Lycian Way, Turkey. Ucagiz to Cayagiz.
Our little hiking trio separates after an early breakfast spent gazing out across the morning mirror of the bay. Matthias has only one more day before his return to Germany and plans to make the twenty plus kilometers to Demre before catching a bus to Antalya for his flight home.
Without the two of us slow pokes holding him back I am sure he will make it in a few hours.
Wishing him well in the little foyer of the pension we remind him of our offer to stay with us if he should ever find himself in Brisbane, Australia. Wishing us well in return he strides through the door and disappears.
Our plans for the day include taking a boat tour around the blue waters of the bay in order to see the famous sunken city and we stroll through the two streets of Ucagiz to have a look at the street markets before making our way to the busy harbour.
Boat captains immediately pounce on us seeking our custom and Pam apparently selects a young man at random. He springs into action waving us aboard his large wooden boat that has a couple of small glass windows in the hull.
Aboard such a large boat chugging across the smooth waters of the bay towards the ruins of Teimiussa and Simena, even Pam’s hair trigger motion sickness remains quiescent.
Every water facing slope is adorned in ancient stone tombs standing camouflaged amongst the boulders.
Craggy low islands pass giving the illusion we are stationary under a blue sky as they solemnly float by.
Approaching Simena our captain Mevlut slows the boat to a quiet burble and I follow the actions of thousands of tourists before me in taking many photos of the castle ruins and tombs topping the ridge and the ‘floating tomb’ near the rocky shoreline.
Turning starboard we cruise towards the steep stone and cliff laden hillside of Teimussa where the sunken city occupies the long stretch along the water line.
In an attempt to preserve this site, landing on the shores or diving in search of amphora from boats is forbidden.
Crumbling walls, stairs and rooms carved from the sheer rocks, walls jutting from the waterline, Mevlut points out interesting features as we idle slowly along close to the shore.
Expertly familiar with the crafts position in relation to landmarks Mevlut brings us to a halt and slowly reverses over the seafloor before opening the hatch of the glass windows.
Shattered amphora litter the sand beneath as a school of little fish swim through our field of vision.
Repeating this process close to a sunken little stone harbour Mevlut tells us that the doomed city was badly crippled and abandoned after major quakes lowered the land of the hills. Rising seas of the last few hundred years continue the water’s upward creep.
Ruins of past advanced civilizations always set me off in descending spirals thinking of the seeds of destruction we are busy sowing for our own ‘invulnerable’ world.
Reassured by the sure and steady knowledge that if the ‘brilliant minds of the current Australian Government’ don’t believe in the repercussions of human induced climate change that is now agreed upon in broad consensus amongst the world’s scientific community then I can continue being a blithely ignorant happy little consumer we sail on.
Melvut is keen to take us to a little bay where tourist boats anchor to enable swimming at a busy beach however Pam and I have little interest in en masse aquatic displays so we turn back towards the Ucagiz harbour.
Passing one of the little islands we have sailed by heading towards Kekova Melvut points out the two distinctly different Christian crosses from separate eras that are inscribed into the rocks on the side we now approach.
Backing the boat into a space that looks far too narrow I give Melvut a hand pushing the moored boats aside and we sandwich in with centimeters to spare.
From here on the day passes in a pleasant haze of sunshine, beer and blog.
Despite an early breakfast the next day we run into a few issues with our gear when we are packing and the sun has climbed high into the near cloudless blue sky by the time we actually have made our way through the village and begin searching for Lycian Way markers once more.
Eventually we begin walking the undulating gravel road that winds behind the crest of the tomb covered slopes we sailed past yesterday. Walking down a final slope and along the flat road beside the bay where local boats are dry docked for maintenance brings us past a walled cemetery to a field lying behind the ridge where the castle and tombs of Simena face across the waters towards the sunken city.
Our guide book’s complex instructions for the next section ‘turn L/E at the lowest point of the valley on a G4 footpath which runs between walls and past a few houses before emerging onto broad fields’ could easily be replaced with ‘turn left at the corner of the cemetery and follow the gravel road’.
No wonder we are always lost.
Beyond the last few houses a series of flat red soil and ‘Lost in Space’ stone sections pass rapidly under our feet.
Hillsides ahead have ruins up their sides with ancient fortifications built at the crests however we turn left and head towards a dry watercourse that winds between hills.
