Monday, 22 July 2013

The Lycian Way - Turkey

A Culture Adventure in the south west corner of Turkey
The Lycian Way – 509km (One of the world’s best known long-distance footpaths)
24th Feb to 9th March 2012
We travelled some 1,435kms by bus/walking over 14 enjoyable days across the Teke Peninsula, which is the bump on Turkey’s south coast between the cities of Fethiye and Antalya.  There was a total party of 17 people including our guides (3) and wonderful bus driver and we all had a great time.  The trek was so well organised by Ramblers Worldwide Holidays.
There are not so many places left where magic reigns without interruption – this is one of them, through a wonderful natural and historic treasure house.  We walked on old mule tracks, through cedar forests, gorges, farmland always with unique coastal and mountain scenery.  Lycia is the historical name for the Teke Peninsula, the country of light, on Turkey’s Mediterranean Coast.  Aside from the weather (this part of Turkey reputedly gets 300 days of sunshine each year) the major attraction is the idyllic coastal scenery.  The Lycians’ place in history has been largely forgotten, but this society was democratic and wealthy before being conquered by Rome.
Landing at Antalya having flown 4hrs from Manchester we stayed the first night in the Aspen Hotel in the Old part of this interesting and fast growing city.  It was then next day (Sat 25th) a bus journey across country reaching a high point of 1,600m with snow on the mountain tops and all around us.  At 1pm we reached the lovely blue lagoon at Oludeniz and after a short picnic on the beach we were on our first walk in glorious sunshine across a hillside bound for the abandoned former Greek village of Karmilassos.  Views all around were just wonderful as were the azure waters below.  We had seen one eagle and we heard a cuckoo.  By 5.30pm we finished our walk and sightseeing for the day and we arrived at the Harman Hotel in Fethiye, to be our base for 4 nights.  This was a comfortable hotel with good food and service.
At 10am on Sunday morning (26th Feb) we were at the start point of The Lycian Way (“TLW”) and followed a coastal path reaching some 900m at the highest point.  We completed our walk in the village of Faralya at 4pm and then our bus took us back along a cliff top road looking down to Oludeniz Bay.  Our ascent for the day was 495m.
Monday (27th) was a wet morning after a severe thunder storm during the night so armed with waterproofs we were taken to the village of Yakabag to commence our walk.  Again it was uphill through a forest reaching a ridge where we stopped to look at a tomb.  It was then onto the ancient city of Pinara where we walked round the ruins and Lycian tombs carved in the steep rock face cliffs.
There are four types of tombs:
  • Pillar – placed on a stepped base or directly on rock are the oldest
  • House – are carved directly out of solid rock
  • Free-standing temple – these have a temple façade with two or more columns and a portico from which a door leads to a grave chamber.  The dead were laid on benches in this room
  • Sarophagi – which normally consisted of four parts, a stepped base, a lower grave chamber, a coffin and lid.
We walked back to the village of Minare where we were served a most enjoyable lunch in a local home – a very enjoyable occasion.  That evening at 7pm we ate out at the Saray Restaurant in Fethiye.

Tuesday at 10am saw us looking down into Butterfly Valley from the Village of Faralya.  After all the rain the day before it was deemed too dangerous to make the steep descent into the valley so we had to be content with taking photographs of this very scenic valley and the colourful ocean beyond.  It was now through the small village (Faralya) and an uphill walk to the snowline where we were looking up to two large snow covered mountains on our left with massive cliffs.  We stopped for lunch by a stream and then it was a gradual down hill walk passing isolated small holdings and the village of Uzunyurt.  Here we stopped in a small café for drinks.  A very steep descent took us down to the pebble beach at Yuva. 
Over our three days of walking we had seen the foraging activities of wild boar by the paths we had walked on and here on the beach was a dead wild boar washed up by the tide.  They are very shy creatures and mainly come out at night so despite a constant watch out for them it was with great regret that this was the only one we saw.  We did see tortoises of various sizes and one snake but alas no turtles.   
