Rock and Ruin

Lycian Way, Turkey.  Alinca to Sidyma.

Breakfast with Gundi and Ulrich passes in a laughter filled blur. From the veranda of the main building the daunting rocky mountainside we will be climbing down seems more cliff than slope.

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Our guidebook recommends not attempting this path in bad weather and advises that it ‘could be unnerving for anyone afraid of heights’. Unfortunately for me the day is still and glorious. Pam really doesn’t care how I feel about heights.

From almost the outset we are wondering if we have chosen the correct way to follow, there are two alternative routes in the guidebook with the fork in the route seemingly occurring not too far from the start.

Putting our trust in the red and white markers we begin our descent, almost immediately the going is incredibly tough. A local goat herder looks on in amusement as we struggle.

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Red and white markers are placed haphazardly on the grey and white stones, this is much less a trail than a winding clamber with cliff faces waiting to swallow a rolling, slipping hiker into the blue abyss beyond.

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I am in the lead and must turn back often to offer Pam a balance point to descend the roughest parts, our progress is slow and laborious.

The path has descended steeply yet still we are hundreds of metres above the waterline. Reaching a section that obviously circles around a cliffside ridge has my adrenaline skyrocketing. I fight to remain calm within and use the extra power to my benefit.

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Having made it round this very dangerous section I point out to Pam a road along the next cliff that has been broken by falling rocks and scree.

My statement ‘Bet that is where we are headed’ is met with ‘no way, that looks crazy dangerous’.

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Pausing in the bottom of the little water gully that forms the curve between these two sections it is obvious that we have to scramble up this scree to the road ahead.

I am concerned about extra rocks from the slopes above choosing to join their scree brethren below just as we make the middle however we manage to pass unscathed.

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Finally a smooth road to sooth my nerves, knees and feet. Less than one hundred metres on a stone arrow on the ground has us cursing, over the edge we go again.

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Hours have passed since we left Alinca however we catch sight of it, not very far away, over and over again as we twist and turn.

Finally we pass around the ridge that will leave Alinca out of sight via a large stone that shields me from the sight of the cliff plunging down beneath our feet.

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Arrrrggggh we start climbing, still beside cliff faces, along 20 cm wide slippery ball bearing gravel paths. I start wishing I had a parachute on my back rather than the lump of a backpack I am saddled with.

The sign that greets us at the top leaves us none the wiser as to if we are on the correct route or not however I know for sure I am not climbing back up again.

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After taking a breather and finding the way again we trudge upwards around a rock walled valley, from the ridge peak the path winds down into this agricultural haven.

A flock of about twenty goat kids are lazing under the shade of a tree, flat rocks and a roughly constructed wooden table under the shade of an olive tree make this an excellent spot for a longer rest.

Most of the kids seem to ignore us completely however a little grey one we name Smokey finds us fascinating. I wish we still had some carrots to entice him nearer for he skips just beyond our reach.

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Alas all comfortable resting spots must be left behind. We bid Smokey farewell, hitch up our packs and set off again, this time following the gravel road that begins/ends at the little valley of low stone walls.

A few curves later and we are passed through stone wall terraced wheat fields that stretch to the cliff edges. Passing a ruined cottage the road takes us beside an old domed Ottoman water cistern where we pause again under the shade of a tree to try and decipher where we are and where we should be heading.

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A little further down the road all is made clear to us, we have been following the correct route and finally we have reached the junction where the Lycian offers routes to the coastal village Gey or the inland Sidyma.

Pam is keen to see the Roman ruins at Sidyma, I am keen to take the much shorter route to Gey.

Heading towards Sidyma we follow a gravel road that soon becomes bitumen.

Our next task, walk around the mountain Avlankara Tepesi and climb the slopes on the far side.

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Enroute to the next village we are passed by our first and only vehicles of the day, a scooter and a cattle truck.

Turning right at the village mosque and politely refusing offers of tea and accommodation as we make our way through the little village soon it is left behind as we plod on down the bitumen road under the now hot sun.

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Ever mindful that we may need to camp and not sure of where we can replenish our water supplies has us attempting to balance future and present hydration needs.

There is no harder hiking than on the bitumen road. It is harder on both the sole and the soul than any other surface. Even a gravel road has some give beneath each foot strike whereas heat retaining bitumen has none.

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Thankfully after a couple of kilometers of bitumen the way has us turning into another small village Bogazici which has a little store.

There is one older gent sitting outside the store and we join him across the table as he rises to shake our hands. We are obviously objects of curiosity for within moments of us sitting down suddenly we are joined by several others.

I take my camera out to take a picture of the store sign and realise it would be rude not to offer to take our new friends pictures as well.

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Pam has gone into the store and returns with a few oranges and a 1.5L water which I almost drain completely in one long draught that earns a chuckle from our onlookers.

Having replenished our supplies enough to camp for the night if needs be we say goodbye to our new friends. They point us in the direction of the next way marker which involves climbing down the steep bank of a dry creek and we are off again.