Far in the distance grey blue mountainous horizons remind me to enjoy this flat section while it lasts.
Making our way along the dry watercourse we are doing fine despite the heat.
Making me keep a sharp lookout for oncoming hikers Pam hangs her shirt on branches as we sit in the shade to assist her cooling process.
Once again the Lycian Way has followed a path that lops off a large hilly curving headland and the stony watercourse eventually finds the edge of a salt water inlet that leads us past a bizarrely placed in-the-middle-of-nowhere bar and restaurant that appears to be quite busy serving tourists who have disembarked from ships anchored on the sea side of the crest we soon approach.
A couple of groups of German hikers pass as us we make our way around the rough coastal path that follows. We are getting used to being passed by groups of fresh looking speeding hikers along paths beside the incredibly blue and beautiful Mediterranean.
Slow and steady wins the race, we get a little education from each tortoise.
Contrarily as we rest in the shade of trees growing beside terraced walls of an abandoned partially completed building and jetty a very determined looking tortoise races towards us and blasts up the rocks after crawling over one of Pam’s feet.
Maybe it is an omen for us to pick up our pace.
Beyond the rapidly crumbling development which I estimate will fall short of lasting as long as the Roman ruins by about 2000 -3000 years our trail leads steeply upwards before descending the valley below and climbing once more towards a couple of older ruined cottages where I capture shots of the beautiful bay through disintegrating window frames.
Eternal through the temporal.
Goat tracks we have become so accustomed to wind further up the hill and eventually bring us to a flat red dirt field where another little climb beyond the edge crests the hill.
I have seen towers of a village mosque from afar and drink deeply as we climb across the ridge which leaves only one litre of water remaining in our supply.
Unexpectedly the trail takes us down the valley leading away from the village rather than directly through it and I think I say to Pam ‘that if there is no water supply in the valley we will have to climb to the mosque to fill up’.
Pam has obviously interpreted my words in a completely different way than I intended and we end up just continuing down the track rather than turning and climbing back towards the village.
I consider this the height of stupidity as we have no idea how far the distance will be until we can refill our water in the hot hot day and we still have a long rough coastal path to follow with our unknown destination still not yet in sight.
My interpretation of events is pissing Pam off in turn and I find enough vigour in anger to outpace her by a significant margin on the rough terrain.
Finally in the far distance ships moored in the harbour at Cayagiz come into view, we still have many kilometers of very rough terrain to cover.
We have picked the very stupidest possible moment to have an inane fight over nothing.
Now that’s true love ….. but will true love survive?
By now we have patched up our imaginary differences and reunited to battle the all too real danger of immanent dehydration. With the village mosque far uphill behind us I see no other choice than to keep heading down towards the ocean.
With half a litre of water left after we each take a few sips we commence climbing down the very steep slope towards the immaculate white stone beach at the base.
Turning a corner I can see water fresh enough to support reeds growing around the edge of a shallow pool that lies just behind the white stone salt water filter of the beach.
Crying out ‘we’re saved’ I feel a surge of enthusiasm that I do my best to suppress lest I distract myself from concentrating on my foot placement as we make our way down.
Three quarters of the way down an even more attractive possible alternative to lying flat on the ground and slurping up brackish water from a pond becomes apparent.
A stone cistern with water lifting contraption fashioned from a modified 1.5L plastic water bottle and plastic rope lying near the square opening on top.
Now to see if there is any water.
Stairs built into the side of the cistern allow relatively easy access to the smooth concrete upper surface, there is water only a couple of meters down. I send the container plunging and pull it up, a little green/gold but I have drunk far far worse in my day.
Ignoring Pam’s cautionary ‘lets put some of the water purifying pills in a bottle first’ I take a long draught from the bottle fresh from the well.
‘That will do nicely’ I send the container back into the depths and pour the next couple of splashing returns cascading over my head and neck.
Sanity restored I urge Pam to drink the remaining clean water we have been carrying and we fill three water bottles from the well and drop one of the chlorine dioxide purification pills we have been carrying since Anglesey into each.
I only realise once we have begun our descent of the final section to the beach that I have taken no photos of the ingenious design of the modifications to the water bottle which has a square cut out of the side to enable rocks to be placed inside to weigh down the bottom and allow air to escape as the water rushes inside and another larger rock with a hole right through it tied to the neck to act as a sinker to enable the bottle to tip and fill.