We were back to our bus by 3.15pm and on our way back to the hotel we visited the tombs in Fethiye.
Next morning we had to pack our kit bags as we were moving on to the town of Kas.  On route we stopped at the remote village of Bel and walked through high level farmland and woodland tracks at around 900m.  At this high level it was cold (ice could be seen on the small pools on the tracks we passed over) with a stiff wind but the sun was out all day with good clear visibility.  We passed a couple of herds of sheep and goats being moved up to high pastures from the valleys below.  We stopped for lunch at 1pm and enjoyed this in lovely sunshine.
We were aware that we had to make a steep descent (600m) to the village of Gavuragili and this proved a very demanding affair.  This was a steep traverse through boulders and scree with some scrub and small trees.  For some this proved a very difficult descent but all made it and at 3.30pm we had reached sea level – the ordeal for the day was over!  It was then a drive to Kas and our central located hotel – Otel Kekova at 5pm.
I was out shopping at 7.30am on a sunny morning on Thursday 1st March.  At 10.15am we were on the TLW once again bound for the 1st Century siphonic aqueduct at Delikkemer.  We had initial difficulty in finding the path and we were in dense scrub for half an hour or so until we came across the small track which wound its way around the side of hills looking down onto fertile flat valleys and towering snow covered mountains in the distance.  This section of the TLW could do with being cut back before the path completely closes in.  Along the way we saw many colourful flowers, plants and shrubs.  We saw one bird of prey which I thought was a young eagle but others thought it was a kite!  It was then a short drive at 3.15pm to the ancient city of Patara with its silted harbour and we walked around the ruins before walking on to see the wonderful isolated beach.  Just a wonderful location which we all enjoyed.
We were back at our hotel for 6pm, just in time to have a shower and change before dinner was served in the restaurant at 7.30pm.  It proved a very cold evening and for me I was so glad I took my warm duck down jacket with me – a constant light companion!
Friday 2nd March (Day 8) was a free day and most took the opportunity to discover this lovely small town of Kas.  One couple decided to do another section of the TLW while I walked a short distance to Limani beach and back again before enjoying some beers in a harbour side café.  Here I wrote some 10 postcards and got these posted.  In the evening we all went out to a harbour restaurant for drinks and an enjoyable dinner.  Some went on to have drinks in a bar/snooker club where we found the locals all very friendly.
Saturday 3rd March saw us begin a hard walking day from just below the ancient city of Phellos (which we later passed through) and reaching a height of 1,050m on the ridge.  It was a steep descent (500m) into the Hacioglan Valley.  In the valley we had to cross a fast flowing river which proved to be ever such good fun but absolute terror for some.  Our lead guide Tuna played a pivotal role in helping trekkers get across boulders in the river to the other side.  It was then an uphill walk on a broad but wet forest road to join our bus to take us back to Kas.  We had walked 9.2miles.
After an enjoyable shower it was up to the roof top restaurant where our chef and staff had prepared a BBQ on the large open fire.  Memories are still very vivid of the lovely food we enjoyed on the trip and this was certainly one of them:
·       Lentil soup with slices of lemon to squeeze
·       Chicken, lamb and fresh vegetables
·       A choice of wonderful delicate sweet dishes
·       EPS Premier lager beer or wine if you preferred
·       Coffee or apple tea normally was the final enjoyment.
Sunday 4th March (Day 10) we were on the move once again to undertake a new section of the TLW.  In the course of our transfer to Adrasan and to the El Dorado Hotel we stopped in the village of Ucagiz at 10am and walked to the village of Simena, both stunning fishing villages.  At Simena we visited an ancient castle with wonderful views across the landlocked harbour.  After seeing round the castle we went on a boat trip to Kerkova Island on a glass bottomed boat and looked down on the Simena sunken ancient city.  Due to the tide level we were unable to land on the island (I did not understand why?) so we had a BBQ on the boat in lovely sunshine.  Views all around us were fantastic.  Landing back in Ucagiz in the early afternoon the harbour was very busy with day trippers taking boat rides out into the bay.  We reached 900m in the bus before once again descending to sea level at our hotel at 6pm with light rapidly fading.
