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Tue, 11 May 2010

We were 18 (including Julia, our Leader) walking the Lycian Way in Turkey in April ‘10. Six singles and six couples. I don’t know if I have done a D+ Ramblers Worldwide Holidays walk before, but at times it was indeed challenging, although not too extreme.

Some mornings we were awakened very early, by the mussein calling the faithful to prayer (recordings). Breakfasts were good and varied, lunches were what we ourselves made, buying from local shops or on occasionally eating in a local restaurant. Evening meals were often excellent. There was a variety of restaurants some quiet and sedate while others were loud and full of life. The waiters were constantly showering us with crunchy mixed salads, vegetables, all kinds of fish and meat dishes delivered on individual flaming grills and served with copious amounts of bread that looked like beached whales, which when broken into, emitted clouds of hot steam – delicious.

We had 14 days of walks so I can only mention those which were extra special. The first such walk was along the Siphonic Aqueduct route – an aqueduct built by the Romans in 2nd century. It was easy walking around the side of mountains until we came to a stretch that was too narrow for me (see photo). I walked along the ground; others soon followed me as the aqueduct had collapsed in places. It did mean we could see the clever, elaborate, but so simple methods used by the Romans to transport water miles away from its source. We then walked from Dilikkemer to near Patara (ancient site), finishing off at Patas beach for a swim. At 14 km it was a very pleasant walk. We ate out that evening in Kadim restaurant; I particularly loved the spicy lentil soup.

Another spectacular walk on a cloudy morning; we had a 30 minute drive high up above the coast. We walked Saribelen to Cokceoren (14 km), through rolling countryside of what looked like porous, crumbling, limestone rocks. On the way we stopped off at a remote shepherd’s home. We sat around and were served lunch on old ‘orange’ boxes with newspaper tablecloths. There were plates of sweet, flavoursome tomatoes, and juicy black and green olives. There were plates full of goat’s or sheep’s cheese and dishes of delicious home made fig jam, and again lots of fresh bread. This time the bread looked like old floor cloths – and again it was delicious! There were pots of Turkish tea served in pretty little glasses. The meal was simple, a gourmet’s delight and very filling.

We each paid 5 Turkish lira, less than £2.50 for a veritable and memorable feast. While we were eating we could see a lone walker in the distance on route over the Lycian Way.

Unfortunately, that day it rained and the stones became slippery and the mud stuck to our boots. Patricia claimed she had gained 2 inches in height after walking through a particularly muddy area! Later on we met up with the lone walker, Hans from Switzerland. We gave him a lift back to town as the rain was by this time pelting down. Our dinner was served in the hotel. A fire was lit and we relaxed even more by finishing off the bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream which Robin (from Tasmania) shared with us.

Another exhilarating walk was from Cavdir to Uzumlu (12 Km). We started by following a lavada which joined the aqueduct we had walked earlier in the week. The ascent up the lavada was quite steep with fast flowing water; quite hypnotising. I wore sandals and so enjoyed walking ankle deep in the cold water. On this walk there were a few rather scary places to cross or climb, still, I loved every minute and no-one came to any harm or indeed was in any danger and the weather was perfect, warm and sunny with no wind.

Free day – some walked to a beach, or visited a hammam or, as I did, wandered the little seaside town shopping and then lay beside the hotel’s pool in the deliciously warm sunshine.

We then had a 17.5 km walk, starting mainly uphill with wonderful views and lunch stops by (drinkable) springs in huge grassy open areas surrounded by rolling hills dotted with bushes and trees and carpeted with tiny wild flowers, yellow, pink, white and blue – beautiful. The descent was long and rocky ending with a clamber over an earthy, crumbling landslide – exciting. There was also a short river crossing on the walk.

Transfer day from Cas to Finike. This was the most special day for me, even though we only walked about 3 km en route. We walked uphill to Castle Simena from Ucagiz passing lots of Roman stone sarcophagus sprinkled across the goat herding countryside, some of the ancient tombs were in the back yards of the Turkish farmers.

