Lycian Way, Turkey. Cayagiz to Myra / Demre.
Pam wakes early and has already filled her head with schemes for the coming day by the time I awaken. ‘We are returning to Cayagiz to walk the long steep goat track route back to the Myra ruins and Demre’ she tells me with great delight as I am still shaking the fog of sleep from my brain.
My pleading efforts of last night to dissuade her from this course of action that she had casually mentioned as a remote possibility yesterday evening have obviously amounted to nought.
‘You won’t even have to carry your backpack’ she triumphantly declares before sticking a malicious knife into my ribs with the inane statement ‘it will be fun’.
Obviously we have widely divergent opinions as to the meaning of ‘fun’ however from long experience I know any further efforts of dissuasion will prove futile and I resign myself to my hot and sweaty, knee busting fate.
After our long dry run yesterday I insist on filling all our water bottles to carry in my daypack. A mere six kilos extra on my back beats six feet under the dirt.
No dolmus do the short run to Cayagiz so we take a cab from the bus station.
Our driver has misinterpreted our destination despite us showing him the name in the guide book and starts driving up the main highway that winds up the sides of the steep, high hills we will be climbing later.
It takes several forceful protestations to get him to stop and turn around however eventually he drops us at the cafe beside the orange bridge we crossed late yesterday afternoon.
As we walked by towards the camping ground in search of a site to camp yesterday we were befriended by a yellow dog whom Pam nicknamed Hobo Goldy.
Goldy greets us as we alight from the cab and I notice she has two large ticks on her face.
Back home Pam returned in a complete panic from one of her walks with our dog Ivan after discovering a tick on one of his rear legs and we did some research online in search of removal techniques prior to shelling out a fortune for a vet.
An extremely simple option (so simple it seems ridiculous) we read was to gently rub the body of the tick in a counterclockwise direction for about 30 seconds which apparently disorients the blood sucking parasites and causes them to voluntarily disengage from the host taking their potentially infectious mouthpiece with them.
I have dealt with a bazillion cattle ticks on our cattle herds in my youth however had never heard of such a remedy and eager to put it to the test, began rubbing the tick on Ivan’s leg.
Astonishingly the tick easily disengaged completely within the 30 second time period and Ivan was left totally unaffected other than completely loving the extra attention. One of his many nicknames is ‘Needy McGreedy’ and like most dogs he is ever ready for extra lovin’.
Hobo Goldy presents another chance to try the technique and I call her over. Two ticks hang off her face, a fully engorged tick hanging fat off her left cheek and another partially engorged and still flat bodied tick on the lower left eye lid very close to her eye.
She sits still for me as I start rubbing the fully engorged tick on her jawline and it quickly drops off to the ground and is squashed underfoot.
The tick immediately under her eye is in a very sensitive spot and Goldy refuses to stay still long enough for me to effect her remedy.
By now we are best mates and after I give up trying to help her she follows Pam and I along the grey sand as we make our way towards the rickety bridge crossing to begin our climb for the day.
Hobo Goldy is way too smart to attempt to follow us across the rickety bridge and turns back towards home as we set off uphill to rejoin the Lycian Way junction from where we descended last night.
From the junction the way continues to climb. Used by many creatures other than humans the goat tracks are traversed by long ant lines bearing cut leaves and dead insects back to their nests.
Yesterday our coastal passage was accompanied by many butterflies with wing tops coloured bright blue. These butterflies rest with wings held vertical and close together which makes them almost invisible when stationary as the underside of their wings is the same grey as the boulders and rocks strewn everywhere on this rough terrain.
The bright blue on their wings upper surface is displayed vividly with each downstroke in flight and I call them ‘Blue Lightning’ as the strobing effect is similar to the afterglow of a lightning strike or inadvertently watching an arc welder at work.
Today the flapping Blue Lightnings are joined by another slightly larger butterfly species with wings also grey underneath and bearing a green and gold target a little like the shimmering heart of a peacock tail feather on the upper.
All manner of other legged and winged beasts make use of the clear paths. Lizards basking on the hot rocks in the bright sunshine always manage to slide into crevices to avoid my digital eye, occasionally we see a little snake doing its best to slither away from our stomping approach.
