Lycian Way, Turkey. Kemer to Goynuk Yaylasi
Our low cost accommodation in Kemer does not include breakfast and thinking we will make a quick getaway from this town we leave the hotel early before making our way across the square and crossing the road to await a dolmus back to Kuzdere to recommence our walk towards the Roman Bridge.
Pam and I have compromised on the path we will follow today as the walk from Kuzdere to the Roman Bridge is going to be four or five kilometers of climbing road that we will have to cover before even starting the next section which is described in our guide with words that strike fear into our hearts.
‘This energetic route climbs…..’.
The synopsis of this route is that it is steep and hard with many large areas of loose scree and multiple creek crossings that will involve scrambling over boulders.
Pam agrees that the potential danger presented by this section exceeds even her desires and we have discussed catching a taxi up the road beyond the Roman Bridge rather than forging up the steep valley that branches off from this point.
We have to wait for a long time in Kemer before a dolmus heading to Kuzdere arrives and all illusions of an early start have vanished by the time we are making our way up the flat bitumen road that runs alongside the engineered banks of the almost dry bed of the wide watercourse.
Right on the outskirts of the town we pass a hotel that would have fitted all our needs perfectly had we only been aware of its presence.
Only Pam’s continued assurances that we will be finding a ride after the Roman Bridge save me from igniting in spontaneous combustion.
It is another hot and beautiful day and the climbing elevation of the bitumen road winding up the valley soon has sweat streaming.
Convoys of small open topped four wheel drives full of sunburned tourists heading up the road toot us in greeting as they pass.
A scooter coming downhill with a young man and his girl friend two up nearly hit Pam as they take a big short cut onto the sloping concrete drain that forms a good banking slope around a tight corner.
Road rules and lanes are almost completely ignored in every part of Turkey where we have travelled and walking along any bitumen road always has me nervous about the lines chosen by crazy bad drivers.
Time spent in taxis is usually a white knuckle thrill ride.
After our close encounter we are even more vigilant than ever as we pass by a dammed section of the mountain stream where a tourist facility offers food and fishing.
From here the incline upwards steepens and the watercourse below to our right is no longer contained within engineered banks.
Soon we have reached the Roman Bridge that we had planned to walk to yesterday and discover the cafe is obviously open regardless of the online information discovered the previous evening.
Crossing the ancient bridge I hope the millennia of support does not suddenly end with our passage as I take hasty shots of the creek’s flow on each side.
We are eagerly invited into the cafe area and have a lovely meal listening to the flow of wild water cascading down falls.
There is a beautiful deep swimming hole swirling just prior to the series of falls that takes the flow under the ancient bridge and I am considering swimming in the cold fresh water.
Only the old wives cautionary tale of not swimming after eating prevents me despite having read plenty of information debunking this myth.
Instead I make my way down to the cafe owner who is lacquering wooden tables and chairs on the level below and show him the point on the map I think it would be good to rejoin the trail from the road.
40TL and he will drive us there himself is the great news I return to Pam with, he will be ready in quarter of an hour or so when he is done with the varnishing.
Perusing the map and reading the guide description once more I realize there would be a much better drop off point even further up the hillside where the mountain Lycian path that crosses Tahali D rejoins the bitumen at over 900m above sea level which would save us kilometers of rough trail and over 300 vertical meters climb.
60TL our saviour writes down on a napkin after my change of destination.
Ignoring the large new dual cab ute parked beside the cafe we make our way to an old Renault 12 that is the car most favoured in rural Turkey. I have trouble folding into the front seat however I would find a way to fit in a suitcase to save myself from sweating up the hundreds of vertical meters we will avoid.
With engine roaring we hit the bitumen. The road that winds up the hill via a series of hairpins is so steep we rarely get out of second gear however in no time we are passing through Gedelme where our saviour points out his home.
Beyond Gedelme the road gets even steeper and at a hairpin after a long straight climbing section we are dropped off beside a Lycian sign indicating a mere 7km to reach our destination Goynuk Yaylasi.
The short steep climb to the crest of the ridge and the descent beyond are behind us in a rocky flash and we find ourselves walking around a broad expanse of grass and bright yellow flowers.
A short rough downhill track beyond this colourful field leads us to a gravel road where we turn right and commence contouring round the upper slopes of the deep valley below.
Below a couple of houses fiercely guarded by barking dogs that thankfully don’t leap from the embankment above we follow another rough path that takes us steeply downwards once more. Spilling out onto gravel road we find we have arrived at the intersection of where the uphill coastal route joins with the descending mountain route of the Lycian Way.
A few hundred meters on a trickling spring that flows from a spout formed by a hollow wooden bough into the concrete trough. This little ever running mountain spring drains under the road and keeps an emergency fire fighting tank permanently full.
