I’d like to start by saying how much the “thanks” from so many of the Tuesday walkers are appreciated. It is for me a rather selfish task to organise the walks as I love them so much and they wouldn’t be the same without a big crowd.
Talking of big crowds this week we excelled ourselves. Not only were there 31 human participants – a record as far as I know – but we also had a first in the form of a feline companion – actually a minute kitten – brought along by the resident farmers in the group. It had arrived at their door looking for comfort, food and love and they couldn’t turn it away. It was definitely the star of the show with a never-ending queue of walkers wanting to hold and carry it along the route.
Today was the start of the Kurban Bayram national holiday. Yesterday was like Christmas Eve in the West with all the supermarkets packed with last minute shoppers. By early afternoon everything was closing down. Nothing with a whiff of officialdom around it, including Government offices, Post offices and Banks will re-open until next Monday. Even 24/7 telephone banking has shut down. And critically for our happy band, Evimiz (Our Home), where we usually repair after each walk, is closed. We’re going to have to find an alternative venue for the walk debrief.
Just a small note about Kurban Bayram. Muslims worldwide celebrate the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his young, first-born son Ismail as an act of submission to Allah’s command, and his son’s acceptance of being sacrificed, before Allah intervened to provide Abraham with a lamb to sacrifice instead. The name translates into the holiday or festival of the sacrifice. In practical terms it is a time for families to get together and, certainly in rural areas such as the Kalkan hinterland, to slaughter a goat or a sheep as the centrepiece of a feast. It is a common sight to see animals being carried about on the back of pickup trucks en route to their final destinations. So for many reasons today was not a good day to choose for a walk in the countryside. But the Tuesday Walk must go on, festival or no festival.
Thanks to the kind provision of cars by some of the group, all 31 of us were able to find a seat and a fleet of seven cars headed out of Kalkan for the 10 or so kilometre drive to Gelemis, often referred to as Patara Village. As we drove into the village at about 10 am there were not many places open. The choice of end-of-walk venues might be very limited. Anyway that was a problem for 3 hours in the future.
The walk started off up a fairly steep road leading past a number of pensions, hotels and small farms. The biggest hotel, a very glossy affair, was refurbished about two years ago for the opening of the Patara archaeological site. This was planned as a grand occasion with bigwigs from around the world coming to celebrate the re-opening of the birthplace of democracy. It was rumoured that the President and Prime Minister of Turkey would be there along with none other than the President of the USA, Barack Obama. Unfortunately, things didn’t happen to schedule and the opening was delayed for a year. When it did happen, the “star of the show” was the Turkish Minister of Culture, an important figure but not quite a crowd puller.
At the top of the hill, as the pine forest starts, we got the first glimpses of the Mediterranean ahead and a hint of the sand to come. The road deteriorates to a stony track, still driveable by a car, but with some welcome shade from the trees. And then, after about 2 km from where we had left the cars, we were at the top of the road and looking out over massive sand-dunes that billowed down to the sea. (This is a very popular place at the end of the day as it has the most spectacular sunsets.)
We had a 10 minute break, a photo-call and a brief announcement that the founder of these Tuesday Walks, Bill Porter, was at this very moment, undergoing major shoulder surgery in a Sheffield hospital. We hope the good vibes worked and that Bill will be back with us very soon.
In the distance, on the beach, was a tall grassy shrub that looked a bit like a wigwam. This was the target as we picked out own pathways through the dunes and scrub down to the sea. It was about this point that it became clear to me that leading a party of thirty has its difficulties. We’re all experienced walkers – we have our own ideas on the best way to go. No one wants to be regimented or marched in double file. So by the time we got to the beach we’d taken about ten different routes but miraculously arrived at the same bit of sand.
The sun was now getting a lot stronger and, I for one, was glad of the breeze blowing from the sea. After a short break we set off again towards the more populated part of the beach where all the day trippers come to soak up the sun. We must have looked an incongruous or even eccentric bunch to the people enjoying the beach as we walked by wearing boots and carrying day packs.
After another short break to get the sand out of our feet, we took the boardwalk that leads away from the beach to the car park. From the far corner of the car park a trail that leads through a farm to the fine archaeological ruins of Patara City. If you want to read about them my blog of June 2012 gives a layman’s description of the parts of the site that we visited today.
As usual we had our snacks at the amphitheatre and then meandered on through the site. When we eventually got to the ancient light-house, it was strange to notice that the workers tents and cabins had gone. Does this mean that the rebuilding work has come to an end? Hopefully not, there’s a lot more reconstruction to do.
Leaving ancient Patara behind, we continued inland heading back to Gelemis and most of us were lucky to see a chameleon crossing the path. A fine and unusual sight. And it was now that various plaintive voices started to cry “where am I going to get my Efes?” A very good question. But help was at hand. There is a café in Gelemis that we have used many times before with the slightly incongruous, definitely non-Turkish, name of the Travellers Rest. The owner was pleased to see us and doubly pleased when I said there would be 30 of us. His eyes shone brightly. Clearly his stocks weren’t up to so many thirsty walkers at once so runners were soon being dispatched to other places in the village and coming back with extra crates of beer.
And so a relaxing time was spent quietly sipping our drinks, discussing where to go next week and trying to teach the kitten how to drink milk. A nice extra touch from the landlord, was when he came round with traditional holiday sweets for everyone and offered cologne to freshen our hands.
By way of a post script, as I offered the money plus tip for our two beers and a fresh pomegranate juice, our host said it wasn’t necessary and, only after a little persuasion, did he accept 10 TL. Clearly he appreciated our visit and it definitely made his Bayram – and ours.
As they say in Turkish – Iyi Bayramlar – Happy Holidays.