Long ago crossing a wooden bridge in Spain I bent the right Pacerpole tip slightly when it became caught between two boards. Putting a lot of pressure on it to take one of the steps down into the creek bed the tip gives way to metal fatigue and bends so much it tears the metal.

OH NO, this will not do at all. Choking back my tears I examine the damaged pole, I cannot use the right one at all for fear of damaging the pole itself.

Luckily I had purchased two more tips back in Anglesey, however I have no idea how to remove the damaged one without tools as I am unable to budge it with hand strength alone.

‘Suck it up big boy, welcome to Pam country’ chirps my unsympathetic spouse.

Struggling uphill I am disconsolate, using one pole alone completely throws out my gait and rhythm. I am amazed at Pam’s leg strength and unflinching determination to have walked so far unassisted by any walking poles.

‘I am going back to Australia unless I can fix my poles’ I declare as we cast off our packs in the shade of a twisted trunk tree for a rest.

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After looking at one of the new tips closely for the first time I cannot discern a thread inside, perhaps the tips just pull off and pop on and rely on friction to maintain their place. Maybe my attempts to twist and turn it have been futile and unrequired.

Still I have no tools.

I sink back into my monkey mind, ‘lets bang those rocks together, see what happens’. Placing the pole into a convenient crevice in the large rock beside the tree catches the ring around the pole tip, I pull, it slides off easily.

Triumphantly I place the new tip on the alloy pole end and hey presto, good as new.

Crisis averted.

My spirits renewed we climb on, Bogazici dwindles below us as our path zigzags up between stone walls.

A corner of expertly masoned stones makes us aware that we are passing through a ruins site. We pause to take photos of the strewn blocks and remaining structure.

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Our climb to the ruins has seen us lose the way again, I nominate we follow the rough dirt road that winds uphill zigzagging between stone walls.

From nowhere a shepherd pops up, like a jack in the box out of the underbrush and points in the direction we have taken. ‘Sidyma’ he says before shyly posing for a photo.

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Sure enough the road meets the trail again, we have probably saved ourselves a couple of hundred meters of rocky ankle twisting path however we still chose to rejoin the rocky way when it once more leaves the road.

Approaching the Roman ruins ahead a man appears from the bushes talking on a mobile phone. ‘Do you need help’ he asks.

Seeing signs everywhere requesting people not camp in the ancient sites we are not sure what we are doing next and I reply ‘that we are looking for somewhere to stay’.

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Our new friend apparently takes this statement as meaning we want to stay in a home and gestures for us to follow him. By now we are both exhausted and are at a lost as what to do next so we follow compliant.

Cemil by now has introduced himself and we are soon striding up the gravel road to his home where he pulls up plastic chairs for us to sit around the patio table.

‘Tea’? he asks as we gratefully collapse into the chairs. His wife Dodurga brings us out some water which we gulp down and then brings out a teapot full of steaming tea.

Dodurga goes back inside the house and Pam pours the tea into the water glasses only to realise that she has gone against Turkish custom when Dodurga returns with little tulip shaped tea glasses.

Pam and I manage to spill tea over the table top in our embarrassed attempt to transfer the hot tea from one cup to another to the amusement of the father in law who has arrived to watch the goings on.

After leaving our boots outside we are shown to our room, I will be sleeping on an old convertible couch, there is a slow shower and to Pam’s dismay a squat toilet.

Finding a happy median between scalding and freezing with the trickling shower takes some skill and I leave it running for Pam to take her turn. It is getting late in the day by the time we return downstairs.

Dodurga sets about providing us with a massive tasty dinner. As we set about devouring the lovely repast she has provided she sits at the end of the table and watches us like we are a television show.

Dodurga speaks no English. Pam digs the ipad out from my bag and we begin a slow ipad translated conversation. We show her pictures of Lexi and talk about her children.

After dinner we are ushered into the warm living room where a fire has been lit in a metal slow burner while the family have their own dinner. They join us in the room later and turn on the TV however Pam is so tired by now that she is drifting off to sleep as we sit.

Excusing herself she goes upstairs and leaves me with the family. The ipad comes to the rescue again, I have downloaded all the pictures from the day onto the camera and begin a slideshow of our travels in Turkey thus far which is eagerly watched by Cemil and their son.

I ask if I can take a photo of the family after the slideshow is done which they are happy to do. Cemil asks me to post them a copy of it to them when I can and the son gets up to get a piece of paper to write their address on.

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Like the typical teenager he has his head in the clouds and stands on the edge of the tray upending the full tulip teacups on his return.

Next morning Pam tells me that for some reason she thought the family talked as if they were shouting at each other. ‘Twas but a storm in a teacup’ I tell her.

By now it is past nine at night, well past the hikers dreamtime.

Excusing myself from the pleasant company I climb the stairs forgetting that every door in this building is far lower than the top of my skull.

Semiconsciousness is surely a short cut to dreams.

PLL

Pam and Mick

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