Lycian Way, Turkey. Magic Circle to Gokceoren.
Short shallow cyclic dream sessions soaring weightless and unencumbered over craggy mountaintops are interspersed with simultaneous shifts of our many snuggling positions seeking positions of maximal comfort and shared body warmth in the fresh mountain air.
I have travelled far and witnessed marvels many during my twelve plus hours of night flight and awaken refreshed, reinvigorated, reflective.
Outside the tent Pam is already greeting the morning sun. I stretch out my legs ….’CRACK’…. a misaligned rubber band in the medial rear section of my left knee slides back into place and six months of stored tension and pain dissipate, absorbed into the green live surrounds of our magic circle.
Ahhhh the blessed relief, there are no words sufficient.
Heaving our packs aloft, other than a section of flattened grass within the white rimmed circle we leave no trace of our night’s stay.
Immediately we are faced with our first quandary of the day, three paths of exit, with no Lycian Way markers other than a red ‘it is forbidden’ cross on the most obviously heavily travelled.
Consulting the guide book we are advised to ‘Turn R/SW and walk down the G2 path on the R side of the valley, scrambling down the terraces and ignoring confusing goat trails which run in all directions’.
Considering almost every path we follow is a narrow single file goat trail and ‘R/SW and R side of the valley’ are in two distinctly different directions according to our $5 compass we are left none the wiser.
Nothing for it but to strip off our packs and walk down all three trails looking for markers. Returning bemused to our point of origin we decide that only the most travelled looking path offers possibilities and ignoring the forbidding cross we set off again.
Several hundred meters down we come across the first marker and then in the usual Lycian fashion they occur frequently on the obvious trail.
Speckles of rain from the previous evening have amounted to naught, our trail is dry and downhill with the customary accompaniment of rolling rocks underfoot. The easy going enables me to recognize that my left knee strength has magically returned to almost 70% which is fantastic compared to the 30-40% I have been struggling with for months.
The Magic Circle has restored me almost to myself. Great Ju Ju.
The dry watercourse we follow spreads out between the grey topped ridges in a series of stone wall terraced flat agricultural areas that are themselves covered in white stones. Our path has us clambering down fallen sections of these walls which must be negotiated with care as the stones are neither embedded in soil or large enough to have sufficient mass to counterbalance errant force vectors of our descending steps.
A very steep scramble to a gravel road has me simultaneously thankful for my returned knee strength and fearful of injuring it anew. Safe at the base my thick skull forms the fixed anchor point Pam needs to find balance to descend.
The seven kilometer plus section of flat ground to come indicated by our guide book is nowhere in sight as we turn left on the gravel road and begin striding uphill. ‘Perhaps the flat section begins at the crest of this section’ I say hopefully to Pam.
Any remaining trust in our guide book is dashed as we turn left around the crest towards the peaks to come. Behind us the horrendous thorn and boulder descent of yesterday morning is still clearly in sight a scant few kilometers away. Our trail has wound inland, up and down, round and round. Seemingly always choosing the harshest most circuitous trail.
A meandering route where the shortest distance between two points counts for little.
Yet here we are, health and strength restored, blood fierce in our veins and clean brisk mountain air charging our lungs. Behind us the challenges of yesterday dim behind the dark fluid abyss of soaring dreams. Below to our immediate right the Mediterranean stretches out to blue eternity.
Around the corner new horizons of grey stone and green bush call out challenge anew and we are red-faced-sweaty and ready for come what may.
Undulations and corners fly easy neath our feet on the steady gravel surface and we are just growing comfortable with the thought of such an easy trail when we descend to another field of walls, grass and stones.
Pam takes a short seated break beneath a budding bare boughed tree as I do my customary water check in the roadside well. We have been cautious with our water since filling our bottles at the last water altar yesterday and probably have enough to make it to days end.
So far we have not had to utilize well water however I check each one we pass. Most are either dry or have water that lies many meters beneath the opening and the majority have no ropes or water containers such as buckets in any case.
Like the majority of wells we have passed so far the water in this one does not look inviting and the frazzled section of rope lying nearby is far too short to reach the water level below.
Should our situation become desperate enough I have a ball of string I have been carrying since St Jean Pied de Port, France in the top section of my backpack and could fashion a lifting receptacle from one of our water bottles using Pam’s pocket knife.
Hoping it never comes to that point I give Pam my customary well inspection ‘hope we never have to drink this muck’ litany and we hitch up our packs to move on.
Just beyond the well the Lycian Way turns left and takes us on a red dirt track through the field of stones. Looking back whence we came just before we enter the shrubs once more the amassed hue of the stones’ white/grey bleaches out the green grass leaving a view similar to the aftermath of a huge hail storm.
Back on the goat tracks we have grown accustomed to we plunge on between shrubs and thorn bushes until we come to a rocky precipice where a Camino style rock cairn atop piled boulders alerts us, new conditions ahead.
Turning left the way plunges down the cliffside following a narrow rocky path where I have to stop and offer Pam assistance many times during the descent.
We spill out into a little green grass haven beside another red dirt road at the base and lie panting, recovering in the shade of some friendly trees.
A handful of nuts and a few swallows of water each later we follow along the road as it curves around the expanse of a large green field just below to the right.
This road ends abruptly where an old motorcycle is parked in front of some fenced goat enclosures. I am sure this is the same motorcycle that Gerard had advised me to get a shot of parked outside the shop back in Bezirgan where I was just too tired to make the effort, so I take the opportunity now.
Two women do their best to lure us into the low wooden and plastic covered huts for Cay however we are focused on making Gokceoren as quickly as we can and politely decline their invitation.