Butterflies and all manner of insects fly along the cleared area which attracts plenty of my arachnid nemesis’s who have festooned the space between trees with their sticky silks and await ever patient to pounce, snare and wrap upon sensing vibrational signals in their webs.
Behind me Pam is wondering why I am wildly swinging my Pacerpoles ahead as we climb higher and higher. She finds my predicament funny as she is very aware of my more than slightly phobic Shelob aversion.
Despite my best swiping efforts I have to constantly wipe spider webs from my wild man beard.
I am at a loss to explain the circuitous route our path follows for we end up climbing all the way up and completely around the hill we spent so much time following the waterline of yesterday and I am none too happy when I discover that we have to descend the other side to a valley and then climb once more up a dry watercourse towards the terraced area below the tomato tents of a hillside farm.
My impertinent questions as to ‘when does the fun start’ are poorly received and I rapidly decide that discretion is definitely going to be the better part of valour as the real climb has not even begun.
Beyond the watercourse the Lycian Way markers are hard to spot and it takes us some time to find our way up and to the right of the tomato tents where we climb up the gravel road beyond.
Once again we miss markers which fortunately saves us from enduring yet another steep Clow Special that ends in a scramble up the shoulder of the bitumen road to exactly where the much more sedate climb of the gravel farm entrance leads.
At the bitumen we turn right and begin losing hard won altitude as we wind back down towards the head of the valley of the tidal stream we crossed on the rickety bridge ages ago.
From this valley head the tidal flats, where ancient ruins of Sura still stand, spread out shrouded in heat haze below us. We are going through our water supply at a rate of knots despite the early hour and already I am considering rationing for the climb ahead.
Immediately across the road from the hazy vista below, huge boulders and grey cliffs of the climb to come are all too clear.
After we struggle up the first loose gravel incline we pause for a rest. The new highway has required the destruction of the old road that apparently followed this steep valley and many of the boulders ahead are composites of road gravel and bitumen still clumped together.
Taking photos of the climb ahead I am extremely disappointed to see that once again the two dimensional outcome gives no sense of the scale of the boulders or the gradient of the incline ahead.
Some of these boulders are far more massive than our hotel room in Demre and sections of the climb are so steep that I am extremely grateful we are not making this attempt burdened by our backpacks as even unladen I often have trouble maintaining my grip with boots and Pacerpoles combined.
Despite these issues in all truth the climb is spectacular. Grey cliffs tower above us on each side, the valley rings with clanging bells from leading goats making their sure footed way to favoured grazing areas. Blue Lightning strobes flash along the path where many shady trees offer cool resting spots that we take frequent advantage of.
After days of trying I capture a beautiful clear shot of another black and yellow winged species of butterfly that has two long trailing aerodynamic tail sections that grant the superior lift and stable pitch control offered by the horizontal tail planes of a modern aircraft.
I have watched these butterflies lift with barely a wing flap to float between complexes of interwoven twigs, precision dancing on the lightest of breezes during our walks and I am delighted to get a clear shot of one at last.
Next thing is to capture the transitory sight of one in flight…. I have a photographic goal.
‘Onwards and ever upwards’ we crisscross the watercourse occasionally rejoining remnants of the old road as we climb higher and higher.
Eventually the valley turns left and commences a slightly less steep climb along a section that is hidden from the modern road far below.
Looking ahead I realise that the steep cliffs and ridges I thought we would eventually ascend are in fact much lower than the peaks towards which we head inexorably.
My day pack is becoming worrisomely light however we have no choice other than to stay well hydrated as we climb. I keep looking into the valley depths in hope of spying some flowing water however the soil at the base is rarely even damp.
Leaving the shady hollows behind we clamber zigzagging up the the steep slope of the right shoulder of the valley and eventually rejoin the old road which winds its way up and up towards the communications tower in the distance.
After taking a long rest in the shade of a group of large trees we are once again at loggerheads with the vague descriptions given in our guide.
So used by now to Pam’s intuition regarding direction being the complete opposite of the way we should be heading I unwisely ignore her interpretation of the confusing guide and we follow the course of the old road to the end where it joins with a little used bitumen road kilometers from where we should be.
Climbing this obviously old and previously used winding Lycian route I have seen the occasional fading marker along the way and there are a couple of red crosses on boulders as we trudge back towards the main road however there is no denying that I have steered us wide of our intended intersection with the modern road that sweeps back along the ridge of the valley we have spent so long climbing.
