved with faces. Ganymede and Medusa. Above and around the theatre there are more rock-cut tombs than I’ve ever seen. It’s very impressive. Below on the approach road is the usual group of stands selling tourist items. There is a very nice toilet, clean and well stocked. I’m pleased to have seen this place. Now, I’ll walk back toward Demre center and look for the famous St. Nicholas Church.
7:30 pm: I was lucky at Myra. I arrived early enough to have the ruins to myself except for one German couple. At St. Nicholas Church, also now a museum, I wasn’t so lucky. The place was swarming with Russian tour groups. Apparently, St. Nicholas is greatly revered in Russia.
Nicholas, aka Santa Claus, was a 4th-century bishop of Myra who had a reputation for kindness. Popular, especially with the northern Europeans, his legend grew into the jolly, gift-giving figure we know as Father Christmas. The irony is that the real Nicholas never saw snow, nor could he have imagined reindeer.
Sitting in a café after my church visit, I decided to leave the area quickly. Demre isn’t an attractive place to stay and reading about the next walking routes left me dissatisfied.
I was lucky to catch an eastbound bus leaving at noon. It took me to a stop on the highway 7 kilometers above the site of Olympos from where I caught a dolmuş to complete the trip.
Along the creek at Olympos I checked into the Sheriff Pansiyon, one of many. I have a tiny cabin with bed and bathroom.
I’ve spent the afternoon walking and exploring what remains of ancient Olympos, once one of the leading Lycian cities.
The ruins are spread out and overgrown. For instance, there is a wall of a Roman temple that includes an ornamented doorway. It is set amidst thick growth and recalls romantic images from old movies where explorers dressed in khaki discover lost cities in far-off jungles. There are the remains of churches, tombs and even a building ornamented with mosaics, all hidden in a forest of green overgrowth.
21st day. Olympos – Çıralı – Chrome Beach. 23 kilometers
This morning I walked a long way along a beach and beachfront to Çıralı, the start of the Lycian Way segment leading to the tourist town Tekirova. I thought it would be a village with a shop. Wrong! It’s just a small collection of houses. I had to walk another kilometer to find a little market at an otopark and some breakfast. This otopark is the place from where hikers go up to the Chimera, the eternal flame. I thought of the day that Kay and I made the climb several years ago.
Çıralı was supposed to be only 3 K from Olympos valley, but it was the longest 3 K I’ve ever walked. Now, I have to walk back to the trailhead. I’ll buy some supplies here, especially water. There seems to be no water source between here and Tekirova.
Noon: I’ve made a good start on the path to Tekirova. A man and a woman from Istanbul gave me a ride from the otopark back to the trailhead. He’s a retired general manager of Arçelik, the large Turkish appliance company. The trail began climbing immediately. Soon I had a lovely view back at Olympos beach and the plain behind.
Now, I’m sitting on another high point. The terrain is very different from where I last walked. The rock, a dark red instead of grey, looks like granite. It’s not as sharply contoured. There are pine trees again, and the air smells sweet. A breeze is wafting off the sea. Here the water is deep blue except close to the rocky shore where it is turquoise. It’s a lovely day. I’m carrying extra water since I won’t find any on the route. Don’t know where I’ll camp tonight.
2:50 pm: I’m sitting with Mustafa, a fish farm manager, outside his shack on Maden Beach. He’s not married and feels very lonely in this isolated place. To pass the time he’s teaching himself English. He’s memorized 600 words and says when he knows 1,000, he’ll be able to speak our language. He doesn’t have a very clear idea of how the words go together; nevertheless, he’s doing well, especially for a man who has had only five years of formal schooling. It’s very restful here, but I must push on.
After Maden Beach I walked a long way further, up and over a high ridge on an old mine road, seriously washed out in places. This kind of walking should continue until I get to the outskirts of Tekirova tomorrow morning.
Along this road there was nowhere to camp until I reached Chrome Beach after 6 p.m. I was pretty tired by that time. I didn’t bother trying to rig my tarp, just laid it down as a ground cloth and slept under the stars. I didn’t sleep well, however, even though I had the entire beach to myself or so I thought.
For dinner I made a small cooking fire, sliced an onion, fried it in butter and added bulgur and water and let it cook. Not a gourmet meal but satisfying. I had bread and for dessert, a snack cake I had bought this morning. By 8 p.m. I was in my bag and listening to the frogs and birds, and looking up at the darkening sky. All night long I had the sound of waves lapping the shore in my ears.
About midnight I heard voices. Two people were walking on the beach out of my sight. I had no idea where they came from since I thought the only approach was by walking a trail that no one would use after dark. It wasn’t until morning that I learned there is also an old mining road giving access to the beach. Why anyone would come to walk on that beach at that late hour remains a mystery, especially since the road, by which I left the beach, was long and badly degenerated.
22nd day. Chrome Beach – Tekirova. 7 kilometers
On the beach the sun comes up fast, and it was good to feel its warmth. It was a long night, and I think I was awake for much of it. The way to camp in these parts at this time of year is with a tent. If I were traveling with another person, carrying a tent would be possible.
My walk to the outskirts of Tekirova lasted 1.5 hours, but there was more climbing on a forest road with its sharp, pointed stones.