Our hotel had just opened after the closed winter period and had an efficient wood burning stove by the small bar and restaurant.  Service and food was also good but the showers were poor and sometimes the water was not too hot.  Another negative was the constant noise from frogs (all through the night) I think enjoying sex!  I was jealous!
In the morning we saw the lovely beach and Mt Olympos (Tahtali Dag 2,366m) towering in its white covered top and ridges in the background.  What a lovely location.
Normal morning procedure after breakfast was to call at a local supermarket to get food and water for your day’s walk and today Monday 5th March we stopped in the village of Adrasan and had the choice of two small shops to make our purchases.  On average I was paying TL3/5 for my picnic lunch.  Today it was a bus ride to the village of Karaoz on a lovely sunny morning.  At 10.30am we left the village crossing a stream onto a lovely beach and then up a road through a forest where butterflies of all colours floated about in all their beauty, attracted by the abundance of wild flowers at the edges of the tracks we walked over.  We then followed an up hill track bound for the Gelidonia Lighthouse where our walk ended and we had a picnic lunch looking out to sea and to three small islands.
On the way back we took a slight diversion and visited Pirates’ Cove, just a lovely location were we did see shoals of small surface fish.  Pirates were once the blight of the ancient Med and the Lycian coast became known as Pirate Coast.  At 4pm we were back in the village and we stopped at a café to enjoy well earned drinks.  This had been such a beautiful and enjoyable section of the TLW.  A walk of around 16km and ascent/descent of 290m.
It was down for pre dinner beers at 6pm and a good chat as became normal practice.  All trekkers very much looked forward to their evening meal.  Alas the weather took a turn for the worse and it was heavy rain during the night.  I think the chorus of the frogs gained in strength and it certainly did not stop the early morning cockerels trying hard to make the loudest noise.
Looking out next morning it was still raining and low dense cloud was all around.  Alas Mt Olympos could not even be seen; thank goodness we did take photographs the day before.  At 10.30am we were at the start of our walk in the Village of Ulupinar and it was going to be a long walk all the way to Cirali (with a river crossing!!) and then visit the ruins of the ancient city of Olympos.  Just outside Ulupinar we came to our first river crossing and with this being in full spate it was decided by our Leaders not to cross so it was back to the village and a surprise coffee stop.  We went on the bus to Cirali by which time the rain had thankfully stopped and we were on a good stepped path up to the ruined temple of Hephaistos, the Greek god of fire.  Here we were fascinated by the ever burning flames (The Chimaera or Perpetual Flames) coming out of small cracks/holes all along the sloping rock face, about the size of a small football pitch.
We then walked back to Cirali, along by the edge of the long beach and eventually onto the beach itself.  Here we found the river very fast flowing and it was a case of removing ones’ boots and socks, rolling up or taking off trousers and wading across (knee deep) in the cold water.  This proved to be a great laugh and no casualties.  One of our party (who shall remain nameless) decided to “walk on water”, where the river entered the sea and while getting quickly and safely across, alas he got somewhat wet boots, socks and feet!
It was fascinating walking round the well sign posted ruins of the former city of Olympos – lots of lovely photographs were taken.  By 5.30pm we were back at our hotel and tonight we were to eat at a trout farm at the village of Ulupinar with a special recipe for the trout and an ice-cream dish.  Both were just wonderful.  Back in the hotel I had a nightcap but this did not prevent me from hearing the frogs once again! 