Beyond the shepherd’s huts our trail heads upwards, contouring round the ridge wrapping around the green field below.
Descending to another field of green and stones a short section of the promised flat lands of the guide begins where a large white boulder with a couple of smaller stones nearby look like a whale with a couple of nearby calves breaching the surface of the red soil.
Thankful for a few hundred meters of easy walking we take another rest in the shade on large flat stones of nearby ruins, masoned thousands of years prior to our arrival, that lie jumbled in the trees and shrubs nearby an abandoned shepherds hut at the end of the flat expanse.
Veering left after the hut we wander through shrubs hiding more ruins however by now it is mid afternoon, clouds are beginning to gather threateningly in the mountains to our left and we are both too tired and too consumed with making our destination to pause and explore beyond the confines of our narrow path.
Another flat valley of grass and stones awaits beyond the bushes and ruins. In the distance a large herd of goats is making their way towards us. Our relative velocities close the gap between us quickly.
Ejected shotgun shells are a common sight on the Lycian Way and many roadsigns bear testimonials of passing potshots. From afar I notice the barrel of the shotgun slung over the right shoulder of the shepherd approaching.
My fears of a ‘The Hills have Eyes’ moment pass quickly, the shepherd has no interest in us at all. Mock fear becomes all too real when we are accosted by an unusually persistent and aggressive shepherd’s dog at the rear boundary of the flock.
A narrow undulating goat track awaits us at the far end of this latest flat stone and grass field. A couple of crests in I see a lime green, red tiled building in the distance yet Pam greets my calls of ‘civilization at last’ with skepticism. She has hallucinated buildings before on this route.
With gathering clouds becoming black and ominous to our left we are all too eager to avoid adding wet and slippery rocks to the risks we face with each footfall.
Ahead of us the path becomes the roughest we have encountered so far for the day, with steep slopes and climbs taking us over unfixed large stones that often move unsteadily beneath our feet.
Feeling pressure to make our destination before any rain begins we struggle to find a balance in pace to maintain our usual steady caution as a green field valley passes to our right.
At last we crest the final hill and the valley of the village Gokceoren stretches out before us. One last steep stony descent to go.
Flat ground at last finds us both simultaneously relieved and exhausted, we cross the stony field boundary and grind our way uphill between a few houses into a gravel area where a car is parked.
Here a small sturdy looking older man greets us in a most friendly manner offering us a ride in his car. When we try and explain that we are wanting to make our way to the mosque to find the nearby cafe and pension he indicates that this is where he wants to take us and gesturing for us to open our guide book points to where he ‘Huseyin’ is mentioned by name.
By now we are exhausted and the offer of a lift to our destination is gratefully accepted. Huseyin shows us to our rooms and runs ahead of me up the road back to his car and returns carrying both our bags.
He insists on hugging us both and quickly realises his error. With no water available on our departure from Kalkan I have not showered now for four sweaty days.
‘Douche’ he cries pointing towards the shower and toilet which are separate from the house ‘Douche’.
All too keen to follow his advice, minutes later I am basking under the hot flow of the pinnacle of modern civilization. Pam rapidly follows and takes a rest in the comfort of the bed as I go back up around to the front of the house.
The group of seven hikers who passed us days ago just before I took the fateful wrong turn on the climb to Bezirgan have arrived and are staying in the upper section of the same pension. Turns out they all live in Finland though they are from two separate families and only one of them is actually Finnish.
The young man who was carrying the three year old boy is Turkish and his wife is the sole Finnish person in the group. They have been completing a section of the Lycian Way for the last few years during their holiday period.
The family of four who are accompanying them for the first time this year are French, two adults and two teenage boys, one of whom is studying pure mathematics at Oxford University in England.
Chatting about routes taken to arrive at the same destination I discover they are not adhering exactly to the route we have followed. Local knowledge of the Turkish man combined with older versions of the guide have enabled them to avoid the precipitous and thorn bush filled descent we took yesterday morning.
Both Pam and I had been concerned by the thought of thorn bushes scouring the skin of the little boy on the back of his father during this section however the route they have followed has left his face unmarked.
Basically they have taken road routes that circled past Roman ruins and took a more direct route to the one we followed. They are mystified by my raving about the green ‘magic circle’ where we camped as they have obviously not passed it on their way.
Every moment that passes during our life can lead in an infinitude of directions.
Choice and circumstance exert their own pressures.
Each fleeting present instant delivers the sum of the past, totted, totaled, whilst simultaneously choice and circumstance beckon uncertain futures anew.
Circumstance amiss, it creeps
Just beneath the surface, seeps
Upon the unsuspecting, leaps
Dwells unseen, behind the scenes
Question then, your plans agley
Circumstance came out to play
Consequence uncharted of each
Choice we make
Left like litter in our wake
What changes would a single pace recalled execute?
Would I exchange a smoother path for an apparently magically restored knee?
Dragging my mind back from it’s oft followed ‘Butterfly Wings’ trajectory I return back to our chilly concrete walled room and snuggle up with Pam in a comfortable bed until it is time for dinner.
Upstairs the mystery of how Huseyin met us just as we staggered wearily into town is solved. He shows us his window perch where he sits eagle eyed with foreknowledge relayed via a phone call from the Cay offering shepherd Sirens we passed earlier in the day.
Straggling exhausted into the village it would take willpower much stronger than I possess to turn down a kindly offer of hot showers and tasty meals offered at such a fortuitous moment.
Whilst we devour our tasty hot meal beside the warmth of an internal wood fire burner Huseyin is obviously expecting newcomers and keeps a close watch on the hillside.
With only thoughts of fresh dreams and clean sheets on our minds we leave him in his eyrie.
Pam and Mick