Lycian Way, Turkey. Ovacik to Faralya.
Adding full one and a half litre water bottles to each side of my pack makes everything very real. Three kilos extra loaded onto my knees added just like that.
New spectacular horizons await whilst gravity stalks each and every pace.
Gently, oh Gravity
Lighten just a while
Your mighty hand
For to you victory has been long forsworn
First you shall pull me flat
Then pull me six feet under the sand
Universal omnipresence your’s
Can afford a small victory mine
Grant me then the summit of this
Grey pockmarked granite battlefield inclined
Lessen the load of me
Let jellied legs stake their little victory
Lost in new horizons a sweaty king sways
To the clamour of his heart’s thunderous applause
The Lycian Way (Likya Yolu in Turkish) is a 500km way-marked collection of old paths along part of the coast of ancient Lycia stretching from Ovacik to Antalya in Turkey.
Renowned for its steep, mountainous, rough trails and gorgeous scenery the Lycian Way strings itself between local villages and towns.
A winding tour throughout time itself, many famous ruins and remains of cultures built one atop the other are encountered on the trail.
Altitudes range from sea level to 1800m above.
‘Cinch it’ says Pam laughingly as I struggle to tighten my waist strap in the hotel room where we have stayed overnight in Ovacik to enable an early morning start. I have gotten soft since the Camino, too much beer and good times.
‘Tis time to pay the piper.
Pam reluctantly strikes a pose under the arched Likya Yolu commencement sign as a car empties four occupants who set about hitching up their packs. Strangers make her shy.
We take our first step on the ‘official’ Lycian Way, then another and another. We are away.
A smooth wide gravel road makes our start easy going, ‘let’s hope for more of this’ I think to myself.
The day is glorious, ridiculously blue skies overhead blend with the smooth Mediterranean Sea making an indistinct seaward horizon to our right. Grey cliffs and green conifer forests reach for the azure above our heads to the left.
Climbing the white gravel road round the side of a coastal mountain grants us opportunity to take many photos of the beach at Olu Deniz and reflections of hillsides beyond glancing off the mirror of the bay.
Our peaceful wandering meditation is abruptly brought to an end by a large white goatherd’s dog greeting us fangs bared and barking as we approach the roadside flock. With no alternative other than pressing on I spend a few nasty moments with the snarling hound a couple of meters from my heels, Pacerpoles at the ready in attack mode.
The moment we pass what he considers the boundary of the flock he falls silent and turns back, we stride on relieved.
‘Onwards and ever upwards’ I rasp with sweat dripping from every pore.
Walk long enough and every road shall end, our smooth gravel highway also obeys this simple law.
Following the red and white markers of the Lycian we begin to climb for real.
Our slow gasping uphill progress finds us easily overtaken by a young American man. He graciously slows and chats with us. He has been walking for five months, all the way from Iran. A geography teacher back home, he has hornswaggled his employer into paying for his journey of ‘cultural studies’.
Pam and I are enormously impressed by this friendly young man who goes by the name of ‘Cricket’. He is wild camping (camping in the wild with no facilities) as he wanders the world, only occasionally staying in pensions to wash himself and his clothes.
We are no match for his youthful vigour and bid him farewell as he lopes off up the rocky path ahead wearing only sandals on his feet.
‘I don’t like to wash socks’ he replies laughing over his shoulder in answer to my questions as to his footwear.
His leg strength must surely match his namesake for he has bounded out of sight around the corner ahead in no time leaving Pam and I plodding in his wake.
Despite the early stage of our trek by now the gradient and rough surface of the track at least match the worst stretches of the Camino and there is no end in sight.
‘Think of it as a challenge’ is the wisdom imparted by my darling wife.
‘Think of it as rushing towards an early demise’ I mutter to myself as we strip off our packs to enable our progress through a roughly constructed wooden gate blocking our way up the rocky cliffside track.
Reaching a cistern we use the bucket to pour cool water over our heads and take our first rest for the day.
Back in Wales when we took a trip to buy our tent and other camping gear I bought a lightweight folding camping chair at a cost of two pounds with Pam’s mockery ringing around my ears.
