How quickly a week passes. Last Tuesday we had a great walk through the woods of Yeṣilkӧy. The weather was good to us during the day but that night we had thunder, lightening, rain and wind. The rain was much needed and we were glad it came but doubly glad it came mostly at night.
Today the walk was to Saribelen a farming valley in the mountains behind Kalkan. There’s a complete description of the walk in my blog of the same week last year.
We gathered at the Kalkan Otogar (bus station), sorted out seats in cars and were on the road out of town by 9.40. It was a beautiful morning with barely a cloud in the sky and a gentle breeze keeping us cool. As happens on these al fresco walks, the numbers participating varies right up to the last minute. So today it was a party of 17 that set out up the long, steep road with staggering views over the sea. Once through the Kaputaṣ gorge the road entered the Saribelen valley. We had just arrived at the start of the walk when another car pulled up with three more Kalkan ramblers. They had gone to the wrong meeting point and, just as they were about to abandon plans for the day, fortuitously had seen our small convey setting out of town and tagged on. This brought the numbers up to 20, one more than the same walk at this time last year.
The valley, with its flat, glacial bottom, is home to numerous small farms. The families living in these farms are to a large extent self-sufficient. They need to sell some produce to pay for the essentials of life including electricity and petrol but otherwise grow virtually all they need to eat from grain to vegetables to fruit and chickens. Drinking water comes direct from springs and wells. It’s a relatively simple life, no doubt full of hardship, but with plenty of community spirit.
As we set out an enterprising fellow approached us waving his arms. It turned out that he was touting for business as our guide. It soon became clear to him that we knew where we going and that we didn’t need help. He faded back into the countryside.
The route starts out on a narrow surfaced road but this quickly deteriorates into an un-surfaced road and then into a tractor track. All easy walking. The first break was taken beside a modern mosque. The building is less than 10 years old and the minaret a few years older. It possibly was built to replace a much simpler, older mosque that was no longer large enough to accommodate the growing local population. As with all mosques, there are good washing and toilet facilities in the grounds which were appreciated by a number of our party.
The path then joins the main road through the valley. Don’t be fooled by the word “main”. It is not a highway rather a road wide enough for two vehicles to pass. In the 15 to 20 minutes we were walking along it, less than five cars and motorbikes passed.
At the junction with the road over the hills to Kaṣ there is now a very convenient seating platform built in the shade of a large tree. Last year this was a “work in progress” but now the iron work is complete and the planks of wood to form the seating are all in place and looking recently varnished. All very comfortable and a suitable place to rest awhile. No sooner had we sat down than Turkish hospitality took over in the form of a man from a nearby house offering bunches of grapes. He wasn’t looking for money just wanting us to feel welcome in his countryside. The Turks use the expression “hoṣ geldiniz” – “you are welcome” in English – whenever you enter their home or shop or indeed any other place. The courtesy is to respond “hoṣ bulduk” – “I feel welcome” in English – a genuinely intended greeting and response from both sides. The Turks are nothing if not sociable. In fact it is seen as a discourtesy if you refuse an offer of hospitality. Assured of our appreciation, the man brought a further and even larger bunch of the delicious grapes, fading off into the background with one of those sweet smiles that only country people seem to deliver.
The walk now ascends via the Kaṣ road to the start of a trail leading along the wooded, southern slopes of the valley. This regular change of pace, with the breaks at the mosque and the seating platform, have an added bonus, the natural changing of walking partners. As anyone who has been on one of the Tuesday walks will tell you, whilst the walk itself and the scenery are always the ostensible reasons for joining the group, the real reason is the many and varied conversations that you have along the way. For example, today I had conversations about the restoration of wooden mills in England with an expert, the pros and cons of mapping software on iPads and other devices, the frustrations of dealing with Turkish bureaucracy and planning a walk along the West Highland Way in Scotland for next May. A pretty eclectic mix. I am absolutely sure that everyone else had their own conversational delights.
All too soon for some – and a little too late for others – the walk was coming to a close as we passed the main mosque of Saribelen and walked along a short road back to the cars. Now it was time to repair to “Our Home” and sample a few of Gurcel & Eser’s culinary and liquid delights. And whilst we were there one of our party became the surrogate mother of a minute kitten with the longest whiskers I have ever seen and out-of-control fur. Did she follow you home, Mike???
As I’m writing this blog in the early evening after the walk and sitting on our roof terrace, in the sky to the south west, there is the most beautiful sunset coloured with every shade of red and orange. The hills behind have turned red in the fading light. And just to complete the picture there is the crescent of a new moon accompanied by the planet Venus starting to sink towards the horizon. What a magnificent end to a wonderful and companionable walking day.