Eye of the Beholder

Lycian Way, Turkey.  Campsite pre Cukurbag to Kas.

Spider spun glistening sunlit gossamer guy lines festoon the narrow path ahead like diaphanous streamers welcoming our approach.

I have not shaved since Cricklade, UK.

Cutting a swathe through our early morning hero’s parade my silver fox face fungus is rapidly thickening with sticky extra hairs. Not something I had ever previously associated with beard growth.

Bees, already busy with their nectar routes, have the mountainside playing a one note trombone drone.

Underfoot is the regular goat track terrain, passages of irregularly shaped roughly spherical stones ranging from large fist sized to conker marbles always lying in wait for the ill placed foot strike. These roller derby cascades are interspersed with boulder climbs, rare flat passages maybe ten meters in length provide all too quickly fleeting grateful havens.

Today bushes, mostly thorns, lie close to the edge and brush constantly along my backpack bending back to whack Pam in the face if she walks too close. In addition to these humdrum torments today low trees close in overhead forming a narrow green tunnel that regularly bends me back when the top of my backpack clutches in their boughs.

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Compared to a few days ago it’s easy going.

Far below us cloud gathers in the valley. Fog to the mere mortals in it’s clammy midst, a shimmering glory to those few who stride free atop mountains basking in the blood and fire of the morning sun.

Each gap in our narrow low leafy tunnel has me pausing agog for photos anew.

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After a short gradual uphill section we contour gradually downwards making rapid progress following the line just under a descending stone ridge, across the saddle, to a final steep scramble where fallen rectangular masoned stones alert us we are nearing the Phellos ruins.

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Perched atop the highest peak of a steep ridge that forms the southern rim of Derekoy valley Phellos was thought to be a small garrison city or religious sanctuary and burial site. With no carved or decorated buildings of the Roman period remaining Phellos is famous for the now headless stone bas relief of a life sized bull that adorns one of the surviving walls.

Casting our packs aside after cresting the last steep slope we clamber over stones spread across the path by apparently ongoing excavation of the ruins site.

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Setting about taking photos of the remaining structures and tombs along with the magnificent views offered from this lofty vantage point a chill runs down my spine hearing Pam voice the questions always uppermost in my mind on encounters with remnants of ancient civilizations.

‘How is it that a people with such obvious technical skills and advanced civilizations can be obliterated so completely’?

‘Why is it that we see no warnings signs for our own advanced culture’s demise written bold in the ruins of another’?

Thirty years of my prophetic doom filled rants have taken their toll on my darling.

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I would not have thought it easy to hide a life sized bull from sight however we are both having trouble locating the bas relief we have read of. Deciding to climb the central pile of newly disturbed rocks left by the excavation I finally locate the now partially hidden and buried bull.

From Pam’s side on location she still cannot make out the outline and has to climb the loose pile and join me in witness.

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Rested, hydrated, educated, we set off along the path in search of the next Lycian Way marker and realise that this small ‘garrison’ extended far beyond our initial point of contact. Crumbling walls and tombs awry spread over the entire hilltop which would have offered vantage points in all directions in it’s heyday.

Every mindful of our dwindling water supply we press on stepping casually over strewn stone blocks covered in chisel hewn ancient text.

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Leaving the ruins site the path immediately steepens with it’s ‘rock and roll’ surface offering limitless opportunity for injury.

Grinding our cautious way down we meet a young girl carrying a light shoulder bag striding much more confidently upwards. She is a friendly young American lady who has caught a Dolmus from Kas to Cukurbag keen to explore the Phellos site with the intent of returning to Kas on foot.

Giving her tips on where to locate the famous bull we laughingly tell her she will probably overtake us on her return and continue our mincing downhill progress where I have to turn back often to offer Pam support on the steep rocky ball bearing surface.

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Making the call to stop and camp where we did last night was spot on. We have not seen another flat stone free area the whole morning and the walk along the ridge, through the ruins and down the steep grinding decent to Cukurbag has taken many hours.

By the time we have made the flowing waters of the spring beside one of Cukurbag’s three mosques we are hot, hungry and thirsty.

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The spring takes care of the hot and thirsty and a sign for a nearby pension/cafe has us salivating with the thought of food other than our remnants of dried fruit and nuts.

Deciding to stop at the cafe if it is open we are surprised to find it a mere fifty metres from our resting spot beside the mosque. No one appears to be offering food or drinks however when we call out a woman appears from around the back of the house and invites us to sit in the shade of the patio.

Bringing us hot tea and basically a Turkish breakfast minus the boiled egg we spend a very pleasant half hour munching and slurping and are all too happy to forgo a few Lira when the lady is unable to make correct change from our 50 TL note.

After having to leave food behind from our huge and delicious brunch we wind our way through the village down steep streets to the valley base passing a sign stating another 8km to Kas.

Our guide book states this section will take two hours and forty minutes. Ever optimistic Pam declares an arrival time of two hours, ever ‘realistic Mick’ states four plus hours to go.

