The one problem with being an optimist is that you can be wrong – or maybe just a little bit inaccurate – but you have a great time getting to wherever you are going. And so this week’s ramble from Kumlova Plaj (Kumlova Beach) to Karadere Plaj via the inland route on the way out and by the beach for the return, was a smashing walk in cooler weather and super company. So what if it was billed as a 6km stroll and it turned out to be a slightly longer 14km. Did we enjoy ourselves and was the beer still cool when we back to Evimiz? I think the answer has to be a resounding yes.
A little rashly, as an optimist, I had also made some predictions about our numbers being reduced. Last week’s 38 walkers had been really over the top but I reckoned on approximately 25 this week. Passing Evimiz on the way to the meeting point at the Otogar I gave this number to our lovely hosts-to-be, Gurcel and Eser. On reaching the Otogar a small crowd were already gathered, about 10 in total. Great, I thought, 25 is maybe going to be slightly over the top. Within 5 minutes the Otogar car park was awash with people and, fortunately, cars. And it was a party of 32 that set out.
There is a serious navigation problem to reach Kumlova Plaj which is at about the mid-point of Patara Beach. There are few signposts and those that there are, cannot be relied upon. So the decision was made to drive in a convoy of seven vehicles. Pete, the driver of the lead car, with me as amateur pilot, set off at a slow pace. He knew it was important to keep the fleet in his rear view mirror. And so, a bit like a motorised conga, we snaked our way along the D400 highway, through Kinik, Kumlova town, the Letoon archaeological site and past numerous poly-tunnels to reach our final destination at the beach.
The first part of the walk, rather boringly, retraces our route along the road back towards civilisation. The big change since my last time on this walk was that, for the most part, the road has now been surfaced with red brick setts. What an improvement. As always this stretch is the most tedious part of the walk as it is dead straight so it was good to reach the turn off where we joined the Lycian Way long-distance trail with its familiar red/blue way marks.
The next section, up to Karadere Plaj was on a rough tractor track. All easy walking through stretches of woodland and scrub. The trees give welcome shade from the sun although today there was a moderate amount of light cloud cover which helped to protect us from the worst of the Turkish autumnal sun. This route is clearly seldom used as the oleander and other scrub-land plants are beginning to take over.
At a couple of points we had the rather disgusting task of picking our way through piles of soiled nappies spilling out from plastic bags that had been discarded on the track. It is very hard to work out why someone would drive miles from the nearest houses to dispose of waste when there are adequate waste bins provided in even the smallest of communities.
We also passed a dead (fortunately), black snake some 1.5 to 2 metres long. How it had died is anyone’s guess but now it was providing food for hosts of bluebottles. A slightly sobering thought to think that the scrub we were passing contained more of these creatures – and maybe their big brothers.
But soon we came to the end of the track and joined a bigger, rough road to the Karadere Plaj public beach café with its abundance of picnic tables. As we approached we got into conversation with a group of locals who had set up their own barbeque and were cooking loads of chicken. This café, along with two others along the beach, are provided by the local councils as general recreation areas. They do sell food and drink but you can bring your own. We were well provided with food and drink but some of us bought drinks from the counter as a courtesy gesture.
From here the walk was entirely along the sandy beach. Luck was on our side and, for the most part, the sand was well compacted and therefore easy to walk on. I can remember other times when we have had to almost wade through long stretches of fine, loose sand. Hard work on the legs and apt to fill up your boots at every opportunity.
Normally the sea off Patara Beach is quite threatening with high waves, breaking crests and a strong undertow. Today it was near to a flat mill pond with a very light breeze wafting over the surface. Idyllic.
As I’ve mentioned before when describing these walks, it’s not just the physical exercise and the scenery that we all enjoy but the many and varied conversations that you can strike up with fellow walkers. Today was no exception. Unlike last week on the Bezirgan Heights, where single file was the order of the day, today we could always walk two or three abreast – or even thirty two abreast on the beach.
For the journey back we had to form another conga as the return route is not obvious. Indeed, mea culpa, we almost turned left where we should have turned right and nearly knocked a man and his family off their scooter. As is usual with Turkish drivers, they were not in the least bit phased.
Back at Evimiz they were glad to see us – nearly one hour later than planned. Suitably large amounts of Efes beer, wine and food were consumed by all. And everyone – well nearly everyone – was happy with the length of “The Optimists Walk”.
The Optimists Walk is an appropriate, if unplanned, name for today’s walk. It was the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of Turkey by Kemal Ataturk. He was not only a remarkably effective visionary but also a fervent and optimistic believer in the future of his country. We, who have one way or another, adopted his country, could be forgiven for believing that that Ataturk spirit of optimism was with us today.