I have lost a water bottle in the rush to get our packs in and out of the car and we pause here to drink deep and fill all three bottles to the brim.
Fresh cold water from this natural trickle roots temporal spacial awareness in the beauty of the here and now as it spills across the back of my neck.
Beyond this tank the road commences rising sweeping round the long curving head of the deep valley and we cross headwaters of a series of streams that have a little water flowing in them.
A magnificent flat camping spot with views extending far beyond the valley rim is already occupied by a tall lean man who has just finished erecting his tent.
We greet him as we walk by and he joins us falling into stride with our pace.
Our new friend Erwin is a tall Swiss man with long legs that apparently form two thirds of his height. He easily matches our laden stride and tells us that he likes to go for an unladen walk after setting up camp as a cool down.
His time on the Lycian Way will end tomorrow in Goynuk as he is not going to hike the last two days to Hisarcandir after having read there is no transport from Hisarcandir to Antalya. Subsequent to completing the Lycian he is going to walk both the much more mountainous St Pauls Way as well as the Kackar Trail in the seven weeks he has planned before his return home.
It is hard to imagine a slope that would ever slow him down.
He is well equipped and has several recharge packs for his mobile phone that he uses as both a GPS and altimeter. On my asking he tells us that we are currently 910m above sea level.
Just before we embarrass ourselves by needing to rest gasping on the steep climb ahead of us Erwin bids us farewell and turns back towards his tent.
At the crest of the ridge we have made our way up the Lycian turns left away from the road and passes uphill between some abandoned shepherds huts to a ridge crest where we rejoin a bitumen stretch for a short while. Soon we veer right and begin making our way down a very steep rough path that traverses the headwaters of a watercourse running down a valley to the right of a large rocky outcrop that forms the peak of the hill.
There is a magical aura about this area that the camera lens just doesn’t seem to register.
Rocks, moss, damp soil. With the memory of my headfirst contact with rocks a few days ago still very fresh in my mind I am extra cautious with each footfall.
We MUST endure, we are so close now.
Some brave soul has ridden a motorcycle up this trail for fresh dirt has been sprayed since the last rains. I have never seen a trials bike in Turkey however I would not make the attempt on any other type of bike myself.
Simple dreams of long past youth, motorbikes and strong knees swirl through my head until we arrive at a flat area where a large white rock breaches from the green surrounds.
Just beyond this little oasis a couple of houses match the description given in our guide as being possible places that might offer accommodation however one now appears completely abandoned and the other is surrounded by a high wire fence and seems only infrequently populated.
Resting here we consider camping in the flat damp area nearby one of these houses however decide to continue on in search of the pension we have seen advertised on signs near beside the road where we veered off in our latest diversion.
A few hundred meters on we are very happy with our decision for the trail rejoins the road that passes between these two older dwellings and a little further downhill we begin to encounter signs welcoming Lycian hikers.
Despite not having had that hard a day our faces light up like smiling beacons on realising that we will enjoy the comforts of a hot shower and a cooked meal.
Minutes later we are passing through the gates leading to a house built on a large plateau atop a ridge offering stupendous views of the valley beyond and being welcomed into the pension by our lovely host.
An hour or so later we are warm and clean and sipping on beer and vino after I have washed my clothes along with my body and hung them on the outside line.
With still a few hours of warm sunlight left in the day I am confident they will be fine to wear tomorrow.
After taking a wander around the perimeter of the plateau taking photos as the sun dips behind clouds shrouding the peaks above us to the west the young daughter of our host shyly offers Pam a bouquet of flowers before setting off to gather one for me.
Pam arranges the flowers in a little 600ml water bottle that takes pride of place in the centre of the wooden table where we sit resting.
Two young women arrive and are shown into accommodation in a building that is separate to and slightly downhill from the main house join us for dinner.
Ines and Zoe are two lovely sisters from New Zealand who now live in Switzerland.
They have just begun their Lycian hike from Hisarcandir a few days ago and intend to walk the entire trail in the opposite direction to the one Pam and I have followed.
Pam and I have both commented often on the difficulty of the Lycian that we suspect would probably be doubled by attempting the route in the other direction however we do our best to keep our opinions to ourselves and simply wish our new friends all the best for their journey.
Youth shall surely overcome terrain difficulty with ease.
In an attempt to keep their pack volume and weight low the girls are not carrying sleeping mats and are already planning to amend this choice as one cold night camping and sleeping on the ground has convinced them of the need to insulate and soften contact with the earth during the night.
Our new friends are intelligent and funny and we manage to fill the night air with laughter until way beyond what is now Pam and my customary hiking bed time.
It’s almost ten thirty by the time we hit the hay.
Pam and Mick