The scenery from the Castle was breathtakingly beautiful, looking down onto little islands dotted in the bay with mountains in the distance. We walked down to the village’s quay and boarded a boat, just our group and the crew. We sailed the blue, blue sea into a little bay where we dropped anchor. Most of our group went swimming in the blue, blue sea. Some jumped in off the boat others stepped ashore. I simply lay on the comfortable foam beds on deck and sunbathed chatting with my lazy fellow travelling companions. I am told the sea was warm and very enjoyable. BBQ lunch was served on board. After lunch our boat took us to look at the remains of a sunken Roman village which had been destroyed by earthquakes. Much of life as it was is still visible on land and on the sea bed, via a glass bottom on the boat. There was an obvious remanent, of probably one of the 1st century Christian churches, visible on the coastline.

En route to Finike we visited Myra tombs high in the mountain sides overlooking a perfect amphitheatre. It was a huge site and fascinating to wander unhindered through.

Another interesting walk was from Ulupinar to Cirali (transfer day). We walked only about 9 Km. The ground was rough and we clambered down to a fast flowing river. I was wearing sandals and was able to wade across, though I was glad of a hand to keep me steady as the water was fast flowing. Others took their boots off to wade across. Coming down the rocky mountainside we could see the Chimera, eternal flames, which are gaps in the mountain side where from deep underground flames lick the rocks – like small barbeques. Some of our group cooked sausages, etc. for lunch. It does make you wonder what is going on a little further underground. Nearby are the broken remains of a Byzantine church. Our hotel was just outside Cirali in a beautiful setting; we had chalets and were close to the sea, it was quiet and so peaceful.

Our biggest and most exciting walk: Yayla Kuzdere to Tukari Beycik over the shoulder of Mount Olympus (Tahtali). We started at a high altitude and walked 4 hours up and up and up. Up and over when we reached the top of a climb we would find an absolutely beautiful idyllic plateau, grassy and dotted with pretty flowers. We could have been in the Alps, the views once again were breathtaking and the sky was a brilliant blue. The weather was perfect. We picnicked and rested in various plateau where the air was thin but not cold. We climbed above the snow line, great patches of dirty ice and snow – not the nice white soft drifts as expected. Then we started our descent, it wasn’t dangerous or scary, but there were a few slippery areas, where the earth was crumbly. Four hours up and three hours down. We all felt exhilarated and thoroughly deserved and enjoyed beers or soft drinks at the first café we came to.

I can not possibly describe all the delights and maybe disappointments on my 14 days trek through Turkey on the Lycian Way, in a short blog; but I hope I have described it in such a way that others will wish to do the journey.
The Lycian way was first made public by Englishwoman Kate Clow, just over 10 years ago. She waymarked much of it but I must say I am glad I was with a group. I found the paths very hard to follow, not like the Camino de Santiago in Spain, but then the Camino has been trodden for hundreds of years. I do believe the Lycian Way will soon be much appreciated by many walkers of the world. My tiny experience of it was wonderful. The Turkish people I encountered in villages, mountainsides and towns were so heart-warmingly welcoming. I encourage every one who loves long walks to consider going along the Lycian Way.

PS. I asked my travel companion Wendy to say something about flowers and trees encountered on the Lycian Way.

“For flower lovers walking in April is always a joy. This holiday was no exception. We saw far too many to mention individually but the highlights were seeing garden flowers like scyllas arabis and aubrietia in carpets. The rarer flowers which caused excitement were the Anatolian orchids, lots of red amaryllis and on the saddle of Olympus red single peonies among the rocks.

Trees and shrubs of note were a plethora of Storax with its delicate white flowers and Sandalwood which used to be exported to Egypt. The hills used to be covered with Cedars of Lebanon but now only a few remain as they were cut down for shipbuilding.”