‘You are an idiot for thinking of carrying that stupid thing with you’ she encourages me, ‘it will collapse and I will have to extract the poles from your nether region the first time you even sit on it’.
Yet here we are taking our first rest and who insists on making first use of the much maligned chair, her majesty of course.
I am left with the rocky ground as a mattress whilst paragliders soar the azure heights above.
‘Onwards and ever upwards’ the trail winds on, rough, narrow, cliffside.
We are overtaken by the four people who were alighting from the taxi as we set off earlier in the day. A younger married couple are walking the first few days of the Lycian with the woman’s parents who are in their seventies.
We stand politely to the side and let them pass, later we catch up with them in a flat shady hillside oasis of another water cistern and introduce each other.
All four are from the southern Netherlands. The younger couple Hans and Nancy are both fluent English speakers, Nancy’s parents smile and nod politely.
A local woman comes to look at the spectacle and sits quietly to one side.
An older German guy catches up with all of us as we cool off in the shade and greets me ‘your pack is too heavy’.
I think it is poor form to state the bleedin’ obvious to someone who’s circumstance is completely unknown to oneself so I enjoy a wry smile when the local woman goes off in rapid Turkish at this gentleman as he begins to light a cigarette.
Hans gives her a boiled egg which he had saved from his breakfast as we set off. The local lady seems pleased with the offering.
The path narrows to a 30cm track around a cliff face.
Finally we crest the first ridge and begin to walk slightly down towards what looks like a village ahead.
As we approach the obviously abandoned buildings I ask Pam my usual question as to her wellbeing ‘doing all right, getting good grades’?
She replies ‘I’m on the bell curve’ which prompts my response ‘everyone’s on the bell curve’.
‘I know that’ she says grinning ‘its all a matter of which side of the curve you are on’.
Ahh, I realise my darling has made a statistician joke. I have never been prouder.
None of the modern buildings have been completed, we have encountered a financial crisis ghost town. Spectacular views of the valley and Holiday Village beach below are offered from the concrete foundations of a cliffside mansion of intent.
Hans, Nancy and parents catch up with us again here and rest in the shade of one of the partially completed dwellings. Looks like we will be playing Wacky Races on the Lycian as well as the Camino.
Steep, rough, gravel lined, ankle turning paths take us down from the ghost town to the little village Kozagac which occupies a little green valley nestled under the grey towering peak of Baba Dagi (Father Mountain).
Part way down we stop for a rest under the shade of one of the conifers. Pam has helped herself to the little folding tripod chair. Putting my hand down as I go to lie on some grass I realise that the ground feels sticky and get up again quickly as sap from the tree limbs above drips into my hair.
Under these trees are great places to fulfill ambitions of becoming an amber coated fossil.
Whilst staying in the idyllic Montenegro Motel we met a lovely trio Pam, Deep and Pam’s father who walked this first section of the Lycian a few days previously. Pam’s father had fallen and twisted his ankle on the descent into Kozagac so we are careful to try and avoid this fate as we make our way gingerly down the last steep loose gravel section of the path and rejoin a gravel road.
A mountainside spring with a stainless steel pipe coursing water into a concrete tub offers a great place to sit, splash water over my hot head, face and neck. Ahhhhh that’s better.
Despite having no shade the side of the concrete tub offers a great place to sit, we peel an orange each and are passed by our new Netherlands friends once more.
They seem nonplussed by us refilling our water bottles from the spring. We have already decided to camp tonight and see no alternative other than dehydration.
Kozagac lies in a flat green hollow surrounded by the towering precipitous slopes of Baba Dagi. It is like a grey stone giant has reached down and scooped up a handful of fertile soil in the palm of one hand.
Rocky scree slides down from the fingers above.
Following the gravel road around Kozagac we begin to ascend once again around the base of the ‘thumb’ of our giants hand. Spectacular views greet us fore and aft, climbing seems easy in the midst of such grandeur.
Look up, look up, look up. Lift your sight from gravel roads and dusty toes to the green and azure glory of your surrounds.
