Lycian Way, Turkey. Tekirova to Kemer.
Dogs that met us growling at the entrance to the foyer spend the night in barking concert answering canine conversation from all around. A rooster that mistakenly believes 2am indicates impending sunrise gives it his all for hours only to fall strangely silent as the sun breaks the line of the horizon.
This noisy night seems to leave the ducks that were prowling the grounds yesterday afternoon unfazed and it is only as I go to take photos of them with heads tucked under wings on our way to an early breakfast that they rouse.
One of the many cats that also live here jumping up on the chair in search of company as we eat a delicious breakfast rounds out the menagerie of animals that call Sundance Camp home.
Sundance Camp lies directly on the Lycian Way and the early morning concert means we already have our bags packed and ready.
Directly after breakfast we cross a little creek flowing into the nearby sea via two little wooden bridges that bring us to a field that bizarrely houses two metallic geodesic domes before walking along a grassy tractor path that curves around the back of the beach.
A small herd of goats show much more interest in us than does their accompanying herder.
Beyond the steep little climb and descent over the intervening headland another curving beach ends in a cliffs where remains of an ancient wall still stand.
We follow a pine needle covered dirt road inland from the first edge of this beach which brings us to the parking lot for the Phaselis Ruins.
Phaselis is an extensive site of well preserved ruins and we walk under the arch of the remains of an aqueduct that once had its headwaters in the hills far above.
A comfortably shaded park bench provides an ideal spot for Pam to rest and guard the bags whilst I go off exploring.
An ancient broad flat stone paved street heading into the site has many standing stones on each side bearing inscriptions. Phaselis ruins includes little metal plaques that translate the inscriptions chiseled into these stone into several languages including English.
Astonishingly it is like reading the back pages of a newspaper.
Rather than lofty philosophical statements or political slogans these heavy stones with their millennia old messages are almost exclusively devoted to reporting sporting outcomes, particularly wrestling.
Crumbling buildings once devoted to worship and bathing line this thoroughfare and I climb wooden stairs allowing access to the amphitheatre where a tourist guide is entertaining a crowd.
Thinking of the long day to come I don’t go much further towards the beach on the other side where we saw the cliffs and wall from afar on our approach and instead return to allow Pam a chance for her own wander.
On her return we rest together on the bench taking in the sights of this popular destination for a while before we hitch up our packs once more and commence walking around the curve of the beach towards the next headland we are to climb.
At the top of this crest we turn left and make our way towards the highway running between Tekirova and Kemer where we are presented with our first guide related conundrum for the day.
Our guide book makes no mention that the bitumen road we will encounter and have to cross is a busy four lane highway with dual metal dividers separating the two lanes in each direction.
What it does say is as follows ‘Turn L/inland to walk on a G2 path and a G5 track through forest to meet the main road and walk R for about 100m’.
There is no road whatsoever within 100m right of where the trail encounters the highway however after some frustrating time spent consulting guide and map standing on the shoulder of this zooming highway I conclude that the road about 1km away down the hill on the other side is the most likely to fit the description.
Pam is none to sure about my interpretations and threatens all kinds of retribution if our dangerous highway crossing and downhill walk needs to be reclaimed in the opposite direction.
Crossing the crotch high metallic highway barriers heavily laden provides its own entertainment however from our position once safely on the other side I am confident that I can see Lycian signs on the intersection with the gravel road ahead where a little white car is parked.
Turns out that this car is not parked but has broken down and by the time we arrive one of the three occupants is attempting to singlehandedly push it back up the slope in an attempt to jump start it.
He is not making much headway so I strip off my pack and give him a hand to push it high enough for a decent run then push hard downhill.
The little car fires into life first try however I am sure my ‘don’t stall it mate’ comment was not clearly understood.
With my good deed for the day out of the way Pam and I return to the more serious business at hand. Thankfully the road we have come to is the road we need to follow and I will not have to suffer the threatened harsh consequences of serious error.
Onwards and ever upwards, we commence climbing the often seriously eroded gravel road that winds up the long valley towards the distant hills.
One step follows another, taking enough of them in the right direction always leaves me a bit surprised by how rapidly we actually cover long distances.
Our climb is long and sweaty however we only rest once and soon we arrive at a T-intersection at the top of the valley and take the much more heavily travelled right branch across the top of the ridge where a yellow quad bike has apparently been left after breaking down.
Pam responds to my idea of just coasting downhill on the quad bike by rolling her eyes and as we look over the valley below where a rocky formation titled the Devil’s Rocks stands looking out above the town of Kuzdere.
Suddenly I realise that this option just looks way too easy and that we should check the guide to make sure we have taken the correct turn at the intersection.
Our guide informs us that ‘At a junction turn L, then 50m later turn R again’. Easy is never the correct option on the Lycian.
The first marker we come across is a hybrid between a cross and the red and white flag we are used to. Which is it, cross or red and white? We decide it is an incorrect cross that has had a marker painted over it.
Of course giving correct information in the guide has no place on the Lycian Way either and there is no right turn option in the road for at least another 500 if not 800m.
From where we finally turn right we continue walking uphill following a little used gravel road.
Maximal elevation indicated for today in our less than trustworthy guide indicates 250m however we have apparently climbed to 260m above sea level the day before and today we have spent several hours climbing steadily and to me it feels like we are between 400 and 500m above sea level by the time we finally level out long after we have swapped the gravel road for goat tracks.
Dense bush makes it hard to get good shots of the valley sprawling out to the waterline below and the air is filled with heat haze and smog from the large towns nearby.
After contouring around the peak of the hill we have spent so long labouring up, the path plunges steeply down heavily eroded tracks where multiple intersections require a pause for consultation and marker finding each time.
