Last week it was so hot that, to do any walking, we had to gain some height to reach the cooler air. We went up to the Saribelen valley – as described in my last blog – and had a great walk. This week the weather started to change, probably only temporarily, but change it did. First clouds appeared then the wind started to get up and finally came the rain. The temperature dropped by about 10C from the mid 30’s to the mid 20’s, still very comfortable but good for walking.
The walk chosen for this week is at relatively low heights but mostly in the woods which will shelter us from the rain, the wind, the sun or all three if that’s what is thrown at us. The starting point is in a woodland glade on the outskirts of Yeṣilkӧy – which translates as the “Green Village” – some 4 or 5 km to the west of Kalkan. As you drive into Yeṣilkӧy, a very sharp right hand turn takes you onto a local road. After about 300m another right hand turn takes you to the glade.
The walk goes up through pine forest on a mixture of paths and roadways used by loggers. When you get to the high point near the Akbel to Üzümlü and Islamlar road its then time to turn round and descend by the same route back to the cars. A very satisfactory round walk of between 4 and 5 km with all the ascent during the first half when you are relatively fresh.
For anyone wanting to do this walk without a car, there are plenty of buses and dolmuṣ to Yeṣilkӧy from the Kalkan Otogar (bus station).
Tuesday dawned and around 7.30 there was the drumbeat of rain on the pool terrace and the noise of thunder – exactly what we needed. The agreement was that we would literally take a rain check at 9.30. Nothing daunted, we proceeded to wash, put on our walking clothes, place our boots at the front door, make sandwiches and have a little breakfast. The Gods must have looked on us and decided that we deserved a break so at more or less exactly 9 o’clock the sun broke over the hill and all started to look well.
By 9.50 a happy band – reduced to 10 from last weeks 19 – were assembled at the start of the walk. The woodland glade had changed almost beyond recognition. Previously there was a scattering of picnic benches and lots of scrub. Now the area had been really tidied up, there were around 25 square concrete platforms each with its own brick built barbecue and a half-finished building that looked as though it would become a toilet block. The glade was to become the social and picnic centre for the surrounding area.
In the old days, i.e. before the picnic area was established, the route was straight across the glade and onto a footpath that wandered up through the woods. Now there is a good track, really a forestry road, running behind the toilet block then turning uphill. This is the route we took. In fact, we stayed on this same track, mostly wide enough for a tractor but at times a bit narrower, for the whole walk.
The route is through pine trees of mixed maturity and underfoot, at this time of year, you are walking on a cushion of pine needles. Very pleasant. Most of the trees have numbered metal tags nailed to them. This marking process was set up last year to indicate which trees were to be left to grow – the numbered ones – and which ones were to be felled last winter – those with no numbers. This is a well managed forest.
Along the way our resident local natural historian with the support of our timber specialist, found themselves barraged with questions about the shrubs and the trees. It is great to have people who really know their subjects. The links given below are provided y courtesy of Mr Natural History.
The first unusual plants were, what turned out to be, young Caper plants. They had probably started to grow after the logging activity of last year. They were too young to be bearing berries but looked well established and may well be worth a visit next year to gather the capers and, after pickling, use them for garnishes and making tartar sauce.
Next came a large, established bush with lots of small red berries. This, we were told by the expert, was the Turpentine Tree. Turpentine is best known as a thinners for paint but in Turkey the berries are used to make a variety of coffee. That puts a new spin on asking for a bottle of turps at the hardware shop, will it be drinkable? Incidentally, the turpentine bush looks not unlike the Pepper trees which are to be found locally but more usually in open countryside. Here are two links for more information. Turpentine Tree (1) Turpentine Tree (2)
Round the next corner there was an example of the ubiquitous, at least in this part of Turkey, Kermes Oak (Quercus Coccifera). This plant grows as a bush unlike its big brother the English Oak and is usually no more than 2 or 3 metres in height. It, or at least the insect that lives on it, is famous as a source of red crimson dye. What an education we are getting.
But we’re not finished yet. The next intriguing plant is the Sarsaparilla. It grows, a bit like ivy, around another bush or small tree. The name reminds us of drinks being ordered in the bars of the Western movies of our youth. Sarsaparilla is now more commonly called Root Beer – non-alcoholic!! – and is widely available as a drink in the US of A. So here, in deepest South West Turkey, we are introduced to the original plant. How much more can we take in today.
There was one more botanical experience in the form of the Carob Tree which is a bush or small tree and a member of the pea family. Today we were looking at young plants so there is no sign of the pods that can be crushed to make a form of ersatz chocolate.
Maybe the next time we pass this way all the plants that we have seen will be more mature and we can glean some of their produce. Whatever the result today has been a great introduction to some of the botany of Turkey.
But our eduction was not over yet. Our timber expert looks at the stump of a recently felled tree and declares that it is similar to pitch pine. The wood gives off a distinct aroma and the surface of the cut wood is sticky to the touch due to the resin. I brought a sample home to get the benefit of the forest smells in our house.
By this time we had reached the highest point of the walk. A farmer and his wife were near the side of the path and we exchanged friendly greetings. We suspect they maybe wanted to invite us into their farm house – Turkish hospitality is boundless – but maybe baulked at the size of our party. Whichever way we retreated a short way back down the track and stopped for a snack.
Up to now we had had essentially a dry walk but we could see the clouds starting to build up and the rumble of thunder grew progressively louder. Most of us took out waterproof jackets and hats and prepared for some serious rain. Our botanical expert, put up his black, City umbrella.
In reality, there were a few showers but nothing of any consequence. We strolled downhill passing a farm cottage over to the left. The path used to pass through their yard and across some cultivated vegetable patches. The family were always very welcoming and would provide chai (Turkish tea). The farmer was busy working on the flat roof of the cottage maybe taking in peppers or herbs that were out to dry and that would be damaged by the rain. And so, a little more than 2 hours after departing, we were back at the starting point.
It was about now that we all realised that our boots were totally caked in very clammy mud mixed with pine needles. There was no way we could get back into the car with our boots on but none of us had brought spare footwear. Actually, that’s not strictly true. One of the group thought he had a pair of flip-flops in the boot of his car but, try as he might, he could only locate one. Where was that flip flop when it was needed.
Some time was spent trying to clean our boots – still on our feet – in the fast flowing stream beside the cars. This was only marginally successful as to get from the stream to the cars, a distance of maybe 10 metres, meant ploughing through more mud. You can imagine what it was like.
Eventually we all managed to get moderately clean boots or decided to try just socks with boots in plastic bags. Then it was into the cars, over the hill, through Akbel to “the walkers tavern” (the Our House cafe) back in Kalkan. As usual we were greeted by Gurcel and Eser, and a happy hour was spent drinking Efes beer, supping delicious home-made soup and tucking into some beautifully flavoured, freshly made chips. It was at this point that the rain really started to pour down. How lucky we had been. Roll on next week’s walk, wherever we may decide to go.