Lycian Way, Turkey. Adrasan to Olympos
Gentle rain continues intermittently as I type away in the comfort of the Arikanda restaurant watching time poor hikers heading for the wet slippery slopes of Eren T trudge disconsolately along the creekside road.
Heavy rain whipped by strong winds greets us the next morning however Pam and I spend quite some time ‘swapping opinions’ before she relents to being very well looked after by Vahit and his staff for a second day.
Heavy grey clouds still hover around all mountain peaks however there is no rain falling when we awaken. A third delicious breakfast in the Arikanda hotel demands full attention before our climb commences.
The course of Cetyl Myristoleate I had taken in the two months prior to coming to Turkey has worked wonders for my painful knees however the days of rough terrain with heavy pack are beginning to take their toll and I have recommenced taking the anti-inflammatory recommended by Amr and Rosie back on the Camino in Spain.
Their recommendation was that one 15mg tablet per day is a large dose and I have been taking a single 15mg pill before breakfast for the last week or so.
Unaware that I have already taken a pill Pam leaves out another after breakfast and I decide ‘hey ho, if one is good, two is better’ and take the second before we heave on our packs.
As we go to pay our bill at the hotel the second in command of the staff tells me that Kate Clow chooses to stay at the Arikanda when she passes through Adrasan and that she was there recently. He also tells me that he assists with trail marking and cutting fallen trees from the paths on occasion.
After bidding the lovely staff at the Arikanda farewell we cross the arched footbridge across the creek, turn right and head towards the mountains dominating the skyline.
A couple of hundred metres up the road we turn right again and cross the little creek that flows down past the Arikanda via stepping stones before turning left and following the gravel road that tracks the base of the slopes we will soon be climbing.
Wet red dirt clumping on our boots requires frequent scraping and has me wishing out loud we had let a day of soil drying pass before recommencing our march however Pam is having none of my whinging.
Our sticky walk along the clumping gravel ends when we turn right once more, cross a little creek and begin winding up the slopes of a steep gully that plunges down between two high peaks.
Crossing a couple of low ridges brings us face to face with a narrow cleft between two large boulders resting on each other that requires us both to take off our packs.
Even unladen I have a hard time squeezing through which injects some humour into the morning.
Beyond this point the path steepens considerably and follows an upward trajectory over a series of ridges where short descents follow each steep climb only to be followed by another steep ascent to a higher ridge.
Two days of rain has a little water flowing in the obviously normally dry watercourse however our path takes us high up the right slope and any flow is hidden in the gully far below.
Our plan is to make Olympos in one day which involves a long steep climb from sea level to 700m above followed immediately by an even steeper descent back to sea level.
Having struck out early and hard it is not until we reach a little low three sided wooden bench that we pause for rest. A German hiker overtakes us here and offers a few words of encouragement.
I am definitely not feeling like my normal self today. Despite a good sleep I feel very, very tired and a bit weak.
Pam tells me to suck it up and we hitch back on our packs and recommence our climb.
A series of ever higher ridges follow before we cross the watercourse that is dry at this altitude and continue climbing up the left slope.
Bushland enclosing around us is pretty though unremarkable and there are few places that offer clean views of the peaks still towering on each side.
The path is largely well marked and not too rough with flat sections or short descents following each ridge crest as we scale the roller-coaster landscape step by slow step.
Despite the relative ease of the climb and the beauty of our surrounds I am rapidly feeling more and more tired. When I complain of feeling dizzy after the ground appears to become very distant from my feet we stop for a rest on some rocks.
Pam asking me if I am OK startles me from the tendrils of a shallow dream. I have almost fallen asleep sitting up.
With no real options we continue climbing however in a very short time I need to rest again. This process of short climbs followed by long rests continues for another couple of cycles until we meet a couple of female hikers coming down from the other direction who indicate that the top of the climb is still another hour and a half away.
I have run out of puff.
Our latest pause is near a section just off the track that offers a little flat ground covered in pine needles and I unclip my rubber sleeping mat and lie down using an empty water bottle as a pillow.
I fall asleep almost instantly.
At least an hour has passed by the time I reawaken and Pam begins insisting that we climb on as otherwise we will not make Olympos before sunset.
Considering that it is now after 3pm and we have yet to reach the top and will have a long steep descent to follow my opinion is that we would not make Olympos even if I was in good form which I most certainly am not.
I still feel tired and dizzy and more than anything I just want to go back to sleep.
A couple of British hikers coming down the hill tell us that there are two more 15 minute climbs to make the top which amplifies Pam’s desires to press on however I can barely drag myself upright and eventually she concedes to my request to just camp where we are and press on in the morning.
I am so tired I forget to even take a photo of our tent and surrounds and with still several hours of daylight remaining I fall asleep again.
Don’t double down on your dose kids.
I awaken in the depth of the night to the sound of large animals snuffling around the surrounds of our camp however we have all our gear stashed in the confines of the porch and whatever is outside is leaving our tent alone.
Within a few moments I am swirling back into the recesses of dreams.
