Lycian Way, Turkey. Ufakdere – Bogazcik.
Our phantom tent companion joins us in quiet contemplation of the dawn splendour lifting within this salt water haven. Synchronized spooning during the night has not lulled me in the customary fashion and we both rise with the sun.
Waving goodbye to our hosts who are returning to work on the fence once more as we stuff our gear into our backpacks in the early morning we make our way through the gates of the grounds, turn left and begin our march up the long red dirt road ahead.
Sections of this road are so steep that concrete has been poured in the wheel tracks to enable vehicular access in all weather conditions.
‘That was a good heart starter’ calls my irrepressible wife at the top as we turn right, cross a narrow ridge beside some shepherd shacks and almost immediately plunge down the other side.
A long descent that is even rougher than the worst we encountered yesterday fully meets the ‘wild and difficult’ description written in our guide book.
For a short while at the base of this latest knee grinder we follow narrow red dirt paths through a series of flat clearings that would make great camping sites. Pam thinks I am joking when I suggest we pitch Vincent again and call it quits for the day despite the sun not having yet reached it’s zenith.
I have not slept well and am tired in both body and mind.
‘Suck it up, you big baby’ is the sage advice offered when she realizes I am serious.
Heading towards the nearby waterline all pretense of flat and easy rapidly vanishes. Breaking through the shrubs at the waterline the latest rough diversion has brought us to the edge of a beautiful little inlet where we strip off our packs and rest for some time.
Once again we are reminded that the rough terrain we find so difficult bears multitudes of small treasures that would pass unnoticed or undiscovered from smoother trails or mechanized methods of travel.
My mournful ‘We could see the whole Lycian in half an hour from a helicopter’ quip earns the grinning reply ‘you can’t afford a half hour in a helicopter’.
Back on our cheap and grinding trail we climb back towards a gravel road where a couple of unfinished buildings stand derelict and falling walls crush piles of tiles left on site.
Never content with a road where a rough treacherous goat track provides much more adventure the Lycian turns away a few hundred meters on and we make our way around a headland just a few meters above the white stones of the water line.
Undulating over little sections of cliffs we encounter another two groups of German hikers heading in the opposite direction. One of these groups laughs when my hopeful eyes light up at their statement that there is a camping ground a kilometer ahead only to be dashed by Pam’s declaration ‘we are not stopping to camp’.
‘Must be a school holiday period in Germany’ observes Pam after they pass for almost all the hikers we have met in the last few days has been young, fit and German.
At least another hour passes after this friendly encounter before we have made our way round the extremely rough seaside ‘kilometer’.
At this rate we are never going to make Bogazcik by sundown however Pam still dismisses my ideas for an extremely early end to the day. Rolling out her blue rubber mat she lies down in the shade of a tree and calls out for a foot rub which I am far too tired to provide.
A young Turkish local from the village I have seen on the other side of the crest ahead is fishing off the white rocks of the turquoise bay as I take many photos.
On my return I find Pam has located a tap at a water altar just up the gravel road from where we have stopped to rest. The water is white with tiny bubbles which clear rapidly.
With only one full water bottle remaining from our morning top up prior to our departure we have no option other than to refill at this site. Taking a taste from the newly filled water bottle everything seems fine and I set off uphill with our remaining empties.
Making the mistake of checking inside the nearby squat toilets has me beating a hasty repugnant retreat, a ‘bush deuce’ would be the clear winner here.
Luckily neither of us have such need and with full water bottles multiplying our available options we leave the camping ground in our wake and once again make our way around the next headland.
From the valley of the next bay we turn inland and begin to climb the hills ahead. Our guide book indicates a steep climb from sea level to two hundred meters and a longer slightly less steep continuation of the climb for another two hundred meters of ascension. A four hundred meter climb to round out the day.
Taking our customary uphill approach, rest and drink a little water often, we begin our sweaty climb.
My careless throw away remarks about the perfect seaside campsites we have passed go down like the Hindenburg. We climb on and on in grim silence for a while.
Finally we emerge from the rocks and bushes and commence winding our way up a twisting gravel road.
