This week’s Tuesday walk broke all the records. On the first walk of the season 19 people had turned up and we thought we were a crowd. Little did we know that by the fourth walk, the numbers would have doubled. As we gathered in the morning sunshine at Kalkan Otogar (bus station), there was a moment of panic. There seemed to be hundreds of people and only a handful of cars. It was with a sigh of relief, that one way and another, and with five people in most cars, everyone was accommodated.
There are two roads to get to the start of the Bezirgan Heights walk and today the party used both. Which was just as well – if we had all chosen the same route, given the number of vehicles, we would have created the equivalent of a Bank Holiday traffic jam. Soon we were all at the starting point. The walk is described in a blog published last year at this time when there were a mere 12 in the party.
This is the only walk in our catalogue of strolls around Kalkan that goes above 1,000 metre (approx 3,300 feet). Fortunately, in this hot weather, most of the height is gained in the cars. At this height there are wonderful views. To Patara with its 18km of sandy beach; down the steep-sided Islamlar valley with its many trout farms; over the flat bottomed mountain valley that houses the village of Bezirgan; and up to the towering white slopes of Ak Dağ, which, at over 3,000 metres, is the highest of the Taurus Mountains. However, like so many walks in this part of the world, as you trudge along you have to keep a close eye on the path and your feet. To enjoy the views demands frequent stops.
The path is quite steep, very rocky and, for the most part, so narrow that you have to walk in single file. This is not good for striking up conversations. At best, you can talk to the person in front over their shoulder or over your own shoulder to the person behind. All a bit limiting. As we walked, I was reminded of Pine Processionary Caterpillars. These fascinating creatures, which we sometimes see on our early summer walks, form long chains of up to several metres in length, with each caterpillar hooking onto the rear legs of the caterpillar in front. They have so little brain-power that they have been observed blindly walking in a chain for days at a time. A conga gone mad. This is not to imply that Kalkan walkers have similar mental limitations!!!
The scrubby hillside that we traversed, and the surrounding countryside, is peppered with the remains of ancient buildings. An archaeologists paradise. The most interesting one for us is the site of a water cistern. It’s about 40 metres across and at one time had a stone domed roof. Unfortunately, this has collapsed, so we have to use our imaginations.
We soon arrive at the climax of the walk. It’s a smooth ledge of rock at the top of a precipice which offers a panoramic view over the village of Bezirgan many hundreds of metres below. An ideal place to sit down, enjoy the view and eat our snacks.
The journey back to the road was mostly uneventful until we came to a point where the path ahead was blocked by a massive, barking dog. We froze. It turned out that it was one of three dogs helping to guard a flock of goats that were being moved from one hillside to another. The dog, barking continuously, stood on guard between us and the moving goats. Discretion being the better part of valour, we settled down to a long wait. And then, just when we thought we might have to contemplate spending the night on the mountain, the last goat cleared the path, and the dog loped off after it into the scrub. At last we could continue our descent without being ripped apart by the hound and its mates that were lurking a little further away.
For the return journey to Kalkan the cars again divided between the shorter but more hazardous route down the steep and twisting Islamlar valley and the longer but smoother route via the flat Bezirgan valley and Kaputaṣ gorge. Whichever route was taken we were all soon at Evimiz (Our Home) and doing our best to empty the beer fridge. Our hosts, Gurcel and Eser, had been pre-warned about the numbers and had made the wise decision to provide plenty of nibbles out of packets but no cooked food. That was definitely our loss. The tasty plates of snacks usually provided are always a surprise and a delight. And so another walk came to a contented end with lots of laughter and chat.
By way of a footnote, it has been fascinating to discover the scale of the pent up demand for walks by people who succumb to Kalkan fever. Why do so many walkers finish up buying property here and why are they all here at this time of year? Having asked around, I found that many people are heading away over the next week or two, back to their homes in the UK, South Africa, etc, etc. So my guess is that further walks this season will be noticeably reduced in numbers. However, it does seem that we need to put on our thinking caps, and consider how we organise walks during the peak September/October period. Any ideas would be very welcome.