Passing a German hiker who has climbed to a scarp that would offer great views of the valley and mountains beyond we are too focussed on each downward footfall to pause beyond saying hi and continue our clattering descent down to a flat open area.
Slightly downhill from here the first clean view of the Devil’s Rocks since sighting them back at the broken down quad bike becomes available.
As we descend, the path becomes rougher and more eroded which slows our laden pace. The lightly burdened German hiker passes us bouncing from rock to rock with the agility of the goats that I so admire.
At the base of the valley we meet a bitumen road where the Lycian turns left and we pass an orange grove where the sweet fruit are protected from our reach by a mesh wire fence with a couple of strands of barbed wire at the top.
My shirt that has not had a single tear on all the bushes we have brushed through catches on the barbed wire in my futile attempt to reach an orange and I tear the left sleeve slightly as I withdraw it.
A bus stop that looks hardly used stands on the junction of the bitumen road and the bridge across the dry stream bed that we have to cross. With hopes of finding water in this creek dashed I am wondering what to do next as we are now down to our last water bottle and have a long walk ahead.
Across the road from where we sit pondering our next move is an apparently disused pension and further up the property grounds from this building is a tourist site for quad bikes that looks like a place where I might get some water.
As I go to enter the gates a man appears on the balcony of the building I had thought abandoned and in response to my gestures holding up the empty water bottles he waves his arm for me to come over and greets me at the bottom of the building before taking me up to where a slow running hose is filling an enormous swimming pool.
Laughing at my long scull after I have filled the first bottle he calls out to a friend who is repairing the pool area and the pair of them return with me to the house swapping jokes and as I thank them and go to leave they give me the Turkish handshake accompanied by a double-sided head bump that is a sign of friendship between Turkish men.
Three full water bottles gives us options aplenty once more and we cross the dry creek appreciative of the helpful nature of the great majority of Turkish people that we have encountered.
The last house we pass on the dirt road that ends just beyond the yard is surrounded by a fence with three aggressive sounding dogs inside. The illusion of comfort granted by the fence rapidly disappears when two of these dogs scuttle under the wire and charge barking towards us.
Having noticed the cropped ears I am relieved they show the same response to a stoop and motion to throw as other shepherd dogs we have encountered however this pair maintain a menacing presence and I keep a close eye on them until we are finally out of sight.
Just as I drop the stone in my hand to the ground three horse riders crest the ridge in front of us and pass us by.
An absolute maze of tracks pass over the ridge ahead and we have not seen a marker in ages by the time we have climbed up and over circling the base of the Devil’s Rocks as indicated in our guide.
I am tired and running out of patience with the whole Lycian process by this point and we finally decide to just follow the path giving the appearance of heaviest use down towards the town of Kuzdere below.
We have definitely lost the Lycian by the time we make contact with the gravel road at the base of the hill however Pam is still trying to match our surroundings to information given in the guide and we enter and walk up the centre of an orange orchard following a faint trail as per the guide advice.
Of course this path leads nowhere however we both are rewarded with a couple of oranges fresh from the tree and some great shots of the Devil’s Stones that had remained hidden by trees as we circled them across the ridge.
Taking the lead once more I elect to follow the road into Kuzdere from where the Lycian leaves heading along the major road that makes its way up the valley lying at the base of very high mountain ridges to the Roman Bridge that is supposed to be our destination for the day.
By now both of us are done.
We both slept badly during the night due to the animal cacophony and have climbed far and high following dubious circuitous directions that have brought us hours later back to a town that was but a few downhill kilometers from the T-intersection and the broken down yellow quad bike that now seems an eternity ago.
Straggling through the town we stop at many shops in an attempt to discover if there is a hotel or pension in the town however language barriers leave us at a loss.
Our planned destination of the Roman Bridge is still at least four kilometers away and there is apparently no accommodation there and we have no idea if we will be able to access water or find a suitable camping spot.
Leaving Pam sitting on a park bench beside a busy children’s playground I set off to try and find if a dolmus goes to Kemer which is where all our queries for hotels have been directed.
Apparently the last dolmus of the day will be leaving soon is what I divine from a pantomime session with a local sitting at the stop and I hurry back to Pam.
We are walking up the road towards the stop when the dolmus passes us and we both break into a desperate shuffling heavily laden run.
Luckily our new friend holds the bus until we arrive and climb puffing and panting into the rear door.
Fifteen minutes and 3TL later we are struggling to get our packs down through the narrow door as we alight in the heart of Kemer.
Fountains are jetting up from the ground which has me joking about having a shower in the square we struggle across before collapsing into some chairs outside a bar/restaurant.
Using the WiFi of the premises Pam discovers that the cafe where we hoped to dine beside the Roman Bridge is supposedly closed, which justifies our decision process completely in my mind, before we order drinks and a meal.
Our waiter advises there is a three star hotel just a few doors up and after we have finished our reasonably priced meal we hitch up our packs again and struggle the last hundred meters of the day.
Three stars is a generous rating however a bed, shower and WiFi fill all our needs and the room we are finally guided to after finding no WiFi operating in the first has all three.
Longing for the caress of hot flowing water to sooth away all my ills I stand for at least five minutes awaiting the transition between icy and scalding. Solar hot water with no electric backup can make hot water a bit sketchy even at hotels in Turkey however there is not even a hint of warm coming through after a seeming eternity spent waiting.
Hovering on the decision of having a dreaded cold shower I remember the many small errors of construction that we have noted in most places we have stayed in Turkey and I decide to try the tap clearly marked cold that reverses plumbing convention accepted worldwide.
Within a minute the hot flow commences.
Pam and Mick