Pam takes great delight in mockingly declaring each of my sightings of old markers hallucinations.
‘Salt into the wound’ my cruel love?
Eventually the old road leads to a junction with the main road where we see we still have a couple of kilometers to walk back along the descending curves braving mad Turkish drivers who have no respect for road rules or traffic lanes.
A blue plastic bus shelter containing a narrow wooden seat set so high that not even my feet can reach the ground when seated provides an uncomfortable rest point to consider our next move.
Pam’s leg circulation is being cut off by the seat and she lies flat with her head in my lap which in turn begins to cut off the circulation in my legs. I retire to the comfort of a nearby stone after leaving my daypack under her head as a pillow.
Neither of us are keen to keep going just for the sake of it however we are long accustomed to keeping on keeping on and have a long rough dry descent to go to reach the Mrya ruins.
The blue plastic weather enclosure of the bus stop is comprised of horizontal curved strips which focus the sun’s heat rather than shield against it. We are resting in a solar oven.
Just as we are about to commence lurching down the road a dolmus swings around the corner towards us and we capitulate to the heat and thoughts of probably dry wells along a meandering return to a point of origin and departure that we have already attained.
There is sweetness found in some surrenders.
Flesh for the flesh for flesh is blessed
How close doth palm cup breast
How skin reacts to breath
time and Time
and time compressed
Each time anew
and never a time like the rest
a fingertip tastes thigh’s caress
To beckon mind
beyond what mind knows best
Surrender as I surrender
At your bequest
Back in Demre we surrender to four wheeled mechanized temptation once more and exchange the dolmus for a taxi that takes us to the Myra ruins.
Now if I can just find a Segway to roll around the ruins.
Of course such modern accoutrements have no place here.
Myra ruins are comprised of a large amphitheater carved into the stone of the hillside and cliffs under the watchful eyes of the walled garrison far above.
Tombs, all been desecrated centuries ago, line the walls of the surrounding cliffs in astonishing displays of expert masonry skills.
A catastrophic change in the course of the Demre Cay river deposited meters of silt over the entire valley which has been excavated to expose the stage of the deep amphitheater and the stones remaining of the temple occupying the space in front.
Fortuitously we arrive when few other people are within the ruins site and spend plenty of time wandering past the orderly archeological arrangement of column and ruin fragments, gaping up at the masterful cliffside tombs and clambering to the top of the amphitheater.
As we make our way down to the stage area our near solitude comes to an abrupt end as a swarm of teenage school kids invade the area.
Leaving the Myra ruins we learn that there is another very significant ruins site containing the ancient church of St Nicholas (otherwise known as Santa Claus) in the middle of modern Demre which explains all the bizarre references to Santa’s summer home we have encountered in this predominantly Muslim town.
We decide to save that one for tomorrow and catch a cab directly back to our hotel.
The next day we are back to andtheywalked.com business as usual and make our way into the flat town of Demre on foot to explore the magnificent remains of the church which has been excavated from the silt in which it has been buried for many years. Coincidentally the ruins lie on the same street as our hotel so our walk is short and straight.
Incredibly intact frescos still adorn the arches and walls and intricate ancient stone tiled floors are smooth and cool underfoot.
Doing our best to avoid the wandering course of a German speaking tour guide and accompanying crowd we manage to negotiate the wonders kept safe under the huge canvas awning erected over the site.
After having lunch at a very busy restaurant which is once again in the same street as both the ruins and our hotel we walk the short route back to our room to get to work on the blog.
Massive clouds gathering black and furious in the afternoon above the mountains we will commence climbing tomorrow release a thunderous lightning storm on the town at about 3am in the morning.
Flashing lightning accompanied by thunder drum rolls amplified by the soundboards of the mountains wake me with a start. Moments later the town goes black after a massive lightning strike and soon after hail begins ricocheting off the the fourth floor landing and bouncing off our wooden door as rushing wind pushes a minor flood beneath our door.
‘Pity the fool that is camping in the hills tonight’ I tell Pam in my best Mr T impression.
The timing of the decision to stay the extra day in Demre to visit Santa’s church has been impeccable.
Both Time and Santa are on our side.
Pam and Mick