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Our walking speed is very much terrain dependent and for quite a while we speed along gravel roads winding through the valley base.

Beyond an arched stone cistern listed in the guide book the Lycian swaps the gravel roads for more customary goat tracks however today even these tracks are comparatively wide and smooth and we are making good time.

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For once the altitude graph contained in our guide accurately reflects the wide stony plateau that follows beyond.

Following the faint red soil road leading through the middle of this plain between stone and bush ridges we are wrapped in peace and anticipation.

Grass clipped short by grazing sheep and goats exposes grey and white stones laid bare in the usual fashion. A lone horse grazes near the shade of a tree.

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Approaching a flock of sheep tended by an shepherd bearing hand shears slung across his shoulders a white sheep dog sleeps tranquilly in the shade of a bush. All is well until I draw my camera out of my shirt pocket.

Apparently this hound has a fierce hatred of the paparazzi that would match or exceed any Hollywood star for the sight of the lens has him springing erect, growling and lurching towards us from behind, fangs bared.

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Only stooping for an ever handy rock suffices to make him think twice and we pick up our pace as best we can while he considers options.

Once the hateful soul stealing digital device is safely sheathed he appears to lose interest in us altogether and by the time we have walked twenty metres he is asleep again in his shady spot.

Ready for the next stupid photo snapping tourist who dares to raise his ire.

Passing the flock of goats in the distance we encounter only the usual mild curiosity always offered by these intelligent, inquisitive, amusing, sure footed and agile animals.

They never seem to mind posing for photos.

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Beyond the herd of goats we plunge back into the bushes for a short while and burst out into a small clear area with Kas spread out at our feet and blue Mediterranean horizons meeting  azure skies above.

Checking first for paparazzi shy sheep dogs I draw my camera from my shirt pocket and get to work while Pam takes in the sights from a cliffside rock that provides a comfortable viewing spot.

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As we rest and rehydrate, readying ourselves for obviously steep gravel paths to come, our young American friend from the slopes of Phellos breaks through the trees.

Dannielle is lovely, friendly, intelligent. After completing her degree in History and Asian studies back home she has spent the last three years teaching English in Japan where she has realised she has both a talent and passion for teaching young children. Since Japan she has been traveling the world for almost a year and intends to gain teaching qualifications on her return to the USA.

As I take her photo against the magnificence of the blue backdrop she tells us we will be her blog debut.

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Pam and Dannielle are getting on like old friends, swapping travel tales and tips however all good things must come to an end. We have the knee grinding descent ahead and have to set off before my tired joints stiffen irrecoverably.

Two other young girls whose obvious day tripper status is broadcast by their unscratched bare legs and arms appear and start taking photos from the cliff edge as we make our way to the first zig of the zigzagging descent where Pam slips and nearly loses her footing.

Both of us have a hard time with this descent. I hyperextend both knees painfully bracing from slips on the gravel with my heavy pack catching me with unexpected force vectors.

Dannielle catches and passes us with ease, striding by with the enviable confidence of unladen youth.

Pam slips several times and I have to often pause and climb back to offer balance and assistance. On one occasion she cries out in fear and I turn back to see her, arms windmilling, backwards arching towards the steep drop to our left.

Pausing for quite some time is required to enable her jelly legs to subside from this particular incident.

Finally we stumble across a busy two lane road leading up to the hillside areas of Kas and collapse onto a wooden bench in the shade of a tree.

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It takes quite a while for us to wind the rubber band of our willpower tight enough to rise again. The thought of hot showers and seated toilets ahead draws us onwards.

Down, we go down. Down the winding interlocking brick cobblestone, highly banked corners of the street leading down to the waterline.

The first large looking hotel we come to is closed however across the road a sprawling resort with a large pool we will probably never use beckons irresistibly.

Surprisingly low prices and promises of good WiFi draw us inside, we are showering off layers of fear sweat and grime ten minutes later.

Other than my jeans and old thin black jumper I have no clean clothes. Pam has even less clean options remaining than I as we have not been able to wash any clothes since Kalkan which seems an absolute eternity ago.

Piling almost every article of clothing other than the few items we are wearing into a plastic bag we set off for the reception area where Pam is horrified by the desk clerk telling us they charge per item and beginning to drag each sweat soaked rag from the bag in an attempt to commence the count.

Grabbing the bag back Pam states we will look for an external laundry service which has the clerk rapidly consulting with the manager before declaring a 40TL bulk wash deal which we rapidly accept.

Tranquil waters of the bay become shining mirrors as the sun dips behind the silhouette of the hillside.

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Dragging a finger above his eye our waiter at the terrace restaurant teaches us that Kas means the ‘eyebrow’ which sweeps curving around the ‘eye’ of the Greek island Meis lying close across the shining waters.

In an otherwise completely cloudless evening sky a mysterious lone vapour wreath pierces the side of the ‘brow’ like a diamond pin.

PLL

Pam and Mick

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