All our senses are involved as we climb, sights of the heights above and below, fresh air carries blossom scent wafting, sunshine radiant plying light’s pressure, nerve ends in feet and knees jangling, cool spring water freshens tongue and clears the head at the once.
Baba Dagi is humming to us, ever deep humming as we stride.
Cresting the next ridge takes us past hive after hive of busy bees. Pam quails at the sight and the realization of what is causing the background noise that has passed hitherto unnoticed (I had thought it was my industrial tinnitus playing up).
Being allergic to all six legged flying nasties bites and stings seeing our first row of hives lights a fire under her feet and she rockets ahead. There is little she can do to escape, the whole region is famed for it’s quality honey production.
Far in the distance I can see Butterfly Valley and the Montenegro Motel as we descend towards the little village Kirme.
Catching our Dutch friends once more resting in the shade of a conveniently placed shelter at the junction of dusty roads we elect to join them and rest again.
Our new friend Pam (Pam (2)) had told us of a little green flat area near the spring waters of the valley below and we tell our Dutch friends of our intent to camp there rather than make it to Faralya.
They wish us well and set off down the steep narrow rocky path leading downhill from Kirme.
We are finding out that the Lycian Way will always chose to follow a steep rough goat track rather than a nearby road. A local village woman points us in the right direction and we slowly wind our way down the trail.
Sections are so steep and covered in round slippery gravel here that Pam is finding it difficult to maintain her footing. She sends me and the security of my Pacerpoles on ahead just in front of her where I can provide a balance point for the worst parts.
‘If I go we both go’ she says cheerfully. ‘Til death do us part’ I grin back.
A green valley oasis awaits us at the bottom of this descent just as Pam (2) had described it. To the right of the path is a lovely flat section, goats have chewed the grass so low here it is like a well kept lawn. A better camping spot would be hard to find.
We have found our home for the night.
Sure footed four hoofed goats patrol everywhere in this little valley, their baaa’s echo as kids cry out for their mothers. I envy their limber grace as they clamber and jump from rock to rock.
Stripping off the packs and taking of our boots provides glorious relief. I hang my sweat soaked clothes on the nearby net wire fence and change into shorts, sandals and a fresh T-Shirt.
I am alive.
There are still at least a couple of hours of sunlight left in the day however we are yet to erect our tent fully for the first time. This turns out to be super easy, our tent is up in no time.
Now for the thin rubber foam sleeping mats. Ahhhhhh horizontal is gooooood.
Pam declares she is down for the count when I express a desire to check out the water at the spring in the valley bottom a little further down from where we have pitched the tent.
I wander down taking shots of the mountain peaks, square caves carved in the cliff sides, flowing spring water and the all the hillside sights surrounding.
Up atop the hills bells ring and people call out for the goats to return for the night as the sun sinks over the hill towards Butterfly Valley and the sea beyond.
Evening prayers from the mosque trumpet out over the hills.
Returning to our camp site two young hikers clatter by and pause to chat with me for a while. The sun is getting low by now however they are unconcerned with the rough tracks and possible darkness ahead to Faralya.
The glory of youthful knees.
While we were catching a cab in Zagreb, Croatia on our ill fated shopping expedition for hiking boots a song ‘Everybody’s free (to wear sunscreen)’ by the Australian film director Baz Luhrmann that was popular for a short time in 1998 was playing on the radio.
Part of the verse goes ‘be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone’.
It was one of those seemingly inconsequential moments that light a beacon on the trail of past history for me then and the song flashes through my mind once again as I watch this young pair stride off towards the spring.
Pam is still hibernating in the tent as I watch the sunset light up the trees on the slopes of the mountains behind us. Baba Dagi’s grey visage towers over us all.
Temperatures are falling with the sun and when I join Pam inside our little tent she is snuggling in her sleeping bag.
Dinner is a raw carrot each along with a handful of nuts and dried fruit that we eat lying down. Pam enjoys the carrot with a couple of little tubs of soft cheese that she borrowed from our hotel breafast.
Closing zippers seals us inside our little green and orange cocoon tunnel.
And then it was night.
Pam and Mick