I finally hit the main highway into town and have stopped in a garden restaurant to eat the most elaborate breakfast I’ve had all month.
It’s a lovely day — Children’s Day — a national holiday in Turkey. A girls’ marching band, complete with a color guard and a drum major, marches by, followed by the rest of the school with little children in various costumes.
I’ll be moving on momentarily. Can’t wait to find a pansiyon with a shower.
As I walked along the main drag, I passed many different kinds of shops selling souvenirs, clothing, etc. There are also several markets. Finally, I saw a laundry and gave my dirties to the women who work there. They told me about the Pension Martı where I went and waited for an hour for someone to show up. I was tired, and it felt good to sit in the sun.
Finally, Menderes, the proprietor, showed up and gave me a room with three beds. It had no curtain on the windows, but I didn’t care. If someone wanted to watch me undress, they were welcome to the show. Pension Martı has a neglected appearance. I can’t tell if this is the result of a lack of money or lack of will. The property looks poor and uncared for. Menderes is a former fisherman. He introduces himself but not his wife, who is sitting with him.
I napped in the afternoon after a walk along the main street to scope out the restaurants. I ate a pide in a place called Dallas. It wasn’t very good.
In the evening I sat with Menderes and sipped whiskey from my metal cup. Six or eight men that looked like laborers were getting a grill ready to cook chicken. The problem was that the pan holding the fire had no bottom vents to create a draft. The men took turns furiously waving a board to get the fire started. After they had cooked themselves a heap of chicken, Menderes took his turn and cooked chicken stuffed with cheese for the two of us. It tasted good along with big helpings of salad. I slept well, better than I have in a while.
23rd day. Tekirova – Phaselis – Tekirova. 8 kilometers
The morning began with my mistakenly locking my room key in the room. As I had no idea where Menderes lived, I had to wait half an hour for him to show up. He gave me a ring of about 20 keys, and I tried them all twice with no luck. Finally, Menderes cut the screen off the one window that was open so that I could crawl through. I felt bad about the incident.
After a quick breakfast, I took a light pack and set off to visit the ruins of Phaselis, which should have been only an hour away by foot. Somehow though, after passing Sundance Camp, I took a wrong turn and went the long way around. It was 11 a.m. by the time I arrived at the ruins.
There were many visitors today. It’s a popular place with tour groups. From its location it’s easy to see why it was an important city in ancient times. Its peninsula setting is magnificent. It had three ports connected by a broad main street. Along this street are the remains of agoras and baths. There is also the ruin of the aqueduct that brought water to the town. Above the main street in a hillside is a well-preserved theatre that would hold 1,500 people. There is even part of the stage wall remaining.
In the southwestern port, several party boats had gathered. Holidaymakers were laughing and swimming. The surrounding mountains provided a majestic background. I took photos and drank some fresh-squeezed orange juice.
Going back to the Sundance Camp was much quicker. I only had to climb up then down a steep path over the ridge that separates Phaselis Beach with the one by the Sundance Camp.
1:40 pm: I’m sitting at a restaurant table at Sundance Camp. This is a laid-back spot that has bungalows and a good restaurant. It’s remote and not overrun with tourists of the kind seen at Phaselis.
A short while ago, as I sat here, an East German woman named Anita joined me. She had been looking for an adventure holiday when she came upon a guide to the Lycian Way. It’s her first time in Turkey and she loves it. The friendliness of the Turks impresses her. She says in Germany, the people are not so. She loves the weather as well. She has a tent and has been camping. She started walking in Kaş towards Antalya. We shared some common experiences.
The Sundance Camp is a special place. I would gladly bring Kay there for two or three days. It is wonderfully relaxing. There is a beach, a good restaurant, and horses to ride. The people I see here seem like those we would be comfortable around.
My long walk on the Lycian Way is finished. It’s been a unique and positive experience. I’ve tested myself and seen that even at the age of 67 I can still do a lot.
I’ve learned that April is the right month to do this trek and that if I want to camp, I need a tent. The other item I would definitely include is a pair of work gloves to wear when gathering firewood, etc.
The hiking poles are a good idea. They’ve saved my knees on the descent and helped going uphill as well. I got a good upper body workout from them. They’re indispensable for crossing streams on logs and slippery stones.
6:30 p.m.: I’m sitting in the common area of the Pension Martı, sipping whiskey and waiting for dinner. M’s family, including a daughter and granddaughter, are here, and fish is promised for the meal.
The Pension Martı has two interesting animals. A large German shepherd is magnificent, but spends most of his time tethered near his doghouse. The other is young cat, jet black with huge greenish eyes. It makes me think of the TV cat called Midnight on the Buster Brown show, one of early television’s offerings that I watched as a kid. Midnight had only one thing to say, “nice,” the word dubbed in.
It was here in Tekirova, with my walk to Phaselis and back, that I ended my trek. I could have walked further, but I was getting tired. I also felt satisfied with what I had done and was ready to go home. I caught a bus and rode the last 50 kilometers to Antalya where I stayed a couple days to relax visit the city’s wonderful archeological museum, one of Turkey’s finest. I also treated myself to a full-body massage. Heaven.
I don’t know if I’ll ever do another long walk, but if I do I’ll feel more prepared that I had before I did this one.