Waking with the dawn still means I have slept for more than fourteen hours. I deliberately left Pam undisturbed on hearing the animals outside thinking she would have panicked however on awakening she tells me that she also heard them several times during the night but did not attempt to wake me.
I am still tired and foggy and just watch vaguely as Pam gets our campsite down mostly singlehanded.
Grey clouds of yesterday have flown during the night and clear blue skies overhead do their best to restore our good humour. Hitching up our packs to move on in the early morning we are surprised to see three young German hikers blasting up the path.
They have left Adrasan prior to 6am in an effort to reach Olympus early in the afternoon and explore the ruins.
Day hikers with light packs, my envy is making me resentful.
After giving them a couple of minutes to blast uphill out of earshot we begin our climb again.
Advice given by the British hikers yesterday turns out to be fairly accurate and within half an hour we have reached the crest of the major climb where sweeping views of the valleys and mountains beyond open out beyond the edge of the plateau to which we have climbed.
A gentle descent along a wide smooth gravel road sweeps around a long curve to the left before climbing slowly once more to a shepherds hut advised as a potential camping site in our guide.
The three young German hikers are resting here and having breakfast after their uphill blast and a few hundred metres along the road we turn right onto another narrower gravel track that climbs almost straight up the final ridge we have to climb.
No plateaus here, the ridge is like a knife edge and almost immediately we leave the gravel track and begin contouring down the steep and rocky pine tree covered slope beyond.
After traversing the head of a gully that appears to wind down the entire mountain slope below we commence following the right hand side.
Squared masoned stones make us aware of the Roman ruins abandoned and overgrown on the slopes above us to our left however our focus is purely downhill and only the telephoto lens brings them close.
The valley section immediately below is covered in fallen trunks of trees that appear to have been destroyed by localized high speed winds that have torn the upper sections clean from the trunks before hurling them in all directions.
Our friend at the Arikanda must have never gotten this far with his chainsaw as trunk after trunk has fallen across the path making our progress is very slow as we frequently need to take off our packs to climb over or under the huge obstacles.
Below the valley of twisted fallen trees we plunge into dark green semi-rainforest where the rain of the last couple of days has not yet had the chance to dry.
Every second footfall slips slightly as our path drops and winds down the hillside.
We are taking extra care to maintain our footing and are overtaken by the three young Germans who tell us with the usual directness that ‘you are too slow’.
‘No argument there my friends but lets swap packs for five minutes and see how you fare then’ is the resentful reply muttered under my breath.
The noisy boisterous threesome are out of sight rapidly as we cross and re-cross the moist and slippery rocks of the watercourse that lies deep in the folds of the steep valley that we are descending.
A large group of unladen day hiking Americans heading uphill pass us soon after and greet us friendlily as we stand by to let them pass on the single file trail.
Back in the dark green silence I take a bad step down a slippery little climb.
Force vectors and coefficients of friction combine in a manner that has no good outcomes for me.
As Time slows in the usual emergency fashion I manage to discard my Pacerpoles as I go down hard and I hit the ground thinking that my legs are in a reasonably good position and should not be injured.
I have not factored in the heavy pack altering the shape of my back and the moment it hits the ground I am pitched forward violently downhill headfirst onto a large rock.
Hearing my clatter as I fall Pam is doing her best to race back to me crying out ‘are you OK’.
Unbelievably other than being a little dazed and covered in mud I am fine however I am still bound up in my pack and am unable to get it off or rise to my feet. Pam comes to my aid and unclips me then provides a helping hand to stand upright before bursting into gales of laughter.
Given the force that my head and the rock have collided with I am expecting blood to be pouring from my hairline however my trusty Legionnaires cap that saves my head from being scratched to ribbons every day has once more come to my aid.
Examining the marks on the rock and cardboard and cloth brim I decide that the brim has folded across my forehead as I contacted the stone surface and the combination of this cushioning accompanied by the moss and lichen on the rock has saved me from serious injury.
Once more the random has intervened in my favour. If I had to fall then I am very glad that my head made contact protected by hat and mossy hollow in the rock rather than contacting the bare rough protrusion a few centimeters forward that would have left a nasty dent in my skull.
Even more catastrophic outcomes would have occurred if I missed the rock entirely for directly under the area my head struck is a tough sharp upright hard wooden spike of a dead bush trunk that would have easily pierced the thin bone of my temple and massively disrupted my brain function.
So I fell precisely in the best way and place I possibly could have and other than a little bump on my forehead I remain completely unscathed.
Resting for a short while before we recommence our grind downhill it is not even the first time for the day that I remind myself that there is no such thing as control or determinable continuity in life.
That keenest blade, Time
And down we are whittled
Some in our youth and
Some in our spittle
And you, the fairest judge of all
All purpose and release
At birth you mark us quarry
Stalk quiescent as Time’s beast
Counting down the heart beats
Counting down the breath
You are all hurt and mercy
As we clamour for that final sweee…..
Pam decides that saving my head from bleeding justifies giving my anti-fashion-statement cap a nickname and she dubs it ‘Pierre’ the protector.
Our caution redoubles after my tumble however going too slow has it’s own risks as well. We just have to keep on keeping on.
