Today we re going to sample another gem of the walks of Lycia. The start is at the ancient fortress of Pydnae – also spelt Pydnee – then the route will follow a section of the Lycian Way up to pine forests and on to to the shoulder of a mountain, then down a forest track till we come to a tarmac road that runs along the top of cliffs with stunning views over the sea. In fact, this whole walk has great views, but beware, some are behind you. It’s a top-rate circular walk with all the uphill terrain at the beginning.
It’s nearly the middle of November and the sun just keeps on shining here in Kalkan on the Turkish Mediterranean. At precisely 7.36 this morning it came over the hill and shone down on the town. Don’t get me wrong, no one is complaining. Last November was fairly similar but not as hot and the nights were cold. This year we haven’t had to light the wood fire or switch on the background oil storage heaters. How long can this last?
Anyway, enough of my weather ramblings, it’s time to prepare for another Tuesday walk.
As we gathered at the petrol station on the edge of Kalkan, I noticed that our regular retired prison officer was not with us today. We’ve come to rely on him as the one person who really knows how many are in the party and, during the walk, notices the minute any one of us gets detached from the party. How are we going to manage today, especially as there are a few new faces from last week? We’re going to have to be extra vigilant.
Eleven of us, plus the friendly dog of one of today’s new faces, set off in three cars for the 20 minute drive to the start of the walk. The route takes us through the town of Kinik with what seems like a million of poly-tunnels and then along the western side of the Esen River to Karadere. From here we bear right to hug the edge of the mountains that run right down to the sea. Our goal is the Lycian Way signpost close to the fortress of Pydnae which we can see ahead on a small hill rising from the shore of the sea.
Just a small aside. One of the great frustrations for walker in Turkey is the lack of decent maps. The Government do not allow the publication of detailed maps so there are no “Ordinance Survey” equivalents available. To measure distances and heights, you have to rely on guess work based on observation and experience. So do treat any information given about lengths of walks and heights reached as “best guesses”.
To start the walk we have to pick up the familiar Lycian Way blue and red striped way-marks. We find one on the right hand side of the road indicating that the route rises diagonally up the hillside. So off we step. This is a typical goat track, -arrow, stony and in parts definitely more suited to goats than humans. It’s not dangerous but requires a lot of concentration and balance.
The path goes steadily upwards past the now familiar turpentine bushes with their red berries and the dreaded, scratchy Kermes Oak, except that here the Oaks are small trees up to 5 or 6 metres high which takes their holly-like leaves well above shin height. Of course we are not let off altogether. At shin height the oak is replaced by a spikey, gorse-like bush of unknown name to me that threatens to scratch you to pieces the moment you leave the narrow confines of the track.
As we gain height, regular stops are required to take in the spectacular views to our right over to the 18km Patara Beach and to the high ridge of the Taurus Mountains. In the near distance, we are overlooking the Pydnae fortress which was originally built to protect the naval base of Lycian days. We can now see it’s complete outline. It is very impressive. The fort consists of a high stone wall enclosing an area some three or four hundred metres in diameter. The keep is at the highest point of the fortress. At the lowest corner are the remains of a Byzantine church. The remains are in good shape and give a very good idea of how it may have looked when it was in use. Because of it’s location, visitors are probably few and far between. A great pity.
Very soon we reach the top of the goat track and join a rough forestry road continuing upwards. We are now in a pine forest with lots of signs of logging activity. The road is a great relief for some after the goat track. There are plenty of way-marks to re-assure us that we are on the right track but, in reality, the route is fairly obvious – upwards. As we gain higher ground there are lots of plants on the path that look like daffodils without their flowers. Small cyclamen can be seen scattered amongst the trees.
Fairly quickly we reach the highest point of today’s walk at the edge of a gentle escarpment. There are superb views back to Patara Beach and up the Esen valley. This a good place for a sit-down and a snack. The weather, as ever, remains hot and sunny so we’re glad of a little shade under the trees.
The next part of the Lycian Way goes steeply down through the forest over tricky boulders and with lots of undergrowth. We wimp out and join a rough forestry road which will rejoin the “official” route after a few hundred metres. The distinct advantage of walking on good surfaces is that you don’t have to watch every step and can take time to look around you. On the right, we pass a large, concrete water storage tank. A sign tells us that this is the property of the Forestry Fire Brigade. Lucy, the dog, laps up what looks like gallons of water. When we have passed here in the Spring, there are usually lots of small frogs swimming around in the water but, sadly, there are none today.
Ahead of us, and coming towards us, there is a shepherd with a few sheep and goats plus a Kangal sheepdog. They must be heading for some high pasture. Lucy, about a quarter of the size of the Kangal, is quickly put on the lead. We say hello to the shepherd and he smiles back. After they have passed, a sharp-eyed member of our group notices a well camouflaged Praying Mantis crossing the road. It’s about 10 cm long and the same colour as the pebbles. This turns out to be our only sighting of exotic fauna today.
One of the reasons we all love these walks is the conversations. We tend to walk in two,’s three’s or four’s and these groups are constantly changing throughout the day. By the end of the walk, everyone has been talking with everyone else. Today’s subjects, for me, range from the problems of house ownership in Turkey, finding good tradesmen, walking in other countries, families we are missing and learning Turkish. Some are quite fluent in Turkish but say that they still feel like novices after many years of study. For the rest of us, Turkish is just too difficult. We all have a smattering of words but agree with each other that, being in our 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, we are really too old to pick up a new language. Some of us, reluctantly, admit defeat.
The forestry track is now virtually a drivable roadway as we descend towards the sea. It contours round a bay some 200 metres above the shoreline. There is a scattering of occupied houses on the far side of the bay and, much near to us, the shell of a large apartment block. It looks like another example of a Turkish builder who has started a project then run out of money before it could be finished. There are so many buildings like this along the coast of Turkey.
A small incline takes us to a crest in the road and we are stunned by the view out over the Mediterranean. The water is turquoise close to the shore then turning to deep blue towards the horizon. In the vast expanse of water we can only see one ship and that is so far out to sea that we can’t work out what size of boat it is. It could be a relatively small coastal cargo boat or it might be a Transatlantic container ship. We can only speculate.
With such a superb vista it is time to find a place for lunch. Just a short scramble off the road is a pine tree that has an invitingly shady canopy. Being near the edge of the very steep slope down to the sea, year after year it has been battered by the wind so that instead of standing tall the branches are distorted and keep close to the ground. Ideal for our purpose.
To the left there is a fascinating rock formation. A rib of rock starts from the roadside and stretches out into the sea for 400 or 500 metres gradually getting narrower and lower. This will have formed a protective weather break for the old naval harbour further round the bay. Today it is sheltering just one small fishing boat. Near the top of the rib there is a small fort-like structure that presumably formed part of the defences for the harbour. You can walk down the crest of the rib to the sea but two members of our party who did this on a previous visit, said that towards the end it felt very exposed and there were strong winds threatening to blow you into the sea. Not something for today.
With lunch over we climb back up to the road, which now has a tarmac surface, and follow it for about 1.5 km back to the cars. Once again the views do not disappoint. We are now looking inland over the vast, flat expanse of land that at one time was part of the sea. Now it is extremely fertile ground and intensively farmed with the main crop being tomatoes. In the distance are the Taurus Mountains and their highest peak Ak Daĝ.
Beautiful views to end this most scenic of walks.