In the shade of an overhanging tree Pam sits on a rock and wrings out her dripping hat declaring ‘I can’t wear this freakin’ furnace on my head a second longer’.
Taking the opportunity to look back whence we came I realise we have a near perfect vantage point to photograph the ruined corner of an ancient building we have circled around during our climb.
By now we are not surprised in the least when the Lycian leaves the road and plunges back into the rocks and bushes for the last portion of the ascent to the saddle crest that obviously both the trail and the road will have to pass.
We have taken to calling these meandering rough alternatives ‘Clow Specials’ in honour of the creator of the Lycian Way and the author of our much maligned guide book.
Just before we crest this last little path of discovery we encounter a large well where a woman is perched atop with a bucket as her husband stands nearby.
With a couple of full water bottles still remaining and Bogazcik presumably only a few kilometers away we have no urgent need for water and only accept the gestured offers to draw water from the well out of politeness.
After one bottle has been filled with the green/gold liquid from within we turn to forge our way onwards only to be met with gestured demands to pay for the ‘water service’.
There are no words to adequately describe our disappointment and dismay.
Pam has filled my head with stories of her and Lexi’s journeys throughout Turkey in the decades since their return and all of them have invariably contained delightful anecdotes of the unending generosity and kindness of the Turkish people.
Pressing a couple of Turkish Lira into the woman’s hand we press on downcast.
Both of us can understand that backpacking tourists must look impossibly wealthy to local shepherds who live incredibly simple and humble lives however charging for the ‘stuff of life’ taken from a well that one and all should be able to freely access is beyond the pale.
There is no way we are drinking this extra murky weight that is now a leaden reminder of the greedy world we dwell in however I put the 2TL to use by pouring the contents in a reviving cool stream over my head and neck.
A couple of hundred meters on we rejoin the gravel road where it intersects with another, turn left and begin the last few flat kilometers towards Bogazcik.
With our faith in humanity somewhat dimmed by recent events we turn down a possibly/probably kind and genuine offer of a ride on a passing tractor lest we be charged ‘taxi fare’ and trudge on.
Another of the little hidden gems of our slow step by step progress appears when we encounter a herd of goats returning to their night shelter.
Bogazcik inhabitants greet us ‘Merhaba’ from the older men squatting roadside as women and children tend to the cows, ‘Hello’ from the young children who obviously all learn English in school, as we make our way towards Ali’s Pension which is the large pink and cream house directly beside the village mosque.
Mrs Ali greets us smiling broadly and sets about restoring our faith in humanity as she busily indicates we should take off our boots and follow her upstairs as she rapidly prepares our room.
She is obviously cracking wise in gestures with Pam about Pam’s dud choice in husbands as I creak my way upstairs catching my backpack on the concrete floor above and collapse at last onto a seat.
Half an hour later we have showered and are feeling a million percent better. Hot flowing water restores good humour in a way that verges on pure magic.
I hang the sweaty clothes I have washed neath my squelching feet in the flow of run off shower suds whilst I bathed on the veranda clothes line as indicated by the fluttering hands of Mrs Ali.
Mrs Ali has really taken to Pam who is wearing the loose flowery Turkish pants she purchased back in Kinik. She is still obviously cracking wise in gestures about the geriatric husband Pam has chosen to saddle herself with and both of them share a few laughs at my expense.
Mrs Ali appears again soon after and arranges a table and three chairs in the middle of our room. We are joined for dinner by another German hiker Matthias who confirms our suspicions regarding German national school holidays.
Matthias is a secondary school teacher of maths and physics who is hiking a section of the Lycian during his holidays. He is an avid hiker and reader of Alpinist magazines who’s fitness level belies his fifty plus age.
Mrs Ali reappears and begins filling our table with a delicious repast which we all tuck into with gusto as tales of hikes past and present flow around the table.
With dinner done Mrs Ali rapidly clears the room of the table and chairs, shoos Matthias out the door and fluffs up two futon mattresses next to each other on the floor of the room before laying down sheets and blankets.
‘Let the old man get some sleep’ she gestures, winking at Pam, as she closes the door.
Within seconds of lying down I am following her mirthful instructions.
Pam and Mick