Lycian Way, Turkey. Bogazcik to Ucagiz.
I do my best to entertain Mrs Ali in reward for our delicious meals by striking a ‘strong man’ pose just before we set off. Laughing at my ridiculousness she gestures to Pam obviously saying the equivalent of ‘he is so strong now, yet last night he needed a Zimmer frame’.
Arms around each other the two grinning jokers pose for a photo like the best of friends.
Pam, Matthias and I set off as a trio back to the nearby outskirts of the village where we deviate from yesterday’s entry path and head straight uphill following the dirt road ahead.
Despite our trusty guide book’s altitude chart showing continuous downhills for the day our early morning path is all climb, climb, climb.
Just over the first crest way markers seemingly indicate we should deviate left on another ‘Clow Special’ and Pam and I follow Matthias into the bushes where the markers rapidly peter out.
Casting about in our usual fashion for markers Pam and I become separated from Matthias and appear to be heading back towards the road when he suddenly pops up from behind us stating he has found the trail again.
In a manner similar to our frustrating wrong turn where we ran into the Finnish Crew back on the ridges enroute to Phellos we have all missed earlier roadside markers and have mistaken the exit point of the Clow Special for the entry as a result of the plentiful cairns and markers.
Mystified queries as to how Matthias so rapidly and assuredly rejoined the correct path has him showing me the intricacies of his Garmin GPS hiking unit that he carries in one of the chest pouches of his Aarn backpack.
I am also very interested in his Aarn pack which has two large pouches fixed to the shoulder straps where they cross the pectoral muscles of the chest. During my research for backpacks in Australia I had come across the Aarn website online and was greatly intrigued by their claims of superior weight distribution and significantly improved posture and respiration allowed by counterbalancing the posterior weight of the main pack by carrying dense items such as water bottles, cameras and food in these front chest packs.
Matthias vouches for his Aarn pack as being the best he has ever used however recommends using extra padding under the shoulder straps and shows me the blackboard sponges he has borrowed from his classroom that he puts under each strap where it crosses his shoulders.
Our interesting morning hiking talk takes us across a stony flattish section and up to a bitumen road where we turn right and pause for a rest (which only Pam and I need) under a shady tree beside some ruins.
In the distance, high on the peak we have circled around are the ruins of Apollonia however none of us appear enthusiastic about retracing our path and climbing yet another hill.
Continuing up the bitumen for about fifty meters the Lycian soon veers from the road beside more ruins and tombs and we make our way up a rough tractor path passing through the saddle between two peaks ahead.
The promised descent begins and we encourage the much fitter and faster Matthias to take the lead. He obviously thinks we are trying to ditch him and appears keen to maintain our company after having walked from the Lycian starting point by himself.
Reassuring him that we only want him to take the lead as we will obviously impede his natural gait and walking flow cheers him up and he strides off ahead before patiently waiting a few twists and turns downhill for us to catch him before repeating this cycle over and over.
Our cheerful little downhill cascade continues and I do my best to still take one handed photos in the most spectacular areas of the rough terrain.
The winding descent continues for a long time taking us through stony areas that have me thinking of sets from the old black and white TV show ‘Lost in Space’ where a wobbly glass headed, stiff limbed, doom and gloom spouting robot (obviously me) still managed to remain intact and upright between the stones.
Passing a couple of derelict stone cottages a special teapot Lycian way marker is closely followed by a broken lidded cistern full of water and green pond scum.
‘Glad we are not walking at night’ say’s Matthias which has us all laughing in agreement.
The arched walls of this death trap would prove very difficult if not impossible to climb out of unassisted and I am surprised not to see any floating sheep carcasses. Goats of course would be far too smart to fall in.
Not far from these murky waters we encounter the uppermost walls of the ruins of Aperlae where we take a long packs down break.
Matthias daringly climbs some of the wall sections and declares that the walls continue down to the waterline that we are heading for. As he strides off in search of new vistas Pam and I climb the same wall for a long look from the heights.
Enclosed within a roughly rectangular walled section the large ruins of Aperlae fill the sloping interior all the way to the sheltered inlet below. Almost completely overgrown now, it is easy to let millennia roll back in my mind to imagine this once thriving port city bustling with the commerce of the era.
Pam and I only explore a close by tiny section of the massive ruined entirety, we are hikers not archeologists. Back at our packs we discover that Matthias must be thinking similarly, we are all keen to move on.
The Lycian descends via a path outside the walls down the steep hillside towards the waters edge.
Everywhere on this slope stone tombs, still in great condition despite their long ago desecration, stand in clear defiance of time, geographical and social upheaval.
Sweaty and grimy, our grinding downhill progress draws amused looks from fresh dressed unscratched day trippers wandering slowly uphill amongst the tombs.
We are keen to make it to the mythical ‘Purple House’ designated in signs we have passed enroute where we can sit and consider our next move.
My pausing for photo after photo of the multitude of hillside tombs finds me walking the flat red dirt path along the waters edge by myself. Pam and Matthias are already sitting down and ordering drinks by the time I make my way through the gates of the fence surrounding the Purple House.
A friendly haven with lingering overtones of the hippy era our multilingual host has exactly the right attitude towards the stream of passersby’s who all are led through the gates if they follow Lycian Way markers.
Each person is quietly offered drinks and food in a very laid back low pressure manner with absolutely no hint of obligation if they decline. When our pleasant host arrives with our drinks he tells us we are free to eat or drink anything we have brought in our packs.
This low pressure approach makes us feel very comfortable to enquire as to how we can arrange a boat to ferry us the rest of the way to Ucagiz
Our kindly host gives us a wide smile and tells us ‘I have a speed boat, I will arrange for my friend to take you in an hour or so for sixty lira’.