Eventually the slippery path eases a little and we take the time to rest on some large rocks that offer spectacular views of the valley and rocky outcrops that stand like small peaks in its midst.
By now Pam is conceding that given my circumstances the previous day we did the right thing in setting up our camp in the afternoon as we have been descending for hours without sighting a single potential campsite.
There is just no way we would have made Olympus by sunset given my exhaustion and attempting this treacherous descent in the dark would have been extremely risky.
Our beautiful resting spot turns out to be quite close to the bottom for a few twists and turns down we begin to hear the sounds of vehicles rising from the little township below.
The last little section is very steep with rock and roll gravel underfoot and a minor scree area however eventually we are passing a gaggle of flirting teenagers sitting in the shade of a stone arch that is part of the Roman ruins Olympos is famed for.
From here the wide gravel bed of the creek that flows into the nearby sea is easily crossed via stepping stones and we scramble up the far gravel bank and stagger into the first of the many restaurants/pensions that line the single street.
After having lunch we decide to look elsewhere for accommodation but only make it as far as the next door pension before deciding that we have had enough.
The last two days have really sucked it out of me and my pleading with Pam for a day spent resting rather than marching onwards coincides with the fact that we would be remiss in not exploring the sprawling Roman ruins of Olympos.
We compromise on a final rest day.
Pam promises that we will spend only an hour or so in the ruins and there will be no climbing at all.
Clean air and blue skies welcome us beyond the gates of the ticket office where we pay our 5TL admission.
Olympos nestles in a valley of confluence of several watercourses that make their way down steep slopes of the surrounding mountains. Roman ruins line both sides of the broad creek that flows between banks of masoned stones.
The modern township is a ramshackle collection of hastily constructed wooden pension/restaurants and provides a stark contrast to the comparative permanence of the remains of the stone structures erected thousands of years previously.
The cool clear creek flows directly into the Mediterranean less than a kilometer from the modern township and we commence our stroll along the left bank walking slightly downhill towards the salt water.
Several fast little creeks running along narrow courses engineered long ago join the slower broader stream in rushing cascades where more sections of the ruins lie in wait under dark green canopies.
Electing to save the ruins lying away from the main watercourse for our return we make our way slowly towards the beach, passing structures and tombs of the ancient civilization.
Another Hobo joins us as we walk however abandons us the moment he spies people who are eating.
Spilling out onto the stony beach to our left we see for the first time the slopes of the hills we will be climbing tomorrow and walk for a short while towards the town of Cirali before deciding to return to the ruins.
As we persuade a couple of persistent beach vendors that we are not interested in purchasing any of the snacks they are selling Pam notices that the hilltop above us is covered in ruins of a lookout tower.
Hobo Sandy is conserving energy as we return towards the creek and make our way to the base of the hill.
With all promises of not climbing completely forgotten Pam surges up the hill with me in grumbling accompaniment taking photos of the admittedly beautiful views.
A Russian couple who have climbed the cliffs from the beach to this point in an apparent attempt to avoid paying the entry fee to the ruins do not return our greetings however by the time we are ready to descend we find a very friendly young crew of Russians have followed in our footsteps.
Remains of temples and tombs with much of their decorative features still clearly visible fill spaces in the overgrowth of our return path and we spend a couple of hours doing our best to see as much as we can before returning to our pension for lunch.
Returning across the stepping stones of the creek where we crossed yesterday we make our way down the right bank of the creek towards the Mediterranean.
Archeological attempts at uncovering and preserving the ruins on this side have not been nearly as thorough as on the other and the path is much narrower and rougher.
Nothing that the two of us can’t handle of course and eventually we have made our way down to the remains of an amphitheater that has largely been stripped of the seating stones before following a thorn bush sided path leading towards some impressive stone and terra-cotta arches.
As always my mind wanders towards the reasons for such an advanced society’s cultural collapse.
Such a short time on this earth
Still each breath draws sweeter than the last
Each violent violet Parrish Sky
Stirs wonder-lust of youth long past
Longing endless swells my heart
What fills the hearts of hollow men, we stardust golems?
Contrast our platitudes solemn, with our actions perverse
We are the sunset, blood is our hue
We are the furnace, our touch blight
We are the cusp of the violet night
We are hope run dry
Yet still among us hope survives, a stubborn periwinkle
Clings steadfast against hatred’s tides
I dare dream courses new to steer
Away from our cruelties unthinkable
Away from our death march immutable
Away from our biocidal urges
I dare dream history’s lessons learned
I dare dream a peaceful place amongst all life forms earned
I dare dream of human humility
For I stand under a Parrish Sky
Each breath drawn sweeter than the last
I know, faced with infinity, triumph becomes dust
I know, intimately, my fate is to cease
I shall be into violet violence released
Water flows from the creek into the sea fast and over knee high so we make our way back along the stone creek bed towards the gentle flow easily crossed by stepping stones upstream.
Hours spent wandering and climbing despite her early assertions to the contrary.
I wonder if Pam is related to Kate Clow?
Pam and Mick.