Wed 7th – (Day 13) saw us leave at 9am with a long bus journey ahead of us as we are bound for the NW saddle of Mt Olympos which was to be one of our longest and highest level walks at 1,800m.  Our start point was Yayla Kuzdere.  Going through the gorge with fast snow melt water flowing and up steep inclines our bus developed an unknown problem with a warning light showing red and not having the same amount of power in the engine as normal.  At a village a few miles from Yayla Kuzdere we stopped for a morning break in the sunshine with Mt Olympos towering behind us, sometimes visible and other times hidden by the cloud at high level.  There was a lot of snow up there and we were aware that the road to the village we were in had only recently been cleared of snow.  A decision was taken not to go further and to take the bus back to the town of Kemer to have the bus problem investigated.  We had an hour’s break looking around Kemer which was a nice town and at 2pm we commenced our alternative walk on the TLW.  Luck was not with us today as a few yards along the track we ran into a number of bee keepers who were working with their hives and the bees were buzzing everywhere.  We ended up having to wear protective clothing and were taken 5 at a time through the two long lines of bee hives.  We all saw the funny side of the situation and had a great laugh and of course the occasion became a great photo opportunity with a number of us dancing in these ghostly uniforms.  Honey is an important local crop.
Once past the bee hives we were on a good uphill track in the foothills of Mt Olympos.  We passed two herds of goats which were eating by the roadside and away in the distance we could see the outline of the city of Antalya.  Soon we could see Mt Olympos with its snow clad top.  A cable car from the coast takes you to the top of the mountain and we could clearly see the station mounted on top of the mountain.  On our way back we came through orange groves with lovely smells. 
We were back at our bus at 5pm and back to our hotel at 6.30pm in the darkness.  Sea Bream was our main dish with fresh local vegetables – ever so enjoyable.  By 10.30pm I was tucked up in bed.
Thursday 8th March saw us move on for one night back to our original hotel in Antalya.  We were all packed up and away at 9.30am on a lovely sunny morning and on route we were stopping at the historic city of Phaselis, again on a coastal site with three beaches.  We walked around the site for an hour or so leaving at 12.30pm.  Once again we stopped in Kemer for lunch in some of the town’s cafes.  Malcolm (our English Leader) and I had beers and coffee in a small café and reflected on what had been such an enjoyable trek.  All parties had gelled over the fourteen days – what laughs, sights, river crossings and wonderful food.
By 3pm we were back in the beautiful and interesting city of Antalya and then it was a stroll around the Old Town before dinner in our hotel.  I went to discover a couple of hamams as I could not be in Turkey without having a Turkish bath.  One turned out to be 700 years old, the other 800 years old, so I would make a decision next morning as to which one I was to go to.
We held our final daily get-together/briefing in the hotel at 7.10pm.  It was an opportunity to have a few laughs, say a few speeches and say thank you to our three guides and our wonderful bus driver, Recep, and to hand over thank you cards and the money collections we had organised.  A number of us went out for drinks after dinner to savour the night ambience of this old city.
Roger and I were walking round the old harbour before breakfast and after breakfast I was away for my Turkish bath at 10am; others were going to museums and doing last minute shopping.  Once again it was a lovely sunny and warm morning.
What an enjoyable experience the Turkish bath turned out to be.   There is a famous saying – “If heaven exists, I hope it’s a hamam.”  Here you pay a burly, near-naked stranger to scrape, knead and pummel your quivering flesh (my request for a lady to do this was turned down!) but after nearly two hours, apple tea and fruit, you emerge feeling so clean it borders on the virginal!
We had to vacate our rooms for noon and our final bus journey took us to the airport at 1.30pm.  At the airport we said all our goodbyes; some were bound for London others were going to Manchester.  Our route back took 4.35 hours as prevailing winds were against us.  We were flying at 32/34,000 feet and passed over Istanbul, Vienna, and Brussels and to the Thames Estuary and then up to Manchester.
I would recommend Turkey as an enjoyable holiday destination and having so enjoyed my first interesting visit I am keen to visit the city of Istanbul.  Jill, Elaine and Alptug (who lives there) spoke so highly about the city.  The advice given to me was to stay in the Old Town on the European side by Galata Bridge.
Thank you to the entire Group and many others I met along the way on this enjoyable holiday.  Ramblers Worldwide Holidays gave trekkers a well thought out route with experienced guides, good hotels, food and service all provided at a very competitive price.  So enjoyable.
June 2013
In Country Walking (February 2012) an article – “25 walks of a lifetime” places the LW in 3rd place. 

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