Having carefully examined it after putting it to use I have the pertinent design elements safely stored in my analogue memory and gravity harshly dissuades me from climbing back for a digital copy.
Relieved by the extra fluid weight I once more carry, we make our way down to the white round stones of the spectacularly beautiful beach. The German couple who passed us earlier in the day are swimming at the far end and make their way up to a flat nook on the dark rocks at the far end to sunbathe.
The white rocks of the beach under the blazing sun could be used in television commercials for laundry bleach. Clenched fist sized, they make balance difficult as we strip off our packs and sweaty clothes.
Down to sandals and undies we make our way to the waterline where green algae underfoot makes walking out into the water a little dicey.
Once gravity surrenders to buoyancy all friction and nonsense of our thirsty walk slides from my mind to be absorbed in my briny blue mother.
Pam floats by on her back grinning.
Mediterranean medicine, accept no substitutes.
Our return to the hot white stones is full of slippery laughter, it’s hard to be dignified with your plumber’s crack exposed to the sky.
Drying quickly in the reflected white heat we realise that stone beaches have at least one superiority to the long pale smooth sand stretches we are used to at home.
No sand trapped in said plumber’s crack. Or on your feet when pulling back on sweat stiffened socks and boots.
Refreshed, renewed, reinvigorated, restored to our normal tolerant good humour, we begin our walk along the home stretch. Rough goat’s tracks are beginning to feel like home, my feet are starting to find the right points by remote control.
The old maxim ‘practice makes perfect’ applies to all things.
And we are getting plenty of practice.
Contouring around the coastline we remain on average about twenty meters above the waterline and undulate up and down to accommodate obstructions in the terrain with the promised harbour site gradually growing closer and closer.
The final hill has us passing a little cleared area just prior to some goat enclosures where I pull out the camera to take a photo of a donkey with beautiful white eye markings. As we move closer her foal awakens from it’s hidden slumber and nuzzles her to drop her milk.
They both seem very tame however we pass them by without attempting to close the gap of the last couple of feet and continue our path up and around the hill.
Yet another final steep descent awaits yet this time the promise of a grey sandy beach and the harbour beyond entice.
Our guide book’s description ‘here there is a junction, the R turn leads down to a bridge at the river mouth’ gives no indication of the rickety flotsam and fairy floss contraption we need to cross at the base of this last descent.
Compared to this, every dodgy bridge we have crossed so far looks certifiably roadworthy.
Pam insists I go first and waits camera in hand for the inevitable funniest home video moment which never arrives. The bridge is surprisingly stable despite the outgoing tide flowing over the far end.
With both of us dry, safe and sound on the far side we are about to start the final flat sandy leg when a friendly local who lives in a hut on the beach comes over to introduce himself and offer us tea which we politely decline.
It has been a long, long day and we just want to be horizontal.
Soft sand provides its own challenges with a heavy pack yet we seem to fly across the long grey stretch beside the lapping waves. A sturdy metal orange bridge provides safe crossing at the tidal creek flowing into the ocean on the other side, we make our way to the camping ground in search of a site for the night.
Very surprisingly given the number of tourists passing daily through Ucagiz there was no ATM or means of withdrawing cash in the little town and we are down to our last 20TL.
Prices at the camp ground are 12TL per person and despite there not being a single other tent pitched our offer of 20TL rather than 24TL is refused by the somewhat less than astute business mind of the owner.
Oh well, we spend 4TL having tea at a nearby cafe who call us a taxi to take us into Demre.
Demre is about five kilometers of flat bitumen road that passes many tomato tents and the usual industrial outskirts of towns and we are glad to have skipped this dreary walk so late in the day.
Our cab deposits us at an ATM where Pam withdraws some money to pay our driver before we make our way across the street to a pizza cafe that has large WiFi signs posted on its external advertising.
Across a narrow dusty gravel road on the outskirts of the markets which are closing for the day a man is selling live chickens.
Analogue age old rural one side of the road. Digital, plastic, glass and fluorescent lights the other. Turkey is a land of contrast.
Pam busies herself finding us some cheap accommodation in Demre as I order us some food.
Demre’s Grand Hotel appears to have never lived up to it’s moniker however it meets all our requirements. Bed, bathroom, WiFi, relatively cheap.
We both start and end the day smiling.
All’s WELL that ends WELL.
Pam and Mick