This is fantastic news, Pam and I have already advised Matthias of our intent to skip the mudflats our guide book advises lie between here and Ucagiz and we hatch a plan to take Matthias’ pack in the boat so he can finish his walk unencumbered by it’s weight.
After taking many photos of the grounds and ‘wildlife’ within the fence line the comfort of having our plans in place and plenty of time to spare enables me to leave Pam and Matthias in the shade and return along the banks of the inlet towards the stone jetty to take more photos of the ruins spreading over the hillside above.
On my return I am informed Matthias has changed his plans and now intends to ride with us in the boat to Ucagiz then return with the boat to walk the last stretch in the cool of the afternoon.
In due course we are informed that the time of action is at hand and are once more pleasantly surprised by the fact that our backpacks will be transported via ‘motorbike’ to the boat on the far side of the flat land that forms the narrow neck of the hilly peninsula beyond.
The ‘motorbike’ turns out to be a converted small mechanized garden rotary hoe with its blades removed and a makeshift trailer with a seat attached to the towbar for the driver.
Following the tracks of the motorized contraption along the flat soft dirt road unencumbered by our heavy packs is the easiest hiking we have encountered since leaving Australia.
Unexpectedly we come across Matthias’s pack place under the shade of a tree near the waterline.
The speed boat turns out to be a fiberglass tinny with a 20hp Honda motor that is permanently dry moored on the fixed modified trailer with removed wheels.
Our boat’s captain explains that he thought only Pam and I were crossing the water hence the deposited pack and with the language barriers is perplexed by Matthias’s explanation that he wants to travel in both directions across the water then walk back to Ucagiz.
Shrugging his shoulders ‘crazy tourists’ he loads Matthias’s backpack then helps us aboard the tiny craft and we all manage to avoid a ‘funniest home videos’ incident.
Zooming across the water with the wind in our hair and the sun on our face is absolutely divine and all of us wear face splitting broad smiles.
Our captain’s smile turns mischievous when the motor splutters midway and he turns it off whilst saying in clear English ‘SURPRISE’.
Pam must have looked so alarmed that he hurries to reassure her that he just needs to transfer fuel from the spare tank into the one that feeds the outboard motor.
The reliable Honda outboard has electric start and fires back into life immediately after its fuel is restored which has Pam smiling once more as we race along passing tour boats anchored beside the rough shoreline.
I nearly manage to provide the busy harbour with splashing entertainment as I sway violently clambering from the boat to the jetty and only just manage to remain dry.
Immediately as we leave the jetty we are propositioned for pensions and accommodation and Pam goes off to check out the premises of the pension that is owned by the proprietor of a busy waterfront restaurant where I stay minding the bags and drinking beer with Matthias.
Pam returns with the news that the pension is more like a hotel and our room is large and has a modern bathroom which is great news. Our friendly boat captain has disappeared and with no real idea of when he is going to return we stay to accompany Matthias until he sets off again.
While we wait I recognise the two young germans who zoomed past us on the cliffs between Liman Agizi and Ufakdere just as they are about to board a small boat presumably for a tour of the sunken city the waters around Ucagiz are famed for.
Without our super daggy hats and backpacks it is obvious that they don’t recognize us as I shout a greeting however as the boat goes to pull away from the shoreline I see a spark of recognition cross the young lady’s face and she returns my wave.
Sitting harbour side in the shade of the extending canvas roofline above we are very much at peace with our place in the Universe and are laughing and joking with Matthias as he awaits the return of our captain.
The table behind us is inhabited by a family speaking English with a pronounced US accent who turn out to be from Venezuela. They are interested in our tales of the rough paths through the rocky environment and the mother in the little crew sums up our adventures in a beautiful statement that she says first in Spanish to her family then translates for our benefit in clear English.
‘That which you have danced can never be taken away’.
When I ask her if she is a dancer she blushes shyly as her three daughters all emphatically reply in concert ‘oh yes’.
Our captain appears pushing a wheelbarrow full of 1.5L water bottles and tells us he will be ready to return soon. A few more wheel barrow loads of water bottles, beer and soft drink loaded into the boat finds us waving goodbye as the heavily laden craft bearing our two new friends idles away from the shoreline.
Pam and I go to take our bags to our room however the tall lean young man running point for our landlord insists on carrying Pam and Matthias’s packs.
Soon after we are clean and dry and ready to face the world.
Leaving Pam resting in our room I return to find our Venezuelan friends are just leaving their lunch table and we wish each other well.
Celebrating my great fortune and comparatively rested knees I indulge in a couple of solo Efes before being joined by our German friends after their boat tour returns.
Heike, who still has me entranced with her Kiwi accent and her companion Ernie are both fluent English speakers and we are all laughing and in fine form when Pam joins us a little later.
Ernie and Heike have hiked in many parts of the world and Ernie tells us with admirable directness that they hike in the woods near their home in Germany every weekend ‘without exception’.
I see hatching plans for our return to Australia spark in the back of Pam’s eyes.
We are still all laughing and joking when a couple of hours later Matthias reappears at the table and I greet him with an enthusiastic high five.
Everyone in this small cadre of jokers understands his urge to walk his route as planned. We have all followed similar paths of madness in our travels and we share a few more drinks and a lot more laughs as the sun sinks towards the horizon.
Heike and Ernie have meals included in the price of their pension and leave Pam and I at the restaurant as Matthias goes off to find a room and have a shower.
Pam and I spend a little time looking out over the late afternoon mirror of the harbour discussing how fortunate we have been to encounter so many inspiring people in such a short space of time as we wait for Matthias to return.
He has ended up staying in the same pension as us and returns soon to join us for dinner.
A fantastic day spent in the company of like minded people we respect and admire.
Who could ask for more?
Pam and Mick