Mud Slingers

Lycian Way, Turkey.  Akbel via Delikkemer to Patara.

New goals grant new attitudes, new latitudes, new freedoms. ‘Enjoy rather than endure’, our new catch cry enables us to skip slogging up the steep streets of Kalkan with our heavy packs to the village/suburb Akbel that lies hilltop above Kalkan.

Hotel Zinbad calls us a cab and we willingly enter, unheard of behaviour on the Camino.

Almost immediately on alighting the Lycian way is confusing with markers both sparse and misleading. We climb a hill towards a housing estate and realise halfway that this cannot possibly be the correct way.

A local woman obviously used to dazed and slightly angry looking hikers points us in the right direction.

A slightly undulating bitumen road winding its way past houses and new housing estates finds me leaving the camera in my pocket.

A few minutes later I am hastily transferring it into Pam’s bum bag which is rapidly buried in the depths of her backpack as we pull the blue waterproof covers over the tops.

It has begun to rain. The same big, fat drops from Zanthos have reappeared however today there is no room to imagine dodging between each drop like a nimble child. A veritable downpour with wind in our face creases my pants legs just above the top of my boots.

Fantastically waterproof as the Lowa Tibet GTX WXL have been thus far I am ill equipped to prevent water filling them up as it runs down my legs. My $25 hiking pants have all the water resistance of a fishing net.

Steps slurping and sucking I make my way along the road. By now completely soaked I find it ironic Pam wants to sit out the remainder of the downpour in the lee of a roadside concrete building. As we crouch waiting for the heavy shower to pass she tells me her boots are still dry and all becomes clear.

Crossing the main road/highway that leads between Kalkan and Kinik once again we are almost immediately at a loss as to the direction we need to take. Behind us two hikers alight dry and ready to walk from a car, Pam and I both wish we had thought of starting here, however they seem as immediately bamboozled as we.

Finally I come across some markers that appear to be contouring around the hill in the right direction and sing out for Pam and the others to follow. Only Pam responds to my cry and we leave the other pair still floundering for direction.

Winding around the right side of the hill in the Westerly direction we are facing has the valley of the tomato tents stretching out filling a green hill sided bowl with flapping grey plastic tunnels.

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Our path is narrow, yet relatively smooth. Ever scraping bushes freshly dripping with heaven sent cool deposits transfer their loads to our clothing as we brush by. Step by slurp by step by slurp we make our way round the hillside.

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The two British hikers who were deposited beside the highway just after we crossed catch and pass us. They are walking with very small daypacks and carrying a bottle of water in their hands.

Olive groves and low stone walls greet us at Delikkemer which is a little area between the two peaks we will be circling today. Paths from here radiate in all directions and it takes us a while to work out which of the Lycian markers applies to our route.

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Just as we leave this pretty area with views to the Mediterranean the rain begins again. Not as heavy as the first shower, just enough to top my boots up and send water trickling down into Pam’s.

Now we are both slurping in concert.

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Massive squared off blocks alert us to nearby ruins coming up. The long siphonic section of a Roman aqueduct spanning the valley between peaks comes into view.

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A marvel of stone engineering the stone wall is topped by a consecutive series of bored out huge heavy square stones. Each block has a male and female lip on opposite sides so when placed next to each other and sealed with soft red lime they form the airtight seal necessary for an effective siphon.

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The work required to imagine, engineer and construct such an enduring structure is mind boggling. Each consecutive bored out block must weigh hundreds of kilograms and there would have been thousands of these stones mounted in an airtight unbroken chain atop the thick and high intricately masoned stone wall that spans the valley in support.

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Our path leads us down through a broken section of the wall and we rest for a while in an arch that has obviously been built into the wall deliberately to allow foot traffic and drainage of storm water in the valley.

Wind whipping up from the ocean turns this arch into an uncomfortable wind tunnel. Passing through the arch massive square siphon sections provide comfortable seats in the lee of the wall as we eat an orange and a handful of nuts for lunch.

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Hitching up our packs in the gale blowing through the arch the heavens open once more, three for the price of one. Now we are both soaked through with feet swimming.

Rain makes the steep slope on the far side of the aqueduct valley slippery underfoot. Shortly after we reach a gravel road that winds around the second hill and turn right following the line of a galvanized pipe.

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Reaching a corner in the road where it turns downhill we scramble up the shoulder and have to climb over this pipe to continue following our path.

The Way turns left sharply and we being climbing up the sides of a valley which has us doubting for the thousandth time the accuracy of the indecipherable descriptions contained within the guide.

Wet and despondent we decide to rest again, despite the rain we are both thirsty. Completely at a lost as what to do next we decide to just keep on keeping on and follow the red and white markers as best we can.

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Just out of sight of our resting place the path crosses the narrow steep valley we have climbed, past some old still active bee hives and heads down a little green centered road.

A small ruined medieval fort passes on our right, the stone and mortar construction shall be long gone while the massive unbound stones of the Roman construction remain passive and inert, reliant only on bedrock beneath and omnipresent gravity bearing down for structural integrity.

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Our little grassy track widens and becomes red gravel which adheres clumping to the soles of our boots. We change directions many times, shepherds huts guarded by barking dogs, low stone agricultural walls.

Passing a dry clothed couple heading in the opposite direction they warn of long muddy stretches to come while describing the walk as beautiful.

Maybe it is the fact that the swimming pool sloshing inside each boot has combined with the red mud clumping on the soles to form a five kilo wrecking ball on the end of each leg that hampers me from seeing the allure of the rocky conifer forests on each side as we wind slowly down and round the hill.

The ever burning furnace fires inside me have dried my clothes long before the clouds boil away however each heavy step still sucks and slurps as the road peters out to an end atop a high ridge with the village Gelemis low in the valley to our right.

Never a day shall pass on the Lycian without the opportunity to suffer injury or death at the hands of rocks and cliffs. Our thus far mainly smooth if muddy trail takes a plunge down the rocky side of the valley ahead.

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Emerging on a gravel road beside some more Roman ruins with a sign stating Patara is but one kilometer distant has me hoping for a speedy conclusion to our muddy march.

Should have known better than to get my hopes up, a lack of markers has us casting for direction once more before marching a long way up a dead end road to the barking warnings of farms dogs at top of the hill we have climbed.

Retracing our steps we find a faint trail plunging down the side of yet another rocky path.

Finally at the bottom of this last descent we come across the Patara ruins where Pam had walked the previous day with our new friend Kay.

Pam is done, ‘I’m planting my arse on this two thousand year old stone, you do what you need to do’ she tells me as I do my best to hold my tired arms still enough to take photos.

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Enough is enough, and we have had enough for today. The road towards Gelemis and it’s pensions is paved with interlocking pavement bricks and has a smooth footpath on the right.

Feet burning we make our way through the center of town accosted on both sides by offers of pensions and meals. Prices get lower and lower as we walk on and by the time we are coming to the far edge of the main village we accept the 40TL room.

A low hanging electrical cable clutching at the top of my pack nearly sends me crashing down the high risers of the staircase we climb to the grubby room.

Half an hour and a hot dribbling shower later and all is well with our world.

Our host warns us of ‘dangerous mosquitoes’ in the town which sends Pam scurrying to a shop nearby the restaurant where we decide to dine in search of insect repellant. As she returns she thinks she spies ‘Hobo’ in the street and she walks over to say hello.

There must many such black thin looking dogs in this part of the world for it is not Hobo but a similar looking hound who returns with her, sits quietly on the roadside while we eat dinner then follows us back up to our pension.

‘Goodnight Hobo 2’.